Panel 08: Authenticity and Appropriation in Popular Music

Abstract Title

Hood—xploitation: White People Performing the Black American Ghetto in Popular Music

Presenter Information

Clitha MasonFollow

Start Date

14-2-2015 2:00 PM

End Date

14-2-2015 3:20 PM

Abstract

Some 19th century white performers experienced great success based on their appropriations of Blackness in various areas of American popular culture. Currently non—Blacks performing Blackness continue to be successful in popular entertainment. The 1927 film, The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson is an iconic film for several reasons, including Jolson’s blackface performances. Jolson’s character--Jakie Rabinowitz, uses minstrelsy in purging some social anxieties associated with being Jewish in America. Ultimately, “blackening up” creates wealth and fame for Rabinowitz, who performs for primarily white audiences. A resurgence of white artists performing Blackness in American popular culture occurred during the 1990s. Global expansion of Hip Hop has sustained this practice and it has proliferated in current popular culture. Since blackface is considered demeaning and therefore taboo, non-Black performers create other ways to perform Blackness. One way that performers accomplish this now is by appropriating the American ghetto/Black aesthetic. As one alternative to the minstrelsy of corking up like Jolson and his contemporaries, many non—Black performers now use “blackvoice”— that is, appropriating the language, dialect, sounds and the experiences of the Black American ghetto. Performance of the hood is especially popular today among white women performers. Many of these women and girls have little or no real experience regarding the Black American ghetto; however, they are often rewarded by their respective industries for their performances of hood, often in lieu of the actual artists from American ghettos. For this paper I explore several female artists in contemporary global popular culture such as Iggy Azalea, Kreayshawn and Brooke Candy, to name a few. These women appropriate Black American ghetto aesthetics in their vocal and visual performances and they are part of the long tradition of white artists who perform Blackness in the American popular culture and in the current global popular culture.

Keywords: appropriation, Black, blackface, Blackness, blackvoice, ghetto, hood, Iggy Azalea, Kreayshawn, minstrelsy

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Feb 14th, 2:00 PM Feb 14th, 3:20 PM

Hood—xploitation: White People Performing the Black American Ghetto in Popular Music

Some 19th century white performers experienced great success based on their appropriations of Blackness in various areas of American popular culture. Currently non—Blacks performing Blackness continue to be successful in popular entertainment. The 1927 film, The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson is an iconic film for several reasons, including Jolson’s blackface performances. Jolson’s character--Jakie Rabinowitz, uses minstrelsy in purging some social anxieties associated with being Jewish in America. Ultimately, “blackening up” creates wealth and fame for Rabinowitz, who performs for primarily white audiences. A resurgence of white artists performing Blackness in American popular culture occurred during the 1990s. Global expansion of Hip Hop has sustained this practice and it has proliferated in current popular culture. Since blackface is considered demeaning and therefore taboo, non-Black performers create other ways to perform Blackness. One way that performers accomplish this now is by appropriating the American ghetto/Black aesthetic. As one alternative to the minstrelsy of corking up like Jolson and his contemporaries, many non—Black performers now use “blackvoice”— that is, appropriating the language, dialect, sounds and the experiences of the Black American ghetto. Performance of the hood is especially popular today among white women performers. Many of these women and girls have little or no real experience regarding the Black American ghetto; however, they are often rewarded by their respective industries for their performances of hood, often in lieu of the actual artists from American ghettos. For this paper I explore several female artists in contemporary global popular culture such as Iggy Azalea, Kreayshawn and Brooke Candy, to name a few. These women appropriate Black American ghetto aesthetics in their vocal and visual performances and they are part of the long tradition of white artists who perform Blackness in the American popular culture and in the current global popular culture.

Keywords: appropriation, Black, blackface, Blackness, blackvoice, ghetto, hood, Iggy Azalea, Kreayshawn, minstrelsy