The other day my boyfriend and I went to the Paid Dues concert in San Bernadino, California. Paid Dues is what I like to call a "concert warehouse", its a good number of acts performing at one huge venue throughout the course of a 12 hour day but all at different times. I had never been to one this big before, Jazz Reggae is probably the closet I've ever came. After attending, I came to the conclusion that I would prefer a smaller concert with just about three artists instead of 15. Its more personal. Anyway, while at Paid Dues, I made another observation, out of maybe 2,000 people, 50 of the attendees were black. This was an all-hip hop concert. Just as most things do, that got me to thinking about the politics of race. In this world nothing is absent from the concept of race, even music. Its a shame too, because music, as beautiful as it is should not be tainted by the confines of race.
With so many different races at this Paid Dues concert I wondered why hip hop still had an African American-only sign attached to it; there are so many different people that love, listen to , and are involved in hip hop. As people of color, which hip hop is most representative of, we have a common struggle of oppression and marginalization. Hip hop was created as an avenue to express oneself in spite of the dominant society. It was created as a counter-culture and a counter-public; I figure that's why so many people connect with it. Hip hop tells a story of being abused and beaten, something a lot of people living in the United States can relate to. We all know that hip hop is mostly bought by white, male teenagers. We also know that this doesn't take into account the fact that hip hop was commercialized and is commodified by rich, white male record executives who are the major reason why we have a glamorization of gangsta culture in America. So why then, is it black Americans who are the victims of hip hop's obvious ills? Hip hop was created by black Americans, however, since it was grown to become entirely more than "black music." In this world of race, salsa belongs to Cubans, Country to white people. Music, essentially is just a few sounds thrown together, how can anyone own sounds? From early on, we know that music has largely been an entity belonging to Black Americans. Black Americans are responsible for much of the musical genres that we have today, either from direct impact or purely because Africa is the original civilization from which all things sprang. However, we must also realize that music has a "full circle" type of relationship with the world. Any music that has ever been created has pulled elements from other people, places and musical genres and it has been copied and remixed. Therefore, no one really owns any type of music and especially no one race owns any type of music.
We can all agree that hip hop perpetuates stereotypes, from black men as thugs to black women as ho's. However, we have to make the distinction that hip hop is not to blame for these stereotypes. Hip hop is criminalized just like blackness is 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.
What are your thoughts?
The next part in this series will be: The Power of Hip Hop