Hip-hop: common tongue for global pop

As if his account of a recent John Ashbery reading* weren’t enough to fill my heart to overflowing, Mr. Sasha Frere-Jones holds forth on hip-hop in this week’s Magazine:

Pop seeks transparency, a language that will read quickly and clearly everywhere. Over the last decade, hip-hop has become that common tongue for global pop, and what we might call Timbatunes are establishing how that language is spoken right now. The collapse of larger categories like pop, hip-hop and R&B is partly a result of their innovations, which are now the default moves for much of pop music. Neptunes and Timbaland tracks fit into D.J. sets alongside German techno, popular Jamaican dancehall and the Asian-British hybrid dance music bhangra. The biggest-selling rock band in America, Linkin Park, uses the kind of sampled beats and keyboards Timbaland and the Neptunes use. At the top of the food chain, the Rolling Stones hired the Neptunes to do a remixed version of ”Sympathy for the Devil.” Jagger was an early adopter of country rock, disco and rap; his papal nod is, at the very least, an indication that something or someone is not going away.

* “Lehman asked Ashbery how often he writes. Ashbery said one hour a week, tops. Ashbery quoted Gertrude Stein saying that writing for an hour is plenty. People laughed in that nervous way, as if it would be impolite not to.”


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