Pryor’s Worth?

As a rather avid rap fan, I sometimes wonder what is this music sending out to the world? I listen to it strictly for entertainment but do some for a message? Visually most rappers are silly and rap music videos are absurd and vulgar. Featuring a likely illiterate woman who speaks an ignorant dialect of Spanish gyrating next to some fool wearing obnoxious jewelry and either overly large or too tight pants, among other things.

Personally, the excesses of rap never bothered me when it was contained with in the Black community. If that is how ghetto Blacks would like to celebrate, while I am a firm believer in elitism, I said great for them as I am not a middle class snob. But, currently rap is clearly directed at the white consumer and these rappers are packaging the worst images of the “ghetto” and selling it to white America. That is the very definition of coonery and that of course is troubling. Now, we’ve always had black artists portray certain images or speak on things largely stereotyped to be peculiar to Negroes, but that is a natural expression of your culture in full ,quite different from shucking and jiving for Amber from Great Neck.

This phenomenon of celebrating the lowest forms of Black culture almost exclusively didn’t start with rap tho. It seems to have started in the 70’s with Richard Pryor. Personally, I never found Pryor funny, too me he seem to just curse alot and say Nigga more than anyone I’ve ever heard before. While I’m sure he had many Black fans, his commentary seems to been directed at the mainstream and of course they gobbled it up. I am not planning on fully vetting this issue here in this post, it was just a bit of musing brought on by Stanley Crouch and Elizabeth Wright in the following blog post.

Pryor’s flawed legacy
Comedian’s vulgarity made him no role model

by Stanley Crouch

This past Saturday Richard Pryor left this life and bequeathed to our culture as much darkness as he did the light his extraordinary talent made possible.

When we look at the remarkable descent this culture has made into smut, contempt, vulgarity and the pornagraphic, those of us who are not willing to drink the Kool-Aid marked “all’s well,” will have to address the fact that it was the combination of confusion and comic genius that made Pryor a much more negative influence than a positive one. . . .

Pryor was troubled and he had seen things that so haunted him that the comedian found it impossible to perform and ignore the lower-class shadow worlds he had known so well, filled with pimps, prostitutes, winos and abrasive types of one sort or another. The vulgarity of his material, and the idea a “real” black person was a foul-mouthed type was his greatest influence. It was the result of seeing the breaking of “white” convention as a form of “authentic” definition.

Pryor reached for anything that would make white America uncomfortable and would prop up a smug belief among black Americans that they were always “more cool” and more ready to “face life” than the members of majority culture. Along the way, Pryor made too many people feel that the N word was open currency and was more accurate than any other word used to describe or address a black person.

In the dung piles of pimp and gangster rap we hear from slime meisters like Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent, the worst of Pryor’s influence has been turned into an aspect of the new minstrelsy in which millions of dollars are made by “normalizing” demeaning imagery and misogyny. . . . Of course, Russell Simmons‘ Def Comedy Jam is the ultimate coon show update of human cesspools, where “cutting edge” has come to mean traveling ever more downward in the sewer.

In essence, Pryor stunned with his timing, his rhythm, his ability to stand alone and fill the stage with three-dimensional characters through his remarkably imaginative gift for an epic sweep of mimicry.

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