Disliking rap music is racist??
November 17, 2016 12:00 AM   Subscribe

I just read this a few posts down: 'If you work in the kind of office where people will complain "ugh anything but RAP MUSIC" or other explicitly racist noise...' Is it really racist to dislike rap?

Fwiw, I don't like most of the rap I've heard (admittedly not a lot), but I would hope not to be considered racist for that opinion.
posted by mpark to Society & Culture (66 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Heya, this question is pretty much chatfilter and probably we should have nixed it from the outset, because there's really no way for it to work like a normal AskMe -- people are going to want to debate because it's intrinsically a debatey kind of question, and then will get angry if they can't answer comments they feel need rebuttals. Sorry for the delay in deleting. -- LobsterMitten

I can say in honesty that I'm not that into rock music, but because rock music is 1) so prevalent, 2) so lauded and decorated, and 3) so coded mainstream (and white), I have at least a pocketful of rock songs and albums I can appreciate, even while I dislike most of the genre.

Most people don't get that far with rap (or country, for that matter), because if it's not a part of their surroundings, their exposure is much more limited. I've found that there is usually a high degree of correlation between "no rap or country!!!" attitudes and attitudes that are implicitly racist/classist. It doesn't mean it's racist in itself, but personally I know a lot of people who immediately jump to the "that music is just about moneys and hoes, ugh, it's so stupid, have you heard some of the dumb lyrics in THAT music, .... etc."

Which, you know, that's ignorant. By definition! There is corny rap music, there is lyrical rap music, there is political rap music, there is cerebral rap music, there is danceable rap music, there is hardcore rap music, there is inane rap music. Like most genres, it contains multitudes. To complain about rap music is usually a tell that you don't know much about it and are ignorant or hostile toward expressions of joy, pain, anger, sorrow, etc. of non-white cultures.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:16 AM on November 17, 2016 [51 favorites]

There are a lot of ways to potentially approach this question. I think David Greenwald did a pretty good job earlier this year in this column and its follow-up:

Dear readers: Stop being racist about hip-hop

Hip-hop and racism: A response to readers
posted by naju at 12:35 AM on November 17, 2016 [11 favorites]

Is it also an ability to relate? Growing up in the 80s in outer eastern suburban Melbourne, I kinda liked rap and hip-hop (Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, etc) but didn't seek it out in particular. I just didn't relate at all to most of it. Once Australian rappers got over trying to rap about the USA, it changed for me. Hearing about local places and issues brought me into the hip-hop fold.
posted by antipodes at 1:05 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

It can be, but I can say with certainty that the most specifically disliked western genres are Rap and Country, which confounds the thesis.
posted by rhizome at 1:22 AM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you claim to like literally any music, but explicitly not rap music, to the extent of not wanting it played around you, yes, that's racist.

I suppose it's theoretically possible that this could be true of a person, and that person grew up on another planet or under a rock or something and never experienced the racial dynamics that actually exist in the US and affect all of us. Their natural taste in music just happened to land on "literally anything from madrigals to EDM, but not rap". However, considering that we do live in the racial miasma that exists in this country, it would be odd to pretend that one is that alien/cave dweller.

I would also say that you don't have to become an aficionado of rap music to not be racist. But you do need to sit down and accept that sometimes it's going to filter into your earholes by osmosis, because it is a kind of music that is perfectly acceptable to listen to.
posted by Sara C. at 1:25 AM on November 17, 2016 [20 favorites]

No, it's not racist. I don't like rap.

I don't see how not liking rap means you think a particular race is superior to another. The only explanation I can think of as to why someone would say it's racist to not like rap is if they were confusing correlation with causation....which is a silly thing to do. But anyway, no it's not racist.
posted by bluelight at 1:42 AM on November 17, 2016 [17 favorites]

Maybe the 'ugh' plays into a bit too...kind of expresses contempt, which might be more associated with racism. But I mean, obviously no, it's somewhat ridiculous to suggest that not liking rap IS racist. But perhaps it commonly springs from racism? Like, you could be anti-brexit because you're opposed to the infringement on democracy...but often you're not.
posted by jojobobo at 1:46 AM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Not liking rap music is fine. Loudly proclaiming out loud "UGH anything but RAP music" is not the same thing as just not liking something.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:50 AM on November 17, 2016 [61 favorites]

To complain about rap music is usually a tell that you don't know much about it and are ignorant or hostile toward expressions of joy, pain, anger, sorrow, etc. of non-white cultures.

Oh, really?

How about: to assume that those who complain about rap music are usually ignorant or hostile toward expressions of joy, pain, anger, sorrow, etc. of non-white cultures is a tell that you have not considered that relatively recent pop culture is not the sole source of information about and/or expressions of joy, pain, anger, sorrow, etc. of non-white cultures.

Or, maybe: liking rap music is a tell that you are OK with the the prevalence of misogynistic themes in the genre.

I'm not a fan of the genre in general for multiple reasons, beginning with the above. (N.B.: not saying that rap is unique in this way.) In addition, the sexuality of the lyrics and videos that aren't misogynist is often a little too over-the-top for my tastes. (And I'm hardly a prude, e.g., my love for Prince goes back to "Dirty Mind"). Finally, it's just not a "sound" that appeals to me—similarly, I don't like the "sound" of most metal music. Frankly, I don't think racism is a factor here and I don't think I'm a special snowflake about this issue.

To the OP: I'm not a fan of the genre, but I was blown away the first time I heard Kendrick Lamar. Check him out.

Aside re one song that I promise I do not hold against the entire genre: "If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it" is a sentiment that I thought died out at least a couple of generations ago. For the life of me, I do not understand why some young women sing along as if it's some kind of damn anthem.
posted by she's not there at 1:59 AM on November 17, 2016 [19 favorites]

I think most people form their musical tastes early, for all sorts of somewhat arbitrary reasons. And that’s fine.

But inevitably, some of those reasons are prejudices about race and class and gender. If ‘Rap’ and ‘Country’ are the most widely disliked forms of music — well, they are also associated with two widely stigmatised social groups: urban blacks and rural whites. Thugs and rednecks.

When people express a visceral antipathy towards ‘rap music’, is it definitely about race? No. But it might be a red flag.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:12 AM on November 17, 2016 [10 favorites]

Well, I don't think not liking rap is racist in itself. I think it comes a little with the context or attitude expressing it. I've had multiple experiences where people will say "UGH, I hate rap--that thug music, and all it is just rapping about crack, and hoes, and shooting people. Come on, they're just perpetuating the stereotype--that can't help them." And THAT I find racist and ignorant. And that has often been the reason I find behind why they truly don't like rap, which is just sad (not all rap is like this, just like not all black people are lumped into one big entity) and also awkward for me as a POC when they express it that way.

But I mean, I can't stand pop, bubbly music just for the beats and the tone. I think people can totally not like rap for its musicality. But if you find yourself using the reasoning above, I think it may be best to check yourself.
posted by buttonedup at 2:47 AM on November 17, 2016 [46 favorites]

I think buttonedup nailed it.

For some people it could be a symptom of racism, for some it could be well informed and purely aesthetic, and for some it could be lack of musical adventurousness - the equivalent of those people you know for whom a french fry is the closest they come to eating a vegetable.
posted by duoshao at 3:34 AM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I admittedly turn up my nose at a lot of hip-hop, country, AND pop - there are notable exceptions in all three categories. Either I have a lot of dislike for the horrible cack-handed overproduction and the smarmy/distasteful celebrity-worship and posturing, or I am a MASSIVE misanthrope, racist and snob.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 3:37 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

No, it's not racist to dislike rap.

Liking rap does not prove a white person is free of racism. Disliking rap does not prove a white person is racist.

But the correlation between disliking rap and being racist is obvious.

Appreciating a genre of music and understanding its legitimacy is not synonymous with "liking" that music. "Liking" is a visceral, emotional, response, not an intellectual exercise. Our tastes change over the years.
posted by justcorbly at 3:45 AM on November 17, 2016 [7 favorites]

If it's an office, then of course it's OK to object to having music playing that contains the kind of lyrics that mainstream, chart-topping rap usually features prominently.
posted by Coda Tronca at 4:06 AM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

Disliking rap before ever being exposed to rap has a high correlation to racism.
Disliking country similarly has a high correlation with classism.

Yeah, it was very common for white well-off people (including me!) in my white, suburban high school to say "oh I have really broad musical tastes! Except country and rap!"

Yeah, you bet this was correlated with our demographics.

(I grew up, and grew out, and appreciate music in many forms; I don't like artists who are misogynist, but as a giant science fiction nerd it would be really inconsistent if I continued to like SF as a genre while saying I'm not ok with rap. Speaking of which, thanks, metafilter, for pointing me to Splendor & Misery.)
posted by nat at 4:07 AM on November 17, 2016 [14 favorites]

To complain about rap music is usually a tell that you don't know much about it and are ignorant or hostile toward expressions of joy, pain, anger, sorrow, etc. of non-white cultures.

What about non-white people who don't like rap themselves? Is that just internalized racism?

While I get where you're coming from, this is a pretty problematic statement to make because rap isn't coterminous with "music about black people". There's other genres of music that document the black experience that people don't often react to the way they do mainstream rap.
posted by blerghamot at 4:12 AM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's dopey to say that disliking rap is just racist. Music is music, and you like it or you don't. Yes, there are racists who don't like rap because they don't like people of color. But you're not automatically a racist if you don't like ANY kind of music. You can also be a racist and like rap!

It's really messed up to try and guilt-trip people about not liking a musical genre. You're allowed to not like a genre without it making you a bad person, jeez! (And POC do make music in many other genres! If you're a huge fan of James Brown but you can't stand Tupac, does that make you a racist?)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:14 AM on November 17, 2016 [12 favorites]

I took a music history-type class way back in high school and the teacher said (i'm paraphrasing), "STOP. I know some of you "hate" country. Get past that and listen. You don't have to like it, but you can appreciate it." Specifically that class got me appreciating that many country singers have wonderful voices and great vocal control. I don't listen to much country, but I don't hate it.

I think that "I hate country!!" attitude I had prior to learning a little more about it was racist. Not "on purpose", but I was ignorant and had a vague "redneck-type" people image in my head and refused to listen to any country ever. Like there was nothing worthwhile about the genre, how could there be? I didn't think I was racist but that was definitely a bigoted dismissal in hindsight.

Same thing with rap. I had a sort of general feeling that rap was all about thug stuff and avoided it. That's a racist attitude, at least on some level. Now I'm again no expert, and I don't tend to stray very far from my indie/folk groove, but giving things a chance, learning a little about the history and the context, and noticing something I appreciate has been a good antidote to my subtle racism.

So what I'm getting at is, it's about the why. If you don't know anything about the thing you hate, where is the hate coming from?
posted by Baethan at 4:16 AM on November 17, 2016 [11 favorites]

If you are turning off all songs by PoC, that's racist. Not liking rap music as a genre (after giving it the college try, naturally, but that's just me thinking we should be exposed to things before saying we don't like it) is not racist. It's okay not to like certain types of music.
posted by kimberussell at 4:22 AM on November 17, 2016

It is dangerous to think of racism as a binary, on/off, yes/no, either/or thing. All of our decisions, actions, preferences and beliefs are informed by being a part of the structurally racist system that almost all of us have grown up in. It is possible that a dislike of rap could be completely racist, partially racist, not racist, or maybe all of the above! You might dislike the Notorious B.I.G. for racist reasons, and can't stand 50 Cent for aesthetic reasons.

In addition, all of our actions can have racist effects that are not intended. Demanding that your office listen to "anything but rap" seems pretty dismissive of coworkers who might specifically appreciate the way rap speaks to their culture and background in a way other genres of music don't. In that way it could be considered "explicitly racist noise". Surely there is a compromise that can be reached that takes everyone's tastes into account, and being unwilling to find that compromise is intolerant in a very privileged way.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:37 AM on November 17, 2016 [19 favorites]

Hiphop has existed for 35+ years and has a wildly diverse multitude of subgenres (both mainstream and "underground") -- I find it sort of unlikely that someone who's listened to a decent cross-section would make that sort of snap judgment. So a blanket statement about how you "don't like rap" would come off as probably-ignorant at best and racist at worst.

Also...yes, POC make music in many other genres. Black people invented rock music, jazz music, and house music, after all. But the genre most associated with contemporary poor Black Americans is rap, and a lot of people do use their expression of hatred/contempt of rap as a barely-sublimated expression of their hatred/contempt of Black Americans, particularly poor Black Americans. So going out of your way to specify that you dislike rap in particular (rather than listing genres you do like) is a kind of dogwhistle.
posted by sea change at 4:41 AM on November 17, 2016 [21 favorites]

For the life of me, I do not understand why some young women sing along as if it's some kind of damn anthem

Well.. actually... "Single Ladies" is NOT rap, it's pop. But anyway.

Singing along enthusiastically (anthemically if you will) to ANYTHING does not mean you agree with it. When music is good, or when there is music I like (whether it's considered objectively 'good' or not), and it makes me FEEL something (whether it's the words or the beat or any part or combination of the song's elements), and it's fun, then hell yeah I'll sing along!

I am in no way a supporter of traditional marriage. NO. WAY. But when "oh oh oh oh oh oh oh no no" comes on, my ass in ON THE FLOOR and my hand is up and I am digging the shit out of that song. Because really- the song's protagonist is only telling the guy off! Saying those words doesn't mean she wants that damn ring! She's just saying, "Hey asshole- YOU left ME, and NOW you wanna give me a hard time when I'm out in the club getting my groove on with all the young dudes?? You had your chance. You had options. If you don't like how things are now, it's YOUR FAULT."

What woman (or man?) anywhere has not felt that exact same thing at some point in life? So THAT's what I sing along with, and why. That's what I FEEL- I respond to the empowerment expressed, and give the middle finger to the jerk who hurt me, and pretend I am Beyonce, and all of it.

If rap music does the same thing for someone else, then more power to them. Who am I to make that call?
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:45 AM on November 17, 2016 [38 favorites]

I agree with everyone who thinks that the problem is the expression (the "UGH" part), not the aesthetic judgment.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:55 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I never met anyone who claimed to like ALL rap/hip-hop. To use your own words, you don't like most of the rap you've heard. That's a position you share with a lot of hip-hop fans.

It's OK to have tastes. It's only when those tastes stem from underlying racism, or are expressed in a way that appears to denigrate PoC, that they become racist. A blanket dismissal of a (quite broad) musical genre could be viewed as unexamined racism, because you're not justifying it by saying WHY you dislike the whole thing.

A better conversation to have might be "I don't like most of the rap I've heard because X", where X might be "I find the misogyny of mainstream rap off-putting" or "I prefer music that is more melodic/guitar-based". Your work colleagues or friends, if they're knowledgeable about hip-hop, might be able to suggest some artists or tracks that you'll actually like. Those are good, healthy interactions to have about music. So yes, it's mostly about how you express your tastes, not the fact that you have them at all.

FWIW, I like the sound of pedal steel guitar, despite not being at all into mainstream country music. An old work colleague of mine absolutely detested pedal steel. But he was perfectly OK with other aspects of country, so it clearly wasn't classism - he just hated the sound of that one instrument.
posted by pipeski at 5:06 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well, when my in-laws say "I don't like rap" there's definitely an unspoken "ew. black people. Yuck. " following that statement. I'm not going to say everyone who hates rap is a racist, I'm just saying there's probably a strong correlation in those data sets.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:10 AM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

I find it sort of unlikely that someone who's listened to a decent cross-section would make that sort of snap judgment.

Same, and I've never, ever heard of anyone who is conversant in and knowledgeable about a wide variety of hip-hop and dismisses the genre as a whole based on that knowledge. Usually a constellation of one or more traits present themselves: the willingness to dismiss an entire genre, the simultaneous lack of willingness to explore or learn, surface listening rather than deep listening, uninformed ideas about what the music is about and what it's expressing, belief that it's not "real" music because there's no guitar or real drums or instrument performance, or that it's "easy" because there's no melody and you simply press play on a drum machine and talk over it, sense that the only topics are sex/drugs/guns/materialism, and cranky and uncharitable attitudes about the people making the music and their respectability and their encroachment onto their quiet civilized spaces. While some of this may be taste or musical unadventurousness, the more these traits add up, the more the portrait of you as someone with racial hangups becomes clearer. So I would ask yourself where you stand on those various things, and why.

The Onion humorously highlights the incongruity and unlikelihood of someone really knowledgeable about hip-hop writing a cranky screed about it: I’m Tired Of These Punks Coming Through My Neighborhood Blasting Their Late-1990s, Ghettotech, DJ Godfather–Inflected Hip-Hop
posted by naju at 5:15 AM on November 17, 2016 [22 favorites]

What you are doing here is basically asking a group of people who is mostly white whether disliking something that is culturally coded as "black" is racist. I love Metafilter, but if you are a white person asking other white people if something you're doing is racist, you are asking the wrong people. If you are a white person telling other white people that something they're doing is explicitly not racist, take a second to think about that and whether you should be doing that.

If you have to ask if it's really racist, then there is probably some part of you that knows that your internal biases about black people are a problem that you haven't dealt with sufficiently. If your problem is that you don't want to be "considered" racist, then you're not there yet. Racism is not about what other white people around you think of you. There are probably lots of people in the world who're way more racist than you are, but that really isn't the bar you should be using.
posted by Sequence at 5:26 AM on November 17, 2016 [44 favorites]

And I should really go further and say that this applies to nonblack people asking nonblack people about antiblack racism, generally, since antiblack racism is a problem for a lot of other POC.
posted by Sequence at 5:31 AM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

I am a white person who has always loved rap. I would, kindly, say that basically every white person in the US has been exposed to implicit biases about race which includes rap music, and that those biases are impossible to extract from an assertion that I "just don't like it".

You may not be racist, but rap music is very racialIZED (racialization) .

So my short answer is, it's not necessarily helpful to immediately jump to "but I'm not racist".
On a broad level, truly, it's not about you.

It's about the process of understanding that it's impossible to have a completely context-free opinion on racialized things. There is no bright, easy line between "racist" and "not racist". It's understanding the ways that racial ideas are taught to everybody.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:38 AM on November 17, 2016 [22 favorites]

No, disliking rap doesn't make you racist. Like the entire concept of your tastes in music, the most subjective thing on the planet, signalling whether you are a racist or not is absolutely pants-on-head stupid.

That said, you might want to give hip-hop another chance, especially if you decided that you don't like rap before the democratization of music. There is a lot of great stuff out there and the radio hits are in fact a poor representation of the genre.
posted by FakeFreyja at 5:45 AM on November 17, 2016

I don't like most of the rap I've heard (admittedly not a lot), but I would hope not to be considered racist for that opinion.

Then there are ways of expressing your feelings that will make it much less likely that people will consider you racist. That said, some people may consider you racist for a variety of reasons and that sometimes happens.

What's useful is being mindful of the way racist ideas are expressed (it's rarely the obvious "Hey I really don't like the members of this race. They have negative qualities!") and more often sort of dog whistle-ish by complaining about race-coded aspects such as the music that they listen to, the food that they eat, their abilities at sports or money management or driving, that sort of thing.

So sure, for a lot of people rap may not be a type of music they like. That's an AOK preference to have. However it's a fine line between an expressed preference "I haven't liked much of the rap I've listened to" and a statement about the cultural value of that preference "UGH not rap music" as if that's a normative way to think about that sort of music.

Put another way, there's an aspect of privilege in having opinions that you have a fair idea will be held by the majority of people in your workplace or community. People (in the US, often white people) get used to just being able to say any old thing without fear of negative blowback, either basic negative social feedback or more serious repercussions. So that sort of "shooting your mouth off about a thing that it would be better to be more mindful about in any sort of public place" is something to be aware of particularly if it falls close to one of the categories of "things people talk about that have racial/racist overtones even if you feel that isn't what you meant"

You can't make all people think you're not racist, ever, but you can be mindful of your language so that it's clear you're trying to be considerate about how you express your opinions (and thoughtful about the opinions you hold, as it sounds like you are) and that works in most cases. It's work, sure. It's useful work.
posted by jessamyn at 5:55 AM on November 17, 2016 [26 favorites]

Racism is so ingrained in literally every piece of society that it is impossible, without huge amounts of effort, to make a judgement-call on something coded as black and have racism not play a part. Racism is not a hat, where you either wear it or don't. It's more like smoke in a building, just because you don't need to be treated for smoke inhalation doesn't mean it didn't get to you.

Racism is not just "i hate you". It's also dissociating yourself from a group of people so much that you can't relate to them. Even if you do this subconsciously. Like others have said, rap and hip-hop has been around for decades.

Racism is also not about intent. If the outcome is that it disproportionately benefits whites, or adversely affects people of color, it's racist. And I think that the culture that we live in that makes it acceptable for the majority of white people to condense decades worth of music, much of which is some of the most politically important music in the history of the states, into a homogeneous blob and calling it irrelevant adds to the racial problems we have in media. It's the "token black friend" syndrome. Rap, hip-hop, and black expression contains multitudes and cannot be wholly dismissed without condensing it into a "black thing".

((as an aside, I want you to notice which side of this debate is taking time to try and inform you and provide sources, and which side is being dismissive, and potentially defensive, by just calling the idea "stupid" and providing no further explanation.))
posted by FirstMateKate at 5:57 AM on November 17, 2016 [35 favorites]

the simultaneous lack of willingness to explore or learn, surface listening rather than deep listening

This, so much this, too. You say you haven't listened to that much rap. Why? What pre-conceived notion do you have that makes you think exploring rap music isn't worth your time?
posted by FirstMateKate at 6:03 AM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Personally, I dislike music that is too loud or has pounding bass --- and I don't give a damn if that means rap, hip-hop, country, pop, metal, or anything else. Does that make me racist? No, it simply means I don't like music that causes me actual physical pain.
posted by easily confused at 6:09 AM on November 17, 2016

Complaining vocally about rap reminds me of people in the US complaining about names with non-standard spellings, or "made-up" names. The names cited as examples are, nine times out of ten, considered "black" names. Being curmudgeonly about language often turns out to involve some kind of class and/or race prejudice, but this one is particularly obvious, and it's also particularly silly on linguistic grounds.
posted by BibiRose at 6:16 AM on November 17, 2016 [12 favorites]

It's OK not to personally not like rap or to be meh about any genre of music. That being said, white people expressing loud complaints about "ugh, anything but that RAP MUSIC" is a thing. It's a known racist phenomenon. It's in all caps for a reason-- because when racist white people say it, they really do in real life emphasize it. There's an unspoken "RAP MUSIC, if you know what I mean" there. And what they mean is that the hated "RAP MUSIC"-- not just plain lowercase "rap music"-- is a shorthand for black culture and black people. It's a synechdoche. It's, "ugh, I hate the fact that black culture and black people are front and center in pop culture and daily life because I do not want to have to deal with contemporary black people or their cultural output in any way, shape, or form. (Dead jazz musicians are ok tho)." Like people upthread have said, this kind of loud airing of contempt is racist, and that kind of display is not the same thing as not particularly being into the actual music.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:17 AM on November 17, 2016 [16 favorites]

This, so much this, too. You say you haven't listened to that much rap. Why? What pre-conceived notion do you have that makes you think exploring rap music isn't worth your time?

I'm sorry, but, that's an atrocious insinuation. If the person's exposure to the music is such that they are turned-off by it, I don't see that forcing a "deeper exploration" is a requisite for avoiding being labeled racist. The music just doesn't click for them enough to listen to more. Some people don't like the taste of beef and eating more of it isn't going to suddenly convert them.

It's like hard-bop jazz. I happen to love it, but also understand that it really doesn't appeal to a lot of others, no matter how much they listen. It has nothing to do with pre-conceived notions.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:22 AM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

Ignorance and fear beget racism (which is, IMO, the worst expression of those two things feeding off each other). People who "hate rap" are expressing things they may not even be aware of.

Or maybe they just don't like it.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:26 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's racist, but, it is pretty closed minded IMO. Rap/Hip hop is a huge genre. If you've never heard a track that can make your foot tap and get stuck in your head, then I would say you probably haven't explored it thoroughly. I wouldn't say your racist towards white people if you said you didn't like country. I'd say maybe you should listen to some Hank Williams or Johnny Cash for a bit.
posted by trbrts at 6:36 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Way back before rap was invented, I was a member of a band (as in 30-member ensemble with trumpets, saxophones, trombones, drums, etc., but no guitars and no vocalists.) Some of the white members of the band did not care for the music favored by some of the black members of the band, but it was all about musical taste and having music they didn't like in their workspace and living space.

I think that slapping words like "racist" on any and every point of disagreement is divisive and unacceptable.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:36 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

This might help explain my earlier comment about why it's not really useful to pontificate on whether you or any one person is "racist" for disliking x y or z. Emphasis on:

"“I’m not racist!” refocuses the discussion on white people, white feelings, and the necessity of white innocence, while derailing conversations about how racism works on a structural level."
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:46 AM on November 17, 2016 [13 favorites]

Personally, I dislike music that is too loud or has pounding bass --- and I don't give a damn if that means rap, hip-hop, country, pop, metal, or anything else. Does that make me racist? No, it simply means I don't like music that causes me actual physical pain.
posted by easily confused at 9:09 AM on November 17 [+] [!]

Who said all rap has a pounding bass? Or is loud? That is literally the most common racist stereotype for "ugh rap music".

That was the point I was making above, Thorzdad. I, personally, think white people have an obligation to unlearn racism, and that definitely includes prejudices towards black music.

I used to be a "I don't like rap music" but that was when I was young and dumb and got all of my music from the radio. Then I spent time actively trying to include black expression into my daily life. Nowadays, I cant go more than 3 days without listening to Ultralight Beam. ((Unh! I'm just havin fun with it!!))
posted by FirstMateKate at 6:47 AM on November 17, 2016 [11 favorites]

For me, I think a lot of it has to do with the I like EVERYTHING but RAP. There's a lot of music in the word, and how are you sure that you like all of it? All songs from all other genres in the whole word? It comes across like rap music is being explicitly "othered" and that's not cool.

That said, I don't like rap music as much as I like, my acoustic singer-songwriters, or even just regular pop music. I was dragged to a show featuring a set by a local rapper by some friends and the music itself was interesting, but ultimately, it was not really my thing. I guess it's important to remember that, even though rap might not be your favorite musical style, there might be rap songs you like, same as their might be songs in [insert favorite music genre here] that you dislike.
posted by PearlRose at 6:47 AM on November 17, 2016 [9 favorites]

I_love_bananas: Well.. actually... "Single Ladies" is NOT rap, it's pop.

You're right, of course.

I looked up something while I was writing the comment, ran across a reference to Jay Z, was reminded of that song, which prompted my rant-reaction reflex.

The last thing I want to do is discourage anyone from dancing when when they feel moved by the music. And I know I've danced to music that includes lyrics that make me whince. So, I will try to lighten up (or, at least, shut up) about that song.

But, Jesus, I can't hear "you should have put a ring on it" without thinking "you should have put a big diamond on my finger when you had the chance because I most certainly will get one from this guy over here"... or words to that effect.

Oh, hell, kid—just ignore me and go dance your heart out. I'm shutting up now...maybe...

posted by she's not there at 6:51 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not liking the rap you've heard doesn't mean you don't like black people, as an arithmetic equation. But culture doesn't really lend itself to mathematic analysis.

In terms of music, saying "I don't like Classical music," or "I don't like jazz" is just clearly ignorant in the most literal sense. And, uh, I've never really gotten into Classical music. It's literally a thing I know little about and it's not really at the top my my list either. But it's also coded as "something old white people are into," maybe something stuffy, so it's not exactly underrepresented in the academy or schools or on public television or whatever. And brushing it aside is brushing aside something that has a ton of historical traction throughout Western history.

Saying you don't like rap music is equally dismissive. Saying you're not into it comes off a little better, since it implies that you haven't really dug deep. But for a lot of white people, at least in the US, rap or hip hop represents "black culture" as a monolith, and so the out-of-hand dismissal of the genre can read as a wholesale rejection of what my one particularly racist relative calls "that garbage culture." It's easy to acknowledge that you're not into something without being my racist relative.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:55 AM on November 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

(My friend and I have a long-running joke about "I like everything but rap and country" that it usually means you only know about four kinds of music: Rap, Country, Dave Mathews Band, and early recordings of Indonesian gamelan orchestras.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:58 AM on November 17, 2016 [20 favorites]

But, Jesus, I can't hear "you should have put a ring on it" without thinking "you should have put a big diamond on my finger when you had the chance because I most certainly will get one from this guy over here"... or words to that effect.

Does hearing Marilyn Monroe's rendition of "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" induce the same reaction for you? Because songwriters have been getting mileage out of the tension between love and materialism for decades now, even when the pop charts were a LOT more segregated.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:01 AM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

[Folks, please don't get off into side discussions; this is still AskMe so please keep it focused on the OP's question, present your helpful answer and don't get into arguments with other commenters. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:05 AM on November 17, 2016

When we drive in LA, people at stop lights often have rap and hip hop blaring. I started noticing how fucked up the lyrics are (extreme sexism against women, drugs, and use of the N word and other profanity) when my son was about 2 years old. Not surprisingly, he started commenting on some songs by about 3.

As a woman and a parent, I'm no longer a fan. I do realize not all artists are guilty of the really really negative messages, but enough are. It's kinda gross to me now. Its only when you have to start worrying about keeping media "child friendly" you notice how effed up it is to hear a man talk about "his bitches at da club." These days I'm not a fan.
posted by jbenben at 7:35 AM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Someone who likes all kinds of music except rap must like many other musical genres of music that are or used to be predominantly black, like jazz and Motown. Also, a lot of rap isn't by blacks. Therefore, it isn't racist to like all kinds of music except rap. Rap music has unique sonic traits that make it annoying for some people to hear. What is racist is saying that disliking rap music is racist, since this assumes that there are no other predominantly black musical genres, and that there's no reasons other than race to have an opinion of a musical genre.
posted by John Cohen at 7:35 AM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

Also, someone who's against racism, and who instinctively wants to sing along with music they like, might be uniquely averse to singing along with rap music because it's often peppered with racial epithets. And yeah, not all of it is — but you're not obligated to listen to every notable example of a genre before forming an opinion of it. People have limited time and varying degrees of patience for listening to types of music they don't already enjoy. Maybe in an ideal world, everyone would listen to the top 500 best examples of a musical genre before dismissing it, but that's nott what most people do, and that doesn't make anyone racist.
posted by John Cohen at 7:39 AM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't think it's racist. I don't dislike rap, but I do dislike the songs with misogynistic and brain dead lyrics (which isn't all of them, but a majority). I like jazz and most r&b. But what do I know, I (according to white people) must be racist because I think Beyoncé is overrated. I also think Bob Dylan is overrated but no one brings out their pitchforks for saying that.

Also, as an Indian, I can clarify I don't think someone is racist for disliking Bollywood music or Indian food.
posted by redlines at 7:58 AM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Rap is a huge genre. Set A Tribe Called Quest against Public Enemy against NWA against Outkast (just to pick some very prominent examples over the past couple of decades) and you start to question whether it's even a genre at all. Collapsing a vast and diverse art form down to a few socially-disfavored traits for facile dismissal is, at best, aesthetically dumb; when the art form is largely the work of a marginalized group, the odds are very good that racism has inflected that decision.

You don't have to like any given piece of music. There's plenty of rap I don't care for. Heck, there are not a few black people who think the rise of gangsta rap was deliberate social engineering against their community. But when you say, e.g., "oh, I don't like rap, I don't like the violent and extremely misogynistic lyrics," you're showing that you don't know a damn thing about, e.g., the "conscious" rap of the 90s. That you feel comfortable condemning from a position of ignorance is telling. And when you say you don't like rap and give as an example an unquestionably pop song that happens to be sung by an extremely influential black woman--Jesus, I'd sit real hard with myself over what drove that choice.
posted by praemunire at 8:10 AM on November 17, 2016 [26 favorites]

What is racist is saying that disliking rap music is racist,

Also, whenever you find yourself writing something to the effect of "the real racism is raising the issue of racism," you should probably consider giving your hands a brief time-out.
posted by praemunire at 8:22 AM on November 17, 2016 [31 favorites]

I was/am the quintessential white woman who lives in a white bubble. I thought I didn't like rap music for a long time, because sometime when I was in high school the boys at school listened to popular rap songs which were misogynistic, therefore I must hate rap.

30 years later I have a partner who loves and listens deeply into all genres, who gently suggested that maybe I might want to check out rap music that isn't misogynist, and that there's a lot of it out there.

It was part of my slow realization that I have more or less been cut off from / cut myself off from a lot of current black culture, probably because of racism, and that I have work to do to fix that, and also, I'm missing out!

So, uh, yes, saying you don't like rap without investigating it further is/can be racist but it doesn't make you a bad person or mean that you intend to be racist.
posted by girlpublisher at 8:26 AM on November 17, 2016 [10 favorites]

Yes, it is racist to say "I'll listen to anything except RAAAAAAP." Really, anything? Kraftwerk played via cow farts, Cantonese preschool death metal, high-pitched squeals of bus brakes, but that one specific form of music that's highly identified with Black people and Black culture, you need to sneer at that one?

It's fine to not be into rap yourself. It's respectful to say, "I don't really connect with [a style of music] myself but that's not to say there's anything wrong with it."

It is important to be mindful that some types of people and their culture is systematically framed as lesser and not contribute to that framing.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:44 AM on November 17, 2016 [8 favorites]

I always thought that loudly proclaiming that you don't like rap music is more about putting on a universal badge of squareness than any particular racial attitude. cf. Curtis's dad constantly telling him to "turn that 'rap' junk down!!"
posted by phoenixy at 8:47 AM on November 17, 2016

As a white person who listens to rap occasionally, I've definitely heard white people use "rap music" as a dog-whistle for racism. I've heard the "everything but rap" chestnut far too many times to think that there's not usually some kind of racist sentiment behind it.

Part of what makes me grind my teeth is, as praemunire mentions, the outright dismissal of a diverse form of art mainly created by people of color. What I hear when people say, "Ugh, rap music!" is "Ugh, black people music!"
posted by i feel possessed at 9:02 AM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I always thought that loudly proclaiming that you don't like rap music is more about putting on a universal badge of squareness than any particular racial attitude. cf. Curtis's dad constantly telling him to "turn that 'rap' junk down!!"

At the same time, rap and hip-hop have been absolutely mainstream since the start of Yo! MTV Raps, so the culture has had roughly three whole decades to adjust. Even the squarest grownups (like James Bond) stopped referring to the Beatles as unlistenable noise within 10 years of their debut. If somebody specifically complains about hearing rap (and rap alone) in 2016, I'm going to assume that more than simple aesthetics is behind their distaste.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:13 AM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't like most of the rap I've heard (admittedly not a lot), but I would hope not to be considered racist for that opinion.

It is one thing to be unfamiliar with a genre of music, and it is another to assume that what our (never neutral) entertainment media sees fit to promote is representative of that music. Rap music is tremendously diverse: it can be stupid or brilliant; it can be formulaic or experimental; it can be loud or quiet; it can be misogynist or feminist...

The comment above that points out that it's impossible to disentangle racism is spot-on.

Our experiences, and our preferences, do not form in a vacuum. As a middle class white person growing up in a mostly white community and with few non-white friends, I didn't grow up hearing much "black" music beyond what had already been embraced by white people. When I was in my teenaged years--which are very formative for our musical tastes--the music around me was mainstream pop and my mom's rock, r&B, etc.

It wasn't until my twenties that I started to learn more about rap. Until then, I just had this feeling that I "didn't like" it. My tastes were unusually diverse, though--so why not? I think part of the reason wasn't racist at all: I was really into music in other languages, but rap was too hard to follow and this was before so many lyrics were available online.

But I also think part of the reason was racist: I had very little appreciation for the artistry in good rap music, because I hadn't been exposed to much and assumed that it was all the same. I didn't extend rap the same benefit of doubt as other musical genres. I didn't seek out more before forming an opinion of the genre as a whole. I was much less reluctant to say I "didn't like" rap than to say I "didn't like" central asian mouth harp.

(I had the same feeling about country, which in hindsight I think was definitely classist!)

Now, rap isn't my favorite genre, but I do like it. And I am immediately suspicious when someone says they don't like rap. My experience has been, mostly, that if I question someone about why not, the reason they will give with either be definitely racist ("it's not music") or ignorant ("it's all violent and misogynist"). At best, they might admit they don't know much about it -- but then it's worth thinking of the structural reasons why this is so often the case.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:17 AM on November 17, 2016 [6 favorites]

Part of the problem with "racisim" as a concept is that people try to make it a yes/no binary category where all racism is created equal, and all racists are terrible people. In reality all racism is problematic, but it's not all equal. There are many different types of racism. I'll give just three examples. These aren't official terms, but I'll label them Overt, Active, and Implicit for the purposes of conversation.

Overt racism is when someone makes a deliberate attack on someone else because of their race. Something like "I hate that jungle noise" would be overt racism. We can generally all agree that it's an act of hate.

Active racism is when someone is (for lack of a better term) impolite. When they say or do something that they didn't need to have said or done that makes someone of a particular race uncomfortable. "Ugh, anything but rap music" falls in this category. It's not really explicit hate of a race, but It's rude, it didn't need to be said, and it has racial connotations that makes PoCs feel unsafe.

Implicit racism is when someone is brought up in a culture that gives them a racial (or prejudicial) bias. For example: I like rap music. But recently I went over my collection, and I realized that most of my rap music is from white or Mexican rappers. I don't have a lot of music from black rappers. Over time, and because of the culture I grew up in, that's the rap music I hear the most often, so that's what I like. But most rappers are black, so my collection is not representative. It's not even close to representative. I have a unconscious bias for choosing rappers of my own race and ethnicity. It's not a choice. It doesn't make me a bad person, but it is a bias. And it is a racial bias. It's one that I need to be aware of and compensate for. And because it's judgement that is trie to race, it does make me a racist (but not evil!).

So yes, not liking rap is racist. Specifically, it's a racial bias. Whether or not that makes you a bad person, though, depends not on the dislike, but on how you act on that dislike.

This brings me to the American ideal that we judge and punish people for their actions, not their thoughts. It's a big part of our culture. So people with racist thoughts but not racist actions are understandably confused. They see people both people committing horrible acts being called racists, and people just having some kind of troubling thoughts being called racists, and feel like they are being thought policed for hate crimes for thinking rap music is kind of annoying. But that's not really the case. There's a whole world of difference between "This is something about yourself that you should notice and try to improve" and "This makes you a horrible criminal."
posted by yeolcoatl at 9:24 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sometimes people shortcut the intersection of class and race into just plain "racism", which is both not entirely accurate, and also has the effect of providing camouflage.

There's a lot of primarily black music that don't get the reaction that straight rap does. Blues, soul, gospel, R&B, etc. But these are generally coded as "respectable" black, often middle class music, whereas rap is coded as the music of poor black urban youth, which is a social class that doesn't have a lot of power and is often mocked.

It's okay not to like rap! Many people don't, as they don't like many other forms of music. But the thing is, most of us don't loudly proclaim, "Oh god, anything but FOLK HARP" or "Get that xylophone out of here!" If we don't like the music, a simple "hey can we change the channel" usually suffices.

So it's not that disliking rap is racist, it's that performatively disliking rap is a way of saying you dislike the culture of young, poor, urban black men, which has nothing to do with music and can be highly problematic.
posted by corb at 9:28 AM on November 17, 2016 [18 favorites]

Another thing I've noticed is that many people decry "gangster" rap as celebrating violence when in fact, a deeper listen show that a lot of those lyrics are very thoughtful and reflective on the realities of growing up in poverty and how for young black men, getting involved in crime is the only way they see to provide for themselves, and that's an issue they WANT to talk about. But it gets quickly glossed over as "I heard someone rapping about guns and drugs".

And in the case of misogyny, sure, some rap music is. But most people don't immediately think that Biggie rapped about how proud he was to buy a car and nice clothes for his mother once he made it big - even though that is right there in one of his biggest songs. Tupac's "Keep Ya Head Up" is a brilliant feminist song. Those right there are probably the two biggest names of 90's rap.

So, it's complicated. But the question I want to ask is: why can most people who aren't familiar with rap, but can name any rapper, could probably name Biggie and Tupac? Why do most people associate them with crime and misogyny when two of their famous songs are very explicitly not?
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:38 AM on November 17, 2016 [8 favorites]

But when you say, e.g., "oh, I don't like rap, I don't like the violent and extremely misogynistic lyrics," you're showing that you don't know a damn thing about, e.g., the "conscious" rap of the 90s.

Just to add on to this, there is plenty of rap music today that has nothing to do with "gangsta" rap. Oddisee is incredible, and A Tribe Called Quest just came back, among many others.
posted by cnc at 9:47 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

[Couple comments deleted, again folks, not a debate space, please don't get into exchanges with other commenters.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:54 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

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