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Thursday, November 27, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 20.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Hip-hop and history
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Our culture, like most others throughout history, has the unfortunate penchant of blaming the messenger for the unpleasantness of the message. This is what you get for reminding people of their shortcomings. Some folks think that's exactly the dynamic that was played out when the problems on King Street, related to the popularity of Club Majestic, were ascribed by some folks to the club's brand of entertainment - the musical and cultural genre called hip-hop.

There were others who denied the connection, maintaining that there were a lot of contributors to the unruliness of the late-night (actually very early-morning) revelers who fostered problems at bar time. One of these is Kyle Myhre, the author of "Hip-Hop Haters," our cover story this week. Myhre identifies what he thinks may be sources of trouble on the streets, and music is definitely not one of them.

New brands of music have often been indicted as agents of cultural disruption, leveled mainly by critics who represent the cultural status quo. It was like that for rock 'n' roll in the '50s and jazz before that. The hammer often comes down on music, perhaps because it has power to motivate people or because it is used as a means of communication among emerging traditions. Young people invent young people's music precisely because the old folks don't get it, for example.

Back to the instance at hand. Myhre makes an eloquent case for hip-hop, which has been described either as music glorifying misogynistic, violent, antisocial behavior or as an international movement emphasizing a classless, colorless society. He has written on the topic for Isthmus before, at times under his alternate persona of el guante, hip-hop emcee. He raps, and he is prominent in Madison's growing spoken-word movement. He is the reigning Madison Poetry Slam Champion and competes with Madison's national poetry slam team.

A visit to guante.net brings up an "under construction" notice and, amusingly, plenty of links to sites about gloves of all kinds. El guante means "the glove" in Spanish. I'm not sure how his name relates to his performance, but I'm sure he's not in the medical supply business. If you want a taste of his hip-hop wares, visit his page at myspace.com/elguante.

Is hip-hop a force for good or evil? It depends on how it's used. But it is a force.

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