Best of Group 3’s DJ Mix Tables
I choose these two videos, because ONE they are both on my list of favorites but also because they do a very good job showcasing the transformation of HIP HOP. From being born in Brooklyn by group of guys to what we see it as today; the universal symbol of music. Now days its more seen as if everyone wants to be part of it just for the glamour rather than for the pure ART of it.
“Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)” is the title of a 2002 single by singer Erykah Badu and Common. In their on way they were able to put the whole timeline of hip hop into the video, which to me is dope and crazy. It spent four weeks at number one on the Hot/R&B chart, and reached number 9 on the Billboard 100 chart. To understand the full meaning of this video, you got pay close attention to what is being said, but also to what is going on in the video.
“I Used to Love H.E.R.” is a hip hop song by the Chicago-born rapper Common. Released on the 1994 album Resurrection, “I Used to Love H.E.R.” has since become one of Common’s best known songs. Erykah Badu did take his idea and changed it to do more, but personally I just love Commons version because he was able to express Hip Hop using words and many other things. AND to a lot of rappers and artists that is how they feel… gave it the REALNESS.
I chose “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones because of its lyrics that sexualize black women, and tap into an African Heritage that the Stones have nothing to do with
The song “When The Levee Breaks” by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie is a classic blues song from 1929. This song was reworked by British rock-band Led Zeppelin, who incorporated the bluesy undertones into there own performance
Though Billie Holiday’s “All of Me” was the first blues/jazz song that I fell in love with I was most compelled and shocked by “Strange Fruit”. I chose these two songs not only because even though they are sonically pleasing they’re feminist and unbridled (especially Strange Fruit) in their activism and messages.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe rocks n’ rolls while being backed up by black church choir singers. Her early exposure to blues, jazz, and evangelistic christianity gave her the opportunity to perform throughout her childhood and develop a unique guitar and musical style.
I found that these two songs, specifically being covers added a really interesting perspective on the way that they were sung because they differed from the original and did not attempt to replicate the original. They take a song that is very strongly connected to one genre of music and transform the same song into a completely different genre, while keeping the same melody and lyrics. It show how much of an impact applying different rhythms, instrumentations, and vocal styles can have on how a song is perceived. I also found the people who sang the songs to be very contradictive, while at the same time collaborative with the styles they were singing.
Lost Ones- J. Cole This song talks about the aftermath of what many hip hop artists have verbalized through their music for years– “fucking bitches”. What many fail to discuss is what comes after. J. Cole dedicates this song to the conversation and emotions that go along with that aftermath, and by doing so allows the “bitches'” voice to be heard and acknowledged.
Azelia Banks- Taking back the word CUNT
Best of Group 3’s Pictures
Evelyn Harris – Sweet Honey in the Rock
Group Photo with Panel at the Bush School. Photo by Hakim Ali and Azeb Madebo.
Figure 4: Panel Discussion at The Bush School. April 26th 2014. Photo by Azeb.
Best of Group 3’s Blog Posts
Selam – The Hidden Voices
When discussing Rock ‘n’ Roll and where is comes from, it always seems to surround white male artists at the center of the story. So for me, who thought I had good idea of music, to read these articles was very interesting but also eye opening. All the mainstream historic narratives do hide the fact that there were women artists that had big influence on the foundation of the genre at that time but also those that followed.
In the articles, “The Write to Rock” by Daphne Brooks and “Listening for Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton’s Voice” by Maureen Mahon, did very good job illustrating and giving back the voice that was taking from the women artists. They were able to go back in history and use those individual artists to showcase how “mainstream” social structure was able to use race and gender to oppress and segregate the production of music but also the visibility of it. “And I’m interested in ways that we might recalibrate and restructure rock music criticism to focus on multiple counternarratives of love and theft that demand our attention so that we might dismantle and reconceptualize the historical framework for reading and rereading genealogies of racial performantive encounters.” (Pg.55)
I also want to focus little of my attention on the story of Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, I truly enjoyed reading her story and felt compelled to bring your attention to her voice. She has that voice which I call it the church voice; that deep/ strong vocals that come from the soul. Which Ralph Gleason, San Francisco writer at that time declared her as, “pound for pound the best woman blues singer alive today.” (pg. 6) So it was sad to read that even though Big Mama was doing something she loved and did well, she didn’t get the success and credit that other artists (white artists) got because of her. For example, the “Hound Dog’ when I heard both version I thought she sanged it better then Elvis Presley, but he ended up being the one to become successful off of it.
Gus – Latin American Influences American Rock
This article chronicles the rise of Latin influence on popular music, particularly rock. This influx of Spanish speaking artists and sounds into the American music scene can be attributed to the increasing numbers of Latin immigrants in our nation. Latinos are now the biggest minority group in the US, and their presence in America has led to cultural fusion as Latin culture mixes with Americana. Latin artists in the US end up with a vibrant variety of cultural themes and styles that they can mix into their songs. One example of this fusion of Latin and American music is when artists alternate the use of Spanish and English in a particular song. This method can be referred to as Spanglish and allows an artist to emphasize certain phrases and words by changing dialects as well as incorporating Spanish and English slang words into the same song. The song “Caress Me Down” by Sublime uses this tactic to weave a story about a young man’s love for a girl and his interactions with her family. This song contains entire stanzas that are sung in Spanish as well as a fair amount of Latin and Caribbean slang. In the 4th line of the song lead singer Bradley Nowell tells his audience to “ wipe that look off your bati face”, which uses a Caribbean rooted insult that means loser. Later on in the song Nowell refers to Latin American people as La Raza.
Azeb – Feminist Rock Criticism and Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton Performing Live
Daphne Brooks’ essay, “The Write to Rock” and Maureen Mahon’s essay, “Listening for Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton’s Voice” advance and reiterate the importance of debunking historical mythologies that only center white masculine gendered musicians, singer-song writers, and audiences at the expense of eliminating powerful black women vocalizers, musicians, and fans from the annals of accepted rock history. Both feminist music critics and aficionados go far into history to highlight the pervasiveness of racial appropriation, fetishization, and unsettling exploitation of artistic expressions unique to blackness by white American popular culture and a political economy (which always marginalized women and blacks to second-class citizenship by cutting access and rights easily granted to white men) by mentioning the significance of blackface and minstrel tradition. Brooks’ writing focuses on how rock critics, especially women, can restructure and archive counter-narratives of rock history that rightfully center women and racial minorities – re-imaging popular historical frameworks of rock, by highlighting and analyzing the unparalleled and unchallenged power of rockist music criticism which results in “ inscribing a particular kind of historical narrative of past musical innovations that were suffocatingly narrow and establish a lexicon of taste that would perpetuate that narrowness” (57). While Brooks emphasizes on theorizing about the impacts of rock music criticism, Mahon offers us a problematic narrative of “Big Mama” Thornton from anthropological and feminist perspective. In her project, Mahon undertakes the retelling Thornton’s story by excavating and compiling cultural archives into a comprehensive story of talent, sexism, queerness, and a political economy built upon unequal power dynamics that left Thornton in poverty while others like Elvis Presley made millions from their appropriations. Mahon pulls from archives to show how problematic being a black woman singer/artist was by quoting Thornton:
“I’ve been singing way before Elvis Presley was born, and he jumps up and becomes a millionaire before me . . . off of something that I made popular. They gave him the right. . . . [N]ow, why do they do that? He makes a million and all this jive because his face is different from mine.” (9)
In her analysis, Mahon suggests that Thornton’s comments “critique the dynamics of race, gender, and power that parceled out different levels of visibility and mobility to white and black artists and paid more attention to male than female performers” (9). Narratives like Thornton’s are important to tell and re-tell because countless others like myself grow up thinking of “Hound Dog” as an Elvis Preseley track – discrediting the many talented artists who’ve been forgotten in popular recounts of rock history while at the same time distancing minority’s and women from the power to claim rock music as their own.
Two of the articles that we read this week approached how different sexes, namely female, and different races, and types of people approach rock and role, and how they are related to each other. The first of the articles specifically examines the impact of “Big Mama” Thornton’s voice and her role in the genre of Rock and Roll. It centers on her singing the original versions of very famous songs like “Hound Dog” which she was the first to sing, but under her name did not become popular. The article talks about how Thornton was a very self expressive artist, representing her background and who she was in her music, and it was this representation that set her apart from all the rest. The second article focused on how different people viewed and critiqued rock history and events as they unfold and what different cultures and types of people are behind the changes. Both articles examined different perspectives and aspects of rock and roll and the different cultures and people that contributed to it. I found that seeing all the different aspects of who the rockers are and what makes them rock that was picked apart gave a really interesting perspective into some of the artist that I like to listen to because most of them would be categorized as rock, folk, or jazz musicians, yet respectively my favorite artists are singing a genre that they are not ethnically inclined towards. I found that the articles shed interesting light on just how far music and culture have come and how while the different styles of music can be separate from each other, they can also combine and evolve in ways that were not thought of. And now even the music and the artists can come together in ways that were previously not expected, but thats what music is all about, trying the unexpected.
Daphne Brooks discusses the exclusion of certain contributors to rock music through what rock critics have highlighted, and failed to discuss. Erik Davis also discusses the failure to acknowledge certain contributors to rock music, but focuses more on this portrayal through one band’s (Led Zeppelin’s) blinded successes. What I mean by blinded successes, is that Led Zeppelin, some might say one of the most famous rock bands to this date, thrived off of the styles of unknown musicians, specifically black American artists, whose creditless contributions prevent listeners from seeing their influence. Brooks believes that to “recalibrate and restructure rock music criticism” might coincide with a more wholeistic understanding of the music and its origins (Brooks, 3). Similar to how Davis describes the flaws with Led Zeppelin’s failure to acknowledge the black American blues that influenced many of their songs, Brooks describes the flaws in the homogeneity of the rock critic world. Brooks explains that the majority of rock critics are “ often college-educated, almost always white, and most often male writers” (Brooks, 4). A description about something as multifaceted as rock music is inadequate without both proper crediting, and diverse sourcing. Davis tackles how proper crediting can both negatively impact the artist (Led Zeppelin), and also the publics’ genuine understanding of their infatuation with the music. Without diverse sourcing—multiple perspectives on the analysis of rock music, the art becomes black and white, and in this case, just white.
Final Group Reflections
The past few weeks have altered the ways in which I consume, listen, consider, and appreciate music. In particular, I’ve come to see the importance of not being a passive music lover. Within the short period of time, the class has progressed from considering the market driven ‘love and theft’, appropriation, and exchange of music and musical forms to understanding the importance of actively archiving the stories of unheralded musicians – more specifically the stories of women and people of color. For the group photo gallery, I selected to showcase my reflections on feminist rock criticism and Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton. The revelation of Big Mama Thornton’s story helped he understand the importance of debunking historical mythologies that only center white masculine gendered musicians, singer-song writers, and audiences at the expense of eliminating powerful women (especially women with marked bodies) vocalizers, musicians, and fans from the annals of accepted rock history. Like our class projects (archival work in Wikipedia and the Women Who Rock (un)Conference) Mahon undertakes the retelling Thornton’s story by excavating and compiling cultural archives into a comprehensive story of talent, sexism, queerness, and a political economy built upon unequal power dynamics that left Thornton in poverty while others like Elvis Presley made millions from their appropriations. The significance of learning how to challenge popular musical narratives was further amplified for me when I learned about Sister Rosetta Tharpe and her unique, genre-bending musical styles. This compilation shows the different way in which we can archive and celebrate musical histories that are easily forgotten and purposefully deprived of recognition.
Anyone who likes music and listens to music has the right to know where that music came from. The way our society has failed to represent certain groups of people whose contributions to popular music have been monumental is disappointing. After taking this class, I feel like I have been a victim of fraud—the thief being faulty representation through media. Both the failure to acknowledge a large amount of female contribution to multiple genres of music, and the misrepresentation of women and other minority groups that some music assumes and promotes are two topics that will stick with me from this class. First I will focus on the lack of acknowledged contribution female artists face. As I have stated in one of my previous posts, in Daphne Brooks article “The Write to Rock: Racial Mythologies, Feminist Theory, and the Pleasures of Rock Music Criticism”, Brooks focuses on one of the sources in which misrepresentation is created: the one with the power to be heard. It is ironic that although one can continue to listen to certain music over and over again, that it is the media and the critic who are heard, rather than the artist themselves. For example, although Big Mama Thorton was the originator of the song “Hound Dog”, the first page of links that comes up when the title is typed into google search immediately give credit to Elvis Presley.
My experience in this class has fundamentally changed the way I look at the cultural appropriation that is inherently involved in music production. I have always loved music, particularly rock, but I have never thought about what goes into a tune besides the guitar, drums, bass, vocals, etc. What I am realizing more and more is that music is a cultural statement just as much as it is something that is listened to. Different instruments, riffs, and styles are used in a song draw on different musical traditions in order to create new content and ultimately sell it. Making something that sounds “bluesy” or “funky” or “folky’” involves repeating musical practices that have already been established. This appropriation of genres in pursuit of profit, fame, and success is one the more controversial aspects of the music industry. In this way, when a band like the Rolling Stones features an African American backup singer to say the words “rape, murder it’s just shot away” they are drawing on a cultural lineage that is not their own. I use this example because “Gimme Shelter” is one of my all time favorite songs. I had listened to it countless times, but I never considered the significance of the chorus. This idea changed my outlook on the nature of rock. I began to find more instances in songs by classic musicians like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles where they had borrowed upon cultural sound that weren’t their own. I was very taken aback when I came to this realization because I had always considered these famed artists to be genuine and innovative. This knowledge has changed my perspective and allowed me to understand the importance of giving people credit for their work. An artist should be praised for there contribution, but it must also be understood that they are a product of the music industry as a whole. The past, present, and future combine in a cycle in which new artists draw from previously released material to inspire new work. With this new perspective, I would like to see the music industry exhibit more effort in giving credit to collaborators that were left out of the royalties of a song. This attempt to make the production industry fair is something everyone deserves.
It is interesting how we were able to collectively put together our own archive that showcases the different kind of music that is not endorsed by the mainstream music industry. Going through our best posts, we are able to see how our different voices and opinions, which only got stronger throughout this course, is demonstrated. Furthermore, we could connect to how throughout the course we were able to learn and see how dissimilar voices, of the music criticize and writers, we read exemplifies the importance of diverse narratives that are essential to keeping the soul of the music transparent to the next generation. My own ideas of the music scene and the history has totally changed, which consequently affect what kind of music I choose to listen to hear, but also motivates me to be open minded to those artists that I never really paid attention to before. For the group gallery, I was interested in showcasing the transition of time and its influence on the music, especially the music I love to listen to ever since I learned how to speak English; which is soul music (R&B). I choose Big Mama Thornton story for my best blog, because her untouchable soul, but also to display her story so that we could understand the necessity for the community to be aware of her and artists like her. Subsequently so we as a community could (re)write our own narratives with the hidden stories. With Dj mix and (un)conference photos, I wanted to do the same thing; showcase the transition of music, but also be able to demonstrate the genres I appreciate, but also those that I learned to appreciate.
Over the course of this class, we have examined many different styles, genres, and cultures of music as well as the many colorful and different people behind the music. It was really illuminating as to how will all the different cultures and each with their own sound, people were able to come together, and work together, to meld traditional sounds into something different and almost a hybrid of all their different influences. Some times, however people take the different music styles and use it in their favor to rip off and benefit from other artists songs, and I was very interested and shocked to see and hear how often and sometimes blatantly that happens. However from this class, even though we were mostly shown the negative of this happening, I was abel to find many interesting instances of this happening more modernly and I found that to be very interesting and boundary breaking within music. For me the most interesting things was how an artist could use those meldings to create a new sound and feeling in the music. How a song that might take rhythms and styles from one ethnicity and genre of music, and almost create a song that was completely unreminicent of the roots it used. It was unusual to see this and I was personally shocked when I looked for it and found it everywhere. I chose my DJ mix songs because they were noticeable examples of these changes, and they were altered in amazing ways that did not rip of the original songs and styles and instead added a different feel and perspective to the song and its original message. For me this melding and interconnecting of all the different types, styles and genres of music has been a theme that I constantly looked for throughout the entire course, and it always gave me a little jump of excitement to hear a part of a different genre in some of the music and stories that we heard and listened to all quarter.
Group Bibliography – MLA
Brooks, Daphne. “The Write to Rock: Racial Mythologies, Feminist Theory, and the Pleasures of Rock Music Criticism.” Women and Music: a Journal of Gender and Culture. 12.1 (2008): 54-62. Print.
Davis, Erik. Led Zeppelin IV. New York, NY: Continuum, 2005. Print.
Gayle Wald, “Rosetta Tharpe and Feminist Unforgetting,” Journal of Women’s History, Volume 21, Number 4, Winter 2009, 157-160. (PDF)
Lena, Jennifer. “Music Genres” Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music (Princeton University. Press, 2012). Print.
Mahon, Maureen. “Listening for Willie Mae “big Mama” Thornton’s Voice: the Sound of Race and Gender Transgressions in Rock and Roll.” Women and Music: a Journal of Gender and Culture. 15.1 (2011): 1-17.Print.
Tate, Greg. “Black Rockers vs. Blackie Who Rock, or the Difference Between Race and Music.” 1-8. Print.
“Watch Now: American Masters | Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll | PBS Video.” PBS Video. American Masters, 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 02 June 2014.
Lisa Fischer Wikipedia Page