Modern Blackface: The Cultural Appropriation of Rap
Entertainment

Modern Blackface: The Cultural Appropriation of Rap

19306
mybrownbaby.com

The tradition of African American satire first manifested itself out of necessity: a simple coded joke, in the presence of white oppressors.

But over time African American satire has become more layered and complicated — reflecting the progression of black identity in America. Increasingly, African American humor became heavily coded and drenched in what W.E.B Du Bois would call “double consciousness.” Although the days of slavery and segregation are over, there is a different strain or racism that still plagues the United States. It disguises itself as a joke, reinforcing black stereotypes and burrowing itself deep under the surface of American culture.

The rap genre in general seemingly panders to these stereotypes instead of deconstructing them. While there are a myriad of examples from the genre that could potentially fall into this category, this is an assumption that dismisses the possibility that modern rap is simply another manifestation of African American satire. There is a growing strain of rappers that feel rap is a vessel to rewrite black identity beyond the racial stereotypes typically associated with the rap genre through satire. The backpack rappers, alternative rappers more concerned with the underground than prime real estate are being thwarted, however, by those who appropriate black culture for sales.

Rap emerged at the heels of the Civil Rights Movement. It was a way to bring attention to important social issues within the black community. It was the music that helped characterize a revolution in race relations. It was a way to survive a world where discrimination, racism, and notions of inferiority were still a reality despite the fact that the Civil Rights Movement was legislatively successful. Coded language and jokes resurfaced in rap in order to mobilize a movement.

In the case of modern rap, it functions in direct opposition with the newest antagonist of the rap narrative: cultural appropriation fueled by the capitalist machine and notions of color blindness.

In America, the game of forcing a subculture to submit is no longer in vogue. There’s a new game called “consensual domination,” a term coined by Simona Hill and Dave Ramsaran in their research about Hip-Hop and Inequality, where the dominant culture takes away the subculture’s ability to say “no” to domination by allying with key players from any particular subculture in order to embed submission into the culture’s identity. Consent is “manufactured” rather than forced. In our color-blind, capitalist society, Hip-Hop serves as a capitalist game piece to advance social stratification and keep the dominant culture dominant. Modern rap uses satire to fight against the cultural colonization that is increasingly pervasive in the rap industry.

Being considered “too white” to rap was not an issue in the rap genre until the dual emergence of the prevalence of white rapper appropriation and the alternative rapper. This idea of being “too white” is only bestowed upon black rappers who don’t sound “gangsta” enough or “thug” enough to be considered a Black rapper. This is a classification that emerged as a result of new inequality that has entered the rap genre as it becomes more integrated. This is not to say that there shouldn’t be white rappers, but rather this obsession with pigeonholing Black vernacular in rap to just one type of sound needs to cease. In Childish Gambino’s song “Backpackers,” he describes himself the way other people in the industry see him:

“that well-spoken token that ain’t been heard
the only white rapper who’s allowed to say the N word.”
Donald Glover in “Bonfire” music video

Gambino is not white. He’s black, but he people in the industry do not associate him with his Black identity because he doesn’t attempt to adopt a sound that is not his.

Somewhere along the way, Hip-Hop became more about edge and less about the content of the message. It became about sales and the more white people, who had potentially never been truly exposed to Black culture firsthand, began to buy the music, the music inevitably had to change. The music had to change from reality to perceived reality. If it didn’t make white, suburban youth feel so grateful to live in suburbia where life is not “rough, ” then the music had not accomplished its purpose. Rap is perceived as deviant — a way to rebel against parents and to hear and learn about topics possibly too taboo to bring up at the family dinner table. The white community finding ways to identify with struggles portrayed in rap music is not a bad a thing. However, it becomes problematic when the point is missed entirety for the sake of identification. Hip-Hop has come to represent “the rebelliousness of youth” rather than the rebelliousness of the individual seeking to perpetuate real change.


Tire marks, tire marks, finish line with the fire marks
When it really starts I’m a runaway slave-master
-Iggy Azaela, D.R.U.G.S.

Iggy Azalea rose to fame in early 2014, with her Grammy-nominated single “Fancy.” In 2014, she won the Grammy for the favorite artist of the year. Her music has been a source of controversy, as she continues to spew racially charged, questionable lyrics. In “Fancy,” Azalea’s display of superiority is pervasive. There’s no humor, nuance, or perspective. She’s just fancy. It’s bland, it’s stale, and it’s uninspired.

It doesn’t take much effort to find words that rhyme with “me” and “good.” Iggy takes a piece of “land” (rap) that doesn’t belong to her and digging in her white flag of privilege. In the context of history, this is colonization. As she adopts a southern twang native to parts of Georgia, like Atlanta, she both stereotypes rap and appropriates it. This is a two-fold endeavor that complicates both her misdemeanor and its effect on Black identity.

Iggy Azalea is a prime example of cultural appropriation within the rap sphere because of the way she uses language, linguistically. Because rap is so heavily rooted in identity, there’s a lot of focus on the way one already talks. By taking on this persona without any real attempt to tackle issues relevant to the community she is “paying homage to,” Azaela enforces an acceptance of already existing black stereotypes without adding anything new.

When attacked by people who say that she is practicing cultural appropriation, Azalea insists that she deserves to be part of Hip-Hop culture. She doesn’t find it strange that she’s a white rapper in a predominantly “black genre.” She states:

“If you go back to the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley and Eminem — they’ve all basically done black music. I felt this wasn’t that far from what we’ve seen in music history over and over again.”

In his webpage “White Rapper FAQ,” Comedian Aamer Raman describes what exactly makes Azalea offensive:

“A white rapper like Iggy Azalea acts out signifiers which the white majority associates with black culture — hyper sexuality, senseless materialism, an obsession with drugs, money and alcohol — as well as adopting clothing, speech and music — as a costume that they can put on and discard at will. It’s a cheap circus act.”
Raman compares Azalea’s perfromance to blackface. 
(Image courtesy of Aamer Rahman)

Azalea is not attempting peaceful coexistence.

The danger, however, is not her (or others like her) mere presence in the industry. It is her failure and refusal to truly understand the context of rap and it’s an easy mistake to make. Rap music and Hip-Hop culture provides easy, instant access to the black community to those who might be far removed either socially, geographically or both. However, despite being in the industry, Azalea (like the suburban youth she sells her music to) manages to maintain a safe distance from the actual culture from which her genre was birthed.

Striking a balance between taking part of a culture that didn’t originate from your community and colonizing that culture can be a challenging endeavor. There is a very clear distinction between “paying homage” to something you admire and culturally appropriating it. The act of paying homage becomes cultural appropriation when a dominant culture attempts to take a subculture entirely for their own devices, leaving nothing for the subculture.

Wanting to take part in a culture that does not belong to you is valid and necessary to fully understanding other human beings. It becomes problematic when there is not attempt to understand others and instead, a sound or a cultural nuance is considered novel and therefore marketable. This is where the true issue lies because this is where inequality is perpetuated. This is how stereotypes evolve from benign to something much more dangerous, of L.A. race riot proportions — where a human being is no longer a human being, but rather a set of preconceived notions that help enforce the dominant culture’s superiority.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Health and Wellness

This Survey Shows How Quarantine And Drinking Relate, And I Can't Say I'm Surprised

"5 o'clock somewhere" is more of a guideline now than ever.

As it stands, and my friends and I are finally 21. We're extremely excited to be able to go out to bars and "get lit" as the kids say, but due to the pandemic, all of our plans have been put on hold. We'd rather wait and go when it's safe than risk spreading the infection and hurting our loved ones. So, we've all been quarantining apart, getting on the occasional wine zoom call. This made me wonder if anyone else our age were doing the same thing.

Then, I discovered this survey: We Surveyed Millennials And Gen Z About Their Quarantine Drinking Habits — Cheers. Here are 3 things that I discovered through the survey results.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

5 Easy Summer Mocktail Recipes You Can Make With Items You Probably Already Have On-Hand

Keep these drinks in mind next time you're visiting your local farmer's market — you might want to grab some extra mint and limes.

With Summer 2020 in full swing comes the addition of many fresh fruits and vegetables to brighten up your dinner plate, but also your glass! Farmers markets are my personal favorite place to look for produce that is in season to make fun mocktails with.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

5 Ways To Celebrate The 4th of July — Without Fireworks Or Social Gatherings

We created a list of things to do since social distancing may create a dent in our typical, planned traditions.

With the Fourth of July on Saturday, the usual tradition of popping fireworks, grilling out, and being surrounded by family has been modified due to the pandemic. Whether you're a loner or surrounded by family, there will most likely be some changes to your celebrations.

For weeks on social media, people across the country have been complaining that they have been subjected to fireworks going off at all times of the night into the early morning. This has sparked concern and questions about why this is happening and how are people even obtaining the fireworks.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

Carb And Cheese Lovers, Unite — These Are The Best Mac And Cheese Recipes On The Internet

Whether you need to get through the current pandemic or want to spice up your Fourth of July celebrations, these mac and cheese recipes will do just that.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BxIKdnMHcGr/

My favorite food is mac and cheese, and it always has been. All it requires is noodles and cheese — it's so simple to make. Although it's my favorite, it can also get kind of mundane because it's such a simple recipe. This, of course, has led to many people all over the world experimenting with the American staple.

With our lives currently being turned upside down due to the pandemic, a lot of people are seeking comfort. These are scary times, and in order to make it day-to-day, we need to have our favorite foods as a standby. These recipes can also be used during your celebration of the Fourth of July.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

17 Things To Make You Feel GOOD This Week

Because some purchases are just necessary.

Y'all, we're struggling. You don't even have to tell me, I know. What a mess we're all in, right? This year is not going how we planned and the world has turned into one giant struggle bus. I guess you could be super philosophical about everything happening for a reason, but sometimes life is just hard.

There are plenty of ways to bring yourself out of whatever rut you're in. You could go for a run, have a snack, or read a book. Or, if you're really looking for an adrenaline rush, go shopping. This is obviously not going to solve the world's problems with one swift click of the "checkout" button, but hey, it may just give you the little boost you need today.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Wore A Butt Mask Every Day For A Month, And It's Officially Essential In My Daily Self-Love Routine Now

Thirty days later, my booty's as smooth as a baby's.

- Blissfully unaware that butt-care beyond squats was even something I should be considering in my self-care routine, I tried one of Bawdy Beauty's butt masks for the first time a month ago.

- I've never really given my butt a second though till I took a look at improvements that could be made with the mask — if one of the hydrating, firming, detoxifying, or brightening masks in the kit I received could either smooth out cellulite or tone my skin a bit more, I wasn't going to complain.

- Each Bawdy Beauty sheet mask comes in an individually-packaged sheet, soaked with a serum I massaged into my skin after removing said sheet. The clay butt mask comes in a convenient stick format I simply draw on to my skin and leave to set for about 10 minutes before hopping into the shower.

- I set a goal of committing myself to butt-care every day for one month. Between the regular use of sheet masks, clay masks, and their CBD Butt Balm in between, I didn't have many expectations.

- I thought the whole concept may just be a gimmick, but my butt has never looked so toned in my life, and the cellulite I had is almost completely gone. I wear one every single day when I get the chance.

I'm incredibly skeptical when it comes to marketing ploys and gimmicks in the beauty world. I'll be the first cynic to try out the latest serum on the market every influencer is raving about just to negate every grandiose claim it makes.

Keep Reading... Show less

Friends, you don't have to be quarantined to use a personal massager, you know? Because, sure, quarantine made for a lot of extra quality time with yourself, but no matter what phase of the reopening process you're in, it's normal and actually healthy to take care of your sexual needs on your own.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

5 Books I Didn't Realize Are About Gay Women

If you read primarily LGBTQ fiction, then this list might help to expand your TBR list.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Frequent readers of LGBTQ fiction might feel like they're reading the same book over and over again, with few exceptions.

Most of these books were on my TBR list for months and I didn't realize they were about gay women until I was reading them, hopefully, this list of books can interest you in expanding your reading material and seeking out different stories.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments