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Flipping the Script

Who's partying like rock stars? Rappers!

While the white suburban wastelands became partly gloomy with a chance of screaming, someone else took the reins on this stallion we call rock. Not tight-panted pretty boys in eyeliner and "sex" hair, warmed-over Slayer cover bands or your college buddies' sloppy synth project. It was the Shop Boyz, a rap crew from Atlanta, and their video "Party Like a Rockstar."

This video — with its explosions, muscle cars, guitar-smashing and KISS makeup — should be a call to action. Someone has officially copped your hustle, rockers, and it's not posers or mall kids. It's rappers. Hey, Hinder, you say you live some sort of edgy "Behind the Music: On Ice" fantasy? Wrong. Behind all your garish leather and soul patches lurks an Eddie Bauer catalog. Shop Boyz make rock look fun again, not so easy to do these days. Rockers themselves are no help at all.

For ages now, blues purists have complained that whites stole licks from poor, under-managed artists, shined them up real nice and threw a hick from Tupelo out front as girl-bait. They did. The writers of early R&B songs also saw their guitar lines used as "inspirations" and "interpolations" minus adequate compensation or accreditation. Over time, these originators were all but forgotten.

Ever since, white consumers have co-opted black culture almost as a matter of course. High schools in places like El Campo see their white students in baggy jeans and XXL tees, freaking out not just their parents but their black classmates, who view such gear as little more than modern minstrel-act costumes. (Al Jolson, B-boy?) Good Charlotte and Fall Out Boy, among others, have played the part of hip-hop heavies in promo pictures and music videos, but bands have been appropriating rap at least since Blondie's "Rapture." The Shop Boyz video just reverses what rock groups have been doing for years.

Some white rockers are actually pissed about "Party Like a Rockstar." Message boards light up with racist rednecks and confused indie kids putting up their emoticon dukes against their hip-hop counterparts. They fret about an imaginary takeover by rappers. So this means Jay-Z will be headlining Ozzfest this year? In a word, no.

The video lampoons things most discriminating music fans despise anyway: extreme sports, frustrating facial piercings, the whole nü-metal thing; bro culture at its worst. More seriously, it exposes an acute undercurrent of racism seldom acknowledged in rock music. But I'm not offended by a rapper saying "totally, dude" or wearing an Iron Maiden shirt with $7,000 in diamonds dripping off of it. Hell, right about now Muddy Waters and Lightnin' Hopkins are having a big, hearty laugh about all this.

 
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