Ebony.com reports that famed trumpet player, Winston Marsalis claims rap music is more damaging than Confederate statues. The jazz musician had the conversation with journalist Jonathan Capehart in the “Cape Up” podcast. Despite what opinions people might have about rap and hip-hop, Marsalis has a point. Hip-hop pervades areas where there are no Confederate statues. He takes issue with the language of rap: the use of the N-word and misogynistic terminology.
Marsalis: parallels between rap and minstrel shows
Marsalis did not hold back when he needed to use a comparison to make his point. He likened rap music to minstrel shows. Minstrel shows were essentially variety shows used to mock black Americans. Ideas about exaggerated face, hair and body characteristics of black people were key components of minstrel shows. The shows started in the mid-19th century, but the ideas they espoused about the negative physical and mental attributes of black Americans persist.
It seems that Marsalis is concerned that rap music’s popularity is comparable to that of minstrel shows. And, as a result, the effects of the language will negatively impact future generations of Americans.
Still, Marsalis’ assessment is not new. As he asserts in the interview, Marsalis has been making this claim since 1985.
Ebony.com is not the only news outlet to carry news of Marsalis’ statements. The washingtonpost.com also reported on the story, and each notes Marsalis’ longtime disdain for rap.
Marsalis is quoted as saying, “My words are not that powerful. I started saying in 1985 I don’t think we should have a music talking about n–ers, b–ches and h–s…To me that’s more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee.”
While Marsalis might not think his words have an impact, they are bound to make an impression on people who think that rap can have a positive impact on both its target demographic and the larger society.
Wynton Marsalis: part of the solution
Interestingly, Marsalis has been involved in the removal of Confederate statues. Which is important because it isn’t as though he is giving Confederate statues a pass in terms of representing racist ideology.
Now that the process to remove such statues is well underway, it seems as though Marsalis’ words serve to remind us that there is still work to be done.
While the words of one musician, no matter how famous, might not revolutionize the ways in which hip-hop artists express themselves, it does spark a dialogue about why certain tropes are allowed to persist.