Rhetoric of Hip-Hop Blog – Friday, April 25

Blogging assignment, due Friday (April 25), 5pm:

  • Construct a rebuttal that will help you argue your point in your final project. In order to do so you will want to:
  • Identify a legitimate argument your opposition might deliver (not a straw man argument)
  • Decide whether to refute (“you’re wrong because…”) or counter-argue (“you’re right, but… “) it
  • Think about how your rebuttal will work for your ethos (e.g. do you want to be perceived as tough, no-nonsense, as caring and understanding, as someone who will stick to her guns, as someone who strives for compromises that all parties can live with, etc.)
  • In the post, briefly introduce the argument you want to rebut, and then explain how you would go about your rebuttal in your medium of choice in the final project

Writing for Salon, Brittney Cooper denounced the way that Macklemore handled his Grammy wins over Kendrick Lamar. She wrote, “Macklemore on his best day can barely hold a candle to Kendrick on his worse day. Even Macklemore acknowledged that he “robbed Kendrick,” via a text message that he then sent out screenshots of via social media. However, Macklemore claimed that fear prevented him from taking a courageous stance and saying exactly that when he went up to accept his award. But Kendrick Lamar can’t do anything with a private apology, Macklemore. Far too often, allies refuse to speak up in public while asking for absolution via private confessions. Macklemore failed to use the white privilege that he has readily acknowledged to challenge this structure of power in a moment when the world was watching.”

In the article, titled “Macklemore’s useless apology: Grammys and the myth of meritocracy,” Cooper makes very strong arguments about the pervasiveness of white privilege throughout American culture and history, and how Macklemore has benefitted from that.

To be clear, I do agree that Macklemore could have done more to address his privilege. But, especially compared to most other beneficiaries of white privilege, Macklemore has done a lot – although, of course, not enough – to address and raise awareness of race and privilege. He addressed that he “robbed” Kendrick (perhaps not in the most diplomatic way, but still), he’s addressed the gentrification of hip-hop, he’s addressed that The Heist was a great album but probably not deserving of the Grammy.

Yes, Cooper is right, Macklemore could have obviously done more to promote the issue. Yes, if Macklemore would have done more to raise awareness, it would’ve been praiseworthy. But I don’t think that Macklemore should be criticized for not speaking out at the Grammys.

Macklemore made the best album that he could (and it is a great album). He didn’t choose to be white, he didn’t choose to win multiple Grammys, he didn’t choose to “rob” Kendrick. As Talib Kweli said on MSNBC, Macklemore is “an artist who realizes his position in this culture and is doing everything in his power that he can do. He can’t not be white.”

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Rhetoric of Hip Hop Blog – Friday, April 11

Blogging assignment, due Friday (April 11), 5pm:

  • Create a sound or video remix of one source related to your controversy. You might:
    • Add background music and sound effects to a speech or interview in order to encourage a certain reading of it
    • Add music to a movie clip to reinterpret it (think McConnelling)
    • Cut up, loop, re-arrange audio or video
    • Put two (or more) audio/video sources in conversation with each other by cutting back and forth between them
    • Distort audio material using reverb, EQ, and filters
    • Distort video material using filters and cropping
    • manipulate the tempo of your audio/video material to create a rhetorical effect
  • Obviously you cannot do all of this at once. Pick one or two techniques that will work for your source and apply them with a clear effect in mind.
  • Upload your project to Youtube and link it on your blog (if you prefer to not make it public, you can upload it to the “Remixes” folder on this wiki)

Rhetoric of Hip Hop Blog – Friday April 4, 2014

Blogging assignment, due Friday (April 4), 5pm:

  • Visual remediation of an argument from your controversy. This is going to be a challenging exercise, so give yourself some time by getting started early.
  • Find an argument from within your controversy and re-imagine it as a still image.
  • Feel free to use materials found online and/or to take your own photographs and/or drawings to incorporate into the remediation
  • You will want to think about condensing a written argument that progresses in a linear way into a single image
  • Things to consider: color, arrangement, proportions, perspective

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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.

Rhetoric of Hip-Hop Blog – Friday, March 7, 2014

Look at a rapper, graffiti artist, etc. (any personality within hip hop culture, either current or historical). What is their ethos? How do they invent themselves as a persona? How does their biography play into this? Are there any potential contradictions and do they manage to resolve them? 

William Leonard Roberts II, more commonly known as rapper Rick Ross, has built a career out of his drug-dealer-turned-rapper persona. In many of songs, Rick Ross rhymes about drug trafficking and murder and various other criminal activities.

But that’s only Ricky Rozay’s invented ethos – far from his actual personal history. Surprisingly, despite his completely invented ethos, Ross has found – and continues to find – a great deal of success in a genre that emphasizes authenticity, a genre that focuses on ‘keeping it real.’

Roberts was raised in Florida. After graduating from Miami Carol City Senior High School, Ross attended Albany State University on a football scholarship. And, most notably, between 1995 and 1997, Roberts worked as a correctional officer.

For months, Ross denied his past as a correctional officer. Eventually, Ross did address his past in multiple publications. For example, while Ross admitted to being a correctional officer, he said it was only a job he did for a short time. Defending himself, rapper Ross told XXL“The stuff I talk about is real. The dope is real. The gun talk is official. Look up [notorious Miami gang member] Kenneth ‘Boobie’ Williams. Look where he’s from. That’s not nothing to be proud of. I wish that on no man. But, just to let you know, that’s what I witnessed. It’s a reality. I cannot discuss certain people that’s still in the streets, and I will not. I took a street oath, and I’mma live by that, and I’mma die by that. And it’s not about a music career, ’cause that sh–, I’m good. It’s about me and being in the streets.”

And then there’s also this from Rolling Stone magazine:

For the first time, Ross talked about his past life as a corrections officer – an opportunity, he says, to “wash my hands” after his best friend was sentenced to 10 years for trafficking cocaine and heroin: “This was my best friend, who I ate peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches with, and pork and beans with, my buddy, my partner, my number-one dude. Suddenly I’m talking to him over federal phone calls. Hearing the way it was building, I knew I couldn’t take nothing for granted,” says Ross. “My homey’s father was a huge influence on my life, too . . . He was the one who was like, ‘Yo, go get a job somewhere, man. Go be a fireman. Or go be a fucking corrections officer. Just go sit down somewhere.”

 

Yet his story, despite his attempts to defend himself, seems to be a completely invented persona – largely based on real life drug kingpin ‘Freeway’ Ricky Ross. The real-life gangster sued the rapper, but it was eventually thrown out. The judge in the case wrote:

“Roberts created a celebrity identity, using the name Rick Ross, of a cocaine kingpin turned rapper. He was not simply an impostor seeking to profit solely off the name and reputation of Rick Ross. Rather, he made music out of fictional tales of dealing drugs and other exploits – some of which related to plaintiff. Using the name and certain details of an infamous criminal’s life as basic elements, he created original artistic works.”

Whether you think that Rick Ross is a phony disgrace to hip-hop’s authenticity, or an entertaining performer simply putting on a show, Rick Ross’ widespread success seems to point to a shift in hip-hop’s emphasis and standards of what it means to be ‘real.’

 

Rhetoric of Hip-Hop Blog Friday, February 28

Free writing. Use it to start reflection on any of the course strands (or anything about the course) that you can use for the mid-semester section of the learning record. Write about the latest find in your research or a song/video that you find particularly problematic/noteworthy/enlightening.

Lots has been said about Macklemore and white privilege. For my research topic, I hope to examine the social construction of hip-hop, as well as white privilege, and how that relates to Macklemore.

In interviews, Macklemore’s discussed how being white has affected his status and music.

But years before Macklemore was making national headlines, he addressed the topic of his race in “White Privilege,” a song off his 2005 album The Language of My World (listen above).

From the very beginning of the song, Macklemore wonders, “Am I just another white boy who has caught on to the trend? / When I take a step to the mic is hip-hop closer to the end?

He recognizes that fellow white rapper Eminem helped bring about a major shift in hip-hop. While addressing the issue of white rappers in hip-hop, he also mentions other historical instances of white people hijacking the cultures of others:

The face of hip-hop has changed a lot since Eminem
And if he’s taking away black artists’ profits, I look just like him
Claimed a culture that wasn’t mine, the way of the American
Hip-hop is gentrified, and where will all the people live?

Macklemore goes on to point out the fact that many white people are uncomfortable admitting that they’ve ‘stolen,’ in a sense, the art-form – admitting that they’ve exploited a culture without having to struggle with its burdens.

And most whites don’t want to acknowledge this is occurring
Cos we got the best deal, the music without the burden
Of being black in a system that really wants you to rock

Macklemore is very conscious of his status, almost seeming to predict the debates that occurred after his Grammy wins earlier this year:

I feel like I pay dues, but I’ll always be a white MC
I give everything I have when I write a rhyme
But that doesn’t change the fact that this culture’s not mine

And he continues with the hook:

Hip-hop started off on a block that I’ve never been to
To counteract a struggle that I’ve never even been through

If I think I understand just because I flow, too?
That means I’m not keeping it true, I’m not keeping it true

In the second verse, Macklemore goes even deeper into how white people have often exploited black music and culture:

Marketed the music, now adapted to the lifestyle
What happened to jazz and rock and roll is happening right now
Where’s my place in the music that’s been taken by the media
With white corporations controlling what they’re feedin’ ya?

So is Macklemore a ‘real MC’? Can Macklemore ever be a real MC? He recognizes that hip-hop is “rooted in authenticity, something you literally can’t learn.” Is Macklemore nothing more than another white face benefitting from privilege? Is it enough for Macklemore to recognize and admit to his privilege?  Or has Macklemore been a positive influence on hip-hop?

Rhetoric of Hip-Hop Blog Friday, February 21, 2014

This week, talk about a hip-hop text that you find interesting. Text here is loosely defined as any coherent presentation of ideas (image, video, song, advertisement, etc.), although since we’ve been working with traditional writing so far, I’d very much encourage you to use another medium. Make the text available on your blog if you can (and acknowledge the source!), and then discuss what you find interesting about it. The text you choose should have to have some sort of connection to the controversy you plan on discussing this semester.

At this point, I hope to discuss Macklemore and the social construction of hip-hop in my final paper. In relation to that topic, I’d like to discuss Macklemore’s song “Otherside” (listen above).

Macklemore’s found himself surrounding by various controversies, over topics such as white privilege and marriage equality. In The Dallas Morning News this past Sunday, I discussed Macklemore and his battle with addiction, and mentioned “Otherside.”

Rather than examining Macklemore’s issues with addiction more generally, in this blog, I’d like to specifically look into the song, “Otherside,” which first appeared in 2009 on the duo’s VS. EP. Seattle rapper Macklemore, along with Seattle producer Ryan Lewis, took the song title and sample from “Otherside” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, a song that also discusses drug addiction.

The song opens with sound bites discussing the death of rapper Pimp C, which was caused by a “combination of codeine and promethazine found in the rapper’s system, coupled with the sleep disorder apnea,” according to The Houston Chronicle.

In the song’s first verse, Macklemore discusses how he got into ‘lean’ (aka ‘syrup’), lured by the realization that lean is “the same stuff Weezy’s [rapper Lil’ Wayne] sippin, huh? / And tons of other rappers that be spittin’ hard?” With wordplay, he described how he “finally got to see what all the hype was on.” At first, Macklemore “loved that feeling” and felt on top of the world, “thinking he was pimping as he listened to the system.”

But despite the highs, “it comes with a cost / Wake up, cold sweat, scratching, itching / Trying to escape the skin that barely fit him / Gone, get another bottle just to get a couple swallows / Headed towards the bottom couldn’t get off it.” Yet, as is often common with addiction, Macklemore  “didn’t even think he had a problem,” even as his life spiraled out of control.

Macklemore begins the second verse by going back to the influence of rappers. He explains that “he just wanted to act like them / He just wanted to rap like him” before lamenting, “Us rappers underestimate the power and the effects that we have on these kids.” He continues:

The fact of it is most people that rap like this
Talking about some shit they haven’t lived

Surprise, you know the drill
Trapped in a box, declining record sales
Follow the formula: violence, drugs, and sex sells
So we try to sound like someone else

Later in the verse, Macklemore continues denouncing rap’s glorification of substance abuse, even specifically discussing Lil’ Wayne again:

Despite how Lil Wayne lives
It’s not conducive to being creative
And I know cause he’s my favorite
And I know cause I was off that same mix

Rationalize the shit that I’d try after I listen to Dedication
But he’s an alien
I’d sip that shit
Pass out or play PlayStation

Months later I’m in the same place
No music made, feeling like a failure
And trust me it’s not dope to be twenty-five
And move back to your parent’s basement

Closer to the end of the song, Macklemore continues to tell his story, an ominous warning to others:

That rush, that drug, that dope
Those pills, that crumb, that roach
Thinking I would never do that, not that drug
And growing up nobody ever does
Until you’re stuck
Looking in the mirror like I can’t believe what I’ve become
Swore I was going to be someone
And growing up everyone always does
We sell our dreams and our potential
To escape through that buzz

The song concludes with a sound bite of Bun B discussing the death of his friend and UGK partner Pimp C, and how it affects the music.

Hip-Hop has long been criticized for its promotion and glorification of drug and alcohol abuse, but critics are usually outside of the genre. In “Otherside,” Macklemore critiques the culture from within the culture, as someone who knows both sides, as someone who’s both a rapper and an addict.

Rhetoric of Hip-Hop Blog 3 February 7

This is your first free blogging assignment. Use it to reflect on anything having to do with the class so far. This can be on a hip hop-related topic, for instance a song/video/image you found that you want to discuss. But you can also choose to write about aspects of the course organization (e.g. specific assignments), or you might want to come back  to any of the course strands specified on the syllabus and start reflecting about your progress in them so far. As I said, I do not read everybody’s post every week, but if you are writing something that would benefit from my immediate attention (e.g. “I really wish we’d have a couple more readings each week…”), just let me know and I’ll make sure to prioritize.

So far, I’ve especially enjoyed this class because of it’s hands-on approach – all students are not only allowed, but encouraged to chime in with their opinions. Part of the beauty of hip-hop is how accessible it is for people who want to join. For example, anyone with a voice can try to rap. So it’s only fitting that all students are given an equal opportunity to express themselves in class.

I also appreciate how Axel allows us to get away from the original topic, as long as the topic we’re discussing is still related to hip-hop in some way. Learning should be about exploring, not simply following directions, so I find the class not only informative, but interesting and exciting. I not only learn in class, but I’m motivated to continue learning about hip-hop beyond our class material. And that’s how education should be.

Rhetoric of Hip-Hop Blog 2 January 31

Explore a specific topic related to hip hop that you think you might want to work on this semester. What do you know about it without having done any specific research for this class? What would you like to know more about? Do you already have strong feelings about some of the controversies related to this topic?

As a religious studies major and a hip-hop head, I’m especially interested in how religion interacts with hip-hop. I’ve written about hip-hop on multiple occasions, and I’ve also covered the music of multiple churches in the Dallas Fort-Worth area, so that’s provided me with some insight on the topic. Additionally, I’ve taken multiple religious studies classes, although this is my first hip-hop course.

I’d really love to look deeper into how religion specifically affects some of the hot button issues in hip-hop – gender and sexuality, especially misogyny and homophobia. Is the role of women in hip-hop similar to the role of women in religion? How do they compare and contrast? How does word choice affect the perception of hip-hop in the eyes of larger culture? Are hip-hop’s views of masculinity rooted in Christianity’s views of masculinity?

But also more generally, how was hip-hop changed religion, especially in urban black communities?

How common is hip-hop in churches? Are more churches embracing hip-hop?

How have our perceptions of race affected hip-hop and Christianity? How have hip-hop and Christianity affected our society’s perceptions of race? Is it mostly positive or negative?

How has consumerism affected hip-hop and religion? Has commodification taken them away from their roots? Has that helped or hurt overall? In what ways?

At this point, I haven’t really made any conclusive judgments about these topics – and I don’t think I should until I dive deeper into the issues. Still, these are a few of the many topics that I’d like to learn about during this semester.