A month ago, a young NPR intern received a hefty dose of digital backlash for having the gall to admit that she doesn’t buy music, just like the vast majority of her generation. Now another young NPR intern has inspired the same vitriol, this time for expressing his opinion on music.
In a recurring feature for NPR Music, an intern will listen to a “classic” album that they’ve never heard before and write an experiential review. Austin Cooper decided to tackle Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. He prefaces his post by stating outright that he’s a “hip-hop novice,” and he’s only just recently taken to the genre via Drake and other similarly “producer-driven” artists.
So it should come as no surprise that he’s a bit dismayed by all the Public Enemy hype. To him, it all sounds “cartoonish”: bare vocals, thin, minimally-processed rhythms, somewhat-dated guitar samples. He’s more of a fan of atmospheric hip-hop, and the album strikes him as an odd product of its time.
And thus, let the backlash begin. Comments range from “you have bad taste” to a more reasoned “being young shouldn’t mean you should be ignorant.” To his credit, many commentors come to his defense, stating that he should be allowed to express an honest opinion (which he certainly did).
But noted Public Enemy fan ?uestlove decided to weigh in as well. Here’s what the Roots’ drummer had to say:
Austin. I’m sure this entire response thread is brow beating you to no end. so I’m taking a different approach. i too had a hard time swallowing records that were deemed “classic” just because some adult told me so. i find its best to take in music when you have the proper context. i too found Epitaph, On The Corner, Blood On The Tracks, Exile On Main Street, & Horses “boring” and “not as good as…..(name something that was banging when i was a kid)—-but hopefully you will realize it is your duty to discover the beauty of acclaimed art and why it was so. take Springsteen’s “Nebraska” for instance an acclaimed record that was hard for an inner city hip hop fan to swallow without a backstory. so i spent an entire weekend reading every story about this album so that i could have a better grasp on what the times were like and that helped me understand (and eventually agree) why this is Springsteen’s magnum opus. i mean no one here is expecting you to be the next Lester Bangs or Rob Christgau but i do expect this generation (born some 20 years after me) with its advantages in technology to put real effort into the information it processes. there is no question Nation is one of THE greatest recordings ever. ur job is to find out why.
He makes a good point; perhaps NPR should start hiring music vets along with interns? Another day, another NPR sacrificial lamb. Read the full post here.