5.29.2008

Hip Hop, huh?

My interest in hip hop began back in junior high, when I first began to be consciously aware of race - others and my own. Listening to music that was largely produced by Black people was one way for me, a young White girl, to comfortably explore one small aspect of a culture with which I had little interaction and of which I had little knowledge. By the time I got to high school, I'd grown extremely interested in the history of race in America, in the roots of racial tension here, and in the social movements throughout history that have attempted to address racial inequity. Much of the music that I sought out at that time was related - some loosely, some directly - to those interests. Then college brought me to the Bronx, the birthplace of hip hop, and there I learned the history of the genre/social movement and it's connections to these issues that had interested me for so long. While I'm saddened by the gross turn that mainstream hip hop has taken in recent years, with so much focus on money, violence, and exploitation of women, the roots of hip hop (along with some amazing underground hip hop that doesn't get recognition in the media) remain near and dear to my heart.
Being as interested in race relations as I am, this New York Time's article about race and gentrification talks in Portland (with specific mentions of the street on which I work) caught my eye this morning. Portland is a rather White and segregated city, which has given me a very different experience of race than that which I had in New York City. Read and discuss.

fence, alberta street

10 comments:

ambika said...

It's funny having grown up in Seattle where I took certain demographics & their cultural presence for granted. With the *rapid* gentrification here, that's changing very quickly and it is very hard to watch.

I love how they touched on taking the bus because you're poor, not because you're green. As someone who once belonged to the latter and now belongs to the former, it's a very strange thing to see both sides of that coin.

Tyra said...

Are you sure we are not sisters somehow? While I don't associate hip hop music to race relations, I am passionate, sometimes to a fault, about the history and present of race relations in this country. In undergrad, I took my first of many African American History related classes, and my professor was this amazing white woman, who taught with such conviction and understanding. You are full of surprises, lady.

kate said...

i thought that article was hilarious and right on in regards to the ridiculous earnestness/naivete of the "progressive" nature of portland and many portlanders. its so easy to pat ourselves on the back and feel so open and liberal when we are never really, truly confronted by the things we are so open and liberal about.

amandajean said...

now it all makes sense. ;)

Mariss said...

Very interesting, and the article was good to read too. I definitely have conflicted feelings on all of it, and do live in an area in Philly that is on the cusp and kind of being gentrified. However, I live there since I'm trying to live within my means.

An odd thing with me (race-wise) is that because my mom is from the Philippines and my dad from New Jersey, I look like a mutt and people often assume I am whatever culture they are. Or it could be that I grew up in South Florida which was truly a melting pot of cultures and diversity.

Either way, it's great you're aware of this stuff, and I have the utmost respect for you. I think that "true" hip hop does promote diversity and different cultures, as opposed to a lot of rap that focuses on materialism and other things you mentioned. Not truly uplifting.

My 2 cents. Back to work :)

holly said...

My 2 favorite comments: “It’s upper-middle-class progressivism” & “Portland prefers its diversity in fresh packaging”
Very interesting and thought provoking article. I should probably leave it at that though.
I do miss NYC where diversity really is common and you don’t think twice about seeing a different color face from your own.

Knitsonya said...

I decidedly did not listen to rap or hip hop when I was growing up. I was a Madonna/Wham listening teenybopper that went more the route of the nostalgic-punk anger of The Sex Pistols to channel my angst.

But my teenage son listens and vicariously I listen. And while I am not an aficionado by any means, I've come to know what I like.

As for race relations. Wow. I have to agree that here in San Francisco, if you're riding around the bus in the middle of the day - your bus mates are people who cannot drive. It's the fringe of society that doesn't necessarily pertain to race, the elderly and the mentally ill. Then around three the kids and teens.

As for gentrification and it's ills, I had a really rude awakening to it as there was a proposed site move for my daughter's school and one of the choices had such a vehement negative reaction. People used every justification under the sun - lack of transportation, too far, pollution (there is a superfund site near), crime. So is it any wonder that it is all these things and still a predominantly black neighborhood?

amisha said...

so interesting susan... thank you for pointing out this article! this has been on my mind lately as i'm looking for an apartment here and those issues always seem to be implicated. there is an article in new york this month on brooklyn that has really got me thinking as well. being a southerner who has lived in 2 incredibly segregated cities in louisiana, race and its interaction with space are something i think about a lot.
xox

Robyn said...

Love that you brought this up. When I went back to teaching this past semester, I was more exposed to some of the "hip hop" being played nowadays. And I was not happy. They call this hip hop? I just wanted to shake all of my students who listen to the mainstream stuff. The thing is, if hip hop grew out of a need to talk about what you knew, then some of these artists nowadays who are being handed million dollar contracts and signing bonuses before they even go in the studio can only really talk about money, power, respect (um, I think that was Lil' Kim) and all that that money can buy. And I can't stand that type of materialism, so it turns me off completely.
We don't listen to a ton of music anymore, but every once in awhile, we go on youtube and get our fill of the old school stuff. If/when our kids start listening to hip hop, I've gotta make sure they hear the good stuff so they can listen accordingly. But then, Don't Call it a comeback.

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