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How politically liberating is rap music?

Uploaded by Heinous_Bitch on May 12, 2002

NWA was a gangsta rap crew who told stories of the ‘hustler’ lifestyle where “life ain’t nothin’ but bitches and money.” As such, they relied heavily on being as offensive as possible. The cover of their 1988 album, Straight Outta Compton, features a power-emphasising low-angle shot of the band members looking down into the camera, which places the audience in the position of the defeated enemy. A gun is pointing straight at us. Each man is wearing ‘street’ clothes, and one has a chunky gold necklace showing. The picture is shot in natural lighting, and the eyes of three of the men are obscured by shadows. Judging by their stern facial expressions, they probably won’t be showing mercy. This is the image they’re aiming for: hard, ruthless, cold. Over the course of the narrative the three front men - Ice Cube, MC Ren and Eazy-E - accuse the LAPD of racism and violence and go so far as to threaten any rogue officers with death. Their overtly violent stance separates them from the rap mainstream, and the righteous anger of the song - the marked refusal to let the enemy smite the other cheek - is loaded with subversive potential. It begins with a courtroom scene pastiche in which the DJ, Dr. Dre, re-positions himself as the judge and the three vocalists as witnesses. In his booming voice Judge Dre asks Ice Cube if he swears to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help your black ass?” Ice Cube replies: “You’re Goddamn right!” The exaggerated informality of the NWA courtroom shows how they also bring a sense of humour with them. Tricia Rose says “oppressed people use language, dance, and music to mock those in power, express rage, and produce fantasies of subversion.”1 This can be a powerful tool for raising awareness of problems that face African Americans, and engendering the spirit of resistance in others. NWA’s mocking role-plays give way to rage over the verses, where they lay down the charges against the police. One of the less strongly worded and blatantly valid accusations comes from Ice Cube: “Searching my car/Looking for the product/Thinking every nigga is sellin’ narcotics.” This refers to ‘profile’ arrests - Rose’s name for the policy of stopping and searching young black males, particularly if they are driving an expensive car, on the shaky and unashamedly racist basis that...

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Uploaded by:   Heinous_Bitch

Date:   05/12/2002

Category:   Art And Music

Length:   18 pages (4,140 words)

Views:   3375

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