Appreciation Vs. Appropriation in modern Hip-Hop
Cultural Appropriation is defined as the inappropriate adoption of ideas from another culture by a dominant people or society. Often the argument is made that the racial diversity seen in modern hip hop is nothing more than another attempt to strip African American culture. There are many hateful social media posts and articles online surrounding white rappers and their legitimacy as hip-hop artists. Our society both online and in person is not a perfect one, people are going to disagree with the beliefs of others from now until the end of time. The important thing to understand is that we can’t let these things affect our view on a certain topic. People must be able to think for themselves and understand that just because one race created something doesn’t mean another race can’t partake in it. Like everything, this comes with exceptions. There are examples of unacceptable behavior, such as, if a person goes as far as to steal the clothing and hairstyles of a certain race or religion while being ignorant of the true meaning behind it. There are some rappers that overstay their welcome in African American culture. Artists like Lil Pump and 6ix9ine take things too far by using the “N” word and boasting about involvement in gang violence.
6ix9ine Lil Pump
"Y'all act like you never seen a white person before
Jaws all on the floor like Pam like Tommy just burst in the door
And started whoopin’ her ass worse than before
They first were divorced, throwin’ her over furniture (Agh!)
It’s the return of the “Ah, wait, no way, you’re kidding
He didn’t just say what I think he did, did he?”
(Real Slim Shady, Eminem)
The problem truly starts in the roots of rap as an art. From the beginning, rap music has been about struggling African Americans expressing their struggle in a unique and artistic way that no one could take from them. Over time it became apparent that these same issues weren’t just affecting one race, these were problems that people of all races were dealing with in one way or another. As hip hop music became more and more popular we began to see an increase in diversity among artists. By the late 1990s rap was mostly occupied by African Americans and Latino artists such as Big Pun and Fat Joe. However, at the start of the 21st century, people began to really relate to the words of one white rapper from a trailer park in Detroit by the name of Eminem. Eminem was the anti-hero of the generation that wanted to prove his worth and his right to call himself one of the best rappers alive, regardless of his race. In the year 2000, Eminem released the Marshal Mathers LP which would contain his household name hit “The Real Slim Shady”. This song was important because he openly talks about the taboo of being a white rapper at the time.
He was the industry bad boy of the time and he didn’t care what anyone had to say about his race, he believed that his struggle was just as important as theirs and that it deserved to be heard. The way he conducted himself throughout his career and the things he has said paved the way for the white rappers of today. Without Eminem, there would have never been a Mac Miller or an Action Bronson. Eminem left his mark as one of the best rappers of all time and still proves to this day that white people belong in rap just as much as anyone else.
dawn of a new age
After Eminem had declared his spot at the top, the time for white rappers to shine had finally come and the industry would start to see artists like Yelawolf, and Mac Miller begin to start their own legacies. In 2007 Mac Miller released his debut studio album, Blue Slide Park, which was the popular music of an entire younger generation of kids growing up in middle America. Although we have seen the unfortunate loss of Mac Miller to the drug epidemic this past year, it is important to highlight the good aspects of his career and remember him for all the lives he has changed and not just the mistakes he made in his own life. It is often that people accuse rappers of glorifying drugs when in most cases they are only referring to their own personal struggle rather than encouraging people to make the same mistakes. Mac’s addition wasn’t caused by his appropriation of hip hops drug culture. Mac’s addiction was caused by an untold life of sorrow and experiences that he felt he could express through his music.
The world we live in today is a sensitive one, often we are too critical of each other and we don’t realize until its too late. Just because someone loves something from another culture and chooses to partake in it doesn’t mean they are a bad person. Our country is a melting pot of people from all races and ethnicities. If we spent our lives policing the actions of others because we don’t personally agree with them even if they aren’t harmful we would all live very angry lives. Mac was taken from us all too soon, but because of the acceptance of white rappers caused by artists like Eminem, Mac will be rightfully remembered as one of the best artists of his generation.