Unlike his older brother, Branford Marsalis, award-winning jazz musician Wynton Marsalis is not a fan of hip-hop. And on the most recent episode of Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart’s podcast, Cape Up, he once again let his thoughts be known.
“My words are not that powerful,” Marsalis said. “I started saying in 1985 I don’t think we should have a music talking about niggers and bitches and hoes. 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.”
During the wide-ranging conversation the New Orleans native discussed race, Confederate statues, and of course, his disdain for hip-hop, which Marsalis insists involves “much more of a racial issue than taking Robert E. Lee’s statue down.”
While he isn’t into the music—and firmly believes hip-hop has done damage to Black folks—Marsalis is up on the current music. He called Childish Gambino’s thought-provoking tune, “This Is America,” creative.
“I applaud his creativity and what he’s doing,” he said, before taking a swipe at the Atlanta creator. “From a social standpoint, it’s hard to decry a thing that you depict. That’s difficult.”
During his chat with Capehart, Marsalis also weighed in on Kanye West and the rapper’s controversial comments that slavery was a “choice.”
“I think Kanye West makes products,” he said, dismissing West’s rant. “He’s going to put his product out and he wants his product to sell,”
“I would not give seriousness to what he [Kanye] said, in that way. Okay? This guy is making products. He’s making him some money, got probably a product coming out that he’s selling,” Marsalis continued. “He’s saying stuff. People talking about him. They’re going to buy his product. It’s not like Martin Luther King said it, a person who knows or is conscious of a certain thing.”
Over on Twitter, many, including writer and professor Jelani Cobb, disagreed with Marsalis’ assessment of hip-hop.
Marsalis later doubled down on the comments, adding that he was referring to some rap music, not all. He wrote via Facebook, "A number of (NOT ALL) hip-hop musicians have gone on record saying that the marketplace and the industry encourages them to make their material more commercial by adding violent and profanity laced, materialistic and over-the-top stereotypical images and concepts to their work. They too know that this mythology reinforces destructive behavior at home and influences the world’s view of the Afro American in a decidedly negative direction. If you love black people how can you love this? Hmmmm.....Because someone will pay to go on a safari (and watch you) doesn’t mean they admire the hippos."
In spite of his questionable thoughts on rap, Wynton Marsalis is a student of his chosen genre. He was the first jazz musician to win a Pulitzer Prize for music in 1997, and he is the current Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at the Lincoln Center.
Next up, Wynton Marsalis is prepping for the release of his latest project, (the ever-funky lowdown), which is “the latest entry in his renowned canon of music exploring America's relationship to racial matters.”
Listen to Wynton Marsalis’ interview with Jonathan Capehart above .