Tag Archives: hip-hop

Song of the Week – “Paper Planes” by M.I.A.

British (by way of Sri Lanka) hip hop artist M.I.A. rhymes over a beat flipped by DJ Diplo from The Clash’s Straight to Hell to create Paper Planes. Straight to Hell is a classic riff and M.I.A’s Caribbean feel gels nicely with Strummer and Jones’s groove. 

Also check Diplo’s treatment of Marlena Shaw’s fantastic California Soul.

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The Genius of Hip-Hop, Church Women as Theological “Hos”, and Jay-Z

Recently I finished a book by my favorite scholar, Michael Eric Dyson, called Know What I Mean? Reflections on Hip-Hop. Dyson, a Georgetown Prof, Princeton Ph. D, and a Baptist minister (that’s right – my intellectual hero is a Baptist minister. MLK was a Baptist minister, too.) offers an intellectual defense of hip-hop as art.

In one section, Dyson dissects the complaint that hip-hop artists don’t often play instruments or write music in the traditional way. He points out that school budget cuts in poor neighborhoods prevent children from receiving music training and instrument lessons. Dyson wants the audience to not “underestimate the genius” of the innovative young folks who engineered hip-hop out of a culture of hardships:

Many black and brown kids in vocational schools were sent to work repairing turntables for rich suburban school kids. But that circumstance drove their experimentation with various technological forms to under ground hip-hop’s aesthetic expansion. So these young folk ended up putting turntables next to each other, and out of that emerged the practice of cuing one record up while the other one is playing, and you’re listening to it, finding the exact spot to extend and repeat the break beat through scratching, and eventually with looping….

Look how it happened on the ground: what was essentially an attempt to repair broken turntables was used to generate an alternative sonic culture full of technological innovation that supposedly ignorant black and brown folk have now turned into a billion-dollar industry. Anthropologists call it bricolage, a French term first used by Claude Levi-Strauss to mean using what is literally at hand to create something…So these young black and brown folk took the technological leftovers of a richer consumer culture and fashioned a cultural and musical expression that has lasted to this day. [p 73] Continue reading