Tag Archive | Barry Shank

Sound at ASA 2013

Although this year’s American Studies Association conference location is not as warm and sunny as last year’s (can we have all November conferences in warm, sunny places, please?), Washington DC has a lot to offer this year’s conference attendees. The title for this year’s annual meeting, which takes place from November 21 to November 24, 2013, is “Beyond the Logic of Debt, Toward an Ethics of Collective Dissent.” The focus on debt in all of its dimensions couldn’t be more timely, considering that the conference comes on the heels of a government shutdown that the United States is still getting over, in addition to formal and informal conversations about recovery. In this sense, Washington DC seems an ideal setting for the topic: it’s the center of many of these national conversations about debt.

It is no surprise then that, according to the co-chairs of this year’s programming committee, Roderick Ferguson, Lisa Lowe and Jodi Melamed, many of the panels chosen for this year’s ASA revolve around keywords such as “debt, obligation, ethics, collectivity, and dissent.” The focus on such topics may explain why there are less panels and papers that fall under Sound Studies. The connection between debt and sound may not be immediately apparent for some, which may either keep panels or papers that focus on sound out of the conversation. It may also be the case that the overall topic may not immediately resonate for those who work on or write about sound matters. Sound Studies is still staking its claim, loud and clear. For example, bright and early at 8:00 am on Thursday, November 21st, there’s the Sonic Lives of Debt panel, which looks at how debt is represented in music and sound in general. Another highlight from Thursday is one of two American Studies Journal panels, titled Chocolate Spaceship: Gender Politics and Afro-Futurism in Funk, with papers on Patti Labelle, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Roger Troutman.

For artists and scholars of Sound Studies, the conference theme summons Jacques Attali’s famed text, Noise: The Political Economy of MusicHis theoretical arguments about music as an audible mirror of capitalism, a structured representation of noise, and a means of understanding “debt” through sound, serve as an academic companion to this year’s lineup of panels and papers that address sound.  Some sound-related panels complicate ideas of “dissent” and “debt.” Sonic Ledgers of Dissent (Saturday, 4:00-5:45 pm), chaired by Deborah R. Vargas, focuses on dissent addresses not only the State (FBI), but also gay rapper Caushun, racial musical miscegenation, and Black/Brown alliances in Los Angeles.

However, it’s not just a matter of the connection of the theme with sound. Last year, SO! Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman pointed out in her ASA 2012 conference round-up that there were less sound studies panels than other years, and suggested that this turn may indicate that the field is entering a moment of reflection.  Stoever-Ackerman rightfully argues that academic presentations related to Sound Studies are moving beyond making the presence of the field known and moving toward engaging with sound on a deeper, more complicated level. Consider how some of the panels listed below may not be precisely about sound studies, but include a sound-oriented approach. The panel Debts of Spirit and Substance includes a paper that looks at songs of protest: Glenda Goodman’s “Unsung Songs of the ‘Swinish Multitude’: Transnational Tunes of Eighteenth-Century Political Protest.” Another example is Sunday’s Latinas/os Onscreen and On/Off Air: Rethinking Contemporary Media Audiences and Discourses panelwhich includes a presentation by Dolores Inés Casillas titled “Lost in Translation: The Politics of Spanish-language Radio Ratings.” It is encouraging to see how cultural critiques also include sound as a way to analyze and understand cultural phenomena.

"Washington DC - National Museum of American History: Fireside Chat microphone" by Flickr user Wally Gobetz, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Washington DC – National Museum of American History: Fireside Chat microphone” by Flickr user Wally Gobetz, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The ASA Sound Studies Caucus is bringing it this year with three panels that carry the caucus’s stamp of approval. The three panels (two on Friday and one on Saturday) address questions of listening, recording, and memory. The Friday panel at 2:30, chaired by Nicole Hodges Persley, is titled Sampling Phonographies: Sonic Memory and the Long History of Sampling and stars two SO! contributors: Gustavus Stadler (“Charles Chesnutt, Sonic Memory, and Racial Terror”) and Meghan Drury (“Across Time and Space: Hearing Sun Ra’s Egypt”). Each of the papers on this panel discuss the intimate relationship between music’s ritual of sampling and racial memory. That 2:30 presentation is immediately followed by Musical Debts: Appropriations, Reparations, or New Traditions?, chaired by Barry Shank. Shank participated in this year’s cross-blog (and only!) virtual IASPM-US Conference panel on popular music and Sound Studies, Sonic Borders Virtual Panel. Musical Debts explores how music trespasses across racialized, global boundaries for capitalist gains. On Saturday, you can catch the last of the SSC panels, on listening and community: Connected Listening: Re-imagining Community Through Sound. Chaired by Michelle Habell-Pallan, the papers in that panel delve into the role of listening for communities of color.

If you can’t make any of the sound studies panels, make sure to check out the ASA Sound Studies Caucus+Journal of Popular Music Studies Happy Hour Meet and Greet on Friday, November 22, 2013. We’re big fans of the work going on at JPMS, and we’re thrilled to see them partner up with the Sound Studies Caucus. The Caucus’s co-conveners, Roshanak Kheshti, Deb Vargas, SO!’s own Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman and D. Ines Casillas, welcome colleagues equally steeped in topic of sound to help build this important caucus. From the get go, this Caucus has set out to not only bring scholars together under the umbrella of sound but to also push ideas of gender, race, and sexuality as integral components of Sound Studies. Sadly, the editorial crew of SO! will not be present for this year’s SSC Happy Hour, but be sure to swing by and meet some of our guest writers who will be at Glen’s Garden Market from 5:30 to 7:00 pm!

Lastly, if you are not presenting at ASA, not attending the conference, or simply want to check in on the action, take a glance at the official Twitter hashtag #2013ASA . Hopefully we’ll get to meet you at the next ASA meeting: Los Angeles, 2014!

Please comment to let SO! know what you think–both before and after ASA 2013.  If we somehow missed you or your panel in this round up, please let our Managing Editor know!: lms@soundingoutblog.com

This post was co-authored. Liana M. Silva-Ford is co-founder and Managing Editor of Sounding Out!. Dolores Inés Casillas is Assistant Professor in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at UC Santa Barbara this fall. She writes and teaches on Latino media, language politics, and sound practices.

Featured photo: “Stormy Salute” by Flickr user Joey Gannon, CC BY-SA 2.0

"Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon" by Flickr user Cliff, CC BY 2.0

“Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon” by Flickr user Cliff, CC BY 2.0

Jump to THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2013
Jump to FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2013
Jump to SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2013
Jump to SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2013
 
THURSDAY, November 21, 2013

 
8:00 am – 9:45 am

004. Debts of Spirit and Substance

Washington Hilton, C – Cardozo (T)

CHAIR: Elisa Tamarkin, University of California, Berkeley (CA)

PAPERS:

James Deutsch, Smithsonian Institution (DC)
In Debt to The Poor of New York: Dion Boucicault and the Panics of 1837/1857

Gino Conti, University of Southern California (CA)
Oh, I feel, I feel, I feel: Moravians, Wasted Labor, and the Afterlives of Enthusiasm

Glenda Goodman, University of Southern California (CA)
Unsung Songs of the “Swinish Multitude”: Transnational Tunes of Eighteenth-Century Political Protest

Tanja Aho, State University of New York, Buffalo (NY)
Wives and/as Debt: Women’s Lived Dissent in the Eighteenth Century

COMMENT: Elisa Tamarkin, University of California, Berkeley (CA)

 

007. Sonic Lives of Debt

Washington Hilton, F1 – Fairchild West (T)

CHAIR: Alexandra Theresa Vazquez, Princeton University (NJ)

PAPERS:

Ray Allen, City University of New York, Brooklyn College (NY)
Holy Ground: Woody Guthrie’s Unsung Lyrics

Elliott H. Powell, New York University (NY)
Sampling among the Margins: Hip Hop, Indian Film Music, and the Sonic Life of Debt

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, University of California, Berkeley (CA)
Sound Nation Empire: Emory Cook’s “Sounds of Our Times”

Mark Krasovic, Rutgers University, Newark (NJ)
Steve Reich’s “Come Out” and the Sound of Evidence in the Long Hot Summers

COMMENT: Alexandra Theresa Vazquez, Princeton University (NJ)

 

014. Televising Multiculturalism and its Discontents

Washington Hilton, Georgetown East (C)

CHAIR: Sharon M. Leon, George Mason University (VA)

PAPERS:

Allison McCracken, DePaul University (IL)
Blind Auditions and Vocal Politics: Enacting and Exposing Vocal Essentialism on NBC’s The Voice

Janani Subramanian, Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis (IN)
Mindy Kaling and Television Multiculturalism

Gregory Zinman, Georgia Institute of Technology (GA)
Nam June Paik and the Aesthetics of Interventionist Media

COMMENT: Sharon M. Leon, George Mason University (VA)

 
10:00 am – 11:45 am
 
019. Nineteenth-Century Public Lecturing, New Media, and Technologies of Orality

Washington Hilton, D – Du Pont (T)

CHAIR: Thomas Augst, New York University (NY)

PAPERS:

Carolyn Eastman, Virginia Commonwealth University (VA)
Speechless: America’s First Celebrity Orator and the Origins of Nineteenth-Century Platform Culture

Granville Ganter, Saint John’s University (NY)
Anne Laura Clarke, Lecturer on History, 1822–1835

Tom F. Wright, University of Sussex (United Kingdom)
How Silence Spoke for Lucy Parsons

COMMENT: Thomas Augst, New York University (NY)

 

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

048. Song, Screen, Stomach: Cultural Debt and Transnational Italian Americanism

Washington Hilton, D – Du Pont (T)

CHAIR: Grace Hale, University of Virginia (VA)

PAPERS:

Joseph Sciorra, City University of New York, Queens College (NY)
“Core ‘ngrato,” a Wop Song: Mediated Renderings and Diasporic Musings

Benjamin Cawthra, California State University, Fullerton (CA)
Under the Volcano: Gordon Parks, the Bergman-Rossellini Romance, and Postwar U.S.-Italian Relations

John Gennari, University of Vermont (VT)
The Knife and the Bread, the Brutal and the Sacred: Family Trauma and Retaliatory Gastronomy in Louise DeSalvo’sCrazy in the Kitchen

COMMENT: Grace Hale, University of Virginia (VA)

 

050. American Studies Journal: Chocolate Spaceship: Gender Politics and Afro-Futurism in Funk

Washington Hilton, F1 – Fairchild West (T)

CHAIR: Randal Maurice Jelks, University of Kansas (KS)

PAPERS:

Tammy Kernodle, Miami University of Ohio (OH)
Deconstructing the Groove: Meshell Ndegeocello and the Politics of Funk in Post–Civil Rights America

Francesca T. Royster, DePaul University (IL)
Labelle: Funk, Afrofuturism, Feminism and the Politics of Flight and Fight

Scot Brown, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)
Roger Troutman and Blues Afrofuturism

COMMENT: Randal Maurice Jelks, University of Kansas (KS)

 

4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

077. Transpacific Dissent

Washington Hilton, Monroe (C)

CHAIR: Yu-Fang Cho, Miami University of Ohio (OH)

PAPERS:

Chris Suh, Stanford University (CA)
Beyond the Logic of International Indemnity: How an American-educated Korean Became an Anti-American Leader

Fritz Schenker, University of Wisconsin, Madison (WI)
Imperial Producers: Filipino Jazz Musicians in 1920s Colonial Asia

Elizabeth Son, Northwestern University (IL)
Monuments of Dissent: Transpacific Memorializations of Sexual Slavery and Social Justice Struggles

Jennifer Sun Kwak, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI)
Spam, Sex Work, and U.S. Militarism: Consumption and Conscriptions of Empire in Nora Okja Keller’s Fox Girl

COMMENT: Yu-Fang Cho, Miami University of Ohio (OH)

 

"Washington DC - Shaw - U Street Corridor: True Reformer Building" by Flickr user Wally Gobetz, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Washington DC – Shaw – U Street Corridor: True Reformer Building” by Flickr user Wally Gobetz, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2013

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm 

144. Caucus – Sound Studies: Sampling Phonographies: Sonic Memory and the Long History of Sampling

Washington Hilton, Columbia Hall 9 (T)

CHAIR: Nicole Hodges Persley, University of Kansas (KS)

PAPERS:

Gustavus Stadler, Haverford College in Pennsylvania (PA)
Charles Chesnutt, Sonic Memory, and Racial Terror

Alexander William Corey, University of Colorado, Boulder (CO)
Collaborative Sampling: The John Coltrane Quartet’s Favorite Thing

Meghan Drury, George Washington University (DC)
Across Time and Space: Hearing Sun Ra’s Egypt

Jack Hamilton, Harvard University (MA)
Making Beats, Making Wakes: Loss, Memory, and Style in the Music of RZA and DJ Premier

COMMENT: Nicole Hodges Persley, University of Kansas (KS)

 

4:00 p– 5:45 pm

160. Caucus – Sound Studies: Musical Debts: Appropriations, Reparations, or New Traditions?

Washington Hilton, Columbia Hall 9 (T)

CHAIR: Barry Shank, Ohio State University, Columbus (OH)

PANELISTS:

Kirstie Dorr, University of California, San Diego (CA)

Sumanth Gopinath, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (MN)

Roshanak Kheshti, University of California, San Diego (CA)

COMMENT: Jonathan Sterne, McGill University (Canada)

 

5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

 

 

Glen’s Garden Market PUB

 

2001 S Street NW, Washington DC
"50.MakeSomeNoise.Newseum.NW.WDC.17August 2013"  by Flickr user Elvert Barnes, CC BY-SA 2.0

“50.MakeSomeNoise.Newseum.NW.WDC.17August 2013” by Flickr user Elvert Barnes, CC BY-SA 2.0

 
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SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2013

 
8:00 am – 9:45 am
 
180. Caucus – Early America Matters: Commons Democracy

Washington Hilton, F1 – Fairchild West (T)

CHAIR: Dana Nelson, Vanderbilt University (TN)

PAPERS:

Joanna Brooks, San Diego State University (CA)
Why We Left: Archives of Common Memory, Martial Power, and Peasant-Class Anglo-American Communities

Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, Northeastern University (MA)
Performative Commons in the Atlantic World

Melissah Pawlikowski, Ohio State University, Columbus (OH)
Endeavors for The Common Good: The Communitarian Foundation of Frontier Republicanism and the Populist Push West

COMMENT: Dana Nelson, Vanderbilt University (TN)

 
181. Repudiating Debt Across the Americas: Latinidades, Embodied Performance, and the Archive as Site of Contestation

Washington Hilton, F2 – Fairchild East (T)

CHAIR: Ernesto Javier Martínez, University of Oregon (OR)

PAPERS:

Magdalena Barrera, San Jose State University (CA)
Refusing Pedagogical Debts: Mexican Women in the Verbal and Visual Archives of Americanization

Laura G. Gutiérrez, University of Arizona (AZ)
Sell Your Love Steep: Prostitution, Indebtedness, and other Transnational Transactions in Rumbera Iconography

Marisol Negron, University of Massachusetts, Boston (MA)
Tributo a “El Cantante”: The Making and Unmaking of Héctor LaVoe’s Abjection

Micaela Díaz-Sánchez, Mount Holyoke College (MA)
From the Page to the Stage and Screen: Queer Chicana Cultural Production, Spectatorship, and Community

COMMENT: Ernesto Javier Martínez, University of Oregon (OR)

 

193. American Studies Journal: Groove Theory: Funk, Feminism, and Afro-Beat

Washington Hilton, Monroe (C)

CHAIR: Deborah Whaley, University of Iowa (IA)

PAPERS:

Nikki A. Greene, Wellesley College (MA)
Don’t Call Her No Tramp: The Feminist Funk Power of Betty Davis and Renée Stout

Tony Bolden, University of Kansas (KS)
Groove Theory: A Vamp on the Epistemology of Funk

Alex Stewart, University of Vermont (VT)
Funky Drummer: Fela Kuti, James Brown, and the Invention of Afrobeat

COMMENT: Deborah Whaley, University of Iowa (IA)

 
12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

222. ASA Artist in Residence Ricardo Dominguez: Disturbance Research Lab: Digital Disobedience (Practicum)

Washington Hilton, International Ballroom West (C)

 
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

246. ASA Women’s Committee: Critical Conjunctures of Debt: Women of Color, Healthcare Disparities, and Advocacy

Washington Hilton, Jefferson West (C)

CHAIR: Alondra Nelson, Columbia University (NY)

PAPERS:

Shirley Tang, University of Massachusetts, Boston (MA)
Invisible Debt: Digitizing and Voicing The Health Disparities and Experiences of Asian American Women

Jacki Rand, University of Iowa (IA)
Native Dissent and Debts of Imperialism: Choctaw Women, Violence, and Health Disparity in the Southeast

Koritha Mitchell, Ohio State University, Columbus (OH)
Pay Yourself First and Pay it Forward: The Black Girls RUN! Project

COMMENT: Alondra Nelson, Columbia University (NY)

 

 4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

258. Caucus – Sound Studies: Connected Listening: Re-imagining Community Through Sound

Washington Hilton, Columbia Hall 9 (T)

CHAIR: Michelle Habell-Pallan, University of Washington, Seattle (WA)

PAPERS:

Jessica Schwartz, Columbia University (NY)
No Longer Can I Stay, It’s True: The Politics of Hearing Harmony in Marshallese “Free Association” Diaspora

Kevin Fellezs, Columbia University (NY)
You Listen But Don’t Ask Question: Listening for the Sounds of Hawaiian-ness

Eric Porter, University of California, Santa Cruz (CA)
Bill Dixon’s Voice

COMMENT: Michelle Habell-Pallan, University of Washington, Seattle (WA)

 
263. Sonic Ledgers of Dissent

Washington Hilton, Jefferson West (C)

CHAIR: Deborah R. Vargas, University of California, Riverside (CA)

PAPERS:

Andreana Clay, San Francisco State University (CA)
Searching for Caushun: Homo Thuggery and the Search for Queer Black Masculinity

Gaye Theresa Johnson, University of California, Santa Barbara (CA)
The Future has a Past: Spatial Entitlement, Race, and Cultural Expression in Black and Brown Los Angeles, 1940–Present

Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas (KS)
Following the State on the Dance Floor of the Nation: The FBI at the Hollywood Canteen

Shana Redmond, University of Southern California (CA)
All Around the World, Same Song: The Trials of Black Musical Genre and Racial Solidarity in the Twentieth Century

COMMENT: Herman Gray, University of California, Santa Cruz (CA)

 

"Washington DC_cherry blossoms on the Tidal Basin" by Flickr user robposse, CC BY 2.0

“Washington DC_cherry blossoms on the Tidal Basin” by Flickr user robposse, CC BY 2.0

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SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2013

 

8:00 am – 9:45 am

 288. Folklorization on the National Mall: Representations of Culture through the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Washington Hilton, Georgetown West (C)

CHAIR: William S. Walker, State University of New York, College at Oneonta (NY)

PAPERS:

Virginia Myhaver, Boston University (MA)
Institutionalizing the Folk: Emergent Neo-Liberalism and the Mixed Legacy of the Bicentennial Folklife Festival

Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg, Emory University (GA)
Participation on Folklore’s Terms: Sacred Harp Singing at the 1970 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife

Olivia Cadaval, Smithsonian Institution (DC)
Negotiating Cultural Representations through the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Diana Baird N’Diaye, Smithsonian Institution (DC)
Curating Crucial Conversations about Twenty-first-Century African American Diversity at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

COMMENT: William S. Walker, State University of New York, College at Oneonta (NY)

  

10:00 am – 11:45 am

300. Latinas/os Onscreen and On/Off Air: Rethinking Contemporary Media Audiences and Discourses

Washington Hilton, D – Du Pont (T)

CHAIR: Mari Castañeda, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (MA)

PAPERS:

Jillian Báez, City University of New York, College of Staten Island (NY)
Losing Weight, Balancing, and Aging: Intergenerational Readings of the Mediated Latina Body

Dolores Inés Casillas, University of California, Santa Barbara (CA)
Lost in Translation: The Politics of Spanish-language Radio Ratings

María Elena Cepeda, Williams College (MA)
Latinidad as Transnational Marketing Construct and Performative Category: Latina/o Youth Interpret Los Tigres del Norte and Calle 13’s “América”

Hannah Noel, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI)
Imagining NPR’s National Publics: Latinas/os and Neoliberal Models of Social Regulation

COMMENT: Mari Castañeda, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (MA)

 

"Washington DC Day 2 - a bit blurry" by Flickr user H. Michael Miley, CC BY-SA 2.0

“Washington DC Day 2 – a bit blurry” by Flickr user H. Michael Miley, CC BY-SA 2.0

Love and Hip Hop: (Re)Gendering The Debate Over Hip Hop Studies

Sound and Pedagogy 3

Today’s post from Cornell professor Travis Gosa (Africana Studies) marks the return of our “Sound and Pedagogy” Forum for a spring semester refresher course.  It’s a hard time of the school year–fatigue can creep up in exponential relation to the sudden increase in sunshine.  We at SO! want to put some spring back into your classroom with Gosa’s discussion of the relationship between hip hop and the university classroom–to sample De La Soul,  stakes is high–followed up next week with Emmanuelle Sonntag and Bronwen Low‘s (McGill) exploration of hip hop pedagogies in the urban classroom in their joint post on “The Student as Broadcaster and DJ of Her Listening,” and rounded out with a hands-on self-assessment of how sound media can be a productive classroom tool in teaching black political history by Carter Mathes (Rutgers).  Grab a new notebook, sharpen some pencils, and enjoy some (funky) fresh perspectives this spring.  And now, I pass the mic to Dr. Travis Gosa–Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman

The three-year appointment of DJ Afrika Bambaataa at Cornell University has caused me to think about the sexual politics of sound created by the artist-centered hip hop studies movement. College students have been reading hip hop textbooks since the early 1990s, and Arizona University students can now earn a minor in hip hop studies. However, the recent professorial appointments of artists like Bambaataa, Bun-B of UGK (Rice University), M1 of dead prez (Haverford College), Wyclef Jean (Brown University), and 9th Wonder (Harvard University) is shaping how hip hop is heard.

The embodied collision of instrumentation, lyricism, and experience in the artist-centered classroom can create spaces for empowerment and emancipatory learning. There is also a risk, however, that the artist-professors trend will reproduce the same sexist logic about hip hop and women that recirculates in mass-mediated rap music.

Since Common’s 1994 song “I Used to Love H.E.R,” the bodies of women of color have served as the sonic battlefield for wars over the authentic boundaries of hip hop culture. On the track, Common falls out of love with H.E.R (“hip hop”) when White corporations and West-Coast emcees gangbang his once virgin, “untampered” girl, and turn her into a promiscuous, weed-smoking “gangsta bitch.”

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Compared to Lil’ Wayne’s lyrics about “beating the pussy up like Emmett Till,” or Rick Ross’ molly-infused date rap anthem, Common’s nostalgic back-in-the-day rhymes are tame. The love affair is sonically wrapped in the thick intertexuality of George Benson’s mellow jazz guitar of “The Changing World,” timeless emcee clichés like “yes yes ya’ll,” and classic quotables like Easy-E’s “Easily I approach…” (minus the punchline about having sex with your momma).

Rap legends Scarface and Nas use the H.E.R. trope to frame the appropriation of hip hop by colleges. On the DJ Khaled assisted track “Hip Hop,” they describe hip hop as a “middle-aged cougar,” and threaten to murder the “bitch” for being a gold digging “whore.”

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According to Scarface, he has fallen out of love with Ms. Hip Hop because she is sleeping around with everyone, including college professors:

Now you all in the lectures

Being studied by the college’s professors

Now I regret the day I met ya, Bitch

I’ll be the first one to say it

She ain’t the one you want to play with

I fucked Hip Hop

When the imaginary borders of hip hop are expanded or violated by academia, Scarface defends hip hop by slut shaming Black women. The hegemonic masculine frame perpetuates the virgin/whore dichotomy of womanhood, justifies violence against women, and evaluates women (“hip hop”) according to their ability to fulfill the needs of men.  DJ Khaled’s production reinforces the message by sampling Mott The Hoople’s “She Does It.” The 1975 British glam rock song is a little ditty about cocaine and/or rough sex with groupies.

Too often, loving hip hop involves remaining uncritical about sexualized violence and the silencing of women in the culture. “Sentimental attachment” to music, as Barry Shank described at the 2013 IASPM conference, is not the same as “interrogative listening,” the recognition that musical pleasure can involve dominance and oppression. Interrogative listening begins by acknowledging that being a member of a musical community comes with responsibility.

Hip hop studies professors face the monumental task of reeducating students in the art of interrogative listening.  As scholar Tricia Rose noted in her keynote address at the opening of the Cornell Hip Hop Collection in 2008, the commercial rap industry has trained young people to nod to the beat while passively accepting misogyny and oppression. Rose writes in her book The Hip Hop Wars that pointing to real life “tricks” and “hoes” is often a strategy used to absolve male hip hop artists of their culpability in profiting from rape culture.

I have been impressed by the ability of pre-rap, 1970s hip hop artists to demonstrate a love for the culture without reproducing the woman-hating narrative found in rap music. The South Bronx DJs (i.e., BreakBeat Lou), graffiti artists (i.e., Carlos “Mare 139” Rodriguez), photographers (i.e., Joe Conzo, Jr.), and break-dancers (i.e., Richard “Crazy Legs” Colon  and Jorge “Popmaster Fabel” Pabon) who make guest appearances in my courses explicitly disassociate themselves from the logic of commercial rap industry. Not surprisingly, it has been most intriguing to listen to the sexual politics created by the Afro-futuristic DJ Bambaataa.

Bambaataa is known for transforming the notorious Black Spades gang into the fledgling 1970s South Bronx hip hop scene. His Universal Zulu Nation has forcibly removed drug dealers from neighborhoods, rallied around political prisoners, and just last month, warned WorldStarHipHop.com to stop pandering violent and sexual images to youth.

Image by Pete Best, Courtesy of Cornell News

Image by Pete Best, Courtesy of Cornell News

Less obvious is Bambaataa’s political work through sound performance. His signature soulsonic soundspace mocks the boundaries of music genre and the specificities of race, social class, and place, in favor of the universal. For example, when asked to explain early hip hop to my undergraduate class last fall, he sat back and played Ray Steven’s 1969 hit “Gitarzan” and The Music Man’s “Ya Got Trouble.” Hilarity and cognitive dissonance ensued, as the country-rock and Broadway tunes shattered the commonsense of hip hop as “rap music,” “black,” “youth,” or “urban.”

His universalism is not meant to obscure the contributions of women with a generic masculine narrative. Bambaataa has spent the first year of his appointment mapping out the centrality of women’s role in creating hip hop culture. Like Kyra Gaunt in Games Black Girls Play: Learning The Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip Hop, Bambaataa traced rap and dance to double-dutch, hand-clipping, and rhythm games played by Black girls. To demonstrate how women pioneered rapping, he played Shirley Ellis’ The Name Game and The Clapping Song. During his first official sound lecture, a DJ set at an Ithaca nightclub, the music of Aretha Franklin and Miriam Makeba were interwoven into the more recognizable hip hop staples like James Brown.

Observing Bambaataa’s musical performances at Cornell gives me hope that sound and listening can be used to disrupt dominant modes of gender politics in the hip hop classroom. However, the ability of Black male artists to articulate the contributions of women is in no way a replacement for creating spaces which are actually inhabited by those who are not Black, male, or heterosexual.  There is nothing universal about male bodies, thoughts, or voices.  Unfortunately, this new trend of artists in the classroom is being constructed almost exclusively around Black/Brown, heterosexual men.

To date, no “b-girls,” “femcees,” or “flygirls” have been appointed to high profile positions in the academy. I struggle with this at my home institution, as Cornell’s “Born in the Bronx” archival project risks perpetuating the myth of a woman-less birth. This gender-limited vision of hip hop’s roots has been compounded by the silencing of legendary battle emcee Roxanne Shanté, whose relationship with Cornell ended after a witch-hunt surrounding her academic credentials back in 2009. MC Sha-Rock, an early female emcee, will end the four-year estrogen drought when she participates in Cornell’s 2013 Unbound From the Underground hip hop celebration on April 4-7, 2013.

Charlie Ahearn/Cornell Hip Hop Collection

MC Sha-Rock in 1982’s Wild Style, Charlie Ahearn/Cornell Hip Hop Collection

Our efforts to connect academic hip hop studies to its cultural practitioners must honor women and empower female agency. The critical praxis has already been constructed by Black feminist scholars, such as Tricia Rose, Joan Morgan, Patricia Hill-Collins, Gwen Pough, Kyra Gaunt, Ruth Nichole Brown, and countless others.  Hip hop feminism or “Crunk feminism” dictates that academic spaces support emancipatory gender politics, which starts with teaching and celebrating a truthful history focused on the agency of women of color. It does not involve participating in Black male violence under the guise of loving hip hop.

Every university that claims to teach or “preserve” hip hop should appoint female/feminist/queer artists. No doubt, fierce emcees like Yo-Yo, MC Lyte, Missy Elliott, and Lauryn Hill should be on the short list at many colleges. Still, we have to be wary of gender tokenism; the end-game should not be finding a honorary female artist to provide “a woman’s point of view.” Rather, the goal should be to create opportunities for women to narrate history, redefine the spaces occupied by hip hop, and to rearticulate the logic of critical listening.

Regendering hip hop studies will require a paradigm shift and a new soundtrack about love.  Perhaps we can begin the work by replacing the H.E.R. tracks with Akua Naru’s “The World is Listening.” It is a dope, feminist homage to women’s journey through hip hop history, without all the slut shaming.

Featured Image by Flickr User  LizSpikol

Travis L. Gosa is an Assistant Professor at Cornell University’s Africana Studies & Research Center. He teaches courses on hip hop culture, African American families, and education. He is an advisory board member of Cornell’s Hip Hop Collection, the largest archive on early hip hop culture in the United States. He can be reached at tlg72@cornell.edu and on Twitter @basedprof.

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