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Blair, Elizabeth - Commercial is at Ion of Rap Music

Blair, Elizabeth - Commercial is at Ion of Rap Music

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Published by: falcatrua00 on Mar 12, 2011
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Commercialization
ofthe
RapMusicYouthSubculture
M.
ElizabethBlair
Rap
mustc,
with
its
boastfulrhymesandsynthesizer-createdclapsandpops,hasmovedoutoftheinnercitiesandintothemainstreamofpopular
culture,
Massmediaadvertisershaverecognizedthevalueofusingraptoselltheirproducts,eventhoughtheydonotalwayshaveathoroughunderstandingofthesubculturefromwhich
it
came.
Pepsi-
Cola.Coca-ColaandBritishKnightsfootwearcompanyhaveallsignedpopularrapartiststopromotetheirproducts.Whilethereareafewrapperswhohavegreatlybenefitedfromthislevel
of
commercialsuccess,othersareconcernedthatasrapmovesintothemainstream,theywillnotbegiventheappropriatecredit
and
compensation.Inhisintroductionto
TheRapAuack.
Tony
Van.
DerMeerstatestheproblemwiththecommercializationofrapmusic:
Thereisnothingwrongwithonecommunityteamingtheculturalformsproduced
by
anotb.er,if
it
respectstheirspecific
shapes
and
meanings.Thereissomethinghorriblywrong
with
adominantcommunityrepeatedlyco-optingtheculturalformsofoppressedcommunities,strippingthemofIheirvitalityandform,theheritageoftheircreatorsandthenpopularizingthem.TheresultisbleachedPepsiculturemasqueradingastherealth.ing.Thisiswhatthreatens
to
dilutetherealfeelingandattitndeofhipboppreventing
its
genuinefonnsthefreedomtofullydevelop.
1be
expressionofBladepeopJeistransformedwhe.n
it
is
repackaged
without
anyevidenceremaining
ofthe
Black
historical.experience.
Black:artistsmayhavegoodreasonforconcern.Historically,blackshavenotbeenable
to
reapthefinancialrewardsfromthemusicalformsthatwereuniquelytheirs.Theblues,jazz,gospel.soul,funkand
{apace
allmusicalstylesthatoriginatedwithintheblack:community.Inthe1950sandearly1960s,mostmajorrecordproducerswereinterestedinpromotingonly
whi.te
artists,suchasElvisPresley,toperformrockandrollmusicwhichhadpreviouslybeenrecordedbyblack
artists.Tne
21
 
22JournalofPopularCulture
white.performerwasinstrumentalinpromotingtheacceptanceofthemusicalstyleamongmainstreamaudiences.AccordingtoPetersonandBerger,blackrhythmandbluesperformersweremostoftenthevictimsofthe"covertactic,"wheremajor"white"companieswouldquicklyrecordandmarketaversionofafast-sellingsongrecordedbyasmallerindependent"black"company(162).Thedevelopmentandacceptanceofrockandrollwasinmanywayssimilartothedevelopmentofrapinthelate1980sandthedevelopmentofjazzinthe1920s.Someofthefirstrapconcerts,likesomeofthefirstrockandrollconcerts,wereplaguedbyriots,leadingpeople
to
believethattbisnewmusicwascorruptingtoday'syouth.Thesepublicreactions.parallelthemoralisticreactionagainstjazzinthe1920s.AccordingtoPetersonandBerger,thiscontroversyindicates
that
themusicwasviewedasimportantandradicallydlfferentfromthemusicthatprecededit(166).Howdoesasubculturalphenomenonsuchasrapbecomeintegratedintothemainstreamofmassculture?Inthepast.anumberofotheryouth.subcultureshavegainedsomelevelofnotoriety(e.g.punkrocksubculture),butfewhaveachievedthesam.elevelofcommercialsuccessthathasbeenachievedbytherapsubculture.Whatisitaboutrapthathascapturedtheinterestanddollarsofsomanypeople?Whatmeaningdoes
it
haveforthem?Youthsubcultureshavebeenoftenorganizedaroundmusic.Forexample,therewasthepun"rocksubculture,whichoriginatedinEnglandinthe19708.Thequintessentialpunkeventinvolvedgatheringtogethertoheara'liveband.whileslammingIntootherdancers.jumpingupanddownorjumpingoffthestageintotheaudience.Rudeand
anti-
socialbehaviorwas
higl1ly
encouraged,so
that
thismusicwouldremainmoremeaningfulasanexpressionofrebellionthanoverly-commercializedpopmusic.Theheavymet.alsubcu1turealsoprovidedanidentityandhavenforyoungpeoplewhoweredisenchantedwithhome,school,jobsandchurches,theacceptableinstitutionsoftheirparents.Lullcalledthesetypesofmovements(includingrap)"oppositional"subcultures,becausetheyrepresentlooselyorganized.resistancetosocialinstitutions,valuesandpractices(29).Theredevelopsacommonbondbetweenperformerandlistenerthroughsharedmeanings.notonlyinthelyricsbutalsointhestyleandsoundofthemusicitself.Inthe19505,sociologistDavidRiesmanobservedthatyoungpeoplewereusingpopularmusictocreatesociallyshared
meanings
andcommonstatesofawareness.
TIle
popularmusicwasaprimary
SOUIce
ofconversationandpredictingthenextbitbecameawayofmaintainingstatuswithinone's
 
CommercializationoftheRapMusicYouthSubculture23
peergroup(Lewis
138).Thesesubcultures
develop
their
owndistinctvaluesandfashionsthatserveas(hepriceofentryintotheparticulargroup.Historically,
much
subculturalmusicbascomefromoppressedgroupsdefinedbysocio-economicclass(Lull6).Forexample.folkSingers
lik.e
Woody
Guthrieand
PeteSeegerwerebannedfrom
the
mainstream
media
because
they
reflectedlnterestsofthe
poor.For
manyminorityyoungsters.raphasbecomeavoicereflectingnotonlyrebellionagainstadultsbutallensnonfrom
the
majorityculture.Somerapreflectsayouthrebellionagainstallattemptstocontrolblack
masculinity
inthestreetandhome.Sincemostchildren.intheinner
city
growup
with.
a
single
female
parent,some
male
rappersmayoppresswomen
tomake
themselvesfeelmore
powerful(Hanna190).
Behindeach
style
ofmusicthere
isalocal
scenewhereinvolvementwiththemusicanditsaccompanyingfashionsbecomesanimportantpartofthelivesofthefans.RapmusicoriginatedintheSoutheastBronxofNewYork.
City,
wheresome
street
gangsdecidedtoputtheirenergiesIntocreativepursuits..Rapstartedasa.verbalcompetitionandisrelatedtotheAfrican-Americantraditionofwordbattlessuch
as
"pl
ayingthedozens."
Rap
developedinthe
Bronxas
partofthehiphopsubculture,alongwithbreakdanciogandgifaffiti
art.
Hiphopparties(knownas"houseparties")usuaUy
included
ashowprovidedbyadiscjockey,rappers,dancers
and
graffiti
artists,whoprovidedthedecor;Thefirstrapmusicwashappypartymusicandofteninvolvednonsensicalbraggingbetweenmales.Sinceabout1945,technologicaladvanceshaveplayedanimportantpartindeterminingwhattypeofpopularmusicisrecordedandpromotedbythemassmedia.
Foe
example,theinitialpopularityofrockandrollwaslargelyduetotherapid
dfffuslon
ofradioandtelevision.Shows
like
AmericanBandstandpromotedthemusic,andradiosbecamecommonplaceintheteenagers'carsandbedrooms(Wicke35).Rapmusicalsodevelopedandbecamepopularlargelybecauseofrecentadvancesinrecordingandcomputingtechnology,whichallowstherelativelyeasymanipulationofmusicalsounds.Insomeways,rapmusicistheultimatecommercialproduct,
because
itsmaiofeatureshaveoftenbeenborrowedfromother,successfullytried-and-trueproducts(Goodwin85).Initially,rapmusicinvolvedcompetitionamongDJstodevelopthemostcreativesamplingofrecords.Old"Montee's"tunes,TVthemes(suchasGilligan'sIsland)aswellas
funk.
andrhythm-and-bluesclassicswereallborrowedand

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