Give Slaughterhouse a Break

There is a lot riding on Slaughterhouse’s upcoming album, welcome to: OUR HOUSE (why the fuck is the title stylized that way?). In many rap fans’ minds, because Slaughterhouse is the “poster family” of solid lyricism*, if Slaughterhouse can’t do well after being backed by Shady Records, a prominent commercial entity, lyricism in the commercial rap world is officially dead. There are some issues with this kind of reasoning.

First, while Slaughterhouse would love for their album to go platinum in the first week, get constant airplay and be heralded as the best album of the year by Pitchfork, they know that none of those things are likely. Crossing over and breaking commercial records is welcomed and hoped for, but at the end of the day, it’s not expected and it shouldn’t be because their type of music isn’t in vogue now and as I will argue, has never been in the past. As a fairly niche group, most likely Slaughterhouse expects to just do moderately well.

Why do I think it’s okay to speculate about what Slaughterhouse wants to do? On one hand, it’s because I’ve listened to their music enough to kind of get a feel for their ambitions. On the other hand, I know that no mainstream act is staying afloat just because of talent. As seasoned artists with over 4 decades of collective experience in the music industry, the members of Slaughterhouse know this too. A lot of Slaughterhouse fans don’t seem to be privy to the same information.

Well here’s your opportunity. If you look at the RIAA’s list of best-selling hip-hop albums, you’ll notice that lyricism isn’t the common thread linking the albums on that list. Seriously, that list features DMX, Vanilla Ice, Nelly, MC Hammer, Snoop Dogg, Ja Rule and Cypress Hill: none of these acts feature great lyrics. The lyrical abilities of some of the other artists on that list are up for debate, but I culled these examples because they are very explicitly not characterized by lyricism and they demonstrate that lyricism and record sales aren’t strongly correlated. The only really factors that seem to determine the success of an album are the year that album was released and the record label that released it.

To be fair, that list has its weaknesses: it doesn’t designate exactly when an album went platinum, it only lists the highest selling albums, it doesn’t say where the album went platinum (i.e. what country) and it doesn’t explain the RIAA’s statistical methods, among other things. I am very aware of these flaws. I just cited that list to make the larger point that pure lyricism has never and will never sell tons of records. Lyricism is one cog in a very complex and opaque machine.

I’m not saying that the machine’s inner-workings can’t be or haven’t been influenced. It is a fact that huge marketing and production budgets had a significant role in helping certain, maybe most albums make that list. With that in mind, there are plenty albums that had huge budgets and still didn’t make the list. At the end of the day there is no guaranteed formula to selling records and even if there was, top-notch lyricism would not be the limiting reagent. Thus, to invest so much faith in Slaughterhouse’s upcoming album is to both embrace a mythical past and anticipate an unlikely future. I hope the album is enjoyable and successful, but if it isn’t, it doesn’t matter.

*As used in this post “solid lyricism” is defined as the noticeable and frequent toying with the meanings, implications, pronunciations and connotations of words.

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Rage, of the Black variety: A Critical Response to Maafa 21

Right now I am incredibly pissed. I just returned from a viewing and discussion of Maafa 21, a heavily politicized and poorly constructed documentary that asserts that abortions, specifically those given by Planned Parenthood, are apart of a conspiracy – which allegedly stretches back to the time of Darwin – to destroy the Black community.

Before continuing, please stop and uncontrollably convulse and scream.

You’re welcome.

The film begins by vastly misrepresenting the American Eugenics movement’s development during the late 19th century. It asserts that the notions of superiority that were held by these Eugenicists only applied to Black people. This is false. Eugenicists believed that Blacks, Asians, Indigenous Americans, the Irish, “licentious women,” the mentally retarded, criminal, the “lazy,” homosexuals, the “indifferent” and basically everyone else that was not White, Christian, heterosexual, socially “normal,” and law abiding was somehow inferior and sought to prevent the dissemination of their “tainted genes.” I’m actually reading the book Eugenic Nation, which talks about the Eugenics movement in America (before WWII) and in it Blacks are barely mentioned. The book actually spends most of its time discussing how eugenically-influenced policies in the early to mid twentieth century primarily affected women, Asians, Mexicans and those of Mexican descent. So from the beginning , by presenting Eugenics as this historically anti-black rather than anti-[insert what we think are inferior], the film is destined to be wrong.

Using this misrepresentation of history as the foundation of its argument, the film begins to assert that because Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was affiliated with Eugenic organizations and had questionable morals, the ultimate goals of Planned Parenthood are eugenic and anti-black. The film then proposes that Planned Parenthood centers exist in urban areas because blacks live there and that this is evidence that abortions are marketed toward Blacks. After this, it makes a terrible proposition for why abortions increased after Roe v. Wade. There are many problems with this proposal.

First, there is a misunderstanding of economics. There was a demand for abortions before Roe v. Wade and it was being supplied way before Planned Parenthood. They just weren’t being documented. Abortions did increase after Roe v. Wade, but not just because Planned Parenthood started providing them. Also and most importantly, Blacks are not the only people that get abortions or the only people that live in urban areas! What about Miami? The Cuban population is the largest ethnic population in the city. So many Cubans live in Miami that it is considered an ethnic enclave! Do you know what enclave means? I fucking do. Also, renting space is cheaper when you do it urban areas. When you’re a nonprofit organization, you need to save money.

Second, Margaret Sanger was not for abortions and her eugenic beliefs did not necessarily deal with race. They might have, but honestly, even if Margaret Sanger was some paternalistic, eugenic-supporting, Black-hating, succubus bitch from hell, I could care less. Now, in 2010, Planned Parenthood supports comprehensive sex education, female reproductive rights, health care and many other positive things. It is a positive force in the community. There is nothing wrong with investigating the origin of something, but it is utterly stupid to make conclusions based just on that origin, especially if you do not understand it.

Incidentally, it is important to note that this film was sponsored by my school’s Pro-Life organization and shown as a Black History Month event (which really pisses me off). Additionally, the film features irate Black people talking about the issue, which is supposed to somehow prove how disturbing this is to the Black community. At one point the film randomly cites, without any evidence, that certain chapters of the Black Panther Party and Jesse Jackson were against abortions. No one under the age of 54 cares about anything Jesse Jackson has to say. By this point though, the message was pretty clear. Pro-Life organizations want more black members and they are willing to sponsor the shittiest documentary ever filmed to acquire them.

The most disturbing thing about the film is that it is marketed as “Black genocide.” Moreover, at multiple points in the film, aborted fetuses are equated with Holocaust victims.

Appropriately, there was an imbecile(who was unfortunately a black woman) present to defend the film. She is responsible for the recent offensive billboards in Atlanta. While I could list her terrible opinions and debunk them, I will just provide you with some of her memorable quotes and my [internal] responses to them.

“No woman would want to kill her child(fetus).” A fetus is not a child. It is a fetus.

“There are families everywhere that are willing to adopt. All babies can be adopted.” Sure they can be adopted, but they aren’t. Why do so many kids grow up in orphanages?

“Some women have up 15 abortions.” Bullshit(I literally said this out loud). These women are so anomalous they might as well not exist.

“We don’t have an overpopulation problem. We could fit the entire population of the United States in Texas.” […] (No response)

Update:

I finished Eugenic Nation last Saturday and I have an interesting quote.

“The dividing line between family planning and eugenics is murky” (Stern 202).

So there is some merit to Maafa 21’s accusations, but this merit is lost in the film’s heavy and slanted political message. Even if it was not slanted, it would still be committing the genetic fallacy.

For further reading, check out this article.

Update 2: I have closed this article for commenting.