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Who’s the real fool?

Jay Stephens, the VP of Programming for Radio One, and a morning show coach named Steve Reynolds said…and I quote, “The 18-34 demographic in urban radio doesn’t want to be enlightened, they want to have fun!… 20-year-old Black kids are still watching Nickelodeon.”

That’s from a XXL.com editorial written by radio personality Charlemagne Tha God, where he asks “Why Dumb it Down?”

For a while now musicians, especially in Hip Hop, have made a practice of “dumbing down”, or making music less about serious issues and more about partying.  I’ve heard from countless rappers, producers, and more: “You gotta dumb down.  Most people aren’t smart, and don’t want to be.”

“20-year old black kids are still watching Nickelodeon.”

Why does the Black demographic matter?  Supposedly the biggest consumers of urban music are White suburban teens, many of whom have at least a high school education.  The statistic on White kids being the main consumers of Hip Hop may be questionable; but, of the many live “urban” shows I’ve been to, I’ve seen more people of other races than Black in the audience.

So, it seems that for a while now, Black artists and urban radio stations have been dumbing down their material with a Black audience in mind…but Blacks may not even be the main consumers buying the product.  Who’s the real fool then?

(Note:  I’m in my mid 20s, have a Masters degree, and still watch cartoons.  They’re more creative than “reality” shows.)

A lot of these execs think they’re smarter than they are, when many of them are making assumptions off “reports”.  News flash- Numbers CAN lie.

Holla!

I dumbed down for my audience and double my dollars./
They criticize me for it. Yet they all yell “Holla!”/
If skills sold, truth be told/
I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli./
Truthfully, I wanna rhyme like Common Sense/
(But I did five Mil) I ain’t been rhyming like Common since.

-Moment of Clarity, Jay-Z

But this isn’t just about Hip Hop.

Dumbing down has always made it’s way through entertainment, especially film and TV.  Studios ask for more “action” because the audience is “too stupid” to catch metaphors and symbolism, or meaningful dialogue.  How many “reality” shows have the same basic set up, and many times we can tell when something was scripted?

Diesel now has a campaign around the slogan “Be Stupid.”

Radio, television, film, advertisements, even public schools, work off the assumption that humans are dumb and like being that way.

This base-level thinking is imprisoning.

And last I remember, calling someone stupid was fightin’ words!

It’s one thing to simplify, and it’s another to dumb down.

As artists, we have to take minds to another level.

I’d probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli./Truthfully, I wanna rhyme like Common Sense/
(But I did five mill) I ain’t been rhyming like Common since.”

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Merc80

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26

01 2010

11 Comments Add Yours ↓

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  1. 1

    Truth!

  2. 2

    this is why you see whats happening with VH1soul now. they dont think that same demographic matters.

  3. FreedomsFire #
    3

    YES!! Beautifully put!! What I really like is that u dont just leave folks hanging, u locate responsibility. W/ the artists is indeed one of the places it can rest in addition to corporations – who I think r more responsible for the destrction of the music/culture than anyone. I hate that dumb ass diesal add, it gives me a headache!

    Dope journalism.
    -Fabienne.

  4. 4

    Thanks for penning the thoughts that many of us in the creative arts department have expressed for a long time. I remember a time in hip hop that being educated and speaking intelligently made you “fresh”. Now it seems that if you don’t grunt, scowl, or use hickory-dickory-dock metaphors you’re “wack”. This truly has become the age of the minstrel show rap artist. C’mon son! Let’s take this ish back!!

  5. 5

    Thanks for penning the thoughts that many of us in the creative arts department have expressed for a long time. I remember a time in hip hop that being educated and speaking intelligently made you “fresh”. Now it seems that if you don’t grunt, scowl, or use hickory-dickory-dock metaphors you’re “wack”. This truly has become the age of the minstrel show rap artist.

  6. Asia Esterak #
    6

    You’re one of the ONLY people on the internet who actually research these subjects and present all sides…well done!

  7. 7

    As another 20-something with 2 degrees that watches HELLA cartoons, I’m offended.

    The mind loves interesting fodder, entertainment or otherwise. If you feed it bullshit, I will degrade. If you feed it something that will encourage developement, it will develop.

    You make a great point. Methinks there is a conspiracy in the works (=P). Seriously though, why target a market that isn’t a majore source of income? That doesn’t make sense; all it does is show how an exec really feels about the market and said exec does not need a report to tell him what he feels he knows. It would only serve to confirm a bias.

  8. 8

    Side note: I love Diesel campaigns. Culture jamming TO THE MAX. I wonder if they’ll actually get people to say they are stupid to announce how they are adventurous risk-takers…

    Yeah, the joke is that the two don’t equate.

    Go Diesel.

  9. Dani #
    9

    Glad to have randomly selected this link. I plan on using it in the discussion forum with the youth in my program. It is one thing to listen to the music and quite another to make the music your model on ‘how to live your life’. Numbers speak and the people (black, white, red, purple, BROWN) have spoken!!! The exploitation of black people sells!!! I mean, it created the country and in some sense, is keeping it going?? Is it a fad? Will it end.. Or will the exploitation come in a different form… The day that black folks refuse to ‘shuck and jive’.. No matter the form … Is the day that we can hav a serious discussion about whether or not it’s appropriate to broadcast it or not… The adults/founders/tru believers of hip hop and what it’s about HAVE GOT TO EDUCATE and continue to promote and FIGHT to maintain the credibility of the hip hop culture. But who’s doing that? Who is willing to take on that task.? No one is asking anyone to be a role model.. But why can’t the fans ask for accountability.

  10. 10

    To continue the detrimental system in this country enlightening, positive, and conscious entertainment/media will NOT be promoted.

  11. 11

    I’m not sure what to think of Shawn Carter and the illuminati and even though felt the wrath of that ether I’m still a fan of his work from reasonable doublt-black album and I still think he makes decent music just could be more artistic


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