Talking Points #9: Tricia Rose, Hip-Hop Wars
In both her video text and TIMES interview, Rose discusses the history and controversies surrounding hip-hop, particularly in regards to race, gender, and class. Both texts center on different aspects of hip-hop’s history. In the video, Rose talks about how the original hip-hop records started – on the basketball courts, with players recording their rhymes over the B-sides of other records, and then others dubbing and recording over theirs. There was, apparently, argument over whether people were stealing others’ ideas because of this, which Rose argues is false, explaining that the new version is fundamentally different than all others, and that in other countries where hip-hop is even more prevalent, there can be thousands upon thousands of different versions of “the same song.” Further, she discusses hip-hop’s community ties in her interview. Because the music was often shared during community block parties, the demographics of listeners were very different than the audiences of today. Back when hip-hop first started, it had to be written for all ages, as listeners could vary from age twelve, to age thirty, to age seventy. This had a drastic effect on the subject matter, and omitted much of what is popular in today’s hip-hop – songs about violence and disrespecting women, which are what sell currently on the market.
Rose also argues that the capitalism is the root of this. Popular music is music that sells, and what sells in North America is violence and sex. The ones in charge of what music plays are the ones with the money, and therefore the ones with the power. And they want to keep that power. They benefit from promoting the hegemony that people of color are violent and that women are sex objects, both in immediate financial gain and in maintenance of power by keeping said groups oppressed. At least, that’s what I took from her words. The point that she emphasizes is the most incorrect about hip-hop is the issue of violence. She says that many people argue that hip-hop causes violence, but that such a connection is simpleminded in thinking about a causal relationship between the two. She agrees that violence is a problem, but posits that the problems stem from the instability created in black communities after the 1960s, and that it is a result of structural racism and rampant economic disadvantage. Rose also explains that in terms of the hip-hop wars, both parties are wrong, though that the critics are more-so. The defenders overlook the problems with gender and sexism while the critics are wrong about violence and culture. She believes the only way out of this war is developing an educated and subtle position about the wrongs and rights of hip-hop.
I honestly don’t know very much about hip-hop (aside from what I’ve learned in these texts), so all of this is pretty new to me. However, I do think Rose makes very intelligent arguments on the subject. I’m particularly interested in the connection to capitalism, because even in the world of hip-hop it seems like the root of all evil. So, Class, what do you think? Are you a Defender? A Critic? Somewhere in the middle? Do you think Rose is correct about hip-hop being in the ICU ward.