Rap – the new Joni Mitchell?

Folk music has always been a vehicle used to convey messages of protest, of discontent.

Artists like Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, and Judy Collins popularised the protest song and brought it to a 1960s audience who were both hungry for a new art form and discontent with their lot.

Twenty five years later NWA were the first group to bring rap to a wider audience as a means of carrying a different type of message of dissatisfaction with their mean, meaty and very crude Straight Outta Compton.

Almost another twenty years later and Eminem elevated rap higher when he introduced a new type of street poetry that highlighted his anger with and aspects of world-wide hypocrisy with his third album The Eminem Show.

Yesterday, six years after I first heard The Eminem Show, I heard another voice – though the band Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy – vocalise its intense dislike of the modern world with the anger-ridden, media-focussed anthem Television The Drug Of The Nation.

Adam Curry asked in a Daily Source Code podcast where today’s protest songs were.

I think they’re here Adam. In rap.

Here’s the lyrics to Television The Drug Of The Nation – to get the full wrath you need to listen to the track – but you’ll get a good impression of the quality of DHOH’s artistry and articulation of anger from these words.

Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy – Television The Drug Of The Nation

One nation under God has turned into
one nation under the influence of one drug

Television the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

It satellite links our United States of Unconsciousness,
Apathetic therapeutic and extremely addictive.
The methadone metronome pumping out 150 channels 24 hours a day,
you can flip through all of them and still there’s nothing worth watching.

is the reason why less than 10 per cent of our Nation reads books daily,
Why most people think Central America means Kansas,
Socialism means unAmerican
and Apartheid is a new headache remedy.

Absorbed in its world it’s so hard to find us.
It shapes our mind the most, maybe the mother of our Nation
should remind us that we’re sitting too close to…

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

T.V. is the stomping ground for political candidates
Where bears in the woods are chased by Grecian Formula’d bald eagles.
T.V. is mechanized politics,
remote control over the masses,
co-sponsored by environmentally safe gases (watch for the PBS special).

It’s the perpetuation of the two party system,
where image takes precedence over wisdom,
Where sound bite politics are served to the fastfood culture,
Where straight teeth in your mouth
are more important than the words that come out of it.

Race baiting is the way to get selected
Willie Horton or
Will he not get elected on…

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

T.V., is it the reflector or the director?
Does it imitate us or do we imitate it – because a child
watches 1500 murders before he’s twelve years old
and we wonder why we’ve created a Jason generation that learns to laugh
rather than to abhor the horror?

T.V. is the place where armchair generals and quarterbacks
can experience first hand the excitement of warfare
as the theme song is sung in the background.

Sugar sweet sitcoms that leave us with a bad actor taste while
pop stars metamorphosize into soda pop stars.
You saw the video, you heard the soundtrack?
Well now go buy the soft drink.

Well, the only cola that I support
would be a union C.O.L.A.(Cost Of Living Allowance)
On television.

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

Back again, “New and improved”.
We return to our irregularly programmed schedule
hidden cleverly between heavy breasted
beer and car commercials
CNN ESPN ABC TNT but mostly B.S.

Where oxymoronic language like
“virtually spotless”, “fresh frozen”
“light yet filling” and “military intelligence”
have become standard.

T.V. is the place where phrases are redefined
like “recession” to “necessary downturn”
“Crude oil on a beach” to “mousse”
“Civilian death” to “collateral damages” and
being killed by your own Army is now called “friendly fire”.

T.V. is the place where the pursuit of happiness has become the pursuit of trivia,
Where toothpaste and cars have become sex objects,
Where imagination is sucked out of children by a cathode ray nipple.
T.V. is the only wet nurse that would create a cripple

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation


Poetry for the masses


It’s National Poetry Day.

Ah, poetry…

drifts off with a dopey expression

I must go down to the sea again
To the lonely sea and the sky
I left my vest and socks there
I wonder if they’re dry?

Spike Milligan’s brilliant parody of John Masefield

We ‘did’ poetry at school but we ‘did’ it in the same way that we ‘did’ history and ‘did’ geography.

The concepts those dead poets were trying to hand to us across the years were too huge for schoolchildren to understand; the language too old fashioned and far too grand.

And the meanings were much too obscure for our prepubescent brains to even begin processing.

Why were we forced to sit there learning meaningless words by rote?

Tiger, Tiger burning bright
In the forest of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake.

And yet the only thought that bothers a thirteen year-old child, sitting in a classroom while s/he is being force-fed this work is that the words don’t even rhyme!

The poem has no relationship to that child’s universe and because of this disconnection it has zero meaning and bucket-loads of negative equity in the value department.

See what I did there?

I used imagery to make my point – Blake’s imagery doesn’t work.

But disconnection doesn’t stop with one 18th Century poet.

There are more modern poets, some of them still alive (Mr Motion!), whose work is as obscure.

And through that obscurity it is also rendered meaningless – to most of us.

So, as this is modern day National Poetry Day here’s my contribution (click here):

And for the bandwidth-challenged, you’ll just have to read the following lines in a Mancunian accent:

Outside the take-away, Saturday night
a bald adolescent, asks me out for a fight
He was no bigger than a two-penny fart
he was a deft exponent of the martial art
He gave me three warnings:
Trod on me toes, stuck his fingers in my eyes
and kicked me in the nose
A rabbit punch made me eyes explode
My head went dead, I fell in the road

I pleaded for mercy
I wriggled on the ground
he kicked me in the balls
and said something profound
Gave my face the millimetre tread
Stole me chop suey and left me for dead

Through rivers of blood and splintered bones
I crawled half a mile to the public telephone
pulled the corpse out the call box, held back the bile
and with a broken index finger, I proceeded to dial

I couldn’t get an ambulance
the phone was screwed
The receiver fell in half
it had been kung fu’d

A black belt karate cop opened up the door
demanding information about the stiff on the floor
he looked like an extra from Yang Shang Po
he said “What’s all this then
ah so, ah so, ah so.
he wore a bamboo mask
he was gen’ned on zen
He finished his devotions and he beat me up again

Thanks to that embryonic Bruce Lee
I’m a shadow of the person that I used to be
I can’t go back to Salford
the cops have got me marked
Enter the Dragon
Exit Johnny Clarke

Kung Fu International, John Cooper Clarke – a poet for today, not a poet for yesterday.