Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis recently caught a bit of heat for sharing his belief that much of hip hop is extremely harmful to the Black community, even more so than statues of Confederate soldiers who fought to preserve slavery. The musician has taken to Facebook to clarify his statement, and while he doesn’t backtrack, he gives a more thorough explanation behind his reasoning.
“I stand by what I say about those products that express the things I take exception to,” Marsalis said of certain rap music he considers problematic. “The vast majority of works, which don’t present the type of material I was referring to, are not included in observations about mainstream vulgarity and pornography. I have been public with these concerns since the mid to late 1980’s (when I was in my twenties) and have not and did not say ALL at any time in recent memory.”
He went on to share how upsetting it is for an individual to not be able to think for themselves without receiving excessive backlash.
“When we lose the right to critique (especially inside of groups we belong to) and have to accept mob rule, it is a step back towards slavery. George Bush said it best in quieting dissenters after 9/11 during the push to launch the ill advised but lucrative (for some) Iraq War, ”You’re either with us or against us.” Meaning if you disagree, you are our enemy… Those who disagree with my assessment (of those pieces that I am talking about which were not identified by name but by content) are entitled to their disagreement and are entitled to express it, and I welcome their comments. I was not disparaging to any individual person and will not be, because these are general observations not specific ones.”
As for his statement that the worst of hip hop is more damaging to Black people than a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, Marsalis explains it as follows:
“Today, Robert E. Lee is not widely or openly celebrated in the country and does not hold a position of prestige or power in the cultural marketplace. The irony of the situation is mind boggling because, I’m sure that many people who have called for the removal of Lee (and other Confederate monuments as racist symbols that have helped to perpetuate age old stereotypes) are also defending some of the most popular and most promoted products (THOUGH CLEARLY NOT ALL OF ) an art form that is doing the exact same thing-except now, the perpetuation of negative imagery and stereotypes are self-inflicted for a paycheck.”
You can read his full explanation of the controversial quote below.
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.