Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hayes' "Fear of (and Fascination with) a Black Planet"

Hayes' article deals mostly with "relocation of rap by white non-urban youth," focusing on a mostly-white suburban town outside of Toronto. In the article's introduction, Hayes asks, "Who has the right to decide what rap looks and sounds like? Is it a specifically African-American form, impermeable to change, or is it up for grabs, a tabula rasa onto which anyone may inscribe his or her own desires, frustrations, fantasies of mobility and other concerns connected to one's specific place in the world?" This question seems to overshadow most of his article, but it is unclear whether a singular answer exists. Hayes seems to suggest that for both white suburban rap fans and black urban youths rap is inextricable from the notion of it being authentic black culture. The white fans who have little to no experience with urban settings seem to associate "authentic black culture" with what they hear in gangster rap songs--urban violence, crime, poverty, etc. They perceive rappers who ignore these “authentic” things as "sell-outs," even when their success has taken these artists out of poor urban areas and allowed them to live in huge mansions in Beverly Hills. What stood out most to me was how important perceptions of race seemed to be in rap music, whereas arguably "whiter" genres such as punk, classic rock, pop, and metal do not seem to be associated with a particular race nearly as much. Though rap music does still seem to have strong ties to race, Hayes seems to promote the idea that these associations, especially those that equate rap with urban violence, do not need to proliferate; however, he feels that they can be beneficial if people use rap music as a way to interact humanely with people of other races that they might not normally interact with and continue to break the racial barrier that still exists in our society.

Discussion question: Do you think that rap will continue to be dominated by black artists and listeners, or in the future will we see much more involvement by other races (especially white), like what has happened in rock music? Do you think white people might "take over" rap, leaving African-Americans to again create a new type of ground-breaking music that will exceedingly gain popularity?

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