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Whiteness and Hip Hop Social

Discussion in 'Politics Forum' started by OhTheWater, Mar 23, 2016.

  1. OhTheWater

    Let it run Supporter

    This is a thread to discuss the idea of whiteness and hip hop, either as a fan or a writer or even a performer. Is it problematic to be a white hip hop critic? What position does a white fan play in the culture? How should a white fan process and discuss the art? What levels of cultural tourism are at play, and how does this affect the black and brown communities that built hip hop? This is a nuanced topic, so please be respectful of everyone's opinions and experiences on the matter.
  2. Fucking Dustin

    SHEESH Supporter

    I feel like as a fan it's just extremely important to understand the culture as a whole. I can't count how many times I've heard other white listeners say they love Eminem and Macklemore because "they talk about real stuff in their music and not money and guns" and don't realize how big of a role both of those things have played in the black/brown communities. When someone like Jay Z or Lil Wayne or Waka Flocka Flame comes from the lifestyles they were indoctrinated into by institutionalized racism all of a sudden rapping about money and guns can be just as meaningful (or in my opinion more meaningful) as anything a white artist raps about. It's all about the impact of coming from a place like the Marcy Projects - having drugs be the only source of income you can get because of the effects of the 60s and later the Reagan era impacting your education and ability to find work and live comfortably, having to defend your life from peers and foes alike, while the police are out to give you a life sentence for playing the cards you're dealt - to being a famous and wealthy entertainer, it's a huge accomplishment to celebrate and writing about that is not nearly as vapid of a thing as the average white listener portrays it as, nor is it the same at all if a white performer raps about those things.

    This is obviously a simple concept most people here understand, mainly wrote it for future readers and have other thoughts on the topic of whiteness and hip hop that I'd rather type when I'm not mobile haha.
  3. I'm just going to follow and read this thread, but this article I thought was really good and does touch on this idea a little.

    Macklemore, Hillary, and Why White Privilege Is Everyone’s Burden
    In the wake of all this, black people were mad at Macklemore, but white people were embarrassed. For many black people, Macklemore was just another person benefiting from white privilege, and there was no need to waste energy singling him out. But for white people — especially ones who considered themselves racially awakened — he represented their worst nightmare. Because seemingly every time Macklemore does anything, and is inevitably criticized for it, he makes many nonwhites question whether white people who “get it” really exist. He pops up, and suddenly, white people who have carefully crafted that image of “I’m white — ugh, white people are the worst, right? — but trust me, I get it” are exposed. So of course some of Macklemore’s biggest critics are the white people often referred to as woke.

    The sheer premise of woke is comical, since it most certainly is a myth: Once a white person has fulfilled the necessary requirements to prove a true understanding of their white privilege, they are anointed (typically by black consignees) woke. You are an elevated, “awakened” white person. The term is the evolutionary advancement of down, a once-popular way to describe a white person who understands, or is even well-versed in, certain aspects of black culture (see: Julia Stiles by the end of Save the Last Dance). While down implied the sheer knowledge of things, woke is almost this assumed, inherent understanding. One can get there in a variety of ways: a racially savvy conversation on Twitter (that certainly could have just been a private text message); a selfie of one wearing a James Baldwin T-shirt while reading Just Mercy on the train; a lengthy Facebook post about how mad one is about that thing on that day; or questioning the intentions of lesser “woke” white people. It’s funny because, in actuality, there are few better examples of white privilege than white people crafting their own perfect “woke” narrative and having it work. Or bringing nonwhite people quickly into their inner circle and using them as a stamp of authenticity. Or thinking they can defuse skepticism in their ability to grasp their own white privilege with one action — a song, a conversation, a speech, a tweet — and actually succeed.
    PandaBear! likes this.
  4. Deanna

    Trusted Supporter

    I think the whole "money and guns" stereotype just goes to show that the person saying that doesn't know a whole lot about the history of hip-hop. There are plenty of rappers who don't or didn't rap about those things. And even the ones who do, likely have a reason to. So it just really speaks to the education or lack thereof that some people have when it comes to hip-hop.
  5. St. Nate

    من النهر إلى البحر Prestigious

    When I think "money and guns" I think white people.
  6. Fucking Dustin

    SHEESH Supporter

    You're entirely right. (And so is St. Nate, haha) Will edit this response more when not mobile - the children have been acting up .______.
    Deanna likes this.
  7. carina

    yr royal highness

    Following this.

    I'm not a hip hop head, and rap and I are cordial friends who visit every once in a while, but goddamn was this last year uncomfortable with so many white people telling me how good To Pimp a Butterfly was. Like, yes.......but it's a hard listen. And to be able to listen to it repeatedly and not be emotional, to not have it reawaken some pain within you, and to give it all the accolades that it has gotten without any sort of context other than hyping up Kendrick to me is a form of privilege. (Thinking specifically about one of my jobs last year where I walked into my office - where I was the only POC on staff - to the album playing.)

    Also unsettling that I've seen Kendrick and J Cole be cited as "real rappers!" from white people like. Yes, please tell me, o great rap-ologist, about how blackness should be presented in media. Please tell me that people rapping about flipping bricks is "pointless" and "senseless" like that isn't them telling their stories as a vehicle to get out of southwest Atlanta. Tell me more.
  8. OhTheWater

    Let it run Supporter

    I haven't had a chance to sit and write what I've been thinking about. Maybe tomorrow during the day.

    I will say, on the opposite side of the J. Cole convo, it makes me uncomfortable when so many white people trash him consistently. A ton of kids of color I worked with during the summer look at Cole like an idol, so I can't really hate on him. He's cultivated a dedicated fanbase and the kids really took his lyrics to heart. I know I've probably shit on him/definitely shit on other rappers in the past. That's just one of the things I've been thinking about. You can not like an artist, but as a white hip hop listener I don't really have any place calling a rapper corny or lame or for white people or w/e. Those comments have been bothering me recently.
    dharkins, ChaseTx and carina like this.
  9. Deanna

    Trusted Supporter

    I've personally never seen the point in making a big deal about not liking certain rappers. I think it's perfectly fine if something just isn't someone's style. I do agree that as a white person, though, the whole "for white people" comment does get annoying. To me, music is for anyone who enjoys it and it shouldn't matter who the rapper is.
  10. phaynes1


    Listening to the TND (I know) and Craig Jenkins podcast was pretty painful. I know he's an exaggerated example and there are plenty that proceed correctly, put there's too much whitesplaining and not enough listening. It's especially ridiculous when it's coming from a conversation with Craig, someone who is obviously well-versed.
    Sophos and OhTheWater like this.
  11. OhTheWater

    Let it run Supporter

    What do you all think about the idea of white music critics discussing black music? Is there a line?
  12. cwhit

    still emperor emo Prestigious

    I feel like you have to approach the music from a different angle. I don't think there's any problem approaching it from a musical perspective, but once you start getting into lyrical analysis it becomes a little more sketchy, depending on how the reviewer goes upon it. I think all music should be able to be reviewed in some way, but you need to go from the perspective in which you are qualified to do so
    OhTheWater likes this.
  13. phaynes1


    I don't think there's any problem with discussing it. There is a point where obviously there is (more than likely) going to be a disconnect between personal experience, especially with lyrical analysis as casey mentioned. But I don't think discussing it is necessarily something that should be frowned upon.

    I think there's an issue between many white critics failing to actually discuss the music though, and more often than not feel the need to "explain" it or try to make it something that it's not, and I have an issue with that aspect of the behavior.
    dharkins and OhTheWater like this.
  14. DarkHotline

    Proud To Bathe With A Rag On A Stick Prestigious

    That element drives me apeshit when I read hip hop reviews from white writers.
    phaynes1 likes this.
  15. That depends on the white critic. There are critics out there that are "qualified" to write about hip-hop based on circumstance. Gary Suarez talks about this topic often on Twitter.
    Deanna likes this.
  16. Chaplain Tappman

    Trusted Prestigious

    I get this. TPAB was one of my favorite albums of the year but I can barely stand to listen to it and I'm white as hell. It's super weird to see white people play "King Kunta" without really engaging with the lyrics and subject matter, or be hanging around drinking on a summer saturday afternoon and have someone play "Blacker the Berry" and not get why it's an uncomfortable, weird choice to play in that environment (this actually happened to me). It being recognized for its greatness is good but its also strange to see this apparent disconnect between its messaging and white audiences heralding it's excellence.

    This was so exhausting to even experience tangentially. I will say that I think it's interesting that by and large i have seen artists say white people have no place critiquing black art but black critics generally say it's good so long as they aren't the dominant voice and are actually present and engaging their privilege/the art itself. Craig himself made a good point about how many of the TLOP reviews were written by white people (men usually as well).
    I think it is bad when you have white critics dismiss lyrics as "ignorant" or whatever and fail to recognize the weight behind them, but it is equally bad when you have people outright refuse to engage with lyrics because they feel unqualified to do so. I would rather read someone wrestle with their privilege and complicity in the institutions that produce those lyrics and situations than just ignore them entirely, which I have seen before. It feels like a dishonest approach to the music.
    "I'm Gary." - Gary.
    Jacob Tender and phaynes1 like this.
  17. alex

    notgonz Prestigious

    I've always seen the J. Cole dissing as more of a reaction to what carina was talking about - his white fanbase that views him as superior only because he doesn't rap about what they see as valid / stereotypical topics.

    I see people (for the most part) react to his actual music with total apathy more so than any actual distaste for it.
  18. OhTheWater

    Let it run Supporter

    I think it's easy to view the conversation like that when you're having it with white people about white fans, but using broad strokes to paint him as lame or not saying anything or w/e is problematic when you consider how influential he is to a lot of listeners of color. I shudder to think about how I talked about dudes like POS or even Gambino in terms of being "white rappers". Like, yeah it's okay to mock the white fans for their viewpoints and inherent racism that they aren't really seeing when they refer to certain rappers as "intelligent" or whatever, but I think we need to be more careful about demonizing the actual artist. J.Cole does have some corny lines and I don't necessarily like his music (I haven't really given it a chance); however, to depict him as an empty or vapid or boring artist negates a lot of important influence he has on his fans.
  19. Fucking Dustin

    SHEESH Supporter

    When you made your post about J. Cole, Gambino was the first artist I thought of. I've talked that way about him so often, it's sad.
  20. Nick

    @fangclubb Prestigious

    this is something i think about but cannot put into words my feelings. growing up in ireland, it wasn't really multicultural at all until fairly recently. a lot of my peers in school would have been really into hip hop, but over the top somewhat copying the mannerisms and slang of hip hop and black culture, despite being so far removed from it. it was weird and a little uncomfortable.

    hell I feel weird having cakes as my avatar on here. as I said it's quite hard for me to put into words right now but it is something I think about a lot regarding the messages and culture as a whole especially being so far removed from it myself.
    OhTheWater likes this.
  21. carina Mar 31, 2016
    (Last edited: Mar 31, 2016)

    yr royal highness

    Mixed feelings. Like I said, there's a level of praise given to certain artists over others that give me pause, but I feel like if the writing is contextualized and the criticism is well done, then I have no issue. (Obvi, can't speak for everyone, but that's me.)
    Also, not to nitpick, but "black music" is pretty much all music. In this context, I'd use black art/black artists or specifically rap or hip hop.
    phaynes1 and Nick like this.
  22. OhTheWater

    Let it run Supporter

    Noted, thank you
  23. Dominick Apr 1, 2016
    (Last edited: Jun 23, 2016)

    Prestigious Prestigious

    This is something that has been on my mind for a while:

    Sometimes I resent white people for enjoying hip-hop. I find myself getting angry when they listen to 2Pac and Kendrick Lamar, rapping the lyrics and all of that. The conditions from which rap arose, like blues, was one of suffering and being a target in the nascent drug war. Those conditions were the basis on which white people are able to have good lives as products of the suburbs. Now they imbibe the cultural products of that suffering for their enjoyment, often separated from its context and treated as an escape or wish-fulfillment, because danger and drugs are cool. And I hate that. I hate that they benefit doubly, not only from the visceral oppression, but its cultural products as well. To borrow from Marxist terminology, they've extracted value on two levels. And it isn't rational and it isn't even welcome for them to be closed off to the music, but that overwhelming emotion bubbles up within me from time to time.
  24. Fucking Dustin

    SHEESH Supporter

    That specific part stuck out to me a lot. It's so important for white consumers to understand the context in which hip hop is made and to at least recognize and listen to it, and so often it's ignored and it's completely understandable for that to be infuriating. This post (as usual from you) is excellent and is something I've always wondered about, how myself and other white people are viewed when we enjoy music that has so many undertones that may fly below our radars, while either our actions or our lack of actions are the cause of it.
    Dominick, muttley and Nick like this.
  25. Deanna

    Trusted Supporter

    On an upcoming episode of Missaligned, I discuss this with one of the guys from iLLPHONiCS, a hip-hop group from St. Louis for those not familiar. I think it's crucial that we understand the culture, the place the artists are coming from, and know the history behind it before really criticizing it in any sort of capacity. But I do think enjoying music and relating to it can be two very different things. I'm aware there's little for me to related to when it comes to hip-hop, but I do find a good portion of it enjoyable from a listening perspective.