10 FEBRUARY 2001, Page 26

Fantasy rap

From Mr Robert Aterrnan Sir: Robert Lewis (Arts, 3 February) is right to take notice of rap music, but he gets almost everything else wrong. One of the most salient features of rap is its power to induce fantasies in its audience: white suburban teens (who are the ones bankrolling the music, by the way) fantasise about being African-American; African-American teens fantasise about being megastars; megastars fantasise about being gangbangers and being sent to prison (only not for too long); the poor fantasise about being rich; and the rich fantasise about being street-smart. Last (and least), lefty critics fantasise that rap is some kind of cultural battering-ram for anti-globalism, when it is in fact a gumbo of party music, braggadocio and dissing, homophobia, misogyny, ethno-nationalistic swagger, revenge fantasies (again), and much bad taste, served up by emcees who think their entrée to the plutocracy is via ranting about blowing it up. Yes, there is also a ton of excellent music, in a burgeoning variety of styles beyond just the minimalism of the early days, and many sharp, social (and even some political) apergus. But, above all, it's entertainment, a mass-market business run on principles that a gladiatorial impresario would absorb in 15 minutes. The overture to global revolution? Don't hold your breath.

Robert Aterman