Beyonce might not completely run the world, but she’s certainly dominated the blogosphere news cycle since the release of the video for “Run The World (Girls).” Rather than each of us having a go at analyzing the song and the video, we decided it best to get together online and talk about not just the message Beyonce’s song is promoting, but how it fits in with other representations of Girl Power, as well as the song’s problematic backstory. Continue reading →
While some critics are rightly noting the confusing and inaccurate message of Beyoncé’s new single “Run The World (Girls)” in the context of a world controlled by patriarchy, her song/video also raises the issue of how peoples, artists, and cultures from the global south are referenced and represented by artists from the first world. Several layers of referencing go on within this song/video, which makes this discussion a lot more complicated, lengthy and, at the same time, all the more necessary.
Please bear with me. This is an important conversation to have because of the ways in which this kind of sampling reinforces disparities of privilege and power. Furthermore, its important to note the ways that the profits and opportunities produced from this referencing are disproportionately transferred to people with white privilege or benefiting from larger structures of white supremacy.
I want to be upfront about my position as a white man from the United States. Recognizing my own privileges in this dialogue, I welcome critique and debate and I’m writing this in large part because I want to see what kind of conversation these issues can generate.
I’ve been following Diplo for some time, observing his work with appreciation, other times disappointment, and sometimes both at once. Back in the early days, when he was throwing warehouse parties in Philly, and later profiling DJs from around the world on his Mad Decent podcast (now a full-on record label and official site), Wesley Pentz was brazenly admitting to pirate-everything, right down to the clandestinely operated podcast itself. There was something refreshing and almost alluring about the nature of backpacking around the world with a passport and a tape recorder. Often considered a modern-day, musical Columbus, though his reputation for “discovering” new musical worlds would be one that would soon bite him where the sun doesn’t shine, Diplo made a name for himself by appropriating a variety of music and presenting it all with chameleon-like efficiency.
Some of you may know him for his production work on MIA’s first, albeit bootleg, album Piracy Funds Terrorism, a mashed up, remixed set of tracks which would later find themselves cleaned-up and repackaged on the official studio album Arular, or later for the Clash and Wreckx-n-Effect sampling “Paper Planes.”
However, he ultimate climax in Diplo’s fame has been in recent years, arguably months, with his promotion for Blackberry…
…and his collaborative work with UK producer Switch (producer for M.I.A. and Santigold) for the dancehall outfit Major Lazer.
But this month, Diplo’s spike in popularity came from a place slightly removed from his music by way of scathing criticism by a DJ named Iceberg Venus X. You see, much like other forms of appropriation (see: imperialism, colonialism, and popular use of cultural artifacts), a backlash always follows. Continue reading →
Around April Fool’s Day, I got this tip from friend of the blog Christina:
So, (queer) (Latina) DJ VenusxGG got in a Twitter fight last week with well-known but kinda slimey bass producer/DJ Diplo. Venus accused Diplo of being imperialist in his appropriation of musical forms (something he’s been accused of lots of times) and it ended up as a pretty entertaining/interesting public discourse for the bass community.
THEN today, XLR8R (another big bass magazine) decided to tap this for their April Fools joke…except they got Angela Davis involved. Kinda sloppy.
According to Fader’s Naomi Zeichner, who documented the tweet stream, the twitter fight began after Diplo came into one of their parties and began recording part of a set on his cellphone. @Ghe20Goth1k’s issue is extremely clear:
I told @diplo to stop and he was embarrassed by now we won’t get ant [sic] credit and he keeps making $$$ I can’t pay rent lol
Now, apparently DJ Diplo has developed a reputation for cultural appropriation – a term we’ve discussed often here, without much resolution. Since culture, by nature, is fluid, it is difficult to pinpoint when an homage or inspiration ends and appropriation begins. Diplo is best known for taking the sounds of other cultures and presenting them as hip consumables for a western audience. He rose to prominence alongside collaborator M.I.A. – and interestingly enough, even that story was steeped in appropriation of the work of a woman of color to advance his own ends. Despite being friends, Diplo (née Thomas Wesley Pentz) revealed to Drew Tewksbury:
“With M.I.A., we made a pop song totally by accident,” Pentz says. “We didn’t aim to have a big record. But she’s so cool, and that resonated with people.” He loaned a baile funk beat for her song “Bucky Done Gun” and got much of the credit for producing the whole album, which he says isn’t exactly the truth. “Back then, I told people that I produced [Arular], to get them to know who I was, but that was a total lie,” Pentz says.
Last night I was cold. So cold, in fact, that I had to pull out not one, but two, of my Pendleton blankets to add some extra warmth to my bed. As I shook them out and laid them on my bed, I thought about how special these blankets are to me–one was a graduation gift, the other a thank you gift for serving on a panel about the “Future of Indian Education.” In many Native communities, Pendleton blankets are associated with important events, and have been for hundreds of years. They are given as gifts at graduations, at powwow give-aways, as thank you gifts, in commemoration of births and deaths, you name it. In addition, I’ve always associated the patterns with Native pride–a way for Natives to showcase their heritage in their home decor, coats, purses, etc. There’s something just distinctly Native about Pendleton to me.
As the marketing buzz controversy surrounding Lady Gaga’s new single grows, it should be pointed out that, as with arguably other aspects of her act, this is nothing new.
The lyrics in question in Gaga’s new single, “Born This Way,” center around an oddly-phrased call for self-empowerment:
Don’t be a drag, just be a queen Whether you’re broke or evergreen You’re black, white, beige, Chola descent You’re Lebanese, you’re Orient Whether life’s disabilities Left you outcast, bullied or teased Rejoice and love yourself today ‘Cause baby you were born this way
What sets Gaga’s use of the term apart, for now – there’s been no video released for “Born This Way,” though she will perform it at the Grammy Awards on Feb. 13 – is the direct use of the word Chola in the lyrics, as opposed to visual shorthand. And that’s where the controversy comes in: the word it’s derived from, Cholo, originated in the 16th century as a slur, similar to “mutt,” in both Perú and Mexico. But in the U.S., some would argue that they’re tied in with the Chicano identity and culture, following the lineage of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s. Continue reading →
Well, they kind of warned us with that picture, didn’t they?
Thanks to our reader Abigail for tipping us off to this glowing feature in Spin Magazine about L.A.-based rock Grouplove. And while it’s good to see an up-and-coming group get some shine, the video for the band’s single “Colours” takes a turn far, far off the Common Sense reserv – uh, let’s just say it’s not very sensible. We can’t embed the video (though you can watch it at the link to the article), but there’s a plot round-up under the cut.