Watch Where You're Going with that Stereotype

Categories: General Archive

I got a little steamed this morning reading the following paragraph from Chris Riemenschneider's story about Dessa Darling, MC with local hip-hop collective Doomtree:

"The truth is, Darling, 24, didn't grow up a B-girl. She was a smart kid from Minneapolis Southwest High School who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2002 with a degree in philosophy. That hardly sounds like the background of a rapper."

First off, I don't like how "smart kid" is used in opposition to "B-girl." realize that "smart kid" is probably being used, innocently enough, to mean "nerd" or at least "someone more interested in scholarly pursuits than in outward expressions of cool." But one doesn't have to engage in any in-depth semiotics to find an implication that the average "B-girl" or "B-boy" is a "dumb kid." (Of course, some are -- dumb people are everywhere, as everyone knows.)

As far as Darling's history "hardly sound[ing] like the background of a rapper," well, her background is atypical but not incongruous. Yes, most rappers don't have philosophy degrees. Nor do most popular musicians. Obviously, many of the greatest and most famous rappers grew up very poor and in situations that didn't encourage going to college. And some of the greatest and most famous rappers did go to college, such as Kool Moe Dee (who attended after he had already put out records) and Chuck D.

My personal experience with musicians in general is that most either didn't go to college or didn't finish college. Even musicians in the indie-rock milieu, which tends to attract middle- and upper-middle class partisans and is culturally tied to collegiate life, are largely college dropouts. Now as far as orchestra musicians go, those folks are lucky to make it out of junior high.


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