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Music

What Kurt Cobain really thought about rap music

@SamWKemp

When Nirvana rose to fame in the 1990s, Kurt Cobain quickly became one of the most charismatic personalities in music. He was also one of the most critical. He was never one to shy away from giving his opinion, and as a lover of new music, Cobain had more than a few opinions about hip hop, the freshest sound of America.

With Nirvana, Cobain established a new model for the rock frontman that stood in stark contrast to Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler or Motley Crue’s Vince Neil. Rather than reaping the various rewards of mass popularity, Cobain remained ambiguous about his fame until the very end. However, he also used that fame to voice his opposition to homophobia, sexism and racism. In doing so, Cobain tapped into a blossoming cult of sincerity, echoing the activism of countercultural figureheads such as John Lennon.

In Cobain’s eyes, feminism was a natural extension of his belief that everyone should accepted on their own terms. During a 1993 interview, he opened up about his relationship with women: “I couldn’t find any friends (at school), male friends that I felt compatible with, I ended up hanging out with the girls a lot,” he said. “I just always felt that they weren’t treated with respect. Especially because women are totally oppressed.”

Cobain’s strident support of the feminist struggle made it difficult for him to embrace hip hop wholeheartedly. He saw the genre as objectifying women in the same way that classic rock had done for so many years. Sharing his thoughts on the genre with Robert Lurosso, the Nirvana frontman said: “I’m a fan of rap music, but most of it is so misogynistic that I can’t even deal with it. I’m really not that much of a fan.” He then clarified, “I totally respect and love it because it’s one of the only original forms of music that’s been introduced.”

Cobain went on to make similar comments during an interview with Billboard that same year: “I think rap music is the only vital form of music that has been introduced to music in a long time since punk rock. I would never do rap music. No. There’s just no sense in it. The people who do rap music do it just fine… I’m usually offended by people like Vanilla Ice, aAnd stuff like that”.

Adding: “The white man ripped off the black man long enough. They should leave rap music to the African-Americans because they do it so well and it is so vital to them.”

Cobain’s attitude towards rap music is shared by Kanye West, who once opened up about misogyny in rap in a conversation with The Guardian, West said: “I definitely think generally rap is misogynistic,” he said. After pausing for thought, he added: “Not that that’s justifying the culture.”

Cobain hoped that the music industry would one day be a space devoid of sexism. He famously said he felt “comfort in the fact that women are the only future for rock ‘n’ roll.” However, Cobain’s hope’s for the music industry reflect a much grander vision of the future. In one interview, he criticised rape support charities for teaching women to hide themselves away rather than teaching men not to rape. “The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves,” he said. “What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there”.

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