Thursday, February 23, 2012

Essence, Representation, and Hip Hop - Chicago!

After our discussions on media entertainment and music emerging from and around diasporas I went to some of my favorite Chicago artists, Sam Cooke (amazing, please look his stuff up..),Common, Lupe…. actually so many. Anyways no pre90's hip hop music but plenty of post….what?? To the best of my knowledge Chicago...the Midwest didn't really have a hip hop scene with media attention, it was probably just overshadowed by areas like New York and L.A. where lots of media, and entertainment hubs had gone. I decided to find out when/why Chicago got itself back into the hip hop scene!

It makes so much sense. SO MUCH. Actually reading this made me super excited because I’ve recently re-fallen in love with Common’s “I used to love H.E.R.” - talks about Hip Hop (for Common- “she”) and its divergence from traditional styles and roots. Not to say that change isn’t good, but the mc over beats Golden Age Hip Hop is links up with instructing, bringing awareness, community/cultural expression or individual expression!  Common used to love H.E. R. 

She was on that tip about, stoppin the violence               Stressin how hardcore and real she is 
About my people she was teachin me      She was really the realest, before she got into show-biz 
But not preachin to me but speakin to me                                                   
In a method that was leisurely, so easily I approached                
She dug my rap, that's how we got close                                                 
But then she broke to the West coast, and that was cool                          
Cause around the same time, I went away to school 
And I'm a man of expandin', so why should I stand in her way? 
She probably get her money in L.A. 
And she did stud, she got big pub but what was foul 
She said that the pro-black, was goin out of style 
She said, "Afrocentricity, was of the past." 
So she got into R&B hip-house bass and jazz 
Now black music is black music and it's all good 

The article said the song was true to/sowing seeds of “Chicago’s sound and its hip-hop identity: working-class, blue-collar, down to earth, steeped in “dusties” (‘70s soul and funk)”  What Common describes is Hip Hops “prostitution” (in essence) of beats, wordplay with knowledge, and powerful lyrics that advocate change or transmit messages in exchange for fame and fortune. That he had signed with an East Coast label in order to debut the song reminded me of the migration’s reliance on north and south, there. Common and other artists developed their signature styles in the low-key environment of Midwest music scene, a Northern hub was necessary to mobilize this on a national level– Compare to journalists developing their skills at the colleges in South but then going North, etc. to mobilize visions and news presses on a national level. interesting to see Chicago in the reverse position…

In class we mentioned how music/journalism/film etc. can transmit alternating cultural messages, I’m really interested in how all kinds of music can give a new perspective, a new realm for dialogue to happen. Hip Hop is not excluded in its capabilities to do this. At a time when hard/gangster rap, which shifted focus from social issues to crime, drugs and violence, was enclosing itself around hip hop's representation, the scene of Chicago, at least, re-invigorated and revived conscious ideas about what hip hop did and can mean. (gangster rap can also be a platform for social change and expression, but the kind, I think, they were seeing was more fictionalized or dramatized exploits implying negative dangers of a supposed “subculture”) Street music and the underground scene remains huge in Chicago. Even as Common adopted some vices he condemned the continuing culture of Hip Hop distinctive of and to Chicago is turning out new underground and socially aware artists with true to style sounds, beats that are not only hard and funky, but also enlightening through the everyday.

On the side - Like many other forms of art, music is an immensely powerful tool, and how we and others interact with it can legitimately change the world. It’s no wonder so many of preforming figures have historically aligned themselves with a larger goal or cause. It makes me sad to see industry dominated popular music, not that this genre is bad, but it seems enclosing kind of monotonous on a grand scale. I feel like we saw issues of popularization in the article when the author discusses uncertainties over whether southern “country” music origins influenced how it was popularized or whether a popularized depiction of the southern culture had led to “country” or even with the (mis)representation on Amos N Andy. (see above ) This same push and pull of representation and popularization goes on in music industry today - we could see as reflecting a larger thing entirely –as in Chicago- competition and contestation over how we view, process and understand music may simultaneously be a battle for representation, culture, and expression beyond the musical realm. 

I went a little overboard on this, I just got really excited!! some of this is stuff I've read about in spare time but I'm def not a musicologist so hopefully all is well!  

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