Sunday, April 7, 2013
On the YouTube video:
Tricia Rose in the YouTube video gave a brief history of the origins of hip hop. A few of her main arguments stuck out to me along with a few things she said. In the beginning, she pointed out how hard it is to talk about race/gender because the American population is so diverse that the only thing we have in common in popular culture. Everyone can connect through popular culture if there's nothing else. We get our cultural knowledge about race through popular culture which includes movies, television, magazines and music (in this case, hip hop). Although she didn't discuss the modern issues with hip hop culture in the clip, she did talk about some of the origins which made sense to me when thinking about current hip hop music. Starting around the 1970s, hip hop mostly took place at parties or on basketball courts as a casual, social, pseudo-competitive game. It was never meant to become this elaborate mainstream culture as it is now. Early hip hop began as simply taking apart already existing music like disco songs, recording something over it and transforming it into something new. Rose said that when creating an early hip hop song, originality rests in the context of how you create already existing sounds. The notion of borrowing, versioning and treatment of living material is a notion that arises out of African-American culture. Another concept that Rose brought up was the notion of quoting songs as if the artist is having a conversation with other artists. Pulling parts from other songs and putting them into your own was a way of conveying a feeling or lyric in the way you want to convey it, but can only do so by using that particular song. Another aspect of early hip hop was a representation of the decline and despair taking place in urban America after the 1960s, manifesting in limited economic opportunities. Rose said this lead to creativity. The FIRST DJ's were people who were in vocational tech schools learning to become repairmen or some other middle-low-class job who learned how to create their own DJ equipment. They knew their equipment inside and out. The guy that I'm dating (kind of, I don't know) is a total gear-head (which means he's somebody who spends a LOT of money on synthesizers, looping devices and samplers all made before 1985). He buys them, pulls them apart, then puts them back together in order to produce the best sounds. He is also, debateably, one of the best musicians I know. Anyways, Rose said that the era of early hip hop was a profoundly destructive era for Black America due to urban renewal. The music was a way to express pain, anger and "nihilism". This can be seen in early hip hop artists lyrics as well as urban culture.
On the TIME article:
Everyone is wrong about hip hop. Rose acknowledges in her FAQ with TIME Magazine that hip hop isn't dead, it's gravely ill. (That's the first line in her book too, but that's besides the point.) She elaborates on this point by saying that the incredibly rich world of hip hop has been buried by commercialized, stereotyped hip hop music. She goes on to say that hip hop was never about making money, killing everyone who gets in your way or never caring about a woman; it started just for fun and creative expression. However, in current times, artists who can SELL become famous. Even artists who aren't talented when compared to much more creative, talented non-famous artists. Sex sells. Racial stereotypes sell. The artists who can perpetuate these stereotypes get the richest and most famous, therefore further perpetuating these stereotypes. So, what's the right way to think about hip hop? Who knows! Rose says we have to be educated and think about our position in the hip hop war in a sophisticated way. Subtlety is key when thinking about what's right and what's wrong in terms of hip hop.
In the next class I'd like to discuss a likely extremely controversial topic: young, middle-class white boys and hip hop music. What is that culture like and how did hip hop become such a commercialized, mainstream genre?!