The hip hop music genre is widely recognised for its deep roots in the history of African Americans and their previous and past oppressions as a marginalised group. The lyricism in these songs traditionally reflects adversity and takes an anti-authortian stance. It made comment on the injustices of hyper-criminalisation and contributed to a hip-hop culture, not just a style of music (AR. Washington, 2018).
However in more modern examples of ‘rap music’ there is evidence of blatant cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation refers to the ways people adopt or adapt an aspect of one’s culture and makes it their own. People are often attracted to different cultures and cultural porducts due to the notion of exocitism or novelty (H-C. Han, 2019). Some modern rap music benefits from the hip-hop culture without staying true to the nature or giving recognition.
Iggy Azalea is a prime example of cultural appropriation within the modern rap sphere because of the way she linguistically uses language. Rap heavily rooted in identity and by taking on this persona without any real attempt to tackle issues relevant to the community she is “paying homage to,” she enforces an acceptance of already existing black stereotypes without adding anything new as an Australian woman.
Being able to rhyme does not address the history of hip-hop, and therefore does not grant access to adopt the culture to capitalise off.
Cultural appreciation however is the recognition and enjoyment in a culture, it shows historical understanding of topic, but does not steal or undermine it.
Female rapper M.I.A uses her music and platform to share her past and present struggles of being a young Tamil refugee and makes politically charged comments through her content. I believe that M.I.A is culturally appreciative of the hip-hop culture as she advocates for similar issues as traditional rap. Immigration and African American culture are not comparable by any means, however she acknowledges the struggle of marginalised groups, as she is marginalised herself as a Sri Lankan immigrant female living in the United Kingdom.
Her lyrics are political in themselves, but she takes on a stance of irony and uses metaphors to cleverly integrate her thoughts into a pleasing sounding song. The universality of her beats makes the music able to flow through globally, and does not sound like a tune packed full of anti-authoritan opinions and is easily digested.
Han, H-C (Sandrine) 2019, ‘Moving From Cultural Appropriation to Cultural Appreciation’, Art Education, vol. 72, no. 2, pp. 8–13
Washington, AR 2018, ‘Integrating Hip-Hop Culture and Rap Music Into Social Justice Counseling With Black Males’, Journal of Counseling & Development, vol. 96, no. 1, pp. 97–105
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