Thursday, August 9, 2012

Music, Privilege, Cultural Appropriation, and My (Lack of) Cool

A friend and I got in a chat about music recently, and it illustrates about me one of those "I contain multitudes" aspects which I cultivate and love for keeping me from sinking into (pop-/cultural) stagnation, but of which I tend not to make a very public point.  I tend to be extremely sensitive to my state of privilege and the extent to which moving outside its generally-defined boundaries  is less a mark of nonconformity or sensitivity, and more a mark of cultural appropriation.  So, while I sometimes enjoy surprising people by knowing diddly-squat about those things outside my prescribed limits (and knowing nothing about, say, Josh Grobin and many of those things I am supposed to give a crap about), I never ever claim ownership nor expertise on art, and particularly music, especially that born of those lacking the level of entitlement my pigmentation and luck confer on me.

Friend:        i actually rediscovered one very good song recently
Friend:        not sure if you would like it though
D:               ohh what?
D:               Unless it's greasy contemporary country I'm probably in
D:               :-D
Friend:        its a hip hop song, but done with piano
Friend:        and its more moving than most
Friend:        its brings most people to tears or goosbumps
D:               I love hip hop.  And rap.
D:               It's a little sad, but I love Ice T and Snoop
Friend:        lol
Friend:        not really sad there, more funny
D:               well it might make THEM sad!
D:               :-)
Friend:        lol
D:               Nas is a good one for giving the occasional emotional goosebump too
Friend:        oh yeah he is
D:               That is one SMART man
D:               Who is this?  I'm not recognizing
Friend:        group by the name of atmosphere
D:               very nice
Friend:        he does a number of soulful songs
D:               His voice is sharp
D:               A lot of hip hop has become so produced its essence is lost
Friend:        which is why i hunt down the good ones
Friend:        k'naan is also a good one
D:               but you go back and listen to OLD scool - Rakim, or some of the guys like Nas who eschew new production and glitz
D:               it can really get you
D:               Rakim is dizzying.  
Friend:        need to look him up
D:               Definitely
D:               "Lyrics of Fury" will not lull you or feel beautiful but I think it's probably elementally Rakim
D:               he's failry early - and you can hear the forms which have since been used and debased
D:               It's perhaps a bit odd for me as a middle-aged, privileged white woman to act like I know anything, but when I really started listening I also did some reading as well because I wanted more than just to graze the edges.
D:               "It Was a Good Day" is a hair-raising song whose popularity sometimes obscures its power I think.  Coolio has done the same to himself.  He has serious talent but his hooks are so infectious you can miss it.

At the end of the day, it's all very self-congratulatory for a woman like me to preen about ... not precisely being a woman like me ... but it doesn't make me something *else* in any honest sense.  The culture of rap and hip hop aren't the fashion accessory some have succeeded in making out of it, and I don't want to be the insufferable dilettante accessorizing with cred I cannot legitimately earn.

So I like what I like.  Sometimes, I make a point of learning a little bit about it, out of respect and interest (this moves far beyond music; as a history and research geek, I've studied everything from the art and histopry of sari, to 19th-century jewelry, to the history of Catholicism in an effort to understand different things).  But usually, I just like what I like.  The Ices T and Cube can do with that what they like, which would probably be ignoring nits like me.  But I hope it legitimizes me, if not as a member of something I'm not, then at least as a consumer - and a member of the *whole* world I do live in.

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