Something I want to write a bit more about but here's the quick and dirty intuition ...
The modern star system (TheCultOfCelebrity) can be argued to start with EnricoCaruso. But something I'm increasing disturbed by is the world according to HipHop. It's the most explicit, self-aware picture of a world dominated ruthelessly by TheAttentionEconomy. The major theme of rap today is narrowly restricted to discussions of fame and success itself; of the money, sex and power that popularity brings; of the (jealous) haters and doubters that had to be overcome, and the spongers who have been and will have to be excluded from the social network of the artist. Now we see the online media evolving a PowerLaw distribution of attention. Will we some of the same other traits appearing?
It's not that previous generations of rock-stars didn't live the playa lifestyle. It's just that it wasn't the major theme of 95% of their lyrics. Interesting to speculate whether this obsession, in a music still coming largely from the black-community, is a product of the disempowerment of blacks in the US.
Compare HackingIsASickMachoCulture which also discusses an attention culture arising among people are systematically disparaged. Wow! And maybe blogger / online writing culture is like this too?
- Interesting comparison between record industry use of "illegal" mix-tapes (when convenient) and US government : http://www.dashes.com/anil/2007/02/20/holdingagun_t
PhilipBall on rappers' social networks : http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051205/full/051205-8.html
Where the rap network differs from these others, however, is in a property called assortativity. This is a measure of how mixed the collaborations are between highly connected and less connected people. In assortative networks, well-connected individuals tend to prefer to make links with others similar to themselves. "This is a pattern we've seen in most social networks", says Mark Newman, a physicist at the University of Michigan who has studied scientific collaboration networks.
There seems to be no such pattern for rappers. Smith suggests that this might be partly due to commercial competition between successful artists, who are reluctant to lend their cachet to a rival.
What seems more plausible to me, is that a lot of rap collaborations are based on the aesthetic of contrasting styles and voices : commonly gruff rapper and sweet-voiced R'n'B singer.
Comment on GlobalGuerrillas : http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2009/10/rc-journal-entrepreneurship-as-resilience.html?cid=6a00d83451576d69e20120a63488c6970c#comment-6a00d83451576d69e20120a63488c6970c
''For a case study on how communities can resiliently respond to decay, read the chapter "All Aboard the Night Train: Flow, Layering, and Rupture in Postindustrial New York" in Tricia Rose's Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America
According to Rose, New York City had, by the 1970's, evolved from a middle class, blue collar city to one that featured an urban underclass, on the one hand, and a white collar elite, on the other.
The South Bronx, from when hip hop emerged, was particularly disrupted.
She states: "Hip hop culture emerged as a source for youth of alternative identity and social status in a community whose older local support institutions had been all but demolished along with large sectors of its built environment. Alternative local identities were forged in fashions and language, street names, and most important, in establishing neighborhood crews or posses."
The entire chapter expands on this theme.
Hip hop therefore may be a model or at least a source of inspiration for other forms of resiliency.
Something triggered a rant over on Quora :
Sure. I don't expect artists to be saints or even moral. I think my concern, partly triggered by Ross Simmonds answer about Jay selling drugs to "survive", is that rappers' autobiography used to be a sort of social commentary, describing the hardships of life in the underclass and, yes, celebrating the talent and dedication that could bring you out of that situation.
But it feels like, increasingly, this very very generic and clichéd narrative is just being used to normalize the idea that anything is legitimate in pursuit of personal wealth. I'm not anti-drugs. I'm in favour of decriminalization of all of them. But anyone who's selling crack in a poor community is recognisably doing harm there. So it's great to celebrate Jay-Z for escaping that culture and background. I think it's a different matter to celebrate Jay-Z for having that background. (Which Simmonds' answer veers very close to. As do many claims about being "real" or authentic in hip-hop culture.)
The "street-hustler aesthetic" isn't just telling us about people who were dealing, or stick-up kids, or pimps. It's telling us that these routes to success are acceptable and even admirable way to keep things ticking over while you're waiting for your music career to take off.
If it's OK to screw up other kids in the neighbourhood by pushing highly addictive drugs. If it's OK to abuse and sell the girls in your community. If the odd bit of personal assault is just a necessary step up the ladder to a triumphant personal biography, why should we complain about financial wizards looting companies and scamming people into long term debt? What's wrong with calling up armed police to beat OccupyMovement protesters? Why shouldn't the hustlers of the 1% do whatever it takes to maintain their position and push everyone else into penury?
The more you think about it, the more the hustler turned corporate executive narrative looks like being the most pernicious story in contemporary capitalism.
See link on ComposersVsMusicians
See also :
Quora Answer : Is much rap music the best of modern poetry?
"Best" might be contentious and hard to justify.
But I think it would be fair to say that rap is the most vibrant and important current of modern poetry.
Almost every other branch of modern poetry is a very narrow niche with a few fans.
In those other niches you might find poetic geniuses that go far beyond the best rappers, in terms of word-play and imagery and variety of metre etc.
But ... almost no-one is reading or listening to them.
Whereas as rap is a very popular, living tradition of poetry that is inspiring millions who want to copy it and participate in that culture.
Almost certainly, rap is what our age will be recognised for by future generations.
And that more or less guarantees that future generations, apart from a few erudite scholars, will focus on studying the best rappers more than the best of the other genres of poetry.
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