Solillaquists of Sound/ representations of African Americans in the Media
I’ve been following this group, Solillaquists of Sound for a while now. They have 3 cds out, but my favorite is their second one, “As If We Existed,” released in 2006. They have an amazing mix of unique beats, good flow, and incredible female vocals. They could be classified as politically conscious hip-hop, making statements about civil rights, alcohol abuse, and different choices people make about their lives. They’re sick…here’s my favorite song on the cd, check it out:
1. Pledge of Resonance
2. Property & Malt Liquor
3. As If We Existed
4. Mark It Place
5. Ask Me If I Care
6. Black Guy Peace
9. Beautiful Catastrophe
10. Ur Turn
11. All Too Common
12. Our 2 Cents
Unrelated, I (Rebecca) have been thinking a lot about mainstream America’s portrayal of African Americans throughout history and want to rant about it/ hear everyone’s opinion on the subject. I took two classes this semester that really made me analyze critically how blacks in America are represented – a theater class about gender, ethnicity, and culture in American dance, and a decal on Tupac.
In the theater class, I learned a lot about minstrelsy in 19th century America that I was not aware of. Particularly, learning about the reasons for creating and perpetuating black face and the stereotypes surrounding it was interesting and very relevant to today. Southern white landholders supported minstrelsy because it justified/backed up slavery. The stereotype of the happy, silly “sambo” slave made slaves look like they enjoyed being owned and working for their masters, and the freed “zipcoon” made freed African Americans look greedy, foolish, and not smart enough to survive in the business world of the North, or in other words, be free in the first place. Thus, whites started perpetuating these stereotypes to counteract the emancipation movement. They found them funny and after time, truthful. Thus when African Americans started performing in minstrelsy and vaudeville they had to perpetuate these stereotypes of their own race in order to get business. They had to put on blackface themselves and pretend to be foolish and dumb or violent and greedy, or any of the other stereotypes, so that white audiences would watch them. This minstrel legacy, in my opinion has had an extremely negative effect on the representation of African Americans throughout the rest of America’s history..
I found connections to hip-hop in the Tupac decal I took. I already knew most of the information that was taught, but it resonated deeply with what I was learning in the theater class. While much of gangsta rap is extremely violent and misogynistic, early gangsta rap like N.W.A. had a deep, justified, political undertone. While “Fuck tha Police” is violent, they were not arguing for violence for the sake of violence like much of gangsta rap is today, but arguing against discrimination and racial profiling. But when gangsta rap was appropriated into white mainstream culture, especially when huge corporations got involved, this political undertone was removed, and a stereotype much like minstrelsy’s “zip-coon” was perpetuated. Any rapper who wants to get radio-play nowadays has to compromise their message and fit into a pre-made gangsta sterotype who is violent, greedy, and like the zipcoon, unfit for the business world. But white mainstream America buys into it because they are both intrigued and frightened by it. Mainstream America has a view of African Americans that is extremely racist and stereotypical, however much we claim that we are living in a world that is a lot less racist than it used to be.
While I have been formulating these ideas for many months now, they came to a head last night when I was watching the movie Rush Hour at my friends birthday party last night. This is a great movie, don’t get me wrong (Jackie Chan is the shit), but I noticed that virtually the only black man in the movie, the black cop Carter, played by Chris Tucker, was stereotyped much like the “Sambo” stereotype perpetuated by minstrelsy. He is portrayed as foolish and dumb most of the way through the movie, and saves the day mostly through his good intentions and a lot of good luck…
I was surprised, seeing the movie in this new light, with how the script and directing made him look so dumb…walking into the Chinese restaurant and actually asking for the bad guy instead of figuring out a way to sneak up on him…I mean come on. I know it’s supposed to be funny, but I think its disgusting how it’s accepted to perpetuate these age-old stereotypes…
I really want to know if anyone else has noticed this..it seems so obvious to me after thinking about it for a while…what does everyone else think? Sorry this turned into a really long post but it’s really been bugging me.