Modern Blackface: The Cultural Appropriation of Rap

Modern Blackface: The Cultural Appropriation of Rap

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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.

Cover Image Credit: mybrownbaby.com

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50 Quotes from the Best Vines

If you're picturing the vines in your head, you're doing it right
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In 2017 we had to say goodbye to one of the best websites to ever roam the internet: Vine. In case you have been living under a rock since 2013, Vine was -(sad face)- a website and app that took the internet and the app store by storm in Winter 2013. It contained 6-second videos that were mostly comedy- but there were other genres including music, sports, cool tricks and different trends. Vine stars would get together and plan out a vine and film it till they got it right.

It was owned by Twitter and it was shut down because of so many reasons; the viners were leaving and making money from Youtube, there was simply no money in it and Twitter wanted us to suffer.

There's been a ton of threads on Twitter of everyone's favorite vines so I thought I'd jump in and share some of my favorites. So without further ado, here are some quotes of vines that most vine fanatics would know.

1. "AHH...Stahhp. I coulda dropped mah croissant"

2. "Nate how are those chicken strips?" "F%#K YA CHICKEN STRIPS.....F%#K ya chicken strips!"

3. "Road work ahead? Uh Yea, I sure hope it does"

4. "Happy Crimus...." "It's crismun..." "Merry crisis" "Merry chrysler"

5. "...Hi Welcome to Chili's"

6. "HoW dO yOu kNoW wHaT's gOoD fOr mE?" "THAT'S MY OPINIONNN!!!.."

7."Welcome to Bible Study. We're all children of Jesus... Kumbaya my looordd"

8. Hi my name's Trey, I have a basketball game tomorrow. Well I'm a point guard, I got shoe game..."

9. "It's a avocadooo...thanks"

10. "Yo how much money do you have?" "69 cents" "AYE you know what that means?" "I don't have enough money for chicken nuggets"

11. "Hurricane Katrina? More like Hurricane Tortilla."

12. "Hey Tara you want some?" "This b*%th empty. YEET!"

13. "Get to Del Taco. They got a new thing called Freesha-- Free-- Freeshavaca do"

14. "Mothertrucker dude that hurt like a buttcheek on a stick"

15. "Two brooss chillin in a hot tub 5 feet apart cuz they're not gay"

16. "Jared can you read number 23 for the class?" "No I cannot.... What up I'm Jared, I'm 19 and I never f#@%in learned how to read."

17. "Not to be racist or anything but Asian people SSUUGHHH"

18. 18. "I wanna be a cowboy baby... I wanna be a cowboy baby"

19. "Hey, I'm lesbian" "I thought you were American"

20. "I spilled lipstick in your Valentino bag" "you spilled- whaghwhha- lipstick in my Valentino White bag?"

21. "What's better than this? Guys bein dudes"

22. "How'd you get these bumps? ya got eggzma?" "I got what?" "You got eggzma?"

23. "WHAT ARE THOSEEEEE?" "THEY are my crocs!"

24. "Can I get a waffle? Can I please get a waffle?"

25. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY RAVEN!" "I can't sweem"

26. "Say Coloradoo" "I'M A GIRAFFE!!"

27. "How much did you pay for that taco?" Aight yo you know this boys got his free tacoo"

28. *Birds chirping* "Tweekle Tweekle"

29. "Girl, you're thicker than a bowl of oatmeal"

30. "I brought you Frankincense" "Thank you" "I brought you Myrrh" "Thank you" "Mur-dur" "huh...Judas..no"

31. "Sleep? I don't know about sleep...it's summertime" "You ain't go to bed?" "Oh she caught me"

32. "All I wanna tell you is school's not important... Be whatever you wanna be. If you wanna be a dog...RUFF. You know?"33. "Oh I like ya accent where you from?" "I'm Liberian" "Oh, my bad *whispering* I like your accent..."

34. "Next Please" "Hello" "Sir, this is a mug shot" "A mug shot? I don't even drink coffee"


35. "Hey did you happen to go to class last week?" "I have never missed a class"

36. "Go ahead and introduce yourselves" "My name is Michael with a B and I've been afraid of insects my entire-" "Stop, stop, stop. Where?" "Hmm?" "Where's the B?" "There's a bee?"

37. "There's only one thing worse than a rapist...Boom" "A child" "No"

38. "Later mom. What's up me and my boys are going to see Uncle Kracker...GIVE ME MY HAT BACK JORDAN! DO YOU WANNA SEE UNCLE KRACKER OR NO?


39. "Dad look, it's the good kush." This is the dollar store, how good can it be?"

40. "Zach stop...Zach stop...You're gonna get in trouble. Zach"

41. "CHRIS! Is that a weed? "No this is a crayon-" I'm calling the police" *puts 911 into microwave* "911 what's your emergency"

42. "WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? "

43. *Blowing vape on table* * cameraman blows it away* "ADAM"

44. "Would you like the spider in your hand?" "Yea" "Say please" "Please" *puts spider in hand* *screams*

45. "Oh hi, thanks for checking in I'm still a piece of garrbaagge"

46. *girl blows vape* "...WoW"

47. *running* "...Daddy?" "Do I look like-?"

48. *Pours water onto girl's face" "Hello?"

49. "Wait oh yes wait a minute Mr. Postman" "HaaaAHH"

50. "...And they were roommates" "Mah God they were roommates"


I could literally go on forever because I just reference vines on a daily basis. Rest in peace Vine

Cover Image Credit: Vine

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The Queen Of Soul Leaves A Story To Tell And A Voice That Cannot Be Replicated

Aretha Franklin may have passed on, but her legacy will live forever.

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On March 25, 1942, Aretha Franklin was born. The daughter of a well-known and highly respected Baptist Minister and Gospel singer from Memphis, Tennessee would soon move to Detroit, Michigan, where Aretha would meet lifelong friends and musical contributors.

Aretha Franklin was engulfed in music from the day she was born and, by the middle of the 1950s, Aretha had learned to play piano and began singing alongside her sisters in the church choir. It was during this time that Franklin first met strong, historical figures, such as Clara Ward, Smokey Robinson, and civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson. These are notable family friends that would stand by Aretha's side many times in the future.

Like many people finding themselves in the spotlight, there is more to Aretha Franklin's story than what is put in the tabloids. There are deeper events in her timeline that contribute to her emotion-filled voice. At the small age of six, Aretha endured her mother's leaving of the family and death four years later.

Aretha began a family of her own at the age of 12. In 1956, Clarence, Franklin's first son was born. Two years after, Aretha gave birth to her son Edward.

In the years that make up the start of the Franklin Clan, Aretha Franklin signed to Columbia Records and moved to New York. Moderate success would be found in the next five years of her music career. In 1961, Aretha Franklin was married and conceived her third child, Teddy Jr., with her newly-wedded husband.

While moderate success is admirable, Aretha signed with Atlantic Records and, in 1967, released an album "I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You" with a hit track of the same name giving Aretha Franklin her first Top 10 hit.

Following the great success of her 1967 album, Aretha moved on to release other critically acclaimed hit songs, including, "Respect," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," "Chain Of Fools" and more, earning her several Grammy awards and the cover of Time Magazine, where her nickname, The Queen Of Soul, was born.

To the outside world, Aretha Franklin was constantly moving up, but, behind closed doors, Aretha's personal life was struggling. Ms. Franklin has a history of arrests for disorderly conduct and reckless driving. She had also developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Franklin divorced her abusive husband, Ted White, and allowed the experience to serve as inspiration in the studio. Aretha was married and gave birth to her fourth son, Kecalf, in the 1970s. The relationship would end in 1984.

Along with her growing popularity as a singer, Aretha Franklin became a symbol of pride for many black Americans during the climax of the Civil Rights Movement. Many women, also looked to Aretha as a strong black woman that is living proof of what Black Women can be.

Aretha Franklin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1987, becoming the first women to ever be listed.

As times changed and music continued to redefine itself, it became difficult for a soul-gospel singer to stay in the spotlight. Nevertheless, Aretha Franklin always found a way to release a hit that transcended the ever-changing boundaries of music. With collaborations, covers, an autobiography, and The Presidential Medal Of Freedom awarded in 2005, Aretha Franklin never left the minds of all who cared to listen and pay attention. She continued to inspire multiple generations and give breath-taking performances that reminded the world why she was, indeed, The Queen Of Soul.

Aretha Franklin spoke to hearts around the world with the utter of one subtle note. Her ability to stay relevant, no matter the age group, amazed but did not surprise. The world knew she was one of a kind. The world knew there was only one Aretha. Through the years, Ms. Franklin never altered to fit in and never strayed away from the type of music she wanted to produce for the happiness of others. Her name alone is a cause for celebration. The amount of records she holds is mind-boggling. Her music narrated, not only her personal endeavors but the lives of people worldwide. A personal connection can be made when listening to any of her songs. Aretha Franklin is a standing ovation within herself.

Little did the outside world know, Ms. Franklin had been battling illness for years, behind-the-scenes. Although occasional rumors would ring of her health, Aretha dodged all questions and killed all concerns with poise and a brilliant smile. She did not want the world to know of her health issues, no matter how small. A longtime friend of Aretha Franklin told People Magazine, "She has been ill for a long time, She did not want people to know and she didn't make it public." Word spread of a battle between Aretha Franklin and Pancreatic Cancer for many years, although, of course, no confirmation or details were given on the matter.

It started to become hard to hide the ailing condition of The Queen once shows frequently began to be canceled, due to doctors orders. Aretha had announced in February of 2017 that she would be retiring from music, but may take the stage at select events. Franklin was true to her word and returned to the stage in August of 2017 and at the Elton John AIDS Foundation's Enduring Vision benefit gala in November of the same year. Fans became highly concerned by the more than noticeable shift in Aretha Franklin's appearance.

A close friend of the phenomenal singer told TMZ, "she could go at any time," and mentioned that she was down 85 lbs. This information was given two weeks ago. Unfortunately, better updates did not follow.

On the morning of Thursday, August 16, 2018, The Queen Of Soul, Aretha Franklin passed away. She leaves behind her soul-touching music, a record of more than 20 chart-topping R&B; hits and 18 Grammy wins, and anthems that will live for ages. She is survived by her four sons.

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever, and, while the physical body that is Aretha Franklin has moved on to Glory, the teachings and inspirations of her soul shall live forever. Like many idols before her, it is indeed hard to say goodbye, but let us be grateful for the time we had to witness the greatness that is Aretha Louise Franklin. May she rest in sound peace.

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