Unmasking Hip Hop Landscaping the Shifts and Impacts of a Musical Movement , Shani Smothers


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Unmasking Hip Hop Landscaping the Shifts and Impacts of a Musical Movement , Shani Smothers

  1. 1. UNMASKING HIP HOP: LANDSCAPING THE SHIFTS AND IMPACTS OF A MUSICAL MOVEMENT A Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Georgetown University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Communication, Culture and Technology By Shani Ali Smothers, B.A. Washington, DC April 29, 2004
  2. 2. Copyright 2004 by S.A. Smothers All Rights Reserved iv
  3. 3. UNMASKING HIP HOP: LANDSCAPING THE SHIFTS AND IMPACTS OF A MUSICAL MOVEMENT Shani Ali Smothers, B.A. Thesis Advisor: Matthew Tinkcom, Ph.D. ABSTRACT The hip hop movement originally grew out of the ranks of urban oppression inand around the New York City boroughs in the 1970s. The movement at that time usedmusic, dance, and graffiti art to challenge status quo values, institutions, and thedominant order over society. In this study, I propose that the movement of hip hop haschanged due to an ideological split manifesting within the culture. I hypothesize thatthe rap facet of the hip hop movement has divided and is traveling two extreme paths,one which maintains and reinforces the dominant order of society and one, whichcritiques this order. This divisiveness of hip hop is a result of the culture industries, butmoreover the hip hop community has allowed the movement’s original purpose, as anoutlet to critique society and politics, to be redirected. This study attempts to makesense of what has caused this division and the impact this now divisive movement hason listeners’ mentality, ideological preferences, and social and political engagement.Hip hop is an undeniable social force for youth, particularly urban youth. This musicalform exercises its force by shaping the identities, and furthermore the social characterof its listeners. It grooms individuals, particularly youth to accept or reject theireconomic, political, and social conditions. The future path of the hip hop movement is v
  4. 4. uncharted. Ultimately it is up to the hip hop community to accept or reject the currentconstruction and appropriation of this musical form, which potentially can work as anagent of social and political change. vi
  5. 5. PREFACE Over time, hip hop music has had its share of academic supporters as well ascritics. One particular academic article motivated me to work on this topic. “Music andMusic Videos” by Christine H. Hansen and Ronald D. Hansen (Oakland University) inDolf Zillmann and Peter Vorderer’s Media Entertainment: The Psychology of ItsAppeal (2000), enraged me and filled me with a need to respond intellectually. Hansenand Hansen (Zillman and Vorderer, 2000) make questionable statements such as,“…BET (Black Entertainment Network) offers music videos for a (mostly) Blackaudience.” First of all BET stands for Black Entertainment Television NOT BlackEntertainment Network. Secondly, it is a questionable fact that BET’s audience ismostly Black. Assumptions such as this example absolutely need data to support them.In the authors’ discussion of popular music and its appeal, they mention rap and“gangster rap” as having negative effects, but they fail to mention any rap that ispositive or socially/politically conscious. They also fail to qualify any historicalcontexts from which rap arose. The section on rap music has a blatantly negative tonefilled with negative generalizations about rap, rap fans, and the effects of rap music.Not only did this article contain statements, which were questionably false or had noevidence to support them, but also the authors admitted that their sample of 100participants was predominantly female and 96 percent of White descent. It is this type vii
  6. 6. of intellectualism, which is often fed to the public through articles and segments abouthip hop. Realizing that every academic writer has his or her biases, I am not offering acritique of Hansen and Hansen’s opinions, but their method. Acceptable academicwork typically covers various perspectives on the chosen topic and then offers a uniqueperspective. Additionally, intellectualism typically uses sourced information andthoroughly structured samples, surveys and results. These authors should have writtenon the White female perspective on hip hop, rather than making generalizations about ahip hop culture based on this non-representative sample. Hansen and Hansen havemuch to learn about hip hop and maybe a better approach in the future would be togather findings from individuals who listen to and are affected by hip hop.With this in mind, I have derived this study of hip hop by drawing from a wealth ofacademic subjects such as, African American studies, African studies, anthropology,communications, cultural studies, education, history, liberation theology, mediastudies, musicology, political science, poverty studies, sociology, sociolinguistics, aswell as academia on hip hop. Although Chapter 5 of this study uses a convenienceonline sample to describe how hip hop can be connected to several ideological andbehavioral patterns, the methods used are statistically accurate and the results are ofsound use in the pilot study. For every bad apple, there are several good ones. This isto say that for every anti-intellectual piece written on hip hop, there are ten times asmany thorough and intellectually stimulating pieces on this cultural art form. viii
  7. 7. Hip hop is a dynamic musical movement, which impacts the lives of individuals,communities, and cultures, especially American culture. Hip hop, over time, hasproven its viability and its power of influence—its potential to change the world inwhich we live. ix
  8. 8. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSSpecial Thanks goes to:Dr. Matthew Tinkcom, my thesis advisor, for all of your support, understanding, and advice. Thank youfor your Georgetown presence, your enlightening perspectives and for encouraging me and otherstudents to think ‘outside of the box’.Dr. Diana Owen, my second reader, for your tireless dedication to the students, your amazing statisticalexpertise and for your interdisciplinary and unbiased perspectives.Dr. Richard Wright, my third reader, for your dedication to social change, your enlightening cross-generational perspective and for challenging me and other students to take the extra step in criticalanalysis.My fellow Thesis Colloquium students for your comments and criticism, which helped me to improvemy content.Dr. Pensri Ho and Professor Jessica Davis for your dialogue which particularly helped to shape thisresearch.CCT alum, Autumn Lewis (’03), for being my CCT saving grace and opening my eyes to the power ofselection.Robert Pham for all of the technological support and genuine care and support of CCT students.Heather Kerst, Davina Sashkin, Kendra Fowle, and Tonya Puffet for all of the administrative support.Dr. Mikell, Bernadetta Killian, Veronique Dozier, and Denis Williams for all of your support and forhelping me to have such a remarkable experience in Tanzania.To all of the students, professors, and others whose conversations and dialogue helped to shape myproject.My editors and proofreaders: Letita Aaron, Elaine Ayensu, Dr. Pensri Ho, Allissa Hosten, Kisha Ross,Dejuan Stroman and Grant Tregre.Father Phillip Linden, Jr., S.T.D, Ph.D for helping me to change my perspective, my goals and my lifefor the better and to fulfill my purpose.To my mother, Gladys Cole, for her unconditional support, her endless sacrafice for her children, and forenvisioning my infinite potential.To my fathers, James Smothers III and Lionel Cole, for all of your love and support over the years.To my siblings, Malaika, Kiesha, Dale Janette, Jimmy, Courtney, and Gabriel, for all of your love andsupport. x
  9. 9. To my friend, confidant, and soul-mate, Grant, for all of your love, support and encouragement. Thankyou for believing in me.Special Thanks goes to the Johnson, Cole, Smothers, Hicks, Doyle, Reels, Reese, Ward, Caldwell,Cochran, Lewis, Rhodes, Tregre, Rovaris and Hebert families for all of their love and support. xi
  10. 10. TABLE OF CONTENTSCover Sheet………………………………………………...……………………………iAbstract……………………………………………………………………………....…iiPreface…………………………………………………………………………………..vChapter I: The Changing Face of Hip Hop—The Movement of this MusicalContinuum……………………………………………………………………………....1Defining and Reinventing Hip Hop………………………………………………...…..3Contextualizing the Evolution of Hip Hop……………………………….………….....6Project Summary………………………………………………………….…………….9Chapter II: Exploring the Functionality of Hip Hop: Moments and Evolution……....12The Communication and Communal Functions of Music……………………………13Hip Hop’s Communication and Communal Functionality………………………..….18Staccato Moments in Hip Hop History………………………………..….…………..22The Sub-Genres of Hip Hop………………………………..…………….………..…24Summary: Beyond Moments and Functions……………………………...………..…26Chapter III: Power, Culture Industry, and Hip Hop as an Undermined Movement….28The Power of the Repressive State and Ideological State Apparatuses………………30Mechanisms of Power and Social Movements…………………………...…………..32The Power of the Culture Industry…………………………………………………....36The Undermining of the hip hop Movement………………………………………....44Summary……………………………………………………………………..……….52.Chapter IV: Words Are Weapons: The Hip Hop Language Dialectic………………..53The Power of Music Language…………………………………...…………………..56Lyrical Analysis……………………………………………………….…………..….59Summary…………………………………………………………………………...…93Chapter V: Hip Hop’s Impact on Mentality, Ideological Preference and Political andSocial Activity…………………………………………………..…………………....96Methodology……………………………………………………………………..….100Sample Characteristics…………………………………………………………..…..100Variable Description………………………………………………………………...102Results: Ordinary Least Square Regression Analysis……………………………….102Results: Logistic Regression Analysis………………………………………………107 xii
  11. 11. Results: Correlation Analysis……………………………….………………………..108Discussion of Results……………………………………………………………...…111Summary……………………………………………………………...……………...123Chapter VI: Conclusions: Understanding Hip Hop’s Potential and Moving Toward aCollective Movement……………………………………………………………...…132Future Research………………………………………………………………………134What is in Hip Hop’s Future…………………………………………….…………...136Notes……………………………………………………………………………...….139Bibliography………………………………………………………………………….149Statistical Appendix A……………………………………………………………….156Statistical Appendix B……………………………………………………………….161Statistical Appendix C……………………………………………………………….170 xiii
  12. 12. LIST OF FIGURES AND TABLESFigure 5.1: Race and Ethnicity DemographicsTable 5.1: Dependent VariablesTable 5.2: Independent VariablesTable 5.3: Regression AnalysisTable 5.4: Logistic Regression AnalysisTable 5.5: Correlation Analysis ITable 5.6: Correlation Analysis II xiv
  13. 13. It is past time for all poor people to release themselves from the deceptive strangulation of society, realize that society has failed you; for an attempt to ignorethis system of deception now is to deny you, the need to protest this failure later. Thesystem has failed you yesterday, failed you today, and has created the conditions for failure tomorrow _John Africa 1The black revolutionary writer Frantz Fanon once asserted that each generation, out of relative obscurity, must discover its own destiny. Then it has a choice: it may fulfill that destiny or betray it. How can today’s rising generation of African- American young people come to terms with their own destiny? What is the meaningof the challenges and opportunities that history has planned for them? What kind of ethics or moral anchor is required for group empowerment and collective advancement? —Manning Marable2
  14. 14. Chapter I The Changing Face of Hip Hop—The Movement of this Musical Continuum Hip hop is not a political movement in the usual sense. Its advocates don’t elect public officials. Itdoesn’t present a systematic (or even original) critique of white world supremacy. Nor has it produced a manifesto for collective political agitation. It has generated no Malcolm X or Dr. King. It has spawned no grassroots activist organization in the order of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Black Panther Party, NAACP, or even the Country Music Association. Hip hop has actually had surprisingly little concrete long-term impact on African-American politics. It has made its mark by turning listeners onto real political icons (Malcolm X), radical organizations of the past (The Black Panther Party), and self-sufficient operations of the present (the Nation of Islam). It spread the word about the evils of apartheid. It articulated and predicted the explosive rage that rocked Los Angeles in 1992. It has given two generations of young people a way into the entertainment business and an uncensored vehicle for expression. —Nelson George3 Rap music is, in many ways, a hidden transcript. Among other things it uses cloaked speech and distinguished cultural codes to comment on and challenge aspects of current power inequalities. Not all rap transcripts directly critique all forms of domination; nonetheless, a large and significant element in rap’s discursive territory is engaged in symbolic and ideological warfare with institutions and groups that symbolically, ideologically, and materially oppress African Americans. In this way, rap music is a contemporary stage for the theater of the powerless. On this stage rappers act out inversions of status hierarchies, tell alternative stories of contact with police and the educational process, and draw portraits of contact with dominant groups in which the hidden transcript inverts/subverts the public, dominant transcript. Often rendering a nagging critique of various manifestations of power via jokes, stories, gestures, and song, rap’s social commentary enacts ideological insubordination. —Tricia Rose4 Both Nelson George and Tricia Rose portray accurate depictions of the currentstate of hip hop, especially the culture’s facet of rap music. While George discusses hiphop’s social and political shortcomings, he also articulates this movement’s greatestsocial and political triumphs and furthermore its potential to impact individual 1
  15. 15. consciousness. Rose, in particular, illustrates one path of the present divergentdirections of this underestimated and furthermore underplayed musical movement.Since its origins, rap music has possessed an element, which critiques dominantinstitutions and values; but in the last two decades, it has also moved towards themaintenance of dominant ideologies and institutions. Just as rap music challengesdomination, powerlessness, and oppression of the American poor, it also has moved tomaintain dominance, increase and reinforce powerlessness, and contribute to thematerial, economic, and political manipulation of the urban oppressed. Rap is a hiddentranscript, but as George and Rose suggest, it has moved along a different political andsocial plane than traditional activism or leadership. Rap has made its mark byspreading ideological, political, and social messages, which undeniably have an impacton individuals as well as society at large. How is it possible that this musical form engages in a critique of the Americanpolitical economy, while still confined to economic, political, and social subservience?This question brings to bear the reality of all American-based social movements, whicheither achieve success based on skillful and effective critique within the bounds of theeconomic, political, and social order, or succumb to failure as a result of infiltrationand divisiveness. George (1998) says that it is essential to understand that values,which underpin hip hop, are by products of the function and dysfunction of theAmerican cultural context.5 2
  16. 16. In this study, I intend to connect hip hop to the American context by showinghow it maintains and reinforces American repressive and ideological apparatuses,while simultaneously critiquing these institutions and power structures. By situatingthis musical art form within the social context of American life, it can then bepositioned as a social and political force, which exercises influence over individuals.Defining and Reinventing Hip Hop Trying to devise a clear-cut definition of hip hop is a challenging task. Artists,record executives, academics, and critics define hip hop in several different ways. Aswith any term in need of definition, it is advisable to reflect on various perspectivesand then try to potentially formulate a comprehensive definition of the term. In theearly 1980’s, published definitions of the term hip hop were scarce, but currently hiphop is defined and seriously discussed in several academic discourses. Its definition ismulti-faceted and it has changed to fit sporadic inner-city urban cultural shifts. Todd Boyd in The New H.N.I.C.: The Death of Civil Rights and the Reign ofHip Hop (2003) states, Hip Hop 101; rap is the act of rapping, spittin’ rhymes over beats produced by a DJ…The word ‘rap’ also came to denote the more popular aspects of the genre by the mainstream, and this label was also used by true heads to call out anyone who was thought to be abandoning the culture’s roots. As the age-old assumption goes, as one becomes more popular or mainstream, the less politically engaged and substantive the music would become. Hip hop changed the game on this though (Boyd, Todd, 2003, p. 45). 3
  17. 17. As Boyd (2003) notes, the transformation of hip hop over time has left us with thisdistinction, which has had complex effects. “Rap is what you do; Hip Hop is what youare. Rap is the act; Hip Hop is the culture (Boyd, 2003, p. 48).” Hip hop is a testamentto the strength of the oppressed, which have and continue to overcome the obstaclesthat American life often imposes on inner-city urban communities, especially the youth(Boyd, 2003, p. 152). Boyd suggests an age-old assumption that says, as rap artistsbecome more popular, the less politically or socially engaged the music becomes.Boyd is correct in his conclusion because hip hop often uses its popular status tochannel social and political messages. Hip hop is a movement that evolved over a longtime span and is not just a historical moment in the urban cultural experience. Alonzo Westbrook in Hip Hoptionary: The Dictionary of Hip HopTerminology (2002), defines hip hop as, The artistic response to oppression. A way of expression in dance, music, word/song. A culture that thrives on creativity and nostalgia. As a musical art form it is stories of inner-city life, often with a message, spoken over beats of music. The culture includes rap and any other venture spawned from the hip hop style and culture (pg 64).Westbrook makes an important point, hip hop has always creatively drawn on nostalgiain order to connect to its audience. This nostalgia could be musical, social, or evenpolitical, but in almost every instance it reflects collective experiences of the urbanpoor. George says that hip hop at its most fundamental level is a product of the post-civil rights era—a multifaceted culture born of African American, Caribbean American 4
  18. 18. and Latin American youth in and around New York in the 1970s (George, 1998, p.viii). Rose (1994) reiterates these points, Hip hop is a cultural form that attempts to negotiate the experiences of marginalization, brutally truncated opportunity, and oppression within the cultural imperatives of African American and Caribbean history, identity, and community. It is the tension between the cultural fractures produced by post- industrial oppression and the binding ties of black cultural expressivity that sets the critical frame for the development of hip hop (p. 21).Rose emphasizes that hip hop culture grew from attempts to negotiate the oppressiveexperiences of youth living in the multicultural environment of the New Yorkboroughs. New York youth in this transition, were relegated to the margins as a resultof post-industrial economic backlash, rapidly changing political landscapes, and shiftsfrom segregation to multicultural integration and back to cultural polarization. Thesedivisive circumstances of cultural communities in New York fueled the fusion of aunified hip hop cultural community. This study will show that academics, critics, and rappers appropriate these andother definitions of hip hop as needed. It should be noted that hip hop in the 1970scould be thought of as a single culture with distinctive elements, whereas over the lastdecade hip hop has become more like a melding of several local and regional culturesand sub-cultures. In a broader sense, I realize that hip hop is regarded as the cultureand rap as one facet of that culture. For the purposes of this study, I use hip hop andrap interchangeably. These definitions of hip hop and rap will be useful in further 5
  19. 19. discussions of the evolution of this culture and particularly the changing landscapes ofrap music.Contextualizing the Evolution of Hip Hop Hip hop is a form of communication and an agent of community building. Inthe past, various genres of music have served particular functions. Music oftensupplied responses to societal or community needs. American hip hop emerged at atime when the inner city youth of New York needed an outlet to express emotion aboutthe social ills they faced and the environmental, political, and economic conditions oftheir marginalization. Hip hop, in these early stages, operated as a force, whichchallenged the social, political, and economic order of American society. It used itscommunicative power and its ability to reach the masses to engage the urbanoppressed. The hip hop movement did not emerge spontaneously, but followed thehistorical and social pattern of movements born out of inequality and subsequentcommunal uprising. The hip hop movement is the musical successor to movements,which attacked social inequalities of the 1950s and 1960s. Maultsby (1985) says, “newstyles, rather than evolving independently, arise out of existing traditions (Berry andManning-Miller (eds.), 1996, p. 266).” She explains this in terms of the evolution ofconscious music into the formation of rap. She says that rap music discloses shifts invalues, attitudes, and social needs.6 These social needs, which Maultsby mentions, now 6
  20. 20. have become part of a market-embraced display of popular culture. Pratt (1990) discusses what he terms ‘emancipatory uses’ of popular culture.He says popular culture is emancipatory when it challenges dominant institutions (p.14). He notes a parallel in Douglas Kellner’s (1987) work, “TV, Ideology, andEmancipatory Popular Culture”. “Emancipatory” signifies emancipation from something that is restrictive or repressive, and for something that is conducive to an increase of freedom and well-being. Such a conception, as Kellner describes it, ‘subverts ideological codes and stereotypes…It rejects idealizations and rationalization that apologize for the suffering in the present social system, and, at its best, suggests that another way of life is possible’ (Pratt, 1990, p.14).These emancipatory functions of music still exist in hip hop music. Some forms of hiphop continue to challenge dominant institutions and situations of inhumane culturalpractices that contribute to the marginalization of the poor. Hip hop also functions as acommunal backbone to support an identification in collective values. Pratt (1990) saysmusic like any other form of art is an ‘impulse of opposition to existing conventions’.7Pratt (1990) elaborates on this reinforcement of support and morale. He says musicserves as “substitute imagery,” which mediates experience (p. 5). Music mediatesindividual experiences, though perhaps not to the same degree as television.Nevertheless, it creates a commonality of cultural experience that remains part of eachindividual’s cultural heredity (Pratt, 1990). Though Pratt speaks of this phenomenon interms of elites that control culture industries, which then use rap to manipulate thepublic, this script is flipped by socially conscious music that uses critique to attack 7
  21. 21. dominant ideologies and institutions. Music often embodies cultural and socialcommonality. Furthermore, he asserts that music has the capacity to create and reflectcommunity forms—it is the product of social relationships within a community (Pratt,1990). As E.P. Thompson (1963) notes, that class as a social relationship must alwaysbe situated in a pragmatic context (Pratt, 1990). Pratt (1990) explains the functional useof music, which can be seen in all forms of music produced from the experiences of theAfrican and African in America. Hip hop reinvents their historical experiences to shedlight on the present situation of communal oppression facing the multiculturalAmerican lower working class, and furthermore, it helps to build on the globalcommunity of those oppressed everywhere. “Serving cultural and social purposes, rapmusic provides a vehicle for group interaction, an outlet for creative expression, and aforum for competitive play (Berry and Manning-Miller (eds.), 1996, p. 256).” Theappropriation of rap music as a force, which maintains the current social and politicalorder, is to combat its effectiveness as a threat to this order8. Societal constructions of Blackness9, and furthermore the construction assignedto all urban youth, particularly males, historically have operated as forces whichcombat the potential threat of these social actors.10 Rose (1990) says in “Never Trust aBig Butt With A Smile,” The history of African –American music and culture has been defined in large by a history of the art of signifying, recontextualization, collective memory and resistance. ‘Fashioning icons of opposition’ that speak to diverse communities is part of a rich Black American musical tradition to which rappers make a significant contribution (Bobo, 2001). 8
  22. 22. Rose is one of the first critical theorists to recognize the positive contributions rap hasmade to the establishment of community and collective consciousness. It is important,however, to recognize the negative impacts of rap music that emphasizes andencourages acceptance of status quo values, solutions, and maintains ruling elite’spolitical and ideological power over the masses. The connection betweenconsciousness and cultural expression has the potential to evidence hip hop’s successand failure as a social movement.Project Summary The purpose of this study is to explore the duality of the hip hop movement andhow it has shaped the divergent paths in which rap music has and continues to travel.This study proposes to answer the following research question: How has the division ofthe hip hop movement given way to two extreme-driven paths of rap music; on onehand, hip hop provides political and social criticism, on the other hand, it has someadverse characteristics and consequences. Rap music while critiquing AlthusserianRepressive State Apparatuses (prison system, courts, governing bodies, etc…) andIdeological State Apparatuses (education system, churches, media, etc…), it alsomaintains and reinforces those values and institutions. Chapter III will theoreticallysituate this project by providing a foundation of how power mechanisms, the musicindustry, and furthermore the culture industry have ushered this divisional path of rap 9
  23. 23. music and its influence. Chapter IV will explicitly focus on the language of hip hopand how rap lyrics evidence this divisional shift of hip hop. Finally, Chapter V presentsa pilot study on how this division and the resulting paths of rap music have affectedindividuals situated within the hip hop community in terms of mentality, ideologicalpreference, and social and political engagement. This study primarily focuses on the language and lyrics of hip hop whichinevitably shape individual perception by influencing attitudes, ideologicalpreferences, and furthermore social and political engagement. Just as William EricPerkins11 gives a fresh perspective on rap music’s ongoing and bewildering love/haterelationship with American society and its role in the continuing evolution of popularculture, this study intends to give a fresh perspective on rap music’s role in shapingindividual attitudes, ideological foundations, and social and political action. Recentresearch on hip hop and politics studies how hip hop actors have stepped into the realmof social and political activism. This study is more concerned with how the music,itself, plays a role in the formation of character—how it grooms individuals towardscomplacency, disengagement, or activism with American society. This study will showthat the hip hop movement is more than celebrities raising money or publiclysupporting causes—it is a movement because its music and language affect individualmentality, ideological preferences, and social and political participation. Thus, thisstudy will unmask hip hop by landscaping the shifts in this musical movement as wellas by showing how this musical phenomenon acts as a socializing agent. 10
  24. 24. Chapter II Exploring the Functionality of Hip Hop: Moments and Evolution “I met this girl, when I was ten years old And what I loved most she had so much soul She was old school, when I was just a shorty Never knew throughout my life she would be there for me on the regular, not a church girl she was secular Not about the money, no studs was mic checkin her But I respected her, she hit me in the heart A few New York niggaz, had did her in the park But she was there for me, and I was there for her Pull out a chair for her, turn on the air for her and just cool out, cool out and listen to her Sittin on a bone, wishin that I could do her Eventually if it was meant to be, then it would be because we related, physically and mentally And she was fun then, Id be geeked when shed come around Slim was fresh yo, when she was underground Original, pure untampered and down sister Boy I tell ya, I miss her.” Common Sense12 In this verse, the artist Common Sense, now known as just Common,personifies his relationship with hip hop music. This relationship with the opposite sexthat he describes is undoubtedly his relationship with his other half—hip hop. Byreviewing academic and non-academic intellectualism, this chapter intends to explorehip hop’s total being; her definitions, her history, her function and her evolution.Common’s nostalgia for the old hip hop he knew evidences the ‘evolutionary’ or 11
  25. 25. ‘counter-evolutionary’ path this culture has taken and the joy ride it has endured. Theoriginal flow of resistance, which mainstreamed into a commercially viable industryhas taken society on a full throttled ride leaving a distinct mark on American urbanculture.The Communication and Communal Functions of Music In order to indulge in a discussion of hip hop as a musical movement, it isnecessary to situate this movement historically. Black music, including hip hop, hasserved both communication and communal functions. These functions of music havepaved the way for hip hop to engage and disengage individuals. Something to note isthat the Black musical continuum serves as only one of the three cultural contextswithin which hip hop can be historicized.13 Music has been used to help preservecommunication and thus community, especially by the use of language within musicaltexts.14 Musical language, and particularly hip hip language, functions as a force,which communicates to urban communities. It can build and preserve thesecommunities or divide them. For Africans and Black-Americans, music as communication dates back to theindigenous tribal experiences. The Scottish surgeon, Mungo Park, is noted as the firstEuropean to explore the region of the middle and upper reaches of the Niger River,which is the land of the Mandingos and Malinkes. Park describes the connectionbetween music and language through the form of poetry.15 Angela Davis in “Black 12
  26. 26. Women and Music: A Historical Legacy of Struggle” says that West African musicfunctioned as more than an external tool—more than music, which facilitates humanactivity. Music was inextricably embedded in the activity itself (Bobo, 2001). Thus music was not employed as an aesthetic instrumentality, external to work but facilitating its execution; rather, work songs were inseparable from the very activity of work itself. Janheinz Jahn has referred to the West African philosophical concept of Nommo—‘the magic power of the word’—as being the very basis of music. According to the world-view of West African culture—if such a generalization is permitted—the life force is actualized by the power of the word (Bobo, 2001). This power of the word is a clear retention, which reappears, in consciousmusic across history and cultures. This instrumentality of Nommo also shows upwithin the plantation community in new form—work songs, which though grounded inthe foundation of West Africa, evolved to serve new functions as well. Music hasalways resided in the realm of freedom—has always had a role in concrete historicaland social transformations (Pratt, 1990). Davis says that Harriet Tubman’s spiritualswere functional in relaying concrete information and collective consciousness aboutthe struggle for liberation (Bobo, 2001). She infers that collective consciousness offreedom is not a result of oppression, but rather communal resistance must be taught.Tubman contributed to these teachings by the music and content of her spirituals. KarlMannheim (1936) says the spirituals established by the plantation community suggestthat music may function in a profoundly utopian way. Spirituals were the plea of slavesto transcend the existing order of slavery and oppression. During Reconstruction, a cruel and sorrowful time for newly freed slaves, the 13
  27. 27. musical art form of Blues developed and was used as a communicative channel tovoice the conditions of oppression faced by the communities of freed slaves. This newform of music drew on personal trials, which arose as a result of a collectiveexperience. Pratt says the Blues were understood in terms of meaning established by acommunity.16 The Blues, as M. Dyson (1993, 1997, 2001) notes thrived on its ability tospew forth reality to its audiences. Dyson also says this realism within blues appears inmore modern forms of conscious music. African American culture places high value on ‘telling it like it is.’ Again, this realism is reflected in the lyrics of the blues and gospel music (White and Parham, 1990) as well as rap and hip-hop music, all of which portray the difficulty of life and advise a cool steady, and persistent toughness needed to overcome this difficulty (Hecht, Jackson, and Ribeau, 2003).This type of realism-based communication has always been instrumental in thepreservation of identification in a collective experience of struggle. Black musicalforms have been noted to “tell it like it is.” From tribal songs within West Africanculture to spiritual; blues to jazz; soul to hip-hop; the reality of collective Blackexperiences has always been communicated through music. In addition to serving as a channel of communication, music has served as acatalyst for the establishment and reestablishment of community. In African tribesmusic was essential to communal life. Davis says West African music was alwaysfunctional—inextricably linked to communal economics, interrelationships, andspiritual pursuits.17 Park also describes the West African function of music as a meansof preserving community. His description of the function of West African music 14
  28. 28. resembles music’s function within the plantation community. They lightened their labor by songs, one of which was composed extempore, for I was myself the subject of it. It was sung by one of the women, the rest joining in a sort of chorus…Among the free men [in the slave-coffle procession] were six Jillikea (singing men) whose musical talents were frequently exerted, either to divert fatigue or obtain us a welcome from strangers (Southern (ed.), 1983). The plantation community utilized the creative expression of music to voicetheir consciousness of personal struggle and alleviation from suffering. Comparatively,the free Black community during Reconstruction and Segregation used music to voicetheir personal struggles, which pertained to a collective experience. Ernest Bornemandescribes a scenario in his account of songs sung by Africans in America. He says onetype of song was, “used by workers to make their task easier: work songs to stress therhythm of labor, group songs to synchronize collectively executed work, team songssung by one team to challenge and satirize the other (Bobo, 2001).” Pratt (1990)further elaborates on the oppositional character of work songs as being a critical formof collective consciousness. Collective forms of oppositional consciousness grew under the very eyes of the overseer. As Alan Lomax put it concerning work songs, “Here, right under the shotguns of the guards, the black collective coalesced and defiantly expressed its unity and belief in life, often in ironically humorous terms (Lomax, 1977)!” (Pratt, 1990).Music in this way contributed to the physical and spiritual survival of slaves on theplantation. It was used as a spiritual escape from the daily physical brutality sufferedby Black people under the institution of slavery. James Cone, noted in his insightful 15
  29. 29. theological research, says Black music has been essential to the unity and therealization of collective struggle and liberation. Davis dutifully notes Ma Rainey as an example of music, which strengthenedcommunity based in identification of struggle related to race, gender, and classcollective experiences. Davis says, Ma Rainey, on the other hand, performed in circuses, tent shows, minstrel and medicine shows, singing all the same about the Black predicament and establishing the basis in song for the sharing of experiences and forging of a community capable of preserving through private tribulations and even articulating new hopes and aspirations. Ma Rainey’s most essential social accomplishment was to keep poor Black people grounded in the Southern tradition of unity and struggle, even when they had migrated to the North and Midwest in search of economic security (Bobo, 2001). Davis further expands on Ma Rainey’s music as emanating from problems inpersonal relationships. “She [Ma Rainey] used creative expression to speak of sexuallove, but metaphorically revealing economic, social, and psychological difficulties,which Black people faced during the post-Civil War era (Bobo, 2001).” The men andwomen of the Blues era used music to relate the personal experiences of, for example,losing a man or a job, which in turn voiced an experience, which others within thecommunity could relate to their own similar experience. The Blues spoke of collectiveexperience, but it manifests in terms of the individual. Cone (2001) says Black music“unites the joy and the sorrow; the love and the hate and the despair of Black peopleand it moves the people toward the direction of total liberation.” He also says thatBlack music shapes and provides a definition of Black being which creates cultural ties 16
  30. 30. and forms the structure for Black creative expression. “Black music is unifyingbecause it confronts the individual with the truth of Black existence and affirms thatBlack being is possible only in a communal context (Bodo (ed.), 2001).” Black music, which often arises from marginal and oppressed communities,functions to awaken a collective sense of struggle and furthermore a motivation to riseup against that source of struggle. Music was an important tool of empowerment—astrengthening arm of the Black community, providing hope and the possibility ofimprovement. Pratt (1990) states, Music functions in important ways as political behavior…However it has been used, throughout its history it has proven to be highly effective politically in terms of its instrumental utility (Billington, 1980). This function arises out of the unique ability of music seemingly to create a kind of spontaneous collective identity or facilitate the investment of people’s psychological energies.Pratt’s example gives music a direct connection to collective identity and the politicalbehavior of communities. This foundation sets the stage for an exploration of thepresent forms of hip hop music which act as political agents spawning collectivity andsocial change. The present forms manifest in terms of hip hop and modern Soul music.Hip Hop’s Communication and Communal Functionality Hip hop’s form and function has given breath to its communicative capacity.Maultsby (1985) says new styles, rather than evolving independently, arise out ofexisting traditions. New forms of black musical expression are, in essence, new impulses drawn 17
  31. 31. from the environment, blended with the old forms and given a new shape, a new style, and a new meaning…Black music is a manifestation of black culture and it serves a communication function within tradition. Because rap music exists as a functional entity within black America, the creation of this new style discloses shifts in values, attitudes and social needs (Berry and Manning-Miller (eds.), 1996).These social needs now have become part of a market-embraced display of popularculture that serves as an outlet to voice concerns to structural oppression. Hip hop has been and continues to be the voice of the voiceless. Boyd (2003)says, What I find so compelling is the way in which this relatively simple form of communication, rhymes over beats, however you slice it, is truly quite complex. Because Black people have always had to make do with so little, the relative abundance of one’s own words is at times all we have to use in fighting against a corrupt and vicious society (pg 143).Even in its most irate and eclectic forms, hip hop continuously engages in some sort offight against the dominant order of society. This is not to say that hip hop does not engage in contradiction as well. Forevery revolutionary or radical message, there is a corresponding mainstream, quietingand conformist message, and often this message, which conforms to the society at-large, prevails because of reinforcement from societal institutions and trends. Hip hopsince its mainstreaming in 1979, has displayed the double-character of a fragmentedcommunity. It has been a viable communication method, which has expressed bothdistress and pride in the reality of oppression and its aftermath. Hip hop serves a second function as an agent of community and collective 18
  32. 32. consciousness. In Marx and Engel’s on Literature and Art18, “It is not theconsciousness of men [and women!-AYD] that determines their being, but, on thecontrary, their social being that determines their consciousness (Bobo, 2001).” Davisexpands on the Marx and Engel’s point that social consciousness does not occurspontaneously, but arises based on human life and concrete conditions within society(Bobo, 2001). Davis says, If it is true that music in general reflects social consciousness and that African American music is an especially formative element of Black people’s consciousness in America, the roots of the music in our concrete historical conditions must be acknowledged…And indeed, precisely because Black music resides on a cultural continuum which has remained closest to the ethnic and socio-historical heritage of African-Americans, it has been our central aesthetic expression, influencing all the remaining arts (Bobo, 2001).It is this particular connection between consciousness and cultural expression, whichgives enlightenment to the rise of hip hop. The rhythmic retentions from African andBlack American music as well as the language of the lyrics has enabled Black youth toreconstruct a community in which collective consciousness enabled the potential forsocial change. Over time, the strength of community has been recognized and targetedby governmental and nongovernmental institutions in order to maintain control overdissidence. Pratt (1990) notes in The Hidden Dimension by Edward Hall, he speaks ofmusic as an element of communal cohesion. Human perceptions of the world are ‘programmed’ by the language spoken (Hall, 1969). Can music, itself a language and composed of language, program or ‘reprogram’ human existence? Because people live in communities, their popular music may become a significant constituent of community—however it 19
  33. 33. is defined, whether spatially, denoting a particular location or milieu (Buttimer, 1973), or through psychological identification (Pratt, 1990).Pratt establishes music as part of a social relationship. “Music both creates and reflectsforms of community…The music of a people is a social relationship (Pratt, 1990).” AsE.P. Thompson (1963) notes with respect to social class, “The relationship mustalways be embodied in real people and in a real context (Pratt, 1990).” Pratt (1990)says that every form of modern popular music can be traced back to real people andreal contexts. Pratt (1990) also notes an extremely important use of music, which canbe seen in all forms of music produced from the experiences of the African andAfricans in America. Music is used to construct some sense of collectivity memory, but what kind of memory is it? How is it used? What are the functions? What images does it maintain? Perhaps Orwell’s antiutopian projection of a brainwashed future has come about in ways more elegant and subtle and yet more total than he ever dreamed possible as a synthesized past is processed and bought (Mander, 1978). Yet, as the use of musical examples might suggest, it can also be a ‘usable’ past—a means of resistance and a way to revision the future through invoking past and presently used cultural materials (Hebdige, 1987).This dynamic is especially invoked as part of the backbone of hip hop. Rose (1990)says in “Never Trust a Big Butt With A Smile,” The history of African –American music and culture has been defined in large by a history of the art of signifying, recontextualization, collective memory and resistance. “Fashioning icons of opposition” that speak to diverse communities is part of a rich Black American musical tradition to which rappers make a significant contribution (Bobo, 2001).This form of music looks to the historical experiences of Africans and Africans in 20
  34. 34. America to shed light on the present situation of communal oppression facing theAmerican lower working class. Furthermore, hip hop has gained popularity with urbanoppressed youth globally, making it a reference point for building a community ofthose oppressed everywhere.Staccato Moments in Hip Hop History In a Los Angeles hospital lobby in 1979, my mother, suffering from extensivelabor pains, gave birth to me, her third child, standing up. The same year, consciousmusic was also being birthed again in America as a response to the third generation oflabor, pains, and suffering. Whipped through the plantation slave community, reducedto mediocrity in the segregated community, and underdeveloped in the post segregatedcommunity, in the new generation of the oppressed, a new form of conscious musicdeveloped. Standing up and in pain, the impoverished and marginalized youth of theSouth Bronx borough of New York gave birth to a new voice in the eyes ofmainstream America—hip hop. Hip hop may have been born to mainstream America,but it was its second or maybe even a third birth for this dynamic art form. This new form of conscious music lived and grew on the underground scene forsome time before traveling its path to mainstream acceptance. Hip hop culture evolvedfrom speeches, spoken words and poetry of resistance in the marginalizedcommunities. Tricia Rose, one of the early 90’s hip hop scholars, said in Black Noise:Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (1994), 21
  35. 35. Musical and oral predecessors to rap music encompass a variety of vernacular artists including the Last Poets, a group of the late 1960s to early 1970s black militant storytellers whose poetry was accompanied by conga drum rhythms, poet, and singer Gil Scott Heron, Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, the 1950s radio jocks, particularly Douglas ‘Jocko’ Henderson, soul rapper Millie Jackson, the classic Blues women, and countless other performers.Even before the 1960s, Nathan Davis (1996) notes, Although rap gained its popularity during the 1970s, its roots date back to the 1940s and 1950s when African American youth gathered on urban street corners to sing acapella and participate in ‘rap’ sessions. These sessions, in which young African Americans talked ‘jive’ to each other, told a story about an event or crisis that had affected the storyteller. The stories were revealed in a rhythmic and poetic manner, and always in a provocative and suggestive way.Rap evolved from a communicative form of arranging language in rhythmic patterns,which can even be said to date back to African tribes, and the words recited overrhythmic beats of the drum.19 In 1979, Sylvia Robinson of Sugar Hill Records created the Sugar Hill Gangand released the first known mainstream hip hop song, “Rappers Delight” (Rose,1994). After “Rappers Delight” was released, the music industry, print media, and thefashion industry ‘discovered’ rap as a viable profit-making trend, which they needed tocash in on quickly before the fad of hip hop passed (Rose, 1994). Media quicklyrealized that hip hop culture was much more than a passing fad. This developingculture was attracting the lucrative youth market and soon became part of popularculture. 22
  36. 36. The Sub-Genres of Hip Hop Davis (1996) hits the mark when he says, “Rap mirrors the rap artist’s society.”Just as society has been fragmented, rap has evolved in fragmented ways to reflectvirtually all aspects of American social schizophrenia. Like the youth of New York inthe 1970s, who found an alternative identity (Rose, 1994. p.34) and social status in hiphop culture, hip hop itself in various environments has undergone identity formation.Rose (1994) says, Identity in hip hop is deeply rooted in the specific and local experience, and one’s attachment to and status in the local experience, and one’s attachment to and status in a local group or alternative family. These crews are new kinds of families forged with intercultural bonds that, like the social formation of gangs, provide insulation and support in a complex and unyielding environment and may serve as the basis for new social movements (Rose, 1994, p.34).Hip hop’s specificity to the local experience of oppression resulted in the formation ofalternative hip hop characters or identities. The generalization of these localexperiences has added to the categorization of hip hop into sub-genres including, butnot limited to, Gangster Rap, Message Rap, Popular Rap, Underground Rap, and LocalRap.Gangster Rap: According to All Music Guide to hip hop: A definitive Guide to Rapand Hip Hop (2003), gangster rap is described as having an edgy sound with abrasivelyrics that either accurately reflect reality, or exaggerate ‘comic book 23
  37. 37. stories’(Bogdanov, etal., 2003).Message Rap: Definitions of political rap seem consistent with what I term ‘messagerap.’ Political rap is hip hop, which merges rhymes with political philosophy to createa new style of rap. I add that message rap expresses frustration with power structuresand economic, political, and social oppression.Popular Rap: The guide describes pop-rap as, “…a marriage of hip hop beats and rapswith strong melodic hooks, which are usually featured as part of the chorus section in astandard pop-song structure. Pop-rap tends to be less aggressive and lyrically complexthan most street-level hip hop, although during the mid-to late ‘90s, some artistsinfused the style with a more hardcore attitude in an attempt to defuse backlash overtheir accessibility (Bogdanov, etal. (eds.), 2003).” I would also add that popular formsof hip hop or rap have music industry backing because they can produce crossoversales with the American white hip hop audience as well as some global hip hopaudiences.Underground Rap: I simply define underground rap as rap that is not mainstreamed,but passed along, heard, or sold, through an underground network of hip hop or rapfans. Underground rap is not mainstreamed to radio, television, or any other industry-controlled outlets. It does not seek commercial appeal, but it rather thrives on the 24
  38. 38. support of live audiences. Sarah Thornton, in “Moral Panic, the Media and BritishRave Culture,” says, “Undergrounds denote exclusive worlds whose main point is notelitism, but whose parameters often relate to particular crowds (Ross and Rose, 1994,p. 177).”Local Rap: Local rap is a unique style of rap that rises out of a particular local cultureand experience and remains true to that particular local style of flow, local style ofbeats, and local vernacular of English. The Hip Hop Guide (2003) also defines other categorical distinctions of hiphop including: Alternative Rap, Bass Music, Christian Rap, Comedy Rap,Contemporary Rap, Dirty Rap, and Freestyle Rap, just to name a few.Summary: Beyond Moments and Functions This chapter discusses how music functions in society as a social force, andfurthermore how hip hop as a communicative form socially functions to strengthencommunities. The many births of hip hop convey this art’s communicative and socialfunctions. Boyd (2003) sums up hip hop’s past, present, and future. He says, Hip hop is a lifestyle. It is an ideology. It is a mode of being. It is an all- encompassing life force that far supercedes any dismissive tactic from those whom Flava Flav once chided as ‘nonbelievers.’ No matter how much you want to dismiss it, it is still here, having passed many tests, and poised to triumph even more in the future (pg 152). 25
  39. 39. It is these triumphs as well as failures of hip hop that I wish to further explore insubsequent chapters. Hip hop, as a movement, has triumphed as well as failed inner-city urban oppressed communities. These next chapters will grapple with how the splitof the hip hop movement has occurred over the past two and half decades. This split isinevitably a result of historically situated economic, political, and social moments,which will be hermeneutically approached, focusing not just on individual moments. 26
  40. 40. Chapter III Power, Culture Industry, and Hip Hop as an Undermined Movement Poet laureate of power, herald of freedom—the musician is at the same time within society, which protects, purchases, and finances him, and outside it, when he threatens it with his visions. Courtier and revolutionary: for those who care to hear the irony beneath the praise, his stage presence conceals a break. When he is reassuring, he alienates; when he is disturbing, he destroys; when he speaks too loudly, power silences him. Unless in doing so he is announcing the new clamor and glory of powers in the making…Ramblings of revolution. Sounds of competing powers. Clashing noises, of which the musician is the mysterious, strange, and ambiguous forerunner—after having been long imprisoned, a captive of power (Attali, 1985, p.11). Six short years after the mainstream birth of hip hop, Jacques Attali, throughhis analysis of music in Noise: The Political Economy of Music (1985), prophesizedthe great expansion and destruction of the movement known as hip hop. Attali’sdescription of the double character of musicians can be directly paralleled to thepresent lifestyle and career choices faced by contemporary hip hop artists. Hip hopartists can be likened to the musicians Attali describes; while noble, reassuring,disturbing, and loud, the creativity of hip hop artists can be simultaneouslyrevolutionary, alienating, destructive and silenced. Over time, competing forces withinhip hop have determined the path and pattern, whether chosen or contrived, of themovement’s evolution. Attali (1985) discusses music in terms of its economic and political attributes.He says the political economy of music is, More than colors and forms, its sounds and their arrangements that fashion 27
  41. 41. societies. With noise is born disorder and its opposite: the world. With music is born power and its opposite: subversion. In noise can be read the codes of life the relations among men. Clamor, Melody, Dissonance, Harmony; when it is fashioned by man with specific tools, when it invades man’s time, when it becomes sound, noise is the source of purpose and power, of the dream—Music (pg 6).Music is an uncontestable source and subject of economic and social power, but I willargue that music is also a source of unseen political power. In noise can be read thecodes of life which define relations, analyze, mark, restrain, train, repress, and channelthe sounds of language, of the body, of tools, of objects, and of relationships betweenself and others (Attali, 1985, p.6). Attali recognizes the double character of music andmusicians especially those who operate within the confines of the industry. In anattempt to understand the power dynamics used to control, maintain, and creativelydirect the hip hop industry, this framework will explore these dynamics and how theyapply to the hip hop movement This chapter will first define Louis Althusser’s concepts of the Repressive Stateand Ideological State Apparatuses. It will then delve into a theoretical framework ofpower and cooptation as it applies to the evolution of movements, especially hip hop. Itwill discuss the power mechanisms and exploitative channels by which hip hop hasexpanded, and been thus concurrently created and destroyed. Finally, this chapterintends to make sense of the relationship between the culture industry and thesimultaneous success and failure of this musical movement. Overall, this chapterdiscusses the uses of power within industry to exploit and undermine musical 28
  42. 42. movements, especially the hip hop movement.The Power of the Repressive State and Ideological State Apparatuses It is necessary to discuss power mechanisms and more specifically the specificpower of the Althusserian concepts of State Repressive and Ideological StateApparatuses (Althusser, 2001). In order to understand what forms these constructs takein society, we must first comparatively define these terms. Althusser discusses theState in the context of power and power relationships. In this particular instance hepositions the bourgeois class as the ruling class, which uses the State to ensure theirdomination over the working class, thus subjecting, by repression, the working class tothe extraction of surplus value; capitalistic exploitation. Althusser’s concept of theState resembles the Marxist concept of the base. Marx discusses this same dynamic ofthe State, but in terms of the hierarchal levels it manifests. Marx conceived the structure of every society as constituted by ‘levels’ or ‘instances’ articulated by a specific determination: the infrastructure, or economic base (the ‘unity’ of the productive forces and the relations of production) and the superstructure, which itself contains two ‘levels’ or ‘instances’: the politico-legal (law and the State) and ideology (the different ideologies, religious, ethical, legal, political, etc.) (Althusser, 2001, p.90).The State is the economic, political foundation of any given society. It could also bereferred to as what is thought of as the political economy. If we think about the State asthis machine of repression, this complete and hierarchical control, then understandingits apparatuses becomes much clearer. Althusser (2001) says the State is the 29
  43. 43. government, administration, army, police, courts and prisons—these institutions makeup what he calls the repressive state apparatus (p. 92). With this theoretical base, Althusser’s concept of the Ideological StateApparatus can be discusses in relation to this Repressive State Apparatus. Althusserargues that when you think about power and certain classes or cultures that rise topower, they inevitably take their values, social norms; language and other aspects withthem into power and these things become dominant (Althusser, 2001,p.98). Forexample, when Europeans colonized Africa and in turn rose to power within Africancountries, their European value systems, social norms and languages became thedominant ideological tools upon which the restructuring of society was based.Althusser further maintains that, “No class can hold State power over a long periodwithout at the same time exercising its hegemony over and in the State IdeologicalApparatuses.” Through institutions established early on as trustworthy, ideologiesenforced by these institutions maintain subjugation to the State, or political economyand its state apparatuses, both repressive and ideological. It might be helpful to break down Althusser’s concept of the Ideological StateApparatus. Althusser describes this phenomenon as, “a certain number of realities,which present themselves to the immediate observer in the form of distinct andspecialized institutions (p. 96).” The examples present are institutions in the form ofreligious, educational, family, legal, political, trade union, communications, andcultural. Whereas the Repressive State Apparatus functions by “violence,” the 30
  44. 44. Ideological State Apparatus functions by ‘ideology’ (p. 97). This is what makes itpowerful because it has the capacity to affect the unconscious, further enactingmessages that by subliminal injection maintain subjection. Political class struggles revolve around the state and its execution of power viaideologically driven apparatuses. This is where Althusser gives the means to explorethe Ideological State Apparatus, in terms of real world examples. He says thatinstitutions like education, church, and communications, helped to repress theresistance of the marginalized by expressing contradictions, which inevitably divide. Itis these types of institutions which are the most pertinent when discussing the hip hopmovement. This is not to say that studies, which cite the blatant policing of rap, are notimportant.20 These studies are inextricably linked to this discourse. Blatant examples ofhow repressive state institutions (police, the courts, and the prison system) clearlydefine how policing and overt force is exercised to contain hip hop, but these are notthe only mechanisms of power used to control rap. For the purposes of this study, I willfocus on the subliminal forms of control, those mechanisms that use ideologicalmanipulation to contain the hip hop movement.Mechanisms of Power and Social Movements In order to discuss the hip hop movement as a force caught in the dialectic ofsocial subservience to Repressive State and State Ideological Apparatuses, the conceptof power must be defined and then discussed in terms of its mechanisms. David A. 31
  45. 45. Baldwin in Paradoxes of Power (1989), says, “[Power], in Max Weber’s classicdefinition, ‘is the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in aposition to carry out his own will despite resistance, regardless of the basis on whichthis probability rests’ (Weber, 1947, p.152). Power can be exercised in two ways: 1)through the use of overt force; 2) or through the use of influence, persuasion andsometimes manipulation. Althusser’s Repressive State Apparatus is characterized bythe use of power by overt force, while the Ideological State Apparatuses exercisepower by force which influences, persuades and often manipulates. Neither doesconflict or fear necessarily accompany power and how it is exercised (Jackman, 1993,p. 29).21 This study will focus on the use of power in the more implicit forms—thoseused by the Ideological State Apparatuses to maintain societal order and control. Aclose examination of power and how it has been most successful in history will providean enlightened view of the role of fear in exercising power. Power is most successfullyimposed when exercised without using fear. Fear only induces resistance and thus thepossibility of social revolution. Jackman (1993) suggests that fear is not the actor,which induces a relationship between influence and compliance, but moreoverconditioning and socialization play key roles. Jackman describes force in a similarway. Like power, force involves a conflict of values, and therefore, of interests, Unlike power, force does not induce compliance: the exercise of force is instead an admission that compliance cannot be induced by other non-coercive 32
  46. 46. means. Those who use force are indeed attempting to achieve their goals in the face of noncompliance (Jackman, 1993, p. 30).It is important to note that power necessarily involves a relationship, which is oftennegotiated, between actors. Crozier and Friedberg (1980) suggest, ‘[Power] can develop only through exchange among the actors involved in a given relation. To the extent that every relation between two parties presupposes exchange and reciprocal adaptation between them, power is indissolubly linked to negotiation: it is the relation of exchange, therefore of negotiation, in which at least two persons are involved (Jackman, 1993,p. 30)’Not only can power only be exercised in the presence of at least two actors, itnecessarily thrives on the unbalanced relationship between the actors. Shifts in powerand resulting relationships born of these shifts inevitably foster social movements. Ron Eyerman and Andrew Jamison in Music and Social Movements (1998) saythat social movements are central moments in the reconstitution of culture. Eyermanand Jamison’s cognitive approach to the study of social movements involves an in-depth analysis of the relationships between culture and politics; and music andmovements, as collective learning processes (Eyerman and Jamison, 1998). These collective learning processes are constantly testing the universalibility ofthe normative order of civil society (Stewart, 2001, p. 261). Stewart (2001) also notes, ‘Their mechanism is the resolution of contradictions by argumentation or “critique”.’ Collective learning processes have therefore become the foundation for the model of modern society; the greater the extent to which social relations can be organized and integrated through the medium of such processes, the greater the possibility of the democratic organization of the well-being of society (Eder, 1993, p.24)’ (Stewart, 2001,p. 216).Because social movements enable this possibility for a truly democratic organization of 33
  47. 47. society, they are dangerous because of their capacity to break down existing socialorders that benefit ruling elites. Stewart (2001) says that social movements coexist withinstitutionalized order of economic policy and cannot be regarded as completelydivorced as an emancipated critique because they draw on structural and institutionalnecessity, on social networks excluded from the dominant order (Stewart, 2001,p.225). He says social movements flourish on the necessity of constructed newpolitical identities (pg 225) (Stewart, 2001). They cannot completely denounce ties tothe dominant order of society because in part the movement in one way or anotherthrives on some of those dominant structures. Furthermore, the only accounts ofsuccessful movements in history were inevitably connected in many ways to dominantideology, political and economic structuring, as well as social dynamics, which favoredruling elites more so than the oppressed. Stewart (2001) explains how the break downof conflicts based on the collective consciousness of class struggle were deemed as oneof the most dangerous types of mobilization and thus demobilization of collective classconflicts occurred (Stewart, 2001,p.225). This is by far not the only means nor themost effective means of controlling social uprising. Over time, the strength ofcollective social movements has been recognized and targeted by governmental,nongovernmental, and private institutions in order to maintain control over socialdissidence. History has proven that effective infiltration uses the power of implicitforce in order to break down the organization, momentum, and support of the socialmovement. These implicit methods of force cause social movements to implode from 34
  48. 48. within, thus disabling the movement’s capacity to communicate with its supporters andmaintain a collective plan of action. One of the most important power dynamics used to control social movements iscooptation. According to the Cambridge Dictionary of American English (2003)22,cooptation is “creating alliances/arrangements with a group that allows you to redirectthe groups priorities so they fall in line with the interest of the status quo.” Cooptationof movements uses collaboration and the arrangement of alliances in order to redirectthe priorities and foundational goals of the movement. The cooptation of the hip hopmovement began in 1979 with its birth, which was really a rebirth, of hip hop as amainstream American phenomenon. The hip hop movement, which was quoted as a“passing fad” quickly gained mainstream success and spiraled into a corporate entitycapable of creating, building, and redirecting profit, but always subject to industrycontrol. One of the most instrumental mechanisms of power used to co-opt theblossoming movement of hip hop is ideology. Whether it was imparted through thelyrics, through videos, or used to shape artists, ideology has played a key role in thesplit of the hip hop movement.The Power of the Culture Industry I mightve failed to mention that this chick was creative But once the man got you well he altered her native Told her if she got an image and a gimmick that she could make money, and she did it like a dummy Now I see her in commercials, shes universal 35
  49. 49. She used to only swing it with the inner-city circle Now she be in the burbs lickin rock and dressin hip And on some dumb shit, when she comes to the city Talkin about poppin glocks servin rocks and hittin switches Now shes a gangsta rollin with gangsta bitches Always smokin blunts and gettin drunk Tellin me sad stories, now she only fucks with the funk Stressin how hardcore and real she is She was really the realest, before she got into showbiz I did her, not just to say that I did it But Im committed, but so many niggaz hit it That shes just not the same lettin all these groupies do her I see niggaz slammin her, and takin her to the sewer But Ima take her back hopin that the shit stop Cause who Im talkin bout yall is hip-hop –Common Sense23 In “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” Common Sense, personifies hip hop and describesthe evolutionary journey “she” undergoes. I argue that this path of hip hop hedescribes is characteristic of the developing divisiveness of the movement once itbecame mainstreamed and exploited by the industry. Hip hop became a true popculture commodity and in the process it left behind some its resistive origins. Commonacknowledges that once hip hop gained its popular culture status it was susceptible tothe engineering, marketing, and rearrangement of the music industry, which isreinforced by past productions of a deep-rooted culture industry. Culture in Americansociety is a controlled concept. The evolution and split of the hip hop movement isinevitably a result of the power of the culture industry. Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno in the Dialectic of Enlightenment(1997) describe the culture industry as a universal stamp, a systematic uniformity offorms of art, especially those arts, which thrive on mass production. "Culture now 36
  50. 50. impresses the same stamp on everything. Films, radio and magazines make up asystem which is uniform as a whole and in every part (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1997,p. 120)." Adorno (1991) clarifies that ‘industry’ is not to be taken literally. He says itrefers to standardization and the rationalization of distribution techniques, but notstrictly to production processes (Bernstein (ed.), 1991, p. 100). Horkheimer and Adorno (1997) argue that the culture industry is produced by acombination of mass production and monopoly. They say, Under monopoly all mass culture is identical, and the lines of its artificial framework begin to show through. The people at the top are no longer so interested in concealing monopoly: as its violence becomes more open, so its power grows. Movies and radio need no longer pretend to be art. The truth that they are just business is made into and ideology in order to justify the rubbish they deliberately produce. They call themselves industries; and when their directors incomes are published, any doubt about the social utility of the finished products is removed (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1997, p. 121).As the discursive practices of those in control become more openly apparent, thepower of culture as an industry grows and its effects are more apparently felt. Becausemillions of participating consumers fuel these industries, certain reproductionprocesses become necessary and as classical economic models reassure, the requiredsupply must matches the demand for the product. Horkheimer and Adorno (1997)claim that standards are based on consumer needs, therefore standards are usuallyaccepted with little resistance. Although Debord and others argue that these needs aremanufactured. Horkheimer and Adorno (1997) say the result is a circle of manipulationin which the unified system steadily gains strength. 37
  51. 51. Whereas Horkheimer and Adorno argue that the manipulation of individualconsciousness represses the need for resistance, Arthur Asa Berger (1995) argues thatnot only does the manipulation of consciousness result in repression of the cultureindustry itself, but also in the repression of resistance against existing social andideological orders of control. Berger in Cultural Criticism: A Primer to Key Concepts, (1995) says thepurpose of the culture industry is to manipulate the consciousness of the masses inorder to maintain state repressive and ideological state apparatuses (p.45). “Capitalistssocieties utilize the arts and the culture industries to maintain themselves and toprevent revolution or radical social change (Berger, 1995, p.45).” Music as a “culture”industry manipulates the audiences’ consciousness to complacently accept thedominant social order. Berger (1995) describes a similar process, where cultureindustries act more forcefully than manipulatively. He says interpellation is theprocess by which cultural representations coerce individuals into accepting ideologiescarried by these representations (Berger, 1995, p. 57).24 Berger also notes thatreproduction and reinforcement work hand in hand to maintain this ideological control.Industry controlled cultural commodities are governed by the realization of theirmarket value not by the variation of their content. In “Culture Industry Reconsidered”,Adorno notes that Brecht and Suhrkamp, nearly thirty years prior to his work,expressed, The entire practice of the culture industry transfers the profit motive naked onto 38
  52. 52. cultural forms. Ever since these cultural forms first began to earn a living for their creators as commodities in the market-place they had already possessed something of this quality. But then they sought after profit only indirectly, over and above their autonomous essence (Bernstein (ed.), 1991, p. 99).Adorno connects a profit motive to the production of cultural forms. However, hecautions that at a particular point profit became the only motive and autonomy nolonger a concern. Adorno implies that cultural reproduction is a characteristic of textsproduced by culture industry. In terms of the effect of reproductions of culture on themasses, Adorno argues that there is a blind acceptance of routines and behavioralpatterns by the masses that has a detrimental effect on not only the differential linesbetween art and reality, but also the reality of what is changeable and unchangeablewithin society (Bernstein (ed.), 1991, p. 105). This blind acceptance also manifests asa complacency of the masses. Attali (1985) notes that Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz describe the ideal politicalorganization as a ‘Palace of Marvels,’ which is a harmonious machine within which allof the sciences of time and every tool of power are deployed. ‘These buildings will be constructed in such a way that the master of the house will be able to hear and see everything that is said and done without himself being perceived, by means of mirrors and pipes, which will be a most important thing for the State, and a kind of political confessional’ (pg 7).A ‘Palace of Marvel’ is exactly how the culture industry is governed as an IdeologicalState Apparatus. Attali (1985) argues that eavesdropping, censorship, recording, andsurveillance are weapons of power. These weapons are exercised well by the culture 39
  53. 53. industry, especially the power to censor and record noise. Attali (1985) adds, The technology of listening in on, transmitting, and recording noise is at the heart of this apparatus. The symbolism of the Frozen Words, of the Tables of Law, of recorded noise and eavesdropping—these are the dreams of political scientists and the fantasies of men in power: to listen, to memorize—this is the ability to interpret and control history, to manipulate the culture of a people, to channel its violence and hopes. Who among us is free of the feeling that this process, taken to an extreme, is turning the modern State into a gigantic, monopolizing noise emitter, and at the same time, a generalized eavesdropping device. Eavesdropping on what? In order to silence Whom (p. 7)?The Culture Industry operates as the State’s gigantic noise emitter. It emits the noise ofreproduced and reinforced cultural value. It reproduces stereotypes and ideologieswhich ruling elites maintain in order to ensure the existence of a permanent underclass,and thus their financial stamina as top beneficiaries of the western capitalisticeconomic order. It is the culture industry’s ability to disguise its manipulation ofconsciousness, which enables it to control this machine. Adorno adds that the cultureindustry uses its facade of concern for the masses in order to “duplicate, reinforce andstrengthen their mentality, which it presumes is given and unchangeable (Bernstein(ed.), 1991, p. 99).” Attali (1985) also says that the banning of subversive noise isnecessary to curb the demands for cultural autonomy. He says totalitarian theoristsargue that bans on revolutionary art are used as controlled tonalism. Attali (1985) says, Support for differences or marginality: a concern for maintaining tonalism, the primacy of melody, a distrust of new languages, codes, instruments, a refusal of the abnormal—theses characteristics are common to all regimes of that nature. They are direct translation of the political importance of cultural repression and noise control (pg 7) (Attali, 1985). Modern musical distribution strategy contributes to social censorship of art and 40
  54. 54. cultural reproduction. Attali notes that economic and political dynamics lead to theinvestment in art, which then becomes controlled and industry-shaped art. Artists areleft with few options because they have less and less control over content artisticallyspeaking and it seems whatever is produced serves an ulterior function as commodity,as reproduction, or as meaningless popularly accepted “noise”. Attali (1985) furtherexplains this phenomenon of control. The economic and political dynamics of the industrialized societies living under parliamentary democracy also lead power to invest art, and to invest in art, without necessarily theorizing its control, as is done under dictatorship. Everywhere we look, the monopolization of the broadcast messages, the control of noise, and the institutionalization of the silence of others assures the durability of power. Here, this channelization takes on a new, less violent, and a more subtle form: laws of political economy take the place of censorship laws. Music and Musicians essentially become either objects of consumption like everything else, recupertors of subversion, or meaningless noise (p. 8).It is this type of cooptation of music, which helps to repress its capacity to be an agentof social change and to motivate and encourage social and critical consciousnessamongst listeners. Various types of media reinforce different viewpoints, perspectives, andideologies. Music is not an exception. Berger (1995) says, media are most effectivewhen stimulating people and activating already stored material, which generatesdesired responses. In addition he says, “people respond to works not on an individualbasis, but collectively, generally as part of an unrecognized massification ormobilization of acceptance.” It is this individual choice, manifested in terms ofcollective decision-making, which has enabled the success and thus maintenance of the 41
  55. 55. culture industry of music, and furthermore the cultural production of popular hip hop.Attali (1985) says, Music is prophecy. Its styles and economic organization are ahead of the rest of society because it explores, much faster than material reality can, the entire range of possibilities in a given code. It makes audible the new world that will gradually become visible, that will impose itself and regulate the order of things; it is not only the image of things, but the transcending of the everyday, the herald of the future. For this reason, musicians, even when officially recognized, are dangerous, disturbing, and subversive; for this reason it is impossible to separate their history from that of repression and surveillance (p. 11).Attali recognizes that artists are inevitably linked to the processes and goals of theindustry, which in turn reports to the demands of the State to operate within theconfines of subservience to the political economy. Horkenheimer and Adorno say theeffect of the culture industry in total is one of “anti-enlightenment” in whichenlightenment is described as the: The progressive technical domination of nature, becomes mass deception and is turned into a means for fettering consciousness. It impedes the development of autonomous, independent individuals who judge and decide consciously for themselves. These, however, would be the precondition for a democratic society, which needs adults who have come of age in order to sustain itself and develop (Bernstein (ed.), 1991, p. 106).Horkenheimer and Adorno suggest that because culture industry acts as anti-enlightenment, that it prevents the formation of necessary preconditions fordemocracy. The “fettering of consciousness” they describe works against fullydeveloped adults’ ability to sustain and continue to develop a functional democraticsystem. Attali further connects this construct of musical texts as part of the total 42
  56. 56. construction of society. He says in the reality of everyday life, few are given a voice(Attali, 1985, p. 8). The culture industry phenomenon and its manifestation in the music industryhave inevitably shaped the cultural shift of musical movements, especially the split ofhip hop into either the noise of a mass produced culturally-deafening industry or arepressed, lost, and forgotten self supported underground whisper of empowerment.The Undermining of the Hip Hop Movement The undermining of the hip hop movement has occurred primarily as a result ofpower exercised by ideological state apparatuses such as the culture industry and massmedia. Indirectly, other ideological apparatuses such as education, the church, andfamily also reinforce the power and control of the culture industry and mass media.Studies on venue resistance25 and radio airplay trends26 exemplify the explicit policingof hip hop, but few studies categorically look at ideological institutions and how these“trusted entities” falsify, construct, and embed values, ideals, and stereotypes thatbenefit the status quo. Even though this study separates the repressive stateapparatuses, such as the police, from the ideological state apparatuses, such aseducation, it is important to think of these apparatuses as a system or machine that usesspecific parts to achieve particular goals. These apparatuses function in everyday lifeand from remarkably early ages, individuals are socialized—ideologically-trained as aresult. Hip hop is a movement of no exception. From its mainstream birth, the 43
  57. 57. traditional apparatuses (culture industry, mass media, education, church, family) aswell as some created apparatuses such as The Parents Music Resource Center27, haveworked to undermine the movement. This undermining, which has resulted indivisiveness, manifests in both explicit and implicit ways. The culture industry andmass media continue to have the most damaging impact on the hip hop movement. The culture industries and mass media work to construct hip hop for themasses, this undermines its potential as an effective social movement. Hip hop artistsare caught between two worlds; one, which provides the riches, fame, and glory ofmainstream industry success, and another which leaves the artists to fend forthemselves as outsiders of the economic order, which ensures their survival, butnecessarily contradicts their politics. As a result, hip hop has undergone a divide. Onepath of hip hop evolution is rich, famous, and glorified by mainstream industry andmaintains and reinforces governmental ideological controls by maintenance ofRepressive State and Ideological State Apparatuses. The other path of hip hop’sevolution critiques governmental and industry power structures and controlmechanisms, but is often forced to operate outside mainstream recognition and success.The latter path of hip hop gathers success on an underground, usually local small venuecircuit. Keith Negus in Music Genres and Corporate Cultures (1999), notes that KevinPowell, a hip hop historian, said in a magazine profile of Death Row Recordspublished prior to Tupac Shakur’s death: ‘There is no way to truly comprehend the incredible success of Death Row 44