Top of the Charts
During part of my misspent youth, I worked as a disc jockey. Fortunately, my better judgment eventually prevailed and I wound up in the Air Force, which offered a real career, substantial benefits and job security that was measured in years, rather than a 13-week contract.
But playing those "stacks of wax and mounds of sound" was a lot of fun, despite the low pay and (generally) lousy hours. Being a DJ was a great way to meet women, even if the music I played was generally bad; afterall, this was the late 1970s, not long after disco arrived, and most of the artists and songs on the playlist proved mind-numbing. Remember: this was the era of Muskrat Love, Feelings and YMCA.
Al Stewart was one of the exceptions, at least from my perspective. He enjoyed most of his commercial success during that period with Year of the Cat and Time Passages, songs that blended cultural and historic references with a contemporary score. Both tracks receive a lot of airplay to this day, although Mr. Stewart reporteldy hates Time Passages. As far as I know, he's the only rocker who's ever written (and recorded) songs about World War I fighter pilots (Fields of France), the German invasion of Russia during World War II (Roads to Moscow), and devoted an entire album to the interwar period (Between the Wars).
Fast-forward 30 years, and you'll see that contemporary song lyrics have devolved quite a bit from even the relatively low standards of the 1970s (Al Stewart excepted). Michelle Malkin has a sample of the "songs" currently atop Billboard's Hot Rap Tracks, and some representative lyrics. If you're looking for anything with significance and depth, you'll be disappointed. On the other hand, if you're down into the gangsta culture, these "tracks" are right up your alley. Lots of references to "bitches," "ho's," "pimps," "thugs," and the associated rot.
As Ms. Malkin reminds us, many of the same race groups and spokesmen offended by Don Imus' comments never utter a peep about the offerings of Mims, Bow Wow, R. Kelly, Young Jeezy and the rest. However, it is reassuring that the genre appears to have peaked; sales of rap CDs fell 21% between 2005 and 2006, and surveys by the Black Youth Project, the Associated Press and AOL found that most Americans believe that rap contains too many violent images and is a negative force in our society.
But you wouldn't know that by listening to Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. They're too busy making media hay over Imus' racist rant, while ignoring the massive social and cultural problems associated with the gangsta culture.