On Rap and Shit Journalism

Darren McGarvey responds to a recent article published in the Herald that claimed Kendrick Lamar doesn’t deserve a Pulitzer music prize and that rap isn’t a proper art form. In a piece dripping with contempt Brian Beacom wrote:

“Isn’t rap, at best, a sorry stream of semi-literate consciousness, or at worst, a collection of nonsensical lines that barely rhyme, with all the cultural merit of Wee Willie Winkie?” [“Brian Beacom: Pulitzer music prize judges deserve a rap on the knuckles”]

McGarvey discusses the article  putting it in the context of shit opera, shit poetry and shit journalism.

As the Scottish Press gathers for its annual backslapping event (no cultural section required) it’s worth reflecting on the quality of music and cultural journalism in general.

Comments (11)

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  1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Spot on Loki, my man! More power to your elbow. and your creative imagination.

    I am disappointed in the attitude of Brian Beacom, because his early life was not the easiest and he has lived through the kinds of things that many rappers and hip-hop artists talk about.

    I recently watched a programme where the rapper Akala, did a presentation about Homer’s Odyssey. This was an outstanding piece of work, both as a programme showing how he did his research, but also in the piece which he created and delivered.

    I was born and brought up in the Anderston of the 1940s, 50s, 60s, a contemporarty of Billy Connolly’s, for example, so, I probably am one of the ‘scum’ whom the ‘shit’ journalists of the Herald and the other mainstream media attempt to patronise. I am one of the many ‘scum’ from Anderston who went on to lead successful lives as skilled tradespeople, as academics, as entrepreneurs, as professional workers, as good human beings.

    I got an ‘A’ in Higher English in 1965! We had to study ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘The Deserted Village’. In both cases I thought I was going to lose the will to live; I thought they were ‘shite’. Still, I was able to write sufficient about them to pass the exam. I am prepared to give them a bit more time today.

    Anderston housed the St Andrew’s Halls, where the Scottish National Orchestra would perform and there were other – pompously named – ‘high’ cultural events. And, after the St Andrew’s Halls was destroyed by fire, the SNO moved to the old Gaiety picture House at Anderston Cross. However, we ‘scum’ could not afford such events. As well as economic exclusion there was also social exclusion. If we went to such events, then loud and decidedly rude comments were directed in our direction: essentially saying, “you are scum. you are not wanted here, we don’t want to be having to watch our wallets and our women’s honour.”

    I regularly attend the Opera, the ballet, orchestral concerts, art galleries. I write poetry – some of it, probably ‘shite’. I appreciate these as aspects of culture. But, I also appreciate much of the new and innovative ideas emerging from people like Mr McGarvey. There is energy, there are deep, nuanced insights, there is wit, there is pathos, there is inventiveness.

    In the Anderston of these days, very few households bought toilet paper. The Herald and others like it were more than useful alternatives.

  2. w.b.robertson says:

    The vast majority of Herald readers will agreed with Mr Beacon`s take. But, like some of the posted contributions on this site, there is shite to be detected in all forms of so called culture. Unfair to dismiss it out of hand. Nothing wrong with cultural shite…some of it is beautifully cooked.

    1. Jo says:

      Quite a few posters on the thread below Beacom’s piece take him to task.

  3. CathyW says:

    Good stuff from Loki and absolutely agree this was bad stuff from Brian Beacom – my jaw dropped when I (as a regular reader of the Herald by the way…) saw his article, very disappointing and just shallow. I was intrigued when I heard Kendrick Lamar had won the Pullizter: I am pretty ignorant about hiphop/rap but thought the clip played on a news programme was excellent – intelligent, purposeful, imaginative use of the form – and that I would be interested to hear more. Which is surely the point of cultural prizes. It is stupid to be dismissive of an entire cultural form, there is good and bad in all branches of art & culture and any of it can be worthy of attention.
    I would suggest it is also stupid to be dismissive of the entire ‘mainstream media’: the Herald and Sunday Herald are home to much good journalism too which we should support and appreciate – e.g David Pratt their excellent foreign correspondent; Iain McWhirter; Kevin McKenna; and several more – not to say I agree with every word they write, certainly not, but I’m glad we have in Scotland such alternatives to the Murdoch and other gutter press.

    1. No-one was dismissive of the entire mainstream media?

    2. Jo says:

      Cathy, I think it is fairly clear that the Herald is really not what it once was. Politically it has lost all sense of balance to the extent it is embarrassing.

  4. Clive Scott says:

    No getting away from it, rap is the most awful shite.

  5. Monty says:

    this article is either contrarian or daft or both, Lamar is one of the most acclaimed artists in any genre to have emerged in the last few years. So you are criticising something that does not reflect the majority of coverage of Lemar

    1. The commentary is specific to that article. That’s made really clear.

  6. SleepingDog says:

    Delving into the Book of Dissent: Revolutionary Words from Three Millennia of Rebellion and Resistance (edited by Andrew Hsiao and Audrea Lim), I am struck by the variety of forms (and they left out others like graphic art, having to draw the line somewhere).

    Two of the last entries, for 2012, were songs: Pussy Riot’s “Punk Prayer” and The Coup’s “Strange Arithmetic”. They do not seem out of place. There’s even a place among the sermons, battle cries, declarations, posters, letters, Facebook pages, speeches, wall-scrawls, petitions and many more forms for poems like John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”.

    Perhaps the Pulitzer Prize people are similarly agnostic. Perhaps some shorter forms allow more topicality and spontaneity (it may take a while to write a novel or an opera). Perhaps some traditions are less concerned with dissent. I get the impression that satire, for example, is very weak in UK mainstream culture, and even then exists in some kind of late-night ghetto of rudisms and crude banter.

  7. Rob Ross says:

    Music is like food. You take what you like and you leave the rest. And there’s enough for everybody. We’re so lucky to have such a big table from which to feed. Is that not good enough? Dismissive waffle is just that; dismissive waffle, which I suppose helps to fill empty space in newspapers, no matter where it comes from. It’s not worth paying too much attention to pontificators. Lend an ear when you can , though

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