I recently watched an excerpt from a PBS documentary that premiered in January calledBlacking Up: Hip-Hop’s Remix Of Race And Identity which explores the musical stereotypes that permeate rap and hip-hop culture, especially the idea that those forms of music are culturally considered “black” and that white MCs are “wannabes” or “wiggers.” It’s interesting to think that in today’s world, rappers like Eminem are seen as “not black enough” while singers like Darius Rucker can sing country music (plus formerly be part of alternative rock band, Hootie & The Blowfish) and no one thinks anything of it. Music is something that spans all generations, nationalities, and creeds, yet people still tap into stereotypes rather than embrace white MCs for who they are: music enthusiasts that have something equally important to bring to the table. Is it stereotypical for white rappers, DJs, and hip-hop artists to “act black” or is it part of the color-blindness that we’ve all been striving for?
This documentary is focused on America’s hip-hop industry and the parallels made from history that bring us to where we are today. For example, in recent months, renowned black rapper Jay-Z today has been seen side-by-side on the Billboard charts with white MC, Eminem. Both are extremely successful, yet Eminem has drawn controversy as “trying to be black” and not being a “real rapper.” However, Jay-Z never has had this problem because he’s the “majority” of what rap stereotypes exemplify: strong rhyme-spitter, “ghetto,” and black. In the excerpt of this documentary, it starts off in a suburb with a predominantly white population and makes us consider: should white people be able to listen to and make “our” music?
Furthermore, is it really “our” music to be claimed? White rappers, hip-hop artists, and R&B singers get a lot of flack for supposedly trying to “be” us, but what is it really? Are they maliciously “stealing” our culture or is it just imitation because it’s “cool” to like the newest Chris Brown track or Flo Rida rhyme? While there are always multiple variables involved when examining a culture and why certain “acts” are favored over others, is this reverence of black MCs a backwards form of racism in the music industry? While that might be a heavily debated argument that’s left unclear by this documentary, they show a balance of arguments that strongly examine what people really think of the “black” music industry today.
The documentary also examines history to see where the line is between “mocking” black culture and imitating it by asking well-known rappers, fans, and hip-hop enthusiasts alike: what IS “black” music really and why are white MCs seen as “wannabes” and “wiggers” for trying to be apart of that culture? Being apart of this culture, it’s interesting to see how much it’s changed over the years, but I’m curious about what you think about how white culture has been steadily embracing the MC roles and what it means for the future of hip-hop and “black” music.
See the excerpt below for yourself and add your comments to this debate. For more information on the documentary, Blacking Up: Hip-Hop’s Remix Of Race And Identity, click here.