Rhetoric of Hip-Hop Blog – Friday, March 21, 2014

Report on an event related to the course topic that you have attended recently. This can be a concert, town hall, recording session, observation of artists creating graffiti, etc.

This blog entry will be a ‘micro-ethnography,’ which means you’ll want to pay close attention to what is happening on the ground and be careful with your own interpretations. Attentive description is the key element. There are many different angles you can approach this from, depending on what it is you are interested in and what emerges as important to the unfolding interaction. For instance, you might observe:

  • how the participants at the event form different sub-groups and how you could tell one group from another
  • what people seem to be paying most attention to
  • any ritual or formalized interactive routines (greetings, announcements, sequences of movement that introduce a certain practice)
  • participants’ clothing style and other visual self-presentation
  •  aspects of the location that bear on the event/interaction
  • topics, themes, motifs that re-occur throughout the event. 

Back in November, I had the opportunity to cover a Juicy J concert for the Dallas Observer. As he almost always does, the former Three 6 Mafia MC got the sold-out crowd ‘turnt up’ by playing many of his hits, both old and new.

After midnight, the curtains opened and Memphis’ Juicy J shouted, “Before we start the show, does anybody want something to drink?!” He then started pouring champagne into the mouths of some fans and splashing it into the crowd, which he did throughout the show. During his show at Trees in Dallas, Texas, Juicy J constantly praised what Dr. Michael Eric Dyson has called “the holy trinity of contemporary rap – broads, booze, and bling.”

In a sense, Juicy J’s show was like a religious revival, very emotionally-driven with heavy involvement from the crowd. At one point, he even brought fans up on stage with him and gave them champagne – on the one hand, the audience was the antithesis of a congregation, enjoying and glorifying an almost hedonistic lifestyle of money, girls, drugs and alcohol; on the other hand, the audience was a congregation, toasting champagne in a combined celebration.

The demographics of the crowd reflected the larger demographic of hip-hop fans. Juicy J was wearing all black along with some flashy bling. Some members of the crowd dressed similarly, and there was definitely no shortage of snap-backs and Juicy J gear, such as his “We Trippy Mane” shirts.

In the Run-D.M.C. concert video that we watched in class, the audience was largely young and African-American, like the artists themselves. In contrast, the 38-year-old Juicy J’s crowd largely consisted of white high-schoolers and college kids, which is representative of how hip-hop has become more widely accepted, especially among younger, middle- and upper-class white Americans.

Another significant change in the culture was how technology has allowed Juicy J to interact with his fans. For example, during the show he asked the audience if they had any weed for him, and a crowd member quickly passed up their joint to him – a sort of offering to a rap god. On Twitter after the show, Juicy J showed appreciation to his fans by retweeting fans’ positive messages about the show, as well as tweeting his gratitude:

Dallas tx I love you all! Thx u for the weed

— juicy j (@therealjuicyj) November 30, 2013

Run-D.M.C. fans never had such direct access to their favorite rappers in the way that technology allows now.