styles themselves drew on a blend of African American, Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and other cultural influences. Since then, hip hop and rap music have grown to include performers and audiences from communities across the nation and globe. In the 1990 s, for example, Filipino Americans hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area came to dominate hip hop DJing (also known as turntablism). 19 By the turn of the century, b-boying (also known as breakdancing) competitions routinely featured finalists representing France, South Korea, and Japan. 20 For many, the perceived “color-blindness” of hip hop—that it often seems open to anyone who can demonstrate sig- nificant mastery of its formal elements—is one of its most attractive quali- ties. It would be a gross misrepresentation of hip hop culture to deny its diverse body of practitioners and fans hailing from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Recent research on localized underground hip hop scenes even suggests that the culture is transforming the way race is lived by encouraging its practitioners to abandon fixed, essentialist notions of identity and embrace a more fluid, “situational” model. 21 Yet, despite hip hop’s undeniable diversity, one can get very different ideas about race when turning toward rap as a genre of popular music. Like rock and roll before it, rap music emerged from the margins of U.S. society to redefine its center and amplify many of its contradictions. However, unlike rock and roll, rap never became “white.” As one of the most influen- tial music genres of the last three decades, rap has cultivated a mainstream audience and become a multi-million-dollar industry by promoting highly visible (and often controversial) representations of black masculine identity. Although all kinds of people make and listen to rap music, the industry that produces it has tended to focus almost exclusively on cultivating and pro- moting black male artists. Unlike the worlds of DJing and b-boying, where hip hop’s ethnic diversity is reflected at the highest level of competition, rap moguls have consistently put their money on black (with an important exception to be discussed in the book’s fourth chapter). Thus, to call atten- tion to the way that rap has remained “black” is to do more than acknowl- edge the skin color of its most popular and best-known practitioners. By competing for hegemony in the marketplace, the musicians discussed in this book have helped construct varying notions of racial authenticity— what it means to be “real.” From the frequently used phrase “keeping it real,” which describes the practice of staying true to one’s culture and INTRODUCTION / 5
6 / INTRODUCTION values, to numerous song titles, such as Jay-Z’s “Real Niggaz,” Erik Sermon’s “Stay Real,” or Common’s “Real People,” rap musicians and fans ascribe great value to authentic expression.
You've reached the end of your free preview.
Want to read all 221 pages?
- Fall '19
- producer, Hip hop music