Hey, fellow white people. Can I have a word with you?
First of all, I was wondering if you could please tell me what the fuck this is. What are we doing here? It sounds like some white dude pretending he’s funky and fantasizing about an interracial blowjob. Now, I’m not opposed to interracial blowjobs at all, but I want to know why this is a song. I think you’re at least partly to blame, fellow white people. And I’ve come here to ask you to please stop encouraging this shit and, if you make this shit, please stop making it. Now. I know “Hey Soul Sister” won a Grammy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t some kind of high grade cultural toxin.
What am I talking about when I refer to “this shit”? I’m talking about the pseudo-funky white guy shtick that Pat Monahan is doing in that fucking video. I’m talking about the bad frat-rapping of pretty much every Jason Mraz song (yes, except that ubiquitous single of his, but don’t think for a minute that “I’m Yours” is any better) and that Hot Topic reggae shit that 311 is peddling. And don’t even get me started on the goddamn Red Hot Chili Peppers. This shit just has to stop. If you think there’s anything redeeming in “Hump de Bump”, you are almost certainly in the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Here’s the thing: if you’re some nerdy little fuck with an acoustic guitar, your job is to play nerdy little fuck songs on your acoustic guitar and bang teenagers. Nowhere in your job description does it say you can try to pass yourself off as funky by speak-singing really fast. I know that fools a certain percentage of the population, but to a lot of us, it’s just really embarrassing. And I’m not saying this out of some kind of misguided white pride – I don’t have white pride. I don’t have racial pride or national pride at all because you’re born into your race and nation by pure and simple luck, and I have moral qualms about taking pride in shit that happened to me instead of shit that I actually made happen through the sweat of my brow. Is that old-fashioned or new-fangled? Who cares? The point is, what people like Train, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 311, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (among, unfortunately, countless others) do is not simply degrading to white folks – it’s an affront to all human dignity. These people are doing things they clearly cannot and should not do. These things just happen to be things that lots of black people did (and still do) really well.
Let’s be clear here, fellow white people, I’m not suggesting that the aforementioned white entertainers are racist. Chances are, they’re quite the opposite, just like every misguided white college kid (with dreadlocks, naturally) who sits on the steps of his student union plaintively plucking out a Bob Marley tune (usually, laughably, “Redemption Song”) on his acoustic guitar. When Pat Monahan sings, “I’m so gangsta, I’m so thug,” I don’t think he hates black people; I think he’s an idiot. A lot of the white guys (and it’s always guys, isn’t it? Why do white men think they can do whatever they want? Oh yeah, ’cause they have for thousands of years. Assholes) I mentioned above probably think they’re “grooving” or being soulful or funky or whatever, and all they’re really doing is unintentionally watering down something that was frequently more vital, sensual, and sexual before they fucked with it.
Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with honoring the music of our strong, black brothers (did I just make an En Vogue reference?) and sisters, but sometimes you can do that better by, say, producing a Mavis Staples album (or buying a Curtis Mayfield one) than by trying to kick phat rhymes over your Dave Matthews guitar riff. The thing is, it takes a certain je ne sais quoi (which is French for, “unprecedented awesomeness”) for white guys to play funk, bust rhymes, or sing the blues. There are white people who can do all of those things. Atmosphere makes awesome hip-hop because Slug can balance the style and substance required to do so. Tom Waits can sing the blues because Tom Waits can literally do anything (I hear a lot of talk about this Chuck Norris guy, but I assure you Tom Waits could kill Chuck Norris with his fucking mind). I’ve not heard a white group that I would call even remotely good at funk or reggae since the Clash and if you try to say, “Matisyahu” after I just said, “the Clash”, there’s probably gonna be some violence.
And I know, fellow white people, I know you’re just dying to point out how popular some of these painfully white motherfuckers are; they’ve won awards, you’re thinking. Sold literally millions of albums. Hell, if you combined them all, they’ve sold billions of albums. How can that possibly be bad? It can be, fellow white people. In fact, it’s worse than you think. I submit to you that the popularity of all this Wonder Bread music reveals a fatal flaw in our cultural psyche because it allows us to ignore where our music came from and, by extension, where we came from. I’d be less incensed (but still incensed) about this stuff if every multi-platinum 311 album caused a spike in sales of Bob Marley and Lee Perry records. What if people heard the Red Hot Chili Peppers and then bought a Funkadelic record and called out the Chili Peppers for the hacks they are? But I’ve seen no evidence of this. What I’ve seen instead is a whitewashing of our diverse musical heritage.
I’m not suggesting we choose the past over the present, but allow me to get a little (more) religious on ya for a second (because music is as valid a spiritual practice as any religion. More so, in the case of Scientology): I believe that all great music carries with it a certain spirit (there’s that je ne sais quoi again) that embodies not just the best of what music can be but also the best of what human beings can be (this is why I attend a yearly party called Rocktoberfest). In the past, this spirit was manifest in the songs of Son House, Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, and in the voices of people like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Bob Dylan had that spirit when he (against his will, according to his autobiography) became the voice of his generation. Joe Strummer let that spirit shine right through him for fifty short years and if you listen to the songs he sang and the things he said, you’ll hear stuff that will light you up like a goddamn Christmas tree. See, the reason my fellow white people – and indeed, all people – shouldn’t keep putting up with shit like “Hey, Soul Sister” and “Amber” is because we all know we can do better.
So come on, fellow white people. Let’s knock this shit off. Okay?