The Commodification of Black Music

What is Commodification?

Similar to cultural appropriation, commodification is the act of treating something-or someone-as nothing more than a commodity. The key difference between the two being that appropriation revolves around the idea of borrowing certain aspects of another culture, while commodification consist of majorities using a disadvantaged culture for personal or monetary gain.

Why is This Relevant?

 Black music has become a primary distributor in capitalist production and consumption. African Americans constitute the majority of hip-hop culture such as rap artists, dancers, producers and DJ’s, and have become dependent on white dominated America as its primary distributor and consumer.

How does this affect the black community?

Initially, much of black music served as a means of freedom of expression for black African Americans in hip-hop culture; artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, and Jay-Z dominate popular culture as some of the top rap artists, utilizing music to incorporate subliminal messages about black oppression as a form of popular culture that is both liberating and progressive. The social hierarchy and structure that produced the oppression of black and minorities (the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy) seem to have control over minorities with white-dominated mainstream media being its primary market and consumer. It is the white supremacist institutes that are profiting off of rap artists as chief controllers.

Commodification in negro spirituals

In the early stages of the development of African American music , the most prominent instance of commodification were minstrel shows, in which whites found monetary benefit in emulating what they saw to be black behavior for entertainment. Eventually white composers would publish books composed of negro spirituals and slave hymns. Slaves lack the ability to profit from these distribution making this a direct profit off of the plight of a disenfranchised people.

Commodification in Blues and Ragtime

The prevalence of minstrel shows gave way to the popularity of the ragtime genre most of which were composed by African American artists. despite this, white people reaped a vast majority of its profits due to the fact that most African American music artists did not know how to compose sheet music. The same dilemma allowed white artists (such as W.C Handy) to take credit for black sound.

Commodification and appropriation in HIp-Hop

What began in the 1970s as a cultural expression created to provide an outlet from the destitute urban inner cities, through the control of corporate America, hip-hop has now become profitable through packaging and distributing the commodification of ‘black rage’ for mainstream consumption and enjoyment. In addition, non-black artists profit from emulating black caricatures and partaking in African American culture.

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