The More You Know: Media and Power

Case Studies from UW Bothell Media & Communication Studies

Race Within Rap


Most commonly used within black culture, Hip Hop and Rap are genres that have proven to be the most influential across the nation. Throughout the previous decades of rap, black artists have thrived with inspirational stories on their life journeys and dedicated lyrics to voice themselves to the world. But as the generations grow, White artists in these genres seem to be constructing a mark and making themselves known. This has become controversial topic as many feel the trends and tone of rap are being changed due to white artists. The politics of hip hop and rap are beginning to revolutionize as the  power of hip hop and rap are dictated by white artist fame. This in return destroys the meaning that made rap and hip hop so impactful to begin with.

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The reasons people (mostly black artists and fans) are so upset with this change in race over hip hop is that mainstream media is able to manipulate the new content with the white artists and filter what they want to be shown to the public. This for one, gives the idea to the public into giving hip hop a new identity, as well as shames the craftsmanship and culture of original hip hop. As stated in Clarence Lusane’s “Rap, race and politics”, he claims ” rap is the packaging and marketing of social discontent by some of the most skilled ad agencies and largest record producers in the world… Its also this duality that has given rap its many dimensions and flavours; its spiraling matrix of empowerment and reaction” (Lusane). The identity of rap and hip hop is controlled by this marketing aspect only searching for the artist and content who will provide the most profit rather than meanings and voice that the genre is intended to be made for.

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In relation to this, a couple years back when Macklemore won the grammy over Kendrick Lamar, it exhibited these same political issues. Because of how mainstream music is marketed, black music becomes white washed. This enrages black artist because it’s a competition to be recognized for skill and achievement rather than just simple fame. It’s the white privilege that continues to be an ongoing cycle of unfairness for cultured artist. The performance of white artists blasted through media has become a distraction through performance from the music itself. In relation to Hall’s “Representation”, this concept is similar to his theory on sharing codes. How people belong to the same culture, share conceptual maps, write in the same culture, speak the same language, the issue lies that many white artist trying to perform rap are not accepted because others feel they do not share the same culture. Although language and style share the same, the coding is still unconfirmed by others through disconnect of race (Hall). In David Croteau’s “The Business of Media” he explores the concept of a market model and what values it holds. it is explains that a good market promotes responsiveness, flexibility and innovation.

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But its not just due to the artist themselves that all this change happens. The major reason is due to the fans they preach. We have to first look back in time at the first generations of rap and hip hop artists. At this time there were barely a handful, but the white audience and white america was still prominent. With artist like 2Pac, Biggie, Ice Cube, NWA, and other major groups preaching the struggles black people face, it became a main page view that only the blacks were the ones going along with these struggles. In fact, white rappers have been around from the start, but never receive the same kind of credit due to the racial problems that society faced in history.  With rap and hip hop rising to be one of the most successful music genre’s, this gave many people the marketed intention to start writing and performing in these genre’s. But only because history has backed up inequality in black racial groups, only the black gained the credentials needed to become famous in rap and hip hop. In David Croteau’s “The Business of Media” he explores the concept of a market model and what values it holds. it is explains that a good market promotes responsiveness, flexibility and innovation. In the sense of the market of music, the market does just this. Music companies are able to release white artist to create a reaction for more popularity, increase the flexibility for whites to be part, as well as spike up innovation for all thinking that they to can become an artist. This is all due to the changing market model. As the generation grows into a more acceptive and less racist standard, the upbringing of white artist along with other race groups gives them the potential to market themselves as equally as black artist. The politics of rap and hip hop are changing due to this marketing evolution.

“Why racism haunts Macklemore’s Grammy victory over Kendrick Lamar.” Rolling Out. N.p., 27 Jan. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

“White Rappers and Hip-Hop’s Race Problem.” Rap Rehab. N.p., 27 May 2016. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

Preezydakid. “What It Means to Be White in Hip-Hop in 2015.” The Boombox. N.p., 25 Nov. 2015. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

Williams, Stereo. “Too Many White Hip-Hop Fans Don’t Give a Shit About Black People.” The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company, 02 May 2015. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

“The Politics of Race in Rap.” Harvard Political Review. N.p., 05 Nov. 2015. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

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