Tricia Rose is a Yale University and Brown University graduate of Sociology and American Studies. She has taught at numerous colleges and is currently the Professor of Africana Studies and the Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University. Rose is well known for her work surrounding hip-hop culture and believes that Hip Hop is misunderstood—claiming, “no one is right about Hip Hop”. Rose’s most notable point is that we don’t share experience, but popular culture— which as we know is a source that provides a lot of dominant ideologies.
In her presentation at Brown University where she describes the evolution and innovation of Hip Hop, Rose demands the return of the creativity of the project. This creativity began on the basketball courts, she says, where people would freestyle while playing the B-sides of tapes. Hip Hop was really created, though, when CD’s an track players were used to edit and tweak already existing music to make new music. (Rose made this connection while she attended the Dalton School in Manhattan, which was explored in this really good article about her, which offers more background to her personal life.) Rose’s main points in this presentation were that the record industry has not been selling music or art, but rather blackness. The industry, she says, provides a limited concept of blackness that has little to do with actual people, and everything to do with “valorizing violence, drugs, sexism, and materialism.” Rose also points out that commercial hip-hop artists package themselves into what they think white people wants to hear…but at what cost? This question highly connects to our Queer Youth texts- specifically The Celluloid Closet, where Harvey Fierstein said he wanted “visibility at any cost”. This “cost”, of course, can be described in both situations as the emergence and strengthening of stereotypes, negative misrepresentations, and new ideology surrounding both cultures that has the potential to be ultimately more harmful than no representation at all. Tricia Rose ultimately wants to focus on how the genre of Hip Hop can be turned around to make people love better, and wishes to get it back to an outlet of social change.
I generally agreed with everything Tricia Rose said in her Q & A with TIME Magazine, except when the question she was asked was:
“In these hip-hop wars, what’s one of the more proment arguments from critics that you counter in your book?”
And Rose answered:
“Hip-hop causes violence.”
While not all Hip Hop, and certainly not earlier Hip Hop can be considered violent and vulgar, I think it’s notable that a large amount of newer Hip Hop artists are making music with lyrics surrounding drugs, sex, and violence. Certainly, most genres of music will have songs with this content, but because POC are largely associated with Hip Hop culture, the more violent and sexual the lyrics get—the more stereotypes surrounding POC are supported. Hip-hop lyrics more and more commonly make gang references, rape references, and more- all of which that (although may not directly cause violence) can definitely support it. Maybe I need to read more of Rose’s works to hear more of what she has to say about this topic, but in my Violence Against Women class, we just read an essay in “Yes Means Yes” (Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti) by Samhita Mukhopadhyay (which you can read here on p. 151) that said the exact opposite- Hip-hop music does cause violence. In her essay, Mukhopadhyay specifically analyzes the hypersexualization of WOC in hip-hop music and its affect on rape culture. After reading this text, I feel torn between these two sources, and which side I take more. What do you guys think? I do really like Rose, though, for acknowledging both sides to this dispute at the end of her Q & A and ultimately saying that the solution is to focus on making hip-hop a more loving genre with a focus on social change like it used to be. I believe she kept a very professional and optimistic tone throughout all of her answers.
Take a look at this song by Nelly and tell me what you think. If you pause at 1:24 you see a short shot of a woman's vagina, and throughout the whole video there are constant references that WOC are used only for their bodies (which they only want to "tipdrill"). There's is also a visual suggestion that there is a connection between WOC and sex work because not only is the term "Tipdrill" commonly associated with strippers, but Nelly and all of the other men in his video are throwing money at these women the whole time. Towards the end of the video, a female even starts to rap and said "It must be yo' money, cuz it ain't yo' face".
Take a look at these lyrics as well from Snoop Dog's song "Ain't No Fun"....tell me what you see in these lyrics that could be harmful to WOC/POC, and how this could lead to violence.