Hip Hop and Postmodernism

In the past hip hop has been linked to postmodernism because of it’s structure and subject matter.  It is very much antiestablishment in the sense that it pulls away from, analyzes, and breaks down popular culture.  The music is all about anti-slavery, black empowerment or what it means to be black in this society. It pushes against the majority (whiteness) and towards the minority (blackness).  It also juxtaposes poverty and wealthy.  The same artist might talk about how he has nothing and everything in one song. Some of the songs are used to make commentaries about popular culture and stereotypes (a subject that the genre has also fed off of).  A good example of this social commentary is Kendrick Lamar’s “Blacker the Berry.”

The song calls into question race relations between white and blacks, but also calls into question the relationship between blacks and other blacks.  He is essentially saying that we condemn white people for killing us but we also kill us.

It is also the fragmented and rhythmic nature of hip hop that reminds some of postmodernism.  It is a style that pulled away from popular music aesthetics in order to carve out a sense of cultural relativism.  By being something different it said “I am good the way I am, I don’t have to be good for y’all.”  Hip Hop wasn’t trying to be popular or fit in with what “sounded good.”  it instead proposed that it sounded good as is. It went against the metanarrative of music and popular culture. Today, many hip hop artists are know for “pop” and less for “protest.”

Pope, Lavar. 2005. “Protest Into Pop: Hip-hop’s Devolution into Mainstream Pop Music and the Underground’s Resistance.” Lehigh Review 13: 80-98. http://preserve.lehigh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=cas-lehighreview-vol-13

Hip Hop and Postmodernism

Performance of Authenticity

Practices of looking talks about how an postmodern idea that identity is produced through performance, so by imitating an identity you can adopt it.  We can see this in the case of rappers that don’t come from the poor background associated with hip hop.  In some cases, rappers that come from rich families.  Sometimes MCs will take on personas that don’t belong to them.  An example would be Rick Ross who claimed he was a drug dealer in the past but was in fact a corrections officer. The performance that he gave in his music did not match his real identity.

Kendrick Lamar winning this years grammy’s best rap performance. Ironically, his song “i” was criticized for being too mainstream and not hip hop enough, but music that rap critics consider real hip hop is rarely popular at the grammy’s.  Music has to have the ability to crossover.  Performance wise Kendrick Lamar is very authentic.  He performs all the appropriate mannerism of a rap musician. That being said, he is still very unique in his delivery.  Who performs a free concert, on a truck, in the middle of hollywood.

What I’m trying to say it that when it comes to music performance is key.  Yes, if you lie about your background it may be called into question, but performance can potentially create an authenticity that covers and hides your background.  That is why people from the suburbs can become hip hip stars.  If you perform authentically you will be perceived as authentic.  Not every audience member is going to check your background and make sure your really “hood.”

Albrecht, Michael. 2008. “Acting Naturally Unnaturally: The Performative Nature ofAuthenticity in Contemporary Popular Music.” Text and Performance Quarterly 28 (4): 378-395.  DOI: 10.1080/10462930802351989.

Performance of Authenticity

Hoarding Nuts

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My second project was the “hoarding nuts.”  Basically, the squirrel is frantically running, trying to keep them all to himself and in the process looses everything he is holding dear.  Some types of squirrels are known for hoarding, where they hide food in preparation for the winter. It is a common animal survival technique.  In humans it is seen in a much more negative light where the person is considered greedy and neurotic.  In this picture I wanted to make a comparison between those two ideas

my next image may be a dolphin or and elephant.  I’m not sure yet.

Hoarding Nuts

Black Masculinity and Hip Hop Music

Rap artists can have some strange videos and sometimes those videos can be an extension of expression.  While black masculinity is being commodified by these big media corporations, there is still a great deal of self-construction in their music videos.  Balaji (2009) gives the example of UGK and Outcast’s “International Players’ Anthem” which juxtaposes black men as pimps and black men as husbands.  Portions of the song are all about commitment and stability while other parts are all about being free from that same commitment.

Andre 3000 is wearing a quilt which plays around with black male masculinity which is a major theme of mainstream rap music (Balaji, 2009).  By wearing it he is constructing himself as something other than a hyper masculine black rapper.

It really reminds me of the artist Drake.  According to his bio, Drake was born in Toronto, Canada and he comes from a mixed lineage family and was raised Jewish.  Although the majority of his videos fit the stereotypical representation of black men there is one particular video were he is at his own bar mitzvah.  His black heritage and jewish heritage clash along with his new rap lifestyle. The video compares footage of his “old bar mitzvah” and his “new bar mitzvah.”  As a result, you get a video that flips a traditional coming of age ceremony on its head.  Drake excepts his heritage and shows its new place in his life, as a part of his culture just like the music he makes and the people he surrounds himself with.

Balaji, Murali. 2009. Owning black masculinity: the intersection of cultural commodification and self-construction in rap music videos. Communication, Culture & Critique 2, (1): 21–38.

Black Masculinity and Hip Hop Music

In Search For Real Hip Hop

The subject of authenticity in hip hop music has always been hotly debated since the beginning of the genre, and many scholars have contemplated why authenticity in hip hop music has always been a big deal. They have also attempted to define it’s authenticity. I believe that the way that the genre centers around authenticity is unique. Williams (2007) states that the genres prominence, the high percentage of CD sales, “and the cooption of all things ‘hip hop’ by large companies to target new consumer demographics, has jeopardized the genre’s ‘realness’ with the threat of assimilation.”  MC, such as Macklemore might be popular because he IS inauthentic.

Williams (2007) believes that the introduction of hip hop into popular culture would put it at risk, but MC’s have created this idea of authenticity which is meant to create a barrier between the genre and its culture. According to Williams () authenticity also defines the worth of the MC. MCs will will call out one another using their authenticity as a reason why they are better than their rival. “The link between realness and an MC’s worth originated from the practice of battle rapping, in which MCs verbally spar.”

Authenticity itself has varying definitions. It could mean that the MCs are “staying true” to themselves. It could mean that an artist is “asserting” their “blackness.” In order for the music to be truly authentic it has to be representative of black culture. Not “selling out” to mainstream culture is also considered an attribute of true authenticity. Which really brings to mind a question. Is the top 40 hip hop songs we listen to today truly authentic? While it does typically depict stereotypical blackness, it is controlled and commodified by mainstream music corporations.

Williams, Jonathan D. “‘Tha Realness’ :In Search of Hip-Hop Authenticity.” College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, (2007), http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1093&context=curej

In Search For Real Hip Hop