Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Market for Niggaz

This week's gathering of Princeton's Center for African American Studies' faculty/graduate student seminar on Black Popular Culture reviewed Mark Anthony Neal's most recent musings on rapper Jay Z and the unique brand of cosmopolitanism that he embodies. Integrating black feminist thought and queer theory, the piece was a critical intervention aimed at complicating our understanding of Jay Z's negotiations of black masculinity over the past 12 years of his commercial success.

I found the following lines particularly compelling and resonant with LarryLy's own musings on the relationships between hip-hop, blackness and American capitalism:

"It is important to remember that “niggas” largely circulate within transnational commercial culture as flattened images — images that are a projection of historic fears of black masculinity in the United States, the desires of young white men (and others) to consume the supposed visceral pleasures and dangers associated with black masculinity and the willingness of young black men (and others) to make that image available for consumption."
-Mark Anthony Neal

To that end, I invite you to take a listen to the gem below from our brutha Taalam Acey. It's one of my favorite youtube clips of all time, and soon you'll know why.


Blogger thegayte-keeper said...


4:13 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Herukhuti said...

Niggas/z appear in all shapes and sizes, in all industries.

See the following link for academic industrial complex niggazity: http://www.seeingblack.com/2003/x091203/thugnig.shtml

There are a number of black male academics who seem to attempt a kind of street cred with their embrace and support for rap music (usually male) icons while also holding prestigious positions in academic institutions. It reminds me of the high school nerd trying to be cool. Associating oneself with the trappings of popular (re)presentations of black male masculinity, is one way to go when you grew up feeling awkward, unattractive, or not down and now you have the tools and privileges of the academy to alter your public persona. But there is something problematic about it for me, someone who grew up with those same experiences and who is now an academic.

It seems too much about self-(re)presentation without being consciously so. When these scholars tend to engage rap music (as distinguished from hip hop) there seems to be a tendency to go with the corporate-approved, pop culture-embraced, expected cast of male figures: Jay Z, Tupac, Biggy, maybe Snoop. They also tend to approach these men from very conventional ways. Where is the interrogation of Jay Z's as a peanut-headed, big lipped Black male sex symbol and its implications for an Afrocentric aesthetic? Where is the examination of the correspondences between the skills of drug dealer and a music producer/manager in the work of Jay Z and Damon Dash? Where is the queering of Tupac as a former school of the arts student turned gangsta rapper?

In addition to those kinds of questions, I also am curious about the choice of subjects. How can you talk about Black masculinities in rap or hip hop and not engage in a treatment of Afrika Bambaataa, Public Enemy, KRS-One, Dead Prez, Eazy E, Rakim, the duo of Method Man and Redman, and LL Cool J to name a few? What inclusion/exclusion criteria do these scholars use when selecting their research subjects? Does it have something to do with salience/relevance among white folks?

I'm an academic that still lives in the ghetto. I still live next to drug dealers, stick up kids, murderous kats, gangbangers, and thuggish ass niggaz. For me, that shit aint cute or cool. The work and actions of these individuals are definitely worth study and understanding. But I don't feel it warrants my distancing myself from them as some conservative academics have made a career doing or embracing their problematic actions as some hip hop academics have made a career doing.


2:50 AM  
Blogger El Alexander said...

Larry, the youtube clip "AMAZING"

7:13 PM  
Blogger C. Baptiste-Williams said...

love that clip... so on point.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must admit, these days I have a difficult time separating criticism (or the semblance thereof) and a subtextual impulse to be the HNIC within the academy, poetic circuits, mainstream politics, and capital. From interacting with folks in a variety of contexts, I've come to the conclusion that ethical imperatives and the will to power are not mutually exclusive tendencies, especially among academics who wax morals and chastise others in front of Exxon signs about whether or not their money is Jew money. Now I'm not suggesting that one shouldn't question the funding of political incumbents, especially presidential ones. All I'm saying is that we should be cognizant of the self motivated implications of critique, moralizing, or just pointing the finger. Indeed, none of what I'm saying necessarily outweighs the importance of thinking about exploitation and particular investments in being exploited. I don't know; I think I'm just tired of all the moralizing and the this and that. Not that it matters to post-modern or post-structural, or post-intentional, god damn it just post... critics, but I wonder what Jay Z would think about being conceptualized as a queer-cosmopolitan. I suppose if he could cop the phrase and put it on a Roca wear shirt with impunity, he'd rock it. Perhaps Michael Dyson will let Harvard audiences know when he takes a stab at Jay the day after the election. I don't know. I'm blathering at this point, but it's kind of fun. Well, anyways, I'm about to go turn some white tricks so that I can snort some blow, create glare from my pinky ring, and the tell bitches to show their titties to Charlie Murphy..lol. Peace.

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Herukhuti said...

Anonymous, I couldn't understand what you were saying. Can you clarify?

1:40 PM  

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