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"Can we, as a country, all agree

xmag.com : January 2003: Bubba Sparxxx and Haystak

Can white guys blah blah blah rap? Let me say blah blah about that. There are two kinds of music: good and bad. Was Elvis a racist who stole the black man's blah blah blah? There are only nine zillion white artists ahead of Elvis to hang that rap on. Imitators, not innovators. The initial flak that Elvis caught was from whites indignant that he had rockabilly'd up hallowed old Bill Monroe songs like "Blue Moon Of Kentucky." Elvis would have been a huge star even if he'd only recorded white shmaltz--his favorite. But then he'd be called racist for not covering black artists' material.

 

By his own admission, the bulk of Elvis' artistic larceny came compliments of white Southern Gospel, its boundaries with black Gospel blurred long before he made the scene. He had almost no hits with R&B remakes. His "Hound Dog" is credited to Big Mama Thornton only by virtue of legal technicality. The two versions don't even use the same words. He did to it what the Clash might have done to it. In fact, "Hound Dog" was written by two white guys (Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller) who were writing and producing exclusively for black artists (the Drifters, the Coasters and many others). Otis Blackwell, who penned "Don't Be Cruel," "All Shook Up," and Jerry Lee's "Great Balls Of Fire," was a peculiar, iconoclastic black artist writing for white rockers. Arthur "Baby, Let's Play House" Gunter was a black blues artist heavily influenced by country music.

Why isn't all this exchange between cultures a good thing? If propis the issue, Elvis didn't call himself "The King Of Rock-n-Roll." Take it up with the voice of white wealth and privilege, the cliché and catch-phrase reliant Johnny-come-lately "media" who initially savaged Elvis worse than anyone ever did N.W.A. or Ice-T. American Indian activist/poet/performer John Trudell calls Elvis "America's Baby Boom Che," for those of you who need politicized "leftie" credentials. He lifted himself out of abject poverty by forging cutting-edge, revolutionary, galvanizing, controversial music,

which evidently is still controversial today.

It seems there would be more about Elvis for ghetto-born black rappers to relate to rather than condemn. It's not about color, it's about class. Read a little thing called The Redneck Manifesto, why dontcha?

Which brings us to two current white Southern musicians who also elect not to perform bluegrass

or dress like Brooks and Dunn: Georgia's Bubba Sparxxx and Tennesseean Haystak.

Sparxxx has had some mainstream success this past year and a couple hits with "Ugly" and "Lovely." I learned of him in faggy, elitist, pretentious Rolling Stone--the nation's Willamette Week--which nevertheless shows that Sparxxx' appeal transcends regionalism. If you don't have his Dark Days, Bright Nights (Interscope's Beatclub Records), pick it up.

Haystak (Car Fulla White Boys and The Natural on Koch Records' In The Paint) is more underground but appears on the verge of breaking big. I learned of him in the tiny, near-militant, Elvis-hating Rap Sheet, which claims to be the only black-owned hip-hop publication. A street cred feather in his blue-eyed devil cap indeed.

As your typical rap fan myself (a dorky middle-aged white man who's been known to wear dickies--rap name DJ Jazzy Biff), I must admit to having a predisposition to what my people bring to the rap table: Beastie Boys, Everlast, ICP (you heard me). To this homey's ears, Haystak's voice and delivery alone are perhaps the most compelling and engaging since Big Pun.

If you're so hip and enlightened and racially color-blind that you just have to know who's got what color skin in a musical production so you can not care about it (are you with me?), well, you're hearing "black music" with all these guys. Dr. Dre (Snoop Dogg, N.W.A.) produces Eminem. Timbaland (Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, Ludacris) produces Sparxxx. Haystak is on Koch Records' In The Paint label, current home of Public Enemy and KRS-One.

This is not to detract from the lads' rhymes, mic skills, taste or talent one whit. Or from what they have to say. Sparxxx and 'Stak piqued my slumming white trash sensibilities. But, due to ingrained Yank bias (I grew up about three feet above the Mason-Dixon Line), I think I was expecting more of a goof, sampling barnyard animals and such. Sadly, there's very little of that, though Sparxxx' "Bubba Talk" is scored for vocal, percussion, cow and banjo.

"Y'all don't know me at all, I say the same thing but slower than y'all. A little southern charm to top it off: Okey dokey, it's that Bubba Talk."

Followed by two bars of cattle lowing. Still, you don't want to make fun of these crackers.

"They call me white boy, cracker, (something unintelligible that rhymes with devil), damned old evil blue-eyed devil, paleface, and um proud to be that, dude. Make up some more shit to mean white boy, I'll be that, too."

I don't think anyone's saying those things to Haystak's face.

"I represent the tribe when I'm behind the mic, don't tell me nuthin' 'bout no goddam stereotypes."

Okay. Calm down, big fella.

"Tad and Brad come to school with gauges, start shootin' up the rich kids in their faces. Then Mom and Dad duck the issue: 'It was the crowd that they hung around, the music that they listened to.' White boys been dyin' 'round here for years, but it never makes CNN, you know why? We were put here to die, so when we kill one another, it comes as no surprise: We animals in they eyes."

Not exactly Hee Haw with breakbeats.

He's right, too. Media coverage stops at the ghetto's edge and the CITY LIMITS sign. He's right on all counts. Bleeding heart liberals' hearts bleed

for anyone but him.

"This is dedicated to all the fags and hags who associate Haystak with racism and rebel flags..."

"I'm pro-abortion and burnin' the flag."

America--what went wrong? Here's the voice of the socioeconomic pool which fights your wars and dies for your "freedom" agenda. Yet your art, your entertainment, your Hollywood, your academia, your media disrespect him before he even opens his mouth, invalidating his experience with taunts of "racist" and "hillbilly." Must you over-educated, PBS-minded, rhetoric-reciting, self-absorbed and self-obsessed "peace" marchers demonize controversial white voices in order to embrace your fascist definition of "diversity?" Is your self worth that shaky?

Black GIs returned from their segregated units in World War II to a country in which they were excluded from professional baseball, a country simultaneously embarking on unprecedented prosperity and a resurgence of lynching. That cultural dynamic still exists unabated, though it ain't so "black and white." Listen to proletariat resentment before it bites you on the ass.

Race, shmace. Rap, shmap. Ultimately it's about the music and the power of art to distill life to its essentials. Common essentials. And it's about the power of hip-hop to cross boundaries as no music or art has before.

The track "Cool People" on Haystak's The Natural talks about what constitutes good friends:

"People that'll be there in jail to see yo ass, put they fist to the glass . . ."

Is there anyone in this world you'd put your fist to the glass for?

"The redwood casket, all-gold trim, 3-piece pin-stripe, gators and brim."

Word.

X

 

 

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