Photo by Alberto Cabello
Kiss bassist Gene Simmons is no stranger to shoving his fake-steel-and-dragon-tooth-clad foot in his mouth. The man has a clinical need to attract attention via this orifice, whether it’s talking, gargling flaming kerosene, or suggestively wagging his bloated tongue at crowds full of aging men.
The funny thing about the latest headline-dominating pronouncement from the cosplay bassist who never saw a product he wouldn’t slap his visage on is what it says about him rather than the thing he was predicting.
“Rap will die,” he recently told Rolling Stone. “Next year, 10 years from now, at some point….”
Simmons got a lot of flak for this. Not just because it revealed that he’s ridiculously unaware of the fact that rap is by far the most popular music on the planet—or that he’s really dumb when it comes to statistical probabilities—but also because the dismissive air with which he said he was “looking forward to the death of rap” seemed tinged with hints of racism.
Now, I’m not piling on poor Mr. Simmons here because I’m a hip-hop guru with a vast collection of East and West Coast jams. I'm not and I don't. I had a Wonder Bread-white upbringing growing up in Provo, Utah—one of the most racially, religiously, and politically homogenized cities in America, to say nothing of its social conservatism. I’m also not piling on because I hate Kiss—I begged my mom till she let me buy Destroyer when I was 5, and I still think those tunes, Bob Ezrin’s production, and Simmons’ surprisingly funky bass line on “Detroit Rock City” kill.
But where I’m coming from is a place of concern. Not for Simmons, but for those who nodded enthusiastically after hearing his boldly stupid prophecy. I suspect a lot of guitarists and PG fans are among this contingent.
To these I say, congratulations—you are officially the modern-day equivalent of the old-fashioned fuddy-duddy parents from the shitty hair-metal videos of yore.
Forgive me, I shouldn’t mock those suffering from closed-minded insecure asshole syndrome (CMIAS). Truly, it’s no laughing matter. In some 6- and 4-string communities, the disorder has reached epidemic proportions—and for reasons I well understand.
My Anglo childhood and early addiction to hard rock made me averse to the burgeoning hip-hop scene of the ’80s. I didn’t get it. I had no cultural awareness, no social reference. In 1979, my family visited friends in D.C. whose kids were gonzo into the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” But my Van Halen-loving, Osmond-country-bred ears couldn’t relate to its soulfulness, funky grooves, and Master Gee and Wonder Mike’s fast vocal interplay.
Fortunately I eventually grew to love that tune, as well as jams from EPMD, Beastie Boys, Ludacris, Flo Rida, and others that would’ve repulsed the arrogant Shawn Hammond of the ’80s and ’90s. I still have a pretty limited knowledge of hip-hop, but at least I finally opened my eyes and ears.
Contrary to popular belief, the risk of contracting CMIAS has nothing to do with age. A 16-year-old Danny Gatton acolyte and her 35-year-old jazz-aficionado uncle are as prone as a dirty 66-year-old who flaunts his pasty-white thighs and lower ass through cutouts in his spandex.
Anyone who witnessed Kendrick Lamar’s 2016 Grammy performance and didn’t find it as electrifying, adventurous, and fresh as 20th-century musical trailblazers should get tested for CMIAS—fast. Curing it is key to a gloriously fulfilling life, and the best part is how easy it is … at least in concept.
It’s consistent application of the remedy that’s the lifelong challenge: Open your eyes to inborn biases and hidden prejudices. Let go of your comfort blankets. Step out of your comfort zones and resolutely, routinely walk into unknown realms that challenge your sensibilities. The more you do so, the more you inoculate yourself against CMIAS and allow invisible forces of joy and intellectual stimulation to impel you forward into a world blossoming with limitless shades of beauty at every turn.