Exactly. The “reconstruction” is, of course, an ongoing project, but I think that hip hop is uniquely qualified to engage such a project, especially with its populist tendencies overall. This is not to say that other musical genres cannot do this, but, I think hop hop’s simultaneously local and global reach is special. Certainly, hip-hop does not have to be political, and the entertainment value is quite important, yet when the two aspects are combined, something magical can happen. This is where hip-hop has the power to be, as Chuck D famously said, the “CNN of the streets.” (Disclaimer: CNN was much more relevant when he said that, although Killer Mike has been blowing them up lately. I think I hyperlinked one of Mike’s recent CNN appearances in my post.)
Awesome! The idea of hip-hop and Southern culture as experiencing time in a nonlinear fashion is very compelling. I think sampling does this, with its emphasis on reuse and reconfiguration of the past, and so provides some of the multiple points of entry to which you both refer.
It would be interesting to inquire how a game’s genre might affect the mapping of sympathies. Thinking about Fallout specifically, there is very little substance to the game’s protagonist aside from what is chosen by the player him or herself – gender and appearance are selected at the beginning of the game, the character has no audible voice and only communicates through the many player-chosen dialogue options, customization and moments of choice continue throughout both exploration and the game’s central narrative. The game, then, becomes a fairly complex system of character building. That is, if the player opts to role-play through the game. The video posted, as a commentary on the events, suggests that the illusion is broken significantly for this particular player, but I would suspect that even in this instance there is some role-play occurring due simply to the game’s design, and that there always is on some sliding scale from player to player in all role-playing games, but perhaps in all video games in general. Questions of morality then become not “What should I do?” but “What would my character do?”
I’m not in good position to discuss Kerry Washington’s image because I stopped watching Scandal around the third episode of season 1, but it seems like her star image is much stronger than the plot vehicle she’s given to work with. What then of the current Halle Berry project? It too seems to be a weak story for a much stronger star, but it isn’t sex obsessed.
David Banner is an interesting one because he’s political but at multiple times (in the past) has tried to distance himself claiming he’s only an entertainer. His game has stepped up significantly in the last few years. I’ve never heard or seen Killer Mike grapple with that line.
P.S. Found ATL:Rise to be an amazing doc but really wanted to see some more women folk. And Baby-D. LOL
Killer Mike is so slept on…and that is what makes him a problem. Like Michele said, his presence on the ATL: Rise documentary on VH1 was brief but powerful. He did an interview with Joycelyn Wilson on the Hip Hop Imagination and his rendition of Reagan is particularly poignant in redistributing ideas of politics and agency in the South after the Civil Rights Movement.
I think the use of animation here is also a great tool of blurred lines of reality and the imaginary, especially surrounding Reagan. I think it doubly serves as a signifier on the inability to pinpoint the South as a concrete space and its existence on multiple levels of existence.
It was very interesting to see Killer Mike featured (though briefly) last night in the timely VH-1 doc chronicling Atlanta’s rise in hip hop. The documentary raised many of the issues that we are trying to address this week, issues which Charles ‘Chip’ has framed powerfully here.
Mike, like David Banner from Mississippi, gives voice to a powerful populist hip hop lyrical style, one that is interested in the lives and conditions of ‘everyday people’ (via Sly and Speech), has a command of cultural vernacular, and a grasp of the larger apparatuses—cultural, social, political, and economic that grip both the South and the nation. These Southern artists also infuse their lyrics with distinctive discursive critiques of black communities as socio-political entities and of the histories of Southern racial and social relations.
Mike, David, and ‘Speech’ of Arrested Development “reconstruct” a black populist narrative, one that challenges their contemporaries (in the South and in the North) to acknowledge the full range and of experiences of black people and of people interpolated by their call. Their discourses are local, but simultaneously drive listeners away from hip hop’s impulse to maintain a kind of regional provincialism. Instead, they are pushing it and us towards a more malleable art form, one that can speak with truth and resonance in both an intimate and a global context.
“hip hop is always about the creation of a counter-narrative- a story that might be invisible to some, unimaginable to others, or perhaps not even born yet.” <–—THIS.
I am here for thinking about southern hip hop narratives as counter-narratives. I’m even more here for when those narratives exist outside of what is considered countering the expectations of southern culture. In a larger project I’m working on I argue that the reason the post-Civil Rights South functions is because there are multiple entry points and experiences. I think hip hop is the sinew for those multiple Souths in this particular moment.
Yes! So much of the dialogue about the South is tethered to our notion of a past, some past, somebody’s past, but you are right—hip hop is always about the creation of a counter-narrative- a story that might be invisible to some, unimaginable to others, or perhaps not even born yet.
The writing of these counter-multiple narratives of the South (and elsewhere) is happening now, as we speak. It goes “on and on.” Hip hop artists may not have always been fully aware of their power to create on-the-spot narratives of experiences and places that are constantly being redefined and re-imagined, but those aware of this power expand our concept of hip hop culture and of our own space in time.
Michele’s post, and the insightful comments from Regina and Akil, lead me to think about marginalization and restriction in Southern space. It seems difficult to imagine the South as a space without de-facto segregation, political/economic marginalization and structural oppression. Whether in fictional narratives like Hustle and Flow or Monster’s Ball, or in everyday black life in the South, the fractures and rifts mentioned above are pervasive. Thus, the cinematic pathologies Michele refers to emerge from a lineage of stereotypical tropes in popular culture, but they also reflect the real prejudices of a worldview that sees black masculinity as inherently pathological. Such deeply internalized bigotry allows for the contemporary national media conversation about a “post-racial” America. And, as everyone has said here, intersectionality makes this even more heart-wrenching; gender and race equal double-jeopardy.
Yet, as Michele just posted above, new forms of life spring from the wreckage of the old. There is hope, and the “Old South” doesn’t get to have the last word, even if change seems frustratingly slow at times.