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Drop It Like It’s Hot- Culture Industry Laborers and Their Perspectives on Rap Music Video Production

Drop It Like It’s Hot- Culture Industry Laborers and Their Perspectives on Rap Music Video Production

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“Drop It Like It’s Hot―: Culture Industry Laborers andTheir Perspectives on Rap Music Video Production
Mako Fitts
Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, Volume 8, Number 1,2007, pp. 211-235 (Article)
Published by Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.1353/mer.2008.0009 
For additional information about this article
Access Provided by Harvard University at 05/15/12 1:31PM GMT
Meridians: eminism, race, transnationalism
2008, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 211–235]© 2008 by Smith College. All rights reserved.
mako ftts
“Drop It Like It’s Hot”
Culture Industry Laborers and TheirPerspectives on Rap Music Video Production
 This paper describes results rom a qualitative study o the music video production industryand the creative process in rap music video production and artist marketing. Participant responses are presented in three areas: the music video production process, recent trends in rapmusic videos, and the music video set as a site o gender exploitation. Findings suggest aconcern over artistic reedom o expression and the mechanical production o the “booty video” ormula that saturates music video programming and is a template or rap videos. Partici-pants agreed that there is something lackluster about rap music played on radio and aired onmusic video programming. Additionally, gendered hierarchies on video sets create divisionsamong women working in various positions, and discourage women rom supporting oneanother, which, rom a black eminist perspective, does not accommodate an ethic o care andpersonal responsibility.
Recent trends in mainstream, commercial rap music videos rely onormulaic video imagery that emphasizes rappers’ accumulated wealth andproperty (such as houses, cars, jewelry, and women). This ormula,maniested in what is otherwise known as the “booty video,” reinorcesthe increasing use o an urban sensibility 
in music, television, and lmsthat exploits a mediated understanding o black, urban aesthetics. Theexpression “booty video” derives rom popular culture vernacular that 
212 meridians 8:1
reerences the video’s overwhelming representation o women’s posteriors,particularly those o black, Latina, and racially ambiguous women, thushighlighting in such videos a culturally specic preerence by men o coloror a curvy body type (Rubin, Fitts, and Becker 2003).Two basic assumptions ground the “booty video” ormula. First, themusic videos and the lyrics are sel-aggrandizing. The lyrics and visualimagery are all about the linguistic and sexual bravado o rappers (themajority o whom are black males). Rappers partake in mental masturba-tion and ego-stoking, presenting their ability to out-emcee one another, toaccess the hottest women, to acquire the most money, to dominate in therap game (with specic emphasis on album sales and public exposure),and to display extreme wealth, which symbolizes status and authority.Second, heightened awareness o sel in the “booty video” depends very much on the “booty,” or a particular representation o emininity, whichthen shapes the masculine identities o rappers and video directors. Thisbegs the question o whether the overwhelming display o women’s bodiesare a requisite component o sel-promotion, and i so, why.Music videos are one o the primary sources or maintaining this urbansensibility, and the process o music video production itsel is a site o criticalinquiry into the perpetuation o this manuactured simulacrum. This essay examines my discussions with individuals whom I reer to as
culture industrylaborers
, or those working within the industries related to the production,marketing, and consumption o rap music (music video directors, casting direc-tors, video girls, record label executives, assistants, music industry researchanalysts, and record producers). Their narratives provide a colorul look into the world o music video production and contextualize some o the conceptssurrounding black masculinity, gender perormance, and women’s labor.My conversations were ocused on the creative process in music videoproduction and artist marketing. I paid particular attention to AricanAmericans in the music industry and to their perspective on how theirimages are created, including a discussion o the links among audiencereception, creative control, and artistic reedom. I completed twenty interviews between July and December 2003, having selected intervieweesbased on their positions in entertainment industries linked to the produc-tion, promotion, distribution, and monitoring o hip-hop and rap music. Iguaranteed anonymity to participants or two reasons. First, given thepublic persona o many o the individuals in the study, they were more

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