20 Oct 2010

Mumia Abu-Jamal : The Vinyl Ain't Final review

The Politics of Culture
[col. writ. 10/10/10] (c) '10 Mumia Abu-Jamal

When we think of culture, we almost always think of people wearing funny or fancy clothes, or opera, or something distant froum our day to day lives.
But culture isn't that. It's the music that moves you; it's how you dress; it's how you talk -- and it's also how you walk.

It often is the lens through which you see the world.

In the U.S. and increasingly around the world, it's hip-hop which is the spoon that stirs the coffee of culture. It's what white and black youth are listening to, and dancing to. It's the latest emanation of youth and Black culture, which is essentially a culture of opposition to the status quo.

That's because the status quo is oppressive; and the opposition is therefore liberational.

What this means is that the core of hip-hop is the Black freedom movement, even though that influence has been misdirected into other, more materialistic pursuits.

Because capitalism is quintessentially cooptative, it has used these beats to sell sop, cars, candy, and even political candidates.

Many other areas of activity have tried to incorporate hip-hop sensibilities into their spheres of responsibility, with varying levels of success or failure.

That's because cultural conflict is often a bellwether of conflict in orther areas of life; politics, economy, law and media.


In The Vinyl Ain't Final, scholars from around the world reported how rap and hip-hop permeated youth communities of opposition all around the world. From Pakistanis in Britain to Turks in Germany, from Moroccans in France to youngters in Tanzania, Japand and Hawaii, rap has emerge with hip-hop beats in a host of languages, to express the same, essential alienation that moved Blacks and Latinos in the South Bronx to create this art form over a generation ago.


That rap and hip-hop has exploded so globally is remarkable, and a reflection of the power of Black culture as an impulse of freedom.

In the U.S. however, it is still a work in progress, a work that transforms culture, and then impacts other areas of life.


{Source: Basu, Dipannita & Sidney J. Lemelle, eds., The Vinyl Ain't Final: Hip -Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture. (London/Ann Arbor, Mi. Pluto Press, 2006)

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