how yu mean?!
"kool herc" (spraypaint on canvas) by mikeyfreedombaby
the good people at the institute for studies in american music, brooklyn college (CUNY), recently uploaded a piece of mine that was printed in their fall 2005 newsletter. the piece, "hearing hip-hop's jamaican accent" is based on a talk i gave at last spring's NYU-hosted conference, music, performance, and racial imaginations.
as some readers might remember, i thought the talk went well. the resistance i encountered to my own performance of race and nation served to confirm the underlying tensions i was hoping to tease out.
the gist of my argument in the paper is this: by listening to the shifting connotations of jamaican-ness in hip-hop from the 70s to today, we can hear how the meanings and definitions of race have changed in NY over the last few decades.
or, as the opening paragraph lays it out:
Although hip-hop's dominant narrative typically begins with the introduction of Jamaican sound-system techniques and technologies into the South Bronx, the Caribbean presence in hip-hop tends to recede into absence after this originary moment. Despite an increasing infusion of reggae into hip-hop over the last three decades, a hybridization reflecting New York's increasingly foreign-born black population, hip-hop histories routinely downplay such "outside" influence. Narrative strategies that seek to validate African American aesthetics against the denigration of mass media representations have thus obscured a more nuanced account of hip-hop's social character, with far-reaching implications for our understanding of such notions as race, ethnicity, and nation. The failure to acknowledge Jamaica's place in the hip-hop imagination overlooks the context-specific identification practices through which many performers have expressed the predicament of being both West Indian and black in New York. Such an oversight, in effect, maintains a discursive complicity with traditional, essentialized notions of race.
at any rate, i point you to the piece in case you want to read it for yourself. bear in mind that its scope is necessarily limited by the fact that it was prepared originally as a 20 minute talk. bear in mind also that the language in this paper, as you can see from the paragraph above, is more "academic" than the voice you find here on the blog (and, look ma: capital letters!). even so, i think it raises a lot of good questions as it gestures at some of the issues i'm digging into in the intertwined history of hip-hop and reggae which i'm slowly but surely banging into the all-too-linear shape of a dissertation.
anyhow, you can find it here: "hearing hip-hop's jamaican accent"
the same issue contains a review of beat-making books, including that excellent ethnography by mista twist (which deserves, and has received, better recognition for its contributions--and its stated focus--than the reviewer offers). and you might notice that ISAM has recently published an essay collection proposing "new approaches to hip-hop studies" called critical minded. i have to admit that i haven't read it, but it is definitely a good title for a book of this sort. i have read their other publication, island sounds in the global city, which presents a wide-lens view of the various ways that caribbean music weaves through the texture of new york life. if you're interested in this sort of thing (which you should be), i urge you to check it out. finally, if you're going to read any other articles on the ISAM site, i highly recommend ken bilby's "calypso as a world music" (fall 2004).