I was sitting at the bar minding my own business when a guy in a white shirt sitting next to me said something that I didn't agree with. Don't you hate it when somebody in the conversation you are eavesdropping on says something so ridiculous it forces you to pipe in with your own opinion? He was talking about music with two of his buddies when a Cypress Hill song came on the jukebox. While Cypress brattled the first chorus of “A to the K,” White Shirt pointed at the jukebox and bellowed, “That's not music,” to all within earshot as though he were saying something wildly profound that everyone needed to hear.
Whenever I overhear someone saying something I perceive to be unenlightened, my knee-jerk reaction is always to pipe in with an opinion of my own. I am trying to curb that particular compulsion, as I have learned over the years that piping your opinions uninvited into the conversations of others is rude and narcissistic, and little good can come from it. The last time I piped my unsolicited opinion into a conversation, the guy got so red-faced and agitated he lost control of his mastication functions and kept spitting small pieces of soggy corn chips across my face and arms as he cursed me out.
This is my burden, people. I'm an opinion piper. I pipe my opinions into other people's conversations without being invited, and because that's largely a bad thing, I try to keep resist the urge. But sometimes it's so got-ang hard-especially when you hear comments as bogus as, “That ain't music.” Because that particular argument against rap (which I've heard several times before) is entirely devoid of anything that resembles merit.
For three reasons:
First of all, rap is clearly a form of music. The first entry in my beloved American Heritage 3rd Edition dictionary defines music as: “The art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified and evocative composition, as through melody, rhythm and timbre.” Notice this definition says the “The art of arranging sounds” and makes no distinction about where those sounds came from. Whether from a traditional musical instrument, beatboxing into a microphone or banging animal bones on a garbage can lid, they're all sounds that have been arranged as through melody, rhythm and timbre and therefore meet the requirements of the definition. So when somebody says, “Rap's not music,” what they're really saying is, “Rap does not fit into my utterly simplistic definition of music.”
Of course, I didn't say any of this to the guy. I do not pipe into conversations uninvited anymore. Though I will admit to a tinge of stress gathering in my neck and arms as his friends all blathered in agreement.
“Yeah, man,” said Blue Shirt. “Rap sucks cuz rap's not real music.”
“Fuck rappers,” added Red Shirt. “All they do is play samples and talk over a bass beat. That's not music, man,” as Cypress Hill sang, “A to the motherfucking K homeboy/ A to the motherfucking K.”
A second reason that the “That's not music” argument is as impertinent as a war report from Baghdad Bob is because it's the wrong answer to the wrong question. Let's assume the premise to be true, that rap is not music. Well, so what? Photography is not music, either. Movies are not music. Plays aren't music. Not paintings, not TV shows, not amusement parks nor golf courses. Even an icy-cold beer on a hot summer day is not music.
So, fine, put rap into your little folder labeled “Not Music” if you must. It's not what it's called that matters, it's what it is: For instance, is it pleasing, thoughtful and provocative? Does it spike your adrenaline levels? Does it stab you in the gut and leave you for dead? These are the questions that matter, which, by the way, I never said aloud because I do not pipe in, uninvited, to other people's conversations. Yes, I kept my mouth shut, though it was so got-am hard. They were all quite proud of their position, going on and on about all the reasons why rap is not music while Cypress Hill sang, “A to the motherfucking K homeboy/ A to the motherfucking K,” and I found myself fantasizing that B Real comes bursting through the door, spraying the not-music-sayers guts and faces with machine-gun fire.
The third reason “That's not music” is a pathetic response to the hip-hop genre is that it uncovers a certain prejudice for the music that it makes you wonder if it isn't for reasons other than rhythm, melody and timbre that it is so readily dismissed. None of which I said. Because I am not a piper-inner anymore. Because I no longer need to manufacture hostile encounters to suit my ego. Besides, what right do I have piping in on somebody else's conversation uninvited? What kind of self-important baboon does that?
“And you know what else ain't music,” says White Shirt. “All that techno crap! How can something that comes from a computer be music?”
“Must not pipe in.” I said to myself. “Must. Not. Pipe. In,” and noticed that my fingertips were all shredded and bloody from digging out pieces of the bar top with my nails, “Must. Not. Pipe. In. Must. Not. Pipe. In.” Until, finally, like a defeated dieter yanking open the refrigerator door in the middle of the night, I yanked open their conversation and piped my opinion in.
“The fact that rap and techno test the boundaries of what you consider music is all the more reason to appreciate it,” I snapped.
They stopped talking. For, like, 15 seconds nobody said anything. They just looked at me dumbfounded as if I had a bloody rabbit hanging from my maw. Then White Shirt spoke up.
“Who asked you?” he said. Ten minutes later he was red-faced and agitated spitting soggy pretzel bits across my face and arms. I had finally come home.