When Wiggers go Wrong

I aint hatin on eminem or danny hoch or anyone else who has made part of their career by "talkin' black" or "talkin hip hop". I know Paul Mooney would have something to say to me about this and I realize that it pretty much is a matter of case by case scenarios. I don't necessarily think that eminem makes the world dismissive of black artists although his meteoric rise to popularity in a medium created out of social unrest and racial pride-slash-rebellion did certainly highlight and chafe the wound of racism in the entertainment industry and the audience. However. As a mixed race artist I am certainly never going to support nationalistic or ethno centric proprietal rights to language and arts in our society. I dont think that once art, especially popular art is put out there, that you can segregate the audience or the artist by claiming THIS IS OURS ONLY. Otherwise I would be banished to the margins as an actor of playing an Indonesian Australian ONLY and I would be banished in language to say eh? after anything and pronounce house like hoose as homage to my canadian nationality and what the hell is that. Art transforms society. Hip Hop transformed society and we are all a part of hip hop either as fans, detractors, indifferent bystanders, artists etc. I think that applies to all pop culture. We are given democratic access to it and as artists, we are influenced or not by what is happening in art around us. Having said that, now to the matter at hand. I saw this play. It was called Clay. It was produced by a big ass theater out here with all hoopla and publicity that theaters can muster. It was lauded in the program by the artistic director as important and vital theater. It was a one person show with many monologues set to tracks with a hip hoppy type of beat, and written in ryhmes. And the lil white dude that was in the play had created a very very loose story about a jewish kid in brooklyn whose parents get divorced and he ends up banging his dad's new wife when he is 13 and resenting his business boring white guy dad and writing lots and lots of angry ryhmes about it along with his mentor, a disfigured black rapper called Brother john who decides his life mission is to take this emotionally fragile lil white boy and teach him the glory of beatboxing and freestyle to express his teen angst. Lame story, unfortunately lame ryhmes, so so beats, good enough beat boxing, so so characters. An artist definitely needs room to find his or her voice no doubt. An artist is allowed to emotionally relate to a language of protest and social unrest in an attempt to express big feelings. I dont even care if the kid cuts an album. But. When the big honcho white guys in charge start lauding a lame ass dramaturgy, ryhmes that are monotonous and lyrically challenged ("on and on till the break of dawn"..."when I say hip hip you say MUSIC!") I and tells me it is vital and important theater...in other words when the construction of a play sucks and the only "interesting" thing about it is that a white guy is talking black-- so in essence i am being told that blackface=an important theatrical moment, I WIG OUT. There are so many vital writers unheard, so many artists of color trying to express feelings of being left out and unseen, so many white kids writing emotionally challenging and complext plays that ARENT being heard that this kind of fearful programming by untrained ears (well it SOUNDS kinda like hip hop so I guess it's good) is insulting and hurtful and another nail in the coffin of the emerging artist driven in by the hammer of a liberal white kid who thinks cross cultural understanding means puttin on a hoodie and saying hey my struggles are just like yours! As a human being, his searing post divorce confusion and feelings of abandonment are valid and cannot be quantified. But as theater, the history of hip hop, good dramatic writing, language and form as cultural rebellion, and social context must not and cannot be ignored in a kind of backward affirmative action that actually upholds white privilege.

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