Excerpted by Latoya Peterson The pressure young black women feel to defend black men against…
Tag: The Hip Hop Wars
by Latoya Peterson
(Continued from Part 1)
LP: [We should] think some more about this formula, because it seems to me that with every year that passes, the formula gets whittled down into the need to find the next hit. Catchy hooks, lyrics, whatever – they just want a hit. And it appears that some of these [truths about life and culture] are becoming diluted. So before, the hits came because in some ways, we can relate to this pain, and relate to this anguish. But the people who are in charge of these [networks] are making decisions about what gets played but they don’t hear those things. Instead, the only hear violence, they only hear anger, they only hear rage and they decide to promote that. Is that a pattern you saw in your research?
TR: Yes. It shares the history of transition into the “mainstream” market. Just as the dances and dance steps and styles of singing that minstrelsy was based on was something quite different than what minstrelsy turned into, right? So there were origins of minstrelsy [rooted] in black cultural expression, but minstrelsy became a grotesque exaggeration that was basically seen through dominant eyes. So black women, in hip-hop, become, you know, big booty bitches and hos, gold diggers, divas, sex kittens, whatever else you want them to be because dominate society perceives black women that way. They’re baby mammas, they’re basically male appendages who are also hypersexual and sexually irresponsible. These are all part of dominant stereotypes! Now does that mean that sexually explicit material is bad? No! But it means that sexually explicit material that is destructive and self destroying is problematic! So this is directly related to the process underway. And also our normalization, our comfort with it. The fact that their isn’t much public critique inside the community for this kind of problem.
If you study the blues, or if you study any other black music, this is one of the things that happens. These forces are at play every single time. So this idea that music should be a revenue stream is fundamentally destructive.
Until we change the racial structures and gendered structures of society, then the larger dominant fantasies are going to rule the dominant marketplace. And that’s going to be problematic. It will be profitable, but it will be really problematic.
LP: I recently attended an exhibit put on by the National Portrait Gallery here in Washington D.C. called “Recognize,” and you know, it’s kind of a history of hip-hop through portraiture and other forms of artistic expression. One of the things they mentioned in the introduction to the exhibit is that hip-hop has become part of the dominant youth culture around the globe. In almost every other country in the world, their youth scene involves a heavy element of hip-hop culture, and each country has put their own unique spin on the genre.
So I know, a lot of times in the United States – and in particular in your book – you focus on how things are seen through a black and white lens. That’s how our country started and it has been the defining conflict for us here. But did you think about hip-hop as a global culture when writing? How did it spread so much and why does it resonate with so many different types of people around the globe?
by Latoya Peterson
In the Noir Issue of Bitch Magazine, I interviewed Tricia Rose about her new book The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip-Hop.
My interview assignment was 2,000 words. The transcribed interview came back as 6,000.
This is the overflow.
Latoya Peterson: You’ve had other works published, including Black Noise, which was a very influential book discussing music and culture and how that plays out in the black community. So why do you choose to work with music to explore both black culture and youth culture?
Tricia Rose: The category of youth culture to me tends to be racialized youth culture. From my vantage point, when you’re looking at African-American history and cultural expression, music is of extraordinary importance to that history. It is disproportionately rich and complex and dynamic and influential and innovative. And I say “disproportionately” to say that not everyone has such a rich, modern musical legacy. Some ethnic and racial and religious and national groups have literary or dance or film legacies, but when it comes to music in the modern world, people of African descent in the Diaspora in particular have an enormous contribution….if you are thinking twentieth century alone there are not too many American musics that have not been directly influenced or are in fact constituted as an African American tradition. Jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, gospel, hip-hop, even dance music – techno and the like.
It’s just an incredibly rich tradition. It also has a profound connection to a history of culture in oral traditions of social commentary. […] In African American music and culture, you find not just good music, but music that plays a role in commenting on and creating critical consciousness about one’s social world.
LP: In your book, you write, “gangsta rap music is a post-industrial black culture industry with job openings and a chance for upward mobility. This is a fascinating way to frame the discussion because so much of hip-hop has become about the business side of it. Some have argued that it has come to step in for the industrial [labor market] void we have. So, instead of having progressive job growth in inner cities, other industries have come and filled in that gap of losing jobs to off-shorting, like the hip-hop industry or underground industries like the drug game. Can you comment more on the idea of rap music being an industry and providing people with upward mobility?
TR: Beginning in the twentieth century, when industrialization begins to flourish, you develop industrialized music cultures, in that you develop products, right? Music became something you could buy and sell. And once that happens, the record industry begins to take hold, and then [music] begins to be an industry for artists that was not the case before. […] For post-industrial, isolated, urban black youth, rap music, and to a lesser extent athletics, have become an alternative form of upward mobility, a way to get of the hood. What makes rap music problematic in this way is that it is not just an industry that creates opportunity, but a form of opportunity creation that is also a trap.
It creates a trap for it’s followers because of the icons it celebrates. So rap as a “way out” has become attached to the tail of a street economy, that “gangster” rap has been defined by. So it’s not just rap music and the industry that’s a problem, but the fact that what we are selling is profitable. And what is profitable, what makes it an industry, is its constant sale of pimps, hos, gangsters, hustlers, drug dealers, criminals. It’s a grab bag of what we would call in the old days the red light district – it’s that underground economy. Read the Post Tricia Rose on The Hip-Hop Wars, Race, and Culture – Part 1