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By Mark Anthony Neal, Ph.D. | Twitter: @NewBlackMan


9th Wonder (Patrick Douthit) | Twitter: @9thWonderMusic


Wednesday, March 25, 2015.



we gon’ be alright, nigga, we gonna be alright”--Kendrick Lamar


This dark diction has become America's addiction / Those who ain't even black use it /

We gon' keep baggin up this here crack music” -- Malik Yusef, “Crack Music” from Kanye West, Late Registration


Consider this if you will as a riff--a riff on post-ness, as in post-Black (though not post-Race); post-Gender; post-Sex; inevitably, post-Human--which gets us to the ghosts in the machine, well before intended, but allows theorist Beth Coleman to make this initial intervention: “The machine by which [B]lackness is produced does not rely on the genitals or teeth or hands but the whole thing...Instead of a small thing being substituted for the whole person, as in a normal perversion, in this case the person is shuttered down. Once emancipated, [B]lack agency must remain a black-market item in order for mastery to be able to respect itself in the morning. Black agency has historical material impact, yet it is invisible.” (Coleman, “Pimp Notes on Autonomy.” from Everything But the Burden: What White People are Taking from Black Culture, ed. Greg Tate, 77, 2003).


So to think out-loud towards some things you should consider and provide ordered language to, in the written form, what is this thing that we might call Hip-Hop?  Is it the big-bang theorized towards some explanation of Black pathology or has it more discrete origins? antecedents?  some thing or things  that have called it into existence?  What does it mean that Hip-hop might be a thingness that is produced by and thus tethered to those that were Thingness themselves? And when a Thingness reproduces a thingness--multiple thingnesses through the centuries in fact--how does that thingness sound?  How does Thingness talk?


Can Hip-Hop be Pop, if it refuses to be post-Race (or post-Gender or post-Sex?); And if it chooses to be post-Race, is it still Hip-Hop or simply a cheaply-made corporate confection, that is aligned with the Thingness that was said to produce it in the first place; a Thingness itself reduced to some sugary or salty substance that blows away in the wind, like a “product of the Morton Company,” as one of the great poets of that Thingness once said amidst her own ego trip.


The Thingness has had a name; a throw-away word, now treated as a $500 privilege when uttered by those of some privilege: R.A.T. Judy on the 1s & 2s now, “nigger was for quite some time the term used to designate African American slaves as commodity” (Judy, “On the Question of Nigga Authenticity,” from That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader, ed. Murray and Neal, 108, 2011). Judy still on the mix: “Nigger could mean exceptionally hard work, because niggers, by definition are labor commodities (i.e. nigger is an index of productive labor that is somebody else’s property.) A nigger is both productive labor and value...” (109)


So to  talk about this Thingness--like what happens when the Thingness speaks? like when that Thingness resists (imagine, for a moment, your chair in revolt), like when this Thingness decides to profit from the thingness it has produced, which under antebellum logic, means theft of both the means of production and the spoils of production.


Hip-Hop as acts of resistance that are inherently criminalized, as has been the case with every attempt to flee the plantation/prison/project. So how should the landowners/corporations respond? And there’s no purity in this relationship, as our man about-the-world,Tate, noted on the occasion of a 30th anniversary: “This being America, where as my man A.J.'s basketball coach dad likes to say, ‘They don't pay niggas to sit on the bench,’ hiphop was never going to notgo for the gold as more gold got laid out on the table for the goods that hiphop brought to the market. Problem today is that where hiphop was once a buyer's market in which we, the elite hiphop audience, decided what was street legit, it has now become a seller's market, in which what does or does not get sold as hiphop to the masses is whatever the boardroom approves.”


Is the Sigma Alpha Epsilon controversy simply about who possesses the privilege to utter the thingness produced in the name of Thingness, but repurposed by Thingness? And how is thingness and Thingness gendered, and sexed, and sexualized? And what do we do about the pleasure of it all, especially in our drive to identify the pathology and im/a/morality of thingness and Thingness? R. Kelley (Robin, not Robert), weighs in: “the biggest problem with the way social scientist employ the culture concept in their studies of the [B]lack urban poor is their inability to see what it all means to the participants and practitioners. In other words, they do not consider what Clinton (George, that is) calls the “pleasure principle...rather than hear the singer, they analyze the lyrics; rather than hear the drum they study the song title.  Black music, creativity, and experimentation in language, that walk, that talk, that style, must also be understood as sources of visceral and psychic pleasure” (Kelley, Yo’ mama’s disFUNKtional: Fighting the Culture Wars in America, 41, 1997)

And if Hip-hop might be the thingness that Thingness imagines in its own affirmation of post-Thingness (humanity), what might post-post-Thingness look, sound, and feel like?


History of Hip-Hop #DukeHipHop: Duke University | Spring Semester 2015

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