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For the Record Series

On Hip-Hop

Kate Carter for Revibe Toronto

In studying the creative industries, particularly in music, many conversations revolve around mainstream media. In these academic settings, discussion and critique of popular music often leads to points about hip-hop and its dilution, usually using Migos or Drake as an example. Comments on the matter typically imply that the contents of these hip-hop artists’ songs lack depth or are too materialistic. These comments are also highly likely to come from white people and are stated with an air of pride as though this is a novel, productive viewpoint.

A really great thing about music in our modern era is that nearly anyone can consume it, access it. With this in mind, it is important to hold yourself accountable as a consumer and be aware of your privilege, whatever it may be. If you are a consumer of hip-hop, for example, but do not identify with experiences intertwined with the genre, it is important to be aware of how to navigate spaces that are not for you. Something worth questioning is why it is almost always hip-hop or popular electronic music (techno) that is used as the instance of music lacking authenticity or beauty. It is worth questioning why, as genres notably originated by Black people and cultures, artists are expected, by the white mainstream, to constantly be focused on the social and political. Black and PoC artist are held to a whole other standard. What many do not consider is the historical significance of these genres, the pain and disenfranchisement and beauty behind and within them. Reflect on the double standard the white mainstream holds PoC artists vs. white artists to and decolonize your mind!

As this topic does address more so the issue of white consumption of Black art it may not be of interest to all or be anything new! For those who already know this history, jump ahead to our playlist as it might have something new to offer! We welcome any input on the matter, and want to make this article as informative and inclusive to as many people as possible.

This playlist is an ode to the art of sampling in hip-hop music. Many prior artists and technologies paved the way for this, such as Pierre Schaeffer and musique concrète or the Mellotron, however, the use of sampling in hip-hop was and is revolutionary. Hip-hop artists mastered the art of sampling and this art formed the foundations of the genre. With turntables and records as the foundational tools, sampling is what builds the music. This turntable style came from Jamaican sound system culture. DJ Kool Herc, credited as one of the pioneers of hip-hop, was born in Jamaica and credits his roots to the sound system style.

Hip-hop music requires resourcefulness in its production and performance. There’s a particularly incredible talent and resilience in creating this music, making it happen with whatever you have, let alone being at the top of the whole music game. Hip-hop is very much rooted in the social and political, it was a response to systemic, institutional marginalization. To have built an empire after being stolen from repeatedly is powerful. A problem in hip-hop critique that I am addressing is when those who have not been affected by this marginalization (i.e. white people) feel comfortable reducing art produced within this genre to talent or depth of lyricism, when there is much more to it than that. It is one thing for people who are affected by this to critique this music in such a way, but I think it is important to consider one’s place in the context of the music and artists being critiqued. White people echoing that a non-white artist is being “too white,” is very wrong and I have heard this many a time. Hip-hop started as a revolution and it still is because hip-hop artists taking up space on the charts, in concert halls, at festivals, and presenting as keynote speakers at universities and colleges around the world is a movement.

This playlist has my favourite tracks, sampling and original, used in popular (hip-hop) music. I want everyone to love and appreciate hip-hop if they don’t already, because it is such an incredible art form unlike any other. It should be respected and understood within its historical and sociopolitical context. I encourage all to check out Hip-Hop Evolution (available on Netflix!). It’s hosted by our favourite Canadian rapper and CBC broadcaster, Shad, and it’s been my go-to source for hip-hop history and interviews with the some of the greatest artists out there!