The Whitewashing of Hip Hop Culture
The debate of cultural appropriation still rages on, from hair to clothing, to tattoos, and even evolving into music genres as well. Not too many years ago, Miley Cyrus sang along to a deep beat in her “rap debut” We Can’t Stop, which added the question of what to do when a white girl of that magnitude and popularity loved black culture.
There was a similar feeling with the takeover of Eminem. As the rapper moved throughout the scene with movie soundtracks and his most popular song to date “Love the Way You Lie (feat. Rihanna).”, people started to wonder if this was the future for rap and hip-hop. People wondered if Eminem would be the next Elvis and capitalize on the transformation of rap, similar to what happened with rock ‘n’ roll and jazz. Fast forward to the 2013 VMA’s and the award for Best Hip-Hop Video went to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. In that same year, the VMAs had Robin Thicke and Ryan Lewis doing their dance routine on stage, which was criticized by nearly everyone.
We call hip-hop a black thing because it is a black thing. It emerged in the minds of black and brown individuals that went through the racism of their country and peers, and the shared poverty from a society that did not want to give them anything. As the takeover of rap from other countries rose, so did something else; the power of those doing the taking.
When those in power appropriate from the oppressed, then the imbalance truly starts to show. White people hoard power in a way similar to Hungry Hungry Hippos, and in the case of cultural appropriation, they benefit from the things they have stolen while those in the oppressed categories are still falling short.
White people are not penalized for flaunting black culture, rather, they are rewarded for doing so. In the case of box braids, black women are often called ghetto or ratchet, while white women who wear box braids are called urban and hip. White people who often wear dreadlocks are called hippies while black people that wear dreadlocks are associated with drugs and crime.
In the case of popular white rapper Post Malone, he is often idolized for his drug habits while black rappers are demonized for the same drug use. Another example can be with rapper Eminem and his song “Love the Way You Lie”. Careful listening of shows it to be about a possible abusive relationship between two lovers and refers to things such as a desire to murder each other, physical fighting, and verbal abuse. Even though the song has these undertones (shown clear int he the music video), the song spent many weeks on the charts and had numerous radio spins.
As pointed out by Niki Minaj and J. Cole, there had been a time where white rappers dominated the iTunes charts under the categories of hip-hop/rap while black artists were nowhere to be found. Only 1 spot of Minaj’s 10 place screenshot has all black artists. J. Cole backs her up, saying that because she pointed out the disproportions on the charts, she was labeled as angry and bitter by commentators.
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