The Racialization of Music: Part 2: The Power and Criminalization of Hip Hop
The following post is part two from this post about the Racialization of Music.
One area where the racialization of music is particularly evident is within hip hop. We can all agree that hip hop perpetuates stereotypes, such as black people being thugs and ho's. However, we have to make the distinction that hip hop is not to blame for these stereotypes. These defining images were created by the system of white supremacist capitalism and was unfortunately adopted by commercial areas of hip hop, which is the same area that record companies choose to propel to the forefront of the media. For example, it is incredibly evident that ideas of black womyn being hypersexual, circa the spectacle of Sarah Baartman, are also seen in commerical hip hop music through the sexed out personas of rappers. We must realize the evident agenda in this, the furthering of stereotypes sustains the purposes of white supremacy.
Hip hop, in its present commerical state is being used to promote a capitalist, white supremacist agenda, while simultaenously being scapegoated for the world's problems. For example, remember when 2pac was persecuted becuase a guy listening to his album shot two cops? Another example is how society continuously blames hip hop for sexism and misogyny. However, the ultimate reason why Hip hop is criminalized is because blackness is also criminalized. Andrea Smith, in her article, "Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy: Rethinking Women of Color Organizing" says, that "we can actually look at the criminalization of Blackness as a logical extension of Blackness as property." Thus we can say that even though hip hop is a entity that is multicultural, it is criminalized and commodified at the expense of black bodies. I think we deserve much more as the creators of hip hop, however, white America always has the power and privilege to twist and distort good intentions.
Hip hop is a billion dollar a year industry and is also the most popular musical genre to date. It has surpassed being a part of media to become a media itself. Much like the news and also other forms of art, hip hop, as an entity of mass media, has the power to influence pop culture. No wonder why white America hijacked and now owns it. It can influence people to dance and dress in provacative or fly ways, it can inspire people to become more aware of social justice issues, and it also has the power to dumb people down. Hip hop is used to sell everything from cars to cell phones. White Corporate America has stolen hip hop to further its capitalistic purposes, however, this offers no real agency for the black people whose music is being abused. Hip hop was created as an organic, anti-colonial tool of expression and what was particulary beautiful about that expression was that it was used as a tool for black Americans, particularly black men, who had been shut up, marginalized, stigmatized and deemed invisible by dominant society. Now, commercialized hip hop is used to further ideas of black hypermasculinity, capitalistim, and violence against the female and queer; which in turn only fuels a corporate agenda for white America. Black men and black women have once again been shut up and we don't have hip hop as an outlet for mainstream expression any longer.
Do we really want to support the commercial hip hop that perpetuates stereotypes about us and therefore furthers our own oppression? We must constantly be aware of the power we have as black American consumers to dictate trends as far as what is being sold to and bought by us. We cannot allow white America to continue to own hip hop and dictate what parts of it we see, use and listen to. We must be concious consumers and seek out alternative hip hop music that uplifts, enlightens and empowers us. Nothing that you get from commercial hip hop on the radio or in the mainstream media will be good for you and definitely not good for the black American community.
Rappers and producers: Quit making music if you love money and fame more than you love the people.
"Come on baby, light my fire, everything you drop is so tired, music is supposed to inspire, how come we ain't getting no higher?" -L.Boogie