Pete Townshend of the Who on the importance of hip-hop
While answering fans’ questions on the Who’s official website (thewho.com), Pete Townshend argued against one fan’s view that rap and hip-hop are dominating the charts and essentially blocking positions for new rock music.
When asked about what he felt about rap and hip-hop’s “stranglehold” on the pop charts, Townshend answered, “Rap and hip-hop is the music of the street today. The street is where rock came from. When the white rock players and their fans stopped hanging out on the street, and started hanging out in restaurants, the reality shifted.”
Townshend added, “This is… a ‘loaded’ question. You assume I will agree with you that rock has lost its grip on the masses. Firstly, it never had a grip on the black audience, they’ve always had their own music styles and special coded language which rap has now formalized. I also reject the use of the word ‘stranglehold’ — it suggests a noble rock ‘n’ roll tree is being starved of air and nurture by the weeds of rap. I am a huge fan of rap — even Eminem has a real connection to the work I did when I was young.”
Townshend went on to say: “My job as young writer… (was) to try to make music that allowed our audience to find some hope and release. If it happens to show up on the Billboard charts someone gets rich. But that doesn’t change the fact that what matters most is that the music does what it is supposed to do. Rap and hip-hop, for people who understand it, provides hope and release.”
Townshend has been vocal in recent years on how the state of the record business has literally stubbed out worthy careers in a mad rush to search for the “next big thing.” During his keynote address at last year’s South By Southwest Music Festival, Townshend explained that young artists are pretty much forgotten by their labels if they don’t hit on their debut releases: “You have to wait for this stuff. You know, you have to build. You don’t wake up one morning and kind of go, ‘Bing! I’m Christina Aguilera!’ (laughter). You work for Disney from the (age) of eight years old, and you become that star.
And thank God she survived where Britney (Spears), we hope she will survive because she did it the same way. That star system is one that people like me are very familiar with. Because I started playing in a band when I was 14 years old.”
Townshend is currently writing material for the next Who album which will be their followup to their 2006 release Endless Wire.