nettime_mixmaster_discourse on Tue, 7 Jan 2003 08:49:43 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> hop hip digest [fusco, williams, porculus, butt]
     Re: <nettime> hip hop eulogy digest ctd.
Ben Williams <>
     RE: <nettime> FUCK HIP HOP: A Eulogy to Hip Hop
"porculus" <>
     Re: <nettime> FUCK HIP HOP: A Eulogy to Hip Hop
Danny Butt <>
     Re: <nettime> hip hop eulogy digest [myers, eduardo]

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2003 11:24:09 EST
Subject: Re: <nettime> hip hop eulogy digest ctd.

Dear Paul

It seems to me that implicit in the critique you originally posted are some 
crucial issues that are being symptomatically overlooked by the defenders of 
hiphop here, who appear to be stepping in to "save" black expression from 
that great demon of demons, a black intellectual, who because of his 
criticality is no longer a valid arbiter of "authentic" black popular 
expression.  Without acknowledgement of the economic force of the white 
market on black music, most discussion of "successful" black music devolves 
into attacks and defense of black musicians, their authenticity and/or their 
personal integrity, and grandstanding about who is best suited to make such 

What I mean to suggest is that the development of hip hop as a cultural 
phenomenton needs to be  charted in relation to its breakthrough into the 
mainstream market.  It is unwise to forget that once upon a time hip hop was 
not allowed on MTV and that in those early days the mainstream media created 
an image of it as a threat to social stability, because of the views 
expressed about law enforcement and its sexual directness. While the sexual 
messages of hip hop would be reconfigured to serve the market , the political 
message that racial oppression was the main obstacle blacks face has been 
suppressed and substituted by the touting of material wealth as the key to 
black success. Sure, lots of hip hop artists made money and make music about 
their the material benefits that fame accords.  But other more 
demographically rooted aspects of black experience are obufscated by the 
spectacle of big cars, big jewels and big breasts. At the same time, it is 
not unusual to hear white rock musicians articulate their anxieties about hip 
hop's incursions in "their" market.

The breakthrough into the mainsteam is a moment and a process that is a 
fundamentally racial one - by this I mean that the  when hip hop was found to 
be "desirable" to white suburban youth (still the standard for determining 
saleability of popular music in this country), it was subjected to 
alterations that tranformed it into a black musical form for a predominantly 
white market - and the industry determines what racialized desires and 
expressions are in order to extract profit, not to further creativity. Those 
alterations combine the standardization of musical form, the suppression of 
political content, and the construction of particular stereotypical modes and 
performances  of blackness.   It is that process of racialized 
commodification that is the "postmodern logic of late capitalism", not rap 
itself. That hip hop artists who show the world how capitalism rewards them 
and fetishizes their blackness get the most exposure should surprise no one.

The idea that hip hop has diversified because there are more groups out there 
selling is highly dubious. The proliferation is better understood as being 
based on the interplay between industry's drive for profit and the bleak 
economic realities that black urban youths face in which descent jobs are 
scarce and access to wealth rides largely on the ability to commodify the 
performance of blackness as an athlete or a musician. As long as that 
socio-economic context shapes the landscape, we will be treated to a barrage 
of vapid hip hop remakes and sequels, rather than innovative engagement with 
the relationships among orality, aurality and technology that hip hop once 

Yes, it is true that hip hop is now disseminated to a global market that is 
multi-racial. However, in order to reach that level of dissemination it first 
had to pass through the make or break stage of being subjected to the 
racialized "disciplining" of a market shaped by white interests. We live in a 
racialized global order, not a raceless one. This process of standardization 
is more evident in world music with its endless stream of anthologies and 
generic packaging (asian groove, arabic chill, etc.). I will only note here 
briefly that in Cuba, that standardized racialized packaging is not yet the 
way that locals consume their own music, and it is not even sold that way to 
anyone but tourists - but it is the way Cuban musicians trying to make money 
have started to think about making music, to the detriment of the forms. 

I have no doubt that my comments will generate some incensed responses from 
those who will try to claim that I am demonizing white consumers and/or 
ignoring the ways that black producers have introjected stereotypical 
constructs of blackness. I maintain that there is a distinction to be drawn 
between the music industry's manipulation of racial logic and individuals' 
understanding of their own desires, but that no one's desires transcend those 
systems entirely. Furthermore, the consumption of racialized cultural 
artifacts is not a mimetic reflection of  interpersonal or inter-group race 
relations, though it is a relevant component of them-- the consumption of 
racialized spectacle, be it visual or aural, often functions as a substitute 
for them.

Coco Fusco

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

From: Ben Williams <>
Subject: RE: <nettime> FUCK HIP HOP: A Eulogy to Hip Hop
Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2003 07:17:26 -0800

Couple of pertinent excerpts...

"'Political rap' was actually something of an invention. The Bronx
community-center dances and block parties where hip-hop began in the early
1970s were not demonstrations for justice, they were celebrations of
survival. Hip-hop culture simply reflected what the people wanted and
needed--escape. Rappers bragged about living the brand-name high life
because they didn't; they boasted about getting headlines in the New York
Post because they couldn't. Then, during the burning summer of the first
Reagan recession, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released "The
Message," a dirge (by the standards of the day) that seethed against the
everyday violence of disinvestment. Flash was certain the record, which was
actually an A&R-pushed concoction by Duke Bootee and Melle Mel, would flop;
it was too slow and too depressing to rock a party. But Sugar Hill Records
released the song as a single over his objections, and "The Message" struck
the zeitgeist like a bull's-eye. Liberal soul and rock critics, who had been
waiting for exactly this kind of statement from urban America, championed
it. Millions of listeners made it the third platinum rap single....

Yet the politics have not disappeared from popular rap. Some of the most
stunning hits in recent years--DMX's "Who We Be," Trick Daddy's "I'm a
Thug," Scarface's "On My Block"--have found large audiences by making whole
the hip-hop generation's cliché of "keeping it real," being true to one's
roots of struggle. The video for Nappy Roots' brilliant "Po' Folks" depicts
an expansive vision of rural Kentucky--black and white, young and old
together, living like "everything's gon' be OK." Scarface's ghettocentric
"On My Block" discards any pretense at apology. "We've probably done it all,
fa' sheezy," he raps. "I'll never leave my block, my niggas need me." For
some critics, usually older and often black, such sentiments seem
dangerously close to pathological, hymns to debauchery and justifications
for thuggery. But the hip-hop generation recognizes them as anthems of
purpose, manifestoes that describe their time and place the same way that
Public Enemy's did. Most of all, these songs and their audiences say, we are
survivors and we will never forget that."

-----Original Message-----
from: McKenzie Wark []
sent: Sunday, January 05, 2003 12:58 AM
subject: Re: <nettime> FUCK HIP HOP: A Eulogy to Hip Hop

While i agree with Pierre Bennu and Paul D Miller about the state of
hip hop, i would like to say a word for why rap music is not without
interest. It has drifted a long way from its hip hop roots. But perhaps
it has become something else in the process, that can be read in
quite another way.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

From: "porculus" <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> FUCK HIP HOP: A Eulogy to Hip Hop
Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2003 22:05:36 +0100

all the same you would have to speak about this hyena tongue & the power of
its langage that could really more to summon thing, rather to taste the
marrow of it, a data mining as a bone collector. after all a brand is in
some way better than a fetichisation & worth far more than the stuff itself,
the concept is pulverised & the transvaluation is then complete
it's lumpen proletariat that could consum & suck the soul itself so much it
seemz more greazy than a bigmac, eating words is canibal & performative
it is said when the cossack had no more snort they repeat et reapeat in
chorus the word 'vodka' till they become sick, till they drop from their
horse. wonder if it works with 30 year old hooch, anyway repeat at nauseam
after me & cheers & bonne santé for 2003
thanks for this mucho excellent reading,

----- Original Message -----
from: "McKenzie Wark" <>
to: <>
sent: Sunday, January 05, 2003 6:57 AM
subject: Re: <nettime> FUCK HIP HOP: A Eulogy to Hip Hop

> While i agree with Pierre Bennu and Paul D Miller about the state of
> hip hop, i would like to say a word for why rap music is not without
> interest. It has drifted a long way from its hip hop roots. But perhaps
> it has become something else in the process, that can be read in
> quite another way.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Date: Tue, 07 Jan 2003 15:35:28 +1300
Subject: Re: <nettime> hip hop eulogy digest [myers, eduardo]
From: Danny Butt <>

I should point out that Paul and his hip-hop knowledge, experience and
output has my greatest respect and I also agree with just about everything
he says in his followup.

(except the bit about Mos Def dating someone from Destiny's Child not having
anything to do with "real life" - dating is so much more real life than
music if we want to start making that distinction, and I think the anecdote
actually has greater analytical value in relation to their recent artistic
output than any formal musicological analysis). (Looking forward to Andrew
Ross' new book mentioned on list previously for much the same reasons re:
the dotcom era).

However I still think Bennu's piece did not display contemporary familiarity
with the field he was talking about, and this limits its uses for critique.
(I'm not saying he doesn't have that familiarity, but it's not much in
evidence in the article). I'm really not sure how Bennu's article is
supposed to do anything other than reflect a certain feeling that a
well-defined minority of hip-hop listeners will hold. (I guess that makes it
hip-hop in the sense that I can see all that groups heads nodding - "yeah,
damn right!" :). But I don't think it's going to change the minds of anyone.
As much for methodology as content, I'd prefer someone like Oliver Wang's
take. He supports true hip-hop as critically as any other journalist out
there (even venturing into areas like Spin to do it), rather than running it
down.  check it out y'all if yr interested... (his mixtapes are also sweet)

by Oliver Wang


> Date: Mon, 06 Jan 2003 00:29:02 -0500
> Subject: Re: <nettime> hip hop eulogy digest [myers, eduardo]
> From: Rachel Greene <>
> can I just add to this that though there are aspects of danny butt's reply I


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: