System Status: Mail server SSL certificate updated; some older mail clients (e.g., Eudora) are having problems. See welltech.374 for more info.


inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #26 of 49: Jeff Chang (jeffchang410) Wed 26 Sep 07 11:01
    
matisse--well, i'm not sure what i can add...you were there! but i
think the process you raise--the act of turning a blackened advertising
poster space into art--is really symbolic. here you had young artists
like keith haring and the taggers appropriating these places saved for
commercialism and turning them into art. from advertisements for
consumer goods into advertisements for the self. (the connection
between graffitiists and pop art was clear to people like basquiat and
fab 5 freddy from jump, not to mention mailer and warhol.)

in a larger sense, the youth that are closed out from the system by
the politics of abandonment are, in another sense, set free to return
with their art--whether on bus stops, walls, or subway cars. they
appropriate public spaces with their negated selves. 

ok ok, this is all beginning to sound a little too post-moderny. 

but there are real life consequences. i think the current state of
orange high-alert readiness against young people--from curfews to
anti-cruising ordinances to sweep ordinances to, ack, 'kid
nation'--this notion that we need to be protecting ourselves from wild
youth, and that they need to be protected from themselves, goes back to
the war on graffiti begun by nyc mayor john lindsay in 1972. 

this makes me want to steal a quote from 'the wire' about the 'the 
war on drugs', which i think is not unlike the 'war on graffiti' or the
'war on youth':

carver: 'girl you can't even call this shit a war.'

kima: 'why not?'

carver: 'wars end.'

here's another quote from nyc graf writer EWOK's words (in this great
book of graf photos called 'broken windows' by jim & karla murray): 

'When you push something down, it's going to pop up somewhere else.
It's just natural progression.' 
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #27 of 49: looming tricycle menace (anna) Wed 26 Sep 07 11:50
    

(the NYT reported on the hearings that Jeff is referring to in #24, here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/26/washington/26rap.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slo
gin&adxnnlx=1190831695-
O0Wx9yvH+T1SYIlGM0Mctw, or http://tinyurl.com/2r6ktd)

i think it's very important that hip hop be free to discuss the reality of
artists' lives.  many of these artists come from economically and socially
marginalized groups, and their point of view is valuable, even if it's
uncomfortable to hear.  that said, i get real tired of hearing about "bitches"
and "hoes".  so i do have my own personal boundary, but i still think we
should as a society respect that others have differing boundaries.

it's interesting how the "underground" of hip hop has ended up becoming a
mostly white audience, and that this seems to be the doing of marketing
depts at major record labels.  there must've been some right timing there
as well, since it wouldn't have taken off unless the moment was ripe for it.
one odd thing that i realized recently is that 99% of the dub djs i've seen
photos of are white, playing mostly black artists.  has music become color-
blind or is it that music is being co-opted from the musicians into the hands
of those more culturally powerful, or both or neither?
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #28 of 49: J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Thu 27 Sep 07 08:21
    
I wonder how hip-hop culture does or might translate into political and
economic power. There is no assurance at all that it will - and
historically, not every cultural change has resulted in increased power for
the group(s) that the change came from. In fact, just off the top of my
head, I think maybe cultural innovations may have nothing at all to do with
increases in political and economic power.
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #29 of 49: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 27 Sep 07 10:21
    
If it's generational, then as a generation ages an illusion unfolds.  It 
looks like the cultural style comes into power since members of 
the generation gains power and relative wealth.  But looking at 
the late 60s rock used for insurance ad soundtracks, etc, it may not 
be an anthem for any structural change.  A handful of stars in the
new styles and genres become wealthy and get keys to the doors of power, 
but may not know how to use them.  It's not easy to storm the thrown
in the modern world. 

I wonder sometimes how brilliant creative amazing expression could ever 
be more than decoration or fashion changes, no matter how enriching the
process.
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #30 of 49: Jeff Chang (jeffchang410) Thu 27 Sep 07 13:59
    
anna, in regards to your point about having a line that you draw, i
think it's important to note that many of us have drawn such lines for
years. the ugly debate that don imus raised and the grassroots move to
dump the guy represented, i think, a crystallization of a sense of
"enough is enough". one thing i think is really important to point out
is that the hip-hop hearings this time around--as opposed to the ones
c. delores tucker and carole moseley-braun had 13 years ago--featured
prominent voices from hip-hop who were also critical. here's my
colleague lisa fager's testimony, for instance, who just captured about
everything i've been feeling:

http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=15116190&blogI
D=313595133

her bottom line: we don't blame the artists, we blame the industry.

i also wanted to post this, by a white maryland politician who is also
a hip-hop parent:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/07/AR200709070204
8.html?nav=hcmodule

i think it may provide a provocative answer to your provocative
question.
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #31 of 49: Jeff Chang (jeffchang410) Thu 27 Sep 07 14:13
    
matisse--you know i consider myself an idealist and a hip-hop
activist, so i'm a bit biased on your question. but certainly cultural
power, economic power, and political power are not all the same things.
they are all dialectical in fact. let's leave aside economic power for
now...

one of the things i've been bullish on in recent years has been the
increasing efforts of hip-hoppers to translate their cultural cachet
into political power. there are some intriguing results. 

in 2004, i was part of two efforts--the national hip-hop political
convention and the league of pissed off voters (now simply, the league
of young voters)--that tried to organize hip-hoppers to vote. you may
remember there were also high-profile efforts from russell simmons and
diddy to do the same. 

media barely reported this, but there was a surge of youth voting
unseen since the voting age had been lowered to 18 in 1972. and what's
more interesting is that of the 4 million new voters between the ages
of 18 and 29, more than half were african american or latino. 

now i can safely say that the democratic party and the republican
party didn't organize those folks to get to the polls. in fact, if they
had tried, they might have been frustrated by young people's
skepticism. "why should i vote, what have you done for me lately?" but
millions of hip-hoppers organized themselves, and although it wasn't
reported, it made a difference.

btw those increases held for 2006, in comparison to 2002 the last
off-presidential year. and i've covered barack obama for vibe magazine
and i was amazed to find hundreds of enthusiastic supporters under the
age of 18 at the rallies. 

it might be argued that the catalytic grassroots work of 2004 is just
as important as the ongoing crises we face--the war, rising urban
violence, education, etc.--in getting this new generation of young
people interested again in electoral politics, after three decades of
what others have called apathy, but what i've called militant
skepticism. 
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #32 of 49: Jeff Chang (jeffchang410) Thu 27 Sep 07 14:17
    
gail, i think the last post kind of said what i wanted to reply to
you, but i wanted to add that i definitely hear you about the march of
stylistic change. one of the things i have been interested in my work
has been to connect changes in the world of culture with changes in the
"material world" (not madonna's, but maybe marx's, i suppose). 

here's a question that i have for all of you: do you think the arc of
cultural change always bends toward arch commercialism? 

i'd love to hear your thoughts.
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #33 of 49: looming tricycle menace (anna) Thu 27 Sep 07 14:21
    

well, i read both of those interesting essays.  the whole idea that white
people comfortably consume rap/hip hop because it's not talking about doing
crimes in white neighborhoods, to white people, or dissing white women, is
good to have out in the open, on the table.  let's talk about personal
responsibility here!  i realize, of course, that i'm out of the loop on a
lot of these cultural discussions, and may be coming to the discussion kind
of late.  i guess i'm sort of glad that i was never so unaware that i was
okay with the "bitches and hos" stuff, i figured it applied to all women,
and that was not, and is not, okay with me.
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #34 of 49: looming tricycle menace (anna) Thu 27 Sep 07 14:24
    

2 slips!

will consider your question, Jeff.
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #35 of 49: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 27 Sep 07 15:20
    


What a great question:  Do you think the arc of cultural change always 
bends toward arch commercialism?

Thinking about this...

Other forces -- including religion, revolution, state control and 
the forces of literacy & science have had impacts on spreading and shaping
mass culture too at times.  

In a sense, cultural change is a pretty new thing, and so is 
the overpowering force of modern commericialism.

Maybe a better statement would be that attention is valuable, and when 
there is a sweeping change in patterns of attention, some element of 
greed will always be triggered. 

Can it be resisted?  The innoculation is for the cultural change to be 
anticommericial, anonymous, small, disaggregated, free, "worthless," 
local... 
 
But then it can't use the powerful channels of commericialism to 
spread itself.  So that's the tension.  
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #36 of 49: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 27 Sep 07 15:23
    
And I say greed, but obviously for an individual with the choice of poverty
or big commericial success, greed is a mischaracterization of the need to
survive. It can become impossible to resist and hard to steer.
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #37 of 49: David Wilson (dlwilson) Thu 27 Sep 07 21:19
    
In popular music, the technology always seems to lead cultural changes
in the music.

Part of the answer concerns types of markets.  For example rock n'roll
was race music that was produced for local and regional markets.  The
national market, represented by the major recording companies at first
shunned rock n' roll.  The independents catered to the local/regional
markets and the audience forced the majors to take notice because of
crossover hits. Didn't something similar happen to the development of
hip-hop?  Another part of the answer has to do with commodification of
the music and commodity fetishism that grows up around such products.
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #38 of 49: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 28 Sep 07 14:05
    
Do you mean distribution technology, not musical intruments there in 
your first line, David?  That's an interesting idea.

Is that technology trendline about access to urban culture for 
those from the burbs and beyond?
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #39 of 49: David Wilson (dlwilson) Fri 28 Sep 07 15:01
    
I meant distribution technology.

When phonograph records first came out, the song publishers thought
that they would lose out.  When radio first came out the record labels
thought they would lose out.  When cassette technology came along, same
thing.  Compact disks were a boon to the record labels.  They ate at
the trough for years while reissuing music on lp to cd.  Now digital
technology is making a qualitative and quantative change in how music
is developed, produced, and distributed.  In each instance the
dinosaurs have to be beatin-up before they realize that the technology
is actually good for their bottom lines.

I don't know how hip hop music and culture made it out to the suburbs
to a crossover market of young teenaged boys and girls.  That is a
question for Jeff.

But it seems to me that the marketing machines of mass media
corporations still had some moves, and they were able to adapt,
harness, commodify, and sell hip hop.  Unlike rock n' roll they had
learned not to dismiss out-of-hand cult or underground phenomena
percolating in local and regional markets.  I think it was generational
in that the record executives were open to it, and they had the
historical example of rock n' roll to refer back to. 

My understanding of hip hop music is that the first productions were
homemade and used primitive technology that had been tinkered together
in Jamaican studios and out in the public performances of sound
systems.  

If you add the ease of reproduction (mixtapes and downloading) and you
give the kids the keys to the production kingdom, you have enabled
local happenings to surface.

All those big dogs had to do then is bottle it and sell it. Art and
quality are another thing though. 
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #40 of 49: Jeff Chang (jeffchang410) Sat 29 Sep 07 22:11
    
Thank you all for these really thought-provoking replies. I'm going to
apologize now for the radio silence. Since Friday I've been in Miami
to participate in the Miami Light Project's Project Hip-Hop, an amazing
weekend of hip-hop theatre and performances. I'll get back to posting
regularly beginning Monday, but I did want to let anyone in the
Miami/Dade area to know that I'll be speaking Sunday at 11am at Books
and Books on Lincoln Road in South Beach on my two books. Please drop
by and introduce yourself if you do come through!
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #41 of 49: What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Sun 30 Sep 07 12:05
    

  . . . and if you're following this conversation on the Interwebs
  and have a question for Jeff or some observations you would like
  to contribute, e-mail us at inkwell@well.com and we can post for
  you (or, become a Well member http://www.well.com/ and *you* can
  post for you)
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #42 of 49: Gail Williams (gail) Sun 30 Sep 07 15:06
    
Sounds like quite a festival.  How'd the reading go?  

And who goes to your readings...  what do they tend to ask about?
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #43 of 49: Lisa Harris (lrph) Sun 30 Sep 07 15:31
    
Wish I could have come to see you in Miami,. Jeff. Unfortunately I was in
Central Florida for the weekend.  Hope it all went well.
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #44 of 49: Jeff Chang (jeffchang410) Mon 1 Oct 07 11:52
    
hey everyone,

i'm back from miami, which was a wonderful experience. i was out there
for an annual festival put together by the miami light project called
project hip-hop that features some of the best national hip-hop
theater, dance, film, and this year, a brief lecture from yours truly. 

i really love these kinds of events because they give a chance for
people to gather and really debate and discuss aesthetic and political
issues, and just to kick it and enjoy some great art. the headliner
this year was the bronx's fine, nationally acclaimed theater company,
universes, who did a stunning showcase of their unique mix of rap,
poetry, and music. if you can catch them on the road--they're in texas
this week i believe--they are one of the most exciting companies
around. 

but a lot of the fun comes from the multigenerational mix that comes
together--children, community leaders, young and old artists,
journalists, activists, and just fans of every possible background you
can imagine. after universes' performance, we all spilled out onto
lincoln road and had long discussions into the night. that's the
hip-hop i've come to love. 
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #45 of 49: Jeff Chang (jeffchang410) Mon 1 Oct 07 12:14
    
gail, david and anna, thanks for stirring up the synapses. i've been
struggling with the question of whether all countercultural movements
are meant to become commercialized and co-opted. this is a popular line
among some intellectuals i admire: naomi klein, thomas frank, joseph
heath and andrew potter. on the other side are colleagues like danyel
smith, greg tate, joan morgan, and even the novelist william gibson,
who seem to me to try to stake out a principled engagement with
countercultures.

i don't consider myself naive or innocent--i'm published by major
houses, my friends work with major labels, i've worked for some of the
corporations i criticize. but there's also a part of me that, fox
mulder-like, just wants to *believe*. and i take solace in w.e.b.
dubois's insights about 'double consciousness'. it would be
intellectually dishonest of me to act like the purist i wanted to be
back when i was in my 20s...

ok, let's go to the question of technology. i am on board with david's
reading of the music industry and technology, and i suspect that
there's a fantastic conversation to be had here about whether the
industry has turned into a dinosaur obsolescence by being so
reactionary to new technology. what do you all think?

and just one last thought: with regards to the point that i think gail
was alluding to in terms of personal technology, lots of times the
question of race and technology has been framed in terms of the digital
divide. i would never deny that the digital divide is an important
issue to address. but i do want to note that hip-hop has been an
amazing example of the opposite trend--socially disenfranchised
populations exploring the implications of new technologies and making
them stylish, from spraypaint to sound mixers to sneaker soles to
pagers to samplers to cell phones to blogs long before they reach the
mainstream...
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #46 of 49: Gail Williams (gail) Mon 1 Oct 07 18:54
    

Years ago i did a college paper on adoption of new ideas and focussed on
the dissemination of fashion information in 19th century America.  (A few
real patterns from Paris by boat, the rise of mail order catalogs with
pictures, all kinds of fun things to consider as the new way to look 
good would slowly spread into the interior, reinterpretted by local 
seamstresses, etc.)

In the research for that little paper, I picked up some very interesting 
texts about how style is transmitted.  The latest tech, be it railroads 
or text messages, is sure to be part of the vector.  Seems to me that
hasn't changed.  

A couple of ideas caught my attention.  

- An author who asserted that the court of Marie Antoinette *invented* 
  the fashion cycle with its arch disdain for last year's style, and 
  that since then, fasion change has served as a placibo for revolution.  
  Not so effectively for Marie, but stronger since then.  (We look 
  radical compared to people x years ago, so we have evolved and rebelled!) 

- Carnaby Street fashion in the 60s, just pre-hippie era in London, 
  changed the entire clothing world.  Top-down designer ideas were 
  the way of the world until then.  At that time, London designers started 
  looking at kids on the street for fashion ideas.  That has not stopped 
  since.
  
  That might mean that the "co-opting" cycle kicked in in the designer 
  clothes world at that time.  It had kicked in to some degree in the 
  music world back inthe jazz and rock&roll eras, I'd guess. 

If those ideas are valid, then high fashion and high finance has a 
thrist and a use for the creativity of the street, and this functions in 
part in preventing the blossoming of an extensive underground.  I don't 
say this in a parnoid way, but in a pattern-observer way.

So sending new tech out to the streets and seeing what comes back is a 
reasonable intentional strategy these days.

Just a thought!  


So Jeff, your book blurb mentions the future of hip hop.

What trends are you seeing?
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #47 of 49: Jeff Chang (jeffchang410) Tue 2 Oct 07 20:14
    
that's brilliant. i've begun doing a bit of research into, of all
things, sneaker culture. in 1986, run dmc had a hit called 'my adidas'.
their manager, a guy named russell simmons, invited adidas officials
to the concert at madison square garden, and when run dmc performed the
song, they asked the crowd to hold their sneakers in the air. the
sight of thousands of kids holding their shelltoes above their heads
just floored the adidas reps. run dmc signed a million dollar
sponsorship deal in weeks. that, plus spike lee and michael jordan
teaming up to push nike, were sort of like carnaby street moments. now
adidas and nike--much less so reebok, which was the #1 company at the
time--actually have high-end designers routinely designing $1000
sneakers for the elite fashion boutique market...

there's a natural cycle of style that occurs in hip-hop. every 3-5
years or so the styles turn over, and it corresponds to the cycle of
style in the neighborhoods--which are literally driven by 16 year-olds.
when they grow up and move on, the next cohort of folks transforms the
style--so that over the course of a few years, there's another shift
that has been completed. it goes to everything from coloring in clothes
to slang to musical styles to dances. if you have access to some urban
16 year olds, esp in nyc or la or miami, you're seeing and hearing the
styles that will filter out to the malls and the mainstream over the
next two-three years.

i think the future is global. i'm doing a big piece right now on
m.i.a., a british sri lankan refugee, and how her particular style and
point-of-view seem to point the way forward. she's been hyped quite a
bit, perhaps overmuch, but behind her, i hear a large world waiting to
make their mark...
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #48 of 49: David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Wed 3 Oct 07 12:19
    
I'd like to thank everyone who participated in what's become a very
interesting discussion on hip-hop culture and beyond, and especially
Jeff for joining us and Anna for driving the conversation.  

We're turning our official focus to another topic, but this
conversation doesn't have to end as long as there are questions to
discuss.
  
inkwell.vue.308 : Jeff Chang's "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"
permalink #49 of 49: looming tricycle menace (anna) Thu 4 Oct 07 15:55
    

thank you, Jeff!  thank you, David!  it was great fun being a part of this
interesting and invigorating conversation.
  



Members: Enter the conference to participate

Non-members: How to participate


Non-members: Please enter your comment or question:
All non-member comments are read before posting. All spam is discarded.

Your email address:
We will only use this email address to contact you for clarification.

Your real name:
Your name will be used to identify your comment if it is posted.



Subscribe to an RSS 2.0 feed of new responses in this topic RSS feed of new responses

 
   Join Us
 
Home | Learn About | Conferences | Member Pages | Mail | Store | Services & Help | Password | Join Us

Twitter G+ Facebook