Tuesday, July 26, 2005

"Post-Rap" vs "Post-Colonial-Rap"

- Chuck K: Chuck K tonight in Philly. Should be fun.

- Trapper Juan: My dude Drew moved his blog from myspace to here. Good job, my friend. Looks way nicer.

- Pimp My Ride UK: Tim Westwood is like a fucking paradoy of himself. Peep this shit. Dude is so awkward and cheeseball. If you let the screen idle too much on that web page, Westwood gets all hype and says “Yo, let’s get busy! Click the mouse, baby, let’s go!” Jesus.

- Eddie Bo Discography: Damn. Hot discography (and probably about as exhaustive as its gonna get) for that illy funkster from N’awlins.

- Fish and Walker: Audrey posted some yucky lookin’ fish things and links to Walker Texas Ranger flicks from Conan O’Brian. I can’t believe there are people in this world who think Jay Leno or David Letterman or any of those late night jack-asses even hold a candle to Conan. Don’t say “The Daily Show” because that doesn’t count. While, I’m here I might as well drop a link to her most recent radio show. So, linkage has been dropped. Here’s the tracklist. Her summary of the Metallica movie epic is fucking hilarious.

- Post-Rap vs Post-Colonial-Rap: My boy Aaron reviewed Buck 65’s record on Coke Machine Glow. I haven’t heard the entire record so I will refrain from commenting on the quality of the music. I will say two things about the new record though: (1), from the two songs I’ve heard, one I rather like, one I think stinks; (2) the best that I could possibly say about this record at this point is that I’m really not interested in hearing it. I’m still really biased against dude and think he’s pretty much a jack-ass. At the very least, he has a problem expressing himself and enjoys putting his foot in his mouth, saying wildly ignorant things about rap music (like “Why is Jay-Z quitting? Why doesn’t he learn to play an instrument or something?” and “I hate hip-hop” etc).

I don’t mean to rehash all the shit that was said about Buck being an ignoramus and an idiot in the wake of those comments. He’s subsequently apologized for those comments and, fuck it, we’ve all said dumb shit before. I’m sure if somebody had a mic on me at a particularly bad time, I’d be saying stupid shit, too... granted, not as stupid as that shit, but his girl-friend is some classical music snob. What the fuck do you expect? Anyway, truth be told, his dumb comments really shouldn’t have too much of an effect on how I view his music, but the only reason I’m bringing this up is because I think it’s germane to something Newell brings up in his review.

Newell wants to define Buck 65’s new music as “post-rap” (a la Simon Reynolds and “post rock”) and to a certain extent, I can understand the desire to re-define music in terms like that (after all, google the term “post-rap,” it’s been used quite often in reviews, especially with respect to Anticon artists). But, I wonder, first of all, is a white journalist really in a position to be defining “rap” in any sense? And, secondly, why is it always white rappers that are getting terms like “post rap” thrown at them? Are there any “post rap” black rappers? Should we consider the “experimental” offerings of folks like Cee-Lo, Common, and Q-Tip “post rap” or that something different? I’m really not trying to call out anyone here, I’m simply wondering if there’s an implied whiteness in the adjective “post-.” Similarly, I’m wondering if there’s an implied sense of REJECTING “black rap” in “post-rap.”

I just think it’s important that we’re careful with these terms and not forget that when we talk about hip-hop, we are necessarily talking about race. Frankly, I think a more apt term would be “post-colonial-rap” (where “post-colonial” isn’t a reference to actual historical colonization, but the potential cultural colonization occurring as we speak). That’s probably the most clever thing I’m going to say all week. Anyway, this brings me to something I’ve been thinking about recently regarding Frederic Jameson’s definition of “the pastiche” in postmodernity.

In “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” Jameson describes “pastiche” as similar to the technique but at odds with the intent of “parody.” I don’t have the text in front of me so I’m going off of memory right now, but the basic argument is that “pastiche” is neutral appropriation where “parody” appropriates and re-performs with the intent of mocking or providing some sort of commentary. But, again, “pastiche” is the “neutral” form of a similar appropriative technique where styles and techniques are appropriated and re-employed for different affect/effects. This is a simple enough differentiation as far as I’m concerned, and I really didn’t have any problem with it until I started thinking about it in terms of race. The problem when race enters the picture is that this supposedly “neutral practice” cannot help but lose its apparent “neutrality.” For example, when a white rapper like Buck 65 appropriates rap music and sort’ve re-defines it and then ultimately re-deploys it in his unique way, it’s too simple to say that this is “neutral” postmodern pastiche. Certainly, Buck 65’s intentions might be “neutral”—even though he’s said a bunch of ignorant shit about rap, you still get the vibe that he loves it and respects it and has no intention of really disrespecting it—but, intent isn’t perfectly equitable to effect. And, given Jameson’s insistence that context is king in postmodernity, one would think that he would agree with me when I say something like this:

    given that this type of appropriative movement (the white rapper constructing his musical identity as a pastiche of “black rap,” Iggy Pop, Sid Vicious, indy rock, beat poetry, and whatever else) is ultimately performed in a society that is still, to a very large degree, “white supremacist,” it seems to me that this pastiche can never be “neutral” and is necessarily going to embody the dominant political unconscious--which is institutional racism.

Therefore, white appropriation and pastiche might be “neutral” in intention, but it almost certainly won’t be neutral in affect/effect.

Again, I don’t have the text in front of me and it’s more than likely that Jameson is really only speaking in terms of intention when he describes the difference between “parody” and “pastiche,” but I think my point stands: the relationship between the “white experimental rapper” and the typical “black rapper” is a complicated one—one that might be “neutral” in intent, but might have much more dubious effects, regardless of what the rapper or reviewer intends.

So what? Where does this leave us? Frankly, I don’t really know. All I do know is that it’s somewhat dangerous to use terms like “post-rap” when talking about “white rappers” without really discussing the issues of race that inevitably surround the issue. It’s just an extremely slippery slope in all directions and to throw these terms around without pointing out the racial elements that abound seems to me a bit irresponsible. That’s why I think “post-colonial-rap” is better (and way more clever): it at least contains the suggestion of race in it and points out the potential for cultural imperialism, oppression, and domination—which is of course what we mean when we talk about “race.”

Sorry for the mini-dissertation.

I should probably get to work now.

By the way, I just found this for those interested in the Jameson piece.



At 8:53 AM, Blogger wayne&wax said...

damn! jameson off the dome! good thoughts. let those rattle around the message boards for a minute.

do you think that, say, hollertronix-style juxtaposition is doing cultural work that is perhaps more politically productive than buck and brethren? is it more or less "explicitly" neutral than that which seeks to skirt--or perhaps acknowledge (wink, wink)--its whiteness as "post-rap"? i'm not sure myself.

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Kenny Ken said...

I think you have an unhealthy Jameson obsession. He pops up in your blog all the time.

I wouldn't call "post-rap" post-colonial just because post-colonial has always been a really problematic term. What is it really? Colonialism is a bigger phenomenon now than when it was in full swing in the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries, but I believe the word post-colonial originally referred to the time after African and Indian decolinization rather than the time, which we still live in, after the inception of colonialism. To say postcolonial rap (also funny because rap is itself a white misnomer) is to reopen a problem of definition that scholars are just now toying with getting over. You're right, though, "posting" something is always appropriating something: sanitizing something: whitewashing something. It is saying "here was this idea that had some value that the crazy natives came up with, but which was obviously lacking until we sanctioned acalectuals got into the mix and made it intelligible." The post really means the cultural object after we've taken what we see as valuable away and discarded the rest leaving its creators destitute. In the case of Hip-Hop, Dancehall, and Go-Go however, there will never be this archetypal post because these, more than other art forms, only exist between the creator and the audience and you can't appropriate that interaction for comsumption (and I know that Sartre claims this kind of liminal existance for all art but it's a spectrum I think, with say dutch landscape painters at one end and the dancehall massive at the other). So to me, i kinda laugh when i hear these theories about hip hop, especially when couched in the terms of your average cultural critic in the academy, because not only are they kind of moot, they tend to mute the voice of the art form, which is the only voice that as of yet has the rhetoric to even begin to discuss the issue of the attempt to whitewash hip-hop.

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous kstar said...

P.S. I think to the parody vs. pastiche dicotomy should be added a third term, mimicry. The use of one, over another, of these words is essentially a question of power. Parody is what the powerful can do, mimicry is reserved for the powerless. Pastiche, on the other hand, is for the aloof: the people in the tower who believe that they neither help nor hinder the flow of culture. In the case of the white rapper, and especially the white rapper who obviously has some bourgeousie affiliations, which of this triumvirate of reiterations he/she is employing is especially tricky. I suppose it depends on how much power you're willing to give a counterculture movement and how much cloistering you really grant the academy. Priviledging art over the service economy and the academy though, I tend to give what white rappers do the title of mimicry.

At 10:52 AM, Anonymous hard on said...

i thought ppl already coined that stuff "emo-rap".

At 3:36 PM, Blogger wayne&wax said...

not sure that the relationship between these different modes and power relations is so clear cut. parody is most definitely a tool of the powerless. skewering elites via less-than-flattering imitation, for instance, has been a longstanding practice of (lower-class) artists. mimicry would seem to be a difference in kind: not having the self-consciousness or self-awareness/reflection that makes parody the knowing, revealing, signifying mode that it is. whereas mimicry creates sad (if profitable) facsimiles, parody produces interrogative interventions.

but, yeah, if anything, hip-hop (not post-hip-hop or post-rap) is a post-colonial music par excellence, having sprung from the "colonization in reverse" that constitutes, increasingly, NYC culture and US/metropolitan/global culture more generally.

At 3:48 PM, Anonymous aaron newell said...

you mean

"we didn't land on planet rock, planet rock landed on us"


At 4:57 PM, Blogger Coffy With Cream said...

Perhaps dude was referring to the posterior when he used the "post-rap" in his review. What he had meant to say was: "This stuff is like ass." -¡hahaaaa!-
I can respect Buck's style and all that, but I find so much of his shit so damn boring that I just don't feel like hearin' much more.

And also, Whatup Emil!
My name is Arrra Beezle, you might remember me from such e-spots as "Ridin' Sage Francis' Nutsack" (jokes) and "Lookit Me, I Need Friends!" also known as Myspace.


At 7:14 PM, Blogger SergDun said...

I don't know what's lamer, kids who listen to post rap or Tim Westwood.

At 7:42 PM, Anonymous KayCee said...

Okay yeah, parody (as a rhetorical tool) has always been used as a strategy of groups whose voices tend to get muted in the attempt to weigh in with their own social commentary. What I'm referring to, however, is the problem of reception.

The enunciation of parodic intent, let's take say playing a drunken sailor mas during carnival, is only parody in the eyes of the powerless or, if the intent is acknowledged by the group in power, which in this case would be the planter and post-planter (ha ha) classes, this group tends to ignore the implication and goes on to pervert the carnival for their own feudal interests.

Even if artistically and rhetorically sound, the lower class parody is received by the upper class as mimicry rather than art, a mimicry to which the upper class then grafts some conjured antecedent necessitating the performance. Generally the end result can just be formulated as: white guy gets to fuck island girl. I fail to see how this "skewers" elites at all; performance and parody theorized as revolutionary action is very distasteful to me. A lot of real revolutionaries would have problems if they were to post-humously find out that they died so academics could justify minstrelsy. I think this line of thinking is the worst thing to ever happen to Marxist theory, notwithstanding that the bulk of the idea came from Bakhtin who is probably the most sound cultural critic of the twentieth century otherwise.

Yes Mimicry is just imitation but after the aesthetic judgment upon the reception of "parody," mimicry is what the performance becomes. I hope I don't sound bitchy, it's just that performance and signification really strike a nerve with me. Also, as I hinted in the previous post, I don't see any such thing as postcolonial. The colonial situation never ended and it doesn't look to. Rather, it keeps changing form. I also would hope that you found the despair and the irony in the Bennett poem you linked to, which seems to be pointing to the fact that England took everything Jamaica had and left but wants to take the only remaining asset, the actual bodies of its previous colonial subjects.

At 8:08 PM, Blogger Champion said...

Dope read.

My Jameson list just outgrew my reading schedule. Thanks for the links.

At 8:35 PM, Blogger wayne&wax said...

thanks for the continued conversation, k.

i appreciate your point about the sphere of reception and the ultimate power (or lack thereof) of parody "from below." i also appreciate your distaste for theorizing power relations as so much performance and signification--missing the big point amidst all the cultural politics: that crass exploitation of labor, colored by the legacies of slavery and racialist/racist ideologies, continues today, perhaps even in intensified form.

i think that this is what people are referring to when they use the term post-colonial (or, more pointedly, neo-colonial). they are describing a situation where explicit, "political" colonial control has ended, yet where the hierarchies and (local and global) power relations of colonialism maintain. and i don't think that louise bennet, for all of her poem's pathos, would want us to miss the irony of the situation (no pomo) and the implication that chickens come home to roost, in various ways.

moreover, although i understand your frustration with the marxist turn toward signification, representation, and cultural practice--at least within cultural studies, which has been, in my opinion, among the more innovative and persuasive movements in marxist thought post-'68--i also think that it's worth noting that power is diffuse, that domination is not total, and that struggle, resistance, and opposition of various sorts can give hope and create the tools of revolution. take, for example, robin d.g. kelley's proposal of seeing the everyday resistance practices of the jim crow south as a kind of "micropolitics"--sure, it runs the risk of forestalling "true" action, but it also recuperates the past in a powerful way, and a way that can inform intensified political struggles, and "true" actions, today.

or take the example of carnival: though such "parodic enunciations" can indeed be co-opted in certain ways by the ruling class, i'm not sure that such a possibility completely nullifies the act's power. to take this into the present: a good number of trinidadians (and not just of the "post-planter" classes) now sell their parody back to the english, as image, as sound, as vacation packages. (and, yeah, i admit that this is still not quite a "great deal," all things considered.) if you're talking about the revolution, then, yeah, you're right. shit ain't gonna happen if all we do is celebrate "resistance."

nevertheless, i think that a lot of what is holding it/us back has to do with ideology and (mis)education, so it is ultimately in that light that i think there is something to celebrate in parody, and other forms of expression, commentary, and critique "from below."

At 9:25 PM, Anonymous ken c said...

Yup, neo-colonial is the word.

about this: "i also think that it's worth noting that power is diffuse, that domination is not total, and that struggle, resistance, and opposition of various sorts can give hope and create the tools of revolution."

Yes, this is an essential point that gets lost. Every cultural process is, in the end, a result of individuals and can be changed by individuals and individual resistance. This is one of my biggest problems with privledging presentational modes of resistance: they usually are accompanied by this idea that effective revolution must be done from inside while accepting the conditions of subjugation. I suppose the two notions are just correlative but they seem of a flock to me. This idea feels antithetical to any sort of notion of individual freedom and efficacy to me.

Alone, parody obviously does some work at waking people up and focusing them towards a liberation politics, therefore making it a desirable rhetorical technique. I'm just distrustful of whether or not celebrating it might actually hurt more than it helps.

At 7:18 AM, Blogger Drew said...

holler at your boy westwood! ONE

At 7:30 AM, Blogger G said...

good read. thanks.


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