Not Drinking? You’re Weird.

Peter Barnas

Not Drinking? You’re Weird

In the United States, the college years are commonly associated with binge drinking and excessive partying. Generally, students are not talking about what classes they are enrolled in, instead, they are boasting about who had the craziest weekend. Through the use of television, music, movies, and other forms of media, the current collegiate environment helps to facilitate an ideology that looks at those who choose not to engage in the party lifestyle as wayward. Unlike in the 1960s, heavy drinking and drug use is no longer a pursuit of freedom; instead it results from the pressure to fit in socially. Considering that emerging adulthood, ages eighteen to twenty-five, is a time of identity exploration, the pressure to be cool may lead those who would otherwise not engage in heavy drinking, to party it up. The amount of drinking and partying in a college environment is so intense that if a person engaged in a similar amount at an age outside of emerging adulthood it would be seen as socially problematic, and even wayward. As one matures into adulthood the roles of who is considered wayward flip-flops. Taking this into consideration, it is important to actually look at the implications of this dichotomy.  In essence, partying and going wild during the college years is seen as a rite of passage into adulthood. It is during this time period that a person is expected to live life to the “fullest” so he or she may settle into traditional adult roles. An unintended consequence of this ideology is that, for many people, education is no longer the primary purpose of college.

Who’s at Fault?

In today’s culture, through movies, television, and music, there has been a correlation instilled in the youth that implies in order to have a successful college experience; one must focus his or her attention on “living it up” rather than on the educational aspect of it. Although there is nothing wrong with utilizing college as a time period to be free and experience different things, the amount of focus is skewed in such a way that looks at those who chose education as the sole focus of college as wayward. “In North America and many other industrialized societies, binge or excessive drinking during emerging adulthood is condoned, and perhaps even encouraged, particularly for those attending college” (Jackson and White 183).

A common theme throughout any advertisements for alcohol is that it leads to great social times. For members of the youth who are in search of acceptance and friendship, they may rely on alcohol as the key to attaining happiness due to alcohol advertisements ability to put forth an ideology that alcohol equals immediate social acceptability.

 In order to better understand how this has come to pass, there must be an analysis of the forces at play. Parents or teachers do not put this type of ideology forth; it has been put forth by the commodification of a good time. For instance, the movie Party X presents two kids who are striving to find themselves. In order to do so, they throw a massive party that gets out of control. The more outrageous the things get, the cooler people perceive them as. This type of representation puts forth a positive relationship between coolness and having a good time. Depending on how prevalent this type of ideology is in a person’s environment has a direct effect on that person’s own personality. “Secondary socialization becomes effectively charged to the degree to which immersion in and commitment to the new reality are institutionally defined as necessary” (Berger and Luckman 129). Unfortunately, having a good time is not defined as studying, working, or putting forth an effort to attain things in the long run. By having a system that puts the value on having a good time, the things that are not related to having a good time are dissociated from a persons lists of wants. Generally, things are not just handed to people in life, they must be worked for, and for this reason it is important to recognize the error in this ideology since the emerging adults of today’s generation are the future.

Many people look at college as a rite of passage that is necessary in order to settle down into adult roles. While this belief may sound rational, the inherent risk involved is that emerging adults will internalize that life is strictly about having fun and nothing else. Rather then using college as a way to attain a good career or education, students get begin to see life as one big party without having any responsibilities. “The young people today, in contrast, see adulthood and its obligations in quite a different light. In their late teens and early twenties, marriage, home, and children are seen by most of them not as achievements to be pursued but as perils to be avoided” (Arnett 237). This ideology is apparent in movies such as National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. Van Wilder, who is depicted as the cool kid on campus, is asked about his future. His response is, “you take life too seriously,” this response is a representative of many college campuses today. Even with the rising costs of college, many students do not have to worry about the serious financial implications due to financial aid and parents. Rather then having to worry about debt in the here and now, students are able to push it off with the mentality of, “I’ll worry about it later.” This application of a shortsighted perspective helps to further perpetuate the belief that those who are putting forth the effort are wayward.

Another example of how the media influences the perception of the youth today and helps to reinforce the correlation between having fun and being cool rather then focusing on school is apparent in music. During the 1960s, music was seen as a pursuit of freedom. People were taking drugs and drinking as a symbol of freedom. Considering it was a time of great civil unrest due to the pushback against the powers at be, who were white males, and the rest of society seeking equality. This is apparent at Woodstock ‘69. In this interview, participants are asked about why they are at the festival. The general theme of their response is freedom. This is a far cry from the music of today’s generation.

This is a satire of the common perception people have of the times spent drunk. While most people tend to think they are the life of the party and having a good time, the reality is that intoxication can lead to sloppiness and acting out in inappropriate manners.

The song by Asher Roth titled I Love College  sums up the current generations view on college perfectly. The whole song is filled with references to a crazy party lifestyle. None of the lyrics make reference to getting an education or to any meaningful pursuit such as freedom and equality. Instead the song is filled with meaningless pursuits such as dancing, smoking weed, and drinking beer.

Although one may attempt to justify looking at college as a maturation process in which one must go through to finally settle into adult roles there are inherent risks. The extent of which college students are willing to push the limits are getting further and further as the years go by, this is apparent through the music that is being produced. The way the movies and music represent the college years may be seen as a harmless representation that is meant to allow the view to fantasize about living such a crazy lifestyle, but these risk with these types of showings are that they will be internalized by the youth of today. This has been the case, and has led to a culture that looks at those who chose not to live such a lifestyle as wayward. Considering emerging adulthood is a time of identify formation, people are especially susceptible to their environment, and as such, may give into the pressure to engage in partying excessively. If society is able to recognize the full implications of looking at those who choose not to engage in excessive partying during college as wayward then it may be able to reverse the trends. Maybe America will be able to rise back into the top ten worldwide is education.

There are movements in place in an attempt to bring into light the significant implications that heavy drinking can have on a person. Considering how entrenched heavy drinking is in many colleges across America, it will take drastic action to change the current trends.

Suggested Readings

Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen. “The Developmental Context of Substance use in Emerging Adulthood.” Journal of Drug Issues 35.2 (2005): 235-53.

Berger, Peter L., and Thomas Luckman. The Social Construction of Reality; a Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. 1st ed. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1966.

White, Helene-Raskin, and Kristina Jackson. “Social and Psychological Influences on Emerging Adult Drinking Behavior.” Alcohol Research & Health 28.4 (2004): 182-90.

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The Oneida Community

Catherine Konaté

The Oneida Community

Introduction

The Oneida Community was a religious and utopic commune founded by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848, in Oneida, New York. It was one of the only communities of the nineteenth century to have experimented in the sharing of property and emotional and sexual life.
The community dissolved in 1881, transformed into cooperative, and became a large company of silverware, Oneida Limited. What is really interesting with this subject as a wayward one, is the fact that such a community, motivated by so many avant garde ideas, could have existed at this time. Its goal wasn’t only limited to the sharing of property and love, but also focused on the improvement of women’s way of life; on a better education for everyone; on gender equality; and above all, on the self-perfecting of human beings. Thus, this entry will ask how and why this commune was made but also why it didn’t last. It will stress particularly the subjects of gender and sexuality in Oneida. And to finish, the notion of utopia and its importance through this commune will be discussed.

Origins

The Oneida Community emerged little by little in John Humphrey Noyes’ mind before becoming reality. John H. Noyes is described as a precocious learner and thoughtful, with a quick temper yet a natural leader. He started to study law before becoming a strong religious believer and joining the Yale Theological College during the Second Great Awakening, in 1831. However, after months of intense study, he was called a heretic; his license was resigned, and he was asked to withdraw from college. Why? Because John H. Noyes declared several times, that he had never committed sins. Indeed, according to him, unless man was truly free of sin, then Christianity was a lie, and that only those who were perfect and free of sin were true Christians. He also made his first theological discovery, and determined that the second coming of Christ has already occurred and took place in 70 AD. From here emerged the idea of perfectionism that became a key notion during the Oneida Commune. Noyes pointed out that it was people’s duty to God to get all the pleasure they could from the World in which God had placed them. Noyes claimed his new relationship to God canceled out his obligation to obey traditional moral standards or the normal laws of society. Noyes advocated neither a plurality of wives nor a community of wives, but a nullity of wives: “When the will of God is done on earth as it is in Heaven there will be no marriage. Exclusiveness, jealousy, quarreling have no place in the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Between 1838 and 1848, he began to create a commune of true believers. His own family was the original nucleus, his wife, sisters and brother; they called their group the Society of Inquiry. The community’s original 87 members grew to 172 by February 1850, 208 by 1852, and 306 by 1878.

“Community Family” Image courtesy of Oneida Community, An autobiography, Constance Noyes Robertson.

Oneida Community family, around 1860,   John Humphrey Noyes, with arms crossed, stands in right foreground.  Around 1860, the Oneida Community was already well established and counted more than one thousand members. The picture shows that the Male Continence was a great success; there are few children and a majority of adults.

One of the main principles of the community established by John H. Noyes was “complex marriage.” Complex marriage was an imaginative effort to liberate men and women from the narrow, and often narrowing, confines of monogamy and conventional family life. Complex marriage allowed free sexuality and love. The pleasures of sex were seen as a creation of God and were meant to be enjoyed by men and women. However, John H. Noyes agreed with Malthus on the absolute necessity for control over propagation, and this is the reason why he instilled those system of coitus reservatus that he named “Male Continence” to avoid undesired pregnancies. Postmenopausal women were encouraged to teach young boys how to have sex without incurring the risk of fertilization. In the same way, older men often introduced young women to sex. Meanwhile, during the Victorian era, which was a period of high prudery, it was not uncommon to practice barbaric acts such as penile cauterization and clitorodectomy to erase sexual pleasure, since sexuality was seen as one of the worst sin. Moreover, despite the fact that during this time most medical authorities though women were incapable of enjoying sex; at Oneida, it was incumbent on men to make sex pleasurable for their partners.

Community

“Community Song”, Image courtesy of Oneida Community, An autobiography, Constance Noyes Robertson.

This song was written by the Oneida Community, and is considered as the hymn of the commune. The song is mentioning the existence of Eden on earth, which would be built by the community itself. It refers to the main principles of Oneida: True love through “Complex Marriage”; and being “one” it means altogether in a sharing community living in one home.

Children were raised communally. Elderly people worked as much or as little as they liked. In the offices and in some of the lighter duties of the manufacturey as well as in the management and care of the communal home, women shared the labor and, in fact, the Oneida Community was one of the first groups to grant full equality of position to women. The Victorian Era was still a slavery period for women. Spencer Klaw wrote about it: “In an age when it was fashionable for women to emphasize how different they were from men by proclaiming their helplessness and dependency, women at Oneida, though they were praised for being bewitching and lovable, were exhorted to get rid of “effeminacy” to cultivate “manliness and robustness of character.” Women at Oneida have the chance to associate with men, both as lovers and as friends, on a more equal footing than the rest of the world usually permitted. They were told that they must not try to make men crazy by making themselves beautiful, because to do so would be to encourage idolatry.

John H. Noyes saw no virtue in poverty (another thing that differentiates him from the Christian Church). Education was a priority in Oneida. They sent promising young men into college – most of them to Yale; and they also had an education program for adults and for girls –who weren’t allow to have access to education outside the commune. In his will of perfectionism, Noyes created a system of mutual criticism, in which the goal was to eliminate bad character traits. Egotism in any form was ruthlessly suppressed. Also, he created a program of eugenics that he called “stirpiculture.” Stirpiculture was a special program dedicated to the perfectionism of children. A committee decided who should make a child with whom according to their qualities.

Although the Community gained more and more respectability due to its workshops, some tensions aroused with time. Indeed, more and more Oneidans were wondering why John H. Noyes was the only one to be under the direct commandment of God. By 1879, many Oneidans were demanding more freedom in sexual matters. They argued that young people should be free not to have sexual relations with older people. Young people wanted to be free to have lovers of their own age. Women who were not especially attractive often felt sexually deprived; and men were criticized for treating their partners like mistresses. But the main source of anguish and frustration was Noyes’s refusal to tolerate love affairs and their intensity or exclusivity. Besides, for years Oneida had been under intermittent fire from crusaders for moral purity and surnamed the “Utopia of obscenity”. The pressures that sent Noyes fleeing into exile and the Oneida Community to vanish came from the world outside Oneida as well as from within.

“Satiric cartoon of clergymen appalled by the “Utopia of obscenity.” Image courtesy of Without a Sin, Spencer Klaw.

The Oneida Community had several detractors, and were called the “Utopia of obsecenity”. Puck, a satirical journal, printed a cartoon that counter-attacked Oneida critics. The cartoon shows a band of self-righteous ministers pointing at Oneida and declaring “Oh, dreadful! They dwell in peace and harmony and have no church scandal. They must be wiped out.”

Conclusion

The Oneida Community proved that as a utopic commune – even if it did not last very long – it lasted and reached its goals for a time. It is important to care about such utopias because it shows that at any time it is possible to be and act against the social norms established by the laws or by the morality of society. It is also important to remember that such communes had existed because even if they didn’t have a huge impact on the future, if no men like John H. Noyes would have stands for gender equality and freedom of love, we could still be in a Victorian era. Such utopias prevent history to go round in circles, and make mental changes. That is to mean, if waywardness did not exist, improvements and changes in society could not exist either.

Suggested Reading

Secondary Sources

Spencer Klaw, Without Sin: The Life and Death of the Oneida Community, (Penguin Books, 1994).

Maren Lockwood Carden, Oneida: Utopian Community to Modern Corporation,(Syracuse University Press, 1998).

Donald E. Pitzer, America’s Communal Utopias, (The University of North Carolina Press, 1997).

Primary Sources

Constance Noyes Robertson, Oneida Community, An Autobiography 1851-1876, (Syracuse University Press, 1970).

“Community Song”, in Oneida Community, An autobiography, Constance Noyes Robertson.

“Marriage perplexities”, Oneida Circular (1871-1876), Feb 17 1876, American Periodicals, pg 52.

 

Slim Shady: Slim Chances in a Black Art Form

Shannon Thomas

Slim Shady: Slim Chances in a Black Art Form

MARSHALL’S PERSPECTIVE

Eminem

Marshall Mathers III, more popularly known by his stage-names “Eminem” and “Slim Shady,” is a wayward American. Because he was born into a low-income family, his early life was centered on escaping poverty and he struggled with his own identity as he tried to find a societal niche he could fit into. His father abandoned his family when Marshall was several months old; as a result, his single mother was forced to constantly uproot the family so they could live with various relatives when she was unemployed. This forced Marshall to transfer to different schools every few months and often led to him being bullied in these new schools. He spent much of his teenage years in Detroit, Michigan, where he adopted rap and where his foundations in hip-hop arose. In the part of Detroit where he was raised there were distinct lines between black and white neighborhoods and, oftentimes, racial clashes. It is in this aspect of his life that he would be considered wayward – he embraced the lifestyles and hobbies of his friends who were almost exclusively black. To this extent, he was often an outsider in a world that was predominantly black. For example, whenever he would participate in rap battles in underground clubs, people would exclaim their surprise at the color of his skin by calling him things such as “white boy.” Eventually, he struck a few key record deals and then, with the help of Dr. Dre, rose to fame (and sometimes infamy) in the hip hop world.

Eminem’s waywardness began as a child because he could not fit into any of the schools he was dropped in and, as a result, could not fall into the social norms of the time. His early life was difficult and he was often beat up for simply being the “new kid” at school. A line from one of his songs titled “Beautiful” exemplifies his identity struggle: “I just wanted to fit in in every single place and school I went. I dreamed of being that cool kid even if it meant acting stupid.”

When Marshall and his family finally settled in Detroit, Michigan, he had still been searching for his identity. He soon discovered that he could fit in with his black friends although his skin color set him apart from them. As he grew up, his company reflected his neighborhood; he experimented with rap, a predominantly African-American art form. Rap and hip hop are widely considered African American art forms because of their roots in African traditions and history. For example, rap is often closely compared to the spoken word of the Griots of Africa, who told stories in a rhythmic manner with sparse percussion in the background. Rap and hip hop also have roots in jazz and blues (which are forms of music that were created by the African-American populations of Mississippi, Louisiana, and other Southern states) that include the instrumental tracks and spoken poetry of jazz songs. Just as jazz and blues artists sang of their troubles and hardships, the first rappers such as Tupac Shakur did the same (Hare). 

Eminem’s deviance from the social norms that were dictated by race where he grew up makes him an exemplary wayward American. In Detroit, where he spent his teenage years, there is a street with the name “8 Mile Road,” which served as a rigid barrier between the white suburbs and the black city.

The street in Detroit, Michigan where teenage Marshall Mathers grew up. This symbolic street separated the rich, white Detroit suburbs from the poor, black city.

Teenaged Eminem lived on the black side of 8 Mile Road, and from this location came his integration into the black lifestyle, the most significant aspect of which (to him) was hip hop. In an interview in 2000 (at the age of 28) with Spin magazine, Eminem was asked if being white had really affected the way he saw himself as a rapper. He responded: “In the beginning, the majority of my shows were for all-black crowds, and people would always say, “You’re dope for a white boy…””

Eminem sporting a durag, an article of clothing that was characteristic of
African-American rap and hip hop artists of the 1990’s

Later in life he would go on to question what that meant, and he would take the stand that rendered the race question irrelevant of a person’s own inclinations. In that same interview he was asked a question that would test his maturity and identity as a white performer on an African-American stage: Spin asked him if he had ever wished that he was black. He answered:

“There was a while when I was feeling like, ‘Damn, if I’d just been born black, I would not have to go through all this shit.’ But I’m not ignorant…. Music, in general, is supposed to be universal; people can listen to whatever they want and get something out of it.”

Through his own personal struggle, he encourages young people to be a little wayward themselves: if rich white children enjoy rap music and aspire to become rappers, he states, then they should be able to do so regardless of the social norms of the time.

Eminem’s upbringing in a trailer park and in a low-income area gave him the “ammo” for his music: by being able to rap about how difficult his life was, he could relate to the audiences of the rap battles he partook in. In an interview with Anderson Cooper on the television show 60 Minutes, Eminem describes how he was often put down and insulted in terms of not being successful or even being able to participate in the rap world on the grounds that he was a white person in a black person’s game. He goes on to explain how he used such slight as fuel for his rhymes and lyrics – to show the audience that he was capable of beating his African-American counterparts.

This perseverance and success in the face of adversity allowed him to successfully defy the social norms engulfing the rap genre. Many consider Eminem to be a forerunner in the art of hip hop as an artist of non-black descent; he is often thought of as the most well-known and earliest white artists to succeed in the hip hop world. Eminem believes that the songs that he and others like him create will serve in the end only to further integrate the world. He believes that rap and hip hop are art forms that could bring all the different races of young people a little closer together and lessen the racism that he encountered as a young man. As such an influential wayward American, Eminem has challenged and continues to challenge the social norms of our time, encouraging his listeners to disregard the racism and stereotyping of the past in their lives so that they may, in a sense, be more wayward, like him, so that people can do anything and become anything they wish to be despite what the history of their race in America dictates.

Suggested Readings

Aaron, Charles. “Chocolate on the Inside.” Spin, 2000.

Esling, Isabelle. Eminem and the Detroit Rap Scene: White Kid in a Black Music World. Phoenix, AZ: Colossus, 2012. Print.

Hare, Deborah. “01.03.08: Poems, Prayers, Promises, and Possibilities: The Music of Poetry.”01.03.08: Poems, Prayers, Promises, and Possibilities: The Music of Poetry. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, n.d. Web. 31 Dec. 2012.

Watkins, S. Craig. Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement. Boston: Beacon, 2005. Print.

Homo Hop: A Subgenre of Hip Hop

Ibiyemi Adenuga

Homo Hop: A Subgenre of Hip Hop

Introduction

Hip Hop music was a form of expression and evaluating social concerns with its early forms. Hip Hop music consists of rapping to a rhythmic beat. Hip Hop is commonly used in place of rap music but rapping is not a required component. When Hip Hop first arrived as a genre of music, it was seen as a deviant form of expression. Its main components such as Emceeing, Dejaying, break dancing, and graffiti writing raised up concerns in certain neighborhoods and eventually led to a few laws being passed against this form. After some obstacles had been crossed, the subculture of Hip Hop was still being demonized and being blamed for acts of violence in urban areas. Although Hip Hop from certain perspectives is not to be chastised for its passion and its intensity, a lot of artists such as NWA and Ice-T are known for their lyrics that exude forcefulness. Hip Hop then transitioned into a stage of hyper masculinity and redirected its focus on the female figure. It was assumed all Hip Hop artists were male and heterosexual because of the pejorative terms used to describe the female body and their encounters. Then came the emergence of Homo-Hop. This group of LGBT artists and performers can be considered wayward based on the sole fact that they themselves emerged from a subculture. Homo Hop is against the homophobia and anti-gay lyrics Hip Hop often conveys.

Waywardness of Homo Hop: An Insider View

In Homo Hop, we see explicit lyrics or lyrics that would be deemed explicit by the society.  As noted in the introduction of this post, Homo Hop is against anti-gay lyrics and homophobia that Hip Hop often communicates. Eminem, a white Hip Hop artist released an album The Marshall Mathers LP. This was his third studio album and the first album that won the Grammy for Best Rap album in 2001. It was also nominated for album of the year. This album sold close to two million copies during its first week alone.  A song featured on this album called Marshall Mathers was the talk of the time. The single begins with an introduction by Eminem stating, “You know I just don’t get it, Last year I was nobody, this year I’m selling records, Now everybody wants to come around like I owe ’em something, The fuck you want from me 10 million dollars. Get the fuck out of here.” Eminem was referring to how no one essentially cared until this album sold millions. He also brings up the fact that his mother is suing him for defamation of character for $4 million dollars on how he depicted her in a song called, “My name is”. This album received great accolade and it makes one wonder why. In the single Marshall Mathers, Eminem raps about a group Insane Clown Posse (ICP) that released a dis-tape about him and Eminem then refers to them as “Faggot 2 Dope and Silent Gay”.  Their stage names are really Shaggy 2 Dope and Silent J. He poses them as the uncomplimentary term “faggots” because in the Hip Hop community that is the worst thing someone can be called. The term is demeaning and Hip Hop has claimed such a masculine persona. Therefore being a “faggot” is ultimately career ending. Producers will not want to associate with the artist because of fear of reaching a large fan base. Understanding that the Hip Hop culture is a subculture, apart from mainstream, gives more validity to Homo Hop being wayward. Insane Clown Posse (Shaggy 2 Dope and Silent J) is a Hip Hop duo and they wear clown makeup. Eminem is obviously commenting on this in his song and he is challenging their manliness.

The volume Home Girls Make Some noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology includes an essay by Andreana Clay titled: “I Used to be scared of the Dick: Queer Women of Color and Hip Hop Masculinity.” In her essay, Clay expresses the difficulties black women encounter as lesbians.  She tells a story about a female that “came out” to a group of males and that led to her being murdered. Furthermore she describes how it is safe for women in queer spaces. She states:

“In these all female, queer club spaces, the decoding of black male masculinity is exciting, normalized and even safe. First these displays can demonstrate what queer women do and whom we do it with. Second, there isn’t the fear of violence or being overpowered that may be associated with mixed, straight clubs” (157-158).

Clay expresses in her essay exactly what African American females face going to a straight club where all the music is derogatory towards those of her kind (Lesbians and Gay men). It isn’t a safe haven when she steps foot in these clubs but at the queer club spaces, she can roam around and see different people who put on the persona of the males at the straight clubs but they have her interest at heart and are not ferocious. Homo Hop is being played at the club. Therefore there isn’t any music that would make one feel uncomfortable about their sexual preference like Hip Hop has done for many because of its anti-gay and homophobic lyrics.

Homo Hop is self-willed. Being wayward is the opposite of what is desired and expected. Homo Hop being derived from Hip Hop is wayward because Hip Hop is homophobic, has ulterior motives with its deliverance, and can be classified as misogynistic. Homo Hop is not compliant to the genre of Hip Hop. It illustrates the desire to escape normative behavior. The artists of Homo Hop are of LGBT but their audiences are diverse. Those who believe Hip Hop music to be derogatory and belittling to women and those who deviate from the norm, listen to Homo Hop. In the book Black Cultural Traffic: Crossroads in Global Performance and Popular Culture, Tim’m T. West, who is the founder of the group Deep Dickollective, writes about what Homo Hop is and exactly what it exhibits. In his essay, “Keepin’ it Real: Disidentification and its Discontents,” he writes,

“The burgeoning Hip Hop subculture Homo Hop, is the inevitable outgrowth of a tension between Hip Hop’s Greatest taboo and the figurative dis/ease experienced by its “homosexual” disciples.  Homo Hop has an origin narrative of its own: romantic and revolutionary, just like the origin narrative of hip hop, the global and cultural movement out of which it was born” (162-163).

In this essay he examines how Hip Hop had to have been established for Homo Hop to derive from it. Essentially he says one cannot know darkness until they see the light. From his essay he establishes that gay black rappers and artists hold some sort of double-edged sword and this sword is what could make or break them and sometimes even both. He states that gay artists disidentify with Hip Hop, which is a “cultural medium that has been so central to their formation as black folk in America” (West, 163).

This subgenre expresses its identification with Hip Hop but it exhibits disidentifaction for the sole purpose of the notion it connotes to its listeners and soon to be listeners. Homo Hop had the PEACEOUT World Homo Hop festivals for those who support and want a safe space to perform and listen. The festival has been an annual festival held in Oakland, California.

Hiding in Hip Hop

In Terrance Dean’s, Hiding in Hip Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry, he writes, “in the world if hip hop, the more adversity in ones life, the more street credibility earned… I’d been to prison so surely I would be accepted.” He wants to be a hip hop artist but his sexual preference suggests against it because it would be difficult for the industry to accept him. This then cause him to be “on the down low” – not outing his sexual preference

This video, archived at Queerphonic, discusses the issues around homo hop being recorded and sold to the public. The video begins with a voicemail stating, “your song is good but it’s really explicit.” Hip hop itself has been criticized for being overly explicit therefore critiquing homo hop as such carries a hypocritical double standard.

The documentary Pick up the Mic features explosive public performances with homo hop’s most important artists. It explores the underground music as a movement and its effect on the mainstream. Pick up the Mic goes against hip hops norm of homophobic attributes.

Suggested Readings/Videos:

Pick Up the Mic- Film

Terrance Dean, Hiding in Hip Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry (2009).

Queerphonics: http://queerphonics.tumblr.com/post/5956516036/gay-hip-hop-artist-in-nyc-cycy-talks-about-the

Clay, Andreana. 2007. “’I Used to be Scared of the Dick’: Queer Women of Color, Hip Hop, and Black Masculinity.” Pp. 149-165 in Home Girls Make Some Noise!: Hip-Hop Feminism Anthology. G. D. Pough, E. Richardson, A. Durham, and R.
Raimist, editors. Monroe, CA: Parker Publishing

Black Cultural Traffic: Crossroads in Global Performance and Popular Culture, Tim’m West, Keepin it Real.

The Hip-Hop Mogul Extraordinaire and Trendsetter That is Jay-Z

 

 

Gemini Nazareno

The Hip-Hop Mogul Extraordinaire

and Trendsetter That is Jay-Z

JAYZ

About Jay-Z the Artist, Producer, and Entrepreneur:

Shawn Carter, whose stage name is Jay-Z, is an American rap artist, record producer, and entrepreneur. He is one of the most financially successful hip-hop artists and entrepreneurs in America. He is consistently ranked as one of the greatest rappers of all time. He is the founder of the urban clothing brand Rocawear, co-owner of the upscale sports bar chain called the 40/40 Club, part owner of the Brooklyn Nets NBA team, and the founder of the record label Roc Nation. He represents mainstream, commercialized, radio-friendly music culture, which can be compared to the underground rappers producing beats out of their basement refusing to sign to a major label. Jay-Z goes against the norms of traditional hip-hop culture, producing music for his own personal entertainment as his fortunes revolve around his widely distributed music and big business ventures making him one of the wealthiest moguls in hip-hop. He is an artist moving from being “wayward” to being repackaged for mainstream consumption and universal exposure. His music addresses many themes including how he has learned to come to terms with living in the projects in Brooklyn to living the lavish life of a multi-platinum selling rap artist, producer, and entrepreneur. The changes in his life from rags to riches have led to questions of “authenticity” being asked. Through the evolution of his career, the authenticity of the hip-hop world has developed to incorporate the need for artists to include accounts of “wayward” behavior and allow their music to connect to “urban” listeners as well as suburban consumers which has created a format for Jay-Z to successfully meet his ends as one of the greatest rappers to ever live.

What Makes Jay-Z Wayward in the Hip-Hop World?

Jay-Z epitomizes mainstream, commercialized, radio-friendly hip-hop culture as his music spans genres upon genres of mass appeal. His widely distributed music and big business ventures have catapulted him into the ranks of the wealthiest moguls in the game. He represents an artist diverting from labels of “wayward” to being repackaged for mainstream consumption and universal exposure. With his music addressing themes of how he has come to terms with living in the projects of Brooklyn, to living the lavish life of a multi-platinum selling rap artist, producer, and entrepreneur, the changes in his life from rags to riches has led to the questions of “authenticity” being asked. These questions have proven to be quite unimportant in American culture as long as the music being produced is commercially successful and the artist is profitable to the record label. Through his musical evolution beginning from his early childhood growing up in the Marcy Houses, a part of the Brooklyn projects, as a nine-year old in 1978, to the release of his debut album “Reasonable Doubt” in 1996, to his current iconic status as a hip-hop mogul extraordinaire, the authenticity of the hip-hop world has caused rappers to incorporate accounts of “wayward” behavior such as drug dealing, gang violence, the over-sexualization of women, etc., to play a prominent role in their lyrics and image as well as allowing their music to connect to “urban” listeners and suburban consumers who likely have had no firsthand experience with inner city life, growing up in the projects, and exposure to the criminal acts found in the crowded ghettos. In a way, it is almost unfair for consumers to demand such wayward authenticity from rappers as it has created a false stereotyped image for rappers to aspire to be in order to maintain their relevancy.

This gangster typecasting has pigeonholed rappers from expressing themselves creatively into the rappers they aspire to be as many record labels try to profit as much as possible from their artists accomplished via their assertion into a certain gangster style.

Though underground rappers refuse to conform to the norms of mainstream society and their major label counterparts are successfully coerced to alter their style to fit the highly commercialized façade of the rich and famous yet maintaining their hustler street credibility through their bogusly-forced gangster appearance, danger surrounds these expectations for rappers to “keep it real” as they have been constrained from freely creating music without being branded via the connoted labels “underground” or “mainstream”. The hip-hop culture, which formed during the 1970s in New York City with influences from funk and soul music, has come a long way to the commercialized and processed rap music of today’s mainstream culture.

Jay-Z’s larger-than-life influence has reached far beyond the realm of the hip-hop world. Being closely affiliated with some of mainstream music’s biggest superstars, including Chris Martin of Coldplay, rock band Linkin Park, and Bono of U2, Jay-Z elaborates on his relationship with the U2 frontman and his first impressions of the rock artist in his book Decoded. Relating the kind of pressure a group like U2 must be under just to meet their own standard and how anxious they are about their work at this point in their career connects to the overall semblance of Jay-Z as a rap artist and person. As Jay-Z states in his interview on Decoded with CNN, “the weight of who you are and the weight of what you’ve done is on you as well.” Speaking of his accomplishments, Jay-Z’s motivation to never stop delivering his definition of quality music has driven his current musical and business reverence. Though his current experiences as one of the most successful and wealthiest artists in the multimillion-dollar rap industry are a far cry from the underground themes of struggles of working class African-Americans living in destitute ghettos of major cities against the offensive and socially irresponsible music of today’s mainstream society, he still remains on top of his rap game gaining much-needed credibility through his musical forays, business ventures, and his ability to “keep it real” or as “real” as he is able to as he is close to twenty years removed from his original “hustle” trying to make it in the grueling record industry.

Through the ambitious scope of Dan Charnas’s The Big Payback: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, he relates hip-hop to America’s first treasurer, Alexander Hamilton. Outlining the songs being played on Harlem’s 125th Street on the eve of President Obama’s election, he recounts the historic background of rap music itself. Combining the commerce and art of poetry behind hip-hop music, he depicts the story of rap as a story of “hustlers” who have innovated and stylistically shaped the industry from its funk and soul roots into the progressively processed and radio-friendly music it is today. Comparatively, in Chang’s Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation the author outlines the social conditions that gave rise to it, the stories of the people and communities that first pioneered it and advanced it forward, its transformation from a culture of resistance to a primarily party-oriented movement, it’s consumerism, and a glimpse into its future. Artists like Jay-Z have been able to stay relevant through the constant changes in hip-hop culture through the innovation of his music from the rawness depicted in his debut album “Reasonable Doubt” to the eclecticism of his recent collaborative album “Watch the Throne” with his contemporary, Kanye West. Though the his lyrical direction has evolved from lower-class dealings to the materialistic ups and downs of the upper class, his ability to set trends instead of follow the crowd, has allowed him to stay ahead of the pack. As some critics may write off Jay-Z, born Shawn Carter, as a sell out, his natural progression from upstart to rap megastar has been a warranted evolution for such an established and successful rap genius.

Looking into His Lyrics:

“Brooklyn Go Hard” from Notorious by Jay-Z featuring Santigold:

The song is an ode to Jay-Z’s hometown of Brooklyn, a borough of New York City. It depicts his early childhood growing up in the borough and the struggles he went though that has made him into the man he is today. Though he depicts the drug dealing, criminal activity, his growing up without a father and a mother who was too busy, and the poverty in the borough, he arrogantly describes his experiences without regret as he is fortunate for his roots. The repetition of the work “Brooklyn” shows how proud he is to represent his home.

“Where I’m From” from In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 by Jay-Z:

The song explicitly describes Jay-Z’s hometown of Brooklyn and the destitution in the area. It deals with how badly things were that the government and its people gave up on trying to save it; however, he is still proud to have gone through what he went through because it made him into a better man experienced in the life who knows to look out for himself because no one else will. He is proud to be able to have become a success past Brooklyn and be able to tell the tale after rising from the ghetto and feeling accomplished in doing so.

“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” by Jay-Z:

The song depicts the beginnings of Jay-Z’s rapping career where he claims he originally came up with rhymes during his times as a drug dealer involved in a plethora of criminal activity in Brooklyn. He has come a long way from then as he is now at the top of the game being more successful than he could ever imagine. This song represent his respect for those who do the grunt work and menial labor to make money for their futures because he did the same thing to get to where he is now.

Suggested Reading:

Carter, Shawn C., Mr. Decoded. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2011. Print.

Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s, 2005. Print.

Charnas, Dan. The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop. New York, NY: New American Library, 2010. Print.

Kakutani, Michiko. “Jay-Z Deconstructs Himself.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Nov. 2010. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/books/23book.html?_r=0&gt;.

Sean Carter (Jay-Z) Talks Business with CNN (Decoded Interview). Perf. Jay-Z. YouTube. YouTube, 27 June 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSSaQyJ13Bo&gt;.

Ogbar, Jeffery O. G. “Slouching toward Bork: The Culture Wars and Self-Criticism in Hip-Hop Music.” Journal of Black Studies. 2nd ed. Vol. 30. N.p.: Sage Publications, 1999. 163-83. JSTOR. Web. 15 Dec. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/2645846&gt;.

Spike Lee

Christopher Rech

Spike Lee

Spike Lee is an African American film director who is well known for his lineup of highly controversial films. The subject matter of these films is almost always about how race and race relations are dealt with in American society. The controversial nature of these films is often seen in the images that Spike Lee presents as well as the dialogue between characters. While many of his critics accuse him of using his films to push racist messages, Spike Lee argues the opposite. He believes that most of Hollywood either adopts a “magical, mystical Negro” character to act in a secondary role to a white protagonist or just ignores the issues of race altogether. Spike Lee’s waywardness comes directly from trying to answer the tougher questions about race that most of America just pushes aside.

Spike Lee’s “wayward” approach to the social issues of race in his films is meant to make his audience think about what role race plays in American culture and society. Throughout American history, race has remained an important point of study, although it does not always receive the amount of attention that it deserves for being such an important issue. Spike Lee’s goal as a wayward filmmaker is to present the issues associated with race in a controversial manner that will spark discussions on various topics pertaining to race. Cornel West’s book Race Matters shows how race is looked at in America and explains some of the problems encountered while trying to look at issues of race relation:

To engage in a serious discussion of race in America, we must begin not with the problems of black people but with the flaws of American society — flaws rooted in historical inequalities and longstanding cultural stereotypes. How we set up the terms for discussing racial issues shapes our perception and response to these issues. As long as black people are viewed as a “them,” the burden falls on blacks to do all the “cultural” and “moral” work necessary for healthy race relations. The implication is that only certain Americans can define what it means to be American— and the rest must simply “fit in” (3).

This passage describes what Lee is trying to accomplish through his films. He is trying to bridge that cultural gap between people of different races by looking at the issues that divide them in a way that most Americans would never think about.

“Racial Stereotypes,” Do The Right Thing, 1989

The above clip from Do the Right Thing shows the use of over-the-top racial stereotypes by some of the main characters of the film, to convey to the audience the existence of real-life interracial tensions between these different groups. Spike Lee himself plays the part of the African American character named Mookie. Throughout the film, this interracial tension keeps building up until it inevitably explodes into violence. While most of Hollywood just ignored issues of race, Lee went against the expectations and devoted entire films to the matter.

One of Spike Lee’s early films, Do the Right Thing, deals with the often touchy subject of interracial relations. Throughout the film, Spike Lee engages the characters in hateful and racially charged dialogues that include many of the common stereotypes for each race. The negative interactions between characters that occur during the film keep building upon the tensions between the different races. Whenever the groups begin to go overboard with their racist dialogue, Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Mister Senor Love Daddy, a local radio host, interjects and tries to defuse the situation before it gets out of hand. However, he is unable to which leads to an inevitable outbreak of violence and destruction between the different racial groups. These types of racial tensions were real problems that were not paid attention to by most people, especially other filmmakers. Spike Lee took the wayward approach to devote an entire film to these important ideas and implant the moral that Americans need to look at race relations seriously so that the types of violence seen in the film can be avoided in real life.

Bamboozled review
Trying on Blackface in a Flirtation With Fire.” Image courtesy of The New York Times, 2000
The above image is from the New York Times review of Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled. The review says that Spike Lee is “playing with fire” by using these images of blackface. It would be dangerous for most directors to try to pull off a film like Bamboozled, but Spike Lee is able to and gets across a strong message about how African Americans are being wrongfully portrayed through various forms of American entertainment.

The African American community often endures many hardships based solely on their racial backgrounds. As Paul Wachtel describes in his book Race in the Mind of America, “The circumstances encountered by black people on these shores, from the extraordinary inhumanity of slavery to the poverty, violence, and virtual abandonment by mainstream society of today’s inner cities, have presented a series of severe challenges to human resourcefulness” (143). Spike Lee tries to educate the mainstream society of these types of issues through his films. His film Bamboozled deals with the various negative ways that African Americans have been seen by society. The film is meant to be a satire of the old minstrel shows and Lee makes this clear by beginning the film with the main character, Pierre Delacroix, giving the definition of satire. The minstrel show and the use of black face were originally used as a form of popular entertainment in nineteenth-century America when racial inequality was the norm. “By addressing themselves to race in the decades when white Americans first had to come to grips with what the position of blacks would be in America, while at the same time producing captivating, unique entertainment, blackfaced performers quickly established the minstrel show as a national institution, one that more than any other of its time was truly shaped by and for the masses of average Americans” (Toll, 26). In the nineteenth century, it was often white men that would perform in blackface. In Bamboozled however, Spike Lee has black actors donning the blackface makeup. This is a jab that Spike Lee makes at how black actors continue to play that “magical, mystical Negro” role in television and movies. The film also featured a large collection of “Negro memorabilia” from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. In an interview with Kaleem Aftab, Lee says “Bamboozled was fun to research. I bought a lot of Negro memorabilia. To me it is a reminder of how we were thought of—and how we are still thought of today, for all that’s changed” (Aftab, 264). The final scene of the film plays the most important part. Spike Lee puts in a montage of various instances of blackface and other portrayals of African Americans in the negative stereotypes that they are often seen in. He makes a connection with how African Americans are still looked at through their racial stereotypes today just as they were at the time that blackface was popular.

“Blackface Montage,” Bamboozled, 2000
The above clip from Bamboozled is a montage of various representations of African Americans throughout American culture. The clips show common stereotypes such as African Americans eating watermelon and depicting them as savages. While The New Millennium Minstrel Show portrayed in the film is supposed to act as a satire of these types of images of African American, it comes very close to the real thing itself.

Spike Lee will always be seen as a wayward filmmaker by the American public because he chooses to take on the social issues of race that nobody else will touch. While the images and dialogues used in his film are seen as racist and controversial by many of his critics, they all play an important part in the messages that he is trying to convey. His collection of films are all vital to developing a better understanding of the way racial issues are looked at from different perspectives.

Suggested Readings

Kaleem Aftab, Spike Lee: That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to it (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 2005).

Susan Gonzalez, “Director Spike Lee slams ‘same old’ black stereotypes in today’s films” (Yale Bulletin & Calendar, 2001).

Spike Lee, Bamboozled (New Line Cinema, 2000).

Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing (Universal Pictures, 1989).

Robert C. Toll, Blacking Up: The Minstrel Show in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974).

Paul L. Wachtel, Race In The Mind Of America (London: Routledge, 1999).

Cornel West, Race Matters (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993).

Elon Musk

Graham Mitchell

Elon Musk

Elon Musk, an American entrepreneur famous for (co)founding multiple socially conscious companies, serves as an example of how waywardness can help better and develop the public. His accomplishments as a businessman and designer include the co-founding of Paypal.com and Tesla Motors, as well as founding the first private space-exploration company, SpaceX, which has absorbed much of NASA’s staff and responsibility in the wake of its own budgetary cuts. Currently, Musk serves as the CEO and Chief Designer at SpaceX, as well as CEO and Product Architect for Tesla Motors. Elon Musk shakes off the negative connotations associated with the word “wayward,” instead using his unorthodox business strategies and direct approach to solving the world’s biggest challenges to garner public favor and help guide society into a brighter future.

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Elon Musk’s entrepreneurial mind is not only focused on how best to run a business, but is also on how best to use his companies to better the challenges that society faces currently, such as the growing need for oil alternatives and eventual space exploration. 

As a businessman, Musk has taken it upon himself to avoid generating patents on his intellectual property created through his company, SpaceX. This flies in the face in the growing belief that companies produce patents to protect their products, as well as forgoing these patents as assets that can prove profitable to the company. Instead, this defiant strategy of patent abandonment allows for a number of advantages. First, the materials and products produced by SpaceX are meant to serve society’s eventual need for space-exploration, a potential avenue for mankind’s future. By not applying patents to the goods produced by his company, Musk is able to generate interest and collaboration towards these socially-minded goals among parties, without the deterrent of potential collaborators having to pay royalties. Of course, this comes at the cost of those potential royalties, therefore lowering potential profits, a veritable faux pas among business CEOs. Second, by not issuing patents to the products he and his company create, Musk is able to keep the particular details of his designs and products concealed. American patent law requires full disclosure of that which it protects, but global respect towards these laws is often disregarded. Musk, who cites groups in China as his primary competitors for SpaceX, believes that applying patents to his designs would be “farcical,” instead preferring to opt out of disclosing his secrets in a fashion few others consider in this growing time of patent wars (Bhasin). Finally, by promoting community development, an inherent trait of crowd source production, Musk seeks to advance a growing form of economic thought. Known as ‘wikinomics,’ the concept describes new ways in which to do business using collaborative work from multiple sources or companies. Such a concept could only exist in the modern era, as the evolution of the idea traces its origins with the growing trend in outsourcing (transplanting business practices to another company). This system of collaborative work is further propagated by Musk’s openness towards other’s having access to his companies’ products. Such innovation in the design and development phase could become popular and revolutionize the creation of other products from other companies, much in the same way that the assembly-line process did during the Industrial Revolution.

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Musk has recently unveiled plans to send 80,000 people to Mars, through his company SpaceX. Such radical planning is usually only seen by governments, and shows traction on one of the most forward-thinking and imaginative ventures in recent memory.

However, it is not only his abandonment of squeezing every drop of profit out of his company that makes Elon Musk a wayward American. Through the companies he has (co)founded over the last decade and a half, Musk displays an admirable attempt to help solve what can only be viewed as some of society’s largest problems. Tesla Motors, perhaps the most iconic of the world’s fully-electric automobile cooperations,  seeks to provide society with stylish and affordable cars that run entirely on electricity, an answer to not only the global oil shortage, but also the ever-present environmental concerns that so pervasively eat at the mind’s of everyone. SpaceX also serves to answer important, arguably distant, societal concerns through the advancement of technology and knowledge about the fabled ‘final frontier.’ Musk’s focus on these vast and important challenges that plague nearly all members of American society is generally uncharacteristic of someone in his position. While wealthy men have always (claimed at least) that they were trying to better the world, it is rare that this help originates and serves as the purpose for the financial platforms that these men built. Rather, as is the case with many of Musk’s contemporaries, money is almost arbitrarily thrown at the situations in the hope that an answer will be found one day. While such acts are not to be perceived lightly, such as the “Giving Pledge,” in which billionaire participants give half of their fortune away over their lifetime (of which Musk is a part of), Musk appears to be taking a more direct approach in looking to answer some of civilization’s greatest obstacles.

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Musk’s smallest business SolarCity, along with Tesla Motors, inherently display Musk’s determination to solving some of society’s biggest problems: environmental improvement and alternate fuel sources.

Of course, Musk is not the first American entrepreneur to achieve celebrity status and popularity within society. Beginning with the name that would later become embroidered on our subject’s automobiles, Nikola Tesla was viewed by many to display an unprecedented and largely misunderstood intellect; his inventions were viewed as pure science-fiction at the time of their inception. Tesla’s rival, Thomas Edison, also served as America’s dearest inventor after a very public feud between himself and Tesla ended in most of the public losing faith in the latter; Tesla’s career has since forever been plunged into obscurity. Recently, there has been a widespread fascination with former Apple CEO Steve Jobs following his death, his grassroots origins and overwhelming success providing America the kind of narrative that captivates. Each of these men serve not only as businessmen, although each certainly cannot be understood without this, but as a figure of American endearment. This endearment therefore holds them to a certain level of social responsibility that cannot be ignored, lest the American public turn their backs on them (see: Tesla). Such a position in the view of American society is hard to achieve, and undoubtedly harder to maintain. However, Elon Musk, with his smart business tactics, open faced development of products, and socially conscious goals that seek to advance mankind, serves as an excellent example of how waywardness can be reapplied to have a positive connotation.

Suggested Readings:

  • Tapscott, D., and A. D. Williams. Macrowikinomics, rebooting business and the world. 1st ed. Portfolio, 2012. Print.
  • Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. 1. 1. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print.
  • Bhasin, Kim. “ELON MUSK: ‘If We Published Patents, It Would Be Farcical’.” Business Insider:Strategy. Business Insider, 09 2012. Web. 30 Dec 2012.
  • Gonzalez, Robert T.. “The billionaire genius who Tony Stark is based on wants humans on Mars within 15 years.”io9.com. Gawker Media, 08 2012. Web.