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Art and Poison

I caught the beginning of Paula Zahn Now last night, or Paula's On Now as I always think of it.

the title of the show was "Hip-Hop: Art or Poison?" It is a question I have pondered more than once myself.

Is hip-hop, with its elements of sexism, gangsterism, violence and profanity, just another step on the long road to cultural enlightenment and tolerance, to self-expression and art, or is it self-indulgent mysogony masquerading as such. I don't know if the show answered the question, but my read is that it is some of both.

I'm not sure the reaction to it can be equated with that of previous generations to jazz and rock because some of it is so exclusionary. Jazz and rock had universal elements that were ultimately inclusive if initially shocking to some, while some hip-hop seems to revel in its threatening, in-your-face poses, and more than poses, given the death toll in that musical community.

Still, the music does give voice to a previously voiceless element that is out there and obviously wants to be heard and needs to be paid attention to, even if it frightens some people.

I noted that CNN put a warning about content before the show, then seemed still to be asterisking and blurring the naughty bits. Given that it was an 8 p.m. show, that restraint, even without an FCC breathing down its neck, was justifiable.

By John Eggerton