7 days ago possibly one of the most popular hip hop artists of today’s society, Macklemore, released a nine minute long track titled “White Privilege II” that available for free on all major music streaming and downloading sites concerning his views on racism in america, the black lives matter controversy, and his feelings on how he feels he fits into the hip-hop community.
The first thing that struck me about this track had nothing to do with the content, the lyrics, the name of the song, or even the melody. It was the fact that it was free. I don think I’ve ever seen a popular artist release a new song that they did not wan’t to collect commission from. I think action speaks volumes to the point that Macklemore wants people to know that there are issues in our world and people need to be educated about them and get the facts from both sides.
The second thing about this song that caught my attention was emphasis on the words he was saying. The song lacked a catchy beat, or a deep bass line that would distract you from the lyrics of the song which in Macklemore’s case was the main attraction. I think through the whole track the first verse was the one that I found most appealing and at the same time problematic. He discusses the issues with the Black Lives Matter campaign not knowing if he is ‘allowed’ to join the fight and support the Black people as a white man. He isn’t sure if he will offend people by being a white man in a march full of black people and says that he feels ‘awkward’. I found this interesting because when we were discussing the evolution of music we talked about how the black artists were afraid of a white mans world and that they would not even put artists faces out to the public if they were black in fear that the white people would not buy their records. Here we are now 60 years later and a white man is afraid of standing up for the rights of the black people, in fear that the black people will tell him that he doesn’t deserve to be there. I don’t know about you but to me it just seems a little screwed up.
This entire song just expresses Macklemore’s frustration with the way our society focuses on identities. It seems as though he is telling us that we need to start identifying people by who they are and what they have experience instead of by the color of their skin or their economic class.
I grew up with two parents who had completely opposite styles of music 100% of the time. If you got in the truck with dad you knew you would be listening to country, and if you got in the car with mom you knew for sure you would be listening to “The Boss”, or as most know him, Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen, a rock artist, began his career in the mid 60’s and is still producing music and touring today at the age of 67 years old. I had heard a lot of his music throughout the years and grew to know and like most of it, but there was one song of his in particular that really stuck with me, Old Dan Tucker. This song was a mix of old hillbilly country, and the Bruce Springsteen flare. Although I loved this song I never quite understood how it fit into his repertoire, but wasn’t complaining.
Dan Tucker, an american folk character, became popularized in 1843 in the form of a song. Because his story was mostly passed down by mouth, most don’t know when his story originated, but what we do know is that his story and the folk roots of his story are still alive and well. Because the story was passed down by mouth it varied a lot and there were many different versions of it. However, most of them made Old Dan Tucker seem like the father of all hillbillies, washing his face with a frying pan and combing his hair with a wagon wheel.
Before learning what I have learned in this class with the evolution of rock and roll taking pieces from hillbilly music and mixing it with the blues, I wouldn’t have understood how this song fit into Bruce’s genre pattern. But after learning how music has evolved taking properties from other genres and taking them into the next in now understand how the use of banjos, and heavy percussion, use of brass instruments (mainly saxophone) and folk wording all blend together in the Rock genre. Now I can continue to dance and sing to one of my favorite songs and understand why it is the way it is and why it fits.
Below you can find my favorite version of this song, Live in Dublin with the Sessions Band, and the lyrics.
Robert Johnson was just your average pre-World War II Delta Blues performer. He became seemingly famous over night for a reason that no one was quite sure of. There was a rumor that spread around that said Johnson went to the crossroads at midnight which at the time was a notorious time and location to meet with the devil. It was also said that during this meeting with the devil, Johnson gave the devil his guitar which he tuned in return for Johnson’s soul. and then returned to Johnson. It was then said that he became famous the next day.
When we were discussing this story in class the immediate first thing that popped into my mind was the song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels band which was produced in the late 90’s. This song was a story of a man named Johnny who had a fiddling battle with the devil. The deal was if Johnny lost he gave the devil his soul, and if Johnny won he got a golden fiddle. I found these aspects of the song to be very similar to Robert Johnson’s story, leading me to believe that it is possible this song was inspired by the rumors of Robert Johnson’s life.
I think the most obvious detail that led me to this association is the name of the person in “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”. The boy in this song was named Johnny, which to me deeply resembled the last name Johnson, as in Robert Johnson, who as I previously mentioned had a famous encounter with the devil. The second similarity that made me associate Robert Johnson’s story with the famous Charlie Daniels Band song was the use of a instrument. In the song Johnny wins the battle with the devil and gains a golden fiddle which I associated with Johnson’s suddenly appearing successful music career and overnight famousness.
Upon research I could not find anything linking Robert Johnson to the song. However, I don’t think the name Johnny could be simply a coincidence.
The yyrics can be found here:
in the 1950’s not a whole lot of people had respect for African american musicians. we discussed in class that because the visual marketing of music was not popular at this time as long as a singer sounded white, their records would sell. Similarly if a musician sounded black, their records would not sell, even if the artist behind them was white. This was a point in time just before the civil rights movement which forced the black artists into hiding their true identities so that their records would sell and so that white people would buy them. i think that this stripped the African american artists of their identity and authenticity.
I think that hiding the color of their skin caused them to lose their identity because they were not allowed to portray their real life experiences because people would know they were black, and they could not perform live because people would not want to see a black man perform. i think that this lack of identity also made the artists of this time less authentic because they were not allowed to show their true selves. they were too wrapped up in what the white people wanted them to do to realize what was best for the music.
I don’t think that the white people of this time had any respect for race music, i think most of them saw it as a joke, and that this can be seen by the people painting their faces black that were discussed in the article “Negro Experience in White America”. I thought it was awful how the white people had no respect for the black music and scrutinized them for writing about their life experiences. I think that this scrutiny and social fear of being black caused a lack of individuality and separateness in the black identity, i think it scared them into wanting to write music more like the white people so that they would not be culturally shamed and so that their records would sell.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who walked out the door of my house on freshman move in day saying that I was going to leave my past in the past and never look back. However, very quickly I realized that this was an unrealistic idea and that my past and my past experiences would follow me everywhere. The same can be said for music. Although it is constantly evolving it always has traces of its roots and its past no matter now electronic and technological it may become.
We discussed in class that in the 1930’s there were three major genres of music: pop, race, and hillbilly. I thought it was interesting how these genre’s developed name wise since the 1930’s. Pop of course is still pop and is the most popular music. Race developed into what we would deem Hip Hop or Rap, and hillbilly developed into what we know today as country music.
Out of three genres I feel as though country music is the one in which there is the most influence from artist’s past experiences. One of my favorite Artist’s Eric Church has written a lot of his own music based on his past experiences, to me this makes his music and the genre as a whole much more accessible and easier to understand and relate to. I feel as though the more I learn about and analyze music the more I realize what makes a popular song popular, Reliability. Everyone has a past, and everyone can relate to having things in their past that they are not proud of, but it makes us all who we are today.
The article “Thar’s GOLD in them Hillbillies” which was written in the late 1930’s discusses the rise in folk or ‘hillbilly’ music. It began by giving a situation in which a black man carrying a beat up guitar case was not allowed to get into a crowded car. He sang songs called race records, or songs sang by black people. I found it almost appalling that they were afraid to market these records because they thought if the artists were black and the public knew, that they would not sell records. While this may seem horrible and uncalled for the civil rights movement did not begin until about 20 years after this article was published, so during this time it was not all that unusual for there to be discrimination against African Americans.
I also found it interesting how the record companies did not think that African American people would buy music by African American Artists. I think I find this so amazing because its common and known in today’s society that we are most comfortable associating our selves with people who are similar to our selves whether by race or socioeconomic class. Meaning that more African American people would buy the records than White people would.
All in all I found this article very interesting in the respect that it was good to see how people treated people of other races before the civil rights movement. I can see how this has impacted the influence of race on music and how people of the African American Race constantly feel as though their true colors are being hidden and why this is shown constantly in their music. It seems as though their golden music has grown to overshadow the harsh words that weren’t so golden.
The 1950’s were the foundational years for the genre of hip hop that is so present in today’s society. As most probably know hip hop is a genre that has its roots in rebellion, always trying to be different and constantly changing with the new trends of the decades. Hip hop was discovered in a post WWII era and had heavy influence from the civil rights movement, rock and roll, the development of a prosperous middle class, and the beginning of the suburbanian boom. These changes severely shifted the definition of normal during this time.
Through doing some research I learned that the concept of the DJ battle was born in the same powerful era, the 1950’s. According to ‘About Entertainment’ this first battle was a Soundclash contest between Coxsone Dodd’s “Downbeat” and Duke Reid’s “Trojan”. And in 1956, Clive Campbell is born in Kingston, Jamaica. Campbell would later become the father of what we now know as hip-hop. Campbell was a Jamaican American who eventually moved to the Bronx where he became a DJ known as DJ Kool Herc. His works brought the violent gang culture of the Bronx to light in the 1970’s.
Upon listening to his song “Let Me Clear My Throat” I was surprised with how similar it is to the rap we have today. In fact the main melody in the backround I recognized from a Mac Miller song that became popular a couple of years ago. The style seemed to be very similar to what we have today in the hip hop genre. This leads me to believe that maybe the 1950’s is still present today in music. The only differences I really noticed were that you could understand what he was saying because there was no computer to speed up his words, and that the instruments were real, there was a real life saxophone in the performance, everything was real, there were no synthesized instruments, no fake word acceleration, it was the real deal.
Upon listening to and reading Ginsberg’s the Howl my initial thoughts led me to believe that this work would have been criticized by the public for being too graphic and rebellious. However, upon research I was shocked to learn that the public actually praised the Howl. They respected it for revealing the nastiness of America at that time and used it to fuel a revolution to change America and make it better. I then learned that in a way my initial prediction was correct. This came to light when I learned of the 520 copies of the poem that were seized by customs for containing references to illicit drugs and both hetero and homosexual practices. And then later a bookstore manager was arrested in San Francisco for selling the book containing the poem. It seemed to be only the government that was opposing the poem, and I think that this is because of the references to current problems in the united states and references to his graphic real life experiences that he experienced with his mother Naomi and friend Carl Solomon being in mental hospitals and his own journey through one and his experiences with therapy. I think that pretty much everyone heard this piece in 1955-56 not only because of its rebellious nature but also because of its heavy media presence. I think this poem allowed its readers to see the ugly side of America in a time where everyone was doing their best to achieve the American dream.
Man on the moon by Kid Cudi was released in 2009 struck me as the type of song that is written by the good guy who always loses. Cudi seemed like he was frustrated by always not being associated with the norms in society, so by doing that he associated himself with a man on the moon because hardly anyone else gets to do that, making him unique like he is in his everyday life. He told us how frustrating it is to be told that you are different and expressed how frustrated he is that different is not ok, and wonders what classifies something as different. Throughout the song he basically says I don’t care what you think, but I care what you think. I had a hard time finding information about how this individual song was received when it was released, but looking at reviews and reading a lot of them for the album, Man on the Moon, it seems like people either loved it or hated it, similar to Ginsberg’s Howl. They either thought he hit his target, or flew past it with flying colors. However looking at this everyone identifies his concept, just some thought he did a poor job of reaching it. In a way I think that the fact that they were able to identify a concept makes him successful. I think this is because everyone sees music differently, and it can be hard to make people understand what you are going for, but when reviewers use words like different, and a voyage, and heroic, I think you hit your mark even when some fail to believe it. The face that they acknowledge your end goal means that they got the point, just because you didn’t reach it the way they wanted you too doesn’t mean you failed, Cudi would say that it just makes you different.
Through listening to both of these works I found that they were both working towards the same goals, that there should be no such thing as normal and that people should just be people. Doing this would avoid so many problems in society allowing people to just be themselves without having to worry about fitting into a certain social box or be someone they are not. Both Cudi and Ginsberg took a big shot and tried telling our society that different should be the normal, we just haven’t started listening close enough to realize it.