Wynton Marsalis: Rap more damaging than statue of Confederate leader

The legendary jazz performer feels that misogyny in hip-hop has done more damage than the statues of a Civil War commander who defended white supremacy

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Jazz legend Wynton Marsalis took the gloves off in an interview with the Washington Post when he criticized rap music saying often-misogynistic lyrics in its songs are more damaging than a statue of a Confederate general who led the south during the Civil War. 

“My words are not that powerful. I started saying in 1985 I don’t think we should have a music talking about n*ggers and b*tches and h*es. It had no impact. I’ve said it. I’ve repeated it. I still repeat it. To me that’s more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee,” when talking to journalist Jonathan Capehart’s Cape Up podcast.

Marsalis helped New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to remove the Lee statue last year, but feels that negative lyrics in hip-hop are more damaging to African-Americans. “I feel that that’s much more of a racial issue than taking Robert E. Lee’s statue down,” he said.  “There’s more n*ggers in that than there is in Robert E. Lee’s statue.”

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Robert E. Lee commanded the Confederate army during the Civil War until he surrendered to the Union army in 1865, ending the four-year conflict. Statues dedicated to him have dotted the South, but many have recently been taken down.

Although Marsalis has produced conscious music like his 1997 with “Blood on the Fields,” that reflected on slavery and his Grammy award winning “Black Codes (From the Underground),” he sees hip hop as a bigger threat to the minds of black people than past transgressions, reports the Washington Post. 

“It’s just like the toll the minstrel show took on Black folks and on white folks. Now, all this ‘n*gger this,’ ‘b*tch that,’ ‘h* that,’ that’s just a fact at this point,” he said.

“For me, it was not a default position in the ’80s. Now that it is the default position, how you like me now? You like what it’s yielding? Something is wrong with you — you need your head examined if you like this.”

When asked about Kanye West’s controversial comments about slavery, Marsalis said his words shouldn’t be taken to heart since he doesn’t have intellectual authority like someone with prominence.

“I would not give seriousness to what he said, in that way. Okay? This guy is making products,” he said. 

“It’s not like Martin Luther King said it, a person who knows or is conscious of a certain thing. … [H]e’s entitled to whatever it is he wants to say. The quality of his thought is in the products he makes.” 

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