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Free «Race in the Context of Rap Music» Essay Sample

Nowadays, rap has become one of the most popular forms of music culture in the United States of America. Having been born in the subjugated areas of South Bronx, rap as a form of music has come from quite far. The surrounding conditions of the initiators of this genre were desolate and miserable (Dyke 2). Moreover, the areas of its origin were mostly populated by poor black people. However, both the poor and rich do enjoy listening to the appealing lyrics and the whimsical beats of rap music (Sillivan 606). Practically, rap music can be heard from the shortest infomercials to those Hollywood movies which are termed as the world’s most lucrative entertainment media. Although there is a portion of the population who are offended by the commercial turn taken by rap music in the last ten or so years, it has been reported that this form of music in the current century is reaching to millions of peoples far much beyond what it used to be on its initial appearance in the mid-1970s (Dyke 1).

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In spite of its universal audience, people within and outside the music industry have always perceived rap as being the music of the blacks. Scholars, such as Tricia Rose, have even come to define rap music as an expression of the black culture of the marginal areas of the Urban America. In spite of this definition, a lot of people who participated in its creation and listen to rap are non-blacks (McGee 1). Undeniably, rap might have been conceived among the black and poor, but it is not viewed on the basis of color or even class now. In an effort to address the issue of race in rap music, it is imperative to note that it was not only blacks who were responsible for the creation of this genre. Moreover, rap music was (and still is) not solely enjoyed by the blacks. It would not be right to claim that rap music has a solely “black” footing. As a matter of fact, a great percentage of the original breakers - commonly referred to as the b-boys- were Latinos. Besides, the early managerial supporters of the hip-hop industry (as argued by Nelson George, a black music critic, screenplay producer and author) were whites. It is said that the African American executives at black urban radio and at black music departments were actually hardly supportive of this genre (Costello and Wallace 12).

Break dancing is one of the integral parts of this genre, and it was the Latinos who were mostly involved in the same. However, besides being active participants in the break dance, Latinos, and especially Puerto Ricans, also played a major role in both graffiti and rapping, It is worth noting at this point in time that the majority of the principal graffiti writers were Whites and Puerto Ricans (Costello and Wallace 27). Actually, South Bronx was a mixture of different races at the time hip-hop emerged. Rap, break dancing and graffiti were avenues through which the youths within the communities utilized to make their voices heard and their feelings communicated. In addition, they were a way through which the youths got to relate with others around them about shared problems (Davey 1). Color was hardly an issue, since what concerned people was oppression. Given the fact that Whites, Latinos and Blacks made equal contributions to hip-hop, one cannot help wondering why rap has been defined as a black cultural manifestation and why to take part in the hip-hop generation, one has to be black (Dyke 3).

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There are also individuals who argue that the hip-hop culture and rap music communicates to a certain class of individuals residing in urban areas that are primarily populated by Blacks. However, the fact that backs live in urban areas does not necessarily mean that rap music is solely enjoyed by Blacks. There is no implication that non-blacks in the same urban areas do not support the genre (Sullivan 610).

The issue of race is raised within this genre even by books authors. For instance, Bakari Kitwana in his book The Hip Hop Generation, argues that a majority of Black Americans who happened to have been born in the period between 1965 and 1984 were automatically ushered into in to the hip-hop culture by the virtue of being blacks. On the contrary, this can be viewed as a sediment of a stereotypical thought. The author is actually superintending every other aspect of the origin of every black American (McGee 1). Although the likelihood of there being a subset within the larger young black Americans’ group representing the hip-hop culture cannot be denied, the act of branding all young black Americans, who have attained the age of an adult now, can be highly impudent and exclusionary. There has never been a time when consumers of rap music were reported to be exclusively blacks. The notion that rap music was nothing but fashion might have held some water in the absence of the support that this genre received from the whites, both on the production and consumer parts (Sullivan 13).

Probably, rap has its own culture as a result of having been made of a mix of cultures during its inception and, therefore, having no particular color attached to it. The same can also be said about a subset of American culture being a subset of the black culture, especially one takes into consideration that this form of music envelops uncountable Americans of varied races (Dyke 6). Conversely, there are those who link American rapping to the African traditions of the word of mouth, which characterizes the spread of stories in African culture. In line with this argument, it is believed that rap is rooted in African culture. Despite the fact that African oral tradition is present, it cannot be perceived as solely African, since many stories, as well as traditions from societies in all corners of the globe, have been preserved due to the word of mouth (Sullivan 616).

 
 
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Two decades after its inception, rap music still remains to be the voice of the lower class populace, including Blacks. However, it is notable that even if people fail to understand some of the ambiguities, rap music is not exclusive (Costello and Wallace 35). Each song is different and saying that rap is the voice of the urban lower class populace, whose majority is represented by Blacks, is an act of not only forgetting about individuals listening to such music, but also those engaged in spreading the music. It is important to note that every other rap lyrics ought not to be so literally taken, since some of them are made for entertainment (Davey 1). One of the most difficult tasks is trying to draw a distinction between arguments concerning race and class within hip-hop music. The majority of people seem to have adopted the use of black and urban interchangeably, a practice which is quite upsetting. Others prefer to think that rap is all about lower class life of Blacks (Daily Beast Company LLC 1).

Notably, everything has to have a point of start, after which it either grows or disappears. This equally applies to hip-hop. Rap music might have started as the voice of the blacks who were a group of individuals largely ignored in the USA. However, it did not have to remain there. Hip-hop possesses the right to grow into something which has the potential of positively affecting people in all aspects of life (Dyke 7). The rap music of the 1960s, which expressed fascination with youth, has presently given way to fascination with race. As a matter of fact, race has supplanted the generation gap as the principal determining force not only in what music speaks of and/or sounds like, but also in how this genre is being promoted, as well as to its meaning to various listeners (Sullivan 619).

Ten or so years ago, when the late Michael Jackson (MJ) changed his appearance with the help of plastic surgery, he emerged as one of the most famous singers to have ever been known in the world. Even following his album It Don’t’ Matter If You’re Black or White, a newly-fashioned orthodoxy came into being, i.e. that of racially charged and very profitable financially. The question of community, identity, language, authenticity and fad (all of which are chief elements of pop-music) are now being filtered through the notion of race (Daily Beast Company LLC 1). According to Quincy Jones, a composer and producer, rappers are musicians steering change. Initially, black singers targeted only the black audience, but the situation changed after the emergence of white rap artists. However, creators of rap music are now beginning to take control of their culture. Young black males are speaking their minds in the most theatrical and dramatic way. Besides, it is obvious that black rap artists are threatening white Americans. However, rap music entrepreneurs have come to the realization that this genre is not in the least threatening, but attracting (Daily Beast Company LLC 2).

Rap music is currently undergoing racial amalgamating onslaught and becoming ‘softer’ in the process. For over three decades, it has been among the promise of pop music to bring together Whites and Blacks on a common dance floor. And lucky enough, rap music has cut into this equation, delivering interface with both videos and music in place relations with actual people (Daily Beast Company LLC 3). This genre has tapped racial insecurities and instead soothing people with the promise that an individual is likely to experience real black life vicariously through records but the form of music still put fuel on the insecurities so perceived (Daily Beast Company LLC 4).

   

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