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Table of contents :
Introduction: Hip Hop as Postcolonial Art and Practice
1. “J’accuse”: Hip Hop’s Postcolonial Politics in Paris
2. Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”: Black Music and Postcoloniality from Sefyu’s Paris to Buddy Bolden’s New Orleans
3. Musical (African) Americanization: Strategic Essentialism, Hybridity, and Commerce in Aggro Berlin
4. Heiße Waren: Hot Commodities, “Der Neger Bonus,” and the Commercial Authentic
5. M.I.A.’s “Terrorist Chic”: Black Atlantic Music and South Asian Postcolonial Politics in London
6. Marché Noir: The Hip Hop Hustle in the City of Light
7. “Wherever We Go”: UK Hip Hop and the Deformation of Mastery
8. “Straight Outta B.C.”: Différance, Defness, and Juice Aleem’s Precolonial Afrofuturist Critique
Conclusion: Hip Hop Studies and/as Postcolonial Studies
Discography and Videography
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Flip the Script

Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology A series edited by Philip V. Bohlman, Ronald Radano, and Timothy Rommen Editorial Board Margaret  J. Kartomi Bruno Nettl Anthony Seeger Kay Kaufman Shelemay Martin H. Stokes Bonnie C. Wade

Flip the Script European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality

J. Griffith Rollefson

The University of  Chicago Press

Chicago & London

The University of  Chicago Press, Chicago 60637 The University of  Chicago Press, Ltd., London © 2017 by The University of  Chicago All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of  brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact the University of  Chicago Press, 1427 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637. Published 2017 Printed in the United States of America 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17    1 2 3 4 5 ISBN-­13: 978-­0-­226-­49618-­4 (cloth) ISBN-­13: 978-­0-­226-­49621-­4 (paper) ISBN-­13: 978-­0-­226-­49635-­1 (e-­book) DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226496351.001.0001 Publication of this book was underwritten by the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Science, University College Cork; by the National University of Ireland; and by the AMS 75 Pays Endowment of the American Musicological Society, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Library of  Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Rollefson,  J. Griffith, author. Title: Flip the script : European hip hop and the politics of postcoloniality / J. Griffith Rollefson. Other titles: Chicago studies in ethnomusicology. Description: Chicago ; London : The University of  Chicago Press, 2017. | Series: Chicago studies in ethnomusicology | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2017009030 | iSBN 9780226496184 (cloth : alk. paper) | iSBN 9780226496214 (pbk. : alk. paper) | iSBN 9780226496351 (e-book) Subjects: LCSH: Hip-hop—Social aspects—Europe, Western. | Postcolonialism and music. | Music—Europe, Western—African American influences. Classification: LCC ML3918.R37 R66 2017 | DDC 782.421649094—dc23 LC record available at https:// lccn.loc.gov/2017009030 ♾ This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-­1992 (Permanence of Paper).


Acknowledgments  xi Introduction: Hip Hop as Postcolonial Art and Practice  1 1 · “J’accuse”: Hip Hop’s Postcolonial Politics in Paris  19 2  ·  Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”: Black Music and Postcoloniality from Sefyu’s Paris to Buddy Bolden’s New Orleans  34 3  ·  Musical (African) Americanization: Strategic Essentialism, Hybridity, and Commerce in Aggro Berlin  55 4 · Heiße Waren: Hot Commodities, “Der Neger Bonus,” and the Commercial Authentic  79 5  ·  M.I.A.’s “Terrorist Chic”: Black Atlantic Music and South Asian Postcolonial Politics in London  93 6 · Marché Noir: The Hip Hop Hustle in the City of  Light  139 7  ·  “Wherever We Go”: UK Hip Hop and the Deformation of  Mastery  164 8  ·  “Straight Outta B.C.”: Différance, Defness, and Juice Aleem’s Precolonial Afrofuturist Critique  194 Conclusion: Hip Hop Studies and/as Postcolonial Studies  226 Notes  245 Bibliography  267 Discography and Videography 281 Index  283 Audio, video, and other resources are posted on this book’s companion website: www.europeanhiphop.org


Thanks first to my partner in crime, Mary J. King, who provided unwavering support for this research, ranging from the conceptual to the editorial and the emotional. Second, thanks to my folks, who provided the foundation for my musical inquisitiveness and the spark for my understanding of social justice. Third, thanks to my brother, Jake, for keeping my ear to the ground when it was most needed. You always say that I taught you about hip hop, but please know that you have taught me as much, if not more. Fourth, thanks to my committee at the University of  Wisconsin–­Madison: Ron Radano, Teju Olaniyan, Susan Cook, Pam Potter, and Andy Sutton. I couldn’t have managed such a wide-­ranging project without experts in such a wide array of fields in my corner. Special thanks to Ron, who encouraged me to get out of the School of Music and learn from Teju, Tim Tyson, Nan Enstad, Michelle Hilmes, Shanti Kumar, and others. Finally, thanks to all of  you, my friends and colleagues, who supported me, challenged me, corrected me, humbled me, championed me, roasted me, and tempered my scholarship over the years. You know who you are. This book is for you—­and is in many ways from you. If your name isn’t below, don’t sweat it—­it’s probably just because you lost a recording or book of mine. (Get it back to me and I’ll shout you out in the second edition.) Thanks to all of the foundations and institutions that have funded this research over the last decade. My thanks to Susanne Wofford and the University of Wisconsin Center for the Humanities, who gave me my first major grant for the 2005 Humanities Exposed public scholarship initiative that piloted my Planet Rap community scholarship projects. My sincere thanks to Karin Goihl and my fellow cohort of researchers at the Berlin Program for Advanced

viii  Acknowledgments

German and European Studies, which provided funding for the initial year of fieldwork in Berlin, Paris, and London in 2006–­7. Special thanks to Jennifer Miller, Nick Schlosser, Erika Hughes, Greg Healy, Pepper Stetler, and Andy Casper for our lively debates, discussions, and the occasional Hertha match at Olympiastadion. Thanks also to the Deutscher Akademischer Austauch Dienst (DAAD) for the Changing Demographics Award, which facilitated follow-­up research in Berlin in 2008, and to Carol Oja, Wolfgang Rathert, Anne Shreffler, Berndt Ostendorf, and the participants of the 2009 conference “Crosscurrents: American and European Music in Interaction” at Harvard and LMU München. Thanks to the American Council of Learned Societies and their New Faculty Fellowship—­aka the Great Recession stimulus plan for young scholars—­ that kept this research afloat with a research and teaching fellowship at UC Berkeley from 2011 to 2013. Thanks to my colleagues in Berkeley’s Department of  Music, especially Jocelyne Guilbault, Tamara Roberts, and Ben Brinner, vis­ iting scholars Ellie Hisama and George Lewis, fellow postdocs Rui Cidra and Jessica Bissett Perea, and Suzan Akin and Victoria Robinson, who helped me with the nuts and bolts of running the American Cultures community engaged scholarship project, Hip Hop as Postcolonial Studies. Thanks to Gibor Basri, vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, for naming me UC Chancellor’s Public Scholar to carry out that work with East Bay youth at the RYSE Center and East Bay Center for the Performing Arts. Thanks to Youssef Carter for serving as graduate assistant on the project and for the commitment to making the trek up to Richmond twice a week to do that important work. Thanks also to my undergraduate students who were central to the work at RYSE, our artist facilitator, MC Rico Pabón, and my graduate students in the Hip Hop and Postcoloniality in Europe seminar who helped me tighten up chapters of this book. Thanks to the VW Stiftung, Heike Raphael-­Hernandez, Eva Kimminich, and the cohort of researchers at the pathbreaking (and solidarity building) 2013 global hip hop conference “Hip Hop as Social and Political Empowerment” at “the Schloss” in Hannover, Germany. Thanks for the continued discussion and activity that the conference provided, and for introducing me to Murray Forman, Sina Nitzsche, Jacqueline Couti, Adam Haupt, Dawn-­Elissa Fischer, Andreana Clay, Tommy DeFrantz, and so many other wonderful and committed hip hop scholars and artists. Thanks to the organizers of the 2015 conference “Hip-­Hop Studies: North and South” in Helsinki and Richard Bramwell’s amazing 2016 conference “It Ain’t Where You’re From, It’s Where You’re At”—­which facilitated hip hop ciphers in the hallowed halls of Cambridge University.

Acknowledgments  ix

Thanks to my colleagues in the Faculty of Music at the University of Cambridge, especially Monique Ingalls, Sam Barrett, Martin Ennis, and Nick Cook, who gave me the push to go after the big EU money. My brief time on faculty there (2013–­14) gave me the chance to reconnect in a more sustained way with hip hop communities in London and across Europe. Indeed, now that I’m a permanent EU resident I have a more grounded and embodied understanding of the very real challenges of immigrating in Europe—­my numerous layers of privilege notwithstanding. A special shout-­out goes to the folks at the Southbank Centre for their invitation to lead a hip hop study night at the 2014 Rest Is Noise Festival, to the Cambridge Union Society’s debate “Hip Hop over Shakespeare” for introducing me to my new collaborator, London MC Franklyn Addo, and to Cambridge’s Festival of Ideas, who allowed me to share the stage with my colleagues from Hip Hop Psych and sit and talk hip hop with MC, and now old friend,  Juice Aleem—­whom we’ll return to in chap­ ters 7 and 8. Since the very beginning of my time on faculty at University College Cork in 2014, it became clear that Irish hip hop would be part of the story that this book would tell. Thanks to Stevie G and my UCC students who continue to inspire and teach me—­not least by getting out into the hip hop community and building meaningful pathways to and from the university. An ongoing note of thanks goes to my UCC colleagues, especially Christopher Brown, Melanie Marshall, Danijela Kulezic-­Wilson, Jonathan Stock, Allen White, Paul Heggarty, Graham Allen, and Orla Murphy, who have given me valuable feedback on my research. Similarly, I need to thank Elizabeth Branch Dyson at University of Chicago Press for her continuing patience with this book’s emergence. She and Rachel Kelly have shown me what a quality and committed university press looks like. Thanks also to my readers, the editorial board, Therese Boyd, who helped clean up the manuscript, and all of the production and marketing folks who helped get the book out there. A special word of thanks goes to the courageous colleagues with whom I came of academic age during this “post-­truth” age of austerity, precarity, and neoliberalization in our respective bottom-­line universities. Thanks for your struggle. While seriously diminished, we’ve already seen that the univer­ sity will be a key player in the new social movements and their diverse and paradigm-shifting projects of structural change, reparation, and liberation. Again, you know who you are, but at present I’m thinking specifically of Áine Mangaoang, Wayne Marshall, Catherine Appert, Liz Macy, Lei Ouyang Bryant, Mike Silvers, Kendra Salois, Justin Williams, Mark Villegas, Tim Mangin, Gavin Steingo, Adriana Helbig, Kira Thurman, Glenda Goodman, Andrea

x  Acknowledgments

Bohlman, Kariann Goldschmitt, Griffin Woodworth, Sarah Lappas, Seth Markle, Luis-­Manuel Garcia, Maya Gibson, Molly McGlone, Fritz Schenker, Katie Graber, Andy Hicken, Rachel Adelstein, Scott Carter, Matt Sumera, Dave Gilbert, Maria Christina Fava, Edgardo Salinas, Jimmy Maiello,  John Stafford, Stacey Barelos, Joe Dangerfield, Mike Albrecht, Kjerstin Thorson, and, of course, Chewbacca. Last but not least, thanks to the artists who inspired this book—­those with whom I conspired, respired, and perspired. You breathed life into this book. The pages that follow are my thanks to you.


Hip Hop as Postcolonial Art and Practice Striving to be both European and black requires some specific forms of double con­ sciousness. By saying this I do not mean to suggest that taking on either or both of the unfinished identities necessarily exhausts the subjective resources of any particular in­ dividual. However, where racist, nationalist, or ethnically absolutist discourses orches­ trate political relationships so that these identities appear to be mutually exclusive, oc­ cupying the space between them or trying to demonstrate their continuity has been viewed as a provocative and even oppositional act of political insubordination. Paul Gilroy No one today is purely one thing. Labels like Indian, or woman, or Muslim, or Ameri­ can are not more than starting points, which if followed into actual experience for only a moment are quickly left behind. Imperialism consolidated the mixture of cultures and identities on a global scale. But its worst and most paradoxical gift was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly, exclusively, white, or Black, or Western, or Oriental. E d wa r d S a i d We Moorish More than ya ever seen Juice Aleem

In Paris a group of young men gathers weekly to air their hopes and frustra­ tions at a community radio station. Despite their diverse origins from all over the former French empire—­Algeria, Cameroon, Cambodia, and beyond—­they share a political consciousness. It shapes the contours of their debates, giving them a shared language and highlighting their shared goals. In Berlin a uni­ versity student attends a lecture at the Center for Social Sciences. The young Ghanaian-­German political scientist sits patiently, waiting for the discussion segment of the proceedings. When the time comes, he corrects the distin­ guished panelists, enumerating their misstatements carefully and eloquently,

2  Introduction

clarifying matters of perspective. In London a young Kurdish woman posts a new track to her webpage, recounting recent struggles with her overbearing fa­ ther. She has moved out, is living in a council flat, and is struggling to see what her next move will be. In all three of these scenarios, the common denominator is hip hop. It is at once a font of confidence and a form of defensive armor, a channel of expression, a critical lens, and a way of knowing and being in the world. Above all, it is a booming, bumping, lilting, and swinging sonic force that brings together, binds, and moves diverse communities. Over the past thirty years hip hop has become a powerful expression of social solidarity and political opposition in Europe, especially among the chil­ dren and grandchildren of migrants from the former colonies and peripher­ ies.1 In this book I demonstrate through sustained work with hip hop com­ munities, and through close analysis of music and media, how European hip hop artists are employing the African American musical protest strategies of hip hop, both to differentiate themselves from and relate themselves to their respective majority societies. Through both the political struggle and com­ mercial visibility of hip hop, Senegalese Parisians, Turkish Berliners, South Asian Londoners, and countless others are holding up mirrors to their socie­ ties to show their respective nations that they are not who they think they are. Drawing on recorded music and other media artifacts as well as interviews and observations from fieldwork centered in Paris, Berlin, and London, this book situates musical analyses in the postcolonial and globalizing contexts of the three cities, demonstrating how this black American music structures lo­ cal concerns and enables syncretic expressions that are at once wholly local and definitively global.2 In the pages that follow I focus specifically on the ways that European hip hop gives voice to the ideal of equality through anti-­assimilationist expres­ sions of minority difference, a set of essentializing and paradox-­laden creative strategies that expose the national conflations of race and citizenship in Euro­ pean national imaginaries.3 By using racialized discourses, hip hop youth are challenging the conventional distinctions between sameness and difference as a way of bringing into form the antinomies of inclusion and exclusion that structure conventional European national identities and their preoccupations with immigration, purity, and tradition. For all its “keepin’ it real” braggadocio and its curation by a global culture industry premised on the dissemination and monetization of authenticized difference, hip hop remains a remarkably historicizing cultural form. In Europe, hip hop challenges ahistorical notions of national belonging and responds to ever louder calls for tighter border con­ trols with the postcolonial mantra: “we are here because you were there.”4 It

Hip Hop as Postcolonial Art and Practice  3

should not surprise us, then, that in the last thirty years hip hop has resonated loudly with postcolonial communities across Europe.5 Hip hop resonates in Europe for the same reasons it resonates in the United States: it demands a place at the table by sounding histories and experiences that do not bear hear­ ing among polite company across the political spectrum. It has thus become a prominent cultural practice and a valued commodity with an ever-­expanding global market. In the following chapters I examine European hip hop from the perspec­ tive of postcolonial studies. But in so doing I also make the case that hip hop was a postcolonial culture from the jump. That is, from its prehistories in antebellum black musics of the United States and Caribbean sound system cultures of 1960s decolonization, to its birth among African American, Afro-­ Caribbean, and Latino youth in the defunded, postindustrial South Bronx, to its national and international dissemination through bootlegged mixtapes and global distribution networks, hip hop has evinced the postcolonial realities of asymmetry, hybridity, and paradox. Most important, it has flipped the script on those realities to combat homogenizing globalization and carve out a space for enunciative critique. As such, this book not only attends to the ways that hip hop has resonated in Europe, but will also help us hear US hip hop anew. This book sounds a call for hip hop studies to engage more directly and systematically with the tools of postcolonial theory. Throughout the chapters that follow I make the case that postcolonial studies provide an essential set of strategies, theories, and methodological frameworks for attending to hip hop’s histories and prehistories and analyzing its performative musical life as prac­ ticed today. Yes, hip hop remains exhilaratingly fresh as it continues to spread to every corner of the world. Yet, in continuing to be dazzled by hip hop’s glob­ alizing novelty as it expresses new collisions of local and global cultures we have a tendency to buy into the narrative that this thing called “globalization” is something new and unprecedented. As the postcolonial frame continually reminds us, it is not. If nothing else, postcolonial studies—­such as this socio­ cultural examination of hip hop in three of Europe’s global cities—­ask us to rehistoricize globalization in all its contexts from exploration, encounter, and exploitation, to structures of racialized imperial dominion, the rise of global capitalism, and its continuing neoliberal/technological disintegration of our borders. Never have the continuities between postcoloniality and globaliza­ tion been clearer, as Europe faces a post-­Brexit realignment and the nations of the world figure out how to liberate goods, capital, and media while limiting the flow of people. As I will show, hip hop sits at the confluence of dehuman­ izing neoliberal globalization and the gritty human realities of postcoloniality.

4  Introduction

What’s more, it offers a much-­needed critique of the binary of neoliberal capi­ talism versus ethnoracial protectionism to which Western political discourse has been reduced.

Pillar 1: Postcoloniality and/as Double Consciousness This book’s examination of hip hop music and postcolonial politics in the three cities—­and in their national and transnational contexts—­proceeds from the thesis that the African American experience of double consciousness is the particularized American form of global postcoloniality’s contradictions and asymmetries. This is the first pillar of my argument. To accomplish this central aim of the book, I articulate hip hop scholarship and the broader work of Paul Gilroy, Houston Baker, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ralph Ellison, Amiri Baraka, and other literature on black music and performance to the postcolonial frame­ works of Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, Édouard Glissant, Gayatri Spivak, Frantz Fanon, and others. As I show, European hip hop’s performed recogni­ tion that the African American experience of double consciousness is a local­ ized manifestation of the postcolonial condition has created a space in which to imagine global solidarity among diverse populations.6 Notably, this continu­ ity cultivates international nonwhite solidarity, difference, and struggle while at the same time challenging the paradoxical and particularized racial magics of national belonging by illuminating the hybrid realities of postcolonial nations. The example of hip hop in Europe is thus instructive as a cultural form that is ostensibly about militant opposition and resistance, but which functions in structures of linguistic and cultural inclusion, is widely commercially avail­ able, and circulates publicly through national bodies politic. In the pages that follow, I argue that hip hop cultivates a political consciousness closely attuned to the paradoxes of Western modernity and deploys the antinomial power of those paradoxes to various ends. The book’s analysis of European hip hop continues the work that George Lipsitz began in Dangerous Crossroads, where he wrote: “Hip hop expresses a form of  politics perfectly suited to the post-­colonial era. It brings a community into being through performance, and it maps out real and imagined relations between people that speak to the realities of displacement, disillusion, and de­ spair created by the austerity economy of post-­industrial capitalism.”7 I dem­ onstrate not only how hip hop is perfectly suited to articulating the real and imagined affiliations between postcolonial Europeans and African Americans, but how hip hop is itself a product of those postcolonial contradictions that

Hip Hop as Postcolonial Art and Practice  5

simultaneously claim and marginalize citizens. As both Lipsitz and Tricia Rose write, hip hop’s contradictions are best understood through Antonio Gram­ sci’s notion of the “war of position” that works “through existing contradic­ tions” rather than militating to seize state power (the “war of maneuver”).8 Hip hop is therefore both a product of the same postcolonial contradictions that continue to hyphenate citizens within their own nations and a form of cultural politics well suited to combat the inequalities inscribed upon those hyphens. Furthermore, it should come as no surprise that a postcolonial art form such as hip hop would engage those same commercial logics that first engineered racialized structural inequalities in the colonial-­era slave trade—­inequalities that live on as neocolonial structural racism in our postcolonial world. Central to my task here is working through the contradictions of global cap­ italism, its culture industries, and our societies that center black music while marginalizing black people. It is glaring contradictions such as these—­what I call “postcolonial paradoxes”—­that animate the sonic and social discussion throughout the book. Indeed, in constructing my arguments around these paradoxes I follow hip hop’s lead, arguing that this music powers its critiques on such postcolonial paradoxes—­that it is fueled by harnessing, flipping, and releasing the unlimited potential energy of hypocrisy in our purportedly uni­ versalist Western society that is anything but. We will encounter these para­ doxes, ambivalences, and false dichotomies throughout the text. Indeed, I try to engage and interrogate them at every turn—­denying them normative status wherever practicable. To analyze the seeming paradox of hip hop as a commercialized resis­ tance music, for instance, the book employs the heuristic device “(African) Americanization.” This critical apparatus reminds us of the complicated yet deeply implicated relationship between African American expressive culture and American consumer culture. Furthermore, it focuses our attention on the contradictory processes by which black music simultaneously centers and marginalizes African Americans in national cultural life. By drawing out the oft-­occluded blackness of American culture in this parenthetical construction, we can unpack the racial contradictions inherent in that set of commercially available cultural forms known collectively as “black music” and come to a new understanding of hip hop’s global resonance. Indeed, I argue that hip hop artists in postcolonial Europe seize on the commercialized forms of  black American culture to elaborate their own affiliations with the lived realities and mediatized images of African American struggle, gain visibility in their own lo­ cal and national contexts, and ultimately reterritorialize the music and politics to suit their own exigencies.

6  Introduction

In the end, the study narrates how hip hop came to express the dreams and frustrations of postcolonial Europeans. But in doing so, it also tells us some­ thing larger about the struggle for hip hop’s soul—­a fight commonly reduced to the mediatized frame of “political consciousness” versus “gangsta bling.” Instead, this postcolonial analysis of European hip hop teaches us that this perceived contradiction at the heart of hip hop is, in fact, not a contradiction at all but a logical manifestation of the same colonial structures that powered Enlightenment progress on the backs of  slaves and colonized peoples the world over. Indeed, the codependence of Enlightenment thought and the colonial imperative (“The White Man’s Burden”) is the fundamental paradox of this book—­a twinned emergence that Denise Ferreira da Silva posits as productive of the similarly bound concepts of globality and race.9 What’s more, this para­ doxical codependence of progressive rational ideology (Enlightenment) and regressive racial ideology (whiteness) suggests that whiteness and/as lightness might best be understood as the master trope of  Western modernity. As such, in the pages that follow I examine the ways that European hip hop works through and against these national-­universalist contradictions to destabilize the received idea of Europe. By listening closely, I suggest we can hear how European hip hop artists employ the paradoxes of postcoloniality to power their critiques and rewrite Europe in all its complexity. Indeed, it is this dynamic that makes the music I discuss in this book truly European, as artists perform their complex and paradoxical societies and fight to be seen, heard, and understood in and of  their local contexts. To be sure, this study could have examined a broader swath of European hip hop scenes—­stretching from An­ dalusia to Athens and Kristiansand to the Caucusus.10 Yet in this book I am less interested in gathering a diversity of voices solipsistically deemed European by virtue of their geographic location within the confines of a place defined as Europe and more interested in testing the hypothesis that Europe is defined through its dynamic, but deeply implicated relationship with its others.11 That is, today’s Europe is most clearly defined not by continental boundaries, the EU project, or the respective national cultures and ethnic identities that ani­ mate those imagined and real boundaries but, rather, through the profound and ubiquitous resonances of Europe’s imperial histories on the global stage. In short, this thesis suggests that Europe is defined first and foremost by the asymmetries of its postcolonial realities—­both at home and abroad. As such, by listening closely to the ways that postcolonial citizens in Europe express their solidarity with African Americans, Flip the Script: European Hip Hop and the Politics of  Postcoloniality argues that we can hear in hip hop the hybrid realities and assymetrical expressions of a global double consciousness.

Hip Hop as Postcolonial Art and Practice  7

Pillar 2: The Paradox of C o m m e r c i a l i z e d R e s i s ta n c e M u s i c A second pillar of this book is to unseat the simplistic categorization of  hip hop as solely protest music. While much of the music we will examine is just that, I want to paint a more nuanced portrait here, clearing space for a diver­ sity of voices and allowing for the agency of all forms of hip hop. As Leonard Schmieding’s and Adriana Helbig’s recent work on Eastern European hip hop shows us, commercial hip hop can resonate in very different ways in differ­ ent contexts.12 While hip hop tends to be read as a marginalized “resistance vernacular” in the West, it is also a manifestly mainstream cultural commod­ ity and an alternative form of assimilation into national discourses, languages, and economies—­a contradictory tendency in hip hop often neglected in its scholarship.13 As such, in this book I avoid the “good hip hop/bad hip hop” binary and the critical laziness that valorizes the former for its political con­ sciousness just as it dismisses the latter for its materialism and violation of politically correct orthodoxies. This zero-­sum game has played out ad nauseam on both the political right and left, providing a steady stream of unproductive commentary from voyeuristic pundits and committed hip hop scholars alike. Instead, analyzing the structural basis for this discourse that has no middle ground will help us find value and insight in unexpected places and help us avoid hearing hip hop as politics alone—­indeed, this music and its culture have always been much more. Despite its powerfully liberating core message, hip hop—­especially in its commodity forms—­helps spread misogyny and homophobia while glorifying violence and celebrating materialism. But after more than thirty years of  being a hip hop head, I have a problem with cultural analyses that artificially separate the good “conscious” hip hop from the bad “gangsta” rap. As most of us in the world of hip hop know, some of the best hip hop will still cross the line from time to time, and some of the worst on the surface can actually have the big­ gest heart and do the most political and cultural work.14 For one deafeningly obvious example of the easy coexistence of an emancipatory postcolonial cri­ tique at the center of an ostensibly materialist hip hop album we need look no further than the first lines of “No Church in the Wild” from Jay-­Z and Kanye West’s “luxury rap” chart topper Watch the Throne, where Jay raps: “Lies on the lips of a priest / Thanksgiving disguised as a feast.”15 Such productive con­ tradictions resonate loud and clear throughout hip hop’s history. At the outset of her pathbreaking study Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop, Imani Perry explains to the uninitiated reader: “if the book

8  Introduction

title were lyrics, the double entendre would be obvious: prophet/profit.”16 The art form thrives on such double entendre and inversional practices. Usu­ ally these practices of doubling and “flippin’ the script” imply both meanings. Famously, “bad” almost always means “good” in hip hop parlance, but, nota­ bly, in this construction bad remains a constituent part of good. In the same way, a DJ’s sample of the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise”—­musical icon of French egalitarian ideals—­might be invoked on a French hip hop track to signify that nation’s hypocrisies while also drumming up the patriotic senti­ ment that might motivate the nation to live up to those ideals. These double meanings gain form not only in the ways that MCs and DJs doubly signify their lyrical, sonic, visual, and performative rhetoric, but also in the ways that hip hop is understood as both a minority resistance vernacular and a mainstream cultural commodity. To be sure, rap music emerged as a localized sonic response to the African American experience of structural rac­ ism, but as Gilroy challenged hip hop scholars over twenty years ago: In what sense might Hip hop be described as marginal today? Those who as­ sert the marginality of Hip hop should be obliged to say where they imagine the centre might now be. Hip hop’s marginality is as official, as routinised, as its overblown defiance; yet it is still represented as an outlaw form. This is a mystery that aches to be solved. Further clues may be furnished by delving into uncomfortable issues like hip hop’s corporate developmental association with the “subcultures” that grow up around television, advertising and cartoons or by interrogating the revolutionary conservatism that constitutes its routine political focus but which is over-­simplified or more usually ignored by its aca­ demic celebrants.17

This daunting duplicity—­this “mystery”—­is at the center of this book’s exami­ nation of hip hop in Paris, Berlin, and London, a puzzling contradiction that we might call “the paradox of commercialized resistance music.” In the first chapter of Perry’s book, “Hip Hop’s Mama: Originalism and Identity in the Music,” the hip hop scholar also tasks herself with establishing that, despite the art form’s manifestly hybrid and well-­documented transna­ tional genesis, it was and remains “black American music.” I agree. As we will see throughout this book, a great deal of  hip hop’s global power stems from its continued meaning and relevance as an African American art and practice—­ with all of the real and iconic struggle that this naming implies. And as Perry rightly suggests, in considering hip hop’s power we must also focus on the economic structures that have centered black music while marginalizing black

Hip Hop as Postcolonial Art and Practice  9

people. As a point of departure for the present introduction, however, let us consider one of  Perry’s arguments in support of  her contention that hip hop is black American music. In addressing critics who become queasy when confronted with the very idea of “black music” as an overly simplistic and essentializing notion, Perry asks why the term must imply “100 per cent black.” She writes: “To deem something French or English rarely implies that there were no Germanic cultural influences, or Irish, or even Algerian. Why, then, is it so troubling to define something as black?”18 Perhaps defining inherently hybrid music as black is troubling because it reminds us of the racial (il)logics of the ideology of hypodescent (the “one-­drop rule”) and its historic deployment in US legal frameworks. This is a point of some importance, and is one to which we will return. For our purposes here, Perry deems the terms “French” or “English” as implicitly hybrid—­much to her credit. Yet, to suggest that discourses of ra­ cial purity are anything but rampant in today’s Europe misses the mark badly. From the Front National mantra “France for the French” to the rise of UKIP, its Brexit insularity, and jingoistic reportage about Sharia law as a pestilence upon the English body politic to German assimilationist handwringing about Leitkultur (mainstream/dominant culture) and “the migrant crisis,” Europe is in the midst of a cultural sea change rife with reactionary nationalist move­ ments that deploy the idea of purity not rarely, but often. In the pages that follow I will show that Perry’s conclusions are correct—­ that even in Europe, especially in Europe, hip hop is black American music—­if not always for the reasons she suggests. More important, I will endeavor to show how an investigation of  hip hop in Paris, Berlin, and London might help us solve the “mystery” of commercialized resistance music. In so doing, we might just crack open some of the larger paradoxes about race, nation, and empire.

Pillar 3: Hip Hop and/as Politics This book’s third central pillar suggests that the same Enlightenment thinking that gave us the binaries black/white and vernacular/commercial (central to both pillar 1’s double consciousness and pillar 2’s good hip hop/bad hip hop binary) also gave us the art/life binary. That is, through the rational logocen­ trisms of Western thought, music has been successfully extricated from the realm of the real—­the political, the material—­and placed on a cultural, and ulti­ mately marginalized, pedestal. The argument is implicit throughout this study in its sustained attention to musical detail and the ways that the sonic both

10  Introduction

encodes and facilitates the social. By continually highlighting the constructed­ ness of those rationalized dyads—­art/life, culture/politics, form/content, and music/text—­I argue that we can embolden our disciplinary move past the mu­ sicological ideology of the “musical object” toward an understanding of music as performance—­even if that performance is crafted, (temporarily) fixed, and etched in a musical score or the grooves of a vinyl LP, or digitally encoded into an mp3. Indeed, as Philip Auslander reminds us, “Regardless of the ontologi­ cal status of recorded music, its phenomenological status for listeners is that of a performance unfolding at the time and in the place of  listening. . . . Despite the physical absence of the performer at the time of  listening, listeners do not perceive recorded music as disembodied.”19 To make this postdisciplinary move, I build on the foundational black poststructuralism of  Houston Baker and the more recent work of  Fred Moten, who in his In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition posits “the possibility of a critique of the valuation of meaning over content and the reduction of phonic matter and syntactic ‘degeneracy’ ” in African American expressive culture. As he suggests, “this disruption of the Enlightenment lin­ guistic project is of fundamental importance since it allows a rearrangement of the relationship between notions of human freedom and notions of human essence”—­a deformation of how we understand the relationship of “agency” and “structure.”20 By positioning hip hop as performance rather than commu­ nicative text we can avoid the trap of “reducing the bloody ‘open hazardous reality of conflict’ to the ‘calm Platonic form of language and dialogue,’ ” that Gilroy (quoting Foucault) cautions us against as hip hop scholars.21 Indeed, in the pages that follow I model performances of “hip hop close readings” in both form and content. That is, I urge us to follow Baker’s encouragement to “heat up the observational space” in our work and to take seriously Moten’s insistence that black music is scholarship.22 In short, we must engage hip hop interpretive practices, enact hip hop’s “fifth element”—­knowledge—­more forthrightly, move past our subject positions as “scholars of  hip hop,” and truly take on the mantle of “hip hop scholar” (a concept that many of us have been conscious of since we were “knee high to a duck”).23 Gilroy’s critique charges us to understand hip hop more fully as music while taking hip hop both less seriously (vis-­à-­vis authenticities, “outsized” and unsubstantiated claims of resistance, and the like) and more seriously (with regard to craft, embodied desire, sonic strategies, political complexities and contradictions, etc.). Such a sustained attention to sonic details—­including the spoken voice—­will allow us to feel hip hop more intensely, attend to the im­

Hip Hop as Postcolonial Art and Practice  11

mediacy of  hip hop’s presence (in terms of geography, emotional urgency, and frequency response), and examine the understudied subject of sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it. While this study is by no means deficient in lyrical analyses, the performance-­centered approach will help us decenter hip hop lyrics to help us understand the relationship of texts to beats and will help us understand that the beats have their own sonic rhetorics, underpin­ ning or providing contrast to those texts, visual cues, and movements that grab our attention most readily. All told, the performative and postcolonial frame helps us to connect that seemingly unique doubleness of African American experiences to global populations, better understand the constructedness of race while holding fast against the realities of racism, engage hip hop’s constitutive but occluded hy­ bridities, destabilize the art/life split, and examine how this and related Car­ tesian binaries were not passive discourses, but essential and active players in the cultural and economic process that named Europe the mind and the world the body—­a process that is not played out. It is my contention that in focusing on the ideological puissance and historical materiality of these ruptures, we can recenter what Christopher Waterman once called “the Excluded Middle,” solve Gilroy’s “mystery that aches to be solved,” and hear hip hop anew.24

B l a c k / W h i t e , C o n s c i o u s / G a n g s ta , Art/Life: A Chapter Outline I begin the first chapter, “ ‘J’accuse’: Hip Hop’s Postcolonial Politics in Paris,” tracking the postcolonial politics at play in Parisian hip hop, introducing common themes and sonic strategies that will arise in all three of this book’s metropolitical and national contexts. Drawing on my first fieldwork experi­ ences with hip hop communities in Paris in the spring of 2007, I introduce the political discourses in and around hip hop during the run-­up to the national elections that would see Nicholas Sarkozy—­sworn enemy and favorite target of French hip hop—­elected to the presidency. My aim here is to provide a workable background to understanding the cultural and political terrain at that pivotal time and offer a look at the network of shared ideas as well as the frac­ tures and diversity within French hip hop at the time. The themes that emerge center around ideas of migration, assimilation, diversity, hybridity, fusion, and multiculturalism, with an ear tuned as much to the global and international as to the local and the national. Notably, the ways that the critiques are framed center around the national Republican ideals of liberté, égalité, fraternité. As

12  Introduction

such, these artists explore the ideological contradictions of Enlightenment thought in the Parisian context as a way to both assert their differences from and claim their place in the nation. In the second chapter of this Parisian pair, “Nostalgia ‘En noir et blanc’: Black Music and Postcoloniality from Sefyu’s Paris to Buddy Bolden’s New Orleans,” I perform a close reading of Sefyu’s “En noir et blanc” as a way to bring into form the historical and discursive continuities between double consciousness and postcoloniality through the sonic contours and performed histories of “black music.” My aims here are foundational to laying out the ba­ sic terms and tenets of this book’s central argument, namely, that by listening closely to European hip hop we can hear that double consciousness is the particular African American form of the global experience of postcoloniality—­ the first pillar. In turn, by tackling such a large question through the lens of a single piece of music, we can see in detail how, through musical performance, hip hop births a new consciousness both attuned to this continuity and cali­ brated to undermine the asymmetries that both double consciousness and postcoloniality describe. As with all of the analyses that follow, this close reading is placed within its contexts through extensive ethnographic fieldwork—­in this case, fieldwork that sent me chasing the elusive Sefyu across Paris and its surrounding banlieues. The paths he led me down brought me in touch with hip hop com­ munities that I might not have been able to connect with or learn from had Sefyu been an easy target. By coming to know the other MCs and DJs whom I met on this journey, I also came to see the web of musical, textual, and hu­ man interconnections that informed Sefyu’s music and politics. Indeed, I have since come to see the fieldwork process as something akin to the close reading process insofar as both scholarly approaches embed the researcher within net­ works that must be traveled and navigated in order to gain a greater apprecia­ tion of creative communities and their music. In the third chapter, “Musical (African) Americanization: Strategic Es­ sentialism, Hybridity, and Commerce in Aggro Berlin,” I further develop the theme of postcolonial hybridity as it relates to double consciousness in the his­ torically charged context of post–­Cold War Berlin. The chapter tracks the work of Aggro Berlin recording artist B-­Tight (Robert Edward Davis), the son of an African American serviceman and an ethnically German mother. Begin­ ning at a concert in the city’s Columbiaclub, the chapter examines the ways that hip hop’s performative musical structures activate a racial dialectic that implicates B-­Tight and his multiracial German public. Here, I examine more troubling valences of doubleness on B-­Tight’s track, “Der Neger,” to pivot to

Hip Hop as Postcolonial Art and Practice  13

the second pillar of this study’s argument and investigate the commercializa­ tion of blackness with the heuristic frame of “(African) Americanization.” In so doing, the chapter considers the postcolonial situation of  Turkish-­German Gastarbeiter (guestworkers) as well as the legacy of American occupation in these transactions. The second in a pair of Berlin chapters, chapter 4, “Heiße Waren: Hot Commodities, ‘Der Neger Bonus,’ and the Commercial Authentic,” elaborates my examination of hip hop “commerce.” I begin with an historical examina­ tion of the cultivation of authenticity in black music, tracking W. C. Handy’s early codification of blues form, first in European musical notation and then in the emerging recording industry that commodified black musical authen­ ticity for the masses. From this background, I turn to examine continuities in the 2004 mixtape Heiße Ware (Hot Commodity), featuring B-­Tight and his Lebanese-­Berliner label mate, Tony D. The analysis takes as its subject the performance of violently “hot” and misogynistic, nonwhite gangsta masculini­ ties on the mixtape and examines the ways that the commercial product was designed to be “excessive” from its conceptualization to its performance and its marketing. The chapter thus tracks the record label’s cultivation of what I term a “commercial authentic” in counterpoint with an unexpected continu­ ity with the German press’s reception of the historic visit of then-­candidate Barack Obama to Berlin in the summer of 2008. Chapter 5 further examines the gendered valences of consumer culture through the “third world” feminist heuristic, “terrorist chic.” In “M.I.A.’s ‘Terrorist Chic’: Black Atlantic Music and South Asian Postcolonial Politics in London,” I argue that the feminizing and dismissive term, which was widely applied to the music of  M.I.A., reveals a deep ambivalence structured around fear and condescension. Through a close reading of the Sri Lankan London­ er’s first album, Arular, and the discourse it generated, I argue that we can hear the very thing we are afraid we might—­the sound of the authentically inauthen­ tic. The chapter thus follows bell hooks’s direction in suggesting that “fierce critical interrogation is sometimes the only practice that can pierce the wall of denial consumers of images construct.”25 The chapter further theorizes hip hop commerce through the lens of sexism and its intersections with racism and Islamophobia, while theorizing South Asian Brits into black Atlantic cultural politics, thus considering pillars 1 and 2 through the lens of gender politics. In chapter 6, “Marché Noir: The Hip Hop Hustle in the City of Light,” I conclude my examination of the interrelated conscious/gangsta and vernac­ ular/commerce binaries in hip hop and turn my focus to the art/life binary. I begin in the hip hop community of a Parisian radio station and its weekly

14  Introduction

Marché Noir live hip hop show, examining the ways that such communities are formed. By tracking the group Blackara and their self-­defined “arriviste” (hustler) ideology, I attempt to register how hip hop becomes both a vocation and a lifestyle, a performed hustle and a performative avocation. As we will see, hip hop is simultaneously a music, a culture, and a way of being in and knowing the world. The chapter interrogates the sonic form of  Blackara’s “arriviste” hip hop consciousness and tracks the valences of black conspicuous consumption as a subversive act in this capital of  haute couture by considering Blackara’s postcolonial gaze from the city’s margins. The chapter concludes by looking at the music of Marché Noir regulars associated with the Capitale Sale (Dirty Capital) record label. In the final pair of chapters I return to hip hop in the United Kingdom, centering on the music of  Juice Aleem. The aim here is to make explicit some of the implicit arguments from the preceding chapters about how hip hop consciousness comes into form through musical performance. In chapter 7, “ ‘Wherever We Go’: UK Hip Hop and the Deformation of Mastery,” I begin with a cultural history of  UK hip hop based on interviews in the city and analy­ ses of  hip hop’s music and industry in the nation. The focus then turns to New Flesh frontman Aleem, highlighting and interrogating his loaded statement that “England has had a love affair” with black musics. As the debate around the industry term “urban” indicates, the country is still not comfortable with its relationship with “black music” as such, just as it remains uncomfortable with black Britons. Through close analysis of the New Flesh album Universally Dirty (2006), and its hit track “Wherever We Go,” I examine how Aleem performs this uncomfortable and unfinished relationship, encoding and em­ bodying his critique in the musical contours of a deformational mastery of the form/content binary. I argue that by listening closely to his music, we can hear the political antinomies of the term “black British,” and better understand how such musical expressions both encode and enact the mutual implication of the sonic and the social. In the final chapter, “ ‘Straight Outta B.C.’: Différance, Defness, and Juice Aleem’s Precolonial Afrofuturist Critique,” I offer a theorization of these conti­ nuities premised on Aleem’s concept album,  Jerusalaam Come (2009). Here I examine the “emergent” possibilities of musical performance, using Raymond William’s influential categories of the “residual,” “dominant,” and “emergent” (as well as the “archaic”), to examine Aleem’s space-­and time-­traveling glo­ cal and interhistorical critique. By articulating Gilroy’s concept of  “anti-­anti-­ essentialism” to Jacques Derrida’s concept of  “différance” and Homi Bhabha’s

Hip Hop as Postcolonial Art and Practice  15

“evil eye/I,” I arrive at a new theorization of hip hop performativity built on the hip hop concept of “defness.” In brief, through a detailed examination of Aleem’s “emergent” album, Jerusalaam Come, I suggest that where différance exposes the difference and deference of meaning, “defness” reasserts, if not definite meaning, the definitive agency of the speaker. In hip hop a def rap­ per is one who, despite and through his or her alterity, commands the art of speech and renders those who do not wish to hear him or her deaf. Defness thus presupposes that black performance is an immanent critique. Following Gayatri Spivak’s foundational critique, defness presupposes that most will not hear. But defness also presupposes that there are some things that cannot be taken away. I end the book by considering a continuity between hip hop and postco­ lonial studies that I call the “mechanics of the double bind” and building this continuity into a conclusion titled “Hip Hop Studies and/as Postcolonial Studies.” After a brief assessment of the promise of global hip hop studies I issue a call to hip hop scholars premised on the three pillars outlined above. In so doing, I outline an interdisciplinary project that will help us push against the physical and conceptual boundaries that tend to isolate us from one an­ other. To give force to this call and elaborate what it might look like in prac­ tice, I turn to an emergent (for me) realm of  investigation—­Irish hip hop. Having recently moved to the Emerald Isle, I track the ways that Irish artists use hip hop to perform their postcolonial critiques through local and national revolu­ tionary histories, refigurations of  Irish language and traditional music, and the sonic and rhetorical contours of hip hop. The MCs that I examine construct an internationalist identity perched on the moral high ground of American civil rights discourse while critically engaging national stereotypes and mili­ tating against occupation of their “paradise,” the Emerald Isle. As such, in the chapters that follow, I employ a variety of methodologies to build an array of disparate voices into a cohesive theory of hip hop and postcoloniality—­a the­ ory built upon the doubly bound mechanics of counterhegemonic movement.

S i t uat i n g t h e R e s e a rc h Before I begin in earnest, there are matters of perspective, methodology, and terminology to which we should attend. Although my interests in European hip hop stretch back to my first exposures to the sights and sounds of the art form in Tübingen, Germany, circa 1992 and grew with my first Fettes Brot, MC Solaar, and Roots Manuva albums in the mid-­to late 1990s, my formal

16  Introduction

study of this music and its politics began in 2003. These “same, but not quite” European versions of the music captured my imagination as a white, inner-­ city American kid who grew up with hip hop—­and with America’s racial bag­ gage. Although my decade of fieldwork with European hip hop communities has helped nuance my understanding of the different contexts of this music and culture—­and the different contexts of race and racisms—­and although I now live and teach in the European Union, my perspective remains an Ameri­ can one.26 Perhaps it is important that this perspective is an expat American one, one that feels from afar a powerful and heightened pull toward and revulsion from the United States in this BlackLivesMatter/Trump moment, but I suspect in some ways it makes my perspective all the more American. I remark on these basic biographical details, above all, to situate this book in an important, in­ spiring, and expanding body of  hip hop scholarship in which I am an emerg­ ing and, in many ways, authoritative, but by no means final, voice on the sub­ ject and subjects. In this book I won’t try to pretend that I’m without my own bias and baggage. I will, however, try to spend time listening closely to the music and the communities that produced it, taking seriously the beats, the rhymes, and the lives that they encode and amplify. I hope the reader finds my analysis as compelling and audacious as the artists I take as my subjects. Regarding my methodology, as I’ve suggested above, the book is both in­ formed by close readings of music and media and grounded in fieldwork cen­ tered in Paris, Berlin, and London.27 It is thus reflective of my disciplining as a musicologist and ethnomusicologist and indicative of my efforts to bring the best of those fields into the critical terrain of cultural studies. That said, my eclectic methodology was born of necessity and is premised more intuitively on an emergent sense of knowing what needs to be done as a hip hop head who has a great respect for the music, finds the artform infinitely deep and wide, and wants to do justice to the music, the culture, and the people who make and live it. Although much of the analysis is rooted in my 2006–­8 field­ work with European hip hop communities, listening carefully to and living with European hip hop (both figuratively and literally) in the intervening years has greatly augmented the methodology. That is, hip hop’s critical discourses have themselves helped me develop a wide-­ranging and bespoke set of tools to render the music, culture, and people in all their human complexity—­in full audio spectrum, in living color, and in three dimensions (four in chapter 8). Finally, the terminologies I employ throughout the study work purpose­ fully to push the discourse about performance, culture, and postcoloniality into new terrain. Here, too, I follow hip hop’s lead by creating new terms,

Hip Hop as Postcolonial Art and Practice  17

engaging in productive misreading, militating against fixed meanings, and otherwise working to push hip hop’s performativity into the realm of usable theory—­or better: to recognize this performativity as critical theory, to recog­ nize hip hop as scholarship. As in the title, I refer to this music as European hip hop throughout the text. While my use of this nomenclature is not meant to privilege the Northwestern and Central European iterations of the form that I examine, it does amount to a conscious intervention in reframing who gets to speak as a European. In many ways, the three epigraphs above set the dis­ cursive stage for my interventions in the pages that follow. The first, from Gil­ roy’s opening to The Black Atlantic, grapples with issues of  Europeanness and double consciousness. The second, from the last paragraphs of Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism, deals in hybridity and paradox. The third, from the second track of Juice Aleem’s Jerusalaam Come, performs essence and transcendence. Notably, all three center the discursive terrain on which bat­ tles around identity are waged. Yet, so too do all three lay bare the contextual and performative slippages that forever subvert language’s ability to capture the excess, plurality, and dynamism of our “unfinished identities.” In the chapters that follow, I endeavor to track how European hip hop artists are at the vanguard of this discursive contest. Their secret weapons: a hard-­won understanding of the ways that language has been deployed to exploit and oppress and an equally canny ability to perform, embody, recon­ textualize, and otherwise bring language into sonic form—­to bring language to life. In titling the book Flip the Script I call upon a widely known hip hop term and the set of  knowledges, practices, and politics to which it refers. As we will see, the idea of “flipping” models the theoretical mechanics of the textual and conceptual content I analyze in the pages to come. What’s more, it has the added benefit of accruing deeper meaning and complexity over the course of the chapters as we learn all of the performative ways that hip hop artists find to invert, deform, resignify, and otherwise trouble Enlightenment discourses, Eurocentric written histories, and the presents and futures that they script. This simple touchstone will help us understand new valences of multicultural capitalism in chapter one, it will gain significance as we explore the syllabic flipping of French verlan wordplay in chapter 2, and continue to build steam through the strategic essentialisms of Berliner MCs in chapters 3 and 4, the hyperpresent absence of  M.I.A. in chapter 5, the conspicuous consumption of chapter 6, and the deformation of mastery and performative, “def,” critique of European imperial histories in chapters 7 and 8. In Europe’s present context of perpetual crisis (that is always already racialized)—­from refugee crises and constant fears of terrorism to the rise of

18  Introduction

neonationalist parties, the isolationist Brexit fruits they bear, the normaliza­ tion of boom-­and-­bust economics, and the new reality of permanent auster­ ity—­it is the sons, daughters, and grandchildren of settlers from the former colonies and peripheries of Europe who are on the front lines and are best equipped to offer new insight into current affairs . . . if we have the sense to listen. And make no mistake; these local insights will take wing on the global commercial networks of popular culture through the sonic force of  hip hop. What does twenty-­first-­century Europe sound like? Let’s have a listen.

chapter 1

“J’accuse”: Hip Hop’s Postcolonial Politics in Paris R e p p i n g “ A u l n ay w o o d ” : H i p H o p ’ s Postcolonial Racial Politics On March 21, 2007, I attended a hip hop concert and political rally sponsored by Ras L’Front (Fed Up with the Front), a self described “anti-­fascist” political organization founded in direct opposition to the rightist anti-­immigration Front National (FN) Party.1 The presidential election that the city was gearing up for was touted as the most important in a generation and cast as a referendum on France’s strained social welfare system and the country’s views on immigration and globalization. Represented in news accounts as a battle over the fate of  France’s future with Ségolène Royal on one side and Nicholas Sarkozy on the other, the field of candidates also included the FN’s then-­perennial candidate Jean Marie Le Pen, the moderate François Bayrou, and Ras L’Front’s presumed favorite, the French Communist Party’s Marie-­George Buffet. Even more so than its American counterpart, French hip hop is at the center of debates about cultural and socioeconomic policy in minority communities, and outspoken MCs were in high demand to speak about social issues in the wake of  the 2005 riots in the low-­income Parisian banlieues (suburbs). Minority rappers appeared on national talk shows nightly to offer viewpoints differing from the otherwise all-­white panels of  politicians, analysts, and activists. In addition, in my two months in Paris during this, my first research trip to the city, I was able to attend three separate hip hop concerts presented by political organizations. I also had an opportunity to conduct an interview with one such political organization that had recently stopped presenting hip hop concerts in support of their cause. In an interview at a café near the 19th arrondissement offices of SOS-­ Racisme, an antiracism NGO with ties to the French Socialist Party, an

20  Chapter One

employee who wished to remain anonymous began by telling me that they had stopped organizing hip hop events because of the heightened security costs brought on by fears of rioting. However, as the conversation progressed, the organizer revealed that there was something else going on as well. The Socialist Party’s official stance regards race to be a fiction and therefore opposes the idea of gathering demographic statistics on the ethnic makeup of the country or otherwise representing minorities as such.2 Following from the logic of that stance, the NGO began distancing itself from rappers who identified themselves as ethnic minorities in their music and lyrics. As the representative of the NGO explained, “the Socialist ideal that there are no minorities in France” was compromised by the increasing prominence of self-­consciously “minority” rappers, and SOS-­Racisme stopped using hip hop as a political tool altogether.3 SOS-­R acisme was at the forefront of hip hop political organizing in the mid-­1990s but, as the NGO rep explained, the organization had turned to stand-­up comedy as its preferred method of cultural engagement as rappers became increasingly “racialized.” Clearly, for SOS-­R acisme racism was real, but race was too much of a hot-­button issue. Following the French ideal of laïcité (secularism)—­the official government stance that there shall be no impingment of private religious beliefs or ethnic practices in public life—­the idea of racial identity, and thus of racial solidarity, is eschewed in official public discourse. Indeed, the Enlightenment concept of laïcité and its private/public split has had profound impact on freedom of re­ ligious expression in France, as widely publicized in the oft-­jingoistic head­ scarf and burkini debates of the last decades. Notably, this private/public binary also extends to the realm of artistic political expression, as exemplified by the nationwide hip hop and free speech debate surrounding “L’affaire NTM.”4 On Bastille Day,  July 14, 1995, the Parisian rap group NTM was set to take the stage at the “Rendez-­vous de la Liberté” music festival in the southeastern French town of La Seyne-­sur-­Mer. The festival, organized by SOS-­Racisme, featured the multiracial hardcore rap group NTM, as well as MC Solaar, pop singer Patrick Bruel, and a host of politicians and intellectuals associated with the French Socialist Party.5 The concert’s promoters arranged the Bastille Day festival to reassert the French doctrine of liberté, égalité, fraternité in the face of troubling developments in French ethno-­nationalist politics.6 The nearby cities of  Toulon and Orange had recently elected right-­wing mayors who ran on the anti-­immigration platform of the ultranationalist FN—­a landmark early victory for a party that has seen a dramatic rise in the intervening decades. Although the promoters of the festival intended the artists and politicians to speak out against the FN’s racist and xenophobic views, NTM’s performance

“ J’accuse”  21

at the event far exceeded their goals, sparking a national debate on the place of free speech in French society. About halfway through their set, NTM was getting the crowd psyched up for their controversial song, “Police,” with a call and response of “nique la police” (fuck the police). The two members of NTM,  Joey Star (Didier Morville) and Kool Shen (Bruno Lopes), had written the song two years earlier in response to the rampant police brutality they saw in their native banlieues. The police on duty at the event, offended by the verbal assaults, detained the rappers and filed a lawsuit against NTM.7 The verdict that was handed down more than a year later sentenced the two rappers to three months in jail in addition to a six-­month performance ban and fines. Though NTM’s performance at this festival celebrating French liberty was protected by freedom of expression laws, the statutes applied only to artistic expression, not political speech, as the police and the prosecution successfully argued NTM’s “chants” were. Though grassroots pressure ultimately led to the suspension of  Joey Starr and Kool Shen’s prison sentences, French law found NTM’s statements to be legal as art but illegal as speech. As André Prévos explains: “They were condemned because they stepped out of their ‘performer’s domain’ and came back into the so-­called ‘citizen’s domain’ where protections under the rules of free expression are different and less comprehensive.”8 In effect, French law states that you may practice your ethnicity in private and air your grievances in art but—­following the ideology of  laïcité and its binary compartmentalizations—­ not in public and not in political speech. L’affaire NTM thus marked the highwater mark of SOS-­Racisme’s involvement with hip hop. Picking up where SOS-­R acisme left off, the Communist Party–­affiliated Ras L’Front presented a hip hop show billed as “Rap Populaire Festif.” The NGO’s concert was held in the theater of the Ligne 13 community center in the north Paris suburb of Seine-­Saint-­Denis and featured a number of hip hop acts from Paris and surrounding communities. The show’s headline act was Ministère des Affaires Populaires (Ministry of Popular Affaires), or MAP, a group of  North African and ethnically French origins that fused the music of a Raï violinist (a popularized Algerian folk music genre) and traditional French accordion melodies over a turntable-­driven hip hop beat. MAP’s stage show perfectly suited the political aims of its left-­wing sponsor, beginning with the two rappers, Dias and Hk, entering in long blue coats—­a symbolic gesture to their working-­class message. The concert also featured the music of the Latino-­identified MCs Skalpel and Pizko—­members of the Chilean-­French hip hop collective La Familia. The attire that the two rappers settled on for their set consisted of matching t-­shirts

22  Chapter One

featuring the word “Aulnaywood.” The shirts referred to Aulnay-­sous-­Bois, the nearby suburb infamous as the starting point for the 2005 “riots” (or more accurately: antiracist revolts) and the area in which Skalpel and Pizko were raised. The construction “Aulnaywood” is also a reference to, and wordplay on, Hollywood. As such, the shirts are a densely signified hip hop statement that plays on the spoken sound of the banlieue name and its “sous-­Bois” (in the wood) suffix while highlighting the recent media attention that the long-­ neglected suburb had been getting, through the synergy of news coverage of the riots and the activities of the many rappers who call the area home. As Pizko later described to me in an interview at his apartment, the destruc­ tive actions of youth in the northern suburbs were an unfortunate but understandable response to years of systemic marginalization. His parents had fled the American-­backed military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and found a refuge on the outskirts of Paris where he grew up with other minority youth, most of them from the former French colonies—­Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Vietnam, Cambodia, Haiti, and so on, he explained. He and Skalpel’s connections to Ras L’Front came through the continuation of their parents’ social justice activism and involvement in Chilean workers’ rights politics. In making his point about the roots of the banlieue riots, Pizko described how in addition to the material marginalization of poverty, the French school system stressed only French culture and European history in the context of predominantly nonwhite classrooms.9 “They would say our ancestors are Gauloises, you know [like the cartoon character] Asterix. That’s what they say in the school. And after colonization they said to the African youth, the teacher would say: ‘your ancestors are white.’ That’s what they say to African people. It’s [as if it were] an historical truth. It’s like in South America, they say your ancestors are Christopher Columbus. What is before? We have nothing.” Through his description of postcolonial youth and their education, Pizko emphasizes the cultural ancestry that the French school system hopes to instill in its students.10 From one perspective the color-­blind ideal of including people of all ethnic backgrounds in the proudly universalist history of the French Republic is a very progressive project. Yet, like American curricula that attempt to weave a similar narrative of political equality, it is fraught with the pitfalls of eliding counternarratives of material exploitation and racialized subjugation. He came back to the subject of  his school and community later, noting that other stories such as his need to find expression. I was born here. . . . I educated myself  here. I went to school here. And every day I was with different people: with Arab people, with black people, with

“ J’accuse”  23

Chinese people, but they’re all French because they were born here and they were educated here. So color is one thing, appearance is one thing, but imagine all these people with African origins, with Chinese, with Arab origins—­when we go back to our countries we’re French. But the influence of propaganda is creating a lot of discrimination. The “French” people (curving his fingers in quotation), you know—­white with the baguette—­they don’t understand that. Stereotypes exist in the country. They don’t know about our life here. You know?

In Pizko’s view, French people of color understand that their country is now a highly pluralistic society. Despite the universalist political ideal, however, the idea of a “French” person as racially white and culturally Gallic persists in the minds of many ethnic French. In short, said Pizko, that is why he needs to tell his story as a self-­defined Latino Frenchman—­to make people realize that their country is not what they think it is. In his track “Ciencia de Barrio” (Barrio Science) featuring Skalpel and the production of his La Famila crew, Pizko raps in Spanish from a Latino-­French perspective.11 Although he also writes rhymes in French, he says that many in France understand the foreign language and that it makes him stand out in the French hip hop scene. In addition, it creates a Latin American audience for his music and has enabled him to work with producers and other MCs from the Spanish-­speaking world. “Ciencia de Barrio” begins with a brief loop of one of the most sampled musical moments in the hip hop tradition: James Brown’s “one, two, three, four” from the opening of “Sex Machine.”12 The beat throughout the recording features a simple hip hop drum and handclap track with a flamenco-­style sweep picking guitar loop. The guitar sample was played by Pizko himself and recorded in his home studio consisting of a computer-­based digital setup with a mixer, a small synthesizer, a single turntable, and a nice (as he pointed out) Sennheiser microphone. The track also features another guitar reference—­ symbol of  Spanish music par excellence—­in Skalpel’s nod to the Latin Amer­ ican guitar hero, Carlos Santana: “Yo soy Latino com’ pasa montaña / . . . CorazÓn guitarra como Santana” (I am Latino like a mountain pass / . . . Guitar heart like Santana). Pizko, himself, also sings the track’s hook about technologies of solidarity and opposition on the track: “Ciencia de Barrio / A compartir con nuestra gente” (Barrio Science / To share with our people). Throughout the track, Pizko and Skalpel articulate a revolutionary Latino identity in the Parisian context with references to the social struggles on the margins of the city. Skalpel

24  Chapter One

also displays this identity through a prominent tattoo of the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata on his left forearm. In a feature article in Unité: Le mag­ azine des acteurs Hip Hop (Unity: the magazine of Hip Hop actors/perform­ers) that he gave me in lieu of an interview, Skalpel explains his take on immi­gration through the lens of Zapatista inspired redistribution and reparation. If anyone considers that an African or a French person of African origin who lives in France is a leech or a profiteer they would have to owe them three centuries of squatters rights to reimburse them for all that France carried off and spoiled on the African continent. And it is similar for all the neocolonial powers. . . . There is no immigration problem, there is only a problem of exploitation and of redistributing wealth.13

In chapter 6 we will encounter MCs who look to Malcolm X–­inspired self-­reliance to even the playing field “by any means necessary,” but here Skalpel and Pizko look to the community-­centered socialism of Zapatista redistribution. While fiercely proud of their Latino heritage, Pizko and Skalpel also believe in the potentialities of cultural fusion, be they linguistic, musical, or otherwise. Indeed, much the same could be said of  MAP’s Algerian-­French fusion. In his track “Dale Latino” (make it Latin) Pizko mixes French and Spanish lyrics, often interspersing words from each language within a single line of poetry. In explaining the process, he pointed to the US Latino hybrid commonly known as “Spanglish,” saying: “you know how in America they have something like ‘Spanish and English’? It’s like that.” In the example of “Dale Latino,” Pizko sings the chorus in two-­part harmony moving from Spanish to French in the lines: “Dale Latino / Si os connais pas bien” (Make it Latin / If you [Sp.] don’t know well [Fr.]) and back to Spanish through the line “Represent par los hermanos” (Represent for [Fr.] the boys [Sp.]). Although the lyrical and musical flow is not at all disjunct, the track seems to be a conscious effort to move back and forth between the languages as often as possible—­a type of poemusical challenge for him to express these two sides of  his singular Latino French identity. In doing so, he both performs and embodies his broader message that France needs to come to terms with its own diversity.

“La France MÉtissée, on l’Aime et on y Vit!” The theme of hybridity and cultural diversity provided the well-­publicized slogan for another political hip hop concert in the run-­up to the 2007 French

“ J’accuse”  25

presidential election. Exploring the area around the Seine-­Saint-­Denis Metro station and the Saint Denis Technical University (IUT de Saint Denis) before the Ras L’Front show, I came across a flyer for another show linking hip hop to political activism. This show, the Festival Etudiant Contra le Racisme (Students Against Racism Festival), presented by the French university students union (UNEF), comprised a lecture and concert (literally) under the banner of “La France métissée, on l’aime et on y vit! ” (mulatto France, we love it and we live it!). In addition to the slogan and the logos of the festival and student union, the banner included a map of France created through a collage of the faces of around 100 well-­known—­and mostly nonwhite—­French people includ­ ing the rappers Kool Shen, Joey Starr, and MC Solaar and athletes Thierry Henry, Lilian Thuram, and Tony Parker. The antiracism festival began in a Sorbonne lecture hall with a well-­ attended panel discussion that was to feature the Senegalese-­French rapper Sefyu and the Guadeloupean-­born soccer star and activist Lilian Thuram. Though the rapper famous for his chart topper “En noir et blanc” (Black and White) was a no-­show for the event, Thuram’s presence alone resulted in a press frenzy. Best known as the player with the most starts for the French national team, Thuram made political headlines when he rebuked then–­interior minister Nikolas Sarkozy for calling the minority youth involved in the 2005 riots “racaille” (scum/rabble). As in the United States, both music and sports in Europe are primary sites for discourses of race to work their way through national imaginations. With Thuram at center, a panel of speakers from various NGOs and government groups gave brief statements in support of the student union’s antiracism event before the press again swarmed Thuram. Moving northeast from the Sorbonne, the festival’s concert was held in the 11th arrondissement’s Gymnase Japy, a cavernous facility with a plaque marking the historical site as a gathering point for the August 1942 deportation of Parisian Jews and other minorities during the Nazi occupation. In place of Sefyu (another Aulnay rapper), the Moroccan French rapper Axiom headlined the event, performing most of the tracks from his album Nous sommes le Six­ ième République (We are the Sixth Republic). The album title refers to Charles de Gaulle’s 1958 establishment of the so-­called Fifth Republic—­a more centralized government with a stronger presidency founded in response to the separatist movement that ultimately resulted in Algerian independence. The album title thus invokes the militant separatism of colonial North Africans in arguing against the continued inequality of postcolonial France. On the al­ bum Axiom states that “we”—­the postcolonial subjects of France—­are declar­ ing our own independence from the nation in the form of a “Sixth Republic.”

26  Chapter One

F i g u r e 1 . 1 Axiom reading/performing “Ma Lettre au President” at the Students Against Racism Festival. Photo by the author.

Axiom’s strongest argument on the album comes in his track “Ma Lettre au President” (My Letter to the President) which he performed at Gymnase Japy with letter in hand. The “Letter” begins with an air-­raid siren blaring over marcato string chords. Axiom enters with the first lines more spoken than rapped: Monsieur le Président, Avec tout le respect que je dois à votre fonction Je vous demanderais un peu d’attention Je me présente à vous en tant que citoyen, Sain de corps et d’esprit, en pleine possession de mes moyens À l’heure où je vous parle, dans le pays le couvre-­feu résonne Je fais appel à l’article 19 de la déclaration des droits de l’homme . . .

“ J’accuse”  27

Mr. President, With all the respect that I owe to your function I would ask of you a little attention I present myself to you as a citizen, Of sound body and of spirit, in full possession of my faculties. At this hour that I speak to you, in the country the curfew sounds I call upon article 19 of the declaration of the rights of man . . .

As the siren tone winds down, a hip hop drum beat begins and a synthesizer rendition of “La Marseillaise”—­the French national anthem—­comes to the fore. The siren evokes memories of the recent riots as well as other military imagery, as we will see. Axiom continues, now rhythmically rapping the lines: Monsieur le Président, Je vous fais part de ma grande indignation Face aux événements, comprenez ma position Je suis français, ai grandi dans les quartiers populaires Mes grands-­parents ont défendu ce pays pendant la guerre Mes parents eux aussi l’ont reconstruite cette république Rappelez vous ces ouvriers qu’on a fait venir d’Afrique Et leurs enfants ignorés par le droit du sol Citoyens de seconde zone, de la naissance à l’école J’accuse trente ans de racisme et d’ignorance La répression sans prévention en France J’accuse votre politique, vos méthodes archaïques La centralisation, la défense unique de la loi du fric Au lieu de rassembler car tous français, Vous n’avez fait que diviser, laissant l’ extrême droite avancer. Mr. President, I implicate you in my great indignation Confronted with these events, include my position I am French, I grew up in the working-­class neighborhoods My grandparents defended this country during the war My parents also rebuilt this republic Please recall these workers came from Africa And their children ignored by the right of  birth [ jus soli]

28  Chapter One

Second-­class citizens, from birth to school I accuse you of thirty years of racism and of ignorance The repression without prevention in France I accuse your politics, your antiquated methods The centralization, above all the defense of the bottom line Instead of uniting all French people You divide, allowing the extreme right to advance

Axiom’s critique of then-­president Jacques Chirac is grounded in the legalistic framework of the United Nations’ 1948 “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” which established that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” In his evocation of the French “right of soil” the rapper argues that although he and countless other so-­called second-­generation immigrants should have equal rights as native-­born citizens under the law, the policies of the French president have entrenched discrimination and inequality. The document’s nineteenth article, which Axiom cites in the opening, reads: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”14 In citing the declaration, Axiom is referencing a right that a number of politically outspoken rappers have had to assert in the face of national defamation lawsuits from French legislators on the political Right.15 In his argument that the president has allowed the extreme right to advance, however, Axiom is pointing to a double standard much debated among minority rappers that nationalists who call for immigrant deportations and holocaust deniers are rarely tried in such libel cases. Indeed, in the formulation of “J’accuse . . .” Axiom is referencing the infamous Dreyfus Affair in which the writer Émile Zola wrote another such slanderous open letter to the president in 1898 in hopes that he could rectify the unjust antisemitic treatment of Alfred Dreyfus, a French military officer unjustly tried for treason. By publishing the letter, Zola sought to force the government to bring a libel suit against him and thus bring international attention to the case.16 As we will see, hip hop in France—­and indeed across Europe—­returns again and again to this model of civil disobedience-­ cum-­succès de scandale. A couple days after the concert Axiom appeared on France 3’s nightly talk show Ce Soir (ou Jamais!) (Tonight [or Never!]) with a panel of political analysts and academics.17 Like Zola before him, Axiom is using any and all media at his disposal to cause a succès de scandale or otherwise to draw attention

“ J’accuse”  29

to his causes and bring about material change. Though no legal action has been taken against Axiom to date, his political aims seem clear: to foreground a debate about systemic racism and xenophobia and threaten inaction with separatism. In the conclusion of the track, Axiom presents his idea of the “Sixth Republic” as a multiracial, tolerant, and peaceful alternative to an antiquated system that employs an authoritarian interior minister (a clear reference to Sarkozy) who will be found guilty in the court of  history: Nous sommes l’avenir, en notre cœur le plus beau des rêves Pacifiquement, la sixième république en est la sève La république a besoin d’un nouveau vent Celui de l’espoir, du cœur, un vent plus tolérent monsieur le président, Votre ministre instaure la terreur Et l’histoire dira bientôt que ce fut une erreur We are the future, in our heart the most beautiful of dreams Peacefully, the sixth republic the salve The republic needs winds of change That of hope, heart, a more tolerant spirit Mr. President, Your minister institutes terror And history will soon say that it was an error

While Sarkozy went on to win the 2007 election, Axiom’s words have proven prophetic. Sarkozy lost his re-­election bid and is widely viewed to have stoked France’s smoldering racial tensions into full flame. In introducing his Sixth Republic Axiom uses a poetic language of rapprochement, redemption, and rebirth. On stage at Gymnase Japy, Axiom’s images of “heart,” “salve,” and “winds of change” resonated with the banner behind him. His vision and that of La France Métissée—­a nation made up of differing hues—­sought to recast France as a new body politic of mixed race. Notably, his words and the image behind him also echoed the first issue of the pan-­Africanist journal Présence Africaine wherein Jean-­Paul Sartre penned his famously biologized image of African immigration to postwar France as proving a much needed “peu de sang frais qui circule en ce vieux corps” (bit of fresh blood which circulates in this old body).18

30  Chapter One

F r o m m é t i s s é e t o m u lt i c u lt u r e l l e : Daïland and “The Benetton Syndrome” Toward the end of my first fieldwork period in Paris, I headed to the southern banlieue of Bagneux in hopes of finally seeing Sefyu perform at an annual hip hop project called Alliance Urbaine. The five-­day event, then in its tenth year, is part community event, part trade show, and part concert. The concert series featured the American rappers Beat Assailant and Method Man of Wu Tang Clan fame, as well as a  Jamaican dancehall–­influenced French act called Natural Zion High, and a long line-­up of other international and local acts including Sefyu. The most interesting facet of the sprawling event at Espace Léo Ferré—­a multi-­use facility in Bagneux—­was the trade show atmosphere that predominated before the evening’s concert lineup began. Some fifty individual booths were set up, housing representatives from record labels, hip hop clothing lines, electronics manufacturers, and remarkably, rap groups represented by the artists themselves. One such group was Daïland, who had purchased a booth at Alliance Urbaine to promote their self-­released eponymous album and a compilation of tracks from their extended crew entitled Ghetto Music. The albums on their table display caught my eye as other presenters started tearing down their ex­ hibits. The Daïland album artwork featured the group’s logo consisting of a stylized, but recognizably grim cité (housing project) with splatters of red emulating drops of blood. Turning the CD over I was surprised to find that the self-­produced underground album included two video “clips” (music videos), one of which was titled “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” after the three French republican virtues—­a favorite target of French rappers. The other album, Ghetto Music, had cover art featuring a single massive cité with the superimposed images of a menacing pitbull and a lightning bolt. When I approached Daïland for an impromptu interview, the group seemed excited to meet an American who might have some commercial connections. After I explained that I had no industry pull and was instead a researcher working on a book about hip hop in Europe, they nonetheless offered me a shot of Black Velvet Canadian whisky and explained (in English) that they were themselves a collective of international origins. When I asked about their name, one of the MCs explained that “Daï” is slang for stoned, and that the areas that they were from were known for their drug traffic. It seems that the name was also once a pun on the English “die,” as their older album Ghetto Music features the name “Dieland Crew” (with an e). Although I failed to notice the alternate

“ J’accuse”  31

spelling at the time, such a pun linking drugs and violence seemed likely to be the case, as I learned the names of the crew’s members. MC Klepto Thug introduced himself and explained that he was born in “Western Germany” while the other two rappers, Kezo Kiliblack and Akil Fax, were from Haiti and Palestine respectively. They added that they were all from different areas of the banlieues, some from the northern 93rd district and some from the southwestern 92nd. After introducing his producer, the Serbian-­born DJ Alternatif, Kezo interrupted Klepto in English saying: “You know Benetton? We’re ‘United Color.’ It’s my group. It’s ‘United Color’: it’s black man, white man, Palestinian man.” With the trade show booth, the CD Ghetto Music, and their demonstrated pride in being from the banlieues, the group was quite literally selling a form of racialized masculine working-­class authenticity. Most strikingly to me, however, was Kezo’s “Benetton” packaging of the group, which rang loudly in my ear as an ethno/musicologist and cultural theorist. In a 1993 piece for Ethnomusicology, Veit Erlmann describes a reading of so-­called world music that similarly posits the Benetton clothing retailer as a model of difference. Drawing on the commodification and social fragmentation theories of Fredric Jameson he writes that “homogeneity and diversity are two symptoms of what one is tempted to call the Benetton syndrome; the more people around the globe purchase the exact same garment, the more the commercial celebrates difference.”19 But Erlmann, of couse, is not celebrating this difference like Kezo. Indeed, Erlmann uses the shorthand of the “Benetton syndrome” to make a case that difference itself is being commodified and diversity is being sold, such that it is no longer diversity but a sort of yuppie neo-­ethnicity. Erlmann concludes the piece with a nod to Charles Seeger’s comment that some “must of necessity sing their difference,” writing: “we now sing our difference as part of a system that condemns us to seek the signets of otherness in the images it produces from within itself.”20 The process is described by Stuart Hall from another perspective in his “Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities,” where Hall writes of “a way in which the dominant particular localizes and naturalizes itself and associates with a variety of other minorities.”21 As Hall’s formulation indicates, the “Benetton syndrome” is revealed to be a project for the dominant particular—­the leisure class who can afford to dabble in difference. So what of Kezo’s “Benetton syndrome”? Had the young French Haitian from the Paris 92 projects contracted a bourgeois disease wherein his only mod­els of identity and difference were to be found in the realm of commerce, or was he simply casting their music in terms he supposed I would understand?

32  Chapter One

Daïland was certainly selling difference—­the products on their trade show table made that much apparent. But was the difference they were singing the result of their own agency, their own hustle, or was it indeed restricted to the codes and images of a capitalist world system? In any case, something about Erlmann’s “Benetton syndrome” seemed to hold true for explaining Kezo’s authenticizing and racialized, if multicultural, sales pitch. Indeed, we might say that the identity politics and political strategies of all the aforementioned rappers reflect a racial politics of authenticity to a degree—­of difference cast in the commodity form of CD, television, radio, or print media. However, the example of Kezo inverting the focus of the “Benetton syndrome” by implicating himself as the supposed lower-­class authentic ethnic product in contrast to Erlmann’s bourgeois pseudo-­ethnic consumer is also illuminating in other ways. Keeping Hall’s remarks on “New Ethnicities” in mind, we see that while “the dominant particular . . . associates itself with a variety of other minorities,” he shows us that those minorities are also bound in this system of identity making. Kezo is in fact self-­consciously implicated at the other end of a two-­way transaction where—­to flip the script on Hall—­”a vari­ ety of other minorities” also dissociate themselves from “the dominant particular.” Whether that dissociation comes in the form of  Latino Zapatista radical­ism, inclusive visions of La France métissée, or the Arriviste (hustler) black self-­ reliance that we will examine in chapter 6, the result always articulates a “New Ethnicity” because of the desire on the part of countless people of minority and majority backgrounds alike to move beyond the national histories that for so long provided prescribed identities. Notably, Amiri Baraka’s (LeRoi Jones) influential idea of the “changing same” described a similar process in which African American musical innovation is described as a direct answer to the appropriation of black music by white Americans.22 In short,  Jones argued that as a given style or genre of Afri­ can American music achieves widespread commercial success its originators in the black community look for a new spin on an old tradition to stay one step ahead of this mainstreaming transaction. While Baraka’s model is somewhat reductive and fails to fully account for the interplay on both sides of the equation, the idea is a helpful one to understand the ways that music, identity, and culture are bound to larger social structures. It is thus no coincidence that the Daïland crew uses a US popular form and references to the African American ghetto to express its multicultural identity. Indeed, in citing Seeger’s point about how some people are called to sing their difference, Erlmann gestures to an especially American form of difference. The article he cites is Seeger’s 1939 “Grass Roots for American Composers” in

“ J’accuse”  33

which the musicologist and composer notes that “ethnic music” is a uniquely important component in the concert music of Americans due to the shared history of displacement and migration among its musicians.23 For the rappers discussed here, and dozens of others with whom I spoke in Paris, the social fragmentation and niche marketing that Erlmann and Jameson attribute to a new hegemonic structure of  late capitalism can also be understood as a result of the French state struggling to come to terms with its own increasing postcolonial diversity. For some like Pizko and Skalpel this diversity must provide the solidarity to combat capitalism. For others the capitalist system is, in fact, preferable to the welfare policies that manufacture dependence and ingrain cycles of inequality. In any case, the “Americanizing” and “globalizing” postcolonial politics of both hybridity and multiculturalism “represents the latest triumph of outer-­national and intercultural political forms that make their local equivalents, still bolted to the decaying chassis of a nineteenth-­century nation-­ state, look tame, redundant and outmoded by comparison.”24 For better and for worse, that form of Americanization is replete with the commercial machinations that the term has come to represent.

chapter 2

Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”: Black Music and Postcoloniality from Sefyu’s Paris to Buddy Bolden’s New Orleans On the 2006 track “En noir et blanc” (In Black and White), the Senegalese-­ French rapper Sefyu begins with the sound of a West African shekere moving back and forth through the stereo field: right-­left, right-­left, right-­left, right-­ . . . its dotted rhythm emulating a heartbeat. As we wait for the completion of the next rhythmic dyad, a needle is suddenly dropped on an old record. The vinyl scratch completes the pendulum’s anticipated swing left in the stereo field and then sweeps back to the right, obscuring the concluding shekere voice (or is it a maraca?) and briefly suspending the musical flow. Now a distant-­sounding piano emerges from the scratchy record. It plays a dirge-­like minor-­key loop wherein the top voice rises and then falls a minor third (D–­F–­D) and the inner voice descends stepwise (B flat–­A–­G). A third voice lurks in a bass ostinato that falls (A–­F–­E–­D) before rising with the other voices (D–­F–­G) to complete the motive. Based on its voice leading and stylistic profile, the lament should be from a Romantic-­era art song. Probably German. But it is not.1 The unmistakable and iconic voice of Nina Simone enters on a single, but splintered and echoing phoneme that seems to speak: “when.”2 The note-­ against-­note piano loop continues, establishing a static but now blues-­inflected D-­minor harmonic environment. Again, the voice declares—­or perhaps asks—­ “when.” The three voices continue to wind toward and away from one another in the repeating loop, moving independently, but bound together by the rules of Western tonal harmony, of “common practice.” Finally, a synthesized and diffuse bass bomb falls in pitch space, again sweeping from left to right, and

Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”  35

just after the third beat of the now nearly complete four-­bar loop, we hear a new phoneme that seems to make a request: “call.” Sefyu’s dry baritone enters this musical and rhetorical space with the following lines, sung in an agile and staccato hip hop vocal style underlaid with the melodic conventions of  Jamaican dancehall. Mes origines sont en panique. J’ai fouillé dans toutes les poches du monde, Ya’ que du trafic. Ben, vas-­y-­oh! Mon coeur a suivi sa logique: Il faut se mélanger. Dans la mixité ya’ rien de tragique. Ben, vas-­y-­oh! Dans la vie ya tout de pratique, Moi j’dis que rien est magique. Et puis le racisme fatigue. Ben, vas-­y-­oh! My origins are in panic. I’ve looked in every corner of the world, There’s only traffic. Well, go ahead yo! My heart followed this logic: We’ve got to mix. There’s nothing tragic in mixing. Well, go ahead yo! Everything in life can be used, I’m saying nothing is magic. And I’m tired of racism. Well, go ahead yo!3

The bass bomb transforms into a bouncing bass line, doubling the inner voice of  the piano line two octaves below and further underscoring the dirge’s feeling of descent. String tremolos underscore the tension of the MC’s “panic” as the ghostly piano strains linger in the rafters. In seventeen seconds, the opening sonic tableau of spatial and temporal shifts of focus and perspective on “En noir et blanc” establishes the themes of

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“trafic” and “mixité ” that set the sonic stage for Sefyu’s meditation on France’s nostalgia for simpler, purer, “black and white” times. As Alexander Weheliye emphasizes in his study Phonographies: Grooves in Sonic Afro-­Modernity, introductions serve a profoundly important role in the recorded history of  black music—­setting the stage for dramatic action, establishing genre and laying out musical tropes, and articulating intertextual references.4 In this case, Sefyu has provided us with an incredibly rich and polysemous opening act, replete with sonic synecdoches and intertextual rabbit holes. I am borrowing the term “rabbit holes,” in this context, from the Filipino American artist MC Geo of the Seattle-­based hip hop duo Blue Scholars. As the intertextual term implies, hip hop lyrics are portals into networks of specialist (often underground) knowledges that can sometimes be disconcerting and/or fantastic—­hence the Wonderland implication.5 During his visit to my 2011 class “Planet Rap: Global Hip Hop and Postcolonial Perspectives” at UC Berkeley, Geo explained how hip hop expects its audience to “do some (interpretive) work.” Using the historic symbolism of a lyric involving the role of the Colt .45 handgun in the Philippine-­American War as an example, he suggested that good MCs “don’t feed you answers,” but rather pique your curiosity to motivate you to find out the meaning (or a meaning) for yourself.6 Mixing metaphors (as hip hop often does) with the “rabbit hole” point, he elaborated, “I might show you the door, or open the door, but you gotta walk through it yourself.” As such, in this exegesis—­and those that follow—­I am engaging hip hop interpretive practices (in both form and function) that collectively are often described in the context of  hip hop’s so-­called fifth element: knowledge.7 Sefyu’s “En noir et blanc” begins with a signifier of both indigeneity and birth—­that simplest of musical instruments, an idiophone: the shaker. But just as we get into the groove, this tradition, this rhythmic heartbeat, is severed (perhaps abducted) from the mix by electronic mediation. In fact, the sonic “origin” of the shaker gesture is neither a West African shekere nor a Caribbean maraca, but a digital sampling synthesizer, a fact that casts into high relief the construction, mediation, and interplay of tradition and diaspora, of ori­ gins and traffic. In the shaker’s place a phonographic recording of a highly mech­ anized European instrument—­the piano—­performs a functionally tonal death march that is, on further inspection, deeply suffused with blues overtones and nostalgicized with the patina of spatializing reverb. Just as the shaker moves us with its heartbeat rhythm and the blues dirge marches us onward, the bouncing synth bass and the swing and swag of Sefyu’s hip hop aesthetic make our heads nod and propel us in their own way. Indeed, through its focus on origins, absence, movement, mixture, and mediatization, we might say that in this

Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”  37

introduction, Sefyu has composed for us—­in both lyric and musical sound—­a microcosm of the history of “black music.”8

Black Music and Postcoloniality In the following pages, I will perform an excavation of Sefyu’s “En noir et blanc” with Edward Said’s polyphonic model of “contrapuntal analysis” in our ear.9 Our aim will be to follow Sefyu’s lead in sound, lyric, and image to hear the interrelation of colonizer and colonized resonating in such postcolonial hip hop.10 In his 1993 Culture and Imperialism, Said stresses the hybridity, contradiction, and paradox of colonial entanglement. Moving beyond “comparative” approaches, his “contrapuntal analysis” attempts to illuminate the dialectics of colonial and postcolonial cultural praxis: “The point is that contrapuntal reading must take account of  both processes, that of  imperialism and that of resistance to it.”11 But unlike Said’s reading of the Manichaean and dichotomous “discrepant experiences” of imperialism, Sefyu’s indictment of “black and white” thinking as a form of colonial nostalgia asks us to admit that note-­against-­note polyphony, so-­called first species counterpoint, fails to fully account for the constitutive hybridity and antinomial mixture of postcolonial culture.12 Indeed, Said admits as much in the final paragraph of Culture and Imperialism: “No one today is purely one thing. Labels like Indian, or woman, or Muslim, or American are not more than starting points, which if followed into actual experience for only a moment are quickly left behind. Imperialism consolidated the mixture of cultures and identities on a global scale. But its worst and most paradoxical gift was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly, exclusively, white, or Black, or Western, or Oriental.”13 Perhaps homophony is, then, a more apt metaphor than “contrapuntal” polyphony after all—­a rhetorical space wherein a multiplicity of diverging, converging, and contingent voices nonetheless yields a blended totality of a particular quality at any given point. Although the contrapuntal model will be useful in considering the binary mechanics and mutual implications of postcolonial praxis, in the following pages I will also endeavor to respond to Sefyu’s call for a clear-­ eyed reckoning with the remnants of noir-­et-­blanc thinking in our irretrievably métissée world. In the second chapter of his landmark study Dangerous Crossroads, titled “Diasporic Noise: History, Hip Hop, and the Post-­colonial Politics of  Sound,” George Lipsitz examines the perceived contradictions at the heart of hip hop (think: hip hop as political consciousness versus hip hop as gangsta bling).

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Using Gramscian notions of positionality, he focuses on the interrelation of colonizer and colonized, suggesting that hip hop “works through existing contradictions.” Lipsitz writes: “It draws upon ancient traditions and modern technologies, on situated knowledge and a nomadic sensibility. Generated from communities often criminally short of resources and institutions, it commands prestige from multinational corporations and other bastions of privilege. It flows through the circuits of the post-­industrial austerity economy, and yet still manages to bring to light inequities and injustices.”14 At once the most local and most global, the most politically conscious and most materialistic, the most authentic and most spurious of musical genres, it should come as no surprise that a postcolonial art form such as hip hop would engage those same commercial logics that first engineered racialized structural inequalities in the colonial era under the banner of the civilizing mission. By examining Sefyu’s sonic and historic rhetoric and imagining “En noir et blanc” as an intertextual node in broader Afro-­diasporic musical discourses and practices, I argue in this chapter that hip hop is both a product of these postcolonial contradictions that continue to hyphenate citizens within their own nations and a form of cultural politics well suited to combat the inequalities inscribed upon those hyphens.

Buddy Bolden’s New Orleans Sefyu’s musical gestures to Africa, Europe, and America on “En noir et blanc” establish a multivalent and unstable call and response that spans both continents and centuries. Yet the track is also anchored in a coherent logic born of the idea of black music and anchored in its history. The sounds of Black Atlantic “traffic” will ultimately be our focus here, but for now Ms. Simone has drawn our attention to another body of water, a deep river whose archive Sefyu has just accessed: the Mississippi.15 The Nina Simone loop featured in “En noir et blanc” is comprised of remixed samples from Simone’s 1962 album Nina Simone Sings Duke Ellington.16 The song is “Hey, Buddy Bolden”—­a call into the past to find a legendary figure who jazz critic Ted Gioia calls the “elusive father of  jazz.”17 Indeed, in their landmark history, Jazz, Garry Giddins and Scott DeVeaux write in similarly bold and mythic terms: “In the realm of  jazz myths, no one stands taller or blows louder than King Buddy Bolden. . . . Bolden is generally acknowledged as the first important musician in jazz, and his rise to fame directly augurs the triumph of African American culture.”18 Simone’s haunting ode to Bolden is based on Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s original from

Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”  39

the 1956 musical allegory A Drum Is a Woman, which anthropomorphizes the ways that African rhythm traveled, blended with other musical cultures in the New World, and ultimately “gave birth” to jazz.19 Simone’s deeply ambivalent performance of the tune sits at the confluence of boastfulness and melancholy, rehearsing the myth of  Bolden the King in pathos filled one-­liners over angular, searching, and doomed piano interjections: “Born with a silver trumpet in his mouth / he played the horn before he talked! / Born on the afterbeat / he patted his foot before he walked!” The first lyrical clip in Sefyu’s reformulation of the song comes from the climax of the piece, wherein Simone relates the legend of Bolden’s “wide-­open” trumpet playing. The electronically manipulated “when” that is so fractured and difficult to discern on the Sefyu track rings clear as a bell in Simone’s full-­ throated rendering: When Buddy Bolden tuned up you could hear him clean across the river! Clean across the river! He woke up the working people and kept the easy living. Call him Buddy Bolden. Call him Buddy Bolden. Watch him, he’s calling his flock now. He’s calling his flock now. Here they come . . .20

Thus, Sefyu’s hip hop examination of mixité on “En noir et blanc” goes to the well of New Orleans circa 1900. Using Simone’s voice to access a historic “when,” his track engages an iconic city that stands as an enduring symbol of racial and cultural creolization—­a postcolonial nexus of African, European, and American cultural mixture that stands as an exemplar of Black Atlantic “traffic” in terms of both human and musical commodities and that has profound resonances within hip hop around the world today. By going to this well through the musical contours of contemporary hip hop and by sampling Simone’s civil rights era “call,” Sefyu accesses an African American archive and further layers the track’s antiphonal texture both lyrically and rhetorically. Dipping even deeper, we find that Bolden’s New Orleans is something of a portal to a yet earlier colonial-­era archive—­an especially rich symbolic site for the black Parisian, Sefyu. In that city stood the legendary Place Congo (Congo Square), a public space occupied by the sights and sounds of African music

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on Sundays and regarded as the most visible public space in which this music was performed in the United States. In his The History of  Jazz, Gioia writes: Within eyesight of Congo Square, Buddy Bolden—­who legend and scattered first-­person accounts credit as the earliest jazz musician—­performed with his pioneering band at Globe Hall. The geographical proximity is misleading. The cultural gap between these two types of music is dauntingly wide. By the time Bolden and Bechet began playing jazz, the Americanization of African music had already begun, and with it came the Africanization of American music—­a synergistic process.  .  .  . Anthropologists call this process syncretism—­the blending together of cultural elements that previously existed separately. This dynamic, so essential to the history of jazz, remains powerful even in the present day, when African American styles of performance blend seamlessly with other musics of other cultures, European, Asian, Latin, and, coming full circle, African.21

When the first African slaves were brought to the Virginia Colony in 1619, a year before the Mayflower’s more auspicious (for some) arrival, their music rightly was called “African.” Over the course of almost three centuries, however, syncreticizing cultural processes moved apace even as the colonial period gave way to the nationalizing efforts that legally encoded racial difference into the American blueprint.22 In this way, a core of difference was inscribed in the “American.” The national became the postcolonial in the United States, a seldom-­analyzed but constitutive feature of American national identity that continues to haunt the American national consciousness. Following the publication of Said’s landmark Orientalism in 1978 and the emergence of a fluid field of inquiry commonly termed “postcolonial studies” (or “postcolonialism”), a number of authors have debated whether we should consider the United States through the lens of postcolonial theory.23 While such debates often steer perilously close to reproducing the discourses of American exceptionalism that have served to shield the United States from post-­and neocolonial critiques for centuries, it is true that there is no shortage of pitfalls, centering around details of settler colonialism versus exploitation colonialism and varying conceptions of race, internal colonization, and differences in national prerogatives, civic culture, religion, and governance structure.24 Although literary scholar Jenny Sharpe argues for a cautious application of the term “postcolonial” to the United States in her foundational article “Is the United States Postcolonial? Transnationalism, Immigration, and

Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”  41

Race,” she suggests the term can nonetheless be useful for understanding the colonial legacies that structured late twentieth-­century globalization: “I want us to define the ‘after’ to colonialism as the neocolonial relations into which the United States entered with decolonized nations.”25 To explain what I mean by “the postcolonial” in this case, let me simply refer to the ways that colonialism’s core machinations of racial subjugation and commercial exploitation continue to resonate today. To understand this enduring reality, we need look no further than Buddy Bolden’s contemporary, W. E. B. Du Bois, who in 1903 described his experience of postcoloniality thus: “One ever feels his two-­ness,—­an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body.”26 This of course, is Du Bois’s concept of “double consciousness,” and this is where we can begin to build an understanding of hip hop as postcolonial art and practice. Indeed, this is beginning to sound a bit like Said’s contrapuntal “discrepant experience.” More and more, postcolonial theory has gained traction as a global and insistently historical lens that keeps the drastically diverse details of colonial practice in balance with a wide-­angle critique that stresses the continuities between colonialism and contemporary “globalization.” Focusing on the continuities between Du Bois’s work in The Souls of Black Folk and Homi Bhabha’s Location of Culture, for instance, Kenneth Mostern illustrates how Du Bois’s theorization of “double consciousness” anticipated Bhabha’s postcolonial concepts of doubling, ambivalence, and hybridity and also reminds us how, after Souls, Du Bois expanded his purview to build more wide-­ranging anticolonial solidarities, becoming increasingly involved in global liberation struggles.27 Brij David Lunine, one of the first scholars to take an explicitly postcolonial approach to hip hop, introduced the concept of “postcolonial consciousness” in discussing black militancy and discourses of internal colonization in the work of the Oakland, California, hip hop crew The Coup. Echoing Lipsitz’s work in Dangerous Crossroads, Lunine wrote in 2000: “Hip-­hop is itself one example of cultural forms that express the history of colonialism and a postcolonial consciousness and aesthetic.”28 It is this concept of “postcolonial consciousness” that best exemplifies my interests in the present chapter. As suggested at the outset, my primary aim here is to follow Sefyu’s lead and it is my contention that in order to engage in the hip hop interpretive work that he has set out for us—­and to ultimately build on his work—­we must position this consciousness front and center. By following Sefyu down those rabbit holes

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that he presents us on “En noir et blanc,” we can gain a sense of the contours and dynamics of that consciousness and perhaps develop our own sense of double/postcolonial/hip hop consciousness. Before we go on, let me be clear about one thing: there is nothing fundamentally exceptional about the American experience of postcoloniality. All colonizing nations built their nations, and therefore their senses of nationality, on the backs of their colonies. What is remarkable and unique is the way in which the postcolonial experience in America gained musical form in the contours of African American expressive culture in the colonial period, gained commodity form over the course of the nineteenth century, and ultimately gained a wider audience than any other music in history. One of the central paradoxes—­or maybe “contrapuntal realities” is better—­of such cultural imperialism is that so-­called popular music is the universalized name for black American music in the commercial realm. Indeed, the colonized are at the core of national identities in very real ways. As the late great Stuart Hall famously quipped about the quintessential English cup of tea, shorn of its South Asian tea leaves and Caribbean sugar, that nation’s drink is nothing but hot water, one more instance of  how the postcolonial is centered in the national.29 Certainly, when we speak of “American music” in international popular discourses we are talking about African American music more often than not. By the same token, when we speak of “popular music” we are most often speaking of music that is historically and/or stylistically linked to those musics first developed by Afro-­diasporic peoples in the United States. By imposing the ideological counterpoint of racial difference and extracting material resources and labor from the colonized, colonizing nations were literally constructed by and through their colonies. Through this dialectic we see that double consciousness runs both ways.30 In this mutual dependence, Americanness can never be experienced by whites as whiteness alone, just as Americanness can never be experienced by blacks as blackness alone, because the nation was built on a foundational difference. America’s postcolonial condition is thus governed by the master/slave dialectic that lies at the core of all national-­racial thinking.31 The colonial entanglements that are constitutive of the United States thus continue to reproduce the current antinomies of postcoloniality wherein both the colonizer and the colonized lay claim to the nation not despite each other but through each other. In a characteristically postcolonial paradox, we see the glaring truth that America would not be America without African Americans. As Ralph Ellison noted in the pages of Time magazine in 1970: “whatever else the true American

Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”  43

is, he is also somehow black.” This is most abundantly clear in the world of black music, as Sefyu seems to know. Black music centers African American culture in American culture. By focusing on human traffic, counterpoint, and mixture on “En noir et blanc” Sefyu interpolates himself into Ellison’s formula while extrapolating and further complicating its antinomial national-­racial logic. On the track, he thus posits the transitive extension: whatever else the true Frenchman is, he is also somehow Senegalese, Algerian, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Polynesian, Guyanese, Martinican. . . . As Ellison himself notes, this is indeed “tricky magic.”32 As I further demonstrate below, in listening closely to how black music encodes racial difference, we can also hear an immanent critique of colo­ nialism’s legacies of racial difference, subjugation, and exploitation. What’s more, we can hear black music’s critique across the river, across the ocean, and ironically—­thanks to that set of processes known alternatively as globali­ zation (in its “universalized” forms) and Americanization (in its “particularized” forms)—­we can now hear it across the globe.

Origins and Absence Sefyu’s “En noir et blanc” is a catalog of  lyrical paradoxes. He enters the musical and rhetorical space laid out above with a refrain beginning: “My origins are in panic.” How can one’s origins be in panic? Origins are stable. They are original. Yet, as Sefyu goes on to argue, he has already “looked in every corner of the world” for his origins and instead found that “there’s nothing but traffic,” movement, and mixture. In the opening tableau, the steady heartbeat of his presumed West African origins is interrupted musically as he voyages from Senegal to New Orleans, another former French colony, to search out other roots. Once there, Sefyu must rely on Simone, via Ellington and Strayhorn, to locate Bolden’s clarion “call.” But Bolden’s story is also the stuff of legend in a very real way. Despite the myriad “scattered and often contradictory accounts” from early jazz musicians about Bolden’s seminal role in the development of  jazz—­among them Sydney Bechet, the Creole jazz musician and, later, a Parisian himself—­ the trumpeter cannot be located in the early recorded history of  jazz.33 He too moved on in the traffic of  history. Bolden was diagnosed with dementia praecox (an early diagnosis of schizophrenia) in 1906 and spent the last twenty-­ four years of his life in a state asylum. He was only rediscovered as early jazz musicians began telling their stories and recounting their own forebears. Thus,

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Bolden remains a blaring historical absence at the genesis of  jazz. This is another quest for origins that yields absence. It is an antiphonal relation with myriad responses to an inaudible yet indelible call. As Simone’s fittingly spectral voice reminds us in the blues lament (is it a jazz funeral?), Bolden is still “calling his flock now.” The rhetorical movement and sonic contours of Sefyu’s track provide testimony: “Here they come.” On the Simone recording, a single kettledrum enters after the line “here they come” as the bass ostinato is simplified to the descending, lamenting line D–­ C–­B flat–­A and repeated at a Marche funèbre tempo while Simone sings, as if to herself: “here they come, here they come . . .” The descending ostinato resonates throughout the history of  black music from Ellington’s own introduction to “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” (1931) to perhaps its most recognizable iteration on Ray Charles’s “Hit The Road Jack” (1960), Simone’s arrangement of “Feeling Good” (1964), and countless other recordings.34 Notably, the classic riff ’s step-­wise movement perfectly captures the marching “traffic” of “here they come” just as it sounds the bouncing meaning of “that swing” and signals when it’s time to “hit the road.” Though Bolden the progenitor is absent on the Ellington, Simone, and Sefyu recordings, his call remains. Today, it stretches not only across the river but across oceans and continents. And the flock keeps coming. While we might wonder whether these connections and continuities were in play when Sefyu conceptualized the track with the Belgian production team Street Fabulous, the 2006 album that features “En noir et blanc” is titled Qui suis-­je? (Who am I?), a nod to Simone’s 1970 recording of the Leonard Bernstein song “Who Am I?” In structuring the track around one Simone song, naming the album after another, and creating something of a concept album around the idea of racial origins and absence, Sefyu is deeply invested in Simone’s particular African American project and a more broadly defined Afro-­ diasporic search for “roots.”35 But already in the opening refrain, Sefyu’s search has ended. He has looked everywhere and come to the logical conclusion that there are no pure origins. Tired and resigned to his conclusion, he accepts that “we’ve got to mix.” Furthermore, he notes that “there is nothing tragic in mixing.” As if to reassert a politically oppositional valence into this resigned, yet liberated logic, Sefyu speaks to his incarcerated countrymen in the final lines of the repeated refrain: “From Fresnes to Fleury-­Mérogis [prisons] / Even if you’re locked up, tell yourself that you still exist.” Sefyu now understands that he will not know who he is by looking for racial origins but that he may define who he is through artistic production and political action within what he refers to (in

Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”  45

F i g u r e 2 . 1 Cover art for the Sefyu album, Qui Suis-­Je? on which “En noir et blanc” ap­ pears. As with all of his promotional images, Sefyu obscures his face. Reproduced with the kind permission of Fouad Allaoui/Fall Design.

the coming verse) as his postcolonial “society of prisoners of war”—­a gesture to the ways that the French legal and prison systems replicate structures of colonial domination. In many ways, Sefyu’s conclusions regarding origins, traffic, and mixture echo the remarks of the prominent Martinican writer and Francophone postcolonial critic Édouard Glissant, who in 1973 looked hopefully upon Caribbean traffic and hybridity in an essay titled “Cross-­Cultural Poetics.” Indeed, the essay speaks directly to musical exchange and mixture in the Caribbean as a font of cultural rebirth and renewal. In tracing “a musical history of Martinique,” he writes, echoing Ellington’s and Baraka’s histories:

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Let us first attempt a comparison with the prestigious history of  jazz. When the large plantations of the southern United States collapse, the blacks begin the move that will lead them first to New Orleans (bars, brothels, riverboats), then to the great sprawling cities: Chicago or New York, where they will become the proletariat and the lumpen proletariat and have to face the unrelenting industrial world of America. At each of the stages of the process that I outline here, black music is reborn. Gospel and blues, New Orleans and Chicago style, Count Basie’s big band, bebop, free jazz. This music progressively records the history of the community, its confrontation with reality, the gaps into which it inserts itself, the walls which it too often comes up against. The universalization of  jazz arises from the fact that at no point is it an abstract music, but the expression of a specific situation.36

I cite Glissant’s brief  history of  black music to highlight the ways that, for him, this music constantly reinvents its origins. But as his mention of “the gaps” suggests, the revitalization of black music in the African American context is most important for him as a model for how postcolonial Caribbean cultures might face the challenge of lost origins and “rootlessness.”37 He continues: In the meantime, a phenomenon occurs in which Martinican musicians, finally abandoning their xenophobic attitudes, have their role to play. A fiercely anonymous Caribbean style is created under the combined influence of  jazz, reggae, and salsa. This new hybrid spreads as far as the dance bands of Africa: on both sides of the Atlantic something happens, encouraged by tourists and the distribution of records. Naturally, at the level of night club music. Thus, because it has been opened to the Caribbean, Martinican music has gained a capacity for renewal.

Glissant concludes: “it is possible that this exposure could permit the creativity and solidarity that will make rootlessness more tolerable, make the present void more negotiable.” Glissant’s thumbnail history of “black music” as a process of constant relocalization and revitalization jibes remarkably well with the musically performed history that Sefyu has constructed. So too does Glissant’s suggestion that such a paradoxical process of universalization via localization comes from this hybrid music filling the void for an uprooted African diaspora. Like Glissant, Sefyu is recording the history of  his local community to fill a present void, but he is doing it through the global sounds and postcolonial consciousness

Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”  47

of  black music. What’s more, he is doing it through the commercial structures and distribution networks of the global culture industry. From another perspective, I cannot help but imagine that Glissant, delivering this and other talks across North America in 1973, was vaguely aware of the cultural firmament among Caribbean youth in the South Bronx that was, at that very moment, giving birth to hip hop. For while he might not have been tuned in to the sights and sounds of that particular rebirth of black music, his essay is an uncanny precursor to the bit of hip hop wisdom that describes how those forgotten youth in postindustrial America filled their own void, creating, as the saying goes, “something from nothing.”38

“The Story of the Wind and the Ember” Sefyu’s catalog of paradoxes continues in the first verse of “En noir et blanc” where Sefyu begins his tale in earnest: “C’est le récit de la brise et d’la braise” (This is the story of the wind and the ember). The poetic imagery posits the two forces in contrast as if it were a fable, but just as the line, already rich in assonance ends, Sefyu throws an audible smooch onto the track and interjects: “Bise!” (Kiss!), extending the assonant wordplay. This performative and lyrical gesture, which sets the verse in motion, also adds a crucial, yet contradictory, valence of mutual attraction between the wind and the ember. While the word bise means “kiss” in French, it also carries a second idiomatic meaning of “north wind.” Thus, the image of “the wind and the ember” gains a geopolitical valence, playing on personified images of a cold North and a hot South who are enraptured with each other. The gesture ignites Sefyu’s idea that through their interaction the two forces will consume each other—­or, rather, that the two will be consumed in flame. He continues the verse with the antithetical construction of a “society of prisoners of war” where “crisis” is a “synonym for peace” and now anthropomorphizes the French body politic as a woman, fantasizing: “If only her dirtiness was cleanliness.” The symbol of Marianne—­ the embodiment of  la République française—­is a favorite ideological space for French rappers to reconfigure and project fantasies upon. Although Sefyu does not invoke Marianne here by name, the feminization of his society and his critique thereof echo countless uses (and abuses) of her image in postcolonial French hip hop. Sefyu’s contradictory wordplay on the verse continues with the illogical constructions “my weariness moved” and “snickering of terror” before he turns to target the pseudoscientific bio-­logics of racial thinking.

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La joie de la naissance, Sperme d’une jouissance hémophile. Naissance d’un cocktail humain Nos mains ont tous des traits. Confrontez vos cultures. Amen, c’est amine, même sang. Nostalgie: J’vois en noir et blanc. The joy of birth, Sperm of a hemophiliac pleasure. Born of a human cocktail Our hands have all the features. Confront your cultures. Amen, it’s amino (acids), same blood. Nostalgia: I see in black and white.

Throughout the track Sefyu employs the visceral and bodily imagery of semen and blood to work against racialized thinking and its irrational (white) magic of racial science and eugenics. He underscores the central paradox of “racial science” with the ironic construction “hemophiliac pleasure” before concluding “Amen, c’est amine, même sang” (Amen, it’s amino, same blood). Through the homophone of amine (French: “amino” and Arabic: “amen”) Sefyu’s wordplay in this critique calls on science and religion (and their respective “creations”) to make both a moral and an ethical case against racial thinking, as if to say, “Thank God, we’re all just amino acids. It is our cultures and their racial magics that we must confront—­here in the real world we’re all comprised of the same polypeptides.” What’s more, this foregrounded homophone gestures to another auditory slippage between sang (blood) and son (sound) at the end of the line (“same blood”/”same sound”). Sefyu’s performed uncertainty critiques the postcolonial discursive entanglements between blood, sound, and language itself as simultaneously racially determined and sonically ephemeral in Western metaphysics.39 Indeed, it is this very implication—­of sang and son—­that provides the essential logic of “black music,” a point to which we will return in concluding. After returning to the chorus of panic, traffic, and mixture, Sefyu elaborates on the cultural workings of race in the track’s second verse. He begins: “Black in a white cloth, or white in a black life,” conjuring up the iconic image of a

Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”  49

black Muslim woman in a white hijab—­an ideologically charged image in a France struggling to weigh religious freedoms against women’s rights. Notably, at the start of the following verse, this charged religious imagery and the practice of arranged marriage are equated with other in-­fact racialized “decisions” about whom we love. Sefyu begins: “Forced marriages of religion, ethnicity, or skin.” Here Sefyu collapses a double standard, highlighting the ways that non-­Western traditional religious practices are commonly judged to be dangerously conservative while lingering societal disapproval of “racial intermarriage” (“forced marriages of . . . skin”) continues to be socially acceptable. As such, a supposed liberal, secular, and egalitarian French culture nonetheless foists an implicit racial thinking on its citizens.40 Notably, in his landmark Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture, Hisham Aidi centers hip hop expressions, examining how “the Black Atlantic, and the cultures and movements of the African Diaspora” (my emphasis) create a space to critique the pull of religious and political orthodoxies on all sides and open a dialogue attentive to the hybrid realities of contemporary lived experiences—­both in France and around the world.41 The rest of the second verse tracks how racial thinking is encoded in the central metaphor of color. The future is white as unspoiled snow, the darkness breeds murder, and as “black fades on white,” making gray we see “Métisses neutralisés” (neutralized mixed-­race children) who live between two worlds. Gray being the color of hurricanes, wars, and rain, these children receive neutral glances from their black and white parents. From here, Sefyu broadens the palette: La vie au rouge, plus du blanc Font du rose, arrosé au rosé. Le noir plus du rouge font du rouge foncé. The life in red, plus white Makes pink, sprinkled with the rosiness. Add black to red, you get blood red.

Dancing around the singular chansonnière Édith Piaf and her signature song, “La vie en rose,” Sefyu rehearses the symbolic weight of color and shade. In the wordplay here, whiteness brings to red an innocent pink and privileged life of pleasure, while blackness conjures up connotations of blood when mixed

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with red. Yet in the final lines, he asks why dark red must be coterminous with danger and blackness. Le coeur en sang rouge comme toi, elle Lui et l’autre, vous, nous, ils. T’as le même que celui qui t’votre? Arabes, Africains, Français, Antillais, Latins, Asiatiques, Haïtiens? The heart in red blood like you, her, Him and the other, you, us, they. Do you have the same as ours? Arabs, Africans, French, West Indians, Latins, Asians, Haitians?

It is here that Sefyu first implicates his fellow postcolonial subjects directly. They share this same dark red blood, and it is in this rhetorical gesture that the track begins to call into question the opposition of us and them in the national imaginary. In the austere black-­and-­white video for the track, Sefyu walks through Paris and its ethnically diverse cités (housing projects) on the outskirts of the city.42 Sefyu’s rhetorical challenging of racial-­national binaries of us and them—­and thus his larger statement about the French body politic—­is given a visual form toward the end of the track. He looks in the mirror and sees a reflection of  his postcolonial nation: himself; two young black hip hop kids; two middle-­aged Algerian men; a “mixed-­race” couple with their young children; himself again; a young black woman in head wrap; a Southeast Asian man with his child resting his head on his shoulder; a young white man; a Middle Eastern kid in the jersey of the French national soccer team—­Les Bleus (3:51 in the video). Far from an original visual effect, the scene is a well-­worn trope. But in the context of the track and its visual representation of a mixed France, the gesture has the desired effect. La France is not who she thinks she is. In an earlier scene, an ethnically diverse assemblage of young men and women, boys and girls, approaches the camera with antiracism slogans on their T-­shirts. The shirts on the young people echo images from the world soccer federation’s (FIFA) ongoing antiracism campaign “Say No to Racism.” In a prologue statement to the video Sefyu stands, face obscured by a black-­on-­white Yankees cap, with Lilian Thuram, the black Frenchman and footballer who was then the face of Les Bleus. The image is an important one

Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”  51

F i g u r e 2 . 2 Still from the video for “En noir et blanc”: Sefyu’s image reflected back as a Southeast Asian man with child.

in its embodiment of sport and music, the two circumscribed fields in which the French nation has been most successful in conceiving of (and celebrating) itself as a mixed body politic. This is also tricky magic and is a point to which we will return. Notably, in all of his appearances, videos, and promotional materials, Sefyu’s face is obscured in solidarity with all those faceless postcolonial subjects living at the margins of the city and in the liminal spaces of the French national imaginary.43 The hypervisibility (and veiled visibility) of the two black Frenchmen, one Guadeloupian and the other Senegalese, speaks volumes about the antinomial continuities between US and French national cultures, wherein black subjects are simultaneously at the core of, and yet marginalized from, national identity. Thuram begins the video’s prologue statement: “History has conditioned us as blacks, whites, Arabs, and Asians. It is time to re-­educate, so that we are considered primarily as . . .” and here Sefyu picks up the statement, “men, women, wanting to live in a better world.” The rhetoric simultaneously achieves and undermines its presumed goal of destabilizing the racialized thinking that in fact replicates the multicultural ideal embodied, enacted, and given performative materiality in those cultural fields historically most available for black men and women in the American and French national contexts: sport and music. The remainder of the track’s rich and polysemous wordplay, however, manages to overcome the platitudinous multiculturalisms of this introduction and FIFA’s “Say No to Racism” rhetoric by focusing not on the multiplicity of French national culture but on its traffic, instability, and constitutive hybridity.

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“ v e r l a n ” W o r d p l ay : Y o u s s e f a n d M é l a n i e In the final verse of “En noir et blanc” Sefyu tells the story of an interracial couple, Youssef and Mélanie. Their mutual love draws them close enough to withstand the taunts and rancor of white supremacists. Again, Sefyu critiques the illogics of racial thinking. In a clever turn of phrase, he here refers to such pseudoscience as “black magic.” He counters the racial binary, explaining that “Le noir et le blanc sont complémentaires, kif-­kif ” (Black and white are complementary, luv-­luv). At the end of the story Youssef and Mélanie become pregnant and their child is represented as a symbolic explosion of colors: “blue-­white-­red, green-­yellow-­red, black-­white-­beur, black-­white-­yellow.” Indeed, the term kif stands as a metonym for cultural mixture. Usually translated as the English slang “luv,” the term entered the French vernacular from the Arabic term for pleasure. To further the idea of miscegenation embodied by the child, Sefyu refers to the pregnancy as “J’met l’taro dans les pommes” (I put cocoyam in the [place of ] apples)—­a construction playing on French idioms, but also introducing an African staple to a symbol of European food culture and, specifically, (white) Judeo-­Christian womanhood. Echoing the “re-­education” message of the prologue, Sefyu sternly reminds us to be vigilant against our tendencies to color our thinking in racial terms, this time stressing: “Night and day, confront your cultures.” His litany of colors is offered simultaneously as a decentering of simplistic racial thinking and a reminder that these three-­color groupings continue to hold national and ethnic significances. The first triad—­blue-­white-­red—­refers to France, Sefyu’s home. The second—­green-­yellow-­red—­is Senegal, the birth nation of Sefyu’s parents. The third and fourth are racial-­ethnic categories, including the term beur, which is slang for “Arab” in verlan, a French inversional street language wherein the phonemes of standard French terms and names are flipped and reformulated. In this context, the appearance of the verlan term beur reminds us that the name “Sefyu” is itself  verlan for Youssef—­Mélanie’s lover and the artist’s given name, Youssef Soukouna.44 What’s more—­and this should give us some sense of  how dense Sefyu’s wordplay is—­Mélanie is also verlan for “la ennemi” (the enemy).45 As he goes on to clarify: “En somme,  j’ai vaincu l’épée, vaincue par le baiser” (In sum, I vanquished the sword, overcome by the kiss). Notably, in his sonic reversals and deformations, Sefyu/ Youssef flips the script, conflates, and otherwise subverts an array of logocentric binaries by privileging the ephemera of sound and performance over Enlightenment metaphysics and its legalistic written rhetorics. Indeed, there is another aphorism linger­

Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”  53

ing in the background of this wordplay—­“la plume est plus forte que l’épée” (the pen is mightier than the sword).46 Recalling the opening bise (kiss) of the first verse and its silencing of the pen here, it seems that, for Sefyu, the smooch is mightier than both the sword and the pen. The final verse ends with the concluding lines of the first verse: “Amen, it’s just amino acids, same blood,” here with the added implication that “it”—­the child of  Youssef and Mélanie—­is much less, and much more, than a jumble of racialized colors. The verse concludes, “Nostalgia: I see in black and white,” before returning to the chorus, first sung and then spoken in a monotone as Simone’s voice and piano accompaniment fade into the distance and the needle is taken of the record. “Here they come . . .”

“First Species” Counterpoint and the (Mixed) Body Politic The final chapter of  W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, “Of the Sorrow Songs,” reflects on America’s history of colonialism and slavery: “Your country? How came it to be yours? Before the Pilgrims landed we were here.” He recounts the ways that African Americans gave the gift of “story and song” to an “ill-­harmonized” land as well as the gift of “sweat and brawn,” which laid “the foundations of this vast economic empire.” Thus, argues Du Bois, African American history is encoded into American history both musically and economically. The proof is in the pudding. He continues, “We have woven ourselves with the very warp and woof of this nation,—­we fought their battles, shared their sorrow, mingled our blood with theirs.” Indeed, Du Bois simultaneously anticipates and demystifies Ellison’s “tricky magic,” asking: “Would America have been America without her Negro people?” Through his national-­ musical rhetoric, Du Bois thus tracks how we can hear the answer resonating in the mixité of African American spirituals, a body of music whose “elements are both Negro and Caucasian,” the first and “sole American music . . . the most beautiful expression of human experience born this side the seas.”47 The chapter is thus “of the sorrow songs” and “of the body politic.” Recalling Said’s “contrapuntal analysis,” Du Bois’s poetic conclusion asks us to imagine American music through the bio-­logic of musical miscegenation—­ ”first-­species” counterpoint. The black and white argument is, of course, of its time. Du Bois’s rhetoric is deeply suffused with the blood-­and-­soil logics of racial thinking at the height of global nationalism and its sine qua non, colo­ nialism. But his oration comes alive on the written and musically notated page, using those same racial logics to appeal to national pride and reinscribe the

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African American into the American. In the end, his goal is not to celebrate a mixed America but to challenge the nation to live up to its ideals wherein the very idea of a mixed, black and white society would be illogical, in short, a society wherein homophony would be a better metaphor for a national harmony singing in the “same voice” and the musical bio-­logics of “first species” polyphony would resonate discordantly. Despite—­or perhaps because of—­its age, Du Bois’s insistently historical and postcolonial lens allows us to grasp some of the continuities between this seminal hymn-­like, yet blues-­inflected, body of “Sorrow Songs,” Buddy Bolden’s clarion (but disembodied) call, Nina Simone’s soulful jazz lament, and Sefyu’s paradox-­laden postcolonial hip hop. Indeed, the postcolonial frame helps us avoid replicating an “eternal ahistorical present,” a space that popular music is uniquely capable of reproducing.48 Further, the transnational implications of this frame allow us to escape the shortsighted parochialisms of American exceptionalism. It is only through keeping our focus on the great historical ruptures of colonialism and its racial subjugation at the genesis of the American nation that we can understand the musical resonance that keeps the flock coming in search of refuge from—­and the tools to set against—­the enduring, now manifestly global experience of double consciousness, the double consciousness that is the postcolonial condition. In that same concluding chapter, Du Bois clarifies, “In these songs, I have said, the slave spoke to the world.”49 As the musical and rhetorical mixité of Sefyu’s “En noir et blanc” indicates, the world was, and is, listening. Indeed, it has been calling back and going to the well of African American music for over a century. Du Bois concludes with a transcription of the African American spiritual “Let Us Cheer the Weary Traveler” and adds his own final words: “And the traveler girds himself, and sets his face toward the morning, and goes his way.” Watch him, he’s calling his flock now. He’s calling his flock now. Here they come . . . . . . Ben, vas-­y-­oh!

chapter 3

Musical (African) Americanization: Strategic Essentialism, Hybridity, and Commerce in Aggro Berlin On January 27, 2007, I attended a concert presented by the hip hop label Aggro Berlin in the city’s Columbiaclub.1 A large crowd of mostly ethnic German and Turkish young men waited patiently in the cold outside of the hall while truly effective looking bouncers took their time frisking the down-­jacketed, hoodied, and “slaggy”-­panted youth and rifling through the purses carried by the handful of young women in attendance.2 From the knee up, the gathered crowd was indistinguishable from one you might find outside a hip hop show in the United States. At the feet of the crowd, however, classic Nike Air Force One basketball sneakers were interspersed with new models of Adidas indoor soccer trainers, and many wore their pant legs bunched at the hem—­a style particularly popular among Turkish German hip hop youth. Of course, there was one other notable difference from an American perspective: a near total absence of black people. The small rounded edifice of Columbiaclub is situated on the north side of Columbiadamm, the main thoroughfare dividing the central district of Kreuzberg from the southern Neukölln and Tempelhof districts. Across Columbiadamm from the club looms the stark neoclassical façade of Flughafen Tempelhof (Tempelhof Airport). Named for its location on the site of a medieval Templar stronghold, the airport was built by the newly installed National Socialist government in 1934 as a symbol of Germany’s rising power in the European community. The monumental structure was the largest in Europe, and its sprawling semicircular floor plan was conceived as an abstraction of the Reichsadler—­an eagle with its wings outspread—­the symbol of the Third Reich. Tempelhof was a cornerstone in Hitler’s vision of Berlin as the political,

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economic, and cultural crossroads of Europe, an edifice conceived as the very center of the continent.3 Today, Flughafen Tempelhof  is best remembered as the center of operations for the Berlin Airlift. After World War II the airport, located in the American-­ occupied sector, was controlled by the US Army and with the establishment of the US Air Force in 1947 it was renamed Tempelhof Air Base. During the Airlift of 1948–­49 the airbase became a highly visible and literally concrete example of American involvement in West Berlin as well as a symbolic font of Marshall Plan redevelopment funds and reeducation efforts. Sensing the prolonged engagement that the nascent Cold War would bring, the Air Force began construction on nearby recreational sites for “US military personnel and their guests.”4 As the Columbiaclub website points out, it was one such venue “where GIs assuaged [trösteten] their ‘Homesick Blues,’ with the latest Hollywood films and local girlfriends during the fifties.”5 As I inched forward in the crowd of B-­Boys and -­Girls, I imagined a differently uniformed but similarly young crowd of mostly men and their dates waiting in line fifty years earlier to see Jailhouse Rock or Rebel without a Cause. The first film shown at the then–­Columbia Cinema was not one of Elvis’s musical romps or a tale of teenage angst and disillusionment, but the 1951 Warner Bros. naval epic Captain Horatio Hornblower, starring Gregory Peck. Perhaps more fittingly, the story described the imperial escapades of the British sea captain in the Western Hemisphere during the Napoleonic Wars. The film mirrored many realities of the Cold War, including subplots of shifting allegiances, clandestine operations, and the destabilization of enemy regimes. Indeed, the story begins with Captain Hornblower carrying out orders to support a megalomaniacal strongman and establish a banana republic in Central America. The choice of the film seems a poignant statement about the new role for the United States on the world stage—­an oddly forthright if unintended harbinger of the emergent American military, economic, and cultural hegemony. In both its form and function, then, the Columbiaclub is something of a monument to the oft-­debated issue of American cultural imperialism. Although that night’s hip hop show would speak volumes about American intervention in contemporary Berlin, it would not highlight the legacy of US military occupation or the homogenization of fast food and strip malls, theme parks and planned communities. This would be a new incarnation of American hegemony. An underlying goal of my initial year of fieldwork in Berlin, Paris, and London was to offer an explanation of how the “soft power” of American culture had changed in the last twenty years.6 Here was a site, I thought, that spoke to

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the unspoken complexity of that ubiquitous and divisive, yet nebulous term “Americanization.” It was in just such a place as this that I hoped to test my thesis about the effects of American music on European racial politics with on-­the-­ground observations and interviews with members of local hip hop communities. This thesis proposed that minority youth across Europe had adopted the identity politics associated with hip hop and aligned themselves with African Americans in a struggle for equality through difference, not assim­ ilation. While Americanization is commonly understood through the language of commercialization and cultural imperialism, these recent developments rep­ resented another less discussed side of the larger process—­a transaction that we might call (African) Americanization.7 In an interview that I conducted with two rappers in February 2007, a Berliner of  Turkish descent by the name of Chefket (a hip hop germanicization of his given name, �evket) explained the use of  hip hop: Turkish people who are the biggest minority they didn’t have a voice. No one was talking about them or their problems. . . . It’s like in America they talk about how they live in ghettos and so we say “hey man I’m feeling it.” So this side of Germany has come out suddenly, and now they talk about these things more in the media, and in politics they say: “oh integration is so important.” But they missed ten years ago, you know, it was the same problem but no one knew it. So now because of this hip hop thing, it’s more [prominent] in the media. So they say: “oh no, what’s happening?”8

Referencing the recent riots in the Parisian suburbs, he concluded his thought: “It’s developing like in France.” The other interviewee, an Afro-­German rapper by the name of Amewu aka Halbgott (demigod) continued, focusing on another angle of these recent developments: But I also think that much of the stuff that people are doing now with music and all this gangsta stuff—­it just comes from the States . . . in the States they started to do all this pimp, gangsta, and dipset shit. And they just copied it and everyone’s talking about how “Oh, Aggro Berlin’s takin’ hip hop to the next level.” They’re on MTV and selling many CDs, but for me they just copied it. It’s like they started to be an image [emphasis in spoken original].9

Following from these two distinct views of the same process I use the term “(African) Americanization”—­not only because of the cultural and political

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alignment with black Americans, but also because of the way that these cul­ tural critiques are packaged and marketed through electronic media. This second position reflects the reading of Americanization we are all accustomed to as a commodifying process. But while Americanization is commonly understood through the language of commercial homogenization, a look at the musical identity politics of European hip hop offers us a chance to interrogate a less discussed side of the larger process. In brief, I am describing this transaction as (African) Americanization to keep us mindful of the complicated relationship between African American expressive culture and American consumer culture. As Radano notes: “This contradiction between the private world of racialized black music and its public access in the world of consumer capitalism is what gets to the heart of black music’s authenticity and power.”10 In her article “Hip-­Hop Made in Germany” from the collection German Pop Culture: How American Is It? Sabine von Dirke lays out a German version of an oft-­recited three-­part narrative of hip hop in Europe first proposed by André Prévos in 1996.11 There was first an arrival period marked by international exchange, then a nationalizing period in which the form became adopted and localized, and last, a period in which national minorities began to employ oppositional politics. Regarding this final stage, von Dirke remarks on the indebtedness of self-­consciously Turkish German hip hop to the African American model of musical protest. Yet, like most scholarship on such appropriations, von Dirke is careful to remind us that “African-­American vernaculars emerged in a historically very different situation” and “should therefore not be equated” with Turkish-­German expressions.12 Instead she agrees with the view of Americanization scholars such as Rob Kroes, which eschews the neatly “hypodermic” machinations of the cultural imperialism thesis in favor of a more dynamic model of “creolization” or “hybridization.”13 Although the purveyors of this current consensus view recognize the cultural mixing that occurs when an American form is adapted by a European culture—­and even use biological metaphors in doing so—­they forget that American culture is itself always already creolized (as we must remember are European “national” cultures). Hence, I am using the construction of “(African) Americanization” to keep us mindful of  both the centrality of African American culture to Ameri­ can culture—­especially with regard to music—­and of its immanent hybridity.14 While I do not intend for this study to describe hip hop in Berlin, Paris, and London as simply derivative and unworthy of study on its own terms, a more clear-­eyed accounting and in-­depth look into the continuities between the musical politics of US and EU hip hop will prove essential. To be sure, European hip hop scenes cannot be understood through a reductive cultural

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imperialism model, but neither can they be understood to exist as cultural islands with neatly periodized strata frozen in the geological record. Working toward an understanding of this most overtly localized of global music forms necessitates a model that keeps the particular and the universal in dialogue. As such, I read the local contexts of Paris, Berlin, and London through the lens of (African) Americanization—­a process that while rooted in well-­established localized histories has become universally available. Ostensibly a showcase for the city’s dominant hip hop recording label Aggro Berlin, the Columbiaclub concert would feature Sido and his hype man Alpa Gun, a Turkish German known for his track “Ich bin ein Ausländer” (I am a foreigner). The supporting performances were to feature “Der Vollblut-­ Araber” (the full-­blooded Arab) Tony D, the Turkish-­German G-­Hot (a homo­phone of jihad ), the self-­consciously white German rapper Fler (aka Frank White) whose logo incorporates the Reichsadler, and the Afro-­German rapper B-­Tight (aka Der Neger).15 As the racialized descriptions and alter egos of the label’s artists indicate, Aggro Berlin is in the business of capitaliz­ ing on government fears and media sensationalism in a racially hypersensitive nation.16 The independent label has become the most influential and commercially successful hip hop imprint in Germany through its marketing strategy of racial branding. As the popular German weekly Der Spiegel put it: Aggro Berlin functions like a comic book: for every taste there is a suit­ able hero; simply pick out the one you most identify with. There is the Afro-­ German [Afrodeutsche] who presents himself as a “crass nigger” [krasser Neger] (B-­Tight), the working class Turk [türkischen Proleten] with wordplay (G-­Hot) and the tough German with hooligan appeal (Fler).17

By transgressing the civilized boundaries of racial discourse that stretch from the nation’s contemporary politically correct culture back to post-­1968 attempts at dismantling racial ideologies, and echoing the denazification programs of post-­Holocaust Germany, the Aggro Berlin musicians have dug up an issue most Germans would rather leave buried. But in doing so they have built themselves a vast audience of young people that both understands and identifies with the forbidden language and politics of Rasse (race).18 Looking around the Columbiaclub with its ubiquitous MTV banners, the source of such mediatized racialization seemed clear. The global popular music industry thrives on images of difference.19 But although Aggro Berlin’s comicbook characters may seem little more than ugly tropes to most Germans, they are speaking to a generation of youth and providing a platform for questions about

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identity, difference, race, and inequality. Most important, Aggro’s stereotyped voices of difference come from within not without—­they are of  Berlin. In her Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany, Ute Poiger describes in detail how American culture represented a serious threat to bourgeois racial and gender norms in 1950s Germany. In a section dedicated to the reception of  Elvis Presley in Germany, Poiger cites a 1956 Berliner Zeitung article that describes such American “nonculture” as primitive as well as a Der Spiegel article from the same year that likens Elvis’s audiences to entranced members of a “jungle tribe.”20 Getting to the heart of this low-­brow and uncivilized threat, an article appearing in Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel went so far as to hypothesize that Elvis must have “black blood”—­a gesture laying bare the biologized logic of miscegenation at the heart of fears about this American (non)culture.21 To be sure, these reactions mirrored the early misgivings about rock-­and-­roll in the United States as well, but for German audiences in the 1950s these threats were external as populations were overwhelmingly homogenous (despicably so in the wake of  the Holocaust). As Poiger explains, race was never an issue in media reports about the “German Elvis,” Peter Kraus, though he performed rock-­and-­roll and covered numbers popularized by Presley. Today race is very much part of the discussion in German-­made popular music—­nowhere more so than in Berlin. The issue has been forced into the public debate by the controversial music of German minority hip hop artists and the prominent discussion of their respective ethnic backgrounds. The lineup of artists on the Aggro Berlin label is a microcosm of the various forces that have changed the demographic makeup of the city. Tony D, Alpa Gun, and G-­Hot are all the sons of Middle Eastern Gastarbeiter (guest worker) families that began arriving in 1960s Germany to fuel the postwar recovery and eventual Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle). The three employ their respective ethnic identities as platforms from which they critique normative Germanness and aspects of German society that they find exclusive. Fler is an ethnic German who turns this debate on its head, urging Germans to get past their collective guilt and find pride in their heritage. Although sharing the stage with Tony D, Alpa Gun, and G-­Hot might seem unexpected since Fler is often accused of promoting rightist ideals, it instead makes perfect sense through the framework of Aggro Berlin’s niche business model—­promoting what are best described as “authenticized caricatures” of contemporary German society. Furthermore, all of Aggro’s artists flaunt their disregard for politically correct culture, aiming their provocative and racialized lyrics, sounds, and images directly at a bourgeois society that promotes a race-­free ideal. Read together,

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their cultural critiques highlight the antinomies of citizenship and national belonging, in effect characterizing the ideal of an interest-­free public sphere as a middle-­class European project that suppresses both the voices of ethnic minorities and the voices of working-­class ethnic Germans who have not bought into a race-­free Germany or the EU’s neoliberal universalist project. This unexpected common ground is most evident in the Turkish and Middle Eastern men’s clubs and traditional German Kneipen (local bars) that, while scattered throughout Berlin’s neighborhoods, are frequented almost exclusively by ethnic minorities and working-­class ethnic Germans, respectively. That these sites are seldom patronized by the German professional classes offers an indication of the social rift that makes the allegiance between Fler and Aggro’s Middle Eastern rappers possible. The headliner of the Columbiaclub show, the ethnically German rapper Sido, capitalizes on the working-­class realities of his low-­income housing project in North Berlin’s Märkisch quarter. He rose to fame with the 2004 track “Mein Block” in which the rapper authenticates the violence, addiction, and poverty in his neighborhood. As Der Spiegel wrote: “Sido, the stoner underdog, told us about his block in Berlin’s Märkisch quarter which was discovered as a ghetto for showbiz. ‘Hey, we have a Bronx too,’ cheered middle-­class kids from Stuttgart to Sylt, ‘and we don’t need to drive anywhere, we’ll just watch a Sido video.’ ”22 Helbig describes a similar process in her Ukranian contexts, noting how “hip hop functions as an articulation of growing middle-­class identity and a sense of urban cosmopolitanism influenced by and determined by one’s access to Western cultural knowledge.”23 As Paul Gilroy noted in his 1991 article “Sounds Authentic: Black Music, Ethnicity, and the Challenge of a Changing Same,” such cultivation of authenticity “supplements the appeal of selected cultural commodities and has become an important element in the mechanism of the mode of ‘racialization’ necessary to making them acceptable items in the pop market.”24 Yet, the underclass masculinity of Sido illustrates this type of mediatized authenticity can be cultivated and articulated through class and gender as well as race. Indeed, although this study focuses on the politics of European racial minorities, majority ethnic communities are inevitably part of the story as local actors negotiate a minefield of impossible choices, emanating from the twin poles of particularist ethnonational isolationisms and the globalist imperatives of EU neoliberal flows of capital, goods, and labor. Finally, there is B-­Tight, the Afro-­German—­a category that Michelle Wright dubs “The Impossible Minority” in Becoming Black: Creating Identity in the African Diaspora, her literary study of racial identities in Berlin, London, and Paris.25 Wright’s designation refers to the German ancestry requirements that

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were until recently part of German citizenship, but it also highlights the resulting scarcity of Afro-­Germans in the nation. Although Berlin was the site of Bismarck’s Conference of 1894–­95 that formally divided up Africa among European nations, and though German colonial involvements in Southwest Africa brought small numbers of Africans to Berlin, the idea of Afro-­German as a demographic category was inconceivable to Germans until the postwar coupling of German women and occupying American, French, and British soldiers of African descent produced children. Even then, the derogatory term Besatzungskinder (occupation children), which carried implications of rape, eschewed the possibility of the hybrid national category “afro-­deutsch.” A generation after the Berlin Airlift, B-­Tight was born Robert “Bobby” Edward Davis to an African American serviceman and an ethnically German mother and raised in West Berlin an Afro-­German.26 As a member of the Aggro Berlin family, his alias Der Neger positions him in an important role as the record label’s only black member. Through his character, B-­Tight employs a strategic form of racial essentialism that articulates black identity through the stylistic contours of hip hop and through his translation of the African American experience into his Afro-­German context. Indeed, his cultural politics finds its most poignant expression through musical sound and in the dramatic communities formed in live performance. As such, his blackness is not only sounded by, but is premised upon black music. Despite the localizing factors that scholars of European hip hop have taken pains to highlight, his creative output is quite audibly black American music. This fact became abundantly clear that night at Columbiaclub as each successive artist took to the stage with propulsively swinging bass drum beats, syncopated snare lines, extravagantly loud and funky bass lines and—­most of all—­highly cultivated styles of phrasing and vocal modulation that evidenced the continued processes of Americanization at work in this hall that once housed Hollywood films. But the highlight of the show, for me, came when B-­Tight performed his signature track. “Der Neger” begins with a six-­note motive of diffuse bass tones doubled by a piercing moog synthesizer line three octaves above—­production values reminiscent of the classic G-­funk beats composed by the US West Coast producer Dr. Dre. After the initial four-­bar loop concludes, a continuous stream of electronic beeps enter, providing an eighth-­note pulse and mid-­range support for the E-­minor melodic hook. The pulse accentuates the syncopated structure of the hook and helps the track gain steam as a bouncing hip hop drum track of  bass drum, snare, and shaker joins the pitched material. Together, the midrange eighth-­note loop and the three distinct percussive lines focus the

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E x a m p l e 3 . 1 The primary loop of  B-­Tight’s “Der Neger.” The track begins with one cycle of the Moog and bass lines, after which the other lines enter. All transcriptions by the author.

energy of the heretofore-­lazy loop, giving the track its syncopated and ultimately propulsive character. On hearing the initial bass line and moog hook, the crowd at Columbiaclub applauded and cheered wildly. They knew the simple gesture well. But when the drum and eighth-­note line entered, their knowledge was activated as their recognition gained musical structure and performative materiality. Anticipating the downbeat of the fifth measure of “Der Neger,” the young crowd raised its open hands in concert and proceeded to outline the quarter-­note pulse, nodding their heads and lowering their outstretched arms to the swinging syncopated beat. After the first iteration of the full loop B-­Tight stepped into the spotlight and delivered the following lines of the chorus. Using vocal modulations dripping with irony, he asked the audience: Wer hat das Gras weggeraucht? Wer rammt dir den Penis in den Bauch? Wer ist immer down mit mehr als einer Braut, Wer fällt immer auf, weil er gerade baut? Who smoked all the grass? Who rammed the penis in your stomach? Who always gets down with more than one woman, Who always sticks out because he rolls a joint?27

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Not missing a beat, the audience of mostly ethnic German and Turkish Berliners responded in rhythm to each question with fingers pointed in mock accusation at the rapper: “Der Neger!” The rehearsal of racial difference exemplified in this call and response between B-­Tight and his audience is echoed in countless European hip hop recordings today and is employed by many of the rappers with whom I spoke in Berlin—­as well as in Paris and London. In all of these contexts the musical dramatization of racial stereotypes provided a sort of exorcism in which all could participate. The antiphonal dialogue and its act of pointing here serve both to mark racial difference and to critique it. Most important, the performative musical structure of the call and response activates a racial dialectic that implicates B-­Tight and his multiracial German public. Through the racialized forms of hip hop they create this difference together. While local and national contexts inevitably inform rappers’ messages from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood, the common denominator of this difference can be found in the contours and discourses of black music that sound a history of contest between African America and America. The dialectic between B-­Tight and his audience thus finds its originary impetus in the well-­rehearsed tension encoded in (African) American music—­a term and a music that are both packed with the antinomies and social contradictions of national inclusion, exclusion, and occlusion. Despite its long reliance on a racialized definition of citizenship, the German nation has always been a country of dynamic shifts and migrations. The Aggro concert at Columbiaclub simply offered a platform for expressions of this historically elided dynamism. The image of ethnic German and Turkish Berliners raising their right arms together in salute of an Afro-­German rapper was at once stunning and baffling to behold in the context of the Columbiaclub. Read among the historic and physical backdrops of the American Cold War edifice and its proximity to Hitler’s monumental airport, the scene served as a reminder of how much things have changed. In the context of the (in)famously divided city and its nation’s recent history, this image resonated with countless others, forging an ambivalent continuity of Nazi salutes from old film reels, the iconic Black Power salute of  Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics, and the myth of Hitler’s failure to congratulate Jessie Owens at the 1936 games in Berlin. Indeed, in one sense the audience’s musically inspired performance did seem to put the old white supremacist allegiance of the Nazi gesture to rest. But as strategically inverted and otherwise deformed racial discourses went flying around the room, this performance also made these histories all the more present. The specter of race still hung in the air.

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Although the term Neger is usually translated as the antiquated English “negro” and still appears unproblematized in German dictionaries, B-­Tight’s use of the term is clearly marked as a stand-­in for the more racially charged and controversial “nigger.” In fact, the word Neger as spoken by B-­Tight is phonetically indistinguishable from the standard US hip hop usage “nigga.” B-­Tight’s (African) American usage is made clear in the conclusion to “Der Neger”—­a sendup of Afro-­German stereotypes that segues into a scratched turntable solo on a recorded sample of the Ebonics word “nigga.” In the turntablism solo, Aggro Berlin’s DJ Werd scratches calls of “ni-­, ni-­, nigga” to which B-­Tight and a chorus of overdubs responds: “Der Neger.” As the call and response continues DJ Werd’s solo on “nigga” grows more complex and convoluted eventually subsuming the German response(s). After the syncopated rhythms produced on the two syllables subsides, Werd lets the record spin, revealing the source of the line, the original call: “Niggaz, thugs, dope dealers and pimps / basketball players, rap stars, and simps [simpletons/fake pimps] / That’s what little black boys / are made of.”28 The sample’s source turns out to be the American rapper Boots on the track “Not Yet Free” by the Oakland-­based hip hop group The Coup. In this call and response, B-­Tight and his overdubbed countrymen are answering an American call. What was once a dialogue between the rapper and his audience here becomes a call and response between an Ebonics or better, “Hip Hop Nation Language” sample and the chorus of Germans.29 B-­Tight’s decision to conclude with this sample is particularly noteworthy, as it clarifies his intentions not only in the translation of language but also in the translation of social meaning. In short, through hip hop he articulates his own Afro-­German experience to the African American experience and claims membership in a global black diaspora—­a strategy that further authenticizes the US form. Also notable here is the eventual elision of  B-­Tight’s response by the (African) American call. As the sampled scratch solo grows more complex and syncopated, it also starts extending into the (Afro-­)German half of each measure. By the third measure of the solo call, there is no rhythmic space for his multivoiced response. In giving the American sample the privilege of the last word, B-­Tight defers to the original (African American) English “nigga,” rather than the German “Neger.” By establishing this diasporic connection through the use of the Coup sample, his afro-­deutsch subjectivity seems to be subsumed by a now hyperauthenticized US form. As the beat fades away and disappears, however, we are treated to a comic denouement that reestablishes B-­Tight’s local and national contexts through the exaggerated contours of a clipped Austro-­German accent in a gravelly

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E x a m p l e 3 . 2 Conclusion of “Der Neger.” Here the texted lines are represented with “x” noteheads and the untexted scratched gestures in “diamond” noteheads—­both in relative pitch space. (The complex rhythms in m. 3 are represented through approximations as the rhythmic line becomes increasingly chaotic, multilayered, and ultimately unrepresentable in standard Western musical notation.)

voice—­as performed by Sido. The entrance of the stereotyped, antiquated voice performing the mock-­racist hook, “Wer hat das Gras weggeraucht? / Wer rammt dir den Penis in den Bauch?” serves not only to relocalize the track but is, in fact, a cameo by the most famous racist of them all—­the elephant always already in the room of  German history—­Adolf  Hitler. Sido’s performative impression serves to further muddy the question of whether B-­Tight’s antiracist critique has been absorbed by his object of critique—­the supposed local perpetrators/perpetuators of the antiblack stereotypes that the track cat­ alogs.30 But whatever else might be the case, the track’s narrative is notable for establishing a dialogue about race and racism by and for Germans. B-­Tight’s reference to The Coup in particular on the “Der Neger” sample is also telling. While the cultural politics of stereotype repetition and inver­ sion are by no means uncommon in hip hop, The Coup holds a particularly prominent spot in the pantheon of black militant hip hop coming out of an early 1990s milieu of Afrocentric rap music. On the sampled track the MC, Boots, deforms a seemingly innocent nursery rhyme to account for what he sees as the depths of American racial attitudes about blacks. On the 1993 track, he argues that the futures of  black children are entirely proscribed by American

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racism. As the deformed rhyme above suggests, whether they fail or achieve success, little black boys only have a handful of options. B-­Tight, in fact, uses Boots’s black nursery rhyme mode of critique on a later track from the album, entitled “Zehn Kleine Negerlein” (Ten Little Niggers). In this stereotyped critique, B-­Tight again employs a sample, this time from an antique recording of a German children’s choir singing a racist nursery rhyme of the same name. In so doing, he is indicting German society via a material artifact from its past that finds comedy in a story of  the imminent death of  black children. The lyrics and basic structure of the song, however, are translated and borrowed wholesale from a nineteenth-­century blackface minstrel song by the Philadelphian Septimus Winner—­a track that was first published as “Ten Little Indians” and later appeared as “Ten Little Niggers.”31 B-­Tight’s translational references to American hip hop and black identity politics on the album are thus part of a long history of cultural exchange and borrowing—­and even longer history of racialized violence and colonial genocide. What is new in this musical call and response that spans almost 200 years and half the globe, however, is B-­Tight’s voice. The “impossible minority” is now possible in Germany and he speaks back to the racist past and the present it has produced through a form descended from American “black music” of times past. In his pathbreaking work on black internationalism, The Practice of Diaspora, Brent Hayes Edwards uses the concept of décalage to analyze the logistics of diaspora. As the title of  his study implies, Edwards reads diaspora not as the dispersal of people like seeds tossed across land from an originary point, but as an active project—­a practice. His heuristic device décalage (Fr. un-­fixing) uses the analogy of a wedge that has been removed exposing a gap or imbalance, like a shim under a table leg, to interrogate diasporic strategies. The interesting thing about this idea is that the implied state of rest or normalcy before the displacement of people is pre-­décalage, or simply calage—­a propped up evenness or fixity. Edwards explains: “Décalage indicates the reestablishment of a prior unevenness or diversity; it alludes to the taking away of something that was added in the first place, something artificial, a stone or a piece of wood that served to fill some gap or to rectify some imbalance.”32 As Edwards describes, Black Power, Afrocentrism, Négritude, and other black diasporic movements smooth out the real world differences that exist between African-­descended peoples across the globe in order to facilitate solidarity and accomplish political work against antiblack racism. Read through Edwards’s model it would seem that B-­Tight’s translational gesture to the African American experience of racism is akin to a shim that evens the displacement, planes the surface, and attempts to fill the seam between the communities. Although he mentions

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the centrality of music to the black diaspora, in his study Edwards focuses on the international dissemination of print media as the primary technology that facilitated the emergence of a black diasporic project in the early twentieth century. If B-­Tight is any indication, it would seem that 100 years on, it is hip hop that provides the unifying device between diverse peoples of African descent. Throughout “Der Neger” B-­Tight establishes his connection to the African diaspora via the black musical forms of hip hop. In the second verse of the track he pays particular attention to nonmusical expressions of his hip hop identity, gesturing to the (again, stereotyped) lifestyle and fashion choices that he employs to establish his practice of diaspora. Es fing schon in der Schule an, der Neger war der Drogenmann Der dir alles von Hasch bis LSD besorgen kann Egal ob grün, weiss, schwarz, er macht alles klar Mit Slaggy Pants und Kamm im Afrohaar. Sonnenbrille aufgesetzt, Coolness-­Faktor abgecheckt. Links und rechts eine Olle machen den Neger komplett.33 It begins in school, the nigga is the drug dealer He can get you anything you want Whether green, white, black, he can get everything With baggy pants and a comb in his Afro Sunglasses on, coolness-­factor checked Left and right, women surround/complete him.

Like Boots’s stereotypes about “Niggaz, thugs, dope dealers and pimps,” B-­Tight uses well-­worn Afro-­German stereotypes of drug-­dealing black youth. But in the verses, he also gestures to the self-­consciousness behind his actions. He is playing a part that necessitates “checking” his “coolness-­factor” as though marking off a list of the accoutrements needed for his hip hop uniform. The final line above functions in two ways in the original German: first, it signifies his “complete” inundation with women and, second, it marks the successful completion of his list of what the “Neger” character/stereotype needs. The word Olle (woman/chick) also signifies his berlinischer Dialekt, and is thus a marker of his inclusion in the local linguistic culture. With this turn of phrase B-­Tight relates himself to the nation and his city through stereotypes borne of American media culture. Such references to African American racial stereotypes are common gestures of affiliation in European hip hop, and form

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part of a mode of difference production that I argue is historically definitive of black music in the United States. In the case of B-­Tight, the global and local, past and present converge in particularly poignant ways, throwing the complexity of (African) Americanization into high relief. I use the example of B-­Tight at Columbiaclub first because of the very real resonance that he has as a symbol of US military occupation in a place such as this where American soldiers once sought comfort from their “Homesick Blues” with their “local girlfriends.” But I also offer a brief excavation of this place to argue that the difference between B-­Tight’s practice of diaspora and that of the self-­defined outsiders sharing the stage with him is growing indistinguishable. Indeed, B-­Tight is hardly the only one to have made such gestures with hip hop. Europeans of African descent are not the only ones to have called upon the symbols of African American difference, oppression, and struggle to make their case. The sounds, sights, and symbols of this musical (African) Americanization were on full display that night at Columbiaclub as Sido, Alpa Gun, Fler, Tony D, G-­Hot, and the rest of the Aggro crew dramatized their diverse ethnic backgrounds, giving musical voice to their respective outsider identities and to their roles in the German national imagination. The musical identity politics of the Aggro artists of  Turkish and Arab backgrounds attest to recent developments across Europe wherein minority people of all backgrounds are using the medium (and media) of hip hop to articulate their dissent from the mainstreams of their respective nation-­states. In so doing, however, they also carve out a space for their inclusion into their nations. Indeed, Algerian Pari­ sians, South Asian Londoners, and countless others that I have both interviewed and seen in concert claim membership in a contingent but puissant racialized global underclass that gains its political force through its use of the iconic African American model of opposition. As such, I argue that the relationship between EU and US hip hop is more akin to diaspora than to appropriation—­ less we are like those people than we are those people. It is a calage premised on African American cultural politics and articulated through the black musical contours of hip hop. Despite the racialized modes of critique and the particularity of American blackness, in European hip hop we see a reassertion of historicity locating the origins of racism in the shared legacy of European national, colonial, and imperial projects. In one particularly provocative, but not exceptional, example of Aggro’s racialized promotional strategy we see Sido, B-­Tight, Tony D, G-­Hot, and Fler pictured together, heads in nooses. On first inspection, this metaphorically charged image is understood in its Berlin context as a way for the

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F i g u r e 3 . 1 CD cover for Aggro Berlin’s Anklage Fünf (left to right: Sido in his signature chrome skull mask, B-­Tight, Tony D, G-­Hot, and Fler). The Aggro Berlin album appears as both Ansage Fünf and Anklage Fünf. Image reproduced with the kind permission of Aggro Berlin.

oft-­scapegoated Aggro artists to assume their role as the bad boys of the German music industry—­public enemy number 1 so to speak. Indeed, the image recalls the iconic logo of the New York rap crew, Public Enemy, which featured a beret-­clad Black Panther in the crosshairs of the (white) mainstream “public.” But on a deeper level, this album cover for Aggro’s sampler album Anklage Fünf (Accusation Five) articulates a racialized victimhood through the image of a group lynching. The image along with the album’s title function in the same mode of African American critical inversion as the Public Enemy logo, Boots’s deformed black nursery rhyme, and B-­Tight’s catalog of stereotypes. By representing themselves as the accused, they instead claim victimhood and redirect the guilt at a German society that they perceive to have falsely sentenced them to death. Surely, the noose has innumerable meanings as a cul­ tural signifier in different contexts—­especially in Berlin—­but here the symbolism is clear: the referent is the African American experience of racial terror. In her landmark study Exorcising Blackness, Trudier Harris examines the social psychoses of lynching in the American context.34 She demonstrates how both hate and guilt, sex and fear lay the contradiction-­laden foundation

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for such racial brutality. Although Harris reads the lynching ritual as a form of racial exorcism, she also notes how the inhuman process often concluded with the collection of  horrific “souvenirs”—­namely the genitals and other parts of the deceased’s body. Amy Louise Wood builds on Harris’s work, suggesting that “in this way, the black ‘criminal’ was not ritually expunged from the community. Indeed . . . the rituals surrounding the lynching ensured that the (now disintegrated) black body was integrated back into that community.”35 In her study, Wood thus focuses on the collection and fetishization of photographs in relation to the collection of human remains as part of this ritual reincorporation. I cite these unfathomable details not only to suggest that the images from the Aggro Berlin catalog draw on the contradictions of “love and theft”—­to use Eric Lott’s evocative formulation—­but to argue that through the production of such images, the record label is producing a fetish item that in fact incorporates racial otherness back into the German national body politic. This image is a disturbing one, to be sure, but I feel that an attempt at understanding the cultural logic behind such images is a better course of action than allowing them to continue circulating privately as fetish objects without comment. Wood offers a thoughtful reflection on both the benefits and the pitfalls of recirculating such images, writing: It is only through bringing these memories from private discourse back into public discourse that old wrongs may be acknowledged. While resurrecting these images from forgotten history is, to be sure, to risk once again reengaging in this process of violence and symbolic representation, we can hope that by recontextualizing these photographs, we can transform the ideological message embedded in the image.36

It is my belief that through attempting to understand these contemporary images, we might gain a better understanding of the cultural and commercial logic that produces them. Only then can we properly put them to rest. In another provocative image from the Aggro catalog, the cover art for B-­ Tight’s single, “Neger Neger,” features a closeup of B-­Tight in black greasepaint issuing a menacing, open-­mouthed, and jewel-­encrusted grin. He has “blackened up” for the photo shoot—­a point self-­reflexively reinforced by the uneven smearing of the paint and by the photo’s framing, wherein we see that the paint ends at the neck. Many of the visual strategies employed in framing and promoting B-­Tight are in dialogue with global histories of blackface

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F i g u r e 3 . 2 (Left) Blackface minstrelsy–­themed cover art for B-­Tight’s single “Neger Neger.” (Right) Comic book–­themed album art for Tony D’s Totalschaden. Images reproduced with the kind permission of Aggro Berlin.

minstrelsy. Indeed, caricatures reifying the race, class, and gender stereotypes that this music performed often accompanied the sheet music used to disseminate minstrel songs, coon songs, and even ragtime. On the cover of the 2002 ep, Der Neger (in Mir) (in me)—­on which “Der Neger” first appeared—­he also appears in greasepaint, here from the waist up and with a gun pointed up at his head. On the CD’s flip side B-­Tight appears in neck collar and chains, linking his iteration of  black music to histories of  blackface minstrelsy, the middle passage, and New World slavery. To complicate matters further, both the chains and the gun pictured on the album are bling-­era gold. Likely responding directly to the “comic-­book” characterization that Der Spiegel used to critique Aggro Berlin in their 2006 article, the cover art for Tony D’s 2007 album Totalschaden (totally screwed/destroyed) plays with comic-­ book conventions to frame and brand “der vollblut Araber.” Like B-­Tight’s “Neger Neger” single, the central image here features a similarly snarling and aggressive closeup of the featured artist—­here emerging from a comic-­styled starburst, as though “Tony the Damager” has smashed his head through a wall. In addition to scattered word bubbles and guest-­artist illustrations, an image in the upper left lays bare the self-­consciously stereotyping work of these caricatures and their pulp-­fiction ethos. In the small comic illustration that mirrors the larger central image in miniature, the rapper is depicted as a comic-­book villain with an exaggeratedly curved and phallic nose and a heavy brow. This same style of representation is depicted in comic-­book fashion throughout his

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other promotional materials—­caricatures that often add an islamicizing beard though Tony never appears wearing a beard in promotional photos. And recalling B-­Tight’s self-­immolating gun photo, in the album art for the single release of “Totalschaden” the rapper is photographed restrained in a straight jacket, giving a new valence to Tony the Damager, as “damaged goods.” The images are part and parcel of Aggro Berlin’s strategy of provocation and promotion—­introducing German society to its others within. In all of these images, the MCs are depicted as problems—­threats, aggressors, and sexual predators, as well as mentally or physically damaged characters. Notably, they also all share a logic vacillating wildly between the twin poles of problem and victim that posits a mainstream societal oppressor who enslaves or institutionalizes the irredeemably racialized other.37 The visual strategies here thus gesture to the German nation quarantining or killing off a part of itself—­a point I will return to in a moment. Like the strange racialized images of minstrelsy, Aggro Berlin’s album art is manifestly designed to shock and unsettle. As Russell Potter explains in his analysis of the strategic essentialization of racist “gorilla”/“guerrilla” imagery on Ice Cube’s 1992 album Guerillas in tha Mist (an album that also happens to feature blackface on the album art), Cube’s racialized difference and deformation of racist tropes “is not deployed to offer a reverent rendition” or reify tropes of black bestiality “but to take a pre-­existing connotative signified and blow it to kingdom come.”38 As Potter explains, “the homophonic similarity, in this case, is just the bait,” and in setting the trap, this type of  “ ‘deformation of mastery’ calls the very ‘mastery’ of the connotative field [minstrelsy’s tropes] into question.”39 The homophonic slippage between “gorilla” and “guerrilla” is telling of how even gangsta rap—­especially gangsta rap—­has always been in touch with postcolonial discourses, here articulated with an eye to armed struggle in Latin America and the tropes of  historical “black musics.” While Aggro’s racialized images are certainly not homages in any conventional sense, the question remains as to whether B-­Tight, Tony D, and their label want to blow the “signified . . . to kingdom come.” Ultimately, these promotional materials are designed to sell the record label’s products and just as the cover art for minstrelsy images conformed to nineteenth-­century stereotypes to some degree (or were at least legible) Aggro’s images also draw on a rich and dangerous trove of still-­legible racist tropes. Aggro’s high production value images are part of a carefully conceived, well-­executed, and highly profitable commentary on the historically ambivalent role that “black music” has played for people around the world. In the hands of blackface minstrels (both

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white and black, we should note), “black music” historically functioned as a form of stereotyping embodied performance—­a point that B-­Tight makes on the track “Der Neger” and in his album art. But in other historical contexts and in different hands (again both black, white, and beyond), it has also been promoted as the “the sole American music . . . the singular spiritual heritage of the nation and the greatest gift of the negro people” in the words of  W. E. B. Du Bois.40 As such, nineteenth-­century performances of “black music” ranging from minstrelsy to the sorrow songs held ample room for performative alter­ ation and immense signifying power.41 In his Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, Houston A. Baker shows how, by the late nineteenth century, African Americans seized upon the minstrel mask as a tool with which to relate themselves to white Americans. As he argues, it was only through the minstrel mask that black people could communicate with mainstream society. Without this racialized communicative medium, African Americans were voiceless and invisible. He thus situates the birth of African American modernity in the context of  Booker T. Washington’s address to the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895—­ an address that Baker argues typified the newly consolidated relationship of African Americans to their nation. As Baker notes, “The immensity of the Tuskegee orator’s ability (quite cannily won) to take the stage at Atlanta and speak into existence a program, policy, and platform that offered guiding premises and discursive strategies has been remarked by many.”42 It is the famed orator’s speaking the black nation into existence through the compromise of the minstrel mask in which Baker locates an originary African American modernity.43 In this way, despite its oppressive genesis, the mask and the musical and performative tactics it enabled became a central, even celebrated, locus in the identity formation of African Americans. In his Lying Up a Nation: Race and Black Music, Ronald Radano foregrounds a related ambivalence of black music that he locates (coincidentally) in the German word Gift (poison). Citing Du Bois’s considerable interest in German culture, his knowledge of the language, and his three years as a student in Berlin (1892–­94), he argues that Du Bois could not have missed the implication of his famous codification of African American music as “the greatest gift of the Negro people.”44 Of this gift to the American nation, Radano writes: The poison in black song, however, meant not the end of America but, rather, its beginning, a cure for its racial sickness. For it is in the engagement of black music as American music, a music whose very composition reflects an inextricable racial crossing, that black people claim America as their own. . . . The gift

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of  black song thus harkens a new America, revealing double consciousness as a condition running across the color line.45

The “gift/Gift” that he describes is thus a Trojan horse that, once accepted and valorized as a national treasure by (white) American mainstream society, contained the ingredients to destabilize America’s white supremacist racial ideology. To put it another way, if this music truly was truly “the sole Ameri­ can music,” then the souls of its originators must also be truly American.46 Read at the level of the German “body politic,” the murderous gestures depicted in Aggro’s carefully staged promotional photos act as metaphors confronting conceptions of national unity as racial purity. The self-­immolating gesture of B-­Tight’s Der Neger (in Mir) photo comments on the rapper’s own racial two-­ness through his blackening up and the parenthetical construction that highlights the German side of  his ancestry. In blackening up and pointing the gun at his head, B-­Tight offers up an interesting question in this composition’s framing. What will Germany lose if  it cuts off  its immigrants? The group lynching photo extends the national body metaphor by including the ethnic Germans, Sido and Fler, along with the Ausländer. Once Germany is understood to be a hybrid and many-­voiced nation, how can part of the body politic be amputated? In this way, the presence—­“the gift/Gift”—­of black music in Germany seriously compromises conceptions of national purity. It is worth looking at one more image from the Aggro catalog here. As an Afro-­German, B-­Tight uses lyrical and visual imagery that speaks to his own racial two-­ness. His gestures of blackening up, then, are part of a reification of one side of his identity over another. In perhaps the most violent—­and the most thought-­provoking—­image from Aggro’s ocean of racialized images the rapper holds his own “real” head in his hand, while self-­amputating his blackened head. The album art for Neger Neger—­a track that reached number 6 on the German charts in 2007—­is clearly designed to work with multiply oversignified meanings, but we can read it nonetheless as a struggle with racial identity at the level of self. Yet, as we have seen, racial subjectivities are always in dialogue with the nation. Indeed, these subjectivities are structured as much by the antinomies of national identity as by the individual identities that work together in praxis. The image thus comments on the violence perpetrated by racial-­ national ideologies that stress purity and one-­ness in a world where there is no such purity. Most important, the violent racialized gestures depicted in these promotional photos act as metaphors confronting the history of the American “black

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F i g u r e 3 . 3 Album art for Neger Neger. Image of racialized self-­amputation in a promotional photo for B-­Tight. Image reproduced with the kind permission of Aggro Berlin.

music” industry in relation to conceptions of German national unity as national purity. In the above album cover, we see B-­Tight, who, having already cut off the “true” biracial head of Bobby Davis, now seems to regret the decision and sets to amputating his performer’s head—­that of B-­Tight, “Der Neger.” Read at the level of the German “body politic” these images ask the rhetorical question: can a nation amputate part of itself and survive? Ralph Ellison remarks on this exact point—­what he calls “the fantasy of a benign amputation.” In his 1970 article “What America Would Be Like Without Blacks,” he writes at length of this fantasy: In spite of his unquestioned greatness, Abraham Lincoln was a man of his times and limited by some of the less worthy thinking of  his times. This is demonstrated both by his reliance upon the concept of race in his analysis of the American dilemma and by his involvement in a plan of purging the nation of blacks as a means of healing the badly shattered ideals of democratic federalism. Although benign, his motive was no less a product of fantasy. It envisaged an attempt to relieve an inevitable suffering that marked the growing pains of the youthful body politic by an operation which would have amounted to the severing of a healthy and indispensable member. . . .

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Today, in the form of neo-­Garveyism, [this fantasy] fascinates black men no less than it once hypnotized whites. Both fantasies become operative whenever the nation grows weary of the struggle toward the ideal of American democratic equality. Both would use the black man as a scapegoat to achieve a national catharsis, and both would, by way of curing the patient, destroy him.

Could it be, then, that by othering himself B-­Tight is reinscribing himself into the German body politic? Could it be that, through acts of segregation, these MCs are in fact assimilating themselves into mainstream society? Getting back to the imagery of the noose, we might readily accept its symbolic argument in the case of B-­Tight and for Tony D and G-­Hot, the sons of Middle Eastern guestworkers in Germany. For in their cases, the imagined coalition with African Americans is premised on a form of racial marginalization also rooted in histories of dispersion, manual labor, and tenuous citizenship. However, the inclusion of the ethnic Germans Sido and Fler in this image surely raises some eyebrows. The cultural logic at work here also pits the working-­class identity of Sido and the ethnic German-­ness of Fler against a broader enemy that all pictured can feel united in confronting—­that is, mainstream bourgeois society. In a nation where ethnic pride is viewed with much alarm, Fler’s use of the German flag is perceived as a provocation, a violation of civilized norms. Like Aggro’s rappers of minority backgrounds, Fler is declaring himself an outsider and asserting his independence from the race-­free public sphere of politically correct Germany—­an authentic alternative to the universal but seemingly soulless EU citizenship he sees on the horizon. In short, these Aggro artists of both majority and minority backgrounds are militating to preserve racial difference. Perhaps crudely, but by no means thoughtlessly, these racialized images draw upon the iconic example of African American struggle in order to forge a coalition premised on equality through and despite difference. Hip hop is a common wedge that defines difference and yet binds people of different backgrounds and experiences together in a common struggle to redefine and join national bodies politic. Edwards’s paradoxical symbol of a wedge as a unifying device functions especially well here in considering how hip hop’s fractious politics of difference could ever be used to unify people. The power of Edwards’s décalage metaphor comes from its ability to recognize diaspora’s active side or “practice” of unifying people of differing experiences. This active model would seem to stand in direct contrast to the presumed or passive membership of racial belonging that naturally endures after geographic dispersion. But by referencing the African American experience as well as their own

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respective racial belongings, I argue that European hip hop musicians and their fans are having it both ways. They are both loosed from the racialized moorings of blackness and deeply engaged with African American racial politics. * In her study of jazz ambassadors during the Cold War, Penny Von Eschen shows how American cultural imperialism is much more complicated than a simple top down transaction.47 As she concludes, along with the US State Department’s intended commercial and imperial goals, African American jazz musicians brought with them a host of countermessages. Today, Americanization continues to be a highly dynamic hegemonic contest rife with antinomies and paradox, most remarkably because American culture is so deeply informed, indeed largely defined, by African American culture. But as evident from the Aggro Berlin concert at Columbiaclub, Americanization no longer requires foreign actors—­the ambassadors are now within. In 1903 W. E. B. Du Bois wrote that “the problem of the Twentieth century is the problem of the color-­line” but as his work indicates he did not intend for this to be understood as a uniquely American problem. In his 1906 article “The Color Line Belts the World” Du Bois explained how “the Negro problem in America is but a local phase of a world problem.”48 After the landmark The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois became increasingly invested in anticolonial projects, traveling around the world to work with international antiracist movements that linked antiblack racism in the United States with racisms and economic inequities around the world. Nonetheless, the “race problem” was cast as a uniquely American one over the course of  Du Bois’s century—­the unseemly counterpart to American exceptionalism known the world over. Indeed, Von Eschen notes “the widely shared sense that race was America’s Achilles heel internationally” during the Cold War.49 It is worth noting that in the transactions surrounding hip hop in Europe today, the African American example has become something more than just a phase, it has become something iconic and universally assimilable to a degree that the dominant modalities in which minority identities are now lived are American ones. What’s more, they are sonic and performative modalities rooted in black music. As Edwards argues in The Practice of Diaspora, “the possibility of black internationalism is heard to be a matter of music.”50 As such, I submit for your consideration that minority identity in Europe today is increasingly heard to be a matter of African American music.51

Chapter 4

Heiße Waren: Hot Commodities, “Der Neger Bonus,” and the Commercial Authentic “Every nigga is a star” “You’se a off-­brand ass nigga / E’erybody know it” K e n d r i c k L a m a r , To Pimp a Butterfly

In a 2004 regional meeting of the American Musicological Society, celebrated musicologist and scholar of American music Richard Crawford delivered a keynote address entitled “W. C. Handy in America’s Musical Life.”1 The paper, drawn from Crawford’s study America’s Musical Life, examined Handy’s pivotal role in popularizing the blues for American audiences. The centerpiece of the keynote address was the musicologist’s recounting and analysis of a classic story from Handy’s 1941 autobiography, Father of the Blues.2 The story recounts an epiphany that, according to Handy, ultimately preconditioned the genesis of American musical composition. As Crawford told it, the story was revealing about the impact of African American vernacular forms on American popular music. Indeed, it was. Yet the narrative immediately struck me as evocative of a more subtle process at work in this originary tale—­the commodification of   black musical authenticity. Crawford’s analysis drew on chapter 6 of Handy’s autobiography, “Mississippi Mud,” wherein the Father of the Blues narrates this story of leading his group, Mahara’s Minstrels, at a town dance where he first “saw the beauty of primitive music.” Therein Handy writes: “My own enlightenment came in Cleveland, Mississippi. I was leading the orchestra in a dance program when someone sent up an odd request. Would we play some of ‘our native music,’ the note asked.”3 Unable to satisfy the request with their subsequent attempt, “a second request came up. Would we object if a local colored band played a few dances?” Jumping at the chance to get a paid break for his band, Handy granted the request.

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A disheveled-­looking string band took the stage and played “one of those over and over strains . . . that attained a disturbing monotony” while swaying oddly and stomping their feet to the beat. Nonetheless, Handy notes, “it was not really annoying or unpleasant. Perhaps ‘haunting’ is a better word.” Then came Handy’s epiphany: “A rain of silver dollars began to fall around the outlandish, stomping feet. The dancers went wild. . . . There before the boys lay more money than my nine musicians were being paid for the entire engagement.” This “native music” was the blues. Taking it all in, Handy vowed to learn the stylistic contours of this music and set to arranging the form for his band to perform. He concludes the originary narrative: “That night a composer was born, an American composer” (emphasis in original). In the analysis of the story in both his keynote address and his landmark study America’s Musical Life, Crawford rightly stressed the “mythic fashion” in which this tale stresses “fundamental themes” of “the authenticity of unschooled musicians” and “the folk tradition’s readiness to be exploited for money.” He concludes his discussion of the genesis story in the published study noting, “Finally, as one who spent much time of his life in the music-­ publishing business, [Handy] admitted freely that the Clevelanders’ show of coins had sparked his determination to become the kind of American composer he turned out to be. The marketplace’s discovery of the blues is an episode in American music history that would have enormous repercussions after World War I.”4 In ending with a nod to Handy’s appropriation, arrangement, and publication of the “folk tradition,” however, Crawford misses a chance to interrogate a final step that he alludes to in the text but never directly addresses. It is Handy’s cultivation and codification of black musical authenticity in the published sheet music of “Memphis Blues” (1912) and the immensely popular “St. Louis Blues” (1914) that preconditioned the broad public circulation of this newly popular music. Indeed, once the forms were captured and formalized within the structures of European notation systems and the music publishing industry, the “classic blues” ceased to be a private African American vernacular form and commenced its life as a popularly available commodity. The “race record” of the latter song by Bessie Smith in 1925 added to this popularity across the United States and ultimately to the now iconic hyperauthenticity of black musical expression. As such, the birth of an American composer in this story is not located in the exploitation of a “folk tradition” for money, but in the transactions of cultivation, standardization, and Euro-­Americanization that enabled its entrance into popular circulation in the public commodity form.

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This final step is a central one to Ronald Radano’s argument in Lying Up a Nation. In the practices of capturing African American vernaculars in European musical notation, Radano sees a racial crossing that encodes American music as intrinsically hybrid. Looking back to some of the earliest attempts to represent African American music in notation, he writes: “Understood in this way, origin is miraculously traceable back to the artifice of slave song’s notation, as the ironies of race and the limits of mediation form an alignment: the secrets of blackness at once constructed through and seemingly unfettered by white representation come into focus as that which artistic representation fails to convey.”5 Indeed, the description of an “alignment” illuminates a parallel between how the American (composer) represents the African American (music), and how media cultivations represent and construct an original—­precisely the mediatized critique of origins that Sefyu offers in his introduction to “En Noir et Blanc.” Although black music is constructed to represent an African American essence it is, in fact, a structure of artifice that itself lays bare myriad processes of cultivation and mediatization. Black music does not speak an African American essence but rather reveals this structure that speaks the racial contradictions of “blackness” and “whiteness” and ultimately generates both authenticity and commerce. As Radano has noted, black musical authenticity can only be understood through the historical social and commercial processes that created it. As such, I would add to Crawford’s insightful analysis the argument that it is not merely the exploitation of folk music that Handy accomplished—­indeed the local string band accomplished that turn. Instead, as Handy himself suggests, that night the seeds of a new form of music were born. When Handy took the step of approximating, transcribing, or otherwise notating the music for commercial distribution, the “native” music became something else. To put it another way, the silver dollars that were thrown at the feet of the “primitive” Mississippi band might be understood as an appreciation of an ethnic vernacular music, but the black music that W. C. Handy developed and made his name from—­so-­called classic blues—­was American popular music. Indeed, the contradictions of what we might call “the commercial authentic” are at the core of such processes of (African) Americanization. The commercial, the publicly available, and the American paradoxically encode racial difference. In this brief examination of hip hop in Berlin, I return to the subject of Aggro Berlin to look at the ways that black music functions as a commercial authentic in the city and across the globe. As we saw in the preceding chapter, the record label has made its name packaging racialized identities for sale to

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the German public (as well as to Austrian and Swiss publics). Although these authenticities ostensibly are not African American ones, they gain their power from black music’s suggestion of an ethnic African American original. The following examination of Aggro Berlin revisits the label’s commercial authentic in counterpoint with historically salient African American stereotypes and, ultimately, with an unexpected but telling continuity expressed in the German press’s reception of the historic visit of then-­candidate Barack Obama to Berlin in the summer of 2008.

Aggro Berlin’s Aggressive B u s i n e s s S t r at e gy In the summer of 2008 I returned to Berlin on a follow-­up research trip with the institutional support of the Deutscher Akademischer Austauch Dienst (DAAD, German Academic Exchange Service) “Changing Demographics” program. For this research project I proposed to reconnect with my contacts and interview artists and record label personnel from Aggro Berlin. While I had a great deal of success in reconnecting with rappers whom I had met in 2006–­7, I had no luck in securing an interview with Aggro Berlin after a letter of introduction from the DAAD and weeks of emails, faxes, and phone calls to the record label’s office. For over a month, the standard answer to my inquiries was that the artists and label staff were very busy scheduling and promoting Sido’s upcoming tour. As my fieldwork period was entering its final weeks, I had a breakthrough on July 23, 2008, when I succeeded in convincing (or perhaps wearing down) Aggro’s director of sponsorships to speak with the MCs B-­Tight and Tony D about scheduling an interview. The very next day I received last-­minute notice that the two would come into the offices around noon for a “brief forty-­five-­minute interview.” I quickly finished my pre-­interview preparatory notes and boarded the M41 bus, travel­ ing a mere four stops before reaching my destination. The sponsorship director, named Anika, gave me directions to their office in Kreuzberg, which the label keeps unpublished. The small but influential and commercially successful label had relocated in recent years to avoid the distractions of both avid fans and detractors, including their rival label Shok Muzik who had recently started a highly mediatized campaign against Aggro—­a hip hop “beef.”6 Indeed, Anika gave me oddly secretive instructions to wait outside and call her once I arrived at the address, a large multiuse building typical of Kreuzberg. I carried out my espionage-­like mission and soon thereafter saw her emerging from the rear of the building. She led me around back where we boarded a

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freight elevator that opened into a modest upper-­level suite of five offices. If I was disappointed that Aggro Berlin headquarters bore no resemblance to the Bat Cave or a prohibition-­era safe house, I was also very glad to have finally arrived at the ostensible destination of my research project. Anika directed me to a large multipurpose space scattered with large promotional materials and life-­sized cardboard Carhartt clothing advertisements. I engaged Anika in an interview while we waited, asking if she had acquired Carhartt as a sponsor. She sat down and explained that “Tony and Bobby” (B-­Tight) would be arriving shortly and told me a bit about her role as director of sponsorship. She explained that the primary way that sponsorship works for the label is that companies send free products for artists to wear without asking them to officially endorse the products. For example, Adidas places its new sneakers on the celebrity rappers but does not feature them in commercials. This way companies like Adidas and Carhartt can avoid the controversy that Aggro is in the business of while still profiting from their huge popularity among what remains the most important demographic for such hip hop–­associated products: fifteen-­to twenty-­five-­year-­old males. In short, the ar­­ rangement allows corporate sponsors to have it both ways, while naturalizing the affinity between hip hop artists and their brands. I talked with Anika for some twenty minutes and learned a great deal about other aspects of the label’s business operations. At this point, I was not running out of questions but was beginning to worry about whether Tony D and B-­ Tight would be coming. She assured me that they would be, and handed me to another of Aggro’s office staff, Regi, the web administrator for the label—­a very important job as I came to find. He explained that he did all of the website development as well as designing new platforms for web 2.0 content and other interactive bells and whistles to get fans involved online. Regi also explained that 40 percent of Aggro’s album sales were online, but noted that many more were downloaded illegally. To combat piracy Aggro had created a partnership with Universal Music Group. The major label would tend to secure distribution for them as well as trolling the Internet for illegal uploads of content—­something that an independent like Aggro did not have the resources for. Regi concluded, “But you’ll never be able to stop it. You can only mitigate the losses.” At this point, I asked about their “special edition” CDs, wondering if this value added labeling was how they planned to get people to buy the physical product. He explained that it was, but not in the way that I imagined. Regi held up a Tony D CD that included an “Aggro.TV” label and explained that this was the next generation of value-­added content—­a CD that comes with a software package allowing users to interface with web-­based video clips and other

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content on the AggroBerlin.de website. The software package included audio, video, access to chat rooms, screensavers, media players, and other items that might appeal to consumers. He explained that in a business model that was quickly moving entirely to the Internet, to sell a CD you must make it a “key” to internet content. I told Regi that I was quite impressed, thinking that it must have been developed by Universal—­another of their antipiracy mechanisms. I asked, out of politeness, “Did you come up with that?” He replied, with poorly concealed pride, “Well, actually, yes.” As Regi described, it is impossible for record labels to contain their musical content. It is too easily shared. Instead of wasting time and resources playing defense, the independent label outsourced that job and focused its energies on new ways of reaching and retaining audiences. Indeed, hip hop and its musical communities do not reside in clubs and physical communities alone. Despite the music’s well-­cultivated street authenticity, hip hop lives as much online and in the commodity form as in the face-­to-­face contact of musical performance. As Regi insisted, the answers to questions about piracy are not going to be found in legal modes of thinking that stress the maintenance of twentieth-­century systems of distribution and control, they will be found in artistic and technological innovations that make the music relevant to people’s lived experiences. It is by no coincidence that such innovative forms (certainly in 2008) and ideas would come from a small company more invested in pushing ahead rather than protecting its entrenched interests. I cite these business models not only to broaden our understanding of hip hop in a market context, but also to claim that the market structures the ways in which music is consumed. Commerce is not merely the realm in which music is disseminated, it is part and parcel of what the music is. It may seem a stretch, but these technological developments in music are, in fact, the historical equivalents of  W. C. Handy’s arrangement and codification of the classic blues in sheet music and on shellac 78-­rpm “race records.” Both forms of mediation make the music available to new publics, structuring the music’s meanings and the public itself. The audiences for today’s popular musics are accustomed not only to being able to access music with a point and a click or an app, but also to expect a visual context and a backstory that authenticates the musicians. In structuring the web 2.0 content for Aggro Berlin, Regi was reformulating the music and its attendant forms to correspond to the ways that music is consumed today. And rather than conceiving of his updates as de­­ fensive efforts, he was thinking of these innovations as offensive initiatives to make the commodities appealing to today’s consumer. Indeed, in the context

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of Aggro Berlin’s aggressive corporate and artistic mentality, these commodities are in many ways offensive. h e i ße wa r e

(Hot Commodity)

This brings us to Tony D and B-­Tight, who in 2005 released a mixtape for Aggro Berlin entitled Heiße Ware (Hot Commodity).7 Tony arrived shortly before Bobby, and I was instantly struck by the distance between the two young men that I was introduced to and their respective stage personas as each arrived. Tony D, the maniacal character described as “the full-­blooded Arab” on Aggro’s website, came in humbly on crutches and introduced himself in a calm and subdued “Wie geht’s?” The D in his name is for the English “Damager,” but when I asked what had happened to his leg, his reply did not seem to indicate that the injury was a result of the aggressive energy displayed in his character’s music videos and other media artifacts. He replied: “Ach, nur stress Alter” (Ah, just stress man]—­a minor stress fracture. The character commonly depicted in mohawk and army jacket appeared in the Aggro offices in jeans and a t-­shirt, his hair grown in. “Der Neger” B-­Tight, on the other hand, came in dressed in the hip hop fashion of  baggy jeans and an oversized, brightly colored graf t-­shirt. The distance between him and his Aggro character was measured primarily by the rectangular wire-­rim glasses he wore. In addition, his hair had grown in—­an appearance that stood in stark contrast with his violent promotional materials, which commonly feature the rapper with a shaved head. Indeed, I had not ex­­ pected the two to conform strictly to their media images, but I was nonetheless struck by the disconnect between “the person” and “the persona” in both cases.8 This blaring difference gave me pause, as I wondered if the two got into character for interviews with music industry broadcasts and publications but not for academics. Certainly their television appearances featured their characters rather than themselves, but today it appeared that I would get a chance to meet Bobby and Tony rather than B-­Tight and Tony Damager. After a brief talk with Tony about his recent creative activities, we were joined by Bobby, and I turned to the subject of their collaboration on 2005’s Heiße Ware. My first question focused on their conceptions of the title. What did it refer to? B-­Tight spoke English well but, as Tony did not, our joint interview proceeded primarily in German. Bobby explained that they both grew up in the “blocks”—­the large housing projects scattered throughout the city. He noted that his neighborhood in the Märkisches Viertel of north

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Berlin contained a great deal of crime, albeit mostly petty theft and the sale of counterfeit goods. Bobby remarked: “We both saw a lot of this small time sale of stolen goods, and did it ourselves a little, but the title really means that instead of getting into this life, we used music as our ‘hot commodity’ to sell.” Tony added another valence of the album’s cultivated heat: “and like ‘it is hot so you should buy it.’ ”9 Hip hop “mixtapes” like Heiße Ware are less-­formal albums with lower production values and commonly feature large numbers of guest artists. The term, of course, is taken from the pre-­mp3 and CDR era when people would make compliations of  various artists for friends or family on blank cassette tapes. Today, hip hop mixtapes (disseminated on CD, mp3, and streaming services) are ways for both unsigned and major-­label artists to promote their music without the full effort of album recording and promotion. Yet the format has also come to represent a way for artists to circumvent legal control over their music and can thus be viewed by music industry organizations as a form of piracy. Although this Aggro mixtape is an official label-­produced product, its naming as a mixtape gives it the nominal street authenticity of pirated, stolen, or “hot” goods. Following from the US convention of such “tapes” being “presented by” certain artists, Heiße Ware is “hosted by” Sido and features his introductions and banter between tracks. The “hot” album did perform relatively well in the charts, especially for a mixtape, debuting at number 27 on the German charts. As Tony and Bobby described, Heiße Ware was, as intended, something of a succès de scandale featuring artists from the city’s unique “porno-­rap” scene as well as from self-­fashioned hardcore and gangsta MCs. Indeed, Sido decided to take the role of  host after getting a sense of  how provocative the album would be. In an interview with the German hip hop monthly Juice he explained his deferral as a career choice that allowed him to let other provocateurs take some of the societal blame for a while. He explained: “At the moment, I must decline. Right now every time a Berliner rapper does something wrong, I get blamed. And if this CD gets indexed [indiziert] the blame will again fall on me. So I’m going to sit this one out. This album is a little too hard. Too hot of a commodity.”10 Although Sido was indeed the subject of much societal outrage for the violent and misogynistic lyrics of his 2004 album Maske, the statement may have been a publicity stunt to attract young people to the controversial product (although Bobby and Tony indicated that it was not). Sido’s mention of a CD being “indexed” is a reference to the German Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgef  ährdende Medien (Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons), which keeps a list of offending media works that can result in the legal suppression of free speech. Calculated or not, in as many ways as

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they could Aggro Berlin thus marked this commercial product as excessive of societal norms. From conception to implementation, the mixtape Heiße Ware was intended to violate boundaries. Notably, the discourse of “hotness” forms a central trope that articulates criminality, physical aggression, and sexual excess in the album’s lyrical content to a proposed desirable trendiness of the musical style and the illegality of the commodity form. As Radano notes, the hotness of early black music was also premised on the idea of excess read through the “white supremacist assumptions of a bestial Negro instinct.”11 On the mixtape, Tony D and B-­Tight articulate their lyrical, musical, and commercial violations of  “hotness” to race. This racialized hotness is featured most explicitly on the track “Der Araber und der Neger,” which begins with an aural assault of three rapidly fired gunshots over Tony D’s maniacal yell. The scene is soon revealed as an armed holdup in a department store. From the track’s outset, the two racialized characters run wildly through the store, killing men and raping women. Bestial sexual imagery is soon to follow as Tony D raps in his signature cultivated gravelly vocal timbre: “Wir sind zwei Ficker / Wild wie ein Schwein / Kneten an ihr um / Such’n Loch und steck’n rein” (We are two fuckers / Wild like a pig / Rooting around / Searching hole and sticking in). The second verse continues the violently sexual “wilding” imagery as the scene changes to a “Nazi party” where B-­Tight now delivers graphic details in much the same manner. Here the (too easily deployed) trope of sexual violation is given a presumptive target through the logic of violating white (racist) womanhood. Yet the verses remain nihilistic and beastial as the MC raps “Die Chaoten sind nicht mehr zu bremsen” (The chaotic ones are unleashed). The horrifically violent fantasy of “the Arab and the nigger” thus perpetrates the sexual excesses of racial otherness against a white normative German nation. Indeed, this violation is conceived in much the same way as the French rapper Monsieur R’s performance on the 2004 track “FranSSe”—­which posits rape as a justifiable punishment for (Nazi) racism. It is a racialized violent sexuality that threatens the nation with impurity. As Radano describes in concluding his argument in “Hot Fantasies”: “The vast repetition of references to black music as a fever, drug, disease, and intoxicant indicate that the threat of black music related above all to fears of miscegenation, through which hot rhythm becomes a metonym of the black male body and, specifically, Negro semen or blood.”12 In the chanted chorus of the track, the two reference African American racialized sexuality through translational wordplay and doo-­wop and jazz-­inflected scat: “Shoo-­be-­doo-­be-­doo-­be-­du bist nicht wie wir  /

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Dick-­dick-­dick-­dick-­dicke Schwänze” (. . . you are not like us / . . . thick dicks/ tails). Here, the sounds of the “doo-­be” scat syllables give way to du bist (you are), positing racial difference in the first half of the chant. In the second half, B-­Tight and Tony D localize this racial difference in the excess of their Arab and black genitalia. The reference to the English phallic slang “dick” slowly transforms into the adjective dicke (thick). The trope of  bestial sexuality is then continued, here encoded in the German phallic slang metaphor par excellence, Schwänze (tails/penises) “Der Araber und der Neger” thus manages to reterritorialize a host of Americanized racist tropes in a German context. Though ostensibly designed to provoke and challenge white German normativity and racism, the racialized excess on the track is indeed excessive. Of course, my point in highlighting the track in the larger context of Heiße Ware is to argue that through the racialized characters of Tony D and B-­Tight, Tony and Bobby are themselves commodified. They are the “hot commodities”—­die Heiße Waren. The very presence of these characters signifies racial excess and reminds us of Paul Gilroy’s comments about how cultivated authenticity: “supplements the appeal of selected cultural commodities and has become an important element in the mechanism of the mode of ‘racialization’ necessary to making them acceptable items in the pop market.”13 It is through their hyperracialization that their cultivated authenticities greatly exceed national social norms. Read against my interview with Tony and Bobby, the scene featuring Tony D and B-­Tight is an uncanny reminder of Judith Butler’s description of gender as performance, here giving a sexual valence to their (cultivated) racial essences: In other words, acts, gestures, and desire produce the effect of an internal core or substance, but produce this on the surface of the body, through the play of signifying absences that suggest, but never reveal, the organizing principle of identity as a cause. Such acts, gestures, enactments, generally construed, are performative in the sense that the essence or identity that they otherwise purport to express are fabrications manufactured and sustained through corporeal signs and other discursive means. That the gendered body is performative suggests that it has no ontological status apart from the various acts which constitute its reality.14

On Heiße Ware, Tony and Bobby thus project hot caricatures through their violent lyrics, the screaming and growling vocal timbres of their excessive hypermasculine aggression, and their hyperracialized visual images and embodiments.

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As Butler suggests, the reality of these personae have more to do with “public and social discourse” and “public regulation of fantasy” than they do with the identities of  Tony and Bobby.15 These personae are premised on discursive tropes of trangressive black and orientalist sexualities, cultivated by a music label, its art directors, and its executives, and performed by musicians who bring the characters to life. The commercial thus follows, frames, and directs “public and social discourse.” A tellingly contradictory point in Tony D and B-­Tight’s transgression of this public regulation—­this policing—­is that in violating social norms these characters are also conforming to the excess of their gendered and racialized stereotypes. In this transaction, Aggro Berlin both meets and exceeds public expectations, generating a profit seemingly in direct proportion to the disparity between the norm and the degree of excess. Likewise, the record label has it both ways: through Tony and Bobby’s performance, they dig up their society’s history and critique its racist tropes—­they “blow [them] to kingdom come” as Potter would have it—­while at the same time monetizing those tropes and profiting from their excavation and recirculation. In short, they have it both ways. I asked Bobby about the picture of him in golden manacles—­as a human commodity—­on his Neger Neger album, to broach the subject of whether they had conceived of this valence of the hot commodity in making the mixtape. Notably, he seemed to anticipate my point but answered simply: “No, Specter comes up with all of those things.” His reference was to one of the three cofounders of the label (none of whom I had the opportunity to meet) who was also its art director. While I had not considered that the art direction was Bobby’s, I was struck by the problematic nature of an external force behind this process of representation at the level of the label’s management. Indeed, Tony explained that it was the white, ethnically German, Specter who came up with Sido’s mask, Tony D’s punk aggression, and the tormented images of B-­Tight’s racial two-­ness. The revelation of the multiple identities, corporate structures, and social processes behind the cultivation of each of Aggro Berlin’s characters demonstrates how the subject of black musical authenticity is constituted between the fantasies of the nation and its culture industries. And again, the process betrays a central contradiction: B-­Tight and Tony D are the results of many-­layered processes of commodified musical racialization, but gain their commercial appeal as exceptional individual agents expressing their racial selves. Ironically, later in the interview when I asked Tony and Bobby if they experienced the types of racism that they describe and critique in their tracks, Bobby responded: “Sometimes, but for me there is actually a kind of ‘neger

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bonus’—­at least in music. When I go into a club I am kind of exotic. There are not many black people in Germany,” he looked down at his arm, pointing out its color, and continued, “so I take what I have and I use it.” I turned to Tony and asked if there is a parallel “Kanacke Bonus” (Middle Easterner bonus). Immediately the two broke out into a chorus of laughter. “No,” said Tony “there are many of us here. We are not so exotic!”


b i n s c h wa r z ! u n d d a s i s a u c h g u t s o ” :

Barack Obama in Berlin By some strange coincidence, that day in July, which proved to be so important for my DAAD research, was also the date of then-­candidate Barack Obama’s historic visit to Berlin. That very evening at seven, the Illinois senator was to deliver a foreign policy speech set in front of the city’s monumental Siegessäule (victory tower). The current issue of  Zitty—­one of the city’s two major cultural events publications—­featured a cover story about the visit, as did most local and national publications that week. On first seeing the caption, I cringed. It read: “Ich bin schwarz! Und das is auch gut so” (I’m black! And that’s a good thing).16 The tag line was meant as a play on Berlin’s openly gay mayor Klaus Wowereit’s comments from his memorable coming-­out speech. Yet, at the time, the line resonated more closely with comments by Geraldine Ferraro, who became embroiled in a heated political debate after claiming that Barack Obama was having such success simply because he was black.17 As I found, this was not just true for me, an American in Berlin. Other Berliners with whom I spoke also identified the caption as indicative of a broader national (mis)reading, ubiquitous among conservative critics in the United States, that the candidate was more celebrity personality than political leader. Indeed, Berliners were following the US election closely even before the candidate announced his intentions to visit their city. The central problem with media representations of Obama’s visit as that of a celebrity—­a “Super Star,” as the most widely circulated national maga­ zine Der Spiegel put it—­was that in framing his visit in this way they betrayed the nation’s exoticization of  black entertainers like Bobby. Echoing Ferraro’s problematic gaffe in the American context, these media representations fo­ cused on the candidate’s blackness—­not in historical relation to the nation’s trou­­ bled racial history, but in relation to the media icons of African America. In­­ deed, both representations below point to Ferraro’s ironic example of a “bonus” for black people. As B-­Tight later noted, “der Neger Bonus” does not extend

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F i g u r e 4 . 1 Cover features of  Barack Obama’s  July 2008 visit to Berlin. (Left) Zitty,  July 17, 2008 (“I’m black! And that’s a good thing!”). (Right) Der Spiegel no. 30,  July 21, 2008 (“Germany meets the Super Star”). Reproduced with kind permission of  Zitty, © 2008 Zitty, and Der Spiegel, © 2008 Der Spiegel.

far beyond the well-­policed parameters of musician and athlete in German na­­ tional life. Strikingly, the Der Spiegel cover points directly to the realm of musical superstardom in particular, visually referring to the logo from Germany’s Idol-­ styled television singing contest Deutschland sucht den Superstar (Germany Sseeks the Superstar]. That the future president of the United States would be marked as a celebrity and be automatically associated with music because of  his skin color speaks volumes about national fantasies that connect blackness and music. Indeed, this snapshot of early twenty-­first-­century Germany indicates the enduring iconicity of African American musicality in the German national imagination. Of course, it also reveals the inherent racism of der Neger Bonus. As we have seen, the image of black expressive culture in general and black music in particular is a powerful and universally available one. But as the example of Heiße Ware should indicate, it also holds the potential to further essentialize and entrench racial difference. Aggro Berlin officially shuttered shortly after my visit in April 2009. But in its eight years of operation it left an indelible imprint on German language hip hop—­not least, its penchant for controversy

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and walking the fine line between racial critique and racializing commodification. Indeed, it usually managed both. Such glaring examples of the racial contradictions of black music are readily available in the popular forms circulating throughout Europe and America, but we can only see them if we seek them out. We can only understand these contradictions if we allow for the rethinking of our own racial-­national subjectivities. For Tony and Bobby, voicing the racial-­national contradiction through the commodified form of black music may be a necessary step in order to claim the nation and its constitutive hybridity. As I have demonstrated, in European hip hop we hear and see that Europe is not what it thinks it is. It is an idea whose history is being revealed in the voices of national subjects who, now in the former colonial capitals, are manifestly audible.

Chapter 5

M.I.A.’s “Terrorist Chic”: Black Atlantic Music and South Asian Postcolonial Politics in London Quit bending all my fingo Quit beating me like you’re Ringo You wanna go? You wanna win a war? Like P.L.O. I don’t surrend-­o M . I . A . , “Sunshowers” (2005) Sometimes I think I’m going insane I think I might hijack a plane! Don’t push me, ’cause I’m close to the edge I’m tryin’ not to lose my head Uh-­huh-­huh, huh, huh It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder How I keep from goin’ under Melle Mel on Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” (1982)

Chapter 5 of Paul Gilroy’s 1987 study “There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack”: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation comprises an examination of  the manner in which black British music has “drawn on the cultural politics of  black struggles in the US and the Caribbean.” As such, it is also something of a model for the present chapter and my broader examinations of hip hop in Europe. In the chapter, Gilroy focuses on Britain’s settlers of African descent, tracing the ways that music has provided a diverse set of strategies for both voicing political opposition and relating to British society at large. These musical and rhetorical tactics, he argues, have shaped black British identity

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around a set of shared ideas developed by New World blacks: “In particular, the culture and politics of black America and the Caribbean have become raw materials for creative processes which redefine what it means to be black, adapting it to distinctively British experiences and meanings.”1 The chapter, titled “Diaspora, Utopia and the Critique of Capitalism,” focuses on how the mutually implicated mechanics of postcolonial migration and global trade have brought black musics to the United Kingdom and comprises a catalogue of US and Caribbean influence on black Britons. I turn to Union Jack first to imagine how those “distinctively British experiences and meanings” also resonated with Britons of Asian descent and, second, to resituate the manner in which hip hop is read uncritically as a vernacular form unhindered by the exigencies of the global culture industry. In particular, I mean to interrogate the way that hip hop has been celebrated as a “resistance vernacular”—­to use Russell A. Potter’s evocative formulation in his Spectacular Vernaculars: Hip-­Hop and the Politics of Postmodernism.2 A major critique of Potter’s work in the hip hop literature comes from Tony Mitchell in the introduction to his edited collection Global Noise: Rap and Hip-­Hop Outside the United States. In the piece, Mitchell notes hip hop’s waning claim to the oppositionality that Potter structures his argument around, citing Gilroy’s 1994 comment that “Hip Hop’s marginality is as official, as routinized, as its overblown defiance; yet it is still represented as an outlaw form.”3 Notably, Mitchell reads Gilroy’s point not as global in scope, but as focused on the mainstreaming and commercialization of the US form in particular. He uses this reading to pivot into territory that he claims provides “more appropriate examples” of resistance—­those marginal contexts outside of the United States where the artists have not yet been co-­opted by commercial forces. Now, over fifteen years on from Mitchell’s collection, it seems appropriate to revisit some of the assumptions regarding the perceived moment of freedom and emanci­ patory potential he reads at the dawn of global hip hop. Mitchell’s other primary project in Global Noise is to show how global hip hop is not a counterfeit and inauthentic approximation of an African American original. He notes that his study is a direct response to Tricia Rose’s call for global examinations of hip hop, but then takes the hip hop scholar to task for her vision of a global hip hop studies that “would involve studying the appropriation of rap and hip hop as an essentialized, endemically African American cultural form.”4 In what follows I would like to suggest that while hip hop might not be simply an African American form, its adoption outside of the United States does represent what I have referred to as (African) Americanization. The very naming practice of “black” music in the US context has

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inscribed upon hip hop the discourses of American racial ideology. Although historically constructed, this authenticity moves with the form insinuating itself in glocal contexts in myriad ways, most of them wholly in keeping with the cultural practices and discursive contours of adoptive subjects. As such, I would like to question the originary moment that Mitchell posits in his assertion that we might still find resistance potential at the far reaches of the hip hop galaxy. Not only is the discursive pivot he executes (with the help of Gilroy) an all-­too-­easy rhetorical move, the proposition that hip hop regains a vernacular potency when transplanted misses the point that hip hop has always been in dialogue with the culture industry. Hip hop was born of other commodified black musical forms that were themselves born of such forms. In this chapter I look to European hip hop not to argue that I might find in London greener pastures for resistance, but to argue that everywhere hip hop lives, it holds the potential to work through and against racialized and commodified hegemonies.5 As a form that was forged in the interplay between European slaveholders and their African property, black music has always navigated the oppression of commodification. In order to further our focus on the contradictions of hip hop as commodity, in this chapter I look at Arular, the commercially successful first album of the West London MC M.I.A. I choose this subject not only for her remarkable (and enduring) capacity for the type of musical syncretization that has historically characterized black musics, but also for a novel discourse that has grown up around her music—­one that speaks volumes about the processes that I am describing in these central chapters on hip hop and commerce. The epithet “terrorist chic” provides the central heuristic for this chapter, exposing new valences to my (African) Americanization figure, not the least of which is gender. I describe the term and its genesis in sections to come. For now, suffice it to say that the term came into being as a dismissive gesture toward M.I.A.’s “chic” music, indicating a sense of disdain for (feminized) fad and ephemerality that is presumed to betray her provocatively oppositional performance. Ironically, while M.I.A.’s career has proven remarkably durable and influential since Arular, the disparaging attitudes have not abated, but rather seem to have amplified and found new targets in the commercially successful and unapologetically aggressive female voices of  Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Azealia Banks, and others. As I demonstrate, underlying the manifest disdain of the term “terrorist chic” is an accompanying sense of hypocrisy and mistrust that any violently oppositional music must by definition circumvent the commercial—­that it must operate in a parallel space, underground economy, or black market that functions free from the political constraints and economic compromises of

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our deeply implicated, but manifestly unequal global society. Indeed, through this chapter’s intersectional analysis I interrogate the gendered and sexualized discourses around commercial black music. Behind such dismissive treatments we inevitably find strategic coverups. In this case, we find a set of (il)logics that inform discourses of authenticity so important to our appreciation of music (especially black music) that we would rather leave them alone. I argue that if we engage in modes of Said’s “contrapuntal reading” and Radano’s “subversive listening,” in our approach to M.I.A.’s Arular, we can hear in this music the very thing we are afraid we might—­the sound of the authentically inauthentic.6 Through her postcolonial musical project that collapses violent and precarious “third world” images of guerrilla warfare upon seemingly vacuous “first world” images of popular culture, she calls into question our reliance on binaries between the vernacular and the popular, the political and the commercial, and in so doing shows her own constitutive hybridity—­that is, her own humanity. In the chapter I thus pivot from a reappraisal of Gilroy’s black Atlantic London to an interpolation of South Asian Britons, the United Kingdom’s “other blacks,” into this cultural politics. I then catalog and analyze, at length, M.I.A.’s work on the album showing how she works both within and against her own commodification and other structures of domination. In so doing, I employ Chela Sandoval’s reconsideration of Frantz Fanon’s Peau noire, masques blancs (Black Skin, White Masks), wherein she notes an alternate valence of masks: “the tactical deception of the impostor who controls.”7 Ultimately, the chapter is a deep reading of the album, demonstrating through music, lyric, and image the multivalent forces of postcoloniality—­wherein, we will recall, no one is “purely one thing.”

“It’s Like a Jungle Sometimes”: Gilroy on “The Message” in Brixton (1981) Writing about London’s infamous “race riots” of the early 1980s, Gilroy explores the ways in which hip hop began speaking to black British youth. He cites one particularly evocative lyric by Melle Mel of the New York hip hop group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to make the case that rap music and its politics were beginning to resonate in the United Kingdom: “As the smoke from the uprisings of 1981 hung in the inner-­city air, young Britons were absorbing the ‘Don’t push me, ’cause I’m close to the edge’ message transmitted by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and pondering the relevance

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of Afrika Bambaataa’s ‘Zulu Nation’ to their own experience of structural unemployment, police harassment, drug abuse and racial disadvantage.”8 As the music and message of  hip hop caught on in the United States, it began spreading across the globe. Because of a shared language, nowhere did the music have a more immediate impact than on the United Kingdom’s music scene. Melle Mel’s message was immediately understood in British inner cities, and Bambaataa’s Bronx-­centered hip hop movement was soon renamed the Universal Zulu Nation in recognition of rap music’s growing global appeal. Gilroy thus places music at the center of  his discussion of African diaspora politics. In his view, hip hop provided inner-­city youth with a new incarnation of solidarity around ideas of  blackness. The music spoke to real problems and offered a set of strategies for promoting unity among black communities and rallying this solidarity against injustice. The music also acts as a primary site of racial identity formation and a vessel for fermenting ideas and distributing a shared consciousness—­a point that Gilroy would develop further in The Black Atlantic.9 But as his remarks about the resonances of the 1981 uprisings indicate, this music not only held a unique potentiality with which to promote solidarity, but also served as a channel for fomenting and articulating opposition: “Black expressive cultures affirm while they protest.”10 Notably, the lyrics that Gilroy quotes from the Furious Five’s breakthrough hit “The Message” are couched in terms of outright revolt. The track is a jeremiad about inner-­city unemployment, underdevelopment, poverty, and blight—­its central “message” that if structural racism continues an uncertain threat will materialize. Such a revolution looms in the verses of the track, and as the above epigraph indicates, Melle Mel posits hijacking a plane as a potential outcome of such dire and mentally damaging circumstances. In short, “The Message” is: if society pushes I’ll push back. The uprisings that Gilroy refers to in Union Jack began with London’s infamous Brixton Riot of April 11–­12, 1981. The events in the largely black neighborhood of Brixton represented a tipping point in UK race relations. Structural inequality and poverty, coupled with an increased police presence in such neighborhoods of a demograph­ ically changed London, made for a situation that was indeed “close to the edge.” Although the details of the uprising remain a contested ground, what is certain is that black community members perceived an instance of police intervention as police brutality and mounted a counterassault on the officers. Just as this incident proved to be a tipping point for Brixton residents, news of the Brixton uprising provided the inspiration to push other UK communities over the edge. Following the events of Brixton in 1981, a number of racially

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inflected uprisings erupted in other neighborhoods of London and across the United Kingdom. Given that the majority of Britain’s black settlers have Caribbean backgrounds, this black American source of oppositional cultural and political source material may seem misplaced. However, the shift that Gilroy describes in Union Jack laid the basis for his theorization of a dynamic and changing diaspora in The Black Atlantic, that later took the form of  “roots and routes.”11 He offers this model of  black culture “as an alternative to the different varieties of absolutism which would confine culture in ‘racial,’ ethnic or national essences.”12 Gilroy’s body of work theorizing the black Atlantic thus seeks to free the concept of diaspora from its moorings to the African content, recognizing the commonplace migrations and subtle shifts in orientation toward various nodes of blackness across the Atlantic. Echoing Édouard Glissant, he writes: “If these populations are unified at all, it is more by the experience of migration than by the memory of slavery and the residues of plantation society.”13 If a diverse collection of black Britons can find political voice and solidarity in African American music, why not other migrant communities?

London’s “Other Black s” The black Atlantic provides a powerful model for understanding the counternationalisms of the African diaspora that were developed to foment racial solidarity and combat the brutalities of forced migrations and postcolonial marginalization. But though Gilroy notes that South Asians in Britain have engaged black Atlantic cultural politics, particularly through rap music, he does not seem interested in theorizing their inclusion. Given the history of tenuous but workable solidarity movements between Afro-­Caribbean Britons and South Asian Britons—­the United Kingdom’s “other blacks”—­Gilroy’s dynamic model would seem well suited to such an inclusion.14 Indeed, there has been a shifting solidarity between African-­and South Asian–­descended populations under the shared banner of “black” for some time in the United Kingdom. My job here will thus be to continue where Gilroy leaves off, theorizing South Asian hip hop expressions into the equation of black Atlantic cultural politics. In doing so, however, I will also necessarily propose some re­­ working of the model to allow for the diversity of voices that his dynamic and transnational arguments support. If black America can provide the cultural forms with which to articulate a singularity out of a plurality of Africans, black Britons, African Americans,

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Afro-­Caribbeans, and others practicing the décalage of diaspora, then why not a broader solidarity out of other sets of ethnicities? Gilroy notes the nascent interest in and engagement with hip hop and other New World musical cultures on the part of South Asian Britons in the early 1990s. He writes: It is essential to appreciate that this type of process has not been confined to settlers of Afro-­Caribbean descent. In reinventing their own ethnicity, some of Britain’s Asian settlers have also borrowed the sound system culture of the Ca­ ribbean and the soul and hip hop styles of  black America, as well as techniques like mixing, scratching, and sampling as part of their invention of a new mode of cultural production with an identity to match [emphasis added].15

Activated through musical production, the new identity that he writes of also carries the set of rhetorical tactics and oppositional ideas that inform hip hop politics. But this hip hop need not be viewed as a “borrowed” form, these ethnicities need not be read as unrelated. Due to the long and interwoven history of British colonialism, the West Indies, for one, are home to countless Indo-­Caribbeans descended from South Asians brought around the cape of Africa and across the Atlantic as indentured servants. To speak of reinventing one’s “own ethnicity” through cultural “borrowing” against this backdrop is to flatten centuries of colonial and postcolonial entanglements—­including musical ones. Indeed, recalling Erlmann’s “Benetton Syndrome,” if we use Gilroy’s formulation of  bounded ethnicities we would also have to speak of global “hip hops”—­separate and unequal musical forms that are always indebted to a master form.16 As we will see, M.I.A. is not “borrowing” hip hop to reinvent her “own ethnicity”—­she is making music and telling her story in a style deeply informed by her life as a postcolonial subject in London’s diverse metropolis. In M.I.A.’s postcolonial vignettes on Arular, the rapper reasserts the global reach of the color line and articulates it through the signifiers of  black Atlantic music from American hip hop to Jamaican dancehall and the language of  London’s Caribbean patois, to Afro-­Cuban rhythms and Brazilian baile funk. As such, M.I.A.’s deep engagement with black Atlantic musical expressions also extends the musical palette of the black Atlantic southward beyond its focus on the triangle between the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Ca­ ribbean. Though not of African descent, M.I.A. is deeply engaged with black Atlantic musics and diaspora politics, engaging myriad black Atlantic performance styles and genres and sampling from an array of global black musics, all while focusing on the effects of racial marginalization and state-­sponsored

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violence against migrant communities in the United Kingdom. Her music addresses urban poverty—­particularly in the council estates of London’s “ends”—­and its structural connections to broader discourses of terror and asymmetrical warfare. The first epigraph above is just one of many notewor­ thy examples of the rapper’s engagement with the radicalized terrorist imag­ ery employed by Melle Mel some twenty years earlier. Just as Mel implores his society to be careful not to push him, M.I.A. commands her society not to beat her. The proposed outcome of such violations is, in both cases, couched in terms of a terrorist threat. Where Mel might hijack an airplane, M.I.A., like the Palestine Liberation Organization, will not surrender. In his study Sounds English: Transnational Popular Music, Nabeel Zuberi takes up the task of addressing the diasporic music cultures of South Asian Britons, especially with regard to how the cultural politics around blackness have found voice in Asian communities. He writes: “Alongside the identifications developed through living together in neighborhoods and schools, black America, the Caribbean, and black British popular culture have been imbibed through media images and sounds and then worked upon the Brit-­Asian imag­ ination. This saturation in black media has fostered affiliations of affect.”17 The cultural milieu that Zuberi speaks of pits the lived experience of   Britons of Asian and African descent coexisting in the United Kingdom against the media images of New World and British blacks. As we have seen, however, these media images also inform the culture and politics of settlers of African descent themselves. As such, it must be mentioned that the “imbibing” process that Zuberi describes includes a reflexive element situating lived experience in dialogue with media influence. He writes how, like Afro-­Caribbean communities in the United Kingdom, the South Asian experience of marginalization has been both “spoken to and spoken through soul, reggae, funk, hip-­ hop, drum’n’bass—­the sounds and images of commercially mediated black popular culture.”18 Indeed, in an article on Gurinder Chadha’s documentary about Asian youth culture in the United Kingdom, I’m British But . . . , Zuberi quotes Tejinger Singh, an Asian British musician, who claims that “the majority of Asian kids [in the United Kingdom] have an African American musical identity.”19 Zuberi’s formulation of “affiliations of affect” prefigures Ian Condry’s pronouncement of a “new cultural politics of affiliation” in his study of rap music and globalization Hip-­Hop Japan. Condry writes: “Japanese rappers, by allying themselves with African American rap, engage in what might be called a new cultural politics of affiliation.”20 According to Condry, this politics of affiliation, though premised on ideas about sociopolitical affinities and ethical

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allegiances, is articulated through cultural transactions. Music provides an especially rich site in which to engage this cultural politics through the appropriation and adaptation of a set of forms, styles, and lexicons that speak to international pathways and shared mentalities. As Zuberi indicates, however, a politics of affiliation between South Asian and Afro-­Caribbean Britons is not new. He notes that a shared struggle among migrants from Asia and the New World has existed since the 1960s: “A political rather than biological notion of ‘black’ emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s as a response to the rise of populist racism, marked by Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘rivers of blood’ speech. This black movement incorporated an antiracist coalition that stressed the common experience of African-­Caribbeans and Asian settlers.”21 As Zuberi observes, the term “black” was an inclusive one for the darker-­hued peoples from the margins of the British Empire. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Afro-­Caribbean and South Asian Britons constructed an alliance—­albeit a contingent and dynamic one—­around an idea of shared blackness through working-­class ideol­ ogies first promoted by labor unions in the late 1960s. It is worth stressing that what is truly “new” in Condry’s “new cultural politics of affiliation,” as we might apply it to South Asian hip hop in the United Kingdom, is the dominance of cultural and aesthetic modes of political solidarity. This cultural affiliation seems to be the part of the transaction that Gilroy refers to when he notes hip hop’s “rediscovery” of African American civil rights politics.22 This model of solidarity was constructed not only from shared political and economic interests, but through a culture of opposition and moral authority expressed in verse, song, and style. As a result of the disparate economic goals and cultural investments of the 1960s-­era African-­Asian solidarity movement in Britain, however, “the 1990s witnessed a widening gulf between the terms black and Asian.”23 Citing Stuart Hall’s critique that this allegiance was always overly dominated by Afro-­Caribbean British voices, Zuberi notes the fragility of this political alliance built around class struggle. As such, he notes how a mediatized “affiliation of affect” seems to have taken up the banner of  black-­Asian solidarity in the United Kingdom. In the conclusion to her study Mongrel Nation: Diasporic Culture and the Making of Postcolonial Britain, Ashley Dawson illustrates how “Groups like Fun-­Da-­Mental and Asian Dub Foundation tackle Islamophobia head-­on, asserting a sense of pride in Muslim and Asian identity while also advancing a cultural politics of unity with other racialized ethnic groups in Britain.”24 Stressing the importance of African American cultural models in the post–­9/11 age, she explains how Fun-­Da-­Mental’s front man, Aki Nawaz, used to go by the alter ego of “Propa-­Ghandi,” looking east for inspiration, but now looks to black

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America more commonly—­both for images of nonviolent moral righteousness and for the aggressive antiracism of Black Power. As her study’s title indicates, her aim is to document the hybridity of the British nation, and as she concludes it becomes clear that African American culture is a key element in expressing that diversity despite its foreign and ethnically particularized valences. Importantly, Zuberi also notes that the 1981 uprisings occurred in the con­­ text of an antiracist solidarity around a shared “blackness.” Along with those Afro-­Caribbean residents of  Brixton were the South Asian residents of  Bradford and other British communities—­“black” communities that were also “close to the edge.” Zuberi writes: That same summer in West Yorkshire, twelve Asians from the United Black Youth League, a splinter group from the Asian Youth Movement, were arrested and charged with conspiracy after police discovered two milk crates of petrol bombs on some wasteland in Bradford. The Bradford Twelve were acquitted the following year. The urban uprisings or “riots” up and down Britain in the summer of  1981, which seemed to occur once a week, radicalized many [African-­ and Asian-­descended] black British citizens. . . . Authorities were forced to recognize the demands of “minorities” in legislation and funding.25

Together, the 1981 uprisings forced the British government to recognize racial and ethnic minorities as such and establish a dialogue with Afro-­Caribbean and Asian Britons. Yet, as Zuberi explains, news coverage of  the Bradford Twelve trial also established South Asian youth as potentially dangerous “terrorist” elements.

M . I . A .’ s “ T e r r o r i s t C h i c ” In an April 10, 2005, review for the Irish weekly, the Sunday Business Post, music critic Jonathan O’Brien writes: “To call Maya ‘M.I.A.’ Arulpragasam this year’s Ms. Dynamite would be doing her a disservice, but not much of one. Photogenic, perky and highly politicised, she’s currently the darling of the critical classes in Britain, due in no small part to her ‘terrorist chic’ lyrics.”26 The phrase “terrorist chic” started popping up in articles about the Sri Lankan–­Londoner rapper almost immediately after she released her critically acclaimed and commercially successful debut album Arular in March 2005. In his reference to Ms. Dynamite, the Scottish Jamaican Londoner who won the United Kingdom’s award for best album in 2002, O’Brien is noting

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the flash-­in-­the-­pan success of another female “urban” artist. Ms. Dynamite’s 2006 follow-­up album was a critical and commercial failure. As such, the term “terrorist chic” here establishes the reviewer’s expectation that despite her personal appeal and political message M.I.A.’s music will soon be out of vogue. Over ten years on from the album’s release, we now know that Arular was just the beginning. In another early example of the term as applied to M.I.A., Samantha Edussuriya published an article in the Minneapolis-­based weekly City Pages on March 23, 2005. In the piece, “Dancing with Myself,” the Sri Lankan American Edussuriya writes: By now, if you read the music glossies, or tour the blogosphere, or flip through fashion magazines, you’ve probably run into Arulpragasam, a.k.a. M.I.A., the subject of a media onslaught that’s been going on since late last year despite the fact that her album is only now available in the US. M.I.A. grew up in Sri Lanka until age nine or so, and moved to London because of her father’s role in a militant ethnic group. These facts, or variations thereof, are inevitably mentioned in each interview, cover story, or buzz-­generating blurb about her, generally swathed in high-­pitched terrorist-­chic excitement.27

M.I.A. engages discourses of terrorism throughout the album Arular, which she explains is titled after her father’s code name in the Tamil Tigers—­the minority guerrilla group in conflict with the ethnic Sinhalese-­controlled Sri Lankan government. Throughout the album, M.I.A. uses the image of her “freedom fightin’ dad” as a way to critique the mainstream frame of the war on terror. In her lyrics, the rapper combines her personal experience of postcolonial life in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and West London with imaginings about her father and his experiences. Indeed, the name M.I.A. conflates both her name (Maya) and her “missing in action” father. The album is thus a sometimes pensive, sometimes angry, and often fictionalized sonic autobiography of  M.I.A.’s postcolonial journey and reality. From paranoid stories of state surveillance and racial/religious profiling to the much-­commented-­on couplet about the PLO that created a maelstrom of media controversy in its post-­2001 context, M.I.A. examines the gray area between terrorists and freedom fighters.28 In so doing, she problematizes the Manichaean binaries used by the governments of both the United States and United Kingdom to cast the “War on Terror” as a zero-­tolerance good versus evil transaction. In addition to her lyrical terrorist imagery, M.I.A.’s art school

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background has provided her with a set of visual strategies that carries her message from the lyrical and sonic to the visual. Her videos and album art feature the street art of stenciled spray-­paint graffiti that, along with her silk-­ screened clothing, is full of images of tanks, planes, and bombs juxtaposed with tigers and palm trees. Aurally, M.I.A.’s terrorist chic is articulated through sonic signifiers of the third world. Her tracks are bathed in the percussive bell sounds of Balinese gamelan, Caribbean steel drums, Afro-­Latin hand drums, and African mallet instruments like the mbila, all unified through the propulsive rhythms of hip hop and jungle/drum and bass beats. On one track, “Amazon,” M.I.A. employs reverb-­laden samples of  birdcalls and scuttling insects to establish the rainforest setting. But just as her visual strategies pit symbols of first world modernity against “primitive” third world images, her sonic templates are also suffused with symbols of technology from electro sounds emulating martial bugle calls and air-­raid sirens, automatic weapons and laser guns. The intrusion of these technological sounds into the forest primeval provides M.I.A. with the basic sonic strategy of her terrorist chic. It is a sonic depiction of the simultaneity of first and third worlds in postcoloniality—­what Homi Bhabha refers to as a “doubling” that “cuts across the boundaries of master and slave; it opens up a space in-­between . . . the Southern Hemisphere of slavery and the Northern Hemisphere of diaspora and migration, which then become uncannily doubled in the phantasmic scenario of the political unconscious.”29 Notably, M.I.A. performs her politicized project bordering on terrorist accommodation through lighthearted and highly danceable sounds, brightly colored fashion and stage sets, and a highly energetic—­even bubbly—­public persona. Edussuriya’s article is worth citing further here: What’s lost in the glib “Freedom Fighter” descriptions (one M.I.A. herself uses) is the messy reality: The Sri Lankan conflict is a Gordian knot of political manipulation, corruption, fomented ethnic tension, brutal militancy, and bald-­ faced, universal thuggery. . . . I watched M.I.A.’s star ascend with an uneasy mixture of anxiety and delight because there has never been a Sri Lankan on the US pop-­culture scene before. And because I couldn’t stop prancing around my bedroom the first (and fiftieth) time I listened to “Galang . . .” Her music, for all its nonsensicality, is so . . . smart. It’s fun. It’s interesting. She’s not concerned about proving her identity to one group, and instead searches for other dislocated people, displaced sounds. But, at least for me, what she’s trying to say (oppressed people

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turn to violence for a reason) gets undercut by the gimmicky enthusiasm invested in these symbols.

In short, this is M.I.A.’s “terrorist chic”—­a playful sense of trendy fashion that can serve to diminish her “smart” and well-­defined message, but nonetheless achieves its goals. O’Brien echoes Edussuriya’s ambivalent skepticism, continu­ ing: “Several of Arular’s backing tracks are brilliantly ingenious, particularly ‘Bingo,’ a maelstrom of steel drums and split second shards of feedback, and ‘Amazon,’ which is built around a shimmering swirl of Indonesian gamelan. Yet, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, it all feels a little contrived, like a marketing man’s idea of what a politicised girl-­rapper should sound and look like.” I would like to assert that this lost middle ground between “brilliant” and “gimmicky” stems, ironically, from our investments in commodified authenticity and speaks to the mediatized gender binaries that offer two positions for women in the West: virgin or whore, Barbie or bitch.30 Just as blackness is commonly reduced to “victim or problem,” so too is the middle space of humanity erased in such gender constructions.31 That both Edussuriya and O’Brien find in M.I.A.’s music a danger of “gimmicky” commercialism, despite their admitted attraction to its fresh sounds and provocative ideas, speaks volumes about the widespread fear of and fascination with popular music as a vessel for political ideologies. Consciously or not, the two articles work to uphold the well-­established binary of art versus commerce with regard to popular music as mass media. But the uncertainty that winds its way through both receptions also seems indicative of a struggle over the very logic of this binary. Throughout the two representations, the un­­ spoken specter of authenticity lingers in their considerations of M.I.A.’s artistic quality. Is she serious? Is she sincere? Is she just in it for the money? Perhaps unremarkably, neither reviewer makes a final appraisal based on musical or aesthetic considerations. Instead, both look to the issue of authenticity in terms of economic and sociopolitical factors. Where O’Brien ultimately resigns himself to his skepticism about the music industry as personified by “some marketing man,” Edussuriya puts her misgivings on the back burner by concluding with a validation of M.I.A.’s music based on her personal identification: “at the end of all of this, I find myself applauding her. I wonder how blurry the line between her sincerity and marketing skills will become; but right now, if I stand up and look around the pop landscape for anything that I don’t have to try to identify with, anything that resembles me, she’s all I’ve got. And I think, in some ways, I can follow her.” Edussuriya’s

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conclusion marks an intriguing continuity with bell hooks’s work on how postcolonial subjects see themselves. Writing from a black subject position, hooks writes, in the introduction to Black Looks: I ask that we consider the perspective from which we look, vigilantly asking ourselves who we identify with, whose image do we love. And if we, black people, have learned to cherish hateful images of  ourselves, then what process of looking allows us to counter the seduction of images that threatens to dehumanize and colonize. . . . It is only as we collectively change the way we look at ourselves and the world that we can change how we are seen. In this process, we seek to create a world where everyone can look at blackness, and black people, with new eyes.

It seems, then, that Edussuriya looks at M.I.A. as a chance to renew how people look at Sri Lankans and South Asians more generally. That the construction of  M.I.A.’s image is so deeply informed by deformed stereotypes, plays so strongly on cognitive dissonance, and resonates in the sonic register, however, suggests that we might need more than new eyes. We might need new ears. At the core of this ambivalence over M.I.A.’s terrorist chic is a rupture between politics and aesthetics. Indeed, this rupture is the very same discursive blockage that makes M.I.A.’s pop music seem anathema to postcolonial authenticity. Robert Christgau makes a related point about M.I.A. through his collapsing of the personal and the political that he hears in the music: “What makes this genuine world music, aside from the references, is the weaving of the political into the fabric of what are still, basically, dance tunes. Any division of life into personal and political halves is absent.”32 M.I.A.’s music generates little connection to any cultural expression of ethnicity as a simple, racialized category equating culture to people group. Indeed, her experience of postcoloniality lived through consumer society is surely little different than that of most children of more recent immigrant groups in London—­an experience dominated by mp3s, mobile phones, and graffiti. In Union Jack, Gilroy writes about “the critique of capitalism enunciated by and immanent within the expressive cultures of black Britain.” Yet, as he notes, these cultures—­especially music—­rely upon the international distribu­ tion network of commercial media: “The international export of New World black cultures first to whites and then to ‘third world’ markets in South America and Africa itself, has had effects unforeseen by those for whom selling it is nothing other than a means to greater profit. Those cultures, in the form of cul­­ tural commodities—­books and records—­have carried inside them oppositional

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ideas, ideologies, theologies and philosophies.”33 He continues: “By these means Rastafari culture has been carried to locations as diverse as Poland and Polynesia, and hip-­hop from Stockholm to Southall [West London].” In M.I.A.’s violently poppy postcolonial South Asian British hip hop, we can hear these global transactions and their transgressions. What’s more, we can hear the mind-­bending diversity at the shifting core of black music. arular:

Flippin’ The Script

M.I.A.’s 2005 debut album Arular is from the outset a concept album bent on correcting a perceived imbalance in the framing of  the “War on Terror.” By reinserting antiracist and postcolonial discursive elements into the language of terror she attempts to build an understanding about the inequities that lead to terrorism. Indeed, M.I.A.’s rhetorical strategy takes Melle Mel’s inner-­city African American message of “Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge” and maps it onto London’s postcolonial ends. In an interview with journalist Ashlene Nand, M.I.A. explained how her reportage is modeled on Public Enemy’s Chuck D, who famously called hip hop “Black America’s CNN”: “The only opinions that are not on my album are ideas that are already in the mainstream, shoved down our throats anyway. So I felt like I don’t need to discuss them. It’s nice to take music and make it useful again like Public Enemy used it.”34 The War on Terror, as M.I.A. sees it, is a continuation of Euro-­American imperial projects aimed at third world populations. Her view about the mainstream, as targeted and defined by governments and media companies, suggests that music can function as a coutervalence to such overdetermined discourses about terrorism. Returning to the idea of “subversive listening,” M.I.A.’s Arular represents a unique opportunity to hear the blaring absences that Radano refers to as “resonances” in Lying Up a Nation, for “as Ellison and other critics have shown us, the truth about black music is rarely rendered,” conforming instead to stereotypes of “prefabricated negroes . . . sketched on pieces of paper and superimposed on the negro community.”35 Such an examination should prove productive not only because M.I.A. complicates the blackness of   black music, but because the musical story that she tells on Arular is so fraught with displacements and absence. Indeed, the name M.I.A. represents an absence, both regarding her reterritorialization in the imperial center from the territorial margins and regarding her father who figures prominently in the story of absence. Indeed, it is the distance between M.I.A. and her father that characterizes another valence of absence that I refer to as the “authentically inauthentic.”

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M.I.A. centers her identity on the album in relation to her father’s authenticity. She is the daughter of a Tamil rebel and that is why she is in London instead of Sri Lanka. But paradoxically, it is because of her father’s commitment to his ethnic particularity that M.I.A. is adrift in the postcolonial experience of a manifestly hybrid subjectivity. M.I.A. explores this subjectivity at length on the album, employing every scrap of  knowledge, every sample of music, and every turn of phrase from every bit of  language that she can reach. The music and its discourse are thus a patchwork of lifted signifiers created by a young woman whose culture is the postcolonial. It is such postcolonial patchworks that Gilroy once referred to as the “kaleidoscopic formulations of cultural syncretism” in black diasporic aesthetics—­a shifting amalgam of sights, sounds, and ideas that, together, represent M.I.A.’s reality of inauthenticity.36 As I endeavored to explain in chapter 2, it is increasingly difficult to locate origins, the authentic, the vernacular in contemporary society. Gilroy ends chapter 3 of his Black Atlantic with this point, seeming to bemoan the loss of an authentic original. He writes: “Apart from anything else, the globalisation of vernacular forms means that our understanding of antiphony will have to change. The calls and responses no longer converge in the tidy patterns of secret, ethnically encoded dialogue. The original call is becoming harder to locate.”37 I will not endeavor to locate the point at which M.I.A.’s authenticity was obscured, but I do intend to aid in the recalibration of what constitutes our definition of the vernacular. Indeed, I would argue that rather than representing a novel shift in how culture functions, M.I.A.’s authentic inauthenticity reveals the structures of modern cultural networks that have until recently been hidden behind reticent and outdated concepts of ethnicity—­and their continuities with racial authenticities. In the “resonances” that follow we can read the logics of this network that relies on ethnic and national images, but is nonetheless unhinged from the (il)logics of ethnic/authentic particularisms.

The Comprador: “Banana Skit” and “Dash the Curry” M.I.A. sets her concept album into motion with an evocative utterance of the hopeful/threatening Muslim rally cry “Insha’Allah!” (God willing). The first seconds of this introductory track posit this religious cry front and center with heavy reverb and delay. As the words echo into the musical background they are resignified as words of  jihad, as jarring snare hits and handclaps establish the beat, emulating an exchange of gunfire. On closer inspection, the highly

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disjunct and chaotic beat is also revealed to contain the sounds of camera shutters rifling off photos. The scene quickly comes into sonic focus as a battlefield in the War on Terror—­replete with embedded journalists. Just as quickly, however, the supposed jihadi who began the track switches roles, becoming a refugee worker. Indeed, although M.I.A.’s father is implicated in terrorist networks, and although she is deeply engaged in discourses about Islamic terrorism, she is not Muslim. She switches roles easily, announcing to her students: “Refugee education number one. Here we go: ‘bah-­nah-­ nah.’ Say it again now: ‘bah-­nah-­nah.’ ” As the students—­who are overdubs of M.I.A.’s own voice—­work on the syllabic makeup of the word, the skit comes to resemble a scene from My Fair Lady more than a war zone. The elocution teacher enunciates the words in proper (white, upper-­class, feminine) English, emphasizing the long “ah” sound. Yet the clamor of guns and cameras con­ tinues, now joined by the more comic sounds of electronic bleeps, simulta­ neously heightening the disruptive tone of  the track and adding a layer of sarcasm to critique the inane setting of etiquette lessons in an unstable refugee camp. As the lesson continues, the camp’s instructor begins to sound more like a drill sergeant than a teacher. The track ends as abruptly as it began with a platitudinous shout of “Get yourself an education!” As we have seen, introductions do important framing work in hip hop. In this thirty-­second intro, entitled simply “Banana Skit,” M.I.A. evinces with no small amount of sarcasm her decidedly imperial view of the War on Terror. Through the contrasting images of a terrorist and an aid worker she works to establish the contradictions of postcolonial life. The image of the banana is especially indicative of her satire—­drawing on the colonial histories of “banana republics” wherein raw materials were extracted and shipped to foreign countries while increasingly dependent native populations were taught the languages and histories, as well as the political ideologies and class aspirations, of a paternalistic Western society. Above all, M.I.A. seems to be reifying a stereotype of genteel white liberal womanhood in the aid worker and her mocking platitude of “get yourself an education!” The absolute absurdity of the (nonetheless familiar) scene opens up a space to direct a destabilizing and intersectional critique of whiteness. As hooks suggests: “Those progressive white intellectuals who are particularly critical of ‘essentialist’ notions of identity when writing about mass culture, race, and gender have not focused their critiques of white identity and the way essentialism informs representations of whiteness.”38 By sounding the long “ah” of the proper English pronunciation of “bah-­nah-­nah” and digging up the imperial paternalism of My Fair Lady

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(“the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain”), M.I.A. draws out the race and class constructions of the “fairer sex” and underscores the absurdity of an En­ glishwoman teaching a South Asian about bananas. In the opening epigraph to his landmark study of colonial indoctrinations, Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon quotes the Martinican author and politician Aimé Césaire: “I am talking of millions of men who have been injected with fear, inferiority complexes, trepidation, servility, despair, abasement.”39 Fanon uses this statement as a point of departure for his examination of the psychological effects of paternalistic colonial education systems. The first chapter of Fanon’s study, “The Negro and Language,” interrogates the systems of imperial domination and colonization of the African mind. He writes: “A man who has a language consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by that language.”40 Yet as he shows, the result of such linguistic power, rather than civilizing and equalizing, serves to create an intermediary class of native who inhabit a first world mentality but cannot hope to escape the material effects of colonial systems of racism and exclusion. In postcolonial discourses, the Latin American term comprador (buyer) has come into wide currency to describe such native agents of the colonial powers.41 The Brazilian anticolonial poet and activist Oswald de Andrade indicted such intermediaries in his critical formulation of “the forest and the school.” In this model, de Andrade described such imperial exploitation as a brutal combination of the decimation of  Brazil’s natural resources (the forest) and the embedding of colonialist ideologies in Brazil’s people (the school).42 Similarly, M.I.A.’s use of the word “banana” as the focus of her elocution instructor’s lesson simultaneously implicates contemporary education systems of Western aid organizations with the contemporary extraction of material wealth and natural resources from colonized countries. That they are part of the same global system that reproduces inequality by colonizing the mind, occupying the land, and extracting the resources is all too clear to M.I.A. As we will see, through this “banana republic” imagery she also tacitly critiques the idea that such imperial outposts were “republics”—­that is, representative democracies. By setting this short introductory skit in a volatile refugee camp that is hardly a refuge, M.I.A. introduces her audience to the sonic and narrative strategies of her aesthetic political project. The interplay of mental images from rifles and terrorists, to bananas, photojournalists, and aid workers, brings to the fore issues of religion and class as well as race and gender. Although the track initially comes off as underdeveloped and chaotic, it in fact frames M.I.A.’s argument nicely. The contradictions, ambivalences, and ironies that are descriptive of the relationship between first and third worlds are indeed

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characteristic of a doubly bound, unfinished, and seemingly futile postcolonial condition. On the album’s second-­to-­last cut we are treated to another food-­themed interlude, entitled “Dash the Curry Skit,” which M.I.A. announces at the outset as “Refugee education number two.” Using the Caribbean patois that has become a common signifier of working class social status in London, M.I.A. rhymes: “Me come from New Delhi / Me nah got no worry / And if you fuck with me I gon’ dash my curry.” Despite her Sri Lankan origins, M.I.A. employs patois verbal constructions and uses a melodic construction based in Caribbean dancehall music. In this idiom the first syllables of each line are delivered in a speech song on a repeated note while the last is performed around a fourth higher. Such easy and dislocated overlays of Caribbean, American, and Brazilian musical idioms are common throughout the album. The track’s instrumental beat stands in stark contrast to that of the hard-­ hitting former skit. It is a jaunty affair over a playful electro bass line replete with a scooping talking drum and a tinkling high end of cowbells, shakers, and triangle. The track’s message seems to be a bookend of sorts—­the end of a voyage from a refugee camp to a first world metropolis where the subject has achieved a sense of confidence and self-­assuredness. Indeed, the track is a lesson in oppositional cool. After announcing the lesson plan, M.I.A. instructs her students: “dash your curry like you’re not in a hurry.” Along with the patois phraseology, M.I.A. is using a distinctly African American–­influenced sense of cool—­known in UK Caribbean communities as “slackness.” Of course, M.I.A. is here articulating this New World cool to a South Asian metropolis and its most representative cuisine. Just as the African American model of hip hop skits and the Afro-­Caribbean patois and musical idiom have been recontextualized in urban London, so too has the South Asian spice. They are all signifiers of difference bound together in histories of British colonialism. Together the skits thus establish M.I.A.’s postcolonial politics and its strategy of intercultural references, be they appropriations or synchronisms.

G a n g s ta s , T e r r o r i s t s , a n d t h e C o n c r e t e Jungle: “Pull Up the People” The first full-­length cut of the album, “Pull Up the People,” continues where the “Banana Skit” leaves off. The track begins with a primal scream that slides up an octave on “Uuuh”—­a gesture approximating the upward sweep of a Tarzan jungle call. Just after the gesture reaches its apex, an electro beat of  buzzing straight eighth notes enters with snare hits on the offbeat of beats 2 and 3. The

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E x a m p l e 5 . 1 Classic Tarzan theme and abstracted version in “Pull Up the People.”

beat’s four-­bar loop structure becomes evident as a bleep enters on the downbeat of the third measure and ends on the downbeat of the fourth. Concluding the loop, a brief synthesizer trill fades in for the duration of the fourth measure. The minor third trill is reminiscent of the conclusion of the classic Tarzan call, especially as used in the low-­fidelity soundtrack of the 1982 Atari adventure game Pitfall. Notably, M.I.A.’s retro and low-­fidelity video-­game aesthetic is the result of a do-­it-­yourself (DIY) mode of musical production. As Sasha Frere-­Jones describes in his New Yorker piece on the M.I.A. phenomenon: “Arulpragasam began tinkering with an instrument called the Roland MC-­505 Groovebox, an all-­in-­one drum-­machine-­and-­keyboard unit that lets a musician create rough, electronic songs quickly. It suited her pragmatic nature.”43 While the opening motive’s synthesized tremolo is a small and barely discernable part of the sonic texture at this point, the overall retro video game aesthetic directly suggests the classic jungle adventure game (à la the film Indiana Jones). The musical gesture is thus symbolic of first world jaunts into third world adventure. As is the case with most jungle-­themed entertainments, in “Pitfall” the escapade is couched in the pseudo-­scientific terms of “expedition” and “excavation” where the first world anthropologist-­cum-­hero goes on a quest in search of enchanted artifacts that are closely guarded by snakes, scorpions, alligators . . . and the requisite spear-­wielding natives. As in “Banana Skit,” M.I.A. is again examining the relations of “us” and “them” of Western civilization. Where she inhabits the civilizing elocution instructor in the opening skit, here M.I.A. steps into the role of the primitive native. Despite the seemingly contrary roles (civilizing versus uncivilized), her primal scream here is feminized in much the same manner as it is in her role as teacher, betraying the gendered valences of postcoloniality. As Maria Torgovnick argues in her Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives, Euro-­American discourses of primitivism were invented as tools for the subjugation of women as much as, if not more than, the subjugation of people of color. In chapter 2, “Taking Tarzan Seriously,” Torgovnick looks at

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the iconic jungle series in particular, noting that “although they appear to occupy the top of the social hierarchy along with Euro-­American males, within the structure of the Tarzan series women really parallel the Africans and the African landscape.”44 As we will see, M.I.A.’s commentary on the role of the explicitly feminized native here is part of a broader argument that implicates the subjugation of women on both sides of the colonial Enlightenment us/ them binary. The next loop on “Pull Up the People” features M.I.A. spelling her name in digitally clipped samples, pitting the same snare hits and synthesized blips against timbale hits on the downbeat and offbeat of 3. The use of timbales on this first full track is a musical marker that builds relevance to M.I.A.’s aesthetic as the album’s ensuing tracks increasingly sample instruments and sounds of black Atlantic musics of Cuban, Jamaican, Trinidadian, and Brazilian origin. Over this loop M.I.A. starts a repeated chant of her chorus “Pull up the people / Pull up the poor,” which in its octave jumping and portamenti gestures recalls the Tarzan call of the opening. Despite the prior track’s references to foreign aid workers and calls to get an education, however, the people doing the “pulling up” in this narrative are soon revealed to be the “freedom fighters” themselves. M.I.A. thus recasts the “problem” as the solution. Indeed, toward the end of the track M.I.A. offers the lines: “I’m a fighter, a nice, nice fighter / I’m a soldier on that road.” In “Pull Up the People,” M.I.A. thus examines armed insurrection as an alternative to the first world’s answers to third world uplift, using metaphors of violence and images of terrorism. Returning to the original loop in the next section of the chorus, M.I.A. delivers an “ego trip” about her lyrical and musical prowess in typically self-­ confident hip hop fashion. In her trademark sing-­song patois she raps: “Say ‘Dang’ / ‘That’s that M.I.A. thang’ / I got the bombs to make you blow / I got the beats to make you bang.” Idiomatically, the idea of dropping verbal “bombs” and beats that “bang” is a particularly ubiquitous convention in rap music—­perhaps the hip hop metaphor par excellence. The practice of employing verbal and musical weapon imagery stretches back to the first decade of hip hop, reaching maturity in the rhymes of Eric B and Rakim’s “Lyrics of Fury” (1988) and in the concepts of Public Enemy and their groundbreaking production team, the “Bomb Squad.” While these images of violence and terror are prominent building blocks of hip hop metaphor, M.I.A. turns the metaphorical into the literal, connecting histories of racist imperialism to the contemporary military incursions of the United States and United Kingdom’s War on Terror. Indeed, she raps about a third world domination in which bombs are considered in a more concrete way:

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as last-­ditch answers to global structural inequality. In the first verse of  “Pull Up the People” M.I.A. raps over a pared-­down snare and bass beat: “Yeah, we got god and we got you / Every day thinking ’bout how we get through / Everything I own is on I.O.U. / But I’m here to bringing y’all somethin’ new / You no like the people, they no like you / Then they go and set it off with a big boom / Every gun in a battle is a son and daughter too / So why you wanna talk about who done who?” In the first two couplets M.I.A. comments on the intersection of religion and capital that characterizes critiques of the War on Terror as a crusade for oil. The mention of IOUs serves as shorthand for the cycles of third world debt at both individual and national levels. Indeed, the hand-­to-­mouth imagery of the second line recalls Melle Mel’s daily worries about “going under” and Reagan-­era “double digit inflation.” The third couplet establishes the radically oppositional tone of the track, positing the third world as “the people” and first world imperialists as “you.” The result of such mutual animosity, claims M.I.A., is violence, as an insurgent bomb is detonated. In the final couplet M.I.A. argues for the universal value of human life, ironically by equating the deaths of terrorists with the deaths of first world soldiers. In M.I.A.’s critique of Western economic and military domination she remarks that she has “got the bombs”—­a fact that inverts the power relationship and rearticulates agency. M.I.A.’s terrorist chic draws on a legacy of violently oppositional “gangsta” language that is rooted in hip hop’s metaphoric wellspring but also carries the material realities of the armed rebellion of a 1960s and 1970s black America under siege. As the phrase “terrorist chic” implies, there is a sense that her images are part of an aesthetic—­and in that sense this is a style indeed—­but this aesthetic is by no means a novel or short-­lived trend. It is instead the most recent iteration of an aesthetic of violence rooted in a shared history of racialized imperial domination. It is in this context of hip hop opposition that M.I.A.’s final verse of “Pull Up the People” begins: “I’m a fighter / Fighter, God / I’m a soldier on that road.” Here M.I.A.’s imagery of a holy warrior on the “Arab street” meets the primary locus and psychic center of hip hop meaning making—­the inner-­city streets of  US cities. Where the previous “Banana Skit” looked into a makeshift classroom to analyze the linguistic educational strategies to be encountered there, M.I.A.’s focus here is out on the ground, among the people. As Cheryl Keyes describes in her Rap Music and Street Consciousness, the streets are hip hop’s classrooms. The early hip hop crews, which she argues were based on the organizational principles of street gangs, provided sources of peer learning based in material needs rather than abstract principles imposed from outside. In M.I.A.’s construction of the third world street, we see a grassroots

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movement that, whether metaphorically or literally militaristic, is premised on a parallel model of direct action, involvement, and uplift. The final verse encapsulates this self-­reliant and death-­defying stance as M.I.A. raps: “Bring me the reaper / Bring me the lawyer / I’m a fighter / I’ll take them on.” As with Melle Mel’s concrete jungle, M.I.A. sees a population in trouble that needs pulling up. In a sense, however, the difference between Mel’s people and M.I.A.’s is that the third world communities she is describing have already fallen off “the edge” and are in need of pulling up. Hijacking a plane is not just a possibility for elements in this community, but a reality, bombing not just a metaphor, but a tactic. After a recapitulation of the introductory Tarzan/Pitfall loop, M.I.A. adds a foreboding coda. As the final tremolo reverberates the initial G of the G/B-­flat tremolo dyad is reinforced with a diffuse bass note an octave below and held for eight beats. A tinny and distorted low-­fi sample of the “Pull up the people / Pull up the poor” theme fades in here as the G moves another minor third down to E. The downward movement in minor thirds from B flat to G to E outlines a diminished triad that provides the moody and suspenseful conclusion in much the same manner as a B horror film might use such a device. The effect is sinister and represents the ugly truth that the people who are in dire need of material support will often turn first to the “freedom fighters” rather than NGOs of “Banana Skit.”

“You shoulda been good to me”: “Fire, Fire” and “Freedom Skit” The fourth cut from Arular, entitled “Fire, Fire,” is the first on the album to comment on postcolonial discourses of migration. It is also the first to pay overt homage to M.I.A.’s hip hop predecessors and establish her lineage in the genre. In connecting the emigrant and musical elements of her experience on the track, “Fire, Fire” is something of an autobiographical piece. The piece begins with a fictionalized tableau of  her upbringing in Sri Lanka as the daughter of a Tamil Tiger soldier: “Growin’ up, brewin’ up / Guerrilla getting’ trained up / Look out, look out / From over the rooftop / Competition coming up now / Load up, aim, fire, fire, pop!” The quasi-­autobiographical setup for the track is the first of  M.I.A.’s many imaginings about her father’s experience as a Tamil freedom guerrilla on the album. As with the following “Freedom Skit,” the rapper uses the image and memory of   her “freedom fightin’ dad” to insinuate herself into his struggle. Here she uses a first-­person recollection that could refer to her own radicalizing youth in Sri Lanka, but later reveals itself to be a

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E x a m p l e 5 . 2 Variation of  “The Macarena” figure on “Fire, Fire.”

fictionalization of  her own experience melded with a longing for the dangerous adventure of her father’s “terrorist” life. The initial loop on “Fire, Fire” features a spare, but aggressive combination of sharp snare hits on the offbeat of 2 and the beat of 4, paired with heavy bass drum hits on beats 4 and 1 of alternating measures. The bass drum sound on the track approximates the sound of both a samba school corps of Brazilian surdo drummers and boots on the ground—­effectively resulting in the equivalent sonic images of multitudes of marchers. Rounding out the beat, a cowbell doubles the snare pattern while brush-­snare eighth notes provide a constantly shifting subdivision of the beat. As the first verse enters, the bell and brushes disappear and the loop’s first melodic device enters—­a propulsive pattern resembling the rhythmic stress and step-­wise motion of “The Macarena.” While the musical allusion to the sports arena hit “The Macarena” may seem an odd fit for M.I.A.’s terrorist chic, such gestures are indicative of M.I.A.’s penchant for using Latin American musical devices like the album’s previous timbale and surdo samples. Indeed, M.I.A. makes explicit her interest in the musical device on the track “Bamboo Banga” from her 2007 follow-­ up album Kala, where she rhymes: “and the drummers do the shit like ‘The Macarena.’ ” Furthermore, “The Macarena” has a connection to one of   M.I.A.’s favorite musical scenes and sources of sonic ideas; Miami, where the tune was popularized in an English version by the city’s Bayside Boys. As this new loop enters, M.I.A. begins the first verse, describing her emigration from Sri Lanka as a cinematic escape with an action adventure narrative: “Row da boat straight to da ocean / Give ’im a run, a run at his own game / Signal the plane an’ I landed on the runway / A survivor, independent foreigner.” As the opening line suggests, M.I.A.’s nod to “The Macarena” loop here also supports a parallel to Miami as a destination for Cuban refugees fleeing the island. Here M.I.A. again flips the script, giving “[(h]im” “a run at his own game”—­presumably referring to a better-­equipped border-­patrol agent. Most telling in M.I.A.’s narrative of emigrant power inversion, however, is her outmaneuvering of the agent and landing in the former colonial motherland as

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“a survivor” and “an independent foreigner.” Throughout the album M.I.A. is careful to turn the postcolonial subject position into an asset rather than a hindrance. In the remainder of the track, M.I.A. articulates the activity of migration and asylum to the motion of dance, segueing directly into a verse on artistic movement. The verse traces her exposure to both American and Jamaican dance steps, as well as Jamaican “chat” (patois) and hip hop fashion in her new home—­London’s ethnically diverse council flats. She raps: “First your beats had me running to the running man / Then your chat had me wanna do the Bogle Man / Click suits and booted in the Timberland / Freakin’ out to Missy on a Timbaland [beat].” While she does not illuminate who the “you” is in the lines, we might reasonably assume she is referring to the black style communities in London’s ends and by extension in the Caribbean and United States. Her mention of “the running man” is a reference to an early hip hop dance step and the “bogle man” to a Jamaican step popularized by dancehall artist Bogle. The other references are to hip hop fashion and footwear, culminating in an homage to the rapper Missy Elliot and her producer Timbaland, who takes his name from the hip hop boot of choice. The stanza is thus a chronology of her life with hip hop from the 1980s dances to the continuing collaborations between Elliot and Timbaland. The mention of the hip hop boots both ties M.I.A.’s earlier war imagery with hip hop and suggests a parallel between the motion of immigration and that of dance. Just as she finds asylum as an “independent foreigner” in London, she finds an identity in the hip hop style communities of the city’s other immigrants. As a hip hop artist, argues M.I.A., she can employ her troubled history as a tactical advantage to achieve her goals. In doing so, she implicates mainstream society in much the way that Melle Mel did in “The Message,” but argues that “close to the edge” populations that endure disrespect and mistreatment also become hardened and strong. In the section that follows, M.I.A. thus delivers a half-­rapped, half-­sung taunt while we hear chants of “fire, fire” in the background texture: “You shoulda been good to me / Then I wouldn’t get so rowdy rowdy / You shoulda kept ya eye on me / Then I wouldn’t get so baddy baddy.” Where the “you” in the previous stanza refers to her peers in the West London housing projects, it here refers to the British government and mainstream society at large. As is the case with much minority hip hop across Europe, M.I.A. is here arguing that colonial debts are being repaid in Europe’s inner cities. The chants of “fire, fire” thus symbolize how communities in both colonial and inner-­city contexts are under fire. As the track makes clear, her immigrant experience was deeply informed by African American

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and Afro-­Caribbean music, style, and politics and offered to her a sense of community and a channel of oppositional and creative energies. What’s more, she seems to have found in hip hop an art form that has both the ear and the pocketbook of the establishment—­and, ironically, the politics to potentially undo it. As we will see, this is another valence of “terrorist chic” as “authen­ tically inauthentic” commercialized resistance music. The final verse of the track notes her security in these style communities as well as her own rise in the hip hop pantheon, when she raps: “Fast forward on to the ’04 / Got my own flow, get you to the dance floor / Little mamma doin’ the booty rolls / Crump clowns got me rootin’ for the linos.” The final line of the track confirms her continued engagement with the ever-­changing world of hip hop music and dance as she nods to the newest “battle” dance craze in 2004 on the US West Coast—­clowning and krumping. By juxtaposing the warfare tableau at the beginning of the track with this final “battle” dance scene, M.I.A. is implicitly making the case that her background in war-torn communities has prepared her for the active competition of hip hop business and culture. As the track concludes, M.I.A. recalls the chorus of “guerrilla gettin’ trained up” and “competition comin’ up now.” With the juxtaposition of guerrilla and rapper in the song’s two sections, M.I.A. thus makes the case that she has parlayed her guerrilla training and anticolonial aims into a musical career that values her soldier’s skill set and oppositional mentality. The following cut on the UK release of Arular, “Freedom Skit,” constitutes the most direct reference to her father’s involvement in guerrilla warfare. In so doing, it fills in some details of M.I.A.’s fictionalized autobiography in “Fire, Fire” and establishes the logic of   her “M.I.A.” stage name. Beginning with the laser-­gun sounds of video-­game warfare, the synthesized DIY beat is suffused with blips, beeps, and a call of “Fire! Don’t move! Drop the gun!” that is also likely culled from video-­game play audio. Again, the seemingly contradictory signifiers of popular cultural artifacts and contemporary warfare are fashioned into M.I.A.’s well-­defined aesthetic. The label “terrorist chic” that is commonly used as a dismissive gesture toward M.I.A. seems nonetheless appropriate. Her logic of pitting abstracted game imagery against highly personalized stories of struggle points to her impression that the discourses of terror and freedom are, in fact, a game with uncertain rules subject to one’s political position and the changing fashion of public perception and extralegal government interdictions. Indeed, the fact that the track does not appear on the US release of the album indicates the degree of power the record company has over shaping M.I.A.’s image. There is no published statement that accounts for the

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disparity of US and UK releases, but we might assume that the images of terrorism on this track in particular were deemed too strong for US audiences. Over the playful video-­game beat on “Freedom Skit,” M.I.A. rhymes in an uncharacteristically fragile and melancholy voice. She delivers lilting pa­ tois rhymes in the dancehall idiom: “Freedom fightin’ dad / Bombed his pad / Called him a terror / Put him on wanted ads.” With the line “Called him a terror” M.I.A. notes the worldwide linguistic contests to frame the issue of terrorism—­from the discursive battles regarding the Chechnyan rebels in the breakaway Russian province to the self-­determination movement among the Uyghur people of western China and Catalan independence movement. Although the Sri Lankan conflict is essentially an internal ethnic civil war, she thus maps the Tamil insurrection onto larger conflicts between minority insurrections and world powers that have found unlikely common cause in a shared struggle against “terror.” Her comment on “wanted ads” also speaks to the gap in PR power between government agencies and rebel movements. However, M.I.A.’s understanding of this type of power is also reflected in her belief in the power of the guerrilla graffiti images that dominate her visual aesthetic. Although governments can outspend rebel movements, the grassroots spread of graffiti and media coverage of the third world “street” can prove countervailing forces. Her form of terrorist-­chic street art thus abstracts icons drawn from media images of third world protests—­placards with the visages of rebel leaders, burning flags, and young men with rifles or stones.

Black Atlantic ’Hoods and Hoodies: “Bucky Done Gun” and “Galang” On “Bucky Done Gun,” the third cut from Arular, M.I.A. further develops her battle metaphors. One of three tracks from the album with an accompanying video, “Bucky Done Gun” deploys lyrical imagery of armed siege and sumo wrestling to fashion a sadomasochistic sexual scene. The video for the track directed by Anthony Mandler begins with a close-­up of M.I.A. in a loose-­fitting hooded sweatshirt. After a flurry of machine-­gun snare hits, she approaches a microphone hanging from the rafters and announces: London: Quiet’n down I need to make a sound New York: Quiet’n down I need to make a sound Kingston: Quiet’n down I need to make a sound Brazil: Quiet’n down I need to make a sound.

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As she begins her request an electronic bass sine tone does a two-­octave downward portamento, emulating a bomb dropping. The pitch maintains a sinister rumble before rising over the second line and repeats this fall and rise over the course of the next two lines. Her call from London to the New World locations articulates a politics of diaspora that activates a literal engagement with Gilroy’s black Atlantic—­the “roots and routes” of cultural exchange between New World and Old. Here, M.I.A. is imploring her fellow makers of “sound” to yield her the floor, if just for a few minutes. The opening image of the music video for the track translates this desire to be heard into an international and technologically mediated call. After M.I.A. uses the microphone to request the floor, the video shifts to pole-­mounted bullhorns in a third world encampment and the track begins in earnest. Her “need to make a sound” is a poignant reminder of Gayatri Spivak’s foundational question “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” invoking the need for sonic space.45 As the postcolonial theorist argues with her rhetorical gesture, Western political, economic, and cultural processes of “othering” have produced a reified image of the third world as a mass of voiceless individuals who need to be spoken for. Through its articulation of representation to agency, the gesture also raises the performative function of speech. Spivak’s question asks of representation, but what of performance? With the video’s opening imagery of a hooded rapper stepping to a hanging microphone, M.I.A. summons the spectacle of a boxer taking the reins from the ring announcer. As such, the visual image supports the larger themes of conflict within the track and foreshadows the ring of combat that will arise in her metaphoric reference to sumo wrestling. However, most notable in this image is its homage to rapper LL Cool J and his iconic 1990 “comeback” track, “Momma Said Knock You Out.” Indeed, the opening image of the video clip for “Bucky Done Gun” is a direct emulation of the LL video, in which the rapper, clad in hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants performs his raging hip hop diatribe into a ring announcer’s hanging mic. M.I.A.’s tribute to the visual grammar of  LL’s video is especially apparent in the manner in which the sweat­ shirt’s hood drapes over the rapper’s forehead, obscuring the eyes. The “hoodie” is a well-­worn emblem of hip hop fashion globally, but in the case of M.I.A.’s London, it also signifies a tactical evasion of the CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras that pervade the city’s public spaces. As such, over the course of the last ten years the apparel has become the subject of much legal and media debate regarding the criminal actions of UK youth who wear hoodies to circumvent such surveillance. In one exemplary case, an Anti-­Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) issued by a Portsmouth judge included

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a provision that banned a student from ever wearing hoodies and baseball caps.46 As Dan Hancox writes in an article on the 2005 ban of such sweatshirts from “shopping centres, schools and colleges” in the United Kingdom: “It is probably the most maligned item of clothing in decades . . . the sartorial scourge of decent, hard-­working, law-­abiding Britain.”47 In an article from May of 2005 entitled “In the Hood,” Gareth McLean of London’s Guardian notes the subtext of race and class that informs these debates, quoting Angela McRobbie’s comments on the hoodie: The point of origin is obviously black American hip-­hop culture, now thoroughly mainstream and a key part of the global economy of music through Eminem and others. Leisure-­and sportswear adopted for everyday wear suggests a distance from the world of office (suit) or school (uniform). Rap culture celebrates defiance, as it narrates the experience of social exclusion.48

In a well-­documented example of the connection between the hoodie debates and the hip hop community, the widely popular London MC Lady Sovereign, who was signed to the American rap mogul Jay-­Z’s Rocafella Records label, formed a “Save the Hoodie” campaign.49 The campaign proved little more than a public relations stunt to help sales of the white female rapper’s 2006 track “Hoodie”; however, concerns about surveillance are real in London, especially in minority communities. To be sure, the hood does serve as a means to obfuscate one’s identity, as it no doubt has for centuries. But in the current context surrounding hip hop identity in London, the criminalized fashion of   hoodies offers a chance to ostentatiously eschew both the visual signifiers of mainstream society and its hypercivilized fashions (such as the suit and uniform, as McRobbie notes). Furthermore, the hoodie does give criminals as well as would-­be poseurs a sort of tactical armor against police and government surveillance. In a country highly sensitive to terrorist activity since the attacks of September 11, the subsequent invasion of Iraq, and the July 7, 2005, London Transit bombings, it is no surprise that the government became highly invested in surveillance. But through this confluence of increased surveillance and heightened tensions about terrorism, this recently criminalized hip hop fashion has become conflated with terrorism, resulting in a very real perception of the hoodie as “terrorist chic.” Indeed, M.I.A. seems to be commenting on this connection in the 2005 video. Both her visual lexicon and her lyrics on “Bucky Done Gun” include images of desolate detention camps surrounded by chainlink fences, stenciled

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icons of warfare, bedraggled young boys and girls, and young men lobbing improvised explosive devices—­Molotov cocktails. In the track’s chorus M.I.A. raps the title lyrics as if to an investigating soldier, saying the suspect they are looking for has already left. The damage is already done and the perpetrator has already receded back into the community of anonymous bystanders. M.I.A. raps: “What you want? / Bucky done gun [gone] / What you want? / The fire done burn.” Notably, while visually defined as somewhere in the developing world, the location for the video is left up to the viewer to discern. Although the images could characterize the scene as a Palestinian settlement, a Brazilian favela, or a South Asian slum, M.I.A. seems careful to leave this in the air. In this context of debates about surveillance, hoodies, and terror the video for “Bucky Done Gun” is thus something of a time capsule of  Londoners’ fears for the summer of  2005—­a depiction of  faceless enemies from nameless places. M.I.A.’s introductory shout-­out to London, New York, Kingston, and Brazil concludes with a transitional gesture of a legion of  bass drums, which, as we have seen, approximate the sound of marching soldier boots in M.I.A.’s sonic template. Confirming this desired reading, the track continues with another announcement, here not by microphone and bullhorn, but by martial trumpets. The staccato horn line prepares the way for the sonic soldiers, which now arrive in the sung lyrics: “They’re coming frough da window / They’re coming frough da door / They’re bustin’ down dat big wall / And soundin’ da horn.” The lines delivered in a mix of M.I.A.’s working-­class Cockney pronunciation and Jamaican patois are again sung in a formal idiom from the genre of  Jamaican dancehall that moves from a rapid eighth-­note melody on a single pitch to a phrase-­ending syllable a major third higher. Her call to Kingston at the outset of the track is clarified here as we hear a musical idiom born in Jamaica and bearing a historically important relation to the rap music that developed in the black and Latino communities of New York’s South Bronx. As the track continues, M.I.A.’s idiomatic palette ventures farther south, incorporating elements from the “baile funk” (carioca funk) track “Injeção” (injection) by the Rio de Janeiro artist Deize Tigrona. Notably, the track’s beat is not a direct sample of  Tigrona’s original but instead employs the rhythmic and formal structures of the piece, and in so doing forms a sort of cover of her baile funk original. Among these borrowed structures is a variation of the classic clave rhythm on (sampled) bongos, accompanied again by samba school surdo drums and zapping electro eighth notes, that together supply the propulsive beat to the track’s four-­bar loop. As Christopher Washburne describes in his “Clave: The African Roots of Salsa,” the family of modern clave rhythms likely emerged out of  West African

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E x a m p l e 5 . 3 Variation of classic son clave rhythm on “Bucky Done Gun.”

bell patterns transmitted to Cuba and other Caribbean countries with the advent of the global slave trade. Although the clave rhythm in the Deize Tigrona original seems to be on congas rather than bongos and is more flexibly improvisational in character, the approximation or “allosonic sample” by M.I.A. and her coproducers on the track captures the rhythmic feel and production values of   baile funk.50 In drawing on such rhythmic elements of baile funk that are themselves the result of Afro-­Latin and Caribbean cultural syncretisms, “Bucky Done Gun” is the result of a dense layering of   black Atlantic idioms. Further tracing the idiomatic makeup of the track, baile funk has long been associated with so-­called Miami Bass—­a musical form pioneered by producer James McCauley and popularized by the rap crew 2 Live Crew in the 1980s. The US form influenced baile funk most prominently in its use of fast-­tempo drum machine beats and sexually explicit lyrics. Indeed, “Injeção” works with Roland TR-­808 drum machine beats and plays on the double entendre of “injection” in a doctor’s office. Similarly, the lyrical imagery of M.I.A.’s track is built around sexualized metaphors of battle and submission. She raps: I’m hot now you’ll see / I’ll fight you just to get peace Heavy weight wrestler / Fight me in your comforter Let you be superior / I’m filthy with the fury ya . . . I’ll hard drive your bit / I’m battered by your sumo grip Lucky I like feeling shit / My stamina can take it Gymnastics super fit / Muscle in the gun clip Bite, teeth, nosebleed / Tied up in a scarf piece

Like the famously “dirty” and often misogynistic lyrics of  Miami’s 2 Live  Crew, M.I.A. engages in both sexual metaphor (“I’ll hard drive your bit”) and explicitly sexual references (“fight me in your comforter”). Unlike the pure sexual shock value of 2 Live Crew and much baile funk, however, her violations of mainstream values always have an overtly political cast. On a later cut entitled

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“10 Dollar,” M.I.A. pays homage to 2 Live Crew’s most (in)famous track “Me So Horny” in a clever, constructive, and politically puissant fashion. Perhaps the most notable element from the baile funk original “Injeção” is a breakdown comprised of a looped and sped-­up snippet of the trumpet fanfare opening from Bill Conti’s theme to the boxing film Rocky. Indeed, this is the martial trumpet line from the transition—­a musical sample that appears in “Injeção” in a recognizable form, but which is truncated and seems to be reperformed on synthesizer in “Bucky Done Gun.” Nonetheless, the short allusion forms the most recognizable feature of the piece and provides the logic linking the video for “Bucky Done Gun” and “Momma Said Knock You Out.” In a manner typical of   M.I.A.’s diverse musical syntax, the pathway toward this track takes a Miami bass–­influenced Brazilian sample of the fictional boxer’s theme song tied to an Afro-­Caribbean polyrhythm and vocal idiom and reworks the materials for performance by a South Asian Londoner with political aims born of that context. The track is a study in global musical sampling and syncretism, but works primarily through black Atlantic signifiers and styles tied to popular American media products. Indeed, M.I.A.’s musical language seems to be grounded in her experience of the Afro-­Caribbean music of   black Britons in London, but notably crosses back over the Atlantic in search of new musical forms in the larger black Atlantic tradition. The twelfth cut, “Galang,” is the number that established M.I.A. as a phenomenon in London’s club scene. Released in 2004, well in advance of the full album, “Galang” is a story of drug-­laced urban blight and paranoia set to a driving grime beat. The term “galang” is a Jamaican patois term for “go along” or “behave”—­a chillingly playful submission to the hegemony of UK surveillance culture critiqued on the track and an entreaty to “relax” and just “blaze” a joint. The introductory verse includes a reflexive explanation of her engagement with urban hip hop slang and the lingo of  Jamaican patois spoken in the housing projects of  London’s ends. M.I.A. describes her accultur­ ation into the black British culture of the city’s peripheries: “London calling / Speak the slang now / Boys say wha g’wan? / Girls say wha, wha?” Her use of the phrase “London calling” is also indicative of a perceived sea change. The phrase, borrowed from The Clash’s landmark 1979 punk-­rock anthem, refigures the source of popular music oppositionality as coming from the city’s black communities rather than working-­class white ones. Just as The Clash rebel against the “phoney Beatlemania” of the prior generation, M.I.A. takes the reins from the The Clash’s style of blending appropriated reggae beats with punk-­rock vocal styles. Furthermore, M.I.A. reasserts the colonial connotations of the phrase “London calling”—­the BBC World Service’s station ID. As

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M.I.A. notes, the call is no longer to the colonies but to the formerly colonized people living in the peripheries of London itself. “Galang” is the second track from Arular with an accompanying video. As the first video released, it established the visual grammar of M.I.A.’s postcolonial icon stencils. The simple but aesthetically unified video features the rapper in front of a backdrop of artworks of   her own production. The graffiti stencils of tanks and airplanes, tigers and palm trees, and hooded bike riders fleeing from police cars are brought to life through simple animations as M.I.A. dances in the foreground. The retro-­styled video takes aesthetic cues from an early hip hop video by another female artist, Neneh Cherry. The video for Cherry’s 1989 “Buffalo Stance” features the same format and aesthetic of the rapper dancing in the foreground while brightly colored images float by in the background. Furthermore, at one point Cherry’s face is replicated, fill­ ing the screen with her image. The playful and brightly colored video was also inspired by the Afrocentric movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s per­ sonified by New York’s Native Tongues movement. The loose collective of groups such as A Tribe Called Quest, The Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, and Queen Latifah produced similarly brightly colored videos featuring the African red, black, and green tricolor in particular. In turn, M.I.A.’s aesthetic is inspired by these early hip hop styles and conventions and features the neon color palette typical of 1980s fashion. In one of the more poignant sequences from the video, stenciled women in headscarves point to the sky as F-­15 fighters fly overhead. The military planes drop bombs, which turn into mushroom clouds and then into clenched fists. The visual narrative is somewhat detached from the lyrical narrative, but nonetheless speaks to M.I.A.’s larger project. The message argues that the continued bombing of the third world by foreign governments produces solidarity among the victims of such attacks. Furthermore, the iconic symbol of a clenched fist emerging from mushroom clouds articulates an affinity between victims of imperialist aggression and the black power movement. Later in the video a supposed terrorist lobs a Molotov cocktail producing the same effect; a fist rises from the smoke. The symbolic argument follows: both aggression against and aggression on behalf of dominated peoples will produce solidarity. At many points, the track’s aggressive beat is also supported in the video im­ agery. The main loop of “Galang” concludes with three syncopated bass hits that approximate the sound of explosions. On the first iteration of this loop in the video, the bass hits are matched with a tank producing three fiery blasts. Similarly, the video’s conclusion features a proliferation of images of M.I.A. herself. In doing so, it both references the 1989 Cherry video and anticipates

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the imagery of the young M.I.A.s in the “Sunshowers” video that we will examine shortly. But here, the visual images support the sonic material wherein M.I.A.’s voice proliferates into a chorus of vocables on “ya-­ya-­hoy, oh-­yo-­ay-­o-­ o-­o, ya-­ya-­yay”—­a device common in hip hop shows that is used to encourage the club audience to sing along. After a repeat of the “London calling” stanza, the first verse continues: “Slam! Galang galang galang / Shotgun! Get down! / Get down, get down, get down / Too late, you down.” The lyrics are representative of   M.I.A.’s penchant for violent imagery, but once again have a second meaning in a club setting—­ to “get down” on the dance floor. The track is, in fact, a club anthem that relies more on the propulsive sounds of the words than on their supposed meanings. Thus, the first verse ends with a degradation of the words “get down” into: “ge-­dang-­a-­dang-­a-­da” anticipating the sound of the chorus: “blaze a blaze: galang-­a-­lang-­a-­lang-­lang / purple haze: galang-­a-­lang-­a-­lang-­lang.” Although the club hit centers recreational marijuana use, it also weaves the theme of illicit drugs into a larger commentary about urban disaffection with the priorities of police and mainstream society. In the first section of the track’s two-­part verse, M.I.A. raps about a young Londoner fleeing the police: “Who the hell is huntin’ you? / In the BMW / How the hell they find you? / 1-­4-­7’d you / Feds gonna get you / Pull the strings on the hood / One paranoid yout’ / Blazing through the ’hood.” The image of the “hood” is again important, as a signifier of the peripheral, working-­class localities that M.I.A. speaks about as well as the fashion of choice for young minorities seeking anonymity from the CCTV cameras that pervade London’s private and public spaces. Indeed, pulling the strings of the hooded sweatshirt helps to further obscure the face. The reference to “1-­4-­7” is the UK equivalent of the US star-­69 caller ID function. In this case the mobile phone has proven another way for the police to track an increasingly paranoid youth. Within the interrelated frames of   Murray Forman’s foundational work on space and place in hip hop and the symbolic interactionist theories of urban sociology, we see how M.I.A.’s postcolonial surveillance city shapes her thinking and how, in turn, she reshapes her city.51 Immediately after a repetition of the above lyrics, the second part of the verse begins. Turning to her dissatisfaction with mainstream British society M.I.A. continues: “They say: / ‘River’s gonna run through / Work is gonna save you / Pray and you will pull through / Suck a dick’ll help you’ / Don’t let ’em get to you / If he’s got one, you’ve got two / Backstab your crew / Sell it out to sell you.” As the previous track indicates, however, M.I.A. finds that participation in mainstream society and submission to its norms (and policing) does not guarantee freedom from surveillance and racial profiling. Not with­

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out sarcasm, she says that the youngster should instead be bigger and badder than his/her rivals, be they police or members of one’s own gang. The verse is in effect another argument about the difficulty of the situation in which poor postcolonial subjects find themselves in contemporary London. It is a Catch 22—­a double bind. As the track concludes with the crowd chants, the video ends with M.I.A. approaching the camera in a hoodie to “tag” its lens—­spray-­ painting her name through a stencil in bright-­orange letters.

It’s Like a Jungle Sometimes: “Amazon” “Amazon” is perhaps the most musically adventurous and poetically evocative piece on the album, in no small measure because the incongruous sounds and synaesthetically displaced images reach a critical mass on the track. Indeed, through her poetic formulation, “silhouette smells amazing” and other sensory conflations, the dreamlike track seems premised on the idea of synaesthesia—­a concept defined as “production, from a sense-­impression of one kind, of an associated mental image of a sense-­impression of another kind.”52 In essence, subjects with synaesthesia conflate one sensory perception with another. The condition/ability is not altogether uncommon among musicians and other artists as notable figures from Jean Sibelius and Vladimir Nabokov to David Hockney, Duke Ellington, and hip hop producer Pharrell Williams exhibited characteristics and sometimes employed their synaesthetically derived concepts in their works. While there is no record of   M.I.A. as a synaesthete, “Amazon” engages the idea in the linguistic and narrative structures of the piece as well as in its musical parameters. The sixth cut on Arular, “Amazon” continues where “Freedom Skit” left off: “I was missin’ in action / On the side of a carton / I was taken in a Datsun / From a street in Acton [West London].” The opening lyrics, mixed low in the track’s texture with tinny trebly equalization, are soon heard to be surrounded with rainforest sounds. The atmospheric production by M.I.A. and producer Richard X sets M.I.A.’s distant-­sounding voice alongside chirping birds and the call of a far-­off primate. The lilting instrumental accompaniment for this introduction features handclaps and a tinkling Balinese gamelan loop that, despite being out of context in the Amazon, effectively establishes the calm jungle setting. As the second iteration of the above lyric completes, the beat’s character changes. A heavy one-­pitch bass loop on beat 1, the and of 2, and 4—­the first half of the son clave rhythm—­provides a thumping change of pace for the piece, drastically increasing the tension. As the next lines enter, we seem deeper in the jungle and hear M.I.A.’s voice with much-­increased presence and bass

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equalization. “I was sipping on a Rubicon / Thinking ’bout where I come / It’s all this for revolution? / Cuttin’ up the coupon / Savin’ for a telephone / Can I call home? Please can I go home?” The lines seem disjointed from the previous direction of a kidnapping narrative—­perhaps a flashback. Instead of forging ahead with the pseudo-­biographical story of her abduction, the verse picks up where the first section of “Fire, Fire” leaves off, examining M.I.A.’s thoughts about her recent emigration to London from Sri Lanka. She wonders whether her father’s revolution was worth the cost of her uprooting and displacement. M.I.A. not only wants badly to call home, but wants to return to her home as well. The image of her cutting out coupons establishes her need to survive in the market economy of her new host country to accommodate her communication with home—­a point about commerce and commodities that becomes an important one throughout the track. Indeed, she begins the verse with the consumption of a Rubicon—­an “exotic fruit-­juice drink” according to the product’s marketers. The image of the English juice box establishes M.I.A. as a young girl in this scene and underscores her desire to have a taste of   home in the form of a mango, passionfruit, or coconut fruit drink. The term “Rubicon” proves to be a significant choice on the part of M.I.A. in this evocative scene about a major turning point in a young girl’s life. The historical connotation of the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” refers to Julius Caesar’s march to war in 49 BCE. The crossing represented a pivotal point, and to this day the poetic symbolism of the Rubicon refers to a “point of no return.” Not only does the simple image of the juice box thus function as a symbol of this moment’s significance, but it also highlights the imperial connections between ancient Rome and postcolonial Britain—­a continuity we will investigate in the last chapter. M.I.A. thus implicates this seemingly innocent “taste of home” in complex and convoluted histories of colonial domination and material exploitation that foreshadows the young girl’s story to come in the track’s narrative. M.I.A.’s poetry in this stanza thus establishes the exotically engineered taste of postcoloniality (“ingredients: water, mango puree [19%], sugar, acid [citric acid], flavourings, stabilisers [guar gum, xanthan gum], vitamin C”).53 The next stanza flashes forward—­back to the story of abduction: “Painted nails, sunsets on horizons / Palm tree silhouette [or: in the wet] smells amazing / Blindfolds under homemade lanterns / Somewhere in the Amazon they’re holding me ransom.” In this scene, the story’s victim/protagonist finds herself held hostage halfway around the world. Despite being the victim of an international crime, she finds some modicum of comfort in the sounds, sights, and smells of the Amazon rainforest. They are sensory perceptions that, like the juice box some years earlier, remind her of home. With the visual images of

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palm trees, sunsets, and homemade lanterns she gives a sense of texture to the camp in which she is being detained. However, her mention of blindfolds in that texture calls into question whether she is, in fact, seeing anything at all. Indeed, her statement “palm tree silhouette smells amazing” raises the possibility that the captive is trying to picture the visual images around her by extrapolating through other senses. The mention of painted nails underscores this possibility, as the smell of nail polish wafts out from M.I.A.’s words. Notably, even if we hear that line as “palm trees in the wet smells amazing”—­another common hearing on the ubiquitous crowd-­sourced lyrics websites—­we remain in the realm of sensory conflation. This hearing connects touch, rather than sight, to smell. In any case, this is the earthy but chemical smell of postcoloniality. Notably, the smell also leads back to the studio of M.I.A.-­the-­visual-­artist wherein silk screening and aerosol graffiti cans create stenciled silhouettes of palm trees and jungle icons—­and also create strong olfactory side effects. Her art often works through conflation and juxtaposition, such as her album booklet’s “palm tree silhouettes” created by spraying aerosol-­propelled paint through a palm stencil in which tanks comprise the tree’s trunk or depicting palm leaves on fire that gesture simultaneously to the burning of a marijuana leaf. As such, M.I.A.’s visual art works, like her music, through a mode of conflation that she seems to view as constitutive of her experience as both a British national subject and a subject of British national anxieties. This is the polyvalent and oversignified look of M.I.A.’s postcoloniality. The assonance of the stanza also supports this synaesthetic reading as the “s/z” sound of the eventual “Amazon” buzzes throughout the verse. Indeed, M.I.A.’s visual art and her poetic process somehow seem part of her narrative’s diagesis—­as if the fictional hostage fashions a sense of normalcy for her precar­ ious situation by creating her own world wherein her words, and the sounds, smells, and images they signify, meld into one another syn­aesthetically. M.I.A. continues over the same beat, rapping repeatedly the chorus: “Hello this is M.I.A. / Could you please come get me?” The beat now includes an added layer of robotic-­sounding calls of “o-­a-­o-­ah.” M.I.A.’s cry for help, although filtered through an electronicizing vocoder, nonetheless recalls the monkey sounds from the opening jungle sample—­and, notably, the retro-­synth Pitfall vibe of “Pull Up the People.” This is the techno-­primitive sound of postcoloniality.54 In the second verse she continues to contemplate her abduction: “Suckin’ on a Benson, tryin’ to get me undone / Let me go, I don’t wanna get tension / Under submission, out of frustration / I’ll do it, I’ll scream for the nation.” In this scene, however, M.I.A.’s character is not being held for ransom, but rather back in Sri Lanka as a forcibly conscripted soldier of the Tamil Tigers.

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The increasingly disjunct and surreal narrative now sees her jumping between temporal and geographic contexts—­either literally or as a continued result of the mental fatigue that began with her original displacement in West London. “Out of frustration,” she decides to comply with the wishes of her captors. She will “scream”—­that is cheer, rally, fight, and die—­for the ethnic Tamil nation. Again, a commodity provides the point of departure for her verse. Instead of a straw in a juice box, she is now sucking on a Benson & Hedges cigarette attempting to relax in a Sri Lankan jungle. Through no coincidence, the choice of the Benson & Hedges brand is another loaded signifier of the British Empire—­the royal brand first made from American tobaccos in 1873 for Queen Victoria’s son, Albert the Prince of Wales. In the narrative the cigarette serves as a way for the protagonist to loosen up and agree to go with the flow. Furthermore, the displacement of the commodities—­the southern fruit’s juice in the Northern Hemisphere and the cigarette’s Western tobacco in the Eastern Hemisphere—­serve to further the narrative’s sense of global commercial and cultural interpenetration. In any case, the cigarette gets her loosened up. This is the temporary release of a smoke break, the “undone” feel of postcoloniality. This geographic dislocation and blurring of meaning comes into focus in the track’s final verse, where M.I.A. raps: “Minutes turned to hours and became our dates / When we shared raindrops that turned into lakes / Bodies started merging and the lines got grey / Now I’m looking at him thinking: ‘maybe he’s okay.’ ” The message of abduction that starts the track eventually gives way to the influence of time and ends in complicity. The passage of time, symbolized by the buildup of raindrops and minutes, proves the most powerful consideration in M.I.A.’s final accounting. Just as the lines between modes of sensory perception became blurry, and just as geographic and national space began to break down and dislocate, the relation between captive and captor entered a gray area. In her double entendre on “dates” with her captor and the statement that “bodies that start merging” M.I.A. uses sexualized imagery that suggests a loss of subjecthood through her giving of her self. The line recalls the mention of her “submission” in the previous verse and implies a relationship of convenience, if not outright domination. On the second repetition of this final verse, the stanza is short-­circuited, ending on the word “grey,” which—­aided by digital sampling technology—­disintegrates into sonic particles. The musical gesture serves to explode the subjectivity of the protagonist’s former self. In so doing the piece also draws on a central image of Salman Rushdie’s critically acclaimed novel Midnight’s Children, wherein the body of the postcolonial

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protagonist begins to crack, eventually exploding into his innumerable constituent identities.55 Unlike the Rushdie novel, M.I.A.’s protagonist does not fall victim to her hybrid multiplicity, but instead flips sides. “Amazon” concludes with a reformulation of her initial call for help. What begins “Hello this is M.I.A. Can you please come get me?” now becomes “Hello this is M.I.A. It’s okay you forgot me.” Although M.I.A.’s protagonist capitulates in order to find peace in each situation, the track seems to argue that in these processes something is lost. That it is, in fact, not “okay.” Despite the poetically alluring synaesthetic images that turn one idea into another throughout the track, the vaguely resigned capitulation to the gray areas casts the conclusion in a decidedly inauspicious light. Indeed, it seems that by resigning her position as a victim and accepting her new role as part of the victimizer, she has sacrificed a part of her humanity. She has lost her self, her subject position to the tastes, smells, sights, sounds, and feelings of postcoloniality. Through this imagery of collusion, the track thus represents M.I.A.’s struggle with the ideas of   hybridity and reterritorialization that are such central parts of the postcolonial condition. Although she clearly has no problem with the geographically mixed musical and poetic signifiers, M.I.A. seems to argue that one must retain one’s (op)positionality—­that perhaps the Manichaean is the moral. In short, she posits the idea that although we are all part of the same processes, it does not mean we should all capitulate or assimilate to make things easy.

From Congo to Colombo: “Sunshowers” and the Universal Postcolonial On the track “Sunshowers,” M.I.A. picks up on the recurrent metaphors of sexual domination as postcolonial domination and returns to the terrorist imagery of earlier tracks. Starting with a spare line, M.I.A. begins: “I bongo with my lingo / And beat it like a wing, yo / To Congo, to Columbo / Can’t stereotype my thing, yo / I salt and pepper my mango / Shoot spit out the window / Bingo! I got him in the thing, yo / Now what, I’m doing my thing, yo! / Quit bending all my fingo / Quit beating me like you’re Ringo.” The track again artic­ ulates a Black Atlantic connection, this time from Africa’s Congo around the southern cape of the continent and across the Indian Ocean to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. While the tropical imagery of bongos and mangos function as signifiers of global third world postcoloniality for M.I.A., the very name of the capital “Colombo” encodes the postcolonial, as the city was named after

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the noted explorer by Portuguese colonial powers. Indeed, her mention of “beating” her “lingo” gestures to the performativity she conceives in the sonic and percussive utterance of these discursive images. Just as the images of her “lingo” are part and parcel of stereotypes that characterize the underdeveloped world as uncivilized jungle, her references to physical violence represent the reality of postcolonial domination and brutality. As we have seen, her view of postcolonial violence is deeply intertwined with a perceived parallel in sexual and domestic abuse. Her mention of Ringo (Starr) is evocative of domestic violence as the Beatle endured a bout of infamy after admitting to drunkenly beating his wife Barbara Bach. In the context of the track—­and the album—­the reference to the beloved musical icon is tantamount to an indictment of English colonialism at large. The domestic violence as postcolonial metaphor is clarified with the opening verse’s controversial final line: “You wanna go? / You wanna win a war? / Like P.L.O. I don’t surrend-­o.” The track is the second on Arular for which M.I.A. shot a video, and like the video for “Bucky Done Gun,” M.I.A. sets the dramatic action in the third world. Here the lyrical imagery of the Congo and Bongos, of Columbo and Mangos, sets the stage for video images of a South Asian jungle. To these images are added shots of monkeys, leopards, lions, and elephants—­signifiers of the Global South—­which encircle a small jungle village. The South Asian setting is established through the image of M.I.A. surrounded by teenage girls who—­as the images strongly infer—­could be, or once were, her. M.I.A. again affiliates herself with Africa, South America, and Asia—­a postcolonial, or “tricontinental” gesture recognizing the shared experience of colonial domination. The first frames of the video establish the look of the village—­comprising tree huts and rope bridges—­before we see a close shot of   M.I.A. with a monkey perched on her back. As the camera continues to move through the village, we see longhaired girls tinkering—­somehow menacingly—­with transistor radios. As we see more of the village’s thirty-­some girls it seems that they are all dressed in black-­and-­white checkered shirts—­a uniform of sorts. Just as we are led to reevaluate whether this is a village or a terrorist training camp, M.I.A. leads the girls down to a river. There they wash clothes, bathe, and engage in innocent play while M.I.A. sits atop an Indian elephant recounting the story of a terrorist suspect. When they return to the village/training camp at the end of the video, they are clad in white shirts dancing a unison step led by M.I.A. The final shots emulate a Bollywood musical spectacular, featuring the newly washed girls dancing en masse with yellow ribbons tying their pigtailed hair.

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Just as the track is the first to mention a terrorist organization by name, it is also the first in which M.I.A. seems to express conditional support for terrorist acts. Indeed, the significance of the term “sunshowers” on the track is a gesture of guardianship and care for a fictional terrorist suspect. M.I.A. sings the chorus: “ ’Cause sunshowers that fall on my troubles / Are over you, my baby / And some showers I’ll be aiming at you / Cause I’m watching you, my baby.” The verse that follows introduces the terrorist character through highly ambivalent and confusing statements. The verse includes the disapproving lines: “I’m tired of him / I don’t wanna be as bad as him.” Shortly thereafter, however, she concludes the verse with the lines: “It’s a bomb yo. So run yo / Put away your stupid gun yo / ’Cause see though, like protocol / This is why we blow it up ’fore we go.” Although she disapproves of the would-­be terrorist’s gun, she seems to be complicit in the bombing and the planning thereof. While we might posit a number of divergent interpretations of the lyrics from the second verse of “Sunshowers,” the ambivalence of the lines seems intentional, as the final verse paints a clearer picture, but offers a conclusion that is just as confounding. “Sunshowers” concludes: Semi-­9 and snipered him / On that wall they posted him They cornered him / And then just murdered him He told them he didn’t know them / He wasn’t there, they didn’t know him They showed him a picture then / “Ain’t that you with the Muslims?” He got Colgate on his teeth / And Reebok classics on his feet At a factory he does Nike / And then helps the family Beat heart beat / He’s made it to the Newsweek Sweetheart’s seen it / He’s done it for the peeps [people]. Peace.

The verse paints a picture of a young man who is both a productive member of society and an active participant in Western corporate culture. The third world signifiers of mangos and bongos are now replaced with commercial symbols such as Colgate, Reebok, and his employer, Nike—­a preferred symbol of child labor abuses in Southeast Asia. In the verse M.I.A. notes that despite his engagement with the United Kingdom’s commercial economy, the young man has been targeted as an outsider and a threat. He is thus the subject of surveillance, and through his purported associations with “Muslims,” which are captured on film, he is implicated in terrorist activities. M.I.A.’s statement: “Can’t stereotype my thing, yo”—­though describing her musical style in the

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first verse—­echoes here as the terrorist suspect is surveiled, racially profiled, put on a wanted poster, and eventually killed. Although M.I.A. paints the character as a victim, her concluding line, “He’s done it for the peeps,” leaves open the possibility that he was in fact part of a terrorist plot. The seemingly intentional ambiguity and ambivalence of the track are upheld by the video, which begins with terrorist imagery and ends in a dance party. Notably, the tactical power of this uncertainty is mirrored in the potent insurgency of terrorist groups in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere wherein terrorist operatives recede into local communities. In using a village/camp full of near-­identical girls, M.I.A. is playing with this uncertainty that highlights the gray area between terrorist sympathizers and those that live in fear of reprisal. Who are the victims and who are the victimizers? More than an indictment of ex-­colonial Western governments, “Sunshowers” is a metaphor for the complexity of our postcolonial moment. As such, it is also fits into the paradoxical framework of “terrorist chic.” Indeed, the term “sunshower” itself refers to a meteorological paradox: a rainstorm while the sun is shining.


back on the block

In the the musical third chapter of The Black Atlantic, “ ‘Jewels Brought from Bondage’: Black Music and the Politics of Authenticity,” Gilroy concludes with a discussion of Quincy Jones’s multimedia legacy project “Listen Up: The Many Lives of Quincy Jones.” Of the multitalented music and entertainment mogul’s film, book, and CD, he writes: “In all these interlocking formats ‘Listen Up’ celebrates his life, endurance, and creativity. Most of all, it affirms black participation in the entertainment industry.”56 As Gilroy notes, the piece that set this project in motion was the album Back on the Block, a 1990 concept album premised on Jones’s desire “to incorporate the whole family of black American music . . . that was part of my culture.” The album was in essence a sonic celebration of black music’s changing same, drawing on examples of Afrodiasporic sonic culture from around the world—­much in the same manner as M.I.A.’s global mashups—­from 2005’s “Galang” to 2015’s “Borders.”57 Gilroy’s skepticism about the album’s concept is made manifest as he notes his wariness about Jones’s use of hip hop on the album’s single “The Dude,” fearing that the gesture is part of a larger strategy to authenticate the black lower-­class roots of the now wealthy and esteemed cultural icon. Gilroy’s suspicions are confirmed as Jones uses hip hop as a contemporary frame with which to contextualize a vernacular history of African American musical production. Rather than sticking to the American forms of  jazz, R&B,

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soul, funk, and hip hop, however, Jones extends his black American musical family’s culture to include Latin American and African forms via the logic of “retention” deployed in theorizations about the African griot storyteller and his historical evolution in the New World from the ring shout, through samba and jazz, to hip hop.58 Emphasizing the incommensurability of   his stated aims and musical implementation, Gilroy writes: “Brazilian and African musical patterns were annexed by and became continuous with his version of black America’s musical heritage,” continuing: The delicate relationship between unity and differentiation gets lost at this point. Old and new, east and west simply dissolve into each other or rather into the receptacle provided for their interaction by the grand narrative of African-­ American cultural strength and durability. However compelling they may be, Jones’s appropriations of Brazilian rhythm and African language become entirely subservient to the need to legitimate African-­American cultural particularity. The promise of a truly compound diaspora or even global culture which could shift understanding of black cultural production away from the narrow concerns of ethnic exceptionalism and absolutism receded rapidly.59

In short, Gilroy sees Back on the Block and the broader “Listen Up” project as a missed opportunity to express the hidden diversity of black music, instead offering up more of Ellison’s “prefabricated negroes.” He highlights the musical parameters of the project as expressions of the transnational movement and immanent hybridity and dynamism of black musics—­truths that go unexpressed if not completely obscured in Jones’s unifying discourse. Indeed, this is the theoretical intervention that Gilroy’s “black Atlantic” figuration seeks to accomplish—­a gesture toward black culture’s strength in diversity. Ironically, Gilroy slips into an uncharacteristically nostalgic and personal tone in the chapter’s conclusion, bemoaning what he sees as the inevitable march of   black American music toward its complete assimilation into the body politic and its complete commodification by the nation’s global markets. He recounts a story in the form of a negative epiphany and loss of innocence: “Twenty years later, with the sound tracks of my adolescence recirculating in the exhilaratingly damaged form of hip hop, I was walking down a street in New Haven, Connecticut—­a black city—­looking for a record shop stocked with black music. The desolation, poverty, and misery encountered on that fruitless quest forced me to confront the fact that I had come to America in pursuit of a musical culture that no longer exists.” Noting the disconnect between his childhood imaginings about black American music and its present

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reality, he continues: “I realise that the most important lesson music still has to teach us is that its inner secrets and ethnic rules can be taught and learned.” In this strangely evocative passage Gilroy articulates appropriations of   black music to the concept of market commodification in a singular process of cultural theft and financial profit. My point here, is that M.I.A.’s album is very much like Jones’s—­a catalog of black Atlantic musics and discourses that draw on West African traditional musics, NY hip hop, Miami bass, Kingston dancehall, Trinidadian calypso, Cuban son, and Brazilian samba and baile funk, as well as from the London grime and South Asian classical musics that we might assume constitute her own forms. What’s more, through discursive frames such as “terrorist chic” M.I.A. has been criticized for her seeming hypocrisy and complicity in the same market and military industrial complex that she claims to militate against. Indeed, Gilroy’s critique of Quincy Jones’s Back on the Block and the broader “Listen Up” project relies on a similar frame wherein the music mogul’s wholesale affirmation of blacks in the culture industry is read as an easy complicity with a dangerous form of Americanization. It is this judgment of hypocrisy sentenced upon Jones that makes Gilroy’s concluding story seem so misplaced. Of all the places that he might go to regain a sense of the emanci­ patory potential of  black music, he searches for a record store—­a retail outlet. The choice, is of course an obvious one, but reminds us that the musical forms that Gilroy is in search of are largely contained in the commodity form. Indeed, his comments throughout There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack and The Black Atlantic stress the importance of the global circulation of black musics via recording technologies. Given his historical critique that Jones lets the old dissolve into the new of an eternal black music, it strikes me as odd that Gilroy does not seem to notice that his own discussions of the vernacular dissolve into the commercial at this point. The records he seeks simply encode his image of the vernacular, of the authentic. In a 1996 interview on the question of “Soulful Style” Gilroy again echoes his misgivings about the future of black music and hip hop in particular: “for me, the value of soul and the idea of soul is that they mark the realm which resists the reach of economic rationality and the commodifying process. Soul is a mark of how that precious, wonderful, expressive culture stands outside of commodification, how those cultural processes and the history in which they stand have resisted being reduced to the status of a thing that can be sold.”60 The comments certainly cast his record-­store quest in a new light, but here I wish to focus on the author’s quixotic search for “the realm” of musical expression “which resists the reach of economic rationality and the commodifying

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process.” This certainly sounds like a place we would all like to be, but I fear that there exists no such realm,  just as there exists no music or meaning outside of the larger realm of signification that connects musical, economic, and racial meanings. It is this externality of musical transcendence in Gilroy’s theorizations of black music that draws Radano’s attention in his Lying Up a Nation. Indeed, such “absolute” discourse is to musicology what “essentialist” discourse is to African American studies—­a red flag that says more about a discipline’s own history and pitfalls than it does about the stated object of analysis.61 Radano writes: “Despite the diversity Gilroy claims for the musics of the ‘Black Atlantic,’ he remains committed to the politics of center, to a transcendent, purely musical force that ‘gets beyond’ the instabilities of discursive contest.”62 If we are to concede Radano’s point that it is a fool’s errand to examine black music without looking first at what constitutes blackness (and whiteness), we can see that a search for the “purely musical” will yield little more than tautological conclusions. Indeed, if we attempt to locate the particularity and power of black music in the sounds that we define as black ones, we have already submitted to the well-­worn paths that American racial ideologies have laid for us. This is all to say that M.I.A.’s Arular stands as a testament to the inherent hybridity of these musics. Her music’s invisibility in black Atlantic musical discourses highlights this fact. Its resonances offer proof of a diverse and vibrant black music that is constituted through global networks. Furthermore her unashamed interaction with the global music industry and its love of fad complicates Gilroy’s now-­dated critiques about hip hop’s decline. M.I.A.’s cultural and political project is premised both through violent opposition and through commercial channels—­as was Public Enemy’s during the “golden age” of hip hop. Indeed, Chuck D, the central figure in many of hip hop’s golden-­age narratives, told Hollywood to “burn” just as he shot music videos and his records went platinum. Indeed, I read Gilroy’s romantic musings on soul as perpetuating an archetypal Habermassian narrative of revolution and regression that unnecessarily cosigns for the most essentializing valences of Baraka’s “changing same.” Of the emancipatory potential for soul, Gilroy writes: “soul meant the music and the music stands for black sublimity. . . . It also stands for the dramatic oppositional moment where the processes of fragmentation and commodification begin [to], if not exactly break down, that at least lose some of their totalizing power.”63 As my examination of M.I.A.’s Arular demonstrates, opposition to totalizing hegemony might not be best accomplished via the circumvention or transcendence of structures of oppression, but through engagement with them

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such that they might not be simply put out of mind, but actually reconfigured and diminished—­that is, through Gramsci’s “war of position.” M.I.A.’s Arular represents a form of “terrorist chic” that, far from being a fad, constitutes a strategy to work against oppression through commodified difference. “And I think, in some ways, I can follow her.”64

chapter 6

Marché Noir: The Hip Hop Hustle in the City of Light O-­Dog c’était le negro le plus barge de la terre. Le cauchemar de l’Amérique: jeune, black et qu’en a rien à branler. C a i n e , in Menace II Society (French dubbed version)1

It was early April in Paris when I received a reply from the duo Blackara in my MySpace inbox. I had met the two MCs, Xiao Venom and Mani Peterson, a week earlier at the studios of Radio Plurielle (Pluralist Radio) in Paris’s 19th arrondissement, where they dropped in to promote an upcoming concert. The community radio station in the ethnically diverse working-­class neighborhood of Jaurès featured a weekly hip hop show called Marché Noir (Black Market) that showcased the freestyle skills of local “underground” MCs such as Xiao and Mani.2 The studio was sparsely decorated and the program’s format straightforward. From the control room the show’s host, Tarik, stood at a mixing board introducing the MCs. Behind him DJ Dirty Swift dropped the beats from his two-­turntable and laptop setup. From his position at the board, Tarik looked through a large window into an adjacent live room containing a round table with four microphones and six chairs, twenty or so rappers, one overflowing makeshift ashtray, and an asthmatic-­looking plant. Much like a jazz jam session, the rappers would rotate in and out of the seats to freestyle, some staying longer than others. Xiao and Mani were two that spent a good deal of time on the mic, effectively promoting themselves. Over the previous months in Berlin, I had come to count on freestyle sessions as the best points of entry into local hip hop scenes. I attended numerous formal concerts, contacted local recording labels, and checked out the best record stores in each city, but for sheer ease of accessibility and cultivation of contacts nothing could beat a good weekly freestyle session. In her Rap Music

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and Street Consciousness, Cheryl Keyes describes such meetings in which “a circle of three or more people” gather to challenge and feed off of one another as “ciphers” (or “ciphas”).3 This was also the preferred nomenclature in Paris, as it was in Berlin and would later prove to be in London. In each of the three cities, such circles formed the basic units of hip hop community. These musical sites contained the most collective knowledge about local scenes and were entry points to information about local artists, upcoming concerts, recording labels, and the best record shops. In all three cities I found tight-­knit but fluid, supportive yet competitive communities of rappers who were happy to show an American hip hop fan and researcher the ins and outs of their local music. In each cipher I would come to know a core of rappers who were regulars, returning week after week. Some were mentors, usually slightly older rappers offering advice and challenges to younger MCs and newer arrivals, while others were upstarts, young men with ravenous appetites for freestyle competition. Most ciphers were comprised predominantly of young men from sixteen to thirty with a handful of young women, some of whom would “rock the mic” as well. Stylistically, the makeup of these core groups ranged from the musically stripped down aggression of gangsta rap to the aurally nuanced and expressly political language of “conscious” hip hop. In all cases, from Paris and Berlin to London, the racial makeup of the ciphers was more diverse than their respective societies, mixing majorities of young men and women of non-­European backgrounds together with their peers of European backgrounds to form musical communities. While the musical styles and ideological perspectives varied wildly from MC to MC, the resultant communities shared an opposition to their respective national societies, both embodying and voicing the ideas of an alternative public sphere. As I will argue, in making music these young Europeans were also making them­ selves—­formulating their politics, expressing their opinions, and otherwise fashioning their identities in explicit contrast to their cultural mainstreams. The case of Marché Noir serves as just one example of this point. Indeed, the name of the cipher implies opposition, modeling itself as an alternative economy. The radio show is both a “black market” of underground music that is not available in record shops and a black market of marginalized ideas and viewpoints not commonly available in national media debates. Indeed, it is a counterculture of modernity. Furthermore, it is no mistake that the idea of blackness is central to this construction. Not only does the term “black market” imply the nontransparency of underground economies, but it also gestures to racial blackness and to the particular black masculinity of hip hop

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music. As we will see, uses of racialized discourses are central in the musical politics of the rappers with whom I spoke in Paris. As the central form of hip hop culture, music is the key mode of articulating such alternative public spheres and bringing to life the expressive communities that voice the truth of an ethnically diverse Europe. This mobilization led by European minority youth takes its lead from the ways in which music has served as the key site for African American formulations of cultural and political identity. As a cipher, the Marché Noir radio show was unique to me in the respect that it was held in a radio studio rather than at a concert venue, but both the feel of this artistic community and its function as an artistic outlet and training ground for MCs was identical with the many “live” events that I had attended. Indeed, the most common criticism of such cipher-­styled live freestyle concerts is that the participants seem to be performing for themselves and their peers rather than for an audience. Even at larger staged events it was not uncommon for rappers to form a circle, with a number of the rappers literally turning their backs to the audience. In this respect the feel of the freestyle ra­­ dio format of Marché Noir was nearly indistinguishable from the freestyle concert format, as audience feedback came from the gathered crowd of MCs in the studio just as it would in a club. While individual rappers put together lines of verse over DJ Swift’s instrumental beats, MCs at other microphones and throughout the studio would voice their approval by interjecting shouts of “ouais” (yeah), echoing quality lyrics, and saying the featured MCs name. Conversely, and less often, they would voice their disapproval by booing, talking to each other, or directly responding to the MC in question when they stepped to the microphone. The effect was that of a community that provided instant feedback, rewarding perceived stylistic or lyrical quality and deriding underdeveloped skills—­but all in the context of a shared artistic community. After the taping of Marché Noir I talked to Xiao, Mani, and a number of the other twenty or so MCs who were crammed into the two small rooms comprising the studio. As I had also learned over the previous months in Berlin, the preferred networking apparatus for rappers, DJs, and their promoters at the time was MySpace.com. This held true for Paris as well, as I collected URLs from around the room that would provide a conduit for communication with each individual or group of rappers, in addition to giving me a taste of their recorded music, videos, performance activity, promotional strategies, influences, and often even biographical information. Indeed, such online pages broaden the circle of such freestyle ciphers to include a seemingly limitless network of artists who share information about other upcoming ciphers, concerts, and recordings. I sent messages to a number of the MCs from Marché Noir the

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following day, and was beginning to examine the music and information on their web pages. At that time Blackara’s MySpace page featured two tracks, “Bang Bang” and “Arrivistes” (Go-­Getters/Social Climbers), including a video for the latter.4 As Xiao and Mani explained to me later, the two tracks were central to their oppositional self-­empowerment ideology. When I received the reply from Blackara a week later, Xiao left a mobile phone number for me to reach them and indicated they would be free later that night. When I called, Xiao said they could meet me at the Bastille McDonald’s in a couple hours. As he explained, their continuing promotion efforts had them flyering in and around the many clubs in the Rue de la Roquette area east of Place de la Bastille and the golden arches provided an easily recognizable sign. I replied that I was happy to meet them there as the apartment that I had found for my stay was not far south of Bastille in the direction of Gare de Lyon. Although I had hoped to find a location in the more diverse 18th, 19th, or 20th arrondissements during my housing search, the location in the central 11th proved handy in its proximity to Rue de la Roquette. As I would later find, the location was also within walking distance of the Capitale Sale recording studio operated by Tarik, DJ Swift, and a number of the MCs I had met at Marché Noir. I arrived at the Bastille McDonald’s at the appointed hour of 11 p.m. and after a bit of  waiting, walked to the small cinema next door to browse the lineup of an upcoming Scorsese festival. Shortly after I had resolved to see Taxi Driver the following week, a sunglassed and dapper-­looking Mani emerged from a beat-­up hatchback and flipped the seat to let me into the back of the two-­door. It turned out that the duo had been to the barber earlier in the day in preparation for their upcoming show. Xiao’s cut was especially interesting, featuring a perfectly rendered argyle design arcing over his head. As I leaned forward between the seats to inquire about our destination, I also realized that both of them were equipped with the custom-­fit tooth cap jewelry known in the rap community as “grillz.” They were dressed for hip hop success. Xiao drove us several blocks east to the Twentyone Sound Bar, a familiar location that DJ Swift had introduced me to a couple weeks prior. The small venue was one of the few bars in Paris dedicated to hip hop, according to Swift, who holds a regular engagement there. As we got out of the car I inquired about one of Blackara’s tracks that I’d been listening to online, “Bang Bang.” The track featured a number of familiar home studio production values that I’d encountered among the underground artists I was interviewing. The beat was something of an aural assault, comprised of a Moog emulator playing

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E x a m p l e 6 . 1 Crunk-­styled sonic barrage of  the “Bang Bang” loop.

an octave-­sweeping minor key hook, a parallel motive of electronic blips, and a synthesized trumpet line in a martial staccato style that was fast becoming ubiquitous in underground productions. The scene in Paris, I would learn, was currently under the heavy influence of “crunk,” an Atlanta-­born hip hop subgenre featuring the punchy electronic sounds and drum-­machine beats of the ubiquitous Roland TR 808—­a histor­ ically important tool for hip hop producers, especially the West Coast gangsta rap, or “G-­funk” pioneers. Unlike the 1990s gangsta rap producers like Dr. Dre, however, producers of crunk beats such as Lil Jon and Develop use such digital technologies to layer strident tones one on the other rather than creating the laid-­back grooves of “G-­funk.” Although the dense musical texture of Blackara’s “Bang Bang” is more akin to crunk, the track includes compositional features of both subgenres, fusing the slow tempo and signature portamento moog gestures of G-­funk with crunk’s bright and active snare hits and piercing synthesized timbres. The vocal delivery of “Bang Bang,” however, establishes the track as explicitly crunk-­inspired. The voices of Mani and Xiao are mixed front and center to cut through the bright timbres and crowded musical texture. Furthermore, where G-­funk vocals are commonly fluid and easy, crunk vocals are consis­ tently punchy, clipped, or otherwise aggressively delivered. This is the case with the rapping style of the two on all of their recent tracks, which aurally conveys a sense of urgency. Finally, the track also includes the loud and diffuse bass tones of both G-­funk and crunk, designed for the car cultures of both

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southern and West Coast American hip hop scenes. Although Mani and Xiao did not seem to have invested a great deal in their car’s audio system, I would later learn that they were, in fact, interested in such car culture. More distinctive than the heavy bass gestures in “Bang Bang,” however, is a spoken sample at the outset of the track. “The beginning of   ‘Bang Bang,’ ” I asked in my fast-­improving French as we approached the club, “what’s that sample from?” “C’est Menace II Society” came the response from Mani.5 “Le cauchemar de l’Amérique” (America’s nightmare), he continued, switching to quote the line in English: “young, black . . . ,” Xiao joined in, “and don’t give a fuck!” Blackara’s track “Bang Bang” opens with this line as sampled from the film’s French-­dubbed version, “Le cauchemar de l’Amérique: jeune, black et qu’en a rien à branler,” followed by Xiao and Mani rapping together the name of their group and their self-­run record label “Blackara, Blackara, Offensive Records.”6 The sample from the Hughes brothers’ 1993 ghetto epic is taken from a voiceover of the main character describing his best friend O-­Dog, who shoots and kills a Korean American storeowner over a disrespect­­ ful and paternalistic comment. As I learned in the interview that followed, Xiao and Mani did not consider themselves gangstas, but something resonated with them in this now-­famous image of the young black man as America’s nightmare. Indeed, by highlighting the sample and declaring themselves offensive they purposefully entangle themselves in W. E. B. Du Bois’s hundred-­year-­old question, “How does it feel to be a problem?” and play with the widely held misconception that the “Negro problem” is a uniquely American one.7 In their appropriation of the “nightmarish” black masculinity of Menace, Blackara is referencing this most American of problems to reassert the “local phase” that they are enduring in Paris.8 But as I demonstrated in chapter 3, in these transactions the example of African American cultural and political struggle has be­­ come something more than just a phase, it has become something iconic and universally assimilable. In the introduction to his collection of essays Small Acts, Paul Gilroy gestures to this development, including the following observation: The social memory of the black movements of the 1960s is important for other reasons too. Its creative appropriation marks black Britain’s sharp turn away from the Caribbean as its major source of inspiration. Black political culture in this country now looks to African-­American history for guidance, pleasure and raw material for its own distinct definitions of  blackness. The appeal of the

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heroic figure of Malcolm X has been central to this development. . . . It represents the latest triumph of outer-­national and intercultural political forms that make their local equivalents, still bolted to the decaying chassis of a nineteenth-­ century nation-­state, look tame, redundant and outmoded by comparison.9

Although his comments describe the black British context, the motivations and mechanisms that Gilroy points to are today also evident in minority communities—­both black and nonblack—­throughout the West. The American civil rights movement established the dominant paradigm for discourse about race and racism due in no small part to the power of American media and the ability of civil rights leaders and social activists to mobilize those media to serve their ends. As he argues, the black American identities that grew out of the sixties developed through the Black Power movement and found guidance in figures like Malcolm X. They also provided alternative structures of feeling to the historically racialized and exclusive concept of the nation-­state. Read in tandem with Ralph Ellison’s thoughts on the inherent hybridity of American culture in his “What America Would Be Like Without Blacks,” Gilroy’s thoughts provide an evocative political corollary. The (African) American example has provided Ellison’s irresistibly “pluralistic and easily available popular culture” as well as Gilroy’s triumphant “intercultural political forms” that together guide today’s minority identity politics across the Western world. Historically, popular music has been the key to crafting and expressing these political forms among African Americans. Fittingly, in today’s demographically changed Europe, African American music is increasingly the key to developing new intercultural political forms.




When I sat down with Xiao and Mani at the Twentyone Sound Bar, one of my first questions was about the name “Blackara,” which seemed to articulate an African American perspective through the use of the English term “black.” Indeed, the name reflected a “pro-­black” agenda, explained Mani, while the suffix “ara” referenced gold “like 18 karat or 24 karat” he said pulling his chain from his chest. “Blackara shines! It has to be real. If you want diamonds and gold, you’ve got to work. If you sleep, you get fake gold and fake diamonds.” “By any way necessary,” added Xiao in English. As Gilroy indicates, Malcolm X remains a heroic figure for blacks in the English-­speaking world and a powerful signifier of African American struggle, but here we see the global reach of

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Malcolm’s words and of African American political culture writ large. Xiao’s shorthand reference to Malcolm’s politics easily conveyed his meaning to his American interviewer and cleared the way toward an understanding of Blackara’s particular cultural politics. As their explanation of the name indicated, Blackara’s politics is expressed through the articulation of blackness and the symbol of gold. For them, gold has a deep meaning that represents the material results of hard work and self-­ reliance. In their formulation of the name Blackara, Xiao and Mani are also expressing a postcolonial perspective on the exploitation of Africa’s natural resources—­most notably the continent’s once-­rich gold reserves, which were mined and exported back to Europe’s colonizing nations.10 In the symbol of African gold, the two thus establish a diasporic link to Africa as well as a motivating force for themselves in Paris. For Xiao and Mani this motivating factor is not couched in terms of reparations for colonial exploitation, but viewed as both a means and an end. Expanding on the central concept of their track “Arrivistes” (Go Getters/ Social Climbers), Xiao and Mani described their goals of material improvement and self-­reliance in Paris as follows: Xiao: Here it is not possible for us to succeed [arrive]. People always tell us: “you cannot.” But we’ve got to make it by any way, because there is no way for us. There is no way. Because the life we are living is not a vacation. When you go back home and you see your mother and father in trouble—­you know if you don’t do something now, it’s going to be you at home with trouble. Mani: And you know in France people always say: “yeah, there’s some help.” You know for hospital and everything. There’s a lot of help, of course, but it’s a way for the government to know you and to keep you down. When you aren’t working you earn—­maybe about 700 euros [per month]. You know? And when you work, you’re up every morning you earn about 1,000. Xiao: Or more. Mani: More, but you’re working. So people always think, okay I’ll sleep and I’ll take my money, but it’s the new . . . Xiao: Chains. The new slavery. Mani: The new slavery. Because you have to say: “give me, give me, give me.” It’s why in France it’s more difficult to blow up [achieve success], to blow up for real. . . . You know, because the government they keep you down. Giving you food. Feeding you. So you cannot be intelligent here. In the

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United States they say you are rich or you are poor. There are two ways. Here they make you think you can do anything you want. But really you cannot do anything when you go somewhere and people see you’re black. Of course there’s not racism everywhere, everywhere, everywhere . . . Xiao: No KKK here . . . Mani: But the real problem is when you go out and you see the world is not like you’re living in the ‘hood. It is clear that the two do not fully idealize the United States, but a pronounced free market logic underscores their critique of the French welfare state. In their view of the French social safety net as a new form of slavery, Xiao and Mani express a nuanced view that critiques welfare as a method of keeping black Parisians in a hand-­to-­mouth cycle of poverty. In addressing the symptoms of poverty rather than the causes—­racism and lack of economic opportunity—­ they view French policies as ways to keep black Parisians dependent. Demonstrating a novel, if underinformed, view of US policy, Mani suggests that at least in the United States the government will not pretend to take care of you. When I later asked them about the upcoming presidential election touted as the most important in a generation, the two responded that they are no more impressed with the Socialist Party’s Ségolène Royal than with the conservative free-­marketeer Nikolas Sarkozy. They explained: Mani: Me I can vote, so I’m gonna vote. But really . . . Sarko is gonna do things for his friends and Ségolène for her friends, and everybody’s got friends, but it’s not for us really. But remember, they are all friends. Xiao: The shit is for them, not for us. They keep the poor poor. We think the real thing is that they have the money and the power—­and the people, we’re fighting for respect. Mani: I make my money. I make my things. We make ours. Xiao: If you don’t teach something to us we’re going to take it. We have to take it. Life is like this: if you are waiting for the sky to give you bread you’re gonna die. Mani: You’re gonna die. We prefer dying trying to get rich. In addition to harboring a distrust of the political class at large, they went on to describe in detail their distrust of Royal because of her paternalistic politics and “Sarko” because of  his racism. Interestingly, however, their own economic politics echoed those of the latter; the pro-­business “Americanizer” who would

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soon be elected president. Notably, their comments also reference the American gangsta rapper 50 Cent’s 2003 album Get Rich or Die Tryin’.11 As we will see, the reference was likely intended. Mani and Xiao, it turns out, grew up not far from the studios of Radio Plurielle in the neighborhood between Jaurès and Stalingrad Metro stations. The area in the northwest corner of Paris in which the two still live is home to some of the largest housing projects (cités) within the city proper and is also one of the most ethnically diverse quarters. Together, Mani and Xiao recounted a story about asking for financial assistance from the city for a block party that they were organizing. The tale served as a sort of Genesis story of their current worldview. Mani: We don’t wait for our people. Because we have had some problems. In the ’hood in Jaurès there is no organization to help the young and the old. Xiao: The youngsters, they’re on the street, you know, and they can be hit by a car any time, and no one does anything. So a long time ago we went to see the mayor and he said that . . . Mani: In his office . . . Xiao: and he said that in our ’hood there are not enough problems, so I cannot help you. I said okay. So after that we decided to make our money by any means necessary—­in good ways, bad ways, we don’t give a fuck. Because our people deserve to be happy. So with this money we organized a ’hood party for the young and the old. For all the people: black, white, Arab, ev­ erybody. And then later the mayor said to us, oh we can do this together and we said “no!” Mani: We can do it on our own. Xiao: Because when we came to you, you said, “fuck you,” so don’t come to us now. Because now we are independent. So, a kind of power. We can do something for the people. The people believe in us. And we got the solution for the whole problem. Mani: We’ll make our money and after we have our party we’ll live on our own. It’s like in the film The Village. Our ’hood is a village. The village is closed and there are monsters, but in the village everything is good. It’s how we live. We’ve got our own course and way of  life. And we say to everybody, we speak for you telling you to keep your own people. We keep ours. And after everybody is the same we can be really linked. Mani’s analogy to The Village proved to be a reference to M. Night Shyamalan’s 2004 thriller about a small town insulating itself against modernity by

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creating a myth about monsters in the woods surrounding them.12 Although he had earlier compared Sarkozy to Hitler (and George W. Bush), his point did not concern monsters, but rather the vision of self-­reliance he had for his community. As Mani had noted earlier, he sees the main problem as the imbalance between life in his economically depressed and ethnically diverse ’hood and life in Paris’s extremely wealthy and expensive city center. Additionally, his point of reference again turned out to be an artifact of American popular culture. While there were many cases in which the two searched for metaphors that might better convey their meanings to an American researcher, the case of Mani’s reference to The Village was quite clearly preconceptualized as something that resonated with him regarding this exact point. The hopeful gesture of solidarity that Mani closes with here is also reminiscent of Du Bois’s 1897 entreaty for African Americans “to maintain their race identity until the mission of the Negro people is accomplished, and the ideal of human brotherhood has become a practical possibility.”13 Indeed, his statement that “after everybody is the same we can be really linked,” while grounded in the language of self-­determination, is a very clear statement for equality through difference rather than assimilation. Although Xiao is clear about the multiethnic inclusiveness of their project, their larger message and a second nod to Malcolm X makes manifest the explicit linkages between their political project and African American oppositional models. Xiao further explained the self-­empowering Arriviste ideology as an individualizing one, displayed through the gold on their necks, the jewelry in their mouths, the “Blackara” tattoos on both of their forearms, and the patterns in his hair. The two even have signature “hooks” that appear in every track. Xiao’s is a call of “Xiao i-­ci!” (Xiao here!), with an emphasis on the second syllable of the word and Mani’s is a quasi-­Latino call of “aye, aye, aye!,” again with the emphasis on the final syllable. As he pointed to his personalized and consciously ostentatious markers of success and conspicuous consumption Xiao explained: Like we say in “Arrivistes”: “personalized for your personality” [ personalisé pour sa personalité ]. It means we have our own customized character. Because today in France everybody wants to look like everybody else. But we don’t want to be just anybody we want to be somebody. You know? So we have to be personalized, custom. We like to show off our jewels, our hairstyle. You see: “personalized,” because when you see us you know: “ah, that is Blackara.”

As Xiao and Mani explained, they take a great deal of pride in community and yet seek to express a strong sense of individuality within that sphere. Further,

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they are working toward the goal of a better-­integrated and more equitable society but remain opposed to the assimilationist and paternalistic welfare policies of the Socialist party, dismissing socialist activists as “sheep.” On the flip side, although they are sworn enemies of Nikolas Sarkozy, Blackara’s neoliberal politics closely parallel his. Blackara’s Arriviste ideology thus seems wholly unexpected if not paradoxical. On the track “Bang Bang,” Xiao gives musical voice to these signifiers of individuality and work, when he raps the lines: Nous grande pointure, gros bonnet / Les boss c’est nous Faut pas que tu te trompes / Grande voiture, gros bijoux Rajoute des crômes / C’est sur une pyramide de MCs que le blackara trône Our baggy clothes, fat caps / We are the boss Make no mistake about it / Big car, big   jewels Covered in chrome / Atop a pyramid of MCs sits Blackara’s throne14

Although such lyrics are easily dismissed as effects of the worldwide spread of American consumer culture and the influence of commercial hip hop’s increasingly “bling”-­focused lyrics, we must also take into consideration Mani’s point that “the real problem is when you go out and you see the world is not like you’re living in the ’hood.” Indeed, critiques of conspicuous consumption are most commonly directed not at wealthy consumers of  haute couture but at the social climbers that Blackara fashion themselves as. While their conspicuous consumption might not meet the standard of Homi Bhabha’s “mimicry” in terms of being received as “threat” or “menace,” the hypocritical condescention toward such ostentatious behavior does unveil deep societal ambivalences about materialism in our capitalist meritocracies.15 And although few of the underground rappers that I spoke with in Paris held Blackara’s explicit Get Rich or Die Tryin’ mentality, the logic of their ideology was striking. In addition to the bling imagery of “Bang Bang,” the track also expresses an oppositional anger couched in terms of their neighborhood’s “soldiers” and their “enemies.” Supporting the track’s violent title, both the beat and the lyrics are delivered in an aggressively hypermasculine and “raw” manner throughout. As described above, the high vocal mix is designed to match the intensity of the heavily layered texture of sweeping moog lines and martial trumpets over a relentless drum track. Through the use of vocal overdubs, the texture of Xiao’s baritone voice grows thick in the above stanza and is positioned prominently in the mix. The imperfect matching of vocal takes in the

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overdubbing also creates a level of tension as the rapper gasps for air at unequal intervals. As such, the track crafts an underground aesthetic of struggle that implies the earned reward of such material wealth. And despite the low-­ fidelity production values and bling subject matter of “Bang Bang,” the poetic structure is quite elegant with rhyme schemes emerging not only at the end of lines (nous/bijoux, crômes/trône), but also across lines (  pointure/voiture) and with internal assonances (nous grande pointure). The video for “Arrivistes” is a visual representation of the track’s message and embodies many of the themes that arose in the interview. Yet it also raises a number of questions about what their ideology of uplift looks like in practice. It begins with a shot of Mani on the street, transacting some sort of deal with another young man. Indeed, the opening image suggests another translation of arrivistes as “hustlers.” The word is, of course, commonly associated with drug dealing and other illegal business in the hip hop lexicon, but the “by any means necessary” ideology that Blackara espouses flips the value judgment on its head, arguing that their entrepreneurial spirit in unregulated markets will be rewarded. In the scene that follows, their discussion of welfare as the “new slavery” is narrativized as Mani calls Xiao to rouse him out of bed and out of inaction. Xiao’s cellphone rings with the lush strings of the opening phrase of Nino Rota’s “Theme from The Godfather”—­a clear gesture to Blackara’s valorization of organized crime, here symbolized by the famous Italian American social climbers. Xiao answers and Mani tells him to wake up because they have to meet Mac Manu, a female vocalist who will perform the chorus for the track. Xiao gets up from bed to attend to his business of underground hip hop production, and the video begins in earnest. The body of the video reads like a catalog of American rap-­video conventions. The first scene establishes their neighborhood, depicting Blackara and guest artist Mac Manu beneath the platform of their home Jaurés Metro station. In one shot, Xiao lifts his trademark gold medallion from his neck and the next tight shot focuses on Mani’s gold-­filled mouth. As Mani rhymes that he is an expert in the “parallel economies” of the black market, we see images of high-­stakes hustler life borrowed from Hollywood cinematic conventions. Closely emulating the visual grammar of crime films, Mani descends into a parking garage to conduct a transaction—­presumably a drug deal—­sliding a briefcase to a business associate or rival hustler. From these opening images Blackara fashions a criminal authenticity that provides the logic for the arri­ viste images of wealth in the scenes that follow. The English cognate of the term arriviste is of course “arrive,” and in the next section of the video the three literally arrive at a posh dance club in a large,

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E x a m p l e 6 . 2 “Impending doom” loop outlining a descending natural minor scale with lowered second scale degree.

albeit older model, American car. Reflecting their knowledge of and engagement with US hip hop car culture, we see a customized white Chrysler Le Baron roll up in front of the “Jet Club” with the name “Blackara” on the grill and their initials, XV and MP, on the sides. The scene inside the club presents the three in a VIP lounge with a group of friends, many of whom are scantily clad women. The VIP scene—­established by the visual markers of red walls and dancing women—­thus serves as an arrival in terms of wealth and prestige. It is the presumed goal of the high-­stakes transactions and “hard work” in the previous tableau. With the first iteration of the chorus, the VIP scene also serves to demarcate a musical arrival. Although the primary musical loop is constant throughout the track’s verses and chorus, it also has a highly teleological trajectory that reinforces the narrative of both the lyrics of the song and the images of the video. Indeed, the melodic shape of the line of continuous sixteenth notes is that of a countdown, outlining a falling natural minor scale with a lowered second degree. Although the tonal goal of E flat is reinforced on every beat, the gesture is nonetheless one of impending doom. The loop resonates with the narrative of Mani’s high-­stakes criminality as the lowered second acts as an especially powerful musical signifier of proximity to danger.16 The falling gesture resonates with Mani’s descent into the dark parking garage and its F flat conveys the danger of this type of descent. Indeed, where a leading tone on ascent is pleasing in a functionally tonal setting, this type of leading tone on descent is fundamentally upsetting despite its established inevitability in this Phrygian modal environment. The musical and narrative message here seems to invert this pleasure/displeasure binary, however, as Mani and Xiao take pride in their stated ability to arrive in desperate circumstances—­to step up and succeed in turning such situations to their financial advantage. Over the continuing loop, Blackara’s vocalist Mac Manu sings the track’s chorus of: “Les Arrivistes . . . Personalisé pour sa personalité” in a Jamaican dancehall idiom of rapidly repeated eighth notes on E flat, with interjections of major seconds and minor thirds at structurally important points. While the half-­sung, half-­spoken idiom is not especially common in Parisian hip hop,

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the musical connections between hip hop and dancehall are historically well established and very active in other scenes, including London’s heavily Caribbean influenced scene. In the verse that follows, Xiao plays a pimp rather than a dealer. Set somewhat awkwardly in that same Bastille McDonalds, we see Xiao sitting in a booth between two women. After establishing his power of attraction in the verse’s opening lyrics, he points to his personalized style as the source of his prowess. Here, his signature argyle hairstyle is mirrored on the hood of a red sweatshirt and matching pants, yielding a striking visual effect. In the main dramatic device of the scene, we see him imagine himself as something other than an attractive and customized ladies’ man. In a brief dream sequence we see him in a conservative sweater and khakis with a primly dressed woman on his arm. Notably, while the woman in the dream sequence is dressed conservatively in a black sweater and plaid skirt, the women in the booth are dressed in revealing red and leopard-­print dresses. Furthermore, the conservatively dressed woman is white, while the women in the booth are black. This moment of racialized difference is quickly injected with misogynistic overtones as well, as Xiao makes one of the women in the booth take a note to the white woman, instructing her to call him. In the end, the scene serves to establish Xiao’s power over all of the women, simultaneously characterizing him as a pimp and objectifying all three of the women as prostitutes. Rather than joining mainstream society—­as portrayed in the dream sequence—­Xiao’s character endeavors to bring the mainstream (white) woman into his world. After the verse is complete, the chorus and its VIP lounge scene resumes, now with the added implication that all of the women there are prostitutes. Through the two fictionalized scenarios of Mani as drug dealer and Xiao as pimp, Blackara completes the narrative that crime does pay. Although Mac Manu sets herself apart from the rest of the women by wearing even more gold than Mani and Xiao, the remainder of the video features objectifying closeups of dancing women. Indeed, the chasm between the self-­empowering arriviste ideals that Xiao and Mani described and the debased narrative with which they chose to illustrate this ideology is wide. Where the mantra of “by any means necessary” rang true as a response to structural racism and economic in­­ equality in our interview, the video for “Arrivistes” threw cold water on their righteous indignation. In his article, “The Cosmopolitan Nativist: Fela Anikulapo-­Kuti and the Antinomies of Postcolonial Modernity” Tejumola Olaniyan describes another musician’s ideological paradoxes as indicative of a wider postcolonial dilemma.17 Olaniyan illustrates how the father of Afro-­Beat music, the Nigerian

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Fela Kuti, matched a cultural traditionalism replete with separatist politics to a musical style that drew on global popular culture, arguing that the disjunctures of postcoloniality make such antinomies possible, if not necessary. In brief, the collision of first and third worlds on the same soil and in the same minds has brought about a new paradoxical system in which rational ideals such as universalism and equality are challenged by the manifestly illogical realities of white supremacy and structural racism. As such, the argument closely parallels the mental two-­ness of Du Bois’s “double consciousness” and the broader aims of this book. While Olaniyan’s primary consideration is of the antinomies of Euro-­ American cosmopolitanism and African tradition, he also interrogates the unexpected misogyny of Fela’s otherwise liberating cultural politics. Indeed, the antinomy is heightened in light of the fact that the bandleader’s mother was at the forefront of African women’s movements. Olaniyan theorizes these antinomies through the figure of a “cosmopolitan nativist,” who “borrows tools from wherever in defense of African ways of knowing and being conceived as embattled by Euro-­American cultural imperialism. In this conception, postcolonial musical modernity, indeed postcolonial modernity, is best theorized as an aporia pulling together two apparently contradictory paradigms.”18 Though I will not attempt to offer an apology for Blackara’s sexism—­or performances of criminal behavior, for that matter—­we might follow Olanyian’s lead in working toward an understanding thereof. We have in the video’s figure of the conservatively dressed white woman, an image of white European normativity. Though he does not explicitly espouse sexism, here we see Xiao militating against his stated enemy—­white normativity—­but doing so in a sexist mode. As a widely available, if destructive, way to feel empowered, the sexist discourses and actions of the video function as “tools” with which to do violence against a straw (wo)man for class and race discrimination in France, albeit a manifestly misguided one. In his book-­length study of Fela, Arrest the Music, Olaniyan describes the genesis of Fela’s mature ideology as the result of his exposure to the Black Power movement while working with musicians in the United States in the late 1960s. Therein he writes of the “radicalizing effect of the ten-­month US trip on Fela . . . which forcefully catalyzed and definitively shaped” his “cultural nationalism.”19 While the early Black Power movement was characterized by a relatively positive record of gender equality and women’s empowerment, many ideas that have filtered down to hip hop in the intervening years have sustained certain liberating aspects, while subverting others. The case of Public Enemy is instructive as a widely cited example of the politically liberating potential

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of Black Power–­influenced hip hop. However, in order to make celebratory claims about the seminal group, critics are forced to downplay or all together write out their sometimes violently antisemitic views. As their music and video illustrate, Blackara has found in the expressive culture and media of American hip hop a deep legacy of black cultural pride and self-­reliance on which to draw, but they have also fallen into many of the same traps as African American artists. Later in the interview, I asked Xiao and Mani if they had a strong connection to Africa. Xiao responded: “Yes, it is natural, it’s an obligation. Because we are Africans. When you turn on the TV and you see something about Africa—­it touches us. We see our family in Africa. And in our community [in Jaurés] they speak my language.” Xiao went on to explain that they were both first-­generation immigrants, having arrived in Paris as infants. Mani was born in Cameroon and he in “Zaire, Congo,” adding, “where Muhammad Ali beat George Foreman.” The reference to the famed “Rumble in the Jungle” was likely intended to help orient me to his place of origin, but it was also spoken with a great deal of pride. The momentous boxing match was promoted by Don King and Zaire’s strongman president Mobutu as a pan-­Africanist event imbued with an air of Black Power at the height of the movement. Of course, the fight also featured the Nation of Islam’s highest-­profile member, an associate of Malcolm X and another prominent symbol of the Black Power movement—­Ali. When I asked the two for their takes on the legacy of colonialism in France and in Africa, the first response came from Xiao, who explained with conviction: The problem is that people forget everything. That’s the problem. We have got to have memory. It’s what kills black people, you know? The memory. When we went to school they taught us about a lot of important things, really important things. But you have to speak to me about my history, what you have done to my people.

The words echo those of countless African Americans confronted with curricula in which black history is relegated to a special case (and month) and otherwise marginalized. They also share a commonly used discourse in American rap lyrics, including a particularly poignant line from the New York hip hop group De La Soul: “I make you feel lost like high school history.”20 In a mocking tone, Mani continued on the point, explaining that in Parisian classrooms they teach colonialism, saying, “Maybe some people have done

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bad things but we went over there to do good things. We taught you to eat with a spoon!” They continued, echoing Pizko’s comments from chapter 1: Xiao: In education, the government has a law that you have to teach about the good side of colonization. Mani: That is really shit! And you can’t speak back to the teacher. So: “okay, okay, okay okay.” But afterwards you look to your continent, to your country, and you say, “Look, they speak that language in that part of the country, and here is another country, but they speak the same.” Who cut—­who made it that way? It’s colonialism. Xiao: And they just say they taught you how to eat with a spoon! Mani: Look I have a pen! Mani’s point about social memory and the shortcomings of their school’s Afri­ can history curriculum was clearly an important one for him, as he kept return­ ing to memory as a theme throughout the interview. Indeed, the symbol of gold served as a reclamation of African natural resources for which colonizers “gave us some guns, some drugs, and cigarettes.” This sentiment is dramatized in a postcolonial revenge scene at the end of Blackara’s track “Bang Bang.” After giving shout-­outs (a list of thank yous) to a number of their friends, their neighborhood of Jaurès, and their 19th arrondissement with calls of “Bang Bang,” they lower their figurative saluting guns from the sky to the colonizer, closing the track with the line: “Général colonial: bang, bang, bang, bang.” As Blackara’s responses indicate, the two were genuinely engaged in postcolonial, national, and international politics and the histories thereof. However, when I asked what their school had taught about Francophone intellectuals such as the Martinicans Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon, and the Senegalese Léopold Senghor, they shrugged off the question. Whether through disinterest or because the anticolonial leaders were not taught in their school curricula, Mani and Xiao found their resources for postcolonial opposition and self-­improvement elsewhere. Like Fela before them it was the African American models of black power and self-­reliance that provided the most puissant models of  black identity and community solidarity. Furthermore, through their engagement with, and reference to, elements of American popular culture it became clear that electronic media were central to both imagining their worlds and themselves. Indeed, the gangsta rap narrative and commercialized images of the “Arrivistes” video seemed to confirm this influence. For better and for worse, hip hop music in particular provided the primary way to formalize their ideas, represent themselves, and achieve their goals.

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When I asked the two how they make musical choices on their tracks, Xiao described their compositional process as follows: It’s like a story. It’s why for us, you can’t use our lyrics, you know, to make a shaker [a simple dance track]. There’s a lot of people who can make a shaker of a song. But it’s the same song. Always the same song. In our songs we have to say something. Maybe it’s about parties, maybe drugs, maybe music, maybe problems, maybe about our parents, maybe about history, maybe about school, but we say something from the beginning to the end of all our lyrics.

When I followed up, pressing them about the actual musical processes of crafting a beat, Mani said that they produced the beats on a computer at home but returned to the same point, finding himself at a loss for words: “It depends on the track. If  it is about something sad, then we have sad music; something serious, serious music; something fun, party music. But we always say something.” For Blackara the sonic elements of their tracks were foremost a vehicle for the communication of lyrics, ideas, and feelings. As Ingrid Monson describes in her Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction, the jazz tradition is part of an “aural legacy” of African American tradition that has historically employed such musical communication as a form of cultural memory.21 Musical storytelling has been an especially useful vessel for both establishing dialogue and sustaining and developing traditions and memories. Just as Xiao and Mani note that their instrumental tracks must establish the tone for their rhymes to have meaning and power, Monson writes of the fundamental importance of the rhythm section for the jazz soloist at the outset of her study: An imaginative rhythm section can inspire a soloist to project his or her most vibrant voice, while disinterested accompaniment can thwart even the strongest artist. . . . When a musician successfully reaches a discerning audience, moves its members to applaud or shout praises, raises the energy to dramatic proportions, and leaves a sonorous memory that lingers long after, he or she has moved beyond technical competence, beyond the chord changes, and into the realm of “saying something.”22

To be sure, in hip hop the live freestyle cipher format more closely echoes the improvisational interaction of  jazz soloist and rhythm section. MCs at freestyle ciphers in Berlin, London, and Paris—­from Neukölln’s Teroabar, to Brixton’s Jamm, and Jaurés’s Radio Plurielle—­have indicated to me that when the DJ’s beats are not just right it is impossible to establish a “flow,” either stylistically,

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musically, or lyrically. Blackara’s emphasis on the importance of the musical context in the studio, however, conveys the idea that without a good beat the lyrical delivery will keep them from flowing, and that without an appropriate musical feel their ideas will certainly fall on deaf ears. In the context of their remarks about their community in Jaurés, it is clear that Xiao and Mani are interested not only in speaking, but also in communicating ideas or feelings to a receptive audience. In their view, if nothing is communicated, nothing is said. As such, the act of “saying something” is more akin to dialogue than monologue. Despite their highly individualizing lyrics there is thus an idea about hip hop as communication, community building, and empowerment. At the end of our interview Xiao pointed out the t-­shirt that he had designed for their record label, Offensive Records. It represented another “personalized” affect that he was wearing for their promotional activities, and was in this case a truly personal and powerful one, which he was especially proud of. The poetry, beginning on the shirt’s back, was his own, and reads: For them I am: less than nothing, a robber, lazy, a delinquent, a savage, an outcast, a coward, a prisoner, the bad guy, an ignoramus, an imbecile, a problem, a good for nothing, a modern slave But when I look at myself in my mirror, I see: a father, a son, a brother, a fighter, a genius, the future, a go-­getter, a hard worker, a thinker, a visionary, a free man. they judge us but . . .

Xiao then pointed out how the final ellipsis on the shirt’s back leads to the front, which reads in much larger letters: “They do not know who we are.” The list of stereotypes, including “a delinquent,” “the bad guy,” and “a problem,” echoes the dubbed Menace II Society sample that begins the track “Bang Bang.” What’s more, the translated quote from Menace that serves as

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my epigraph above provides a social translation for Xiao and Mani as well, in effect saying: we are le cauchemar de la France—­France’s nightmare. The “we” that he is speaking both to and for is his racially diverse and economically marginalized postcolonial community in Paris’s 19th arrondissement. As Blackara communicates through their arriviste ideology, their eschewal of French patrimony and paternalism, and their sense of community self-­determination in Jaurés, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

C a p i ta l e S a l e R e c o r d s a n d S i d i - O ­ After first meeting DJ Dirty Swift and Tarik at the Marché Noir radio show, they invited me to Vingt-­Quatre Heures (Twenty-­four Hours) Studio, the home of their record label Capitale Sale. Along with the studios at Radio Plurielle, the small studio on Rue du Pasteur Wagner just north of Place de la Bastille would come to be an important location to meet and interview other Parisian MCs. The studio is comprised of a small storefront office space and two barrel-­vaulted cellars. The main floor serves as the office for Capitale Sale, with just enough room for a couch and a solitary desk piled high with CDs and promotional materials. The two downstairs rooms were filled with computers, synthesizers, and other recording equipment. At the end of each was a small soundproofed recording booth, outfitted with a single microphone and set of headphones. The only other notable feature of the independent and literally underground studio were the hundreds of LPs stacked on chairs, in crates, on desks, and in unruly piles on the floor. A quick glance at the top of the stacks yielded classic titles from the rap group EPMD and DJ Premiere, to classics of African American soul such as James Ingram and Quincy Jones, to the disco group Chic, a favorite sampling source for early hip hop producers. The studio was a veritable library of African American music from R&B to hip hop—­no doubt the result of a dozen or so DJs using the studio as a storage facility for the albums that were currently out of their regular rotation. Furthermore, with the advent of digital Serato “Scratch Live” turntable software, the records were coming to be used less often, as DJs converted their music libraries to mp3s and stored them on their laptops. DJ Dirty Swift, one of my primary contacts in Paris, was one who had recently made a full transition to the Serato setup. As he explained, while analog LPs were still used in the studio for their higher quality, warmth, and character, the digital setup was just too easy to pass up for club gigs. Where DJs were once required to tote an entire crate of LPs to each event and have some semblance of a plan, the Serato technology allowed them to be more

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responsive to the crowd or to freestyling MCs, changing direction at a moment’s notice with their entire library at hand. As the DJ for the Marché Noir show, Swift introduced me to countless MCs, including Wira, Boramy, Khosa, Taïro, and a number of others who recorded for Capitale Sale or rented out the studio space. In addition, he introduced me to one of the producers for the label, Greg “le Grec” (The Greek), whose production company, Quantizers, composed and mastered most of the tracks that were issued on Capitale Sale recordings. Greg and Wira showed me around the studio, commenting that although much of the technology was not cutting edge, they could consistently issue commercial-­quality recordings to be distributed nationally, because they had the real talent. Indeed, the computers and the Roland sampling keyboard were older models, but I later found that Capitale Sale CDs were available for purchase in both the small indepen­ dent and large chain record stores across Paris. There are a number of reasons for the wide distribution for small labels in France, including minimum radio quotas for French music that both buttress and build the nation’s thriving market for hip hop.23 The example of Capitale Sale’s success was nonetheless remarkable and made the impact of these larger market and regulation issues quite apparent. During my time in Paris, the label was busy promoting their most recent release, a CD by Sidi-­O entitled Extrait d’Amertume (Extract of Bitterness). I spoke with the Algerian Parisian rapper briefly at a café near the studios. He explained that his name combined “Sidi,” the Arab word for king, with his own first initial—­O for Omar. Hence, the rapper went by Sidi-­O or King Omar. As we spoke, I was struck by the rapper’s quiet demeanor, which was further highlighted by a slight lisp. He told me that he was from the 18th arrondissement near Stalingrad Metro station. Indeed, it turned out that like Xiao and Mani, many of the label’s artists were from the northeast of Paris. Sidi-­O explained that despite the travel time, the location for the studio was chosen for its centrality. The rent was thus higher than similar spaces in the 18th or 19th, but the studio was run like something of a timeshare with MCs, DJs, and producers contributing to the rent by purchasing studio time or otherwise investing in the shared aims of the label. Like the Marché Noir show at Radio Plurielle, Capitale Sale was something of a communal meeting place for the hip hop musicians and their friends. During the thirty minutes of our interview, a number of other Capitale Sale musicians came and left the café, saying hello to Sidi-­O, palling around with the establishment’s proprietor, and heading back to their projects in the studio with renewed vigor.

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When I asked Sidi-­O about his new album, he explained: “The title is a metaphor for how experiences of  life can build up, and bitterness can build up. So I take the shit, I take the bitterness and I refine it and put it into my texts.” The title track is an extended metaphor on this theme of refining the bitterness of life into lessons that can then be applied as healing essential oils to others’ heads. Its chorus begins with a forcefully delivered statement that captures the pressure of the metaphor: “extrait d’amertume a serré de ma tête” (extract of bitterness is squeezed from my head). Indeed, the power with which he delivers the rhymes throughout stand in stark contrast to the soft-­spoken figure I interviewed. Sidi-­O’s rapping style is rife with the pronounced “s,” “th,” and “f ” sounds of his lisp as well as exaggerated glottal stops—­even by standards of spoken French. The effect makes Sidi-­O seem to be literally “spitting” the lyrics, a term that is in fact often used as a synonym for rapping. Rather than distracting from his music, however, the affectations heighten his verbal delivery, creating a degree of intensity that is especially appropriate for the subject of  “Extrait d’Amertume.” The most interesting feature of the track, however, is its main loop played on harpsichord—­symbol of French (art) music history par excellence. While the French harpsichord tradition stretches back to the sixteenth century, today it is embodied in the singular figure of baroque composer François Cou­ perin. The instrument’s special association with France today, however, comes as the result of an early twentieth-­century revival movement centered around a patriotically motivated search for French national musical roots. Focused in Paris and associated with a host of French composers including Vincent d’Indy and Francis Poulenc as well as the harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, the revival articulated a lost sense of the grandeur and elegance of the French monarchy during a time when neoclassisism was becoming a popular aesthetic ideal. Harry Haskell notes this search for French musical roots in his classic musicological study, The Early Music Revival: Essentially a reaffirmation of traditional Gallic virtues, fortified by a strong admixture of nationalistic fervor, Neoclassicism quickly took root in the France of d’Indy, Boulanger, Landowska and the anti-­Romantic composers known as “Les Six.” . . . The harpsichord, intrinsically suited to counterpoint and sharply-­etched rhythms, was the Neoclassical instrument par excellence.24

While he may not be concerned with this history, per se, it is clear that Sidi-­O is employing the courtly formality of the harpsichord as a foil for his bitter

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indictment of French society. The targets of his indignation include a long list of hypocrites, liars, bureaucrats, and, most notably, the mindless “bourgeois-­ ness” (bourgeoisité ) of the wealthy. Together with an almost comic tuba-­sample bass line, the harpsichord motive builds into a satirical but scathing representation of traditional Frenchness. By contrasting such musical formality with outraged lyrics about governmental hypocrisy and corruption, Sidi-­O also embodies the name of his record label, Capitale Sale. Indeed, the name Dirty Capital and its logo, featuring two giant housing projects, function not only as a signifier of authentically urban grit, but communicate Sidi-­O’s indictment of the capital city and its government that is perceived to be corrupt, unresponsive, and degraded. As I walked around Place de la Bastille on my way home from the studio, I noticed a Sidi-­O sticker on one of the streetlamps outside of a FNAC store. There were hundreds of music advertisements affixed to the signs and walls around the large music retailer, and it appeared that Capitale Sale had done its promotional work. In a randomly fortuitous, but nonetheless poignant, example of the confluence of hip hop and Americanization in Paris, I also came across two posters affixed to another Place de la Bastille streetlight. The first placard that caught my eye was an Uncle Sam figure pointing to the viewer with the classic tag line: “I Want You.” On further inspection, the face of the symbol of US patriotism par excellence was that of Sarkozy. After seeing the poster at the Bastille, I began to notice it elsewhere on Parisian streetcorners—­a caricature of the French interior minister’s pro-­American leanings that was designed to elicit fears about the country’s cultural and economic self-­determination and distributed across the city in advance of the National election. Nowhere else, however, was the polemical image plastered over an equally evocative reimaging of  French cultural patrimony. For here, under Uncle Sarko’s mug, was the bust of a doo-­ragged and headphoned Marianne—­the personification of the French Republic and symbol of French patriotism. In this formulation, the artwork, title, and musical contents of the politically progressive album—­Ecoute La Rue Marianne (Listen to the Street Marianne)—­work together to implore the French establishment to listen to the diverse postcolonial viewpoints of  lower-­class residents of Parisian ’hoods and the surrounding banlieues. The French Socialist Party, which is most likely responsible for the Uncle Sarko image, has had a problematic relationship with French hip hop, as we saw in chapter 1. Regardless of  whether the political operative who posted the anti-­Sarkozy material over the hip hop advertisement intended to obscure the mild defamation of French republican values, or to highlight the irony of these two images in counterpoint, the photo captures

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a moment that is a quite literal snapshot of   Parisian cultural politics in the runup to the 2007 election. * In closing, I would like to return to Blackara’s idea of le cauchemar. Xiao and Mani portray themselves as the nightmare of French society not only because they are anathema to the political Right’s fantasy of an ethnically pure nation, but also because they complicate the political Left’s dream of a race-­free society—­as typified by SOS-­R acisme’s stance. As the form of cultural politics that these rappers employ indicates, this polarized vision for solving France’s “race problem” posits two unacceptable and indeed untenable options: deport everyone of immigrant origins or have everyone accept French culture as their own. Notably, both are “race-­free” dreams. Instead, these self-­defined minority rappers choose “to maintain their race identity until . . . the ideal of human brotherhood has become a practical possibility.”25 In their music Blackara and Sidi-­O make it abundantly clear that this possibility has not yet come to pass, but in hip hop music and community they find the most readily available means to work toward that end. The degree of variance between their chosen forms of hip hop racialization is indicative of the available space within articulations of minority identity. In the oppositional models of an array of African American cultural forms they locate a politics best suited to their realities and work with those frameworks to make the music their own and to create “New Ethnicities.” Furthermore, as the medium of  hip hop continues to capture the imaginations of minority youth, the electronic media through which rap music is disseminated will continue to provide them a position of power at the center of debates about the future of  France. Perhaps then, a nightmare is just what is needed in order to wake the nation up from its dreams of a race-­free France and start working toward the equality that would enable such a possibility.

chapter 7

“Wherever We Go”: UK Hip Hop and the Deformation of Mastery Beautiful killers in expensive suits Murdering groups that’ll never recoup Exquisite death that walks in flesh At the crossroads I mark my X N e w F l e s h , “Wherever We Go”

Flippin’ the Script: “The Code Speaks the Subject” In the introduction to his study Blues, Ideology, and Afro-­American Literature: A Vernacular Theory, Houston Baker describes his continuing scholarly project as a quest for “the distinctive, the culturally specific aspects of Afro-­ American literature and culture.” At the outset he explains how his earlier efforts were geared toward the search for a discrete and describable form of human subjectivity. Certainly this subject could be located, isolated, and extracted from a close study of the myriad forms of African American expressive cultures. These forms, after all, constitute the material artifacts of this subjectivity and, through systematic analysis, one should be able to find the encoded desires and structures of feeling that are this subjectivity. But as Baker describes, through the close study of this dialectic of subjects and their culture he came to see the interplay of cultural forms not as the product of a particular “speaking subject,” but rather as a process that powers African American cultural identity. In this “vernacular theory,” he thus inverts the process of cultural production as “language (the code) ‘speaking’ the subject.”1 The figure of the blues—­as both form and as ideology—­serves as the primary locus of Baker’s inverted theorization of African American culture in which the code constitutes its subjects. He describes the blues as the force of

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African American culture’s dynamic network: “the ‘always already’ of Afro-­ American culture. They are the multiplex, enabling script in which Afro-­ American cultural discourse is inscribed.”2 Notably, this network finds form in the figure of the crossroads or “X” in countless blues numbers. Indeed, the crossroads is a particularly prominent discourse in blues music describing everything from the journeys of vagabonds and railroad workers to choices between life and death, heaven and hell. Of course, in its formulation as the alphanumeric X, the crossroads collapses all of these meanings, functioning as the variable, code, or “script” that is central to Baker’s vernacular theory. Baker’s “code speaking the subject” formulation captures the movement and constitutive dynamism of Amiri Baraka’s foundational theorizations about African American expressive culture, while complicating the agency of his Blues People subjectivity. To Baker, the blues is not an essential expression of a changing same, but rather a same-­ing change—­to flip the script on Baraka’s critical formulation. The blues is not an effect of human subjects, but a cause. It does not offer proof of humanity, but creates a binding human subjectivity just as it critiques the ossified concept of humanity at the core of Western universalism. Just as the blues speaks its subjects into being, its dynamism manufactures difference. Baker explains: The materiality of any blues manifestation, such as a guitar’s walking bass or a French harp’s “whoop” of motion seen, is, one might say, enciphered in ways that enable the material to escape into a named or coded, blues signification. The material, thus, slips into irreversible difference. And as phenomena named and set in meaningful relation by a blues code, both the harmonica’s whoop and the guitar’s bass can recapitulate vast dimensions of experience. For such discrete blues instances are always intertextually related by the blues code as a whole.3

Following from this description, the products of this code that come into being through musical performance do not break from this form of signification, but are forever marked in their relation to the blues. In this way, Baker describes how such new musical phenomena upon their sounding collect the weighty signification of  historical experience. Recalling Baraka, we might say that Baker’s musicians are not agents of the blues as such, but come into being as Blues People through their engagement with the code. As outlined in chapter 3, Baker engages another form of code with musical origins—­that of the minstrel mask—­in his Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. In that discussion he dates the foundation of an originary and

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distinct African American modernity to Booker T. Washington’s 1895 address to the racial capitalists of the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition—­an unlikely and seemingly absurd assertion. In the address, the African American leader and director of the Tuskegee Institute delivered an outline for the slow and steady incorporation of his people into American industrial and economic life. As Baker notes, Washington’s plan was in fact overseen and well proscribed by his white audience of capitalists and industrialists, limiting the gains in select fields to a select group of African Americans. Nonetheless, Washington’s ability to speak to this audience humbly and carefully, navigating their presuppositions and indulging their stereotypes as needed, writes Baker, was the first key step to African American entry into modern American society. As Baker describes, this address exemplified Washington’s mastery of white expectations and demands. Importantly, these expectations were forged musically, in the the wildly popular blackface minstrelsy performances of the age. In order for a black man to relate to white America, it seems, he had to be conversant in the poetry, music, and dramatic conventions of the form. Baker explains: “For it was in fact the minstrel mask as mnemonic ritual object that constituted the form that any Afro-­American who desired to be articulate—­to speak at all—­had to master during the age of Booker T. Washington.” Indeed, to relate to white Americans, black Americans were forced to play a dehumanizing part. But as he goes on to explain with regard to the publication of Up from Slavery: “Thirty-­two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Booker T. Washington changed the minstrel joke by stepping inside the white world’s nonsense syllables with oratorical mastery.”4 It is this turn that Baker refers to as the “deformation of mastery”—­a strategic development and deployment of minstrelsy’s tropes to self-­empowering ends. In a fitting irony, because of white American investments in minstrelsy and its performances of an authenticized and naturalized blackness, when in their own hands (and voices, and bodies) African Americans had increasingly free rein to deform, define, and riff upon these tropes to suit their own exigencies.5 Like the formal matrix of the blues, the open form of the minstrel mask is a multivalent and dynamic site fraught with coded meanings. Baker’s argument that African American modernism was born via the mastery of minstrelsy—­a white form of racialized entertainment—­thus lays out the preconditions for the deformation of mastery that defines the blues code. If we follow this line of thought linking the 1984 and 1987 studies, we can see that it is through the mastery of minstrelsy’s images and codes that African Americans gained access to American modernity. In their subsequent rehearsal and development of this tradition, black artists began deforming this mastery as evidenced by

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the strategic essentialisms of the blues code—­cultural expressions that relate African Americans to American culture through this legacy of enciphered cultural difference. Read together, both the Mask and the X represent fluidity in the sense that Baker reads “form”—­a continuity that we might use as a heuristic device for theorizing hip hop’s semantic slippages and deep sonic intertextualities.

Global Crossroads and the Postcolonial Blues In this chapter, I first conduct a brief survey of London’s ever-­diversifying hip hop scenes and the discourses they generate. With this background, I perform a close reading of the group New Flesh’s track “Wherever We Go” from the 2006 album Universally Dirty, focusing on the interplay of the musical and textual codes that I argue represents a distinct subjectivity rooted in black music. In this section I relate the sonic materials of the track back to a series of formal interviews, follow-­up correspondences, and informal conversations stretching from May of 2007 through 2015. In brief, I argue that through hip hop the blues code has spoken these subjects. Their cultural performance of hip hop in music and discourse relates them to the blues and to its African American specificity, just as it relates them to their respective localities and experiences of postcoloniality. Through their material manifestations of the blues matrix, these performances thus signify a universal and “irreversible difference” that is nonetheless of a particular order. Indeed, as Baker describes, this particularity is not an essential retention of  black musicality, but an engagement with the music that recasts them as Blues People and relates them to their respective societies through discourses of racialized difference. Throughout the discussion, I use Baker’s inversion of the “code speaking the subject” to show how the blues code in the musical and linguistic form of hip hop has spoken postcolonial subjects in the city. I show how the musical “manifestations” of this code have reproduced the network in locations geographically removed from the contexts of the American form but historically linked to the experiences thereof. In so doing I extend Baker’s search for “the distinctive, the culturally specific aspects” of African American culture overseas as a test case for his assertion that this specificity is not grounded in subjective agency, but in the cultural forms and their practices. My aim is to illustrate how the broad category of “black music”—­from minstrelsy, through blues, to hip hop and London’s localized grime—­as the primary cultural manifestation of the blues code has gained currency among populations who see

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in this code a matrix that includes space for them. As these forms are initiated they gain signification from the blues matrix, add to the experience of that matrix, and ultimately problematize the national hegemonies of signification in their local contexts. Before I attend to these matters of musical and cultural analysis, I turn to examine the cultural contexts of black music in London and in the United Kingdom at large. During my fieldwork I was particularly struck by the fragmentation of the city’s hip hop scene, broadly defined. As I came to understand, this diversity was powered by another valence of the blues matrix—­the manifestation of its forms in the city’s commercial market for black music. If the blues matrix is enriched via the cultural expressions of people around the globe, it also brings with it the full weight and histories of American commercial and racial ideologies enciphered in minstrelsy. As I describe, London’s MCs are well aware of the Americanizing forces of black music, working both through and against them in the dynamic form of the blues matrix.

Grime, UK Hip Hop, and London’s Black Music Industry In May 2007 I attended a concert of artists signed to the Big Dada record label near London’s King’s Cross station. The concert at North London’s Big Chill House featured three of the United Kingdom’s best-­known MCs: Roots Manuva, Wiley, and the event’s host, Juice Aleem of the group New Flesh. Much to my surprise, the venue was little more than a bar with a floor-­ level stage at one end of a small dance floor. While the Big Chill House was crowded with fans of the three rappers, the scale of the show struck me as odd. In Paris and Berlin even many of the underground artists attracted fans to their concerts by the thousands. I was therefore astounded to find an audience of around 200 people. The event was a “label night” rather than a bona fide concert, but was nonetheless underwhelming in terms of numbers. Six months prior I had an opportunity to see Juice Aleem perform with New Flesh at Berlin’s Club Icon. The attendance at that concert was in a similar range of around 200, a figure one might expect for a British group performing for a largely German-­speaking audience. At the time, I considered myself fortunate to get the chance to speak to Juice Aleem in the small club after the show, introducing myself and telling him that I hoped to conduct a formal interview with him when I arrived in the United Kingdom. As I later came to find, however, I had no trouble connecting with both him and Roots Manuva during and after the informal show in London. Furthermore, I soon found

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that despite a thriving underground freestyle scene, this scaled-­down example proved typical of audiences for the better-­known hip hop acts in the city. The last of the three cities in which I conducted fieldwork, London’s hip hop scene was at once the most and the least familiar. Because of shared linguistic and historical ties, London’s hip hop shares many of the lyrical, musical, and ideological contours of the US form. Indeed, this is as we might expect. However, the city is also known for its innovative and constantly proliferating musical subcultures, and its hip hop scenes are as diverse as the city itself. During my time in London during the spring and summer of 2007, I attended events ranging from coffeehouse open mics to large multiroom raves, from artsy warehouse parties to gritty freestyle battles, from impromptu streetcorner ciphers to a posh fundraising event for Amnesty International. In addition to the core scene, commonly referred to by the nationally defined term “UK hip hop,” there is a mind-­bending array of offshoots and hybrid genres of hip hop–­related breakbeat musics in the London scene, including grime, garage, funky house,  jungle, drum and bass, two step, dubstep, bashment, ragga, dancehall, bhangra, and others. Much of my challenge in preparing for fieldwork in London involved better familiarizing myself with the history and musical contours of these subgenres in order to get a handle on the emergent forms that were currently en vogue in the city, foremost among them grime.6 As I made connections and gathered data in the city, I came to suspect that the manifest diversity of musical styles was not simply the logical aesthetic output of London’s distinctive postcolonial cosmopolitanism or its status as a capital of the global culture industry, but also the result of a cultural transaction born of the city’s transatlantic relationship with the United States. If I might, for a moment, mix metaphors, I came to see London’s hyperactive subgenre glands as part of a larger innovation engine powered by the simultaneous attraction to and repulsion from the American black music industry. The alternating current produced by the positive and negative connotations of these musics and their industry, in my view, has a profound effect on the popular music industry in the city and in the country at large. In brief, I came to view London’s black music scenes as highly responsive to developments in the US industry, but exceptionally careful to recast their takes on these developments in their own terms, with their own performative contours, and always mindful to triangulate US influence with other postcolonial—­largely Caribbean, but also African and South Asian—­influences. The example of grime is illustrative of this point. Grime emerged from London’s East End club scene around 2002 as MCs began rapping over garage beats. As the name “garage” (pronounced gár-­age) implies, these breakbeats

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were simple, heavy, industrial, and fast. The resultant rapped form approximated the structural and linguistic components of hip hop with two primary innovations: the speed of the beats and rhymes (around 140 bpm) and the low-­ fidelity electronic sounds typical of garage. First attempts at naming the emergent genre resulted in the term “garage rap,” that for a number of reasons did not stick. Eventually, the term “grime” emerged to describe the frenetic garage aesthetic combined with the abrasive delivery and often-­violent lyrics of the MCs rhyming in this format. In a 2003 piece for Spin magazine, Simon Reynolds explained the consensus choice of “grime”: “Most of all there’s just no real rival contenders out there. ‘Garage rap’ hasn’t caught on ’cos it’s dull and the two words glommed onto each other emphasises the transitional hybrid aspect of the music rather than its unitary nature, pointing back to the two precursor genres, UKG [UK Garage] and hip hop when it should be proclaiming the fact that the genre has definitively arrived at itself.”7 The terminological choice that he describes is indicative of a broader desire for the music to have a title that offers a strong sense of internal coherence. That this coherence is framed in terms of both stylistic integrity and national independence is no coincidence. Indeed, the author’s only qualm with the nomenclature is that it had already been deployed in the context of American hip hop. He writes: “I’m slightly chagrined it’s slanguage of American origin (Onyx used to go on about ‘grimy’ way back in ’93) but maybe that’s okay because it sort of parallels the way ‘punk’ was an American word and then us Brits really took it over, didn’t we, made it our own.” The evidence of national pride here seems to confirm my hypothesis. Of course, the distinct presence of postcolonial Caribbean influence on this music further complicates this hypothesis pointing back to hip hop’s own constitutive hybridity. Indeed, the form also includes vocal elements of Jamaican dancehall and stylistic innovations from jungle’s fast pace. But more than anything the label “grime” allows a certain distance from the perceived US form of hip hop, and with this distance comes a distinct degree of self-­confidence. Grime has often been compared to US gangsta rap as it shares the violent, sometimes highly racialized messages of American gangsta MCs and is also similar to crunk due to its fast aggressive beats. But where the developments of gangsta rap and crunk in the United States were viewed as developments contained squarely within the musical and stylistic realm of hip hop, grime is just the most notable example in a long line of UK breakbeat forms to be defined as separate genres. As such, the development and commercial labeling of genres such as grime serve to carve out a new space with a cultural specificity for UK artists.

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Notably, while grime, garage, and most of the other breakbeat forms need no geographical modifier, hip hop produced in the United Kingdom is deemed in need of further signification. As soon became clear from my fieldwork, this self-­conscious naming practice was one result of the uneven relationship between the UK scene and the US scene. In an interview with one veteran of the London scene, Farma G of the hip hop crew Task Force explained that the relationship is “a little brother thing.”8 Indeed, hip hop success in the United Kingdom is still measured against American artists—­unfairly so. In a 2006 article on the BBC website, Ruth Jamieson writes: “Critics heralded New Flesh’s last album, Understanding, as one of the few examples of homegrown hip hop that you could play to an American without blushing.”9 As I will argue, Juice Aleem and his collaborators in New Flesh accomplish this Herculean feat by producing and perfoming a hip hop both deeply informed by grime’s rapid-­ fire vocal practices and effusive bass gestures and unconcerned with the naming practices that unecesarily divide such black Atlantic musics. As we will see, Aleem’s rapped content regarding “Knowledge of Self ” jibes perfectly with these practices and their forms, not only by discursively highlighting theses continuities, but by blurring the lines between content and form—­between text and music, words and sonic performance. As the nationally defined moniker UK hip hop indicates, because of a shared language and a smaller national market, UK hip hop artists tend to be relegated to a special case even within the United Kingdom. As the recent examples of M.I.A., Lady Sovereign, and Dizzee Rascal attest, UK artists also need to carve out a niche to enter the US market for a variety of reasons, not the least of them a perceived deficit of authenticity. As an article questioning the lack of commercial progress for the national scene on the UK Hip Hop website (www.ukhh.com) by the contributor Coakley puts it: “Like it or not the average person sees Hip-­Hop as being ‘black & American’ and most of the people who are involved with the Hip-­Hop scene here are neither. UK Hip-­Hop will continue to find it difficult to achieve that same level of authenticity until we stop biting their beats, and stop rhyming like public schoolboys returning from a 6 month trip to Jamaica.”10 Coakley’s prescription is noteworthy not only for its emphasis on the need for local (or national) authenticity, but in its conflation of black America and Jamaica as the New World models of authentic black music. Indeed, his thoughts highlight the ambivalent transactions of attraction and repulsion toward these black Atlantic cultures and their largely unidirectional cultural flows. In their study: “Urban Breakbeat Culture: Repercussions of Hip-­Hop in the United Kingdom,” David Hesmondhalgh and Caspar Melville write: “In

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spite of the undoubted talent of many British hip-­hop musicians, British rap has been marginalized and to some extent impoverished by an overreverential attitude toward US rap, by the attempt to reproduce styles and languages developed in very different contexts.”11 Whereas Parisian and Berliner rappers have what amounts to a linguistically captive audience, London’s MCs must always compete more directly with US MCs who are not only perceived to be the originators of the music, but who also, as a rule, receive much more financial backing than UK artists. Because of these and other factors, even the artists who are signed to prominent record labels in London are surprisingly accessible. Although the preponderance of my time was spent with communities of rappers that considered themselves firmly ensconced in the UK hip hop scene, I soon came to recognize the fluidity of the borders between these subgenres and the slippage between definitions thereof. Indeed, there seemed to be as many definitions of these genres/subgenres as there were opinions. For one interviewee, a grime MC may be considered a rapper, but he was not hip hop. For another, experience as a drum and bass DJ provided a background for an easy transition to hip hop. Some found the definitions merely racialized industry pigeonholes, while still others found all of these musics part of a continuum and a shared history. What became certain amid this uncertainty was that the boundaries between these subgenres of rapped music were largely defined in relation to each MC’s strengths, weaknesses, and personal goals. That is, these genre tags were more than descriptive handles, alternating between inclusion and exclusion to suit each individual’s aesthetic and political aims. As Roots Manuva put it in a 2005 track entitled “Colossal Insight”: “I don’t give a damn about UK rap / I’m a UK black makin’ UK tracks / and I got love for everyone of them scenes / and them pigeon-­holes were never nothin’ to hold me.”12 Coakley’s point about UK hip hop becoming less black with the advent of grime echoes another point made by Farma G, that sometime during the late 1990s UK hip hop became increasingly white as black Britons headed to the grime scene. While the hip hop scene remains diverse in London, and remains a largely minority-­driven art form, the audiences for UK hip hop have become increasingly white in recent years, as evidenced by the largely white audiences at the Big Chill House and elsewhere. Indeed, the crowd for that show in North London featuring the UK hip hop artists Roots Manuva and Juice Aleem together with the grime artist Wiley was largely white, whereas the grime events that I went to in London’s East End tended to be attended by majority nonwhite patrons. As one telling example, a grime concert that I saw

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on Brick Lane featuring only Wiley and his Roll Deep Crew was both better attended and more ethnically diverse. Additionally, the Roll Deep show involved a great deal more movement on the part of the audience. As mentioned, where the Big Chill House is essentially a pub with a stage, Brick Lane’s 93 Feet East is a dance club. The garage and jungle roots of the music were more evident in this setting as the crowd was there as much to dance as to listen. Indeed, another large room in the sprawling club was devoted to funky house, jungle, and drum and bass. While hip hop is historically also a dance music (and remains a club music among many communities), common concert attendance at live events in both the United States and United Kingdom today is characterized by head bopping and subtle movements rather than grime’s active or even aggressive dancing. Accompanying this more frenetic atmosphere, the sound systems for grime tend to be pushed harder than their hip hop counterparts. This was the case for the Roll Deep show, which at times overloaded the system with rapid-­fire bass gestures. Finally, the drug culture associated with grime and its related electronic dance musics tends to eschew the mellowing effects of hip hop’s marijuana culture for “club drugs” such as ecstasy and other stimulants. In my 2007 interview with Farma G, the thirty-­four-­year-­old veteran of  Lon­ don’s hip hop scene explained the racialized developments around the recent emergence of grime at some length and with a degree of nostalgia for an earlier period. In response to my question asking him to characterize grime’s split from hip hop, he offered the following story involving a narrative of racial inversion: “I would say that the break is a racial one. I would definitely say that. It’s not a divide in race, like the actual social aspects of everyday life—­it’s a very mixed society—­but when it comes to music there is a sort of tug and pull thing. I mean, the UK hip hop scene, when I first got into it, I would be—­literally, me, my brother, Skinny Man [another veteran UK hip hop artist], and a couple others—­we would be the white specks in the black crowd.”13 The rapper spoke briefly about the musical aspects of grime—­as a form of hip hop with notable stylistic differences—­but this narrative of the music’s racial bifurcation was foremost among his thoughts. He continued: “As me and Chester, Task Force, Skinny,  Jehst, and a couple of other forerunners in that group of, like, white hip hop groups—­it sort of allowed a lot more to come in, made it a little bit more safe, or rather made it a little bit easier for kids who wanted to be involved to be part of it. And in the space of ten years it completely reversed itself.” As he describes, between the late eighties and late nineties, Farma G witnessed a cultural mainstreaming replete with the whitening of the form. “Now you

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don’t see as many black kids in a hip hop club and you don’t see many white kids at a grime night.” Notably, Farma G’s historic sketch draws on narrative elements of both Baraka’s “changing same” and the cinematic vision of Eminem’s 8 Mile. At one point in the interview, Farma G noted the difficulty of entering the largely black hip hop scene in the 1980s, remembering: “people don’t know how hard it was to make it how it is now—­even way back in school I was so interested in black culture. I used to have to take a beatin’ everyday. It was a bit rough handed, but it was just part and parcel of becoming part of that thing.” However, he sees this process not in the light of cultural theft as the white appropriation narrative is structured by Baraka, but as part of a dialectic. Recalling an earlier point in his comments on the developments of dance crazes, Farma G reframes the changing same, explaining: “Like I was saying about the dance steps, there seems to be—­it sort of stems from one or the other [black or white], and then the other takes it and changes it to suit them. Then it kind of goes back to basics and then keeps it rolling along. It’s quite strange, actually.” Like the genesis stories about the cakewalk, he views black music as a site of both cultural contestation and cultural exchange. And despite the sense of nostalgia that Farma G conveyed and the reworking of extant discourses about black music, his comments were instructive of a range of cultural issues regarding cultural ownership—­a discourse that he understands as a complex one. One issue that most of the MCs I spoke with agreed upon with regard to black musics and the proliferation of stylistic labels was a general distaste for the recent industry invention of the term “urban” as a politically correct alternative to “black music.” Indeed, most of the rappers that I interviewed in London raised the issue without prompting, noting that the major music retailers all adopted this terminology. Much of the focus on this debate centered around the 2005 prize in the Urban category of the Brit Awards for Joss Stone’s album Soul Sessions. As the BBC framed the debate in an article titled “Brits Debate Over ‘Urban’ Music”: “Joss Stone, a 17-­year-­old soul singer from Devon, beat Dizzee Rascal, Jamelia, Lemar and The Streets to win best British urban act at the Brit Awards. Her victory has reignited the debate about what urban music is.”14 The core issue with the young soul singer’s win was, of course, that she was neither black nor urban. The rappers with whom I spoke found fault not with Stone per se, but with an industry label that they felt was designed to make it easier to award such a prize to an artist with broad mainstream appeal by deracializing the music. In effect, the label “urban” allowed the general public to vote for a crossover artist without having to consider the troubling issue of race. Of course, this industry

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defined label for the United Kingdom also again circumvents the American industry’s label “R&B/Hip-­Hop.” To be sure, the move to the term “urban” attempts to recognize that artists of varying ethnicities have performed black music for hundreds of years, both in ways that perpetrated racial violence and in ways that promoted partnership and understanding. The term shifts the focus onto the context of the music making rather than its supposed racial genesis or racialized characteristics. However, the artists that I spoke with uniformly dismissed this term as an act of cultural theft and erasure—­perhaps to protect their own cultivated authenticities, but certainly as part of a larger mistrust of the recording industry. Their perspectives held that the industry executives who promoted this eschewal of the term “black music” had no right in doing so. Further, these artists explained how the label of “urban music” laid the groundwork for a fully commodified emulation of black music—­a product that we might say is bereft of the blues code. As one rapper, South London’s Confucius MC, put it: “This ‘urban’ music is just rap music that isn’t hip hop. These people haven’t spent enough time with it.” The comments echo those of Hamburg-­ based DJ Marius No. 1, who was concerned about hip hop becoming devoid of content—­becoming “a mere stylistic device”—­with the advent of German gangsta rap. However, there is a difference between the takes of Confucius and Marius that hinges on the issue of content. As Baker is careful to point out, the blues matrix is not a matter of content but of form itself. In short, he is careful to avoid the form/content binary in order to argue for the flexibility of the form and its capacity to carry meaning. In the sections that follow I track the ways that these particular issues regarding London’s national, local, and historical musical contexts interface with hip hop’s blues code and its own dynamic specificities.

New Flesh’s

u n i v e r s a l ly d i rt y

After the show at the Big Chill House, I asked Juice Aleem about scheduling a time to talk and was granted a phone interview. Although his record label was London-­based, it turned out that his residence was in Birmingham and that he would be leaving in the morning. The following day I called from my flat near Peckham Rye Park and spoke with the rapper for the better part of an hour. I asked my standard set of questions about his early experiences and influences, and was treated to what amounted to a history of black music and international influence in the United Kingdom. Aleem explained that the first time he heard hip hop, he didn’t know it as such. To him the music sounded like an

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American version of some of the “talking over music” that he had heard growing up in an Afro-­Caribbean British household. But to him, it was this music’s foreignness that made it especially appealing. He was soon also attracted to the culture that began growing up around this music and began B-­Boying with his friends. After many of his crew grew out of the breakdancing fad in decline by the late 1980s, he began turning more closely to the music as the “element of the culture” that was still viewed as contemporary. Over the course of the late eighties and early nineties Aleem was closely attuned to the “quote unquote golden age of hip hop” and listened to Rakim, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, and the other native tongues crews from the US East Coast. At this time, he explained, he was “Mr. Hip Hop.” He would engage in long debates with friends and family about the lyrical deficit of Jamaican and UK dancehall and other genres, pointing to the politically conscious lyrics of his favorite American hip hop MCs. It was also at this time that he began writing lyrics on “moral issues” and other conscious topics. One of the first that he remembers was an antismoking track that he recorded at home, which he explained would be “horrible to listen to now, but that’s what I was thinking at the time.” Juice Aleem’s recollections are notable not so much for the strong impressions that American black music had on him. Rather, his status as “Mr. Hip Hop” indicates a remarkably solid position in the swirling waters of youth subculture and musical genre—­a confluence that is, as we have seen, especially active in the UK black music scene. He described many of the same historical contexts that Farma G laid out in our interview, and I recognized that the two were likely of the same vintage and of similar stations in their careers. They were both around thirty years old with well-­established and sustainable, if not highly lucrative, careers and young children. What struck me about the comparison, however, was the emphasis that Aleem placed on American MCs, which contrasted Farma’s focus on UK artists. Where Farma G’s context was firmly rooted in the history of the UK scene—­relating stories about his early exposure to Rodney P, Derek B, and Slick Rick to his own efforts in the scene—­Aleem’s story took more of an international cast. As I soon found, his take on hip hop in the United Kingdom was much more closely informed by an international reading of black music. To be sure, Farma’s self-­described commitment to black musics was total, stretching back as far as he could remember, but was framed in a more distinctly national mode. Perhaps because of his immigrant household, Aleem’s attentions stretched to envision a black music that was perhaps centered in the United States and Caribbean, but had global reach.

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F i g u r e 7 . 1 Cover art for New Flesh’s 2006 Universally Dirty (Big Dada/Ninja Tune, 2006). Reproduced with the kind permission of Jim Poyner Photography.

Ten minutes into our interview I turned my attention to some of his music that I had been listening to from New Flesh’s then newly released album Universally Dirty. One of the first questions I asked was about the CD’s title and its cover art featuring Aleem biting into a square of chocolate, with the earth reflecting in his sunglasses—­arranged and framed as if taken from space. The satellite image of the globe clearly served as a shorthand referent for the universal, but the presence of chocolate from this extraterrestrial perspective proved a more subtle and multivalent signifier. Aleem responded that the title meant “a lot of things, as I say. It’s never one thing. A few of the thoughts and feelings was in regard to how black music is—­how it’s universal. It’s all over the place, everywhere, but it’s still not liked. It’s still not treated with great respect as such, you know?”

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The point resonated with the debates I’d been monitoring regarding the urban label and with the forces of attraction/repulsion extant in black music since minstrelsy. Indeed, the erasure of race in the UK music industry’s terminology served, if incompletely, to diminish the repulsive baseness of racial discourse in black music. As a discourse, and especially as a label, “black music” reminds white Europeans and Americans of their shared history of racial oppression, from colonialism’s extraction of resources and bodies to slavery’s extraction of labor and of life. Like nothing else, the continued presence of black music makes these histories real. It makes race matter. With regard to the multiple significations enciphered onto the album cover, Aleem continued: And that’s what the chocolate is referencing as well. You know chocolate is a dark thing that could be dirt, could be mud, could be shit. It could be black people. But at the same time it’s this rich creamy substance that’s full of goodness—­and, you know, the whole thing with the milky way. So its this thing, that, it’s all around you. But it’s not liked, it’s seen as dirty. It’s seen as something to be shunned. But everyone absorbs it, gets use out of it, and takes from it. And that makes it dirty. And also, dirty in the sense of funk, blues, you know? In that down low sense as well.15

To further extend his “down low” blues metaphor on the album cover, Aleem is riffing on blackness. Aleem’s quizzical smile on the album cover captures his thoughts remarkably well and hints to the ludic subversion in its conception, composition, and realization. Indeed, Aleem is consciously engaging in an inverting deformation of mastery here. He is signifyin(g) blackness as Henry Louis Gates would have it. The image counterposes the square of chocolate and himself in sunglasses—­the “dark things”—­with the world that too often takes these good things and sullies them. From his new position of power above the world, Aleem looks down on the globe as if having escaped and is now taking it all in while enjoying a piece of candy—­detached as if watching a movie that is slightly amusing. Aleem continued on the relationship of the good that everyone “absorbs,” “gets use out of,” and “takes from” with a more explicit statement on the subject of black music in the United Kingdom: If you think about the most innovative pop musicians in the UK, most of them were influenced by the obvious American artists, which were brought here by

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West Indian sailors and tradesmen—­the music itself, the actual vinyl—­or they were influenced by a lot of Caribbean music. So if you listen to David Bowie, to the Clash, to a lot of great British pop and rock you always hear the influence of reggae, soul, and blues. It’s still there.

As he nicely summarized: “England has had a love affair with these musics.” And yet, as the debate around the industry term “urban” indicates, the country is still not comfortable with its relationship with “black music” as such. It is, in his words, “seen as dirty” and therefore “shunned.” When I followed up with a question about the ideas of dirtiness and impurity as national metaphors for the diversifying body politic, Aleem answered: In a sense, there’s a bunch of people in certain parts of this country that have always been opposed to immigration, to more people coming in. And it’s these same people [the immigrants] who have civilized this country in a sense. There’s a minority, a large minority, of people who feel that Britain’s being eroded—­losing its culture, its history, its background. But then certain people will turn around and say, “Well, what is it? What is your culture? Where is it from?” Well, Angles and Saxons are from Germany. So it’s an island that’s gained from continual immigration. In that sense the Asian, African, and Afro-­ Caribbean people that came here, you know we’ve been coming for hundreds of years, but en masse from the forties, fifties, after the war, were brought here, to you know, rebuild this country as cheap labor.

His vision of the United Kingdom as an island of constant immigration, read together with the way that black music illuminates histories that we would like to forget, brought another point to the fore, namely, the logical fallacy inherent in the criticism from conservative white Britons that claims the country is “losing its culture, its history, its background” because of immigration. In fact, the reverse is actually true—­the nation is regaining its history. Through continued immigration, the United Kingdom’s colonial history is gaining a material presence, it is coming home and becoming real to people at the center of the empire. Indeed, the understanding of Britain as an island of immigrants has continually complicated its national equation. From the prehistory of migration from the continent, to the semi-­autonomy of the peripheral nations of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, to the imperial vision of commonwealth En­gland, a simple national identity has always been a tough sell for the proponents of a

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“bulldog breed” ideology. In a very real sense, this is a shared cultural and political history with the United States. Conservative and xenophobic movements in both nations have had considerable difficulty in selling the one-­to-­one equation of a simple blood and soil bio-­national ideology.

“Wherever We Go” On the single from New Flesh’s 2006 album Universally Dirty, entitled “Wherever We Go” Aleem engages in a sonic form of the deformation of mastery so evident in the album’s artwork.16 In addition, the track offers a heavily coded narrative of black music’s universal impact through the image of the group’s two MCs—­Aleem and the dancehall-­influenced Toastie Tailor—­traversing the globe. In addition, the beat produced by the group’s DJ Part 2, is something of a global mashup of forms, from flamenco guitar and calypso steel drums to zapping electronic pulses and a Gypsy, or perhaps raï violin line. The result is a sunny but haunting sonic tableau geographically situated somewhere between Mallorca, Algiers, and Trinidad. The track begins with a four-­bar loop comprising a set of antecedent/consequent call and response gestures that overlap between the low-­to mid-­range electronic pulse and a sweeping minor-­chord gesture on classical guitar. Instead of a swung hip hop drum track, the percussion on “Wherever We Go” is notably spare, substituting a hesitant closed hi-­hat gesture with a single bass-­ drum hit on the and of 3 in each bar and additional hits on the 4 of the second and fourth bars. In fact, the only hint at a hip hop beat comes in a rim shot on beat 2 of every bar, but even that falls short of the common back-­beat accents on both 2 and 4 in a standard hip hop beat. The rhythm is instead carried by the electronic line and guitar, causing the back half of each measure to seem rather empty. Although the high hat continues throughout the loop, the overall effect is similar to a stop time feel in jazz wherein the pulse continues unsounded. The compositional technique serves to draw attention to the accented guitar line that ends abruptly just before beat 3 of the first three mea­ sures of each loop. In the concluding measure of the loop, the electronic line and guitar become more active and the guitar begins playing the silences and accentuating the sixteenth-­note hi-­hat line via a standard rhythmic gesture on guitar produced by dampening the chord without producing the notes. The rhythmic accents in the first half of each bar foreshadow the lyrics in the coming lines, creating a sonic representation of gunfire, a text painting of violent acts and the glaring silences they produce.

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E x a m p l e 7 . 1 Basic initial loop of  “Wherever We Go.”

After the second pass of the loop, Aleem enters with the evocative lines: Beautiful killers in expensive suits Murdering groups that’ll never recoup Exquisite death that walks in flesh At the crossroads I mark my X.

These first two couplets establish the two primary discourses in the track: violence and movement. From the first line, violence is positioned problematically as holding the potential for beauty. However, from this, Aleem’s first utterance, we can already hear a sinister tone in the delivery. The image of expensive suits conjures the notion of wealth and with Aleem’s voice the tone is set for deception. The second line posits the victims of the “beautiful killers,” a set of unnamed groups that may be the targets of genocidal campaigns. In the third line, beauty and violence are once again juxtaposed, paving the way for the possibility that the exquisite death is the narrator himself. Indeed, only blind vanity could mistake murder, death, and extinction for beauty. By naming a death that has taken human form and “walks in flesh,” Aleem not only invokes the devil but associates himself with the figure through the intertextual reference to the band name. This association becomes immediately apparent as Aleem switches to the first person to deliver the final line of the first stanza: “At the crossroads I mark my X.” As Baker’s primary symbol of the blues matrix, “the ‘X’ of crossing roadbeds signals the multidirectionality of the juncture and is simply a single instance in a boundless network that redoubles and circles.”17 His description of  his project

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in Blues, Ideology as a “vernacular theory” comes from the manner in which Baker uses the readily available symbols of the blues form itself to construct the interpretive framework. But, as described earlier, he envisions the blues code not as content, but form. The “X” is not simply a handy conceptual device drawn from the content of many blues songs, but in itself and its suggestion of the crossroads a cohesive and dynamic theory about the blues, by the blues. In short, in the crossroads Baker recognizes a black vernacular poststructuralism that, quite paradoxically, inscribes a particular kind of subject. Through the symbol of the crossroads, the blues encoded subject recognizes the matrix of choice/agency and de-­forms or otherwise reconfigures this agency. In the first two couplets of “Wherever We Go,” Juice Aleem is already knee-­ deep in blues signification. First, through his invocation of the crossroads he associates himself with countless blues musicians—­foremost among them Robert Johnson. In his now-­iconic song “Cross Road Blues” Johnson laments his position at the crossroads and its blues over a highly active slide guitar accompaniment: You can run, tell my friend poor Willie Brown. You can run, tell my friend poor Willie Brown. Oh, that I’m standing at the crossroads, I believe I’m sinking down.

Second, the association with Johnson activates another association with the guitar, albeit recontextualized here in the “fiery” flamenco style used in the loop. Both flamenco’s associations with drifter “Gypsy” life and its constitutive hybridity as an amalgam of Spanish, Arabic, Sephardic, and Roma influences speak to themes of dynamism through the blues matrix. Third, and most important, these images and their associations lead to yet another: the legend surrounding  Johnson, his guitar, the blues, and a deal with the devil. The third couplet of “Wherever We Go” confirms this web of blues signification, continuing: “I fought Satan’s hex, when I was vexed / But he grows in the mind when I quest for sex.” As we will see, the mythic symbolism of the crossroads provide the starting point for Aleem’s story, adding historical weight to his very modern story and opening myriad avenues of intertex­ tuality and interpretation for the lines of poetry that follow. As Elijah Wald describes in his study Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, the legends recounting the great blues musician’s technical proficiency were most likely extrapolated from stories told by another blues musician. As Wald tells it, Tommy Johnson was another (unrelated) blues musician who constantly told about selling his soul to the devil

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for his musical ability. His mythic tales were documented by his brother, who Wald believes “provided the story that has formed virtually the entire basis for the Mississippi blues devil legend.”18 The crux of the story, as told by LeDell Johnson to folklorist David Evans, goes as follows: He said the reason he knowed so much, said he sold hisself to the devil. I asked him how. He said, “If you want to learn how to play anything you want to play and learn to make songs yourself, you take your guitar and you go to where the road crosses that way, where a crossroad is. Get there, be sure to get there just a little ’fore midnight that night so you’ll know you’ll be there. You have your guitar and be playing a piece there by yourself. . . . A big black man will walk up there and take your guitar, and he’ll tune it. And then he’ll play a piece and hand it back to you. That’s the way I learned to play anything I want.”19

The story became associated with blues musicians at large, foremost among them Robert Johnson, whom the story seemed to fit well given his catalog of songs involving a devil figure. Despite the discourses of “soul” authenticity and voodoo magic surrounding the blues—­and I would argue black music at large—­this mythic and oft-­repeated story is notable for its displacement of soul in favor of technical proficiency.20 The story is thus telling about the stability of essentializing black soul myths in its inability to displace soul with technical mastery of form. Indeed, the transaction seems to have enhanced rather than attenuated Johnson’s perceived soulfulness. Wald notes that the myth’s genesis is most likely the result of a syncretic overlay of European myths about meeting the devil at the crossroads onto Afro-­Cuban myths about the gatekeeper deity Eleguá. Indeed, versions of such European Faustian tales involved a trade for musical proficiency, but with the figure of the violin rather than the guitar. Without missing a beat, New Flesh’s track picks up on this overlay incorporating a swirling minor violin line that haunts the chorus and finale of DJ Part 2’s beat. The European associations between musical proficiency and the devil run deep, especially with regard to the violin. Igor Stravinsky’s well-­known L’histoire du soldat (A Soldier’s Tale) recounts a version of this crossroads encounter between a violinist and the devil, and many musical works from the Western canon draw on the archetypal Faustian transaction of knowledge in exchange for one’s soul. More broadly, associations between the violin and the devil have existed for centuries, most notably in the rumors that swirled around Nicolo Paganini, an early nineteenth-­century violinist whose otherworldly technical proficiency gave his superstitious audiences pause. Indeed, the stories about Johnson roughly

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equate to those surrounding Paganini—­stories that surely helped the careers of both in the ways that they symbolized their otherworldly musical abilities. It is through no coincidence that references to both Paganini and the devil appear in one of the first pieces of black music ever conceived as such. The Italian violin virtuoso makes a prominent appearance in the second stanza of Thomas Dartmouth (“Daddy”) Rice’s seminal blackface minstrel song “Jim Crow” (1829). In the song, Rice sings through the minstrel image of the country fiddler: “Oh I’m a roarer on de fiddle, / And down in old Virginny, / They say I play de skyentific / Like Massa Paganinni.”21 The song that set the stage for blackface minstrelsy and largely defined the sonic and discursive contours of “black music” for its first fifty years puts a violin in the hands of a slave and compares him to the master violinist, Paganini. In the lyrics the white songwriter and performer, Rice, thus enshrines black musical technical (“skyentific”) proficiency. The boastful gesture is sure to elicit a comic reaction, but as David Roediger’s and Eric Lott’s studies of whiteness and blackface minstrelsy demonstrate, the form codified white attitudes toward black musicianship that remain with us today.22 In stanzas 24–­25 Rice’s (in)famous character also contests assertions that the devil is black: “What stuff it is in dem, / To make de Debbil black / I’ll prove dat he is white, / In de twinkling of a crack. / For you see loved brodders, / As sure as he hab a tail, / It is his berry wickedness, / What makee him turn pale.” To be sure, blackface minstrelsy has a tenuous relationship with African American music at best. Yet despite having little to do with slave music at the time, the tradition was formative in how blackness was constructed in the antebellum period and had a profound effect on the music that performers—­both white and black—­played through century’s end. The discourses of technical proficiency and blackness’s association with the devil appear in the Robert Johnson legend as a direct result of this troubled history just as they appear in the music of  New Flesh. As such, these images encode a history not of racial purity, but of racial contest in a socially constructed blues matrix. As Radano suggests, “black music” is the result of “a social process rather than an expression of some absolute, racially based quality.” The cultural form is constituted in “the historical relationship between black creative agency and Euro-­American naming practices,” a point to which I will return in concluding.23 Part 2 retools these age-­old diabolical connections by featuring a glissando-­ing bottleneck electric guitar solo during the verses and a violin in the chorus, first as a textural element, then as a full-­blown solo cadenza in the conclusion. In effect, between Aleem’s textual references to the devil and Part 2’s sonic references, the track speaks the truth of black music’s immanent hybridity—­it is a form

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E x a m p l e 7 . 2 “Demonic” electric guitar line.

that encodes the very syncronisms that led to the development of this music in the American context. Of further import for our purposes here is the fact that the Cuban Santería deity Echu-­Eleguá that Wald mentions in his account is a variant of the Yoruban Esu Elegbara, a figure around which Henry Louis Gates crafts his poststructural theory of African American culture. In 1988, just a year after Baker’s Blues, Ideology, Gates published the highly influential study The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-­American Literary Criticism.24 Both studies theorize the poststructural into African American culture, but none had such a powerful impact on black cultural studies as Gates’s theory of the gatekeeper god Esu and his embodiment—­his walking in flesh—­as a “signifyin(g)” trickster monkey. The study had an especially profound impact on black music studies as Gates’s theory seemed tailor-­made for the indeterminacy of black music’s ubiquitous use of metaphor, double entendre, and other wordplay. The most visible example of this impact can be found in Samuel Floyd’s landmark study The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States. As Floyd writes: “After reading three rather introductory studies, I came across Henry Louis Gates’s The Signifying Monkey . . . which convinced me of the usefulness—­indeed, the indispensability—­of black literary theory for inquiry into black music and for black-­music scholarship in general.”25 It is worth mentioning here, that although I focus on Baker’s vernacular theory of interpretation, which is located in African American modernity and its blues, Gates’s African American hermeneutics is also quite helpful so long as we focus on its constitutive modernity rather than treating Esu as a primal key to unlock the secrets of black music. Indeed, this mode of inquiry has tended to lead down paths that misrepresent black music as speaking an African essence. As Baker argues through inversion, it is more helpful to think of these forms as speaking their subjects than to imagine the cultural forms living on in African-­descended populations as “retentions” and expressing themselves as though genetic phenotypes. In his study, Floyd examines African American music from the ring shouts through modern African American art songs through one such “survivalist theory” of interpretation. He writes that “African survivals exist not merely

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in the sense that African-­American music has the same characteristics as its African counterparts, but also that the musical tendencies, the mythological beliefs and assumptions, and the interpretive strategies of African Americans are the same as those that underlie the music of the African homeland.”26 To be sure, there are profoundly important African cultural elements in African American music, but that may not be where African American music gets its power, as Floyd hypothesizes. As we have seen, African American music also shares musical tendencies and mythological beliefs with European homelands. Furthermore, through the contributions of black music practitioners around the globe, it increasingly shares Asian homelands, Middle Eastern homelands, and South American homelands. By looking at black musical forms outside of the United States, we can see how the blues matrix functions as a template for expressing these new forms that also has space for these forms because it is itself a dynamic, hybrid, and changing force. It is in this dynamism that we can locate the power of black music. Part 2, New Flesh’s white DJ, riffing on Aleem’s invocation of the crossroads with a European sonic signifier that overlays perfectly in terms of music and mythology, seems a fitting example of the interactions and hybridities that have characterized the history of black music. This musical moment is not a novel one. Rather, it lays bare the constitutive hybridity of this music, exposing a continuity that was already there. To be sure, the cultural impulses and forms of Africa were central to the formation of the blues. These systems of thought existed for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. But it was their recontextualization and syncretization with European forms in the Americas that produced the modern black musics and their systems of signification as we know them today. The European influence on the story and the fact that Esu appears as the Christian devil should also give us some sense of the creolization at play here. This story is not a “retention” of African myths, but a seamlessly recontextualized story that makes sense in both constitutive traditions. Indeed, Esu fits well into an older European context as one of his roles as gatekeeper roughly mirrors Charon, the boatman of Greek legend who ferried the departed across the river Styx. Indeed, it is this association with the underworld that almost certainly created the association between Esu and the devil in the American Christian context. What’s more, as Gates points out, Esu’s position between the world of the living and the dead gave him his role as interpreter. This fact is central to Gates’s theory of interpretation, which refashions the “hermeneutics” of Western thought—­a formulation drawn from the Greek messenger god Hermes. Indeed, Gates’s theory emphasizes the slippage between intended

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message and received message that the trickster Esu tends to perpetrate on his deliveries. The theory is especially applicable in a hermeneutics—­or we might say “Esuneutics”—­functioning in poststructural discourses that stress the tensions between the oral and the written, the figurative and the literal. It is this poststructural turn in academia and culture that both Gates and Baker are theorizing in their studies, and with its attention to coded messaging, resignification, and misinterpretation it is well suited to the study of black music and its deformation of mastery. In short, and with due apologies for the simple parallel, we can read Gates’s Esu as Baker’s blues matrix. After Aleem’s invocation of the crossroads, the MC delivers a poetically coded diatribe against the “War on Terror”—­as we have seen, an understandably salient topic in the spring of 2007. His focus in the remainder of the first verse is the Abu Ghraib atrocity, which he first evokes with the couplet of “Hands tied, stories told through furtive eyes / Mouths are taped up to avoid the lies.” Manichaean and sadomasochistic imagery are conflated with a host of other discourses in the stanzas that follow: Don’t wanna hear no more and that’s for sure ’Til the blood of the rich enriches the poor Tantric sex with doms and subs Chains and whips and patriotic scuds Changed the positions, went on a crusade Oil lubricates the places we’ve played Religious icons used and abused Slaves in corners, tied up and bruised

In this, the body of the first verse, Aleem employs the kind of sexualized war imagery that is also a centerpiece of M.I.A.’s postcolonial aesthetic, as we saw in “Bucky Done Gun” and so many other tracks since Arular. His mention of “doms and subs” is shorthand for dominant and submissive sexual positions in a sadomasochistic sexual encounter, but is also resignified as a military submarine as the line segues into the second half of a couplet including the formulation of “patriotic scuds”—­a formulation that in itself conflates the United States’ defensive “patriot” antimissile missiles with the low-­yield offensive “scud” missiles used by Iraq’s army in the manifestly asymmetrical war. In its elocution alone the formulation of “patriotic scuds” sounds like a derogatory term aimed at the blind patriots who have “changed the positions” and gone on a “crusade.”

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Of course, the mention of chains and whips also evokes the sexually demeaning Abu Ghraib atrocity but yields another valence with the final line of the second stanza. In likening the Muslim prisoners to slaves, Aleem injects discourses of race into the already multilayered verse causing him to question his own position in the Manichaean struggle with the line: “Don’t know if I should kill or just chill.” The final couplet of the stanza resolves the internal debate as he declares with heightened force: “Pornographically masturbate my gun / Stand back when Jerusalem come.” These lines are especially loaded ones, with their forthright images of warfare, sex, and religion. However, there is another coded bit of wordplay, here dependent on knowledge of the meaning behind the rapper’s name: Juice Aleem. The name Juice Aleem is a play on the MC’s given name (Aleem) and “Jerusalem,” as evidenced by his solo album, Jerusalaam Come (the subject of the next chapter), which combines this phonetic deformation with a misspelling of the name as “Jerusalaam”—­a deformation incorporating the Arabic for peace (salaam). Hence, the final line of the first verse is an arrival and a coming to fruition of his thoughts, not through the symbolic discharge of a gun but through an ejaculation—­stand back when Juice Aleem comes. The conclusion is an especially satisfying one, affecting a convergence of all the discourses in the preceding bars in a single riff on Rastafarian discourses of the coming of Zion and the “new Jerusalem.” In the context of my previous discussion, this sexual image gains yet another layer, for as Gates describes, Esu is also “the phallic god of generation and fecundity . . . characterized as an inveterate copulator possessed by his enormous penis.” Aleem’s association between the devil’s hex and his “quest for sex” early in the verse activates this connection through the entirety of the first verse, culminating in the crafty formulation that marks its end. What Aleem has to say is filtered through this mythology, whether he is aware of every aspect of its code or not. His knowledge of black musical traditions is no doubt exceptional but, regardless, the depth and breadth of meaning on the track shows us the range of this musical tradition and its power to signify. As we have seen, it is this power of signification and resignification that has attracted so many to employ its forms in contexts far removed from the colonial encounter in the New World that marked its prehistory. Through Aleem’s dialogue with Afro-­Caribbean religion, this final line prepares the way for Part 2’s calypso-­tinged overlay onto the pre-­existing beat in the first section of the track’s chorus and Toastie Tailor’s continuation of the crossroads tale in a heavily affected Caribbean patois in its second. Part 2’s beat for the chorus of  “Wherever We Go” features a steel drum and violin line that immediately signifies the islands, but which, in the context of Aleem’s lyrics and the D-­minor tonal environment, itself seems hexed. Indeed,

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E x a m p l e 7 . 3 Section 1 of the chorus: calypso overlay.

the minor trilling character of the beat generates a type of “irreversible difference” that Baker describes in his discussion of the materiality of blues guitar and harmonica gestures. As alluded to previously, the sonic difference here comes off as located not only in the black musics of Trinidad or the Caribbean, but also in Europe’s peripheral musics as the ornamented and marcato violin line inscribes musical difference from North Africa via southern Spain to the eastern margins of the continent and its “Gypsy” instrumentalisms. Indeed, the connection may be intended to relate flamenco’s birthplace in Granada in southern Spain to Toastie’s birthplace on the Caribbean island of Grenada. With the start of the steel drum and violin line Aleem’s voice enters in multiple overdubs singing a simple motive comprised of the first three notes of an ascending D-­minor scale. The lines are delivered in a style with the slight portamenti and rich vibrato inflections of a smarmy lounge singer: In the way that we play In the way that we talk Is the way that we say What we don’t really mean (2×)

Notably, the chorus gestures explicitly to the implicit wordplay and resignification on the track as a whole. Through the tone of Aleem’s voice we hear that he is satisfied with his mastery of form and his deformation of that mastery, as Baker would have it. Together, the chorus’s two sections comprise something of a boast, challenging the listener to decode the messages of the track. 27 Although the chorus is most immediately referencing the “we” of the group itself, the context of the track also extends to include the broader “we” of the blues code, of signifyin(g) tricksters, of performers of black musics. At the same time this declaration of deception harkens back to the “lies told though furtive eyes” language of the verse—­language that is thinly veiled as a reference to Bush administration policies of “heightened interrogation techniques” and the still-­incomplete facts about the lead up to the war. Indeed,

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through the previous images of evil, deception, and uncertainty Aleem purposely implicates himself and obscures whether he is speaking about the deliberate deception of the Bush war or his own misleading trail of images. The line: “oil lubricates the places we’ve played” is perhaps the best encapsulation of this ambivalent encoding from verse one, but this technique of conflation grows more pronounced in the rest of the chorus and the second verse. The second section of the chorus contains the title lines as delivered by the Grenada-­born Toastie in a style descriptive of  his name—­a play on the Caribbean form of  “toasting” that scholars liken to African griot storytellers and that prefigured hip hop’s rhythmically spoken poetry. Toastie delivers the lines in the half-­sung, half-­spoken style of modern  Jamaican dancehall: Wherever we go, badness’ll folla Wherever I go, pretty gal-­a holla Well I got to live life day by day I mean, I really care if I see tomorrow? No (2×)

The chorus first posits a continuation of the hex described by Aleem in verse 1. Again, the “badness” that will follow New Flesh wherever they go also simultaneously gestures to the globe-­trekking military intervention of the United States and United Kingdom. In short, Toastie is continuing this metaphoric relationship between the nihilistic evil of war and themselves. As Toastie notes, however, the hex also carries with it the side effect of ubiquitous attention from the opposite sex. The track thus continues to track the relationships between sex, violence, and power. Of course, in describing their badness, Toastie is also signifying on coolness, flippin’ the script on badness. The second and final verse—­now featuring Toastie—­begins with lines that continue to implicate, conflate, and otherwise confound the relationship between New Flesh and the seemingly endless War on Terror: Some say that we stubborn, so what be the deal? For what you want, just well, dig in your heels So we moved around, did it at a million miles a minute Some say that they’re with it but their heart ain’t in it, so So what that make us, incredibly foul Dogs on the prowl, I can’t throw in the towel See mans like me’s on self-­destruct And I’m tellin’ ‘em boy dey come get ______ [marked silence]

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Images of stubbornness and nihilism are again ubiquitous in the verse, which now moves from a global view to a more personal one. Toastie’s use of the word “we” in this section gestures in a variety of directions foremost among them to the issue of the black music and black identity that New Flesh is signifying on the track, but also to the West, to the war and its “coalition of the willing.” Again, a singular signification is not readily available, or likely intended. Continuing their penchant for listener participation, the final (curse) word of the second stanza here is also intentionally unsaid, left for us to infer, likely both to draw the listener in and to broaden the track’s access to radio programming. For the final stanza, Toastie employs a hip hop tradition of performing an especially strong rhyme twice: See I, been on the ground, but I come to the crown Still hangin’ out with girls who sniff white lines All the things along the way that I did encounter Right now, well I know what it all amount to (2×)

In this “so nice I had to say it twice” stanza Toastie may be referencing both Bush and himself. In any case, through the images of the white lines and the crown, he concludes marking the distance he has traveled with the X—­the distance New Flesh has traveled through black music. Is so doing, he notes that his history is still with him at the crossroads, contained in the blues matrix. Like the white lines, the devil remains with him musically as well, as musically personified in a concluding violin cadenza. The line is first played as a pizzicato gesture behind Toastie’s denouement props to his band mates—­ which conclude “New Flesh, we are gon’ slaughter them”—­and later blossoms into full expression. As the violin switches to this bowed line, the tonal environment also changes. Whereas the violin and steel-­drum chorus line referenced in the pizzicato opening outlines a D natural minor scale, here the violin switches to include a raised fourth-­scale degree (G sharp). The change calls attention to the minor seconds of the resultant scale and marks the line’s irreversible difference as particularly Middle Eastern. Together with the change to a triplet feel for the embellishment at the end of the line, the new formulation is something of a challenge to the earlier electric guitar line—­a dialogue cast as a contest in which the violin has the last word. One of the questions that gradually evolved over the course of my fieldwork was shorthand for addressing the issue of music and lyric that would inevitably arise in interviews. The final version of this question that I used for a number of interviews in the three cities was: “How do you balance making people

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E x a m p l e 7 . 4 “Diabolical” concluding violin cadenza.

think and making people move?” Aleem’s answer was a rather well-­considered and perhaps revealing one with regard to the puzzling final stanza: I think that’s what I’m still trying to find, to be honest. Of course it’s up to people who may or may not have my records to decide that, but usually I keep sure there’s a nice rhythm or pattern to what I’m doing. So, even if you don’t understand what I’m saying, you’ll like how I’m saying it. That’s how I drop it. That’s how we, New Flesh, drop it. We’re not into overt messages. There’s a song that we did last year called “Wherever We Go,” and in its own way it references the current world situation, you know the Iraq situation, Abu Ghraib, various things. But it never says Iraq. It never says Abu Ghraib. It never says Bush did this, they’re fightin’ over this. It just references it. And myself, I very much like double and triple entendre, more metaphor than simile. Each person can get something different out of it. Maybe more than I intended.

My deep reading of “Wherever We Go” almost certainly gets more out of the track than Aleem intended. But as he notes, that is the idea. In my follow-­ ups with the MC, he was very forthcoming about his intentions, but as he remarks here he does not intend to create a literal line of interpretation. As poetry—­and furthermore, as poetry in the blues tradition—­Aleem’s lyrics are doubly coded and deeply signified. In describing the concept behind the video for the track—­a brief narrative featuring him and Toastie as spacesuitclad “Astro-­Caribbeans”—­Aleem noted that “the whole vid was a riff on the Sun-­R a ‘Astro-­black’ song and theory and his whole vibe of blacks coming from and going back into space to totally be free of the earth mentality.” I would argue that it is this “Earth mentality,” read as the Western hegemony of sig­ nification, against which the blues code functions as a countervailing matrix. Black music functions as a way to work through and ultimately around this

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hegemonic structure—­here on Earth rather than in outer space or the underworld. Through this music, New Flesh works against Universally Dirty images of blackness. * After writing the first draft of the present chapter I emailed a summary of the section on “Wherever We Go” to Aleem, with whom I’d stayed in contact, to get his impressions on my interpretations and conclusions. His response is worth citing in full as a concluding gesture to the present chapter. Aleem writes: Right Yeah, playing with the crossroads motif. I usually play around with the idea of Satan not even being the bad guy he’s portrayed as in the vein of trickster gods (check “Give up the Fight”). This is the reason I say “but he grows in the mind when I quest for sex,” to show an understanding that the devil isn’t just a being who offers our desires, but our own lower selves. The violin wasn’t intentional for that reason but we both make a lot of the decisions. We chose the violin for its melancholy and as a live instrument that we hadn’t used before, I made the x-­roads link later writing in the studio. We’re all implicated in the affairs of the world and it exposes our ugly lower sides. The fact the Abu Ghraib jailers were using the prisoners in sex games shows what they actually get up to in “real” life. Again the S&M metaphors show the real dirty games we play (oil lubricates the places we’ve played). Once upon a time journos were a lot more informed and literate so I never had to make too many direct links to my lyrics. Nowadays most writers aren’t able (or don’t want) to make heads or tails of lyrics and their reference points, never mind the musical ticks so it’s nice to be asked. There’s many more layers but I think I’ve said enough. Peace.

chapter 8

“Straight Outta B.C.”: Différance, Defness, and Juice Aleem’s Precolonial Afrofuturist Critique On the 2009 track “Straight Outta B.C.,” Juice Aleem situates himself in a conceptual space-­time that is both glocal and interhistorical. On the track, “B.C.” signifies both Aleem’s physical home of  Birmingham City and his transitory passage throughout the ages as an Afro-­Caribbean Briton—­that is, as an Afro . . . Caribbean . . . Briton. Indeed, on the concept album Jerusalaam Come, Aleem and his collaborators, Cipher Jewels and Ebu Blackitude, refuse to accept simplistically situated constructions of identity, instead voicing a supersubjectivity. The chorus proceeds: Straight outta B.C. Cipher, Blackitude, and Juice Aleem Still Glow with that Supreme Gamma Green We Moorish, more than ya ever seen1

In this short refrain, they gesture at once to their city (Birmingham City), to the distant past (Before Christ), to languages of colonial entanglement (“Moorish”), and to a “still” glowing, yet futuristic, “gamma green”—­as we will see, a gesture to an essential light. As BBC music critic Louis Pattison explains, “much like Big Dada labelmate Roots Manuva, Aleem has a skill for blending the everyday colloquial with the deep spiritual.”2 By claiming a rehistoricized identity stressing his multisited historicity, Aleem both claims his city and reclaims his global history as “more” than those histories whitewashed by Euro-­American constructions of an ahistorical and essential African past

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F i g u r e 8 . 1 Colonializing “Moorish” album art for Juice Aleem’s Jerusalaam Come (Big Dada/Ninja Tune, 2009). Reproduced with the kind permission of Pelle Crepín.

and an equally overwritten and over-­policed urban present—­a strategy, that is, emphasizing both “roots and routes.”3 In this chapter, I follow Juice Aleem’s lead by shifting my focus from the “posts” of postcoloniality and poststructuralism to add the “pre” histories of oral legend and coptic biblical mysticism—­modes of meaning making and modes of imagining community before the hegemony of Eurocentric written history, in short, modes of communication and modes of communion brought into form through embodied performance. This analysis of Aleem’s space-­ time collapsing critique concludes that such a strategy works to disrupt the logocentric binaries of Europe/Africa, mind/body, civilized/uncivilized, and writing/ language that once powered Enlightenment progress on the backs of

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slaves and colonized peoples the world over. Indeed, despite its ostensible focus on the past, the album is an Afrofuturist critique that focuses on the “pre” in order to build a new “post.” As such, in this chapter I revisit an old friend, that brilliantly stupid term “anti-­anti-­essentialism,” to suggest that Aleem’s precolonial critique, far from an Afrocentric eccentricity, is instead a strategic anti-­anti-­essentialism that recuperates universalism by locating and privileging a pre-­Enlightenment performative linguistics.4 In examining the first five tracks of this hip hop artifact as performance, I respond directly to Gilroy’s clarion call to create a hip hop scholarship not beholden to the forms and methods of literary criticism: The first adjustment involves querying the hold that this outlaw form exerts on critical writers who see in it a quiet endorsement of their own desire that the world can be readily transformed into text—­that nothing resists the power of language. This is a familiar problem that Michel Foucault has stated succinctly in his famous cautioning against reducing the bloody “open hazardous reality of conflict” to the “calm Platonic form of language and dialogue.” It bites sharply in this area especially when the phenomenology of musical forms is dismissed in favour of analysing lyrics, the video images that supplement them and the technology of Hip hop production.5

In this chapter I will attend to Aleem’s lyrics (and one video clip), but in addition to examinations of the beats and their sonic rhetorics, I will center the sonic materiality of Aleem’s vocal performance of texts. In the previous chapters I have attempted to carefully balance my attention to lyrics, sound, and visuals, but here I will center this nuanced approach and fully theorize hip hop’s wordplay as performance. In what follows, I will endeavor to build on what Aleem has built. Although I’ll perform a close reading of this album for the purposes of the present chap­ ter, my goal is not to interpret Aleem’s work per se, but to engage and ultimately theorize his project as something beyond a specific ideological reclamation project. Indeed, like countless hip hop artists, Aleem has done invaluable work that we as scholars can build on if we treat it not as source material—­a text to be read—­but as scholarship in its own right. As we have seen, Fred Moten makes this point in his In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition, where he suggests that “black radicalism is (like) black music.”6 Here, I will endeavor to further articulate Houston Baker’s performative reading techniques to a uniquely hip hop approach to performance and/as knowledge formation. By doing so, I arrive at a new theorization that I term “defness” to describe

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such performed knowledge, building on continuities between hip hop discourses of  “defness” and Derrida’s influential concept of  “différance.” In short, I will follow Aleem across the globe and across the ages on Jerusalaam Come. After our voyage, we will have both performed and built something together. As such, I will be engaging hip hop interpretive practices (in both form and function) that, collectively, are often described in the context of hip hop’s “fifth element”: knowledge. To borrow a page from Houston Baker’s quantum mechanics and riff on hip hop’s deep and enduring relationship to the blues, like “the particle physicist . . . the blues-­hip hop-­oriented observer (the trained critic) necessarily ‘heats up’ the observational space by his or her very presence.” As such, here we must “show a willingness to do more than merely hear, read, or see the blues hip hop. We must also play (with and on) them it.”7 jerusalaam come

Aleem and I had kept in touch since our first conversations in Berlin and in London at the Ninja Tune/Big Dada label night featuring him and his label mates, Wiley and Roots Manuva (whose name is, not coincidentally, another pithy anti-­anti-­essentialist gesture), but it was not until the fall of 2014 that I was able to sit down with him again. It was during those in-­the-­flesh conversations that I first heard Aleem describe his wordplay as “metaphysical etymology.” I’ll endeavor to define metaphysical etymology throughout this chapter, but as a point of reference what Aleem was talking about is the kind of catachrestic wordplay that KRS-­One performs on the classic 1993 track “Sound of da Police” where the word “overseer” is repeated, heated up, and revealed as a metaphysical cognate of the word “officer.”8 Over the course of this analysis we will see how Aleem’s rich and polysemic language moves from the realm of the metaphorical and emerges as the metaphysical. In that fall of 2014 I had the pleasure of hosting a panel on hip hop and mental health at the University of Cambridge’s annual Festival of Ideas.9 The panel gave me an excuse to invite Aleem to sit on the stage with me at the University’s West Road Concert Hall and talk about hip hop’s counterhegemonic worldview and alternative knowledge formation. That year’s festival theme was “Identity,” so for the press blurb I’d written a punchy one-­liner framing one of  Juice’s gems of hip hop wisdom against that frame of identity. As I saw it, the line “if you know who you are, you’ll rock your hologram” was the apex of anti-­anti-­essentialist genius. That is, in this line, Aleem suggests that we are all holograms—­that is, projections, apparitions, stereotypes formed in the

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minds of others. Aleem’s challenge, as I heard it, was a dialectical one: to find and know our truest selves, and then to identify those stereotypes cast upon us and rock ’em—­to wear ’em like a new cap, to shape ’em, cock ’em, and “rock” ’em—­mastering them and making them our own. I had worked on Gilroy’s idea of anti-­anti-­essentialism before and was happy with my theorization and application in this instance. But when I had Juice up on stage and did my public interview with him, a richer theorization emerged. After watching the video clip for “Rock My Hologram,” I offered my reading and Juice responded, “Yeah, that’s right, but even more it’s that we are holograms.” He continued, “Like I say in the track: we are all, each one of us, ‘solid light.’ Matter is just solid energy.” I understood the premise. What I didn’t count on was that Aleem was drawing on recent developments in quantum theory—­Nobel Laureate Gerard ‘t Hooft and Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind’s “Holographic Principle.” In the following pages I build on the conversations that I had with Aleem later that evening, the next day, and in the months since I was schooled there on that stage. What I will propose is that I was not completely wrong, that this track is an anti-­anti-­essentialist one, but in a much more essential way than I had imagined. As we will see, the precolonial mysticisms and Afrofuturisms of Aleem’s album Jerusalaam Come suggest that this album is not only a “counterculture of modernity,” as Gilroy would have it, but, following Derrida, nothing less than a countermetaphysics of the West.10 In this chapter, I’ll follow Aleem’s lead in arguing that there is essence, but that it’s an essence that’s just a bit beyond what Derrida was able to wrap his head around. Indeed, through its balanced focus on the precolonial and the postcolonial, Aleem’s Afrofuturist critique reminds us that essence need not be about the past. So here we turn to look at the ways that Aleem conjures up a mystical past while looking to the future—­and how he does so performatively in a way that revisits the “violence of writing,” thus levying his critique of Derrida’s poststructural critique of Lévi-­Strauss’s structuralism.

The “First Lesson” of jerusalaam come: Flow, Emergence, and Essence Aleem begins the album with a meditation on what I’ll call black Atlantic flows. The first track, titled “First Lesson,” starts with the embodied performative gesture of Aleem forcefully clearing his throat and then rehearsing, almost imperceptibly, away from the microphone, while his producer, Ebu Blackitude, seems to urge him on from the control room of the studio.11 Aleem then

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returns to the microphone and starts: “somebodybetterberunnin’andtellin’ thembro . . .”—­he aborts his sound check and confirms the levels are properly set, “yeah, yeah, yeah.” Blackitude confirms, “keep it, keep it.” As he rewinds from the control room, backwards words pepper the sonic texture. Now Aleem begins again, this time ready to proceed. An ominous low synth drone emerges from the texture and he delivers the rapid-­fire line somebodybetterberunnin’andtellin’thembrothersthat they can’t flow

in a fluid, yet rhythmically inventive manner showcasing his own mastery of form in the recording studio. The rhythmic patterning of the accents here draw on the syncopations of the Bo Diddley Beat, itself modeled on the Afro-­ Caribbean 3-­2 clave and thus encoding Black Atlantic flows and hybridities. The synth voice continues to build as Aleem repeats the line, still a cappella, but now highlighting the pitched dimensions, deforming and reforming the line. As he proceeds, it becomes clear he is still rehearsing, steering the line downward in pitch, then swerving up again, playing with the musical parameters of his rapped delivery and warming up his instrument—­his voice. On a third pass, he returns to the original iteration, where the line centers around an A, with only the accented first syllable of the first word “somebody” a minor third higher on C and the penultimate words “they can’t” falling in stepwise from A, to G and then F, before returning to conclude on the A with “flow.” Toward the end of this final iteration, the synth drone reaches the peak of its crescendo and drops out completely, leaving our focus on the last three words: “they can’t flow.” Notably, this opening salvo is a performance that demonstrates its content through its form. It is simultaneously a boast and, as we will see, a performative indictment of the ossified orthodoxies of written language in Western logocentrisms. From the very first second of Jerusalaam Come we are encouraged to hear the album as process. The throat-­clearing gesture serves both to give us a sneak peek into the recording booth and serves as an attention-­grabbing device, establishing Aleem’s presence and setting the stage for the ensuing sounds, ideas, and dramatic action. As we saw in chapter 2, introductions serve an important function in hip hop, framing themes and planting seeds. We are thus welcomed into Juice Aleem’s music and encouraged to listen closely to the MC’s “flow”—­hip hop parlance for nuanced, personalized, and masterly lyrical delivery. Importantly, the themes of rehearsal and recording function together in establishing a rhetoric of emergence—­a rhetoric sonically reinforced with the almost imperceptible crescendo of the low synth voice that gives

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direction to the introduction and, as we will see, comes to signal, indeed stand for, “things to come.” As I will argue, if  we come to understand this “First Lesson” through the heuristic of “emergence” we can better examine the language of prophecy encoded throughout the album and in its title: Jerusalaam Come. After Aleem concludes the last introductory line on “flow,” Blackitude’s beat enters and the track starts in earnest. The beat is built on a punchy electric bass line that rises C, D, E flat, before falling back to C in the first half of the four-­bar loop and rises G flat, A flat, B flat, before falling back to G flat in the second half. The gesture, built of four incessantly repeated eighth notes centered on each pitch, inversely mirrors Aleem’s descending line and echoes the emergent rhetoric of the synth line in their rising pitch and dynamic contour, building toward the top of the line and falling off as they fall back to the root position. While the beat incorporates hi-­hat and snare samples, in the absence of a kick drum it is this bass line that propels the beat and defines the shape of the track. Further pushing this sonic rhetoric of emergence, lower brass figures enter with fp attacks, quickly subsiding before slowly building to the breaking point and suddenly dropping out. The menacing crescendo figures alternate over two-­bar durations moving over the space of a minor third from E flat to G flat, harmonically moored to the two-­bar electric bass figures. In keeping with the dynamic contour and rhetorical emergence of the opening synth crescendo, the brass figures here are nothing less than heraldic. Doubled at the octave, they achieve a wide, almost foghorn-­like acoustic profile that seems to sound a warning. Indeed, in the context of the track and its lyrical message, the sonic materiality of the lower brass is encoded as heraldic in both senses. As we will see, the brass figures herald (that is announce, introduce) an imminent coming into being and also signify colonial European heraldry. For the “flow” Juice Aleem is mastering and deforming here is not just a poemusical skill, but the transatlantic voyage of the slave trade. As the beat kicks in, Blackitude asks, “Yes Juice, you think you can ride this one?” Aleem answers with his performance. Over the course of the track Aleem expertly rides the beat, but also rides the shipping routes of the colonial triangular trade ending each verse with the line “Pop, pop, pop / ts’how they did ’em on the slave ship.” Over the course of the track we hear maritime references to “Popeye” and to Aleem as “the captain” “capsizing navies.” We hear sexual double entendre on “naval/navel,” and code switching between his Birmingham “Brummie” accent and Jamaican patois on words like “riddim.” Indeed, these performed doublings and slippages are also emergences that foreshadow the coming emergence of the sonic signifier of  Jamaicanness par

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excellence—­the offbeat reggae skank, here performed on an organ that crossfades in, ultimately subsuming the electric bassline at the end of the track. It is upon this much-­heralded sonic arrival in Jamaica that the lower brass comes into musical focus as a signifier of the slave trade and the British Empire’s colonial project in the “New World.” Toward the end of the last chorus the heraldic brass and skanking electro-­organ occupy the same musical texture. The collage is striking. This is the emergence prefigured in the germinal microcosms of the ominous synth and brass crescendos—­a sonic arrival, via the reggae offbeat, in Jamaica, the birth nation of Aleem’s mother and father. Just as Sefyu set sail for New Orleans in “En Noir et Blanc,” Aleem has braved the middle passage, bound for Kingston in “First Lesson.” The two cities remain global icons of musical fecundity, hybridity, and richness, especially in France and the United Kingdom, respectively. As we have seen, this is not only true for those European minorities who claim connections to these places, but to mainstream French and British national identities (and their respective attatchments and claims to black musics). But Aleem has not set sail to search for roots. He has set sail to reinscribe these well-­traveled shipping channels—­to “capsize” them and reformulate them in the contours of his own musical flow. This is what the deformation of mastery sounds like. Like the emancipatory potentials of so many black musical commodities before it, Jerusalaam Come and Aleem’s work therein uses hegemonic structures for counterhegemonic ends. As Aleem refigures these colonial maritime significations we see the new potentialities, the new directions. These are the crossroads of Baker’s blues matrix that we examined in the previous chapter. Befitting the themes of “First Lesson,” they are also the “emergences” that Raymond Williams describes in Marxism and Literature (1977), where he writes: “By ‘emergent’ I mean, first, that new meanings and values, new practices, new relationships and kinds of relationship are continually being created.” As we will see, Aleem is interested in neither mere novelty nor historical iconicity, but in the “meanings and values which were created in actual societies and actual situations in the past, and which still seem to have significance because they represent areas of human experience, aspiration, and achievement which the dominant culture neglects, undervalues, opposes, represses, or even cannot recognize.”12 This is Williams’s concept of the “residual,” and I argue that this is how Aleem engages both history and future, residual and emergent, in order to work both within and against cultural and political hegemony—­Williams’s “dominant.” The first line of the first verse sets the stage for Aleem’s emergence, his reimagining: “What coulda been or shoulda been / Ain’t what’s happenin’ /

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What it is came out of my abdomen / . . . This sound of tha riddim’ got ’em locked in / concoctin’ my concoction.” Aleem’s project on “First Lesson” thus proposes a redeployment of colonial histories of chattel slavery toward new ends. His flow and its “riddim” now holds the key to this “capsized” narrative wherein slavery is rehistoricized, given a place in the living present, and retooled to tactical advantage in the future. Aleem draws on the image of the “chrysalis” to symbolize this rebirth as we hear the futuristic imagery of “robots,” faster than light “tachyon particles,” and the line “braggin’ like Sho-­ Nuff ”—­a reference to Berry Gordy’s 1985 hip hop martial arts film The Last Dragon. The film uses the hip hop principle of “Knowledge of Self ” (KoS) to tell the story of Bruce Leroy, a kung fu student who becomes a master.13 In the film’s climax, the protagonist fulfills his emergent potential, begins to emit a visible radiant energy called “The Glow,” and defeats the evil master Sho-­Nuff. As we will see, this “glow” is a central theme of the album and symbolic of   hip hop consciousness. As Aleem begins the last verse: “Easy now, better settle down, star / If you know exactly who you are / If not then the plot get real hot / Lemme try to get what the next man got.” Indeed, Aleem’s gesture is intended for initiates of this consciousness and its Knowledge of Self. In the rapped intro of  Willie Hutch’s song, “The Glow,” written for the film’s soundtrack, the songwriter raps: “Now all the masters knows / that you need the glow / You need the glow, the glow to grow.”14 His sung chorus elaborates: “To reach that upper level, your mind, body and soul must be one.” To give us some sense of the film’s impact on the hip hop generation and its resonance with Aleem’s ideas, and to offer some small amount of credence to my argument here, the top YouTube comment for the track by a commenter named Activated Olmec reads: “With more over standing of metaphysics the more this song resonates.”15 Indeed, the screen name is itself an indicator of a hip hop consciousness, here “activated” by (self ) knowledge of the precolumbian Olmec Mexican civilization and articulated through the Jamaican Rasta episteme of “overstanding.” Furthermore, the ideas of metaphysics and resonance will prove foundational for understanding this holographic “glow” as Aleem anchors the concept to more empirically rigorous moorings in later tracks.

“ S t r a i g h t O u t ta B . C .” : Aleem’s Postessentialist Critique “Straight Outta B.C.” the second track of  Jerusalaam Come, begins with guest artist MC Cipher Jewels introducing the track over the chorus of “Straight

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outta B.C. / Cipher, Blackitude, and  Juice Aleem / Still glow with that supreme gamma green / We Moorish: more than ya ever seen.” As such, the track picks up where “First Lesson” left off: with a historicizing yet glowing, futuristic redefinition of colonial narratives. The figure “We Moorish: more than ya ever seen” in particular captures the emergent possibility of Jerusalaam Come in its deformation of the colonial “African” subjectivity of “Moorish” and its rebirth as an “upper-­level” supersubjectivity that is “more than ya ever seen.” That this happens in the sonic realm through the homophonic performance of the word Moor/more underscores the ways that Aleem conceives of such subjectivities, so deeply informed by black music and Afrodiasporic wordplay.16 Indeed, the supersubjectivity (superjectivity?) of “We Moorish” supplements the overdetermined and out of date black subjectivity of Moorish, opening up a space for the emergences we will hear on the track. As we get deeper into the album we also see how Aleem’s precolonial Afrofuturism draws on another Williams category—­the “archaic”—­those “meanings,” “values,” and “practices” that have fallen out of use. By recuperating the archaic “Moorish” into the realm of the residual, Aleem builds the possibility of an emergent critique. It is this cultivated, playful, and deformational space between “Moor” and “more,” “heraldic brass” and “skanking organ,” “Before Christ” and “Birmingham City” that Homi Bhabha describes as a “third space” in his landmark postcolonial study, The Location of Culture. Riffing on Derrida’s concept of such “play” or “supplement” Bhabha explains: What takes [the] place, in Derrida’s supplementary sense, is the . . . subaltern instance, that wreaks its revenge by circulating, without being seen. It cuts across the boundaries of master and slave; it opens up a space in-­between . . . two locations, the Southern Hemisphere of slavery and the Northern Hemisphere of diaspora and migration, which then become uncannily doubled in the phantasmic scenario of the political unconscious. This doubling resists the traditional causal link that explains contemporary metropolitan racism as a result of the historical prejudices of imperialist nations. What it does suggest is the possibility of a new understanding of both forms of racism, based on their shared symbolic and spatial structures—­Fanon’s Manichaean structure—­ articulated within different temporal, cultural and power relations.17

By taking on the mantle of  “Moorish,” Aleem further decenters the stable geographic sites of Africa-­Caribbean-­Britain, instead focusing on the flows between them. Here Aleem claims the past—­his historicity—­not as a burden, but as a possibility—­a third space that “subverts any binary or sublatory ordering

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of power and sign . . . endows it with a strategic motion . . . and initiates a space of intercutting that articulates politics/psyche, sexuality/race. It does this in a relation that is differential and strategic rather than originary, ambivalent rather than accumulative, doubling rather than dialectical.”18 For our purposes here, I want to turn to the “Straight Outta B.C.” figure with Bhabha in mind, to examine the ways that such “cuts,” such future/past and North/South doubling, and such ambivalent (rather than accumulative) histories, refigure originary essence. As hip hop heads will know, the title and its enunciation plays on the title track of the gangsta rap album par excellence, NWA’s 1988 Straight Outta Compton.19 More than any other cultural artifact, the album codified tropes of an essential and authenticized black gangsta masculinity and made them commercially available to a global public. To be sure, the album capitalized on residual tropes of   black deviance first commodified in the form of nineteenth-­century blackface minstrelsy and on emergent tropes of gangsterism in underground forms of  hip hop, but with the 1988 album NWA fashioned an image of essential blackness that quickly came into circulation as the dominant discourse on blackness and remains so to this day.20 While I would not identify NWA’s members as the primary agents in this process, and do not wish to revisit arguments here, I would like to suggest that Aleem’s intertextual play on the title signifies on the power of this dominant form. In performing such cuts across past and future, global South and North, he also cuts across essence and nonessence, across race and postrace, centering a new antiracist essence located in the flows of this third space. Aleem and his collaborators are authentically “Straight Outta . . .” But “Straight Outta” where? Or better, when? Like the NWA original, “Straight Outta B.C.” features verses by three MCs: Cipher  Jewels, Ebu Blackitude, and  Juice Aleem, all introduced in the refrain. On Cipher’s first verse we hear the Afrocentric Five Percenter language of “Gods and Earths,” “I’m a Zulu / Love gyal dugu dugu”—­a line that begins in Africa and ends in Jamaica. We also hear a line that both clarifies his global investments and reverses the triangle trade of Aleem’s “First Lesson”: “I made a plan to invest in the future / Whether I’m in B.C.,  Jamaica, or Ghana.” What is more, Cipher engages the distant past and the present in alluding to the NWA original, countering: “lyrics like a crossbow arrow / going straight in your brain / I’m not tryin’ to be hard / I’m just reppin’ for my crew.” He later censures the trope of   black (American) gangsterism with a postcolonial  Jamaican rejoinder: “I man na gangsta, I man a soldier.” Cipher also foreshadows Aleem’s verse with the line: “Elohim,  Jehovah, Allah / So many names, but only one God.” On Blackitude’s second verse we hear a much more future-­oriented

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vision replete with futuristic Star Wars references (albeit from “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”), including mentions of “light sabers” and the black Jedi “Mace Windu” (played by Samuel L. Jackson in the films). While the verse is decidedly more playful, the sci-­fi figures are ultimately centered in the realities of present and past with the concluding image of “forked-­tongued” “po-­po” (police) not liking Blackitude’s “mojo.” On Aleem’s third and final verse the discourse is firmly rooted in the distant past with an eye to the future. He begins in an ear-­centered sonic register with the language of a colonial-­era public proclamation: Hear ye, hear ye, so you see clearly: Sunlight enter your ears very yearly, Very rarely, though you watch the birdie Can you keep your eye on this, not nearly, Too much brightness for dark devices In his name I came as a comparable likeness Flesh of my flesh, Mary or Isis Whore us to Jesus no matter who your Christ is Crucify an atheist, make him believe in this “Eli, Eli” now who’s the terrorist? Removin’ bar codes, this body’s been stolen Another episode, still at war with the Romans Philistines, Edomites, Amorites Our spirit seized, like Moses bid dandy might And float on the carnage like Noah in the flood Baptize a pussy hole in his own blood Become reborn, learn to walk for the poor Better give when the Lord come a-­knockin’ at your door

In the first lines Aleem continues his work with light, now resignified in an Enlightenment context. The cut is instantly made—­echoing M.I.A.’s synaesthesia, he collapses light and sound, suggesting that “you” (they, we) have difficulty hearing (seeing) truth (light). The glocal and interhistorical “B.C.” chorus resonates throughout this verse’s temporal/spatial cut between biblical and contemporary places and times (“Philistines,” “Moses”/“bar codes,” “terrorist”). Here Aleem posits light as historical clarity and, notably, light no longer serves as metaphor, but as metaphysics. Now in a prophetic register, he cuts across the temporal, indicting religious truth across the ages not as an accumulative critique, but through ambivalence.

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Here the conceptual play draws a line from the abuse of   New Testament (Mary) and Ancient Egyptian (Isis) womanhood to an equation between Jesus’s last words “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani” (my god, my god, why hast thou forsaken me) and today’s global “War on Terror.” The critique implicates missionary work in the continuing neocolonial project. As Jomo Kenyatta, first president of independent Kenya, put it: “When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”21 Notably, Aleem here adds an asymmetrical sexual transaction to the classic colonial “forest and school” transaction of taking raw materials and leaving religion and education. The construction “whore us to Jesus,” thus supplements the colonial economy of “the forest and the school” to suggest that colonial bodies have also been sold, or more accurately pimped, in the name of religion. In the following couplet, the colonial critique snaps into focus as Aleem establishes the continuity between his feminist critique of global capitalism and his characterization of the homogenizing effects of the first great Western empire with the line “Another episode, still at war with the Romans.” More than any other lyric, the line encapsulates Aleem’s alphabetic play on “B.C.,” stretching from Rome to Birmingham and its empire, on which “the sun (still) never sets.” Aleem concludes the verse in the same prophetic register, urging his listeners not to “float on the carnage” as complicit bystanders, but to “become reborn.” Notably, here the missionary work is inverted, now located not at the historical colonial peripheries but in the contemporary imperial center, knocking on doors and taking up offerings. The image resonates with my fieldwork in Peckham and Brixton, South London, where black British Jehovah’s Witnesses and Pentecostals have a strong presence, ministering door to door and on the street. The movements are notably strong among more recent arrivals from the former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. Indeed, Aleem was raised in and out of such communities and though he does not subscribe to such ideologies, he has explained to me how he retools the theological imagery and the musical forms (described as “sum ol’ church shit” and “that mid-­ Atlantic sound”). The missionary frame is indeed inverted today, as we see African and Caribbean missionaries proselytizing to the increasingly secular British and the Anglican Church in thrall to the power of the African church on matters of evangelism, sexuality, and economics. As we turn to the next track, “The Fallen,” it will be important to keep Aleem’s complicated relationship with contemporary Christianities in mind. Indeed, just as he works with the biblical “word,” so too does he work against biblical orthodoxies.

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Letters from Birmingham: DiffÉrance, Defness, and “the Violence of the Letter” On track 3, “The Fallen (Gen 15:13),” Aleem performs a rasta-­inflected Bible reading from Genesis 15:13. The beat centers around overdubbed male voice sigh figures (Aleem’s) in high tessituras underpinned by the reggae contours of a falling repeated-­note bassline. A mystical guitar line shimmering with chorus and reverb elides with gentle piano lines, providing support for the vocal texture. A reverb tambourine is the signature feature of a simple kick and snare-­drum part and synth strings provide a cushion of sound at the end of the repeated loop, sustaining through the loop’s beginning and providing a seamless continuity. The first verse thus begins in a conciliatory tone in both musical form and lyrical content: I’m not here for any debate Or any long face filled with hate I’m simply tired of the council estate, the mental estate With the hope that some of us can stay awake. Trapped from the origin Followed by many jinn From Edin, Ethiopian, Black Elamite Sumerian To tattoo covered, drunken thug barbarians Shit’s deep, used to be worshiped by Romans and Greeks. Makers of the drum in slums and off the beat And every place you go, those from the most high is now the lowest of the low. Few question why, but there you go. Trained to mentally move slow, from before the umbilical Raised as a slave to raise the death in the physical. Oxidized rust weakens the shell of   higher men Levites that fell victim to Leviathan.

Just as the musical setting and lyrical delivery together convey a measured calm, in the first two couplets Aleem connects the material to the mental “estate.” The lines resonates with countless other hip hop tracks that make the symbolic interactionist connection between environment and mentality, especially in lower-­income housing projects, or “estates”—­environments that tend to offer little in the way of work or, indeed, motivation.22 The lines gain speed and conviction in the next couplets, as Aleem tracks “the fall” of African and Middle Eastern civilizations and enslavement of their black and brown

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descendants. Though in this section Aleem’s narrative is indeed historically “accumulative”—­as opposed to the third space’s “ambivalence”—­the verse echoes Bhabha’s subaltern figure of the “subaltern instance” or “evil eye/I.” He writes: The anti-­dialectical movement of the subaltern instance subverts any binary or sublatory ordering of power and sign; it defers the object of the look—­“as even now you look / but never see me”—­and endows it with a strategic motion, which we may here, analogously, name the movement of the death drive. The evil eye, which is nothing in itself, exists in its lethal traces or effects as a form of iteration that arrests time—­death/chaos—­and initiates a space of intercutting.23

Important for our continuing discussion, Aleem’s language of sleep and death (“stay awake,” “Trained to mentally move slow,” “Raised as a slave to raise the death in the physical”) are shorthand in discourses of hip hop (un)consciousness. But notably, in the emergence of hip hop consciousness is the doubling trace of this death, just as “bad” remains with “good” in hip hop inversional practices. Like Bhabha’s subversive “subaltern instance,” “the evil eye/I” resonates with hip hop’s symbol of consciousness par excellence—­the “opening of the third eye” a critical awakening that nonetheless draws on death and invisibility, encryption and enciphering. As we will see, the hip hop “third eye,” like Bhabha’s “evil eye/I,” “initiates a (third) space of intercutting” and allows for a way of knowing and engaging those Enlightenment binaries in the form of doubling, not paradoxes but intercut realities that flip the script on hege­monic power. This is Bhabha’s concept of mimicry: a “blurred,” yet puissant, “double vision which in disclosing the ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts its authority.”24 Like hip hop consciousness, it is a way of seeing and being in a contradictory/ambivalent world and simultaneously working through and against those contradictions/ambivalences. Just as Bhabha’s “eye/I” metonym figure cuts across the object/subject divide and produces a strategic invisibility (“as even now you look / but never see me”), so too is hip hop consciousness rooted in black experiences of invisibil­ ity. As we considered in chapter 2, the African American experience of double consciousness is a local instance of the postcolonial experience—­a “subaltern instance.” Let us, then, consider two well-­rehearsed lines from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. The first comes from the opening of the prologue, where he writes: “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see

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me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”25 The passage resonates with passages from Fanon’s Peau Noir, Masques Blancs, but here I want to suggest that the invisibility of Bhabha’s mimicry creates a deferred identification. Through its “almost the same, but not quite” doubling, mimicry creates a space for “strategic motion.”26 Invisibility, then, becomes a usable quality. Hip hop consciousness flips the script on being “behind the veil,” in Du Bois’s noteworthy figuration, and allows for the resignifications of time and space that we see at play in Aleem’s album. In his crossreading of Du Bois and Bhabha, “Postcolonialism After W. E. B. Du Bois,” Kenneth Mostern makes this point thus: “the production of doubleness in the postslavery setting is, in addition to being personally disorienting, inevitable and indeed desirable.”27 Later in the prologue to Invisible Man, Ellison elaborates: “Invisibility, let me explain, gives one a slightly different sense of time, you’re never quite on the beat. Sometimes you’re ahead and sometimes behind. Instead of the swift and imperceptible flowing of time, you are aware of its nodes, those points where time stands still or from which it leaps ahead. And you slip into the breaks and look around.”28 It is this sense of time—­what Bhabha calls “arrest[ing] time”—­that Aleem uses for his interhistorical analysis. In his line, “Makers of the drum, in slums, and off the beat,” he encodes the ambivalence of this “never quite on the beat” sensation. The track is about loss, but it uses this awareness to create an emergence. The chorus of “The Fallen” enters in the heavily accented Jamaican patois of Aleem as a Rasta reading Genesis 15:13: “And he said unto Abram: ‘Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in the land that is not theirs, and shall serve them and they shall afflict them for four hundred years.” The Torah/ Old Testament text is here read as a prophecy of Afrodiasporic enslavement and centers the loss of the title—­“The Fallen.” Yet it is also ripe with potential. What goes unspoken at this point in the track is the next line, verse 14. It continues: “But I will bring  judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.” These lines have, of course, provided spiritual nourishment and hope in countless African American and Afro-­Caribbean readings of the Bible. But what is more, in the act of speaking this oppressive and alienating language of “social and political invisibility,” the spoken lines also prefigure Bhabha’s “secret art of revenge, mimicry.”29 In both Old Testament and New, the Bible is rich in inversions—­of the cornerstone, of

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the Temple, of   Rome—­visions of upheaval cherished by colonial subjects finding themselves in the pages of the occupier’s holy book, speaking those lines in church meetings and, now, flippin’ the script through hip hop performance. The second verse of “The Fallen” proceeds to the sonic materiality of vibrations, language, and speech: The serpent surrounding the fruit Drinkin yout’ from the root of civilizations built on vibrations. From the highest el angels fell upon the floor From no need to eat to eating the meat raw. Greatest of riches, minerals, and pure ore Now strippers addicted to figures remain poor. Shot in whites round the ends, new Benz and fake friends Fully-­grown babies need to learn to speak again. The pre-­Babel, antediluvian, pre-­natal The language we use, right now it proves fatal Will he lynch us? Of course he will he came to kill. Every weekend more lives and the blood still spill. And it still will, This sickness that afflicts us, Divides families, pits brothers against sisters.

From the start, the verse centers an essential and eternal black music (“the fruit,” “civilizations built on vibrations”) constantly under threat. The line echoes Aleem’s comments from the previous chapter on the ways that black music is unceremoniously “used” by his mainstream UK society. Here this use is cast as cultural theft and equated with the colonial material theft of “riches, minerals, and pure ore.” Again, Aleem performs this content linking the Leviathan sea monster from the end of verse 1 (“Levites that fell victim to Leviathan”) to the serpent of verse 2—­and drawing a line between these monsters and the populace, the mainstream, the hegemon, and therefore the Enlightenment political theory of  Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, which first theorizes the idea of a social contract and the poplulace’s necessary submission to it.30 In this verse, Aleem’s internal rhyme binds the power sources, “fruit,” “yout’,” and “root,” and inverts the supposed relationship between the social contract and the sonic in the line “civilizations built on vibrations.” This verse gets to the heart of Aleem’s performative deconstruction and metaphysical etymology on the album—­a worldview that centers the sonic not as the product of the social, but as productive of the social—­of civilization itself.

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In referencing language directly through discourse of anteriority—­pre-­ ness—­Aleem here posits an essence—­before the Tower of Babel, before the Flood, before birth (“The pre-­Babel, antediluvian, pre-­natal”), and before the so-­called Fall and expulsion from Eden. Together with the line, “civilizations built on vibrations,” he privileges the spoken word and music above materialism, the materiality of the written word, and indeed of materiality itself. Yet, the critique is not a purely idealist one, unconcerned with material oppression—­ the track’s opening lines make this much clear in their reference to the psychological effects of material conditions and vice versa. To be sure, the Bible offers a fitting place to interrogate the fundamentalist and legalizing authority, indeed the orthodoxy, of the written word by performing this sort of living, spoken, emergent, and deconstructed word. In positing this “pre-­Babel, antediluvian, pre-­natal” or a priori truth or essence through the multiply signified and polyvalent sonic materiality of spoken wordplay, Aleem’s metaphysical etymology has, in fact, given us a doubled critique that cuts across boundaries of both essence and nonessence. His texts speak of essence while his linguistic performance cuts across fixed meaning. It is a strategic “anti-­anti-­essentialism.”31 Let me turn to Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology to explain why. In the fourth major section, “The Violence of the Letter,” Derrida takes the prominent anthropologist Claude Lévi-­Strauss to task for his statement: “If my hypothesis is correct, the primary function of writing, as a means of communication, is to facilitate the enslavement of other human beings . . . it seems to favour rather the exploitation than the enlightenment of mankind.”32 Derrida sees Lévi-­Strauss’s seemingly progressive political intervention on behalf of the indigenous Nambikwara people of Brazil as, instead, a Eurocentric reification of their inferiority. Lévi-­Strauss, that is, has romanticized their “pre-­ness”—­ located, among other ways, in the Nambikwara’s preliterate culture. They are noble savages untouched by the modern “fall” from a natural state—­and that is the word Lévi-­Strauss uses: “fall.” Of course, Derrida is right. Though Lévi-­ Strauss has uncovered a form of colonial (and postcolonial) subjugation used to defraud native peoples of land, property, and civil rights for centuries, his motivations are, at least in part, for the wrong reasons. Surely, Levi-­Strauss’s indictment of writing would find fertile ground with those of us who know how black music has been bought and sold through unethical contractual practices and questionable coauthorships for the last century, but his structuralism relies heavily on hierarchies of romanticized authenticity, inherent meaning, racialized essentialisms, and tends toward the paternalistic.33 Derrida’s concept of différance is, instead, premised on a poststructuralist critique of inherent meaning that is allied to a politically anti-­essentialist

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project. In his critique Derrida is pushing back against Lévi-­Strauss and the logocentrism of his Western Metaphysics, which argues for the primacy of   language over writing, since language is posited as a precondition for writing. By questioning the narrativized temporal argument of this metaphysics—­that the Nambikwara people are preliterate and thus unsullied by the duplicitousness of writing—­Derrida suggests that nothing is presymbolic (“avant la lettre”) and argues against the a priori linguistic essence of structural ethnographic projects. Instead, Derrida derides the nostalgia inherent in Lévi-­Strauss’s narrativization of essence as something from the past. As Aleem’s Afrofuturist and anti-­anti-­essentialist essentialism shows us, essence need not be of the past. Derrida posits writing as a “mere trace” and begins this fourth section from Of Grammatology with the quip, “[Western] Metaphysics has constituted an exemplary system of defense against the threat of writing.” Here he is deriding Western metaphysics or logocentrism because Western thought has long conceived of writing as secondary to language—­a representation of the thing that spoken language is, the real. He is critiquing the idea that a written word is a representation of a real word,  just as a signifier has a one-­to-­one relationship with a signified—­which of course is not so simple. In Aleem’s metaphysical etymology—­or we might call it “countermetaphysics of the West” for clarity—­we find a critique of the written word that does not rely on essence in the way that Lévi-­Strauss’s critique does. Not because Aleem is black, not that he has an authentic, precivilized subject position, or because he is somehow outside of Western modernity like the Nambikwara people, but because he uses a concept of essence premised on a deconstructed idea of essence—­that is, an anti-­anti-­essentialist essence. As we will see, Aleem’s metaphysical etymology recuperates Lévi-­Strauss’s material critique of writing while dispensing with the accumulative narrative that posits essence as of the past and all the racializing nostalgia that this position implies. Just as Derrida is not so much contrary to Lévi-­Strauss as after him, I want to suggest that Aleem, as after Derrida, has theorized a différance unmoored from the free-­floating signifiers of poststructuralism. Here, I want to propose a term for this, prepared for us by the preceding discussion of the invisible “evil eye/I” that “defers the object of the look” yet is grounded in hip hop knowledge—­namely “defness.”34 Where différance exposes the difference and deference of meaning, “defness,” we might say, reasserts, if not definite meaning, the definitive agency of the speaker—­a def speaker who, despite and through his alterity, might render those who do not wish to hear him deaf.35 Defness presupposes that black performance is an immanent

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critique. Defness presupposes that most will not hear. But defness also presupposes that there are some things that cannot be taken away. As Moten writes of a black radical aesthetic: “it is a passion wherein ‘the senses have . . . become theoreticians in their immediate practice.’ The commodity whose speech sounds embodies the critique of value, of private property, of the sign.”36 Just as Bhabha’s “evil eye/I” of mimicry “defers the object of the look” and gains invisibility in the written realm and recalling Aleem’s slippages between seeing and hearing (“Hear ye, hear ye, so you see clearly . . .”), I propose that hip hop, as a spoken and sonic form, is a subaltern instance that can defer the object of the listener. Certainly, hip hop’s encoded language is only available to those who are prepared, indeed capable of hearing it. It will be useful to revisit William’s idea of the residual here, insofar as some “meanings and values which were created in actual societies and actual situations in the past” are inaudible because “the dominant culture neglects, undervalues, opposes, represses, or even cannot recognize” them.37 These ideas only fall on def ears—­ and thus create a safe space—­a coded and encrypted but emergent, third space for cultural and political work. As we have seen, hip hop has a long and rich history of deconstruction all its own. Indeed, black music has a long history of enciphered knowledge and insider lingo stretching back to the jazz age and coded imagery, such as the “Drinkin’ Gourd,” which performed such a profoundly material function in the antebellum field hollars and “Sorrow Songs.” Surely différance is a fitting figure for theorizing the impossibility of fixed meaning, but “defness” reaffirms that the aesthetics of hip hop as speech and as music have their own meaning and their own power, if not necessarily for direct communication, then for sustaining communion and community in the cipher. Perhaps, as Gayatri Spivak has argued, the overwritten subaltern cannot speak in societies unwilling or unable to hear them.38 But, as Moten has shown us, they can scream, shout, wail—­and as this book has shown us—­they can rap. As he writes in his performative critique that cuts across the aesthetic/political binary, it is the “animative materiality” of “black performances, which is . . . black history.”39 Indeed, Derrida concludes his discussion in the essay “Différance” with a gesture to the spoken word. Deconstructing Heiddeger, he writes: “Such is the question that enters into the affirmation put into play by différance. The question bears (upon) each of the words in this sentence: ‘Being / speaks / through every language; / everywhere and always /.’ ” It would seem that despite Derrida’s defense of  writing, his différance does extend a continuity to the affirmational speech that I propose in this theory of defness.

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On the last verse of “The Fallen,” Aleem performs a linguistically accumulative critique that tries to get us closer to the end of the chorus’s (the Bible’s) prophesy of 400 years of exile through wordplay on and around “four/fore.” It’s all been foreseen, four score and twenty years Plus twenty-­five multiplied by four in grey hairs. The forerunner allowed others to play catch up: Tailgunner’s rice and peas is now chips and Ketchup. Third generation switch from steam fish To a microwave popcorn pop tart bitch! Black universal womb gave birth to life, A pale imitation has stolen the birthright. Parasites, bloodsuckers, have us too, master’s servants Soul controller’s rhythm and blues became “urban.” From Neguses, came gods, emperors, kings, To Niggas who kill for material things. Blood of the sacrificial lambs that praise the golden calf. Those who think it’s too harsh, they don’t know the half. Think you’re safe? Better wake up mate, before they come to bust your ass.

Indeed, by my reckoning it has been nearly 400 years since the first Africans were brought to Jamestown Colony in 1619—­and 150 since the famous “four score” reference of the Gettysburg Address. Aleem tracks the recent generational “switches” post-­Windrush that exchanged the Caribbean staples of rice and peas and steamed fish for the chips, ketchup, and Pop Tarts of the metropolitan council estate and ghetto. With a palpable anger in his voice, he continues to track “the fall” of black civilization from “neguses” (kings) to “niggas,” playing with the word’s shape and finding a parallel in the white parasitism that plagues and enslaves black music—­a theft compounded by the implicit racial erasure of the UK industry term “urban.” The verse ends by returning to mathematics, where Aleem uses division to suggest that if this all seems like too much—­more than the sum of our reality—­it is because we know less than half of that reality. His metaphysical etymology and its defness thus offer a remedy to this deficit—­if we are ready to hear it. The biblical chorus now returns with a reading of Genesis 15:13–­14, gesturing to the end of the 400 years and its coming judgment. “And he said unto Abram: ‘Know with the assurety that thy seed shall be a stranger in the land that is not theirs, and shall serve them and they shall afflict them for four hundred years.’ ” Here Aleem adds, repeats, and heats up the relevant and

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supplementary language, adding urgently, “and also, and also, and also,” before the Rasta voice enters with the long-­awaited line, which was hidden in plain sight. The line emerges and quickly fades away: “and also that nation whom they shall serve will I judge and afterwards they shall come up with great substance.” Aleem’s voice reemerges with a short coda that performs his metaphysical etymology, deconstructing the title—­“The Fallen”—­letter by letter. In this con­ clusion Aleem steps back from the urgent fury of the preceeding verse, stating the title in a warm, fragile, and empathetic timbre near the top of his spoken vocal range. The title is repeated four more times, each time “falling” in pitch space and growing less empathetic, more detached. On the sixth iteration the figure has not only fallen in pitch space, but two letters have fallen off, the final e and n, now gesturing not to the fallen people, but to the iconic biblical act—­“the fall.” On the seventh and final iteration Aleem’s tone sounds at once resigned and hopeful—­perhaps “unburdened” is the word. The first letter, the f of the title, falls and we are left with “the all”—­a construction that, through its deconstruction, implicates “the fallen” Afrodiasporic peoples and African civilizations of Aleem’s track with the “all” of the “pale” “Leviathan,” indeed, the fall of everyone. The fallen    (top of vocal range) The fallen The fallen The fallen    (lower in pitch space) The fallen The fall     (letters falling off) The all

In highlighting the individual letters of the written word, Aleem’s coda musically performs “The Violence of the Letter” and Derrida’s deconstructive play in the essay “Différance.” By performing the materiality of these “letters from Birmingham” Aleem speaks from a particular space and place while cutting across the particular and the universal, the past and the future, to open up a third space characterized as much by its signifying play as by its political message. In the defness of his performance on this coda what matters is not so much the meaning or content of his speech—­there is no inherent meaning in his string of a repeated word followed by two others. What matters is the performative and material context of those words—­Aleem’s glocal and interhistorical contexts, the space created by the sounds and ideas that came before

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these words, the pitch space that gives direction to the words, and the air that is heated up by the vibrating timbre of Aleem’s human voice, first encoded into ones and zeros and then decoded as the soundwaves that hit our ears. Above all, what matters here is the performance, for performance requires a context. That is what is. In his historic “Letter from a Birmingham   Jail,” Martin Luther King  Jr. per­­ forms his civil rights politics in writing. Appealing to his ostensible jailers’ sense of Christian evangelism, King’s letter is a call to universality and freedom from an infamously particular and unfree place. After opening with an explanation for his presence as an “outside agitator” in Birmingham to his “Dear Fellow Clergymen,” King gets to the heart of the matter: But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid. Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

I won’t deign to suggest that there is no meaning in these familiar, yet still striking and powerful passages. But it is, nonetheless, the historical and geographic context of these words that give them their enduring and transformative power—­for even prophecy has a context. I call upon King’s letter not only to draw Birmingham, UK, and Birmingham, AL, closer together, not only to highlight the continuities in their biblical modes of argumentation and their critique of racialized structural injustices, and not only to suggest that Aleem’s project, like King’s, is a call for universal brotherhood that is localized in and issued from—­that is “Straight Outta . . .”—­a particular context. I call upon the power of King’s words to show how, here, he used writing as a performative tool against racism. Through his performance on the written page in this particular context, King demonstrates his mastery of the Christian tools of conservative argumentation employed by his “Dear Fellow Clergymen” and deforms them to suit his liberatory cause

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and subvert their moral authority. As he reminds us in the letter, he usually doesn’t have time for such abstract and decontextualized communications, preferring direct action and the art of oration. It is fitting, then, that King’s appeal to freedom and universality in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is nonetheless firmly situated in that “narrow jail cell” and has even taken on a title expressing its particular geographic and political location. In the section that follows we will see how Aleem’s work also cuts against the universal and the particular, but in very different ways.

From “Who Is He?” to “Rock My Hologram”: P e r f o r m i n g a n A n t i - A­ n t i - ­E s s e n t i a l i s t E s s e n c e On the fourth track, “Who Is He?,” Aleem begins: “Fuck you. I live!” This opening salvo is a fitting rejoinder to the thoughtful jeremiad of “The Fallen.” The track reminds us that hip hop’s critiques can range from the forms of ostensibly logical and politically conscious arguments to playful, nihilistic, or even sadistic violations of politically correct norms. Indeed, the abrasive violence and boastful masculinity of “Who Is He?” provides an appropriate foil both to “The Fallen” and to the nuanced considerations of identity on Sefyu’s album Quis Suis-­je? [Who Am I?] from chapter 2. Aleem begins his track: “Oh shit, it’s that Juice Aleem again / That kid, that cat, / You know the one with the perfect blend?” Where Sefyu considers racial identity in the self-­reflective language of the first person, Aleem frames his sexual machismo and physically imposing mastery from the perspective of the third person. He reads himself from the outside and perceives himself as a threat. The verse continues: “The one who come in and just use a pen / Spit a couple words and abuse a man / Blaze and amaze and excite the chin / Amusing ’cause I crack backs again.” In these couplets Aleem moves from the third person to the first and from the written to the spoken (“use a pen”/“spit a couple words”). In so doing he invokes the “evil eye/I” of mimicry by interrogating his identity from outside and then moving back inside the veil. The move is suggestive of the objective gaze of writing in counterpoint with the subjective act of performance. The most notable features of the track, however, are not the rhetorical structures of the texts in and of themselves, but the ways that his flow is suggestive of those structures. On “Who Is He?” Aleem changes vocal timbres from line to line, swapping subject positions, and mimicking those “third-­person” gazes. Just as he performs these impersonations, his rhythmic flow alternately lags behind the pulsing beat, pushes ahead, or clicks right in to the “pocket,” depending on the character. The first line (“Oh shit! . . .”) pulls back on the

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beat, emulating the stresses of dialogue between a couple hip hop adversaries (or fans). The second two couplets (“The one who come in and just use a pen . . .”) begin locked in to the beat in a mechanical, but impressively rapid-­ fire, delivery. As they end, however, the switch to the first-­person register is embodied by a new character steeped in the vocal modulations of a sleazy and loungey, yet thuggish black masculinity. The verse continues in this performance style: “Easy does it / super cheesy but she really love it / On hands and kneesy / super greasy watch me thug plug it.” In delivering these “cheesy” lines, Aleem lays so far back on the beat that it seems he will fall right off. But in an instant he switches back to the rapid-­fire delivery style, now pushing the beat ahead, seemingly challenging it to keep up. “Love it when I just come and tap ’em up / Egyptian mummy, gonna wrap ’em up / King Tut strut, but I’m kinda corrupt / Don’t give a fuck,  just back it up.” It is in this line that Aleem’s “use of the pen” and “spitting of   words” really comes together. Despite the previous smarminess and the continued sexual braggadocio, here Aleem positions his precolonial Egyptological interests in a masterfully playful manner. In doing so, he claims the unimpeachable royalty of ancient “neguses” and their seminal “civilizations built on vibrations” while at the same time admitting his fallibility—­his humanity. Here we hear an Aleem who is using markers of Afrocentricity not as essential markers of precolonal purity and goodness before “the fall,” but as fallible tools that can, and have, been corrupted, despite their considerable power. Indeed, this playful sexualization of “Egyptian mummies” echoes Aleem’s title for the album, Jerusalaam Come. As we will recall from chapter 7, the album title is borrowed from a line on “Wherever We Go”: “Pornographically masturbate my gun / Stand back, when Jerusalaam Come.” The ludic sexuality here is a usage that stands in stark contrast with the previous track and can help us avoid hearing such performative critiques in simple black and white—­like words on a page. Indeed, despite my written presentation here, it is important to understand Aleem’s lyrics as much more than words on a page. The lines that follow continue to evince Aleem’s mastery of form in terms of his flow’s changing timbre, the ways he “rides” the beat, the rhythmic invention, and the use of pitch space to expressive ends. In the end, the bumping, lurching, and swooning musicality of “Who Is He?” offers a bit of levity after the Leviathan of “The Fallen.” In so doing, it balances the political and the artistic, the textual and the sonic, the written and the spoken, and the past and the present. On the fifth track of  Jerusalaam Come, “Rock My Hologram,” Aleem turns to the future with the ancient past firmly in mind. As I outlined in the introduction to the present chapter, Aleem affirmed my interpretation of this track to an

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extent. We might say that the hologram is a projection of others that, through self-­knowledge, we might master and “rock,” but as we will hear and see from a look at the track and its video, the hologram is also an essence, but not in a metaphorical or even metaphysical sense. Rather, the essence that Aleem posits is a cosmic one with quantifiable physical properties. As he put it: “matter is just solid energy, as I say in the track we are all, each one of us, ‘solid light.’ ” The video for “Rock My Hologram,” produced by Ben Lister, begins with a young black child in a futuristic hospital or research station. He stares into space as he is wheeled around by a white man in a white lab coat. Another white man in a black coat takes notes on a digital tablet as white energy pulses travel along conduits connecting the floors of a multilevel atrium. As he stares at the energy pulses, the chorus enters quietly in the background—­“I am rocking my hologram / You are doing the same too / We all live up with the vibes / Light it up for my hologram crew.” The video cuts to a shot of an older hand passing an iridescent feather to a younger hand, presumably that of the child. The next shot sees the doctor (or researcher?) placing a space helmet on the boy, who we now realize is swaddled—­or straightjacketed—­in a white sheet. We see an external shot of the hospital (or is it a space station?) as a one-­man spacecraft begins its launch sequence. As the craft begins to shake—­with the boy inside—­Aleem repeats the line quietly: “I, I rock my holo / I, I rock my holo . . .” The craft begins to shake more violently and we see that the boy is transforming into an adult—­Aleem. The vocal line, “I am rocking my hologram,” now complete, surges in volume as bass drum eighth notes underscore the mounting tension. In the final bar of the loop’s four-­bar phrase, both the visual and musical narrative arrive at a structurally important point. Visually, we see a cut to a Mesopotamian-­styled god mask composed of   luminous violet feathers floating in outer space (1:01 in the video). Sonically, the pulsing drum line suddenly drops out and Aleem’s chorus is replaced with a soothing female monotone version of the line, “I am rocking my hologram,” as performed by a text-­to-­ speech (TTS) synthesizer. The glowing eyes of the god mask and subdued tone of the TTS voice distract us just long enough to make the simultaneous blast-­off of the spacecraft and drop of the beat all the more striking. As the craft launches into the stratosphere, we see that its wings are feathered and that its sides are decorated with the Egyptian hieroglyph for the Eye of   Horus—­a symbol of protection and royal power associated with the falcon-­headed sky god (1:11). The eye is symbolic of this space voyage as a journey of self-­knowledge. As Aleem blasts into space, the first verse begins in the “third eye” language of hip hop consciousness: “Clean the matter from your eye / No bodder ask

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why, oh why? / Time to get live, me oh my / I mek’ em all testify / No lie, extra oxygen supply.” The line resonates with the light energy exuding from the god mask’s eyes and with the Eye of Horus. In the context of our discussion here, it also resonates with Bhabha’s “evil eye/I” via Aleem’s line “I mek ’em all testify / No lie.” Indeed, later in the video, the god mask is revealed to be inscribed within a pyramid-­like three-­dimensional triangle, emulating the all-­seeing “Eye of Providence” atop an Egyptian pyramid, best known as the device on the back of the US one-­dollar bill—­the Great Seal of the United States. While I will not attempt to wade into the “Illuminati conspiracies” favored in some hip hop circles, the idea of the dominant/hegemonic “panopticon” as inverted through the emergent/third space “evil eye/I” will prove a useful heuristic with which to examine Aleem’s Afrofuturist project on “Rock My Hologram.” It should also help us better understand the contemporary realities of surveillance addressed in M.I.A.’s “Galang” and the broader postcolonial politics of seeing and being seen. In particular, the continuities between these eyes/Is and their pyramids will help us better understand defness vis-­à-­vis différance. In his playful and performative lecture to the Société frainçaise de philosophie, entitled simply “Différance,” Derrida elaborates the concept and the significance of replacing the second e of “difference” with an a. He writes (speaks): Now, in point of fact, it happens that this graphic difference (the a instead of the e), this marked difference between two apparently vocalic notations, between vowels, remains purely graphic: it is written or read, but it is not heard. It cannot be heard, and we shall see in what respects it is also beyond the order of understanding. It is put forward by a silent mark, by a tacit monument, or, one might say, by a pyramid—­keeping in mind not only the capital form of the printed letter but also that passage from Hegel’s Encyclopaedia where he compares the body of the sign to an Egyptian Pyramid. The a of différance, therefore, is not heard; it remains silent, secret, and discreet, like a tomb. It is a tomb that (provided one knows how to decipher its legend) is not far from signaling the death of the king. It is a tomb that cannot even be made to resonate.40

Derrida’s lecture on “différance,” does not define the term, but instead performs it. In referring to the material shape of the “silent, secret, and discreet” pyramid, he suggests that the a of différance defers understanding. Yet, in suggesting that there is a “legend” to be “deciphered” he also suggests the emergent possibility of this archaic device.

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Just so, I argue that the missing a of hip hop’s “defness” alludes to the way that hip hop knowledge falls on “deaf ” ears for those unprepared to hear it—­ for those who have not deciphered the legend of hip hop consciousness. Indeed, on the album’s seventh track, “KunteKinteTarDiss,” Aleem echoes this sonic transaction, mirrored in the visual register with the line: “All seeing eye that gives sight to the blind.” For those who are prepared and open to hearing hip hop’s message, a def musical moment will prove revelatory, opening up new possibilities, vistas, soundscapes. For the uninitiated, that empirically “same” sonic moment will remain dormant, invisible, silent. Like différance, defness defers definite meaning indefinitely. But unlike différance, defness need not have a written text to have significance. In hip hop, we know a def MC when we hear one. This explains much of the difficulty hip hop fans have in letting go of artists with whom they disagree. Sometimes the sonic substance of an MC’s performance is so masterful and seductive that content rich in misogyny, homophobia, materialism, violence—­pick your poison—­are endured, even refigured as critiques of those offending ideologies in the minds of conscious listeners. In this way hip hop fans break with textual meanings in favor of performed meanings—­the meaning of the flow. To riff on Moten’s figuration of black radical aesthetics and/as politics in his In the Break, the “speech act” can be broken from language, and we can go with the flow.41 “Flow” holds another notable valence in “Rock My Hologram” and its video. Over the course of the sonic and visual narratives, we get the sense that Aleem’s quest is a transcendent one that will bring him into phase with the universe. The line “Spoke to the wheel for real, I count Stars / Galaxies spin ‘cos they know who we are . . .” establishes Aleem as both in connection to the galaxy (“the wheel”) through his voice (“spoke”) and in dialogue with it. Aleem doesn’t know who he is by calculating his position in the galaxy; rather, the galaxy spins because it knows us through our speech—­a fitting reminder of Baker’s nod to quantum physics and Heisenberg’s “observer effect” in his suggestion that “the blues-­hip hop-­oriented observer (the trained critic) necessarily ‘heats up’ the observational space by his or her very presence.” This interconnected transcendence is exemplified at the climax of the video narrative as Aleem, now floating in space, gives away the feather. It floats toward the luminous god mask and aligns itself with a now-­obvious keyhole in the center of the mask’s forehead—­the “third eye” position or “ajna chakra” in Hindu traditions. Indeed, just as hip hop consciousness draws on the image of the “ajna chakra,” the line “spoke to the wheel” also references the Buddhist path to Nirvana—­the “dharma wheel.” As Aleem whispers the repeated mantra “I

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rock my hologram,” the feather clicks into place and Aleem enters a new, enlightened plane, dancing in blinding light. Here the feather seems to take on another salient valence, that of quill or pen. At the end of the first verse, Aleem raps: “Turn up the pages, bonfire Ra,” repeating it and underscoring its weight. When I first asked Aleem about this structurally important line, I heard “tearin’ up the pages.” It was his clarification of “turn up the pages . . . as in volume” that first led me to consider how his language constantly cuts across written/spoken domains. Indeed, in that synaesthetic line, Aleem gets Derrida’s pyramid to speak. That is, in the imperative construction, “turn up the pages,” Aleem suggests that writing can resonate in the sonic register, as he calls on the Egyptian sun god, Ra, to accomplish this firey feat. In the conclusion of the final verse we see how this might be possible. Aleem concludes: I’m solid light / Hands outta sight I’m already here / Burnin’ the air Before any years / Anger, any fears Aware of my Self / I’m ever so near All has been seen / Though it’s never been said A word unheard / Though it’s already read A million suns / Inside my head Held with my hands / The mind is the man On air or off land / I rock my hologram On air or off   land / I rock my hologram

Coupled with the video’s rhetoric of   light, in these final couplets Aleem seems to be trading the feather, the “Enlightenment” quill of the written word, for true enlightenment—­that is, becoming “solid light.” Indeed, there is an interesting slippage between musical and video narratives at an earlier point in the track. As Aleem is traveling through space, talking about the unconsciousness of  “holographic worlds programmed for sleep” and “rats in a trap for the cheese,” he includes the encouraging line: “Bread for the fed up, throw away ya crutch.” Just as we hear the words “fed up” we see a shot of the iridescent feather contained within the pupil of the spacecraft’s Eye of   Horace. Clearly, that shot for the video was based on video director Ben Lister’s “mishearing” of Aleem’s lyric “fed up” as “featha”—­probably “Bred for the featha, throw away ya crutch.” When I brought this up with Aleem in the months after the Cambridge panel, he explained (via Facebook) that, yes it is “Bred/Bread for the fed up, Throw away ya crutch,” but allowing that the word

“Straight Outta B.C.”  223

“Bred/Bread” was not encoded as one or the other.42 He continued: “symbols are pretty much our oldest language. Thing is he [the director] had been prepped for me before we ever spoke on that vid and he already had been told sum of my interests such as ancient cultures and his proto story board already included about 75% of things I was cool with . . . the feather is a Kemetic thing used by Tehuti and others but also an important part in being  judged in the negative confessions.” As it turned out, the feather was part of Aleem’s symbolic vision for the video and its resonance, for him, echoed across ages and traditions for his conceptualization of continuities between the gatekeeper/ messenger gods from Egyptian (Tehuti), Greek (Hermes), and Yoruban (Esu) traditions. He concluded that online chat: “the ear hears what it already wants to.” In this and previous discussions Aleem made it clear that such productive mishearings are part of   his intention. In the final verse, light is no longer metaphorical, but physical. His body is “burnin’ the air,” his “self ” and his consciousness are “near,” and “the mind is the man.” It is here, between the lines “I’m solid light” and “the mind is the man,” that Aleem articulates a connection between his deep readings of ancient holistic knowledges and his self-­description as a “kid raised on Star Trek” with an understanding of the quantum physics at the center of such fantastic visions.43 In cutting across the binary of past and future, his track also cuts across religion and science to clear the way for an essence not bound to quasi-­scientific biological determinism. As we will see, in light of these cuts, we can read Aleem’s reference to “civilizations built on vibrations” as a construction that simultaneously places music at the center of   black civilization (at least as constructed in today’s world) and finds empirical truth in quantum physics’ third space “cut” across light as both particle and wave and string theory’s propositions about the interconnected vibration of all matter and energy—­of all living things and all of their ideas. Indeed, these continuities between Aleem’s interest in “vibrations,” the dharma wheel and/as the galaxy, and string theory provided the initial impetus for my introduction of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” with its line “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny”—­a formulation I’ve always found much more evocative (and hopeful) than the letter’s related and most oft-­repeated line, which immediately preceeds it: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As these lines remind us, King was, of course, also deeply invested in Gandhi’s anticolonial nonviolence as well as the dharmic interconnection of his faith tradition. To begin to explain Aleem’s gestures to string theory, his “holographic” metaphysics, and understand the anti-­anti-­essentialist essence it proposes, we

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must turn to the “Holographic Principle” first proposed by Nobel Laureate physicist Gerard ‘t Hooft and elaborated by Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind in his Journal of Mathematical Physics article “The World as a Hologram.”44 Susskind’s abstract begins, “According to ‘t Hooft the combination of quantum mechanics and gravity requires the three dimensional world to be an image of data that can be stored on a two dimensional projection much like a holographic image.” The abstract concludes, “Finally we consider string theory as a possible realization of ‘t Hooft’s idea.” I will not (indeed cannot) attempt to explain the physics here, but I can explain Aleem’s metaphysics. By locating his critique in ancient wisdom he finds an essential truth that we are only now beginning to rediscover—­in short, that in a universe comprised only of data, words and ideas are as “real” as material objects. Indeed, it is the data, stored as energy, that constitutes the only real essence. We are all holograms. That is the essence. The art/life binary is an illusion—­indeed, the physical world is an illusion. Instead of fearing this seemingly grim theoretical turn in quantum physics, Aleem embraces the vibrating interconnectedness it proposes. He suggests in both musical form and lyrical content (a wholly false dichotomy in a world reduced to pure data) that the trick is to “rock your hologram” through self-­knowledge and to find those connections. This is manifestly not your grandfather’s essentialism. Although Aleem finds inspiration in ancient wisdom, he confirms it through the empirical rigors of futuristic science. This is why I describe Aleem’s performative cultural critique as “def.” And this is why I describe Jerusalaam Come as a precolonial Afrofuturist form of anti-­anti-­essentialism.

Conclusion: Rock It, Swing It To conclude this performative analysis, I would like to return to my favorite expression of a third space cut across the art/ life binary—­Ralph Ellison’s formulation: “the real secret of the game is to make life swing.” The line resonates deeply with Aleem’s “if you know who you are you’ll rock your hologram” and is, likewise, couched in terms of black music from his era. In lieu of my completing a PhD in astrophysics, I would like to conclude with a consider­ ation of the full quote from Ellison’s “What America Would Be Like Without Blacks.” He writes: Without the presence of Negro American style, our jokes, tall tales, even our sports would be lacking in the sudden turns, shocks and swift changes of pace

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(all jazz-­shaped) that serve to remind us that the world is ever unexplored, and that while a complete mastery of life is mere illusion, the real secret of the game is to make life swing. It is its ability to articulate this tragic-­comic attitude toward life that explains much of the mysterious power and attractiveness of that quality of Negro American style known as “soul.” An expression of American diversity within unity, of blackness with whiteness, soul announces the presence of a creative struggle against the realities of existence.45

Here Ellison, the Afrofuturist, highlights our ever-­interconnected contexts and the relativity of time within those contexts, echoing the sense, described in that passage from Invisible Man, where “you’re never quite on the beat. Sometimes you’re ahead and sometimes behind. Instead of the swift and imperceptible flowing of time, you are aware of its nodes, those points where time stands still or from which it leaps ahead. And you slip into the breaks and look around.” This is the productive “third space” of the subaltern instance, of the “evil eye/I.” This is the space of “deformational” play between the poles of our Enlightenment binaries, the space that allows for the immanent critique of Moten’s “the break”; this is the anti-­anti-­essentialist space of hip hop’s “def ” critique. What’s more, Ellison’s final sentence—­“An expression of American diversity within unity, of   blackness with whiteness, soul announces the presence of a creative struggle against the realities of existence”—­captures the essence of how universality might be accessed in the performative contours of situated struggle. It cuts across diversity and unity, across blackness and whiteness, and notably, it cuts across artistic creativity and existential reality. In a sense then, it creates dynamic unities out of those Enlightenment binaries that we’ve been tracking from the outset of this study. But unlike Ellison’s nationally situated argument, our preceeding examinations have endeavored to decenter this “exceptional” American genius and expose it as a particular instance of a univer­ sal reality. Hip hop’s defness may be born of America’s postcolonial context, but its def doubleness—­or better, its def critique of doubleness—­resonates universally in our postcolonial moment.


Hip Hop Studies and/as Postcolonial Studies See my shit is universal if you’ve got knowledge of dolo Or delf or self . . . “ A wa r d T o u r , ” Q-­Tip of A Tribe Called Quest (1993)

Postcoloniality is not about rupture, but about continuity. The final chapter of Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism, “Freedom from Domination in the Future,” begins: Imperialism did not end, did not suddenly become “past,” once decoloniza­ tion had set in motion the dismantling of the classical empires. A legacy of connections still binds countries like Algeria and India to France and Britain respectively. A vast new population of Muslims, Africans, and West Indians from former colonial territories now reside in metropolitan Europe; even Italy, Germany, and Scandinavia today must deal with these dislocations, which are to a large degree the result of   imperialism and decolonization as well as expand­ ing European population.

Said’s examinations look beyond the legacy of colonial entanglement in the entrenched neocolonial structures of finance, industry, and government, to the enduring traces at play in the soft power of cultural practices and artifacts—­a more dynamic, slippery, and mutable field. Implicit in this approach is Gram­ sci’s counterhegemonic concept of  “the war of position,” premised on the sub­­ tle terrain of culture. And notably, his stated aim is not simply to map these cultural traces of the past but to use them to work toward a future free from imperial domination. As I have shown, hip hop is a remarkably historicizing form of popular culture. Far from the Fukuyaman vision of superficial pop ahistoricism that

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Joshua Clover describes in 1989, hip hop’s Knowledge of Self ideology fore­ grounds history as a deeply personal practice and future-­oriented instrument of self-­empowerment.1 Indeed, a favorite KoS meme in hip hop knowledge and practice is the Sankofa icon of the Akan people of  West Africa. In Akan culture the symbol stands for the power of self-­knowledge, depicting a bird progress­ ing to the future yet reaching back to its history—­depicted as an egg—­which holds the dual potential for both sustainability and rebirth. The Sankofa idea resonates strongly with Édouard Glissant’s image of black music’s regenera­ tive processes, but here in concluding I want to use the conceptual mechanics of the Sankofa icon to suggest that the mutual implication of past and future that it encodes reflects, at a more abstract level, a relationality that might help us better describe the continuities between postcolonial studies and hip hop. Indeed, this oft-­paradoxical but always relational mechanics is central to this book’s three binary collapsing pillars and a fitting place to position my closing argument that hip hop studies is postcolonial studies. As I suggested at the outset of this study, hip hop is a cultural practice through which European youth both perform their resistance from and rela­ tion to their respective nations. Hip hop encourages them to have it both ways. Through their hip hop expressions in Paris, Berlin, London, and beyond, young men and women are claiming a place at the table through difference rather than assimilation—­that is, not by becoming French, German, English, and so on, but by forcing their nations to redefine the terms of national be­ longing. We might dismiss this transaction as having your cake and eating it, too—­for, in a way, that is exactly what it is. Yet, to recall Gilroy, “where racist, nationalist, or ethnically absolutist discourses orchestrate political relation­ ships so that these identities appear to be mutually exclusive, occupying the space between them or trying to demonstrate their continuity has been viewed as a provocative and even oppositional act of political insubordination.” 2 Faced with this double bind, hip hop is claiming its seat at the table and having its cake, not to eat it—­it doesn’t have much of a taste for that cake—­but simply to have the cake it was promised. For it turns out that you can have cake—­or mithai, or baklava, or flan—­and eat it, too, if  you aren’t beholden to the notion that there is only one true cake at the table. As Said put it, despite the irrevers­ ible intermixture that imperialism brought to the global stage “its worst and most paradoxical gift was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly, exclusively, white, or Black, or Western, or Oriental.” To mix metaphors, hip hop’s Sankofa ideology would see everyone at the table bringing their own egg, their own gifts, their own ingredients, and the resultant cake would reflect that

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rich mixture. And we need to mix metaphors, because, as it turns out, it is a chicken and egg thing.

The Mechanics of the Double Bind In chapter 2 I suggested that hip hop is a product of the postcolonial contra­ dictions that continue to hyphenate citizens within their own nations as well as a form of cultural politics well suited to combat the inequalities those hy­ phens suggest. Working toward the first pillar of this book’s argument that dou­ ble consciousness is postcoloniality, I used Sefyu’s “En noir et blanc” to illus­ trate how hip hop activates Manichaean colonial histories and asymmetrical postcolonial realities in order to interrogate and work against their bifurcated structures. It is worth noting that Sefyu’s postcolonial critique is enacted by dredging up and performing a litany of tired black and white binaries before he is able to subvert them. These self-­reflexive critical mechanics, so deeply in­ formed by and premised on black Atlantic musical traditions, epitomize both the paradoxes of postcoloniality and hip hop’s often high-­stakes inversional practices wherein stereotypes must be inhabited and animated before they can even be addressed as stereotypes. Like so many hip hop statements, Sefyu’s “En noir et blanc” constantly runs the risk of  reifying rather than critiquing for the listener. But as we saw in Berlin’s Columbiaclub, hip hop audiences get it. By digging up and rehearsing those entrenched but seldom voiced stereotypes with his diverse public, B-­Tight exorcised the ghosts of “Rasse.” By mastering these stereotypes together, hip hop lays them to rest. Indeed, we might call hip hop’s critical complexity and deformational attentiveness to postcolonial paradoxes the mechanics of the double bind. In reflecting on these mechanics vis-­à-­vis the second pillar of this book we can see how, for instance, M.I.A.’s cultural politics and the phrase “terrorist chic” that it garnered are both product of and response to postcolonial para­ doxes and their absurd expectations regarding the political and commercial—­ especially as they apply to women. Surely the ideological minefield around popular music and its authenticity discourse that simultaneously asks artists to be true to themselves and responsive to their audience is heightened in hip hop, at once the most authentic and spurious of musical forms. But once an artist takes a political stand the stakes become impossibly high and the double bind of teach-­people-­or-­reach-­people rears its Janus-­faced false choice. Make that politically outspoken artist a woman of color, and you have the recipe to make people’s heads explode—­as both M.I.A. and Beyoncé have proven through their respective Super Bowl performances.

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Like Sefyu and B-­Tight, M.I.A. embodies, rehearses, and performs these postcolonial paradoxes in order to undo them. And it seems important to note that while many would dismiss M.I.A.’s artistic bona fides out of   hand for even condescending to perform at the celebration of global mass marketing that is the Super Bowl, countless others would dismiss her for offending their nor­ mative sensibilities with her middle finger and confrontational performance. But that is the point. M.I.A. performed at the Super Bowl in a way fully in keeping with her postcolonial politics. She was authentic to her commercial inauthenticity—­like those “hot commodities” B-­Tight and Tony D. Indeed, as we heard in her sonic reference to the stadium anthem “The Macarena” on “Fire Fire,” it may be that M.I.A. was destined to perform at the Super Bowl, for it seems there is some in-­built compulsion in heteronormative corporate athletic spaces that draws nonnormative artists like the Bayside Boys, Queen, Gary Glitter, and Psy to their center. M.I.A. seems both all too aware of this contrapuntal relationship and undeniably well positioned to exploit it. Notably, the mechanics of undoing the double bind are comprehensible in the very names of hip hop artists—­from M.I.A.’s omnipresent strategic ab­ sence, to the strategic essentialist constructions of the names A Tribe Called Quest and Roots Manuva, to the nightmarishly shining bling of Blackara and Gang Starr. Indeed, we can find these mechanics at work at the dawn of hip hop with names like Grand Master Flash and Grand Wizzard Theodore re­ signifying the honorifics of exclusive fraternal orders like the Masons and Ku Klux Klan. And tellingly, this signifyin(g), contradictory play stretches back to the African American Dukes and Counts of the swing era and the tragicomic blues code from which their music gets its vital force. Finally, in thinking about how hip hop undoes the mechanics of the double bind with regard to the performative third pillar, I must refer to “The Killer’s Tears,” the tenth track of  Juice Aleem’s Jerusalaam Come. On the track Al­ eem narrates the hard-­fought final battle of a legendary “warrior of old.” Set in the sonic ethos and narrative mythos of martial arts film, Aleem explores the mystic paradoxes of this hero, “a known master / in the service of no master,” who is compelled to serve “just-­ice” on “those who lied.” The track begins in the first person with the prophetic solipsism: “I do this ’cause I must / I must ’cause I do this.” Yet in the context of this rich dualistic wordplay steeped in Chinese philosophical holism one line stands out as most evocative of hip hop’s rhetorical mastery around the mechanics of the double bind. Near the end of   the track’s first verse, Aleem raps: “A sad and magnificent figure he cut / from the same cloth that was used to tie his mind up.” Through Aleem’s performative pivot on the word “cut,” he riffs on two

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idiomatic expressions essentially creating two sentences: “A sad and magnifi­ cent figure he cut” and “he [was] cut from the same cloth that was used to tie his mind up.” I highlight the line first because of its evocatively appropriate language of binding and cutting that resonates throughout this study, from B-­Tight’s golden shackles and self-­amputation to Aleem’s sadomasochistic Abu Ghraib imagery. Second, I highlight this line because it demonstrates the nec­ essarily self-­reflexive understanding of the double bind—­and performs a strat­ egy to undo it. Yes, he is the product of his own history—­he is cut from that cloth. Couched in the terms of destiny and/as material his fate seems to have been imposed upon him. He was bound. That historical reality will define his future. Yet it is that same history that will lead the way out. The language of ties and cuts provides the means. If he is the product of that process of binding, then surely the figure he cuts could free him—­if he can cut his mind free from his deeply ambivalent “sad and magnificent” state. Above all, his doubled performance of the single sentence couplet elabo­ rates the multiply signified content through its formal construction. The word “cut” both severs the first line from and ties it to the second, binding content and form. The construction simultaneously places an end-­stop that we hear at the word “cut,” and performs a poetic enjambment as our ears and need for syntactical resolution urge us onward. Thus the line and Aleem’s “sad and magnificent” timbre and flow in performance animate the hip hop mechanics of undoing the double bind. Understanding these mechanics will be central to the further development of a hip hop studies consciously and intimately bound to the relentless historicism of postcolonial studies.

The Promise of Global Hip Hop Studies As outlined in the preceding chapters, it is my contention that postcolonial frameworks offer a valuable set of methodologies, theoretical concepts, and counterhistorical approaches to hip hop as music, culture, and politics—­and not just in the former colonial centers of Europe. For one, if all our work on the novel frame of “globalization” can be kept in check by the postcolonial heuristic, we will be better attuned to the deep histories that inform local cul­ tures around the world. Part of this call will include expanding the purview of scholars of American hip hop to examine and theorize the culture in all its global diversity, but equally important will be an ability for scholars of hip hop’s Global Noise to grapple with this music as black American music and all the complications that arise with such an iconically local global music.

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Second, thinking about hip hop in pillar 1’s terms of double conscious­ ness and postcoloniality can help us in our struggle to work past the bound­ aries of race, class, gender, sexuality, nation, religion, ethnicity, age, and ability and toward an intersectional focus on Said’s deceptively simple statement on hybridity—­“no one today is purely one thing.”3 Part of the challenge here will be to listen, feel, and think contrapuntally about hip hop performance—­an orientation toward hip hop music, culture, and politics that simultaneously considers imperialism and resistance to it in hegemonic counterpoint. A central consideration in this expanded view of hybridity must include the ways that commodified, commercialized, and otherwise seemingly “coopted” and “compromised” cultural forms remain powerfully resistant to different peo­ ple in a now-­vast array of geographic, cultural, economic, and historical con­ texts. As I’ve stressed with this book’s second pillar, to dismiss certain musical performances and cultural artifacts outright does nothing more than expose our own blind spots as scholars, practitioners, and fans. Furthermore, such dismiss­ als often evince nostalgia for a time and a culture that has never been. Our time is now. In 1987 Rakim put it thus: “It ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.”4 Or if you prefer, in 1999 Mos Def suggested: “If we doin’ alright, hip hop is gonna be doin’ alright.  .  .  . We are hip hop. Me, you, everybody. We are hip hop. So hip hop is going where we going.”5 As Kendrick Lamar put it in 2015 for our Black Lives Matter moment: “We gon’ be alright.”6 Golden age thinking holds powerful sway over hip hop, but for all its celebra­ tion of triumph over adversity, it pushes these triumphs to the past and holds our children back from experiencing hip hop in all its richness and diversity. Now. Today. Finally, it behooves us to think seriously about those seemingly throwaway aspects of hip hop performance—­which, ironically, tend to center around musical sound in much hip hop scholarship. Yes, scholars of music must work much, much harder to include popular musical forms in our university and secondary curricula, but so too must our best and brightest scholars in com­ parative literature, media studies, area studies, anthropology, sociology, his­ tory, and law, and business, and mathematics, and the sciences learn to struggle with music and take sound seriously. Doing so will help us to expand our re­ spective scholarly toolboxes, build the necessarily interdisciplinary connec­ tions that will bring us closer, widen and deepen the burgeoning field of global hip hop studies, and help us better attend to hip hop as music and culture and politics. This is the essential argument of my third pillar. If I’m preaching to the choir here, my apologies—­please proceed.

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Performing Rebellion, Embodying Postcoloniality on the Emerald Isle I want to conclude with a performative scholarly exercise that models how I hope to further these goals in my own small way. In the summer of 2014 I was appointed to a lectureship in popular music studies at University College Cork, National University of Ireland. I immediately set to work learning as much as I could about the local and national hip hop scenes. But it was not until my sec­ ond semester on the Emerald Isle that I had anything to “write home about”—­as the saying goes. I had slotted Irish hip hop as the topic for the final week of my perennial favorite class (for me at least), “Planet Rap: Global Hip Hop and Post­ colonial Perspectives,” and invited local DJ, producer, and hip hop impresario Stevie G to sit in and facilitate discussion about local and national scenes. A bit over a week before the class meeting, I asked Stevie to put out a call on Facebook for information, links, and leads on Irish hip hop that attended to issues of “Irishness,” the Irish Revolution, and/or postcoloniality—­a rather specific request I thought. Stevie’s considerable network in Cork, across Ire­ land, and around the globe, produced a thread with over 300 comments (and counting) by over 100 MCs, DJs, and fans, flooding my limited understand­ ing with new perspectives and possibilities. As I write down these concluding thoughts in the early spring of 2016, the nation is busy preparing centenary commemorations of the “Easter Rising” that set the stage for Ireland’s War of Independence from the British crown in April 1916.7 While the topic might have been percolating in the collective consciousness of Irish hip hop commu­ nities over the past couple years, the outpouring of information and support for this project has, nonetheless, been remarkable. The brief denouement that follows is a focused reflection on what I’ve learned about Irish hip hop in the last years and a chance to model some of my conclusions on how the postcolonial framework is a revealing one for un­ derstanding the continuities between the particular form of African American double consciousness and a global postcolonial condition. Indeed, if the pre­ vious chapters are any indication, a primary cultural function of global hip hop is to build these continuities into solidarities. After a brief overview of the contemporary hip hop scene in Ireland, I turn my attention to one particularly evocative track that articulates these continuities with an eye toward solidarity before offering some conclusions about the promise of the postcolonial frame for hip hop studies. In examining how these Irish artists have reterritorialized, indigenized, and ultimately found themselves in and through hip hop, I want us to keep one gem

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of hip hop wisdom in mind. On the 1993 track “Award Tour” the pathbreak­ ing Queens, NY, crew A Tribe Called Quest reflect on the globalization of hip hop.8 The track’s chorus reports from the “Tribe’s” voyage across the globe: “We on Award Tour with Muhammad my man / Goin’ each and every place with a mic in their hand / Chinatown, Spokane, London, Tokyo.” In the track’s first verse, the MC Q-­Tip (so named because his words and voice “clean out your ears”) explains hip hop’s fundamental concept, Knowledge of Self (KoS), as he journeys to the far corners of the hip hop world: “You can be a black man and lose all your soul / You can be white and groove but don’t crap the roll (role) / See my shit is universal if you’ve got knowledge of dolo / Or delf or self, see there’s no one else / Who can drop it on the angle, acute at that / So: doo-­dat, doo-­dat, doo-­doo dat-­dat-­dat.” In the context of this track about hip hop globalization, Q-­Tip explains that hip hop’s belonging is not, in fact, racially determined. A black man can be out of touch with hip hop and its soulful black musicality. Likewise, a white person can enter into hip hop’s performative community and groove along, but—­punning on the ghetto dice game par excellence, “craps”—­warns that one should not feel entitled in this “role.” Rather, hip hop is universal, but only for those who have found themselves through a KoS “quest.” In addition to catachrestic wordplay (“acute”/“and cute”), homophones (“roll”/“role”), and nonlexical,    jazz-­inflected scat, Q-­Tip’s poetic lines encipher this knowledge in the hip hop memes “dolo” (an acronym for “done on the lonely”) and “delf ” (a “higher form” of self ). As such, Q-­Tip’s def performance of encoded hip hop knowledge suggests that this art form is globally accessible and potentially empowering to everyone, but must be accessed through local knowledge and practice. This is the axiom of KoS that is reflected in the Rakim, Mos Def, and Ken­­drick lines above—­and I want to proceed with my analysis of Irish hip hop with this axiom in mind. As I have found in my ten years of fieldwork with hip hop communities across Europe and the United States, hip hop has spoken to countless sub­ jects around the world. As Q-­Tip suggests, it has resonated with these sub­ jects because they are on the same quest, asking the same questions, and have generated a degree of KoS. If we are to believe him and other established hip hop artists, hip hop thus spreads not as a copy that is “adopted and adapted” to local concerns, but emerges as an always already constituent part of local knowledge and practice.9 In this way, hip hop’s global appeal and universal power are found through introspection and centered in/on local traditions and concerns, not taken on as an appropriative or assimilative act. As we conclude, I want to continue to take seriously these practitioners’ theorizations of hip

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hop, focusing on the ways that hip hop’s universal message is found through local knowledge and practice. What follows is a whirlwind tour of   hip hop’s encoded expressions of KoS in Ireland. Here I refer you to the “Conclusion” section of the Flip the Script: European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality website (www.euro peanhiphop.org) as we embark on this tour of the ways that Irish artists have located themselves in hip hop. First, there is “trad-­tablism”—­a form developed by Limerick-­based DJs Danny Deepo, Mikey Fingers, and Deviant that exploits the continuities of compound meters (6/8, 12/8) between Irish traditional music’s reels and jigs and hip hop’s triplet-­happy art of turntablism. The metric continuities are highlighted particularly well on the intro to the track “No Boundaries” by the late, great Lunitic—­an abundantly obvious connection that I would never have considered had I not heard these forms in trad-­tablism’s ingenious counter­ point. To add to this continuity, these forms also share a remarkably similar collaborative ethos in their respective musicking units: the Irish trad session and the hip hop cipher.10 Locally in Cork, there is Garry McCarthy, aka GMC, who conducts youth hip hop poetry and beatmaking workshops through the nationwide Music Gen­ eration NGO, including Irish-­language rap and cultural consciousness rais­ ing. There is the Bodhrán-­wielding working-­class feminism of  Temper-­Mental MissElayneous, a Dublin artist whose performed knowledge of both ancient and revolutionary-­era Irish history is abosolutely remarkable and whom one of my students interviewed to illuminating result. There are the Rubber Bandits, who made headlines with their unlikely 2010 hit, “Horse Outside”—­a touch­ ingly humorous track about a certain working-­class segment of Shannonsiders who hold fast to the tradition of riding horses around Limerick instead of cars, despite the city having grown into Ireland’s third-­largest metropolitan area. Up North, there is the Belfast-­born Jun Tzu, who pushes back against his father’s died-­in-­the-­wool Ulster Unionism to personalize the Northern Irish conflict euphemistically known as “The Troubles” and argue that, as a Northern Irish­ man, he is in a liminal space, neither British nor Irish. Back down South, there is the Wu Tang–­styled mysticism of Corkonian MC Spekulativ Fiktion who performs with DJ  JusMe on turntables and an old Korg ElecTribe Sampler (that they refer to affectionately as “the artifact”). I had seen Stevie open for East Coast old school artists, MOP on tour in Cork, but this was the first Irish crew I had the chance to see live. The show began with an epic Irish trad soundscape paired with an equally mystical introduction by Spek. The part of the performance that really stuck out for me, however, was

Hip Hop Studies and/as Postcolonial Studies  235

when the MC pulled out a tin whistle to play the hook to his track, “Adrift on an Aimless Tide,” over an aggressive jungle/drum and bass beat. He finished the trad-­inspired hook, slipped the whistle back into his pocket, grabbed a mi­ crophone, and spit some memorable lyrics (“outta mind outta body / percep­ tion is shoddy”). There is Dublin’s answer to Tyler the Creator, Rejjie Snow, an internationally successful recording artist whose introverted lyrics, chill flow, and electro beats push the limits of how we think about Irish hip hop. And any summary of Irish hip hop would be remiss without mention of Scary Éire (pronounced “scary era”), legends of the Irish hip hop world, defiantly attuned to the global stereotypes about Ireland, its people, and the global traf­ fic in Irishness—­not least among the Irish diaspora (House of Pain being the notable example in hip hop).11 Stevie had also invited to class Young Phantom, an up-­and-­coming artist from the Cork crew, ApocalypsE—­a UCC student from Tralee who brings his Afro-­Irish identity and well-­developed flow to bear in his music.12 Indeed, ApocalypsE is currently attracting media attention in the wake of another suc­ cessful Afro-­Irish crew featuring the Zimbabwean-­Irish MC God Knows, the Togolese-­Irish MC MuRli, and their ethnically Irish DJ My Name is John.13 Finally, there was Nick, a Filipino-­Irish student of literature and languages and hip hop producer who audited my course—­attending every day and par­ ticipating as much or more than anyone, though he received no credit (we’re working on it). When I first got to Ireland, I was struck by the large and visible Filipino community, but of course I should not have been. Because of their intertwined colonial histories and the strong Roman Catholic connections in both countries, Filipino settlers have been drawn to Ireland in recent decades. Indeed, many Filipinos have been educated by Irish missionaries in the Philip­ pines. Both the colonial solidarities and asymmetries of this relationship will provide a rich site of inquiry. As Mark Villegas has shown, hip hop has long provided Filipino Americans with the tools to build common cause with Afri­ can Americans—­for largely postcolonial reasons—­and in light of the continu­ ing postcolonial struggles facing both nations, it will be interesting to better understand the bridges and stumbling blocks to cooperation through the lens of hip hop in the Irish context.14

“December 11th”: Performing Irish Postcoloniality A month after I arrived in Cork, I caught part of a radio documentary on the college station that was dedicated to hip hop in the Republic’s second city.

236  Conclusion

As I tracked down the radio station and its student director, I discovered the names of the DJs who had broadcast the show: Brosy and Mickey Gatch. How­ ever, it was not until I began working through Stevie’s Facebook thread that I understood that the two were not only radio DJs, but MCs as well. The track by the duo that I found buried among the posts of  Stevie’s 100 closest friends, was entitled “December 11th” and filed under their duo’s name, “The Good Vibe Society.” The Good Vibe Society’s video “December 11th” uses a rapped historical narrative and period film footage to recall, reframe, and embody the loss result­ ing from the 1920 “Burning of Cork City” “during a rampage by the infamous terrorist organisation known as the Black and Tans during the occupation of Ireland by the British Empire.”15 The video, composed by Marc Butler, gives visual cues to the lyrical narrative, tracking how the British crown deployed the paramilitary “Black and Tans” and “Auxiliary” mercenaries to respond to the Irish Republican Army’s guerrilla tactics and put down the anticolonial rebellion by indiscriminately attacking civilians and burning much of the city during the Irish War of   Independence (1919–­21). The following lines from “December 11th” are illustrative of the track’s nar­­ rativization of facts and feelings evoked through a fluid and assonance-­rich hip hop style in MC Brosy’s local Cork brogue: Rumours of troops on the move with intent Spread like the smell of smoke, choking the hope from yer troat. Resistance is in our tradition And I share the same vision as my countrymen in prison Languishing. The malicious and vicious militia, villains And criminals, ripping women and children from each building. On a mission, they could never see the enemy winning. Ready and willing to kill for the King’s shilling.16

In another verse, Mickey Gatch’s careful word choice links the Irish context to global anticolonial struggles, while gesturing to the details of the targeted IRA strike that led to the broad and asymmetrical response: Clandestine movements riddlin’ your chest. From the pockets of resistance, guerrillas in the West. While the flag of the oppressor floated high in the city The occupation of a nation with the littlest pity. There was terror in the town that could devour a coward.

Hip Hop Studies and/as Postcolonial Studies  237

This is the hour, time to strike at the imperial power ‘Cos there was panic in the barracks when the shots rang out. Paranoia on the streets when the sun went down.

As Brosy explained it to me, the song’s concept and politics were anchored in a desire to write a track about the Irish Revolution that was not beholden to a chauvinist nationalism and could be applied to higher ideals of revolution in any context. His elaboration on the genesis and development of the track is worth citing at length: We thought of doing an Irish rebellion song, but as I had made one before as a sixteen-­year-­old under the guise of the Dutch Gold Kid which makes me cringe to this day due to its infantile “Up the Ra”–­type lyrics [blindly sup­ portive of the Irish Republican Army] I was very apprehensive of making a nationalistic piece. We agreed to do one only if it could be applicable to any country or city’s history, and as the Arab Spring was just getting off the ground at the time and we were both transfixed by the events we felt if we could make a song about Irish rebellion, that could be juxtaposed over any Arab city and still make sense. We started it by collecting phrases from the news that were suited to both situations i.e. “pockets of resistance,” “guerillas in the west,” etc., until we had enough to fill a news report and then started placing them together in a way that worked. The song was originally to be called “Lest We Forget” as a direct response to the media circus surrounding the Poppy of the British WWI which was on every British channel at the time, as we were writing it in November. It was a basic concept, people like to remember the glory of their forefathers while whitewashing the incidents that leave a sour taste, like the Ballyseedy Massacre or “Little Catholic Belgium” acting the bollix in Congo, etc. We thought that since not really anybody outside of Cork remembers that the city was burned to a crisp by an irregular force with impunity, and that the entire saga was then blamed by the upper echelons of government on the locals, or Shinners, just really rounded off the utter fuckery quite nicely.17

In publicly framing the video, Brosy and Mickey Gatch keep the revolution­ ary wound open and its spirit alive, noting that “the British Government . . . blamed the atrocity on the people of Cork themselves and no apology was ever issued. Good Vibe Society are proud to dedicate this new choon to those

238  Conclusion

who still fight for freedom around the world today.” While one might argue that the track needlessly revisits the Gordian knot of “The Troubles,” the summary here speaks to the globally and historically aware valences of hip hop consciousness while, at the same time, playfully localizing themselves in Cork—­proudly known as the “Rebel County” and “the real capital of Ireland” to many—­through their (written) pronunciation of “tune” as “choon.” Indeed, it turns out that Mickey’s name is another localism, as “Gatch” is Cork slang for “gait,” “deportment,” or as we might best read it as deployed in this KoS hip hop context, “swagger.” The repeated chorus for “December 11th” rehearses the violent details of the historically rich verses and pivots to universalizing and hopeful ground, linking the Irish Revolutionary context to global anticolonial struggles. Employing a parallel structure built on a call to rememberance, the chorus proceeds: Lest we forget—­the streets were red with the enemies! Lest we forget—­the lessons learned in our memories! Lest we forget—­that you can never keep a people down At ground level, they’ll reform, rebound!

Notably, Brosy and Mickey’s call to remembrance is sourced not only from contemporary World War I commemorations and the “media circus surround­ ing the Poppy,” but from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Recessional,” written for Queen Victoria’s Diamond  Jubilee in 1897. The repeated line “Lest we forget” concludes each stanza of the Kipling original, which begins: God of our fathers, known of old, Lord of our far-­flung battle-­line, Beneath whose awful Hand we hold Dominion over palm and pine—­ Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget—­lest we forget!18

In flippin’ the script on Kipling’s battle cry of imperial dominion and con­ temporary expressions of British patriotism, the Good Vibe Society localize their politics of postcoloniality while drawing on hip hop’s well-­established inversional practices. The track is thus a contrapuntal construction that builds “both processes, that of imperialism and that of resistance to it” into its poli­

Hip Hop Studies and/as Postcolonial Studies  239

tics of postcoloniality.19 This is also the KoS practice that Q-­Tip suggests is “universal if you’ve got knowledge of . . . self.” And as we will see in a moment, Brosy and Mickey Gatch’s commitments to and understanding of such prac­ tices in the African American context go far beyond a basic knowledge of   hip hop’s poetic devices. In their gesture to Kipling, Brosy and Mickey also tug at an intertextual thread to “The White Man’s Burden”—­for this codification of the colonial imperative was brought into form by the same poet. Indeed, this poetic con­ struction illustrates more clearly than any other cultural artifact that whiteness is the master trope of  Western modernity. Kipling first drafted a poem with this title for the same Queen’s Jubilee, but instead reworked and published it in 1899 with the full title, “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands,” to commemorate the start of the Philippine-­American War—­and the coming of age of US imperialism. The poem begins: take up the White Man’s burden—­ Send forth the best ye breed—­ Go send your sons to exile To serve your captives’ need To wait in heavy harness On fluttered folk and wild—­ Your new-­caught, sullen peoples, Half devil and half child20

All told, Kipling’s poem extolls the thankless but paramount task of bringing those Wretched of the Earth “(ah slowly) to the light” from their “loved Egyp­ tian night”—­the task, that is, of the civilizing mission.21 As such, “The White Man’s Burden” brings this book full circle, first in its suggestion that the colonial imperative, with its chattel slavery, white suprem­ acy, and strucutural racism, is the Enlightenment’s sine qua non and second in the way we find that even a cursory look into Irish postcolonial hip hop will necessarily lead us to colonial entanglements in England, the Philippines, the United States, and further afield. Indeed, we are in an age of deeply intercon­ nected globalization. But if this book has shown us anything, it is that any dis­ cussion about contemporary globalization must begin by laying bare the deep and enduring legacies of imperialism, colonization, racism, and slave capital­ ism on which globalization is founded. This is especially true in the realm of the culture industry. Indeed, to revisit Said, “Imperialism consolidated the

240  Conclusion

mixture of cultures and identities on a global scale. But its worst and most paradoxical gift was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly, ex­ clusively, white, or Black, or Western, or Oriental.”22 We are all mutually im­ plicated, but imperialism’s enduring myth of an emancipatory light that must beat back an imprisoning darkness has atomized the particular at the expense of the universal—­a counterintuitive Enlightenment transaction that Etienne Balibar fittingly calls “Racism as Universalism.”23 The irony is almost as rich as the thanklessness met by Kipling’s civilizing slavers.

“Stranger(s) in Paradise” If Kipling’s parallel structure provides the form and foil for Brosy and Mickey Gatch’s myriad postcolonial linguistic inversions (and subversions) of Brit­ ish civility and authority, then the beat composed by Kanturk-­based producer D’Beats offers a simple but suffusive and all encompassing sonic inversion of the British colonial gaze. A telling feature of the musical setting, which is eas­ ily missed, is that these hip hop artists construct their postcolonial political critique by articulating the swing and swag of their localized hip hop style to the melodic and rhetorical resonances of the song “Stranger in Paradise.” The entire track is constructed of a hip hop drum beat overlaid with a repeated and stuttering two-­note, wordless loop built on the song’s signature motivic feature—­an uplifting and transcendent rising fifth interval (B flat to F) per­ formed by a rounded and vibrato-­laden female voice. The hit song is from the 1953 Broadway musical Kismet (Arabic: destiny, fate), based on the exoticizing 1911 British play of the same name. Although “Stranger in Paradise” is built on a musical quotation of the main theme from Alexander Borodin’s “Gliding Dance of the Maidens” from the Nationalist, folk-­inspired “Polovtsian Dances” of the opera Prince Igor (posthumous, 1890) both pieces were composed to evoke an exoticizing romance in the feminized space of a pastoral garden paradise. As such, in choosing the Kismet sample and linking it to a track about colonial occupation, anticolonial struggle, and the Arab Spring, Brosy and Mickey recast the “stranger” signification as “oc­ cupier.” As detailed in chapter 5’s discussion of M.I.A., the sample also reso­ nates with a long history of imperial discourse that equated the virgin female body with the untapped resources of colonial Africa, Asia, South America, the Caribbean islands, the Pacific islands . . . and Ireland.24 Ireland has long served as something of a banana republic, functioning as a breadbasket—­or better, butter crock—­for the British Empire and a sum­ mer home for countless English nobility. Though it is becoming a leader in

Hip Hop Studies and/as Postcolonial Studies  241

high-­tech industries (or perhaps more accurately, a tax haven for international corporations) it remains a relatively underdeveloped agricultural hub that is only now recovering from an early lesson of globalization-­as-­postcoloniality. At the time of writing, it faces continuing IMF, EU, and European Central Bank imposed austerity measures in the wake of the 2008 global banking cri­ sis (read: money grab). It should not surprise us, then, that the Irish people see all too clearly the connections between colonial structures of subservience and global economic practices of the new imperial structures. Thus, “Stranger in Paradise” functions through hip hop consciousness to bring into form the Good Vibe Society’s critique linking the exoticizing colonial gaze to the Irish War of Independence and “those who still fight for freedom around the world today.” In constructing their multimodal cultural politics through an articula­ tion of local and national revolutionary histories to the globalized rebellion of hip hop and the imperialist orientalism of Kismet, these hip hop artists con­ struct a usable politics and voice a def critique out of an array of   histories. The MCs and their DJ construct an internationalist identity perched on moral high ground while simultaneously engaging national pride and militating against occupation of their “paradise,” the proud and pristine Emerald Isle. * Before the track’s video concludes, the romantic strains of the “Stranger in Paradise” loop continue, and two quotes appear on screen. The first reads: “ ‘Damage of $20 million was done in Cork City on December 11th 1920’—­The American Commission on Conditions in Ireland.” The second reads: “ ‘It is not to those who can inflict most, but to those who can endure most, that vic­ tory is certain’—­Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork 1920.” The track concludes, but the video moves on to frame Ireland and establish solidarities from another US perspective. In a startling, but telling, conclusion to the music video, we are treated to archival footage of an interview with Muhammad Ali on an Irish talk show. In the summer of 1972, the boxer and anticolonial activist was in Ireland for a fight with Alvin Lewis at Dublin’s Croke Park and spent some time learning about the country and doing this extended interview with Cathal O’Shannon for the Irish state broadcaster RTÉ.25 The forty-­five-­minute interview wraps up with Ali reciting his poetic re­ sponse to the Attica Prison massacre, “Freedom—­Better Now,” which is speculative fiction, suggesting what a black prisoner might have said before being shot by the firing squad of  white police officers. The Good Vibe Society samples the segment immediately after the recitation where Ali expresses his

242  Conclusion

solidarity with the Irish people in the global anticolonial struggle. The video for “December 11th” thus concludes with Ali’s closing salvo: “And I have an­ other thing to say: this is one thing I love and I admire about the Irish people. I’ve studied a little of the history since I’ve been here and I’ve found out you’ve been underdogs for years, hundreds of years, people dominatin’ ya and rulin’ ya. And you can identify with this freedom struggle. You understand. But I just have my mind on the other side of the water, but we all are fightin’ for the same cause and idea but we have different reasons and different approaches.”26 I end with this brief analysis to suggest that Brosy and Mickey Gatch have found in hip hop a way to make their local and national histories speak outside of the conditions that made (and continue to make) these histories; to suggest that they have interwoven these histories with other histories of oppression and revolution; to suggest that because of these twinnings new histories will emerge; to suggest that, in some important ways, they have found themselves and their communities in and through hip hop; and to suggest that, in other ways, they have remade (and continue to remake) themselves through hip hop. I also end here to argue that much work needs to be done on the postcolonial whiteness of hip hop artists around the globe, even if the category of Irish has only had a relatively stable history as a form of whiteness for the past eighty years or so.27 In investigating and illuminating these histories, we as hip hop scholars can build on what artists and their fans have built to add nuance and detail to an oft-­misunderstood art form too commonly regarded as a blunt in­ strument. Indeed, Ali returned to Ireland in 2009, near the end of   his quest, to visit Ennis, County Clare, the birthplace of his great-­grandfather, Abe Grady, “who emigrated to the US in the 1860s and married a freed African-­American slave.”28

A Call from the Emerald Isle Close examinations of hip hop tracks—­including local “underground” tracks like “December 11th”—­can offer us much more than a history lesson with a beat. Indeed, such investigations can unearth, even activate, connections here­ tofore unknown. I propose that this short analysis can serve as a microcosm and model for the larger call that I outlined at the outset of this conclusion. First, the track is instructive of how we are all products of the colonial legacy and its globalizing realities. As I have suggested above, there are young men and women in every nation on Earth who have heard themselves in—­and in­ deed found themselves through—­hip hop. Second, through its intertextuali­ ties, the track clearly illustrates how such global expressions still hold a deep

Hip Hop Studies and/as Postcolonial Studies  243

appreciation for the African American context of hip hop’s birth and use the model of African American cultural politics to inform their own emergent cri­ tiques. Third, Ireland’s notable, but not unique, example of a postcolonial whiteness should serve to help us engage some of our own blind spots about race from an American perspective. Fourth, the sonic deformation of feminiz­ ing exoticism in the track’s Kismet sample can key our work in understanding how colonial histories and postcolonial discourses inform and buttress norma­ tive gender roles. Indeed, as a fifth point, the “Stranger in Paradise” sample shows us how sonic signifiers are often pathways into deep, productive, and transformative “rabbit holes” if we have the patience to hear them. At a more foundational level, my recent work with hip hop communities in Ireland has reaffirmed my own ethical position against “golden age thinking.” As blaringly obvious in the thoughtful concepts, innovative musicality, and highly developed flows of the Irish artists I have gotten to know over the course of the last years, hip hop is manifestly not dead. Nowhere close. As Stevie has indicated, the music industry is increasingly disinterested in hip hop—­ especially that of the (largely invisible) Irish variety—­but the committed work, great music, and thriving underground scenes that I have come to know make for a proving ground free from many of the constraints of capitalist imperatives and stylistic dictates of the global culture industry. Maybe this is just me looking through my famously rose-­colored glasses (which have now gone emerald green), but when confronted with cynicism about hip hop’s present and future, I often counter with the potent histori­ cal image of bebop rising from the ashes of a played out and commercialized swing. Ours is a time of emergence. I remain optimistic that hip hop will, as it always has, find new, trenchant, and musically immediate ways to remind us that the Enlightenment dream and its white supremacy are not sustainable—­ not in the United States or abroad. As Ta-­Nehisi Coates has so eloquently put it in his decidedly unhopeful letter to his son, Between the World and Me, “the Dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies,” through the “pillaging of life, liberty, labor, and land.”29 That this message, that of Ken­­ drick Lamar, and that of countless others in our Black Lives Matters moment have found some resonance in our too-­often tone deaf national and global de­ bates about race and postcoloniality gives me cause to hope that we might awaken from this dream to pursue a more ethical, equitable, and clear-­eyed vision for the future. Based on what I have heard and seen in the work of Irish artists including Brosy and Mickey Gatch, Danny Deepo, Mikey Fingers, Deviant, Temper-­ Mental MissElayneous, Jun Tzu, GMC, Rejjie Snow, Spekulative Fiktion,

244  Conclusion

JusMe, Rusangano Family, and ApocalypsE; French, German, and British art­ ists including Pizko, Axiom, Sefyu, Dirty Swift, Xiao, Mani, Amewu, Chefket, B-­Tight, Tony D, ATM, M.I.A., Farma G, Inja, Franklyn Addo, and Juice Aleem; US artists including Kendrick Lamar, Rico Pabón, Rocky Rivera, Los Rakas, Vince Staples, Joey Bada$$, Brother Ali, Chance the Rapper, and countless others, I am brimming with hope and must affirm this work. Who wants to borrow my glasses? I mean, headphones?


Introduction 1. André Prévos, “Two Decades of Rap in France: Emergence, Developments, Prospects,” in Black, Blanc, Beur: Rap Music and Hip-­Hop Culture in the Francophone World, ed. Alain-­ Philippe Durand (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2002); Dietmar Elflein, “From Krauts with Attitudes to Turks with Attitudes: Some Aspects of Hip-­Hop History in Germany,” Popular Music 17, no. 3 (October 1998); Nabeel Mustafa Zuberi, “Listening to Britain: Popular Music and National Identity, 1979–­1996,” PhD diss., University of Texas, Austin, 1996. As discernible in the German Gastarbeiter (guest worker) debates of the past thirty years the German example is somewhat divergent from the decidedly postcolonial situations in London and Paris. Nonetheless, Germany was a colonial power, the Gastarbeiter debates echo the assimilationist rhetorical contours of the UK windrush and French laïcité discourses, and, most important, the music and cultural politics have been taken up in remarkably similar ways in the three European cities. It is no coincidence, then, that the three wealthy nations and their capitals are at the center of debates about the latest “migrant crisis.” 2. See Rupa Huq’s Beyond Subculture: Pop, Youth and Identity in a Postcolonial World (London: Routledge, 2006). In its deployment of multisited local ethnographic methods and culture industry analysis, this work takes up Huq’s baton within a more explicitly postcolonial frame. Huq’s justification amply summarizes mine here: “the musics looked at articulate local hybridities in global contexts which require a recognition of  local determination and difference as well as of wider underlying trends and the complex global flows of popular culture. . . . Personal observations, e.g. of communal music making, are frequently missing from accounts of the music industry. . . . Yet locally focused small-­scale ethnographic studies with their limited applicability potentially lose sight of the bigger picture” (59). 3. For a masterful examination of these cultural expressions and their paradoxes as they emerge in Muslim youth cultures around the globe see Hisham D. Aidi, Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture (New York: Pantheon 2014). 4. Kobena Mercer, Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Cultural Studies (New York: Routledge, 1994), 7. Also attributed to Ambalavaner Sivanandan, A Different Hunger: Writings

246  Notes to Pages 3–7 on Black Resistance (Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto, 1982). See also the recent conference “ ‘We are here because you were there’: Immigrants’ Responses to the Rise of Anti-­Immigrant Discourses in Britain,” University of Leicester, 2014 http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/sociology/research /conferences-­and-­workshops/2018201cwe-­are-­here-­because-­you-­were-­there201d-­immigrants 2019-­responses-­to-­the-­rise-­of-­anti-­immigrant-­discourses-­in-­britain (last accessed September 11, 2016). 5. Indeed, Tricia Rose predicted this book and the broader field of global hip hop studies as early as 1994. In the introduction to her pathbreaking Black Noise, she writes: “It is my firm belief that this project . . . will foster the development of more globally focused projects. . . . The French North African immigrant hip hop scene in Paris or the German, British, and Brazilian rap scenes could each fill its own book. I believe these projects will follow and hope that my book will play its part in bringing them to life.” Tricia Rose, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1994). 6. This is a point Nitasha Tamar Sharma broaches in her US-­centered study of South Asian diasporic hip hop, Hip Hop Desis: South Asian Americans, Blackness, and a Global Race Consciousness (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010). 7. George Lipsitz, Dangerous Crossroads: Popular Music, Postmodernism, and the Poetics of Place (New York: Verso, 1994), 36. 8. Rose, Black Noise, 102. Gesturing to Lipsitz, Rose makes this very point. 9. Denise Ferreira da Silva, Toward a Global Idea of Race (Minneapolis: University of  Minnesota Press, 2007), xii. For an elaboration of this codependence see da Silva’s introduction, where she writes: “Against the assumption that the historical constitutes the sole ontological context, I examine how the tools of nineteenth century scientific projects of knowledge produced the notion of the racial, which institutes the global as an ontoepistemological context—­a productive and violent gesture necessary to sustain the post-­Enlightenment version of the Subject as the sole-­determined thing.” We will revisit “The White Man’s Burden” in the conclusion. Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden” (1899), The Kipling Society, http://www.kiplingsociety .co.uk/poems_burden.htm (last accessed January 21, 2016). First published as “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands,” McClure’s Magazine (Febru­ ary 1899). 10. Indeed, Sina Nitzsche and Walter Grünzwieg have published an edited collection titled Hip-­Hop in Europe: Cultural Identities and Transnational Flows (Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2013) that works toward such a diversity of representation. Plans are also underway for an EU-­funded European Hip Hop Studies Network that will attempt to further this auspicious task. 11. Following from the central truth and rhetorical premise of Ta-­Nehisi Coates’s letter to his son, Between the World and Me—­the author’s insistence that racial subjugation was the sine qua non of an American national identity wherein people “have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white”—­one is here tempted to regard Europe as the place where people have been brought up to believe that they are European. Ta-­Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2015), 7. 12. Leonard Schmieding, “Das ist unsere Party”: HipHop in der DDR (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2014); Adriana N. Helbig, Hip Hop Ukraine: Music, Race, and African Migration (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014).

Notes to Pages 7–10  247 13. Russell Potter, Spectacular Vernaculars: Hip-­Hop and the Politics of Postmodernism (New York: SUNY Press, 1995). See Potter for the most direct and foundational example of this tendency in the hip hop scholarship. Though Potter refers to hip hop’s coded language and insiderism as an “indigenous language” in applying Houston Baker’s work on the “blues code,” the study is a foundational one not least in its attention to detail and provides a model to the present study in this regard (79). 14. Robin D. G. Kelley, Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class (New York: Free Press, 1994), 226. 15. Jay-­Z and Kanye West, “No Church in the Wild,” on Watch the Throne (Roc-­A-­Fella Records 2011). 16. Imani Perry, Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 2. 17. Paul Gilroy, “After the Love Has Gone: Bio-­Politics and Etho-­Poetics in the Black Public Sphere,” Public Culture 7 (1994): 51 (my emphasis). Gilroy specifically targets Tricia Rose’s landmark hip hop study, Black Noise, footnoting: “Tricia Rose’s assertions that Hip hop is reducible to a core of invariant exclusively African American ‘black practices’ that permanently resist both commodification and white appropriation typifies this mode of denial” (52). 18. Perry, Prophets of the Hood, 11. Indeed, Perry is spot on in her continuing explanation: “Color consciousness that allows for an understanding of both the political implications of the category of race and the cultural forms that have emerged under that category is useful and progressive, and certainly not essentialist.” 19. Philip Auslander, “Performance Analysis and Popular Music: A Manifesto,” Contemporary Theatre Review 14, no. 1 (2004): 5. Regarding musicological disciplining around the “musical object,” he writes: “This, then, is what I am choosing to call the disciplinary dilemma confronting the scholar who wishes to talk seriously about musicians as performers: those who take music seriously, either as art or culture, dismiss performance as irrelevant. Those who take performance seriously are reluctant to include musical forms among their objects of study” (3). 20. Fred Moten, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 7. 21. Gilroy, “After the Love Has Gone,” 49–­76. 22. Houston Baker, Blues, Ideology and Afro-­American Literature: A Vernacular Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 10. Moten, In the Break, 24. Elsewhere, I explain: “Here Moten brilliantly illustrates that Marx’s speaking commodity and the Hegelian Master/Slave dialectic are much more than metaphorical tools, they embody the historically violent realities of  Western systems of signification. In short, he illustrates the centrality of slavery to Enlightenment universalism and lays bare the processes by which the mind/body split was accomplished though the subjugation of the black body. Here we see that the anomaly of the speaking commodity is a ‘theoretician in immediate practice.’ Thus, Moten argues that the black radical aesthetic has become the critical—­the artistic has become the scholarly—­through its very existence and resistance.” J. Griffith Rollefson, “The ‘Robot Voodoo Power’ Thesis: Afrofuturism and Anti-­Anti-­ Essentialism from Sun Ra to Kool Keith,” Black Music Research Journal 28, no. 1 (2008): 106–­7. 23. A Tribe Called Quest, “Steve Biko (Stir It Up),” on Midnight Marauders ( Jive, 1993). Notably, in the line “Hop hop scholar since bein’ knee-­high to a duck” Phife from the NY crew

248  Notes to Pages 11–23 ATCQ fashions himself as a “hip hop scholar” in the context of a globally conscious track about the South African anticolonial activist Steve Biko. In a fittingly parallel construction that also destabilizes normative (white) European musicality, he also refers to himself as a “Rude boy composer” on the track. That he does so with the Afro-­Caribbean modifier “rude boy” further globalizes the black Atlantic construction. Finally, in the context of this discussion of double consciousness and blackenings of European normativity from the ivory tower to the concert hall, it is worth noting that the album title, Midnight Marauders, is an intertextual reference to the Ku Klux Klan’s racial terrorism drawn from chapter 2 of Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Modern Library, 2003). 24. Christopher Waterman, “Race Music: Bo Chatmon, ‘Corrine Corrina,’ and the Excluded Middle,” in Music and the Racial Imagination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 167. 25. bell hooks, Black Looks: Race and Representation, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2015). 26. For a nuanced discussion of Anglo-­American hegemony in popular music studies see Fabian Holt’s introduction to The Oxford Handbook of Popular Music in the Nordic Countries (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). 27. For more background details on methodology and fieldwork, see Rollefson, “Musical (African) Americanization in the New Europe: Hip Hop, Race, and the Cultural Politics of Postcoloniality in Contemporary Paris, Berlin, and London,” PhD diss., University of Wisconsin–­ Madison, 2009.

Chapter One 1. Ras L’Front Official Web Page, www.raslfront.org (last accessed November 12, 2007). 2. For many on the French Left, the thought of a census including ethnic data still smacks of the Vichy-­Era collaboration with Nazi racial profiling. 3. Anonymous interview, April 2007. 4. See Rollefson, “ ‘Is This Really Liberty, Equality, Fraternity?’: The NTM Affair, French Cultural Politics, and Americanization as Cultural Miscegenation,” Music Research Forum 19 (2004): 26–­41. 5. André Prévos, “Hip Hop, Rap, and Repression in France and the United States,” Popular Music and Society 22, no. 2 (Summer 1998): 67. 6. Hisham Aidi, “B-­Boys in ‘Les Banlieues’: Hip Hop Culture in France,” Africana.com, http://africana.com/articles/daily/index_20000130.asp (accessed November 18, 2003). 7. Prévos, “Hip Hop, Rap, and Repression,” 73–­76. 8. Ibid., 76. 9. For a discussion of the renewed examination of this point, see Mark Lilla, “France on Fire,” New York Review of Books, March 5, 2015. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015 /mar/05/france-­on-­fire/ (last accessed May 31, 2015). 10. For an interesting comparison with US colonial education in the Philippines, see Mark Villegas’s “Hip Hop Over Homework” on FilAmFunk.Blogspot.com (last accessed April 22, 2015). 11. Pizko, “Ciencia de Barrio.” This track is available at https://www.youtube.com /watch?v=3z8jwjkq9hs (last accessed May 29, 2015).

Notes to Pages 23–36  249 12. Please refer to the Flip the Script Companion Website for links to selected audio and video clips, https://europeanhiphop.org. I encourage you to support the artists by purchasing their work thereafter. 13. Skalpel, “Skalpel” interview by Anaïs Mavoundgoud, in Unité: Le magazine des acteurs Hip Hop, no. 7 (November 2006): 9. 14. United Nations official website, “Universal Declaration of  Human Rights” (December 10, 1948) on http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html (last accessed November 12, 2007). 15. For a discussion of one such suit see “Le rappeur ‘Monsieur R.’ cité à comparaître pour ‘outrage aux bonnes moeurs,’ ” Agence France Presse, November 17, 2005. 16. Émile Zola, “Je Accuse . . . ! Lettre au President de la République,” L’Aurore, Janu­ ary 13, 1898. 17. Ce Soir (Ou Jamais!), France 3 (tv station), April 4, 2007. 18.  Jean-­Paul Sartre, Présence Africaine, no. 1 (October–­November 1947). 19. Veit Erlmann, “A Reply to Mark Slobin,” Ethnomusicology 37, no. 2 (Spring–­Summer 1993): 265. See also Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” in The Anti-­Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster (Seattle: Bay Press, 1983), 113; Jameson, Postmod­ ernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991). 20. Erlmann, “Reply to Mark Slobin,” 267. 21. Stuart Hall, “Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities,” in Culture, Globalization and the World System: Contemporary Conditions for the Representation of Identity (Binghamton: State University of New York, 1991), 67. 22. Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Black Music (New York: William Morrow, 1968). 23. Charles Seeger, “Grass Roots for American Composers,” Modern Music 16 (1939): 143–­49. 24. Paul Gilroy, Small Acts (New York: Serpent’s Tail, 1993), 12–­13.

Chapter Two 1. On the Flip the Script Companion Website this, the first track for chapter 2 is the original “audio only” album version. Later we will examine the video clip version—­which includes an intro-­obscuring voice over. An earlier version of this chapter was published as “He’s Calling His Flock Now: Black Music and Postcoloniality from Buddy Bolden’s New Orleans to Sefyu’s Paris,” American Music 33, no. 3, special issue: “Transatlantic Perspectives,” ed. Glenda Goodman (Fall 2015): 375–­97. Thanks to Glenda for her expert editorial guidance, and my fellow contributors to the special issue, Myron Gray, Christina Baade, and William Kirk Bares. 2. While the present close reading exercise expresses this author’s viewpoint alone, I would like to note that in presenting this excerpt publicly over a dozen times (at conferences and in lectures and seminars) I have never stumped the audience/class as to this sample’s genesis. Hence, it seems “unmistakable” for those even casually familiar with Simone’s work. 3. Sefyu, “En Noir et Blanc,” on Qui suis-­je? (Wagram, 2006). Lyrics and images used with permission. All translations by the author. Thanks to Erwan “Swift” Ali (DJ Dirty Swift), one of my primary contacts in the Parisian hip hop scene, for confirming my translation of “Ben, vas-­y-­oh.” 4. Alexander Weheliye, Phonographies: Grooves in Sonic Afro-­Modernity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005).

250  Notes to Pages 36–38 5. For further discussion of intertextuality in hip hop see Catherine Appert, “Rappin’ Griots: Producing the Local in Senegalese Hip-­Hop,” in Native Tongues: An African Hip Hop Reader, ed. P. Khalil Saucier (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2011), and H. Samy Alim, Roc the Mic Right: The Language of Hip-­hop Culture (New York: Routledge, 2006). 6. Blue Scholars, The Long March (EP), 2006. The line from the track “Commencement Day” is: “Hey yo, we made it, .45 caliber proof / And the teachers don’t believe that you can handle the truth” and refers to the US government’s commission of a pistol with the “stopping power” of a rifle that could better penetrate the dense rainforests of the South Pacific during the colonial war. See also Villegas, “Hip Hop Over Homework.” 7. For further explanation, and to situate such praxis within a broader African American musical framework, see the introduction to Houston Baker’s Blues, Ideology, and Afro-­American Literature. To borrow a page from Baker (and riff on hip hop’s relationship to the blues) here I must show a willingness “to do more than merely hear, read, or see the blues [hip hop]. I must also play (with and on) them [it]” (10). 8. See Amiri Baraka’s contentious, but widely influential works Blues People: The Negro Experience in White America and the Music That Developed from It (New York: William Morrow, 1963) and Black Music for some of the basic contours of this well-­rehearsed outline, and for a critique and historiography thereof, see Ralph Ellison, “Blues People,” in Shadow and Act (New York: Vintage, 1964), 247–­58, and Ronald Radano, Lying Up a Nation: Race and Black Music (Chicago: University of  Chicago Press, 2003). 9. Notably, Gilroy also employs antiphonal and contrapuntal metaphors in his analysis of cultural politics, referring especially to the “polyphonic qualities” held up by anti-­essentialist celebrants of black cultural expression, whom he fears risk sapping the power from cultural solidarity by virtue of “viewing ‘race’ itself as a social and cultural construction,” leaving a politics “insufficiently alive to the lingering power of specifically racialised forms of power and subordination.” The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (New York: Verso, 1993), 32. 10. In scholarly discourses, hip hop is first conceived as a postcolonial art form by George Lipsitz in his Dangerous Crossroads (see esp. 36). Also see Brij David Lunine, “Genocide ’n’ Juice: Reading the Postcolonial Discourses in Hip-­Hop Culture,” in Postcolonial America, ed. Richard C. King (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000). 11. Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage, 1993), 66. 12. For a discussion of postcolonial antinomies see Tejumola Olaniyan, “The Cosmopolitan Nativist: Fela Anikulapo-­Kuti and the Antinomies of Postcolonial Modernity,” Research in African Literatures 32, no. 2 (Summer 2001): 76–­89. Olaniyan writes: “A figure of crisis, antinomy describes a contradiction between conclusions or inferences drawn from equally warranted or necessary principles. It marks the radically dispersed heterogeneity of desire, and a reaffirmation of the irrepressible bursting seams of the social in the face of the usually disciplining aspirations of thought, of the knowing subject. A ‘fundamental aporia’ . . . , antinomy is the condition of incommensurability between judgments that seem just as valid, coherent, or essential” (77). 13. Said, Culture and Imperialism, 336. 14. Lipsitz, Dangerous Crossroads, 44. 15. See Paul Allen Anderson, Deep River: Music and Memory in Harlem Renaissance Thought (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001), and Gilroy, Black Atlantic.

Notes to Pages 38–42  251 16. Nina Simone, “Hey Buddy Bolden,” on Nina Simone Sings Duke Ellington (Colpix, 1962). 17. Ted Gioia, The History of  Jazz (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 33. 18. Gary Giddens and Scott DeVeaux,  Jazz (New York: Norton, 2009), 80. 19. Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, A Drum Is a Woman (Columbia, 1956). Notably, the original album art features an anthropomorphized drum in the form of a (white) woman. 20. Simone, “Hey Buddy Bolden.” The following discussion will make claims about the sonic entanglement of the two tracks that, while articulated in depth here, will be more fully appreciated in close listening. 21. Gioia, History of  Jazz, 5. Indeed, Gioia’s recounting of the legend of  Buddy Bolden and of his legendary New Orleans resonates with the story of Sidney Bechet, the epitome of the Creole jazz musician who became a symbol of France’s perceived “ownership” of  jazz. For discussions on the French claims on jazz see also Jeffrey Jackson’s Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), and Tyler Stovall’s Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light (New York: Mariner Books, 1998). 22. Here, I am thinking not only of the ways that the new nation took up (indeed, redoubled) the slave trade and its colonial model of what David Kazanjian terms “racial capitalism,” but of specific legalistic frameworks such as the so-­called Three-­Fifths Compromise that quantified racial difference in the US Constitution. Regarding this “redoubling,” estimates for the US slave trade can be found on The Trans-­Atlantic Slave Trade Database at http://www.slavevoyages .org/tast/assessment/estimates.faces (accessed January 22, 2015). For a close analysis of American “racial capitalism” see David Kazanjian, The Colonizing Trick: National Culture and Imperial Citizenship in Colonial America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 35–­88. The “Three-­Fifths Compromise” was outlined in article 1, section 2, paragraph 3 of the US Constitution. http://www.senate.gov/civics/constitution_item/constitution.htm#a1 (accessed January 22, 2015). 23. Said, Orientalism (New York: Penguin 1978). 24. For a thoroughly dismissive discussion of postcolonial theory and its application to US contexts see Russell Jacoby, “Marginal Returns: The Trouble with Post-­Colonial Theory,” Lingua Franca 5:30–­37. For balanced debates on debates, application, and terminology, see Robert J. C. Young, Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (London: Wiley-­Blackwell, 2001), and Anne McClintock, “The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term ‘Post-­Colonialism,’ ” Social Text 31/32 (1992): 84–­98. 25. Jenny Sharpe, “Is the United States Postcolonial?: Transnationalism, Immigration, and Race,” Diaspora 4, no. 2 (1995): 181–­200; reprinted in Postcolonial America, ed. King, 106. 26. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk, 38. 27. Kenneth Mostern, “Postcolonialism after W. E. B. Du Bois,” Rethinking Marxism 12, no. 2 (Summer 2000). 28. Lunine, “Genocide ’n’ Juice,” 273. 29. Hall, “Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities,” 48–­49. He writes: “I am the sugar at the bottom of the English cup of tea. I am the sweet tooth, the sugar plantations that rotted generations of  English children’s teeth. There are thousands of others beside me that are, you know, the cup of tea itself.”

252  Notes to Pages 42–49 30. Radano makes this point in Lying Up a Nation, 284. 31. For a theorization of this point see Étienne Balibar, “Racism as Universalism,” chapter 8 in Masses, Classes, Ideas: Studies on Politics and Philosophy before and after Marx (London: Routledge 1994), 191–­204. For a historical account of the structural underpinnings of this point see Kazanjian, Colonizing Trick. Kazanjian writes especially of: “the paradoxically simultaneous emergence, toward the end of the eighteenth century, of apparently contradictory discursive practices: universal egalitarianism, on the one hand, and the particularistic hierarchies of race and nation, on the other hand” (2). 32. Ralph Ellison, “What America Would Be Like Without Blacks,” in Going to the Territory (New York: Vintage, 1987), 109–­10; originally printed in Time, April 6, 1970. 33. Gioia, History of Jazz, 33. 34. In the context of this chapter on the postcolonial valences of and black music it is worth noting that the song “Feeling Good” was written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for a 1964 British musical entitled The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd. The title is a comic (and synaesthetic) reference to vaudeville’s theatrical masking practices—­especially those of blackface minstrelsy. In the musical, the song is performed by a character known only as “the Negro” as first brought to life by the influential Guyanese-­British performer Cy Grant. 35. And, of course, the influence extends both ways, in mutual dialogue and traffic. Like countless “jazz expats” before her, Simone settled in France toward the end of her career. 36. Édouard Glissant, “Cross-­Cultural Poetics” in Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays [Le Discours Antillais], trans. J. Michael Dash (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989), 110–­12. While we might find fault with his idealization of this “prestigious” history today, his location of  jazz in 1973 was something very different than ours is in 2015. 37. For a further discussion of Glissant’s theorizations of  hybridity, rootlessness, traffic, and “polyrhythmic” approach see Martin Munro, Different Drummers: Rhythm and Race in the Americas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010). For a musical discussion of Munro’s work and an analysis connecting Glissant’s “gaps” and “rootlessness” to Brent Hayes Edwards’s “décalage,” Stuart Hall’s “articulation,” and Paul Gilroy’s “black Atlantic,” see J. Griffith Rollefson’s review of Different Drummers, in Twentieth-­Century Music 10, no. 1 (March 2013). 38. See, for instance, Ice T’s documentary film titled Something   from Nothing, dir. Ice T and Andy Baybutt (2012), and Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-­Hop Generation (New York: Picador, 2005), 111. 39. See Jacques Derrida’s critique of  Western metaphysics/logocentrism from Jean-­Jacques Rousseau to Claude Lévi-­Strauss in his “The Violence of the Letter,” in Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 101–­7. See Potter, Spectacular Vernaculars, and Adam Krims, Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), for examples and theorizations of such homophonic slippages and punning in hip hop performance. In the final chapter I will return to a discussion of  Juice Aleem’s homophonic slippage between “Moor” and “More” that serves as one epigraph for this book. 40. As I write, the nation is debating the place (and limits) of so-­called free speech (la liberté d’expression] and the meaning of nominal “equality” in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. See Damien Leloup and Samuel Laurent, “«Charlie», Dieudonné . . . : quelles limites à la liberté d’expression?” in Le Monde, January 14, 2015, http://www.lemonde

Notes to Pages 49–55  253 .fr/les-­decodeurs/article/2015/01/14/de-­charlie-­a-­dieudonne-­jusqu-­ou-­va-­la-­liberte-­d-­expression _4555180_4355770.html#16ijWFbeKR1zDghg.99 (accessed January 21, 2015). 41. Aidi, Rebel Music, xv. 42. The black-­and-­white video is likely in dialogue with the internationally acclaimed Pari­ sian film La Haine, dir. Mathieu Kassovitz (1995). Thanks to Stephen Wilford and my colleagues at the British Forum for Ethnomusicology’s 2014 conference “Ethnomusicology and the City” for noting intertextual nods to the black-­and-­white Kassovitz film in another hip hop video clip, which in turn helped me realize that La Haine was a likely source of stylistic inspiration for this video clip as well. 43. See the above album image and video clip for examples of this eschewal of visage. Following Sefyu’s lead, I will leave further details of his personal identity and origins aside here, focusing on the track and its postcolonial consciousness. 44. The term Verlan is itself formed of this inversional process—­a verlan form of  “l’envers.” 45. It is worth pointing out here that the full text is available online in numerous places and, despite the close reading here, the original is, naturally, even more rich and polysemic. 46. The Aphorism is itself something of a product of the Enlightenment attributed to Edward Bulwer-­Lytton in his 1839 play Cardinal Richelieu about the chief minister to King Louis XIII. For a further discussion of Enlightenment binaries as they relate to these de jure and de facto significations see the conclusion to Rollefson, “ ‘Robot Voodoo Power’ Thesis.” 47. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk, 253, 265. 48. For a discussion of this tendency in popular music see Joshua Clover’s 1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This to Sing About (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009). Thanks to Deborah Wong for the illuminating construction of an “ahistorical present.” In a personal email announcement for the conference, “Improvisation, History, and the Past,” held at UC Riverside on November 14, 2011, she writes: “This event will investigate one of the most vexing issues in improvisation as a social practice and as potential site of progressive social change: the relationship of improvisation to history. Descriptions of improvisation as “in-­the-­moment,” “spontaneous,” and as a type of “flow” can suggest that the strictures of the past are suspended in some way. We will deliberately push at the theory/praxis binary and will challenge prevailing models in improvisation theory by troubling the eternal (ethnographic), ahistorical present assumed by many scholars.” 49. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk, 259.

Chapter Three 1. An earlier version of this chapter was published as “Musical (African) Americanization in the New Europe: The Case of Aggro Berlin,” in Crosscurrents: American and European Music in Interaction, 1900–­2000, ed. Felix Meyer, Carol  J. Oja, Wolfgang Rathert, and Anne C. Shreffler (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2014), 464–­77. Thanks to Anne for her editorial guidance, and my fellow contributors to the collection and conference, especially Berndt Ostendorf and Penny von Eschen. 2. One of Aggro Berlin’s artists, B-­Tight, uses the anglicized formulation of  “slaggy-­pants” in his track “Der Neger” to refer to the signature hip hop fashion of loose-­fitting and sagging pants. The track is discussed below. B-­Tight, “Der Neger,” Der Neger (in Mir) (Aggro Berlin, 2002).

254  Notes to Pages 56–60 3. Siobhán Dowling, “An Uncertain Future for Hitler’s Airport,” Spiegel Online, December 15, 2006, http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,451212,00.html (last accessed May 2007). 4. “Our History,” Columbiaclub website, columbiaclub.de/main.html. All translations by the author unless otherwise noted. 5. Ibid. 6. Rollefson, “Musical (African) Americanization in the New Europe: Hip Hop, Race, and the Cultural Politics of  Postcoloniality in Contemporary Paris, Berlin, and London.” Ph.D. diss., University of  Wisconsin–­Madison, 2009. 7. Noted scholar of African American culture abroad, Tyler Stovall has also used this figuration in his article, “No Green Pastures: The African Americanization of France,” in Black Europe and the African Diaspora, ed. Darlene Clark Hine, Tricia Danielle Keaton, and Stephen Small (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009). 8. Interview, Berlin, March 2007. Translated by author. 9. Interview, Berlin, March 2007. Translated by author. 10. Ronald Radano, “On Ownership and Value,” Black Music Research Journal 30, no. 2 (Fall 2010): 363–­70. 11. Perhaps the most notable of these is André J. M. Prévos’s “The Evolution of  French Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture in the 1980s and 1990s,” French Review 69, no. 5 (April 1996), wherein the author describes a three-­stage process of “arrival, adoption, and adaptation.” 12. Sabine von Dirke, “Hip-­Hop Made in Germany: From Old School to the Kanaksta Movement,” in German Pop Culture: How American Is It?, ed. Agnes C. Mueller (Ann Arbor: Univer­ sity of  Michigan Press, 2004), 104. See below for a more detailed review of relevant literature. 13. Rob Kroes, “Rap: The Ultimate Staccato Culture,” in If You’ve Seen One You’ve Seen the Mall: Europeans and American Mass Culture (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 154–­61. 14. The “(African) Americanization” figure is explained in detail in the following introduction. 15. “Aggrostarz,” Aggro Berlin official website, http://aggroberlin.de (last accessed October 1, 2007). While Neger can also be translated as “Negro,” B-­Tight’s intention is clear, as we will see. 16. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth keeps an official list of media works allegedly harmful to young people known as the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien or BPjM (Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons). The process, known as Indizierung [indexing], regularly includes Aggro tracks, a fact that the label seems to revel in. 17. Daniel Haas, “HipHop Star SIDO: German Head Trauma,” Spiegel Online, http://www .spiegel.de/kultur/musik/0,1518,452883,00.html (last accessed December 7, 2006). 18. In the absence of Soviet negations of “German ideas” about race, Helbig notes a similar trend in Ukraine, where today “a race-­based discourse is gaining ground in reaction to the in­ creasing presence of immigrants in the post-­socialist sphere.” Helbig, Hip Hop Ukraine, 81. 19. See Timothy Taylor, Global Pop: World Music, World Markets (New York: Routledge, 1997) for a detailed examination of this commoditization of ethnic and racial difference. 20. Ute G. Poiger, Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a

Notes to Pages 60–74  255 Divided Germany (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 168, 170. The Zeitung article is titled “Appell an den Urmenschen” (Appeal to the primitives). 21. Poiger, Jazz, Rock, and Rebels, 173. 22. Haas, “HipHop Star SIDO.” 23. Helbig, Hip Hop Ukraine, 109. 24. Paul Gilroy, “Sounds Authentic: Black Music, Ethnicity, and the Challenge of a ‘Changing Same,’ ” Black Music Research Journal 11, no. 2 (Autumn 1991): 124. 25. Michelle Wright, Becoming Black: Creating Identity in the African Diaspora (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 183. 26. See Thomas Solomon, “Berlin-­Frankfurt-­Istanbul: Turkish Hip-­hop in Motion,” European Journal of Cultural Studies 12, no. 3 (2009), for a brief introduction to the Cold War military routes that brought hip hop to Germany. See also Joshua Clark Davis’s in-­progress work on Frankfurt’s Club Funkadelic and other spaces for black music in “African-­American Music Businesses as Agents of  Empowerment and Globalization in the Cold-­War United States and Germany,” GHI Research Project. 27. B-­Tight, “Der Neger.” 28. B-­Tight, “Der Neger” featuring a sample of The Coup’s “Not Yet Free,” on Kill My Landlord (Wild Pitch Records 1993). 29. For a discussion of HHNL see Alim, Roc the Mic Right. 30. Thanks to Karen Goihl of the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies for first suggesting this reading/hearing. 31. Theodore Raph, The American Song Treasury (New York: Dover 1986), 141. 32. Brent Hayes Edwards, The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 14. 33. B-­Tight, “Der Neger.” 34. Trudier Harris, Exorcising Blackness: Historical and Literary Lynching and Burning Rituals (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984). 35. Amy Louise Wood, “Lynching Photography and the ‘Black Beast Rapist’ in the South­ ern White Masculine Imagination,” in Masculinity: Bodies, Movies, Culture, ed. Peter Lehman (New York: Routledge, 2001), 207. 36. Ibid., 208. 37. For an elaboration of the “victim vs. problem” binary see Berndt Ostendorf, “Celebration or Pathology? Commodity or Art? The Dilemma of African-­American Expressive Culture,” Black Music Research Journal 20, no. 2, special issue: “European Perspectives on Black Music” (Autumn 2000): 217–­36. 38. Potter, Spectacular Vernaculars, 79; Da Lench Mob, Guerillas in tha Mist (Street Knowledge Records, 1992). 39. Potter, Spectacular Vernaculars, 79. Baker’s “deformation of mastery” will be a primary subject of discussion and theoretical lens for chapter 7. 40. W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), ed. David W. Blight and Robert Gooding-­Williams (New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1997), 186. 41. Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-­American Literary Criticism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).

256  Notes to Pages 74–85 42. Houston A. Baker Jr., Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 15–­16. Emphasis added. 43. We will look more closely at Baker’s claims about such “mastery of form” in chapter 5. 44. Hamilton Beck, “W.E.B. Du Bois as a Study Abroad Student in Germany, 1892–­1894,” Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad 2, no. 1 (Fall 1996): 45–­63. 45. Radano, Lying Up a Nation, 284. 46. Indeed, it also seems likely that the wordsmith Du Bois intended this sole/soul homophone in his “singing book.” See Baker, Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, 68. 47. Penny Von Eschen, Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004). Von Eschen notes that “race was America’s Achilles heel internationally.” 48. Du Bois, “The Color Line Belts the World,” in W. E. B. Du Bois: A Reader, ed. David Levering Lewis (New York: H. Holt, 1995), 42. See also Robin D. G. Kelley’s “ ‘But a Local Phase of a World Problem’: Black History’s Global Vision 1883–­1950,” Journal of American History 86, no. 3 (December 1999): 1045–­77. 49. Von Eschen, Satchmo Blows Up the World, 5. Von Eschen writes: “despite the government’s complacency on domestic race relations, even Eisenhower was profoundly affected by the widely shared sense that race was America’s Achilles heel internationally.” 50. Brent Hayes Edwards, The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 68. 51. Francio Guadeloupe and Vincent A. de Rooij, “The Promise of a Utopian Home, or Capitalism’s Commoditization of Blackness,” Social Analysis 58, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 61. Put another way, Guadeloupe and de Rooij write: “black music is the primary product and producer of urban blackness.”

Chapter Four 1. Richard Crawford, “W. C. Handy in America’s Musical Life,” conference paper delivered at the American Musicological Society Midwest Chapter Meeting at Grand Valley State University, April 3, 2004. 2. W. C. Handy, with Arna Wendell Bontemps and Abbe Niles, Father of the Blues: An Autobiography (New York: Da Capo Press, 1991); originally published as W. C. Handy, Father of the Blues: An Autobiography (New York: Macmillan, 1941). 3. Handy, with Bontemps and Niles, Father of the Blues, 76–­77. 4. Richard Crawford, America’s Musical Life: A History (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001), 536–­38. 5. Radano, Lying Up a Nation, 167. 6. For a telling description of another Aggro Berlin “beef,” see Inez Templeton, “What’s So German about It? Cultural Identity in the Berlin Hip Hop Scene,” PhD diss., University of Stirling, 2005, 147–­48. As Templeton’s interviews with personnel from the Royal Bunker label indicate, such authenticizing measures are part and parcel of the marketing plan for hip hop artists and labels. 7. B-­Tight and Tony D hosted by SIDO, Heiße Ware (Aggro Berlin, 2005). 8. Auslander, “Performance Analysis and Popular Music,” 3.

Notes to Pages 86–98  257 9. Personal joint interview,  July 24, 2008. 10. Juice (August 2005): 26. 11. Ronald Radano, “Hot Fantasies: American Modernism and the Idea of Black Rhythm,” in Music and the Racial Imagination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 459. In the article Radano examines the historical circumstances in which expressions of African American “hot” rhythm were “marketed as expressions of a racially inherited rhythmic gift.” This hotness “traced the meanings of African-­American music across the twentieth century, from the swing sensibility of early jazz to the funk and groove of hip hop.” 12. Ibid., 474. 13. Gilroy, “Sounds Authentic,” 124. 14. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990; New York: Routledge, 2006), 173. 15. Ibid. 16. “Barack Obama: Hass und Hoffnung.” Zitty Berlin, July 15, 2008, http://www.zitty.de /magazin-­berlin/16143/ (last accessed February 12, 2009). 17. Mark Whittington, “Geraldine Ferraro Makes a Racially Charged Gaffe about Barack Obama,” Associated Press, March 12, 2008, http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/653215 /geraldine_ferraro_makes_a_racially.html?cat=9). Whittington writes: “Geraldine Ferraro, former member of Congress and former candidate for vice president, recently said that Senator Barack Obama was having the success he was having as a Presidential candidate because he is black. She has been trying to explain herself ever since.”

Chapter Five 1. Paul Gilroy, “There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack”: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation (London: Hutchinson, 1987), 154, 155. 2. Potter, Spectacular Vernaculars, 57. Despite this critique, it is worth noting that Potter was also an early adapter of a postcolonial perspective in his foundational hip hop analysis. 3. Mitchell, in Harris M. Berger and Michael Thomas Carroll, Global Pop, Local Language (Jackson: University of  Mississippi Press, 2003), 3 and in Tony Mitchell, Global Noise: Rap and Hip-­Hop Outside the USA (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001), 4. Gilroy, “After the Love Has Gone,” 51. 4. Mitchell, Global Noise, 5. 5. See Lipsitz’s Dangerous Crossroads. See also Guadeloupe and Rooij, “The Promise of a Utopian Home,” 61. 6. Radano, Lying Up a Nation, 13–­27. I will return to this concept below. 7. Chela Sandoval, Methodology of the Oppressed (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 83. 8. Gilroy, “There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack,” 183. 9. Gilroy, Black Atlantic. 10. Gilroy, “There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack,” 155. 11. Gilroy, “Roots and Routes: Black Identity as an Outernational Project,” in Racial and Ethnic Identity: Psychological Development and Creative Expression, ed. Herbert W. Harris, Howard C. Blue, and Ezra E. H. Griffith (London: Routledge, 1995), 15–­30.

258  Notes to Pages 98–105 12. Gilroy, “There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack,” 155. 13. Gilroy, Black Atlantic, 81. 14. Kobena Mercer, “Black Art and the Burden of  Representation,” Third Text 10 (1990): 77. See also Nabeel Zuberi, Sounds English: Transnational Popular Music (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 186. 15. Gilroy, Black Atlantic, 82. 16. Just as the “United Colours” Daïland Crew from Paris’s banlieues seem condemned to engage the signets of the global culture industry to “sing their difference,” so too does M.I.A.’s work perform a sort of global crate digging for beats and styles. But now the question is not are subaltern voices also bound to play by the rules of yuppy neo-­ethnicity, but is the black Atlantic’s counterculture of modernity a matter of genotype. Erlmann, “Reply to Mark Slobin.” 17. Zuberi, Sounds English, 186. See also Sharma, Hip Hop Desis. 18. Zuberi, Sounds English, 180. 19. Zuberi, “Gurinder Chadha’s I’m British But . . . and the Musical Mediation of Sonic and Visual Identities,” in Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music, ed. Pamela Robertson Wojcik and Arthur Knight (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001), 255. 20. Ian Condry, Hip-­Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 12. 21. Zuberi, Sounds English, 186. 22. Gilroy, “There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack,” 183. 23. Zuberi, Sounds English, 191. 24. Ashley Dawson, Mongrel Nation: Diasporic Culture and the Making of Postcolonial Britain (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007), 181. 25. Zuberi, Sounds English, 189. 26. Jonathan O’Brien, “News in Music,” Sunday Business Post (April 10, 2005). The men­ tion of “Ms. Dynamite” here is a reference to a 2002 award-­winning hip hop/R&B album by an­other female UK artist. 27. Samantha Edussuriya, “Dancing with Myself: One Woman’s Love/Hate Relationship with Her Ballyhooed Doppelganger,” City Pages, March 23, 2005, http://articles.citypages.com /2005-­03-­23/music/dancing-­with-­myself/ (last accessed May 28, 2008). 28. “Singer MIA Denies Terror Support,” BBCNews, August 8, 2008, http://news.bbc .co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7549472.stm (last accessed September 18, 2008). 29. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge Classics, 1994), 55. Colonial and postcolonial scholarship has long interrogated this duality of daily life, from Fanon, Senghor, and Appiah in Africa to Said, Bhabha, and Spivak in the Middle East and Asia, to both Sandoval and Ortiz in South America. Indeed Ortiz echoes Du Bois’s “double consciousness” in his conceptualization of a Latin American “sentido duplo,” in which the First and Third worlds occupy a shared and interpenetrating space. 30. Thanks to Rev. Jane Quandt for the image of a (specifically American) sexist image that succinctly expresses this false dichotomy with no middle ground —­the mudflap icons ubiquitous on trucks in the United States that exhibit silhouette nudes of two women, one with (angel) wings and one with (devil) horns. 31. See Ostendorf, “Celebration or Pathology?”

Notes to Pages 106–126  259 32. Robert Christgau, “Burning Bright: Let’s think for just a moment how much M.I.A. actually supports the Tamil Tigers,” RobertChristgau.com (originally printed in the Village Voice, March 8, 2005) http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/rock/mia-­05.php (last accessed May 21, 2008). 33. Gilroy, “There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack,” 155, 157. 34. Ashlene Nand, “Real Refugee,” HotAshes.com, http://www.hotashes.com.au/index .php?c=archive/yr2005/int_mia/mia (last accessed September 3, 2008). 35. Radano, Lying Up a Nation, 14, 8. 36. Gilroy, “Nothing but Sweat Inside my Hand: Diaspora Aesthetics and Black Arts in Britain,” in Black Film/British Cinema, ed. Kobena Mercer (London: ICA, 1987), 45. 37. Gilroy, Black Atlantic, 110. 38. hooks, Black Looks, 30. 39. Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (Peau noire, masques blancs), trans. C. L. Markham (London: Pluto Press, 1986), 9. Citation of Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism, trans. Joan Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972). 40. Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, 18. 41. See, for instance, Kwame Anthony Appiah, “Is the Post in Postmodern the Post in Post-­ Colonial?” Critical Inquiry 17, no. 2 (Winter 1991): 348. 42. For a discussion of Andrade’s anticolonial politics see Christopher Dunn, Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina University Press, 2001), 16–­17. 43. Sasha Frere-­Jones, “Bingo in Swansea: Maya Arulpragasam’s World,” New Yorker, November 22, 2004, http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/11/22/041122crmu_music (last accessed September 20, 2008). 44. Marianna Torgovnick, Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 68. 45. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” reprinted in Colonial Discourse and Post-­Colonial Theory, ed. Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994). 46. Patrick Barkham, “Hoodie Ban Is Dropped from ASBO,” Guardian, August 30, 2005, 7. As the article describes, the ban was eventually deemed a violation of the youth’s rights. 47. Dan Hancox, “Save the Hoodie,” New Statesman, October 31, 2005, http://www .newstatesman.com/200510310009 (last accessed May 21, 2008). 48. Angela McRobbie, quoted in Gareth Mclean, “In the Hood,” Guardian, May 13, 2005, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2005/may/13/fashion.fashionandstyle (last accessed May 20, 2008). 49. Ironically (given Jay-­Z’s support), it is Lady Sovereign, not M.I.A., who has since proven a “flash in the pan.” 50. Justin Williams, Rhymin’ and Stealin’: Musical Borrowing in Hip-­Hop (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014). 51. Murray Forman, The ’Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip Hop (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2002). Herbert Blumer, Symbolic Interactionism (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-­Hall, 1969).

260  Notes to Pages 127–139 52. “Synaesthesia,” Oxford English Dictionary Online (OED.com) (last accessed June 23, 2016). 53. Nutritional information for the “exotic” 288 ml Rubicon mango juice box available at http://www.rubiconexotic.com/#/mango (last accessed August 23, 2016.) 54. The kaleidoscopic aesthetic of this postcolonial soundscape resonates with Rehan Hyder’s description of another South Asian Brit artist, Anjali Bhatia, whose music, he explains, “does not simply slavishly reproduce elements of Indian mysticism as filtered through 1960s exotica but refigures it in a way that represents a mulit-­accented and contemporary soundscape. The sitars and tablas . . . are set against diverse musical backdrops that take in the beats and rhythms of soul and funk . . . with sections of brass and strings. Such a rich palette of sounds ensures that . . . the music she produces is hard to fit into any neat category and is able to reconfigure and redefine musical and cultural meanings.” Rehan Hyder, Brimful of Asia: Negotiating Ethnicity on the UK Music Scene (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 99. 55. Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children (London: Jonathan Cape, 1981). 56. Gilroy, Black Atlantic, 107. 57. Quincy Jones, Listen Up: The Many Lives of Quincy Jones (New York: Warner Books, 1990), 167, quoted in Gilroy, Black Atlantic, 108. 58. This logic is most fully developed in Samuel A. Floyd Jr., The Power of Black Music: In­ terpreting its History from Africa to the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995). 59. Gilroy, Black Atlantic, 108. Jairo Moreno makes the case even more forcefully in his lucid musicological critique of Dizzie Gillespie’s instrumentalization of Chano Pozo as a stepping stone with which to reach and claim Africa in his article “Bauza-­Gillespie-­Latin/Jazz: Difference, Modernity, and the Black Caribbean,” South Atlantic Quarterly 103, no. 1 (2004). 60. Gilroy, quoted in Richard C. Green and Monique Guillory, “Question of a ‘Soulful Style’: Interview with Paul Gilroy,” Soul: Black Power, Politics, and Pleasure (New York: New York University Press, 1998), 251. 61. For a discussion of debates and definitions of absolute music, see Lydia Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), and Carl Dahlhaus, The Idea of Absolute Music, trans. Roger Lustig (Chicago: University of  Chicago Press, 1989). 62. Radano, Lying Up a Nation, 40. 63. Gilroy, in Green and Guillory, Soul, 252. 64. Edussuriya, “Dancing with Myself.”

Chapter Six 1. The original line, untranslated is: “Now O-­Dog was the craziest nigga alive. America’s nightmare: young, black, and didn’t give a fuck.” Menace II Society, dir. Albert Hughes (New Line, 1993). 2. Marché Noir airs every Thursday at midnight on 106.3 FM, Paris. Previously aired programs, videos, and other information are available at www.marchenoir.biz (last accessed November 12, 2007). An earlier version of this chapter was published as “Le Cauchemar de la France: Blackara’s Postcolonial Hip Hop Critique in the City of Light,” in Native Tongues: An

Notes to Pages 140–161  261 African Hip-­Hop Reader, ed. Paul Khalil Saucier (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2011), 179–­ 216. Thanks to Khalil for his expert editorial guidance, to Murray Forman for the introduction and guidance in the intervening years, and my fellow contributors to the book. 3. Cheryl Keyes, Rap Music and Street Consciousness (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 124. See also, Marcyliena Morgan, The Real Hiphop: Battling  for Knowledge, Power, and Respect in the LA Underground (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009). 4. Blackara MySpace page, http://myspace.com/blackara (last accessed November 3, 2007). 5. Menace II Society, dir. Albert Hughes. 6. All translations of lyrics and interviews are my own unless otherwise noted. 7. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk, 37. 8. Du Bois, “The Color Line Belts the World,” 42. See also Kelley’s “But a Local Phase of a World Problem,” 1045–­77. 9. Paul Gilroy, Small Acts (New York: Serpent’s Tail, 1993), 12–­13. 10. Countless colonial and postcolonial scholars have examined this process, most notably Walter Rodney in his How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1982). In chapter 8 I examine the postcolonial hip hop critique of Juice Aleem, who on his track “Kunte Kinte” raps, “where’d you get the cocoa/the oil, and the diamonds/the cobalt for mining?” 11. 50 Cent, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (Interscope, 2003). 12. The Village, dir. M. Night Shyamalan (Touchstone, 2004). 13. Du Bois, “The Conservation of  Races,” in Souls of Black Folk, 237. 14. Blackara, “Bang Bang,” Myspace.com/blackara (last accessed September 15, 2008). 15. Homi Bhabha, “Of Mimicry and Man,” in Location of Culture, 85–­92. Bhabha’s concept of mimicry will be discussed in chapter 8. Of mimicry, Bill Ashcroft writes: “When colonial discourse encourages the colonial subject to ‘mimic’ the colonizer, by adopting the colonizer’s cultural habits, assumptions, institutions and values, the result is never a simple reproduction of those traits. Rather, the result is a ‘blurred copy’ of the colonizer that can be quite threatening.” Ashcroft, Post-­Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts (London: Routledge, 2000), 139. 16. John Williams, “Theme to Jaws,” is, of course, the most remarked upon example of this most simple of musical signifiers. 17. Olaniyan, “Cosmopolitan Nativist,” 76–­89. 18. Ibid., 77. 19. Tejumola Olaniyan, Arrest the Music: Fela and His Rebel Art and Politics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 25. 20. De La Soul, “In the Woods,” on Buhloon Mind State (Rhino, 1993). 21. Ingrid Monson, Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 2. 22. Ibid., 1–­2. 23. For a discussion of the precipitous rise of French hip hop in the context of mid-­1990s cultural protectionism and l’exception culturelle debates, see Rollefson, “ ‘Is This Really Liberty, Equality, Fraternity?’: The NTM Affair, French Cultural Politics, and Americanization as Cultural Miscegenation,” Music Research Forum 19 (2004): 26–­41. 24. Harry Haskell, The Early Music Revival: A History (London: Thames and Hudson,

262  Notes to Pages 163–185 1988), 79. See also Jane F. Fulcher, French Cultural Politics and Music: From the Dreyfus Affair to the First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). 25. Du Bois, “Conservation of  Races,” 237.

Chapter Seven 1. Baker, Blues, Ideology, and Afro-­American Literature, 1. 2. Ibid., 3–­4. 3. Ibid., 6. 4. Baker, Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, 22, 25. 5. Lipsitz, “The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: Racialized Social Democracy and the ‘White’ Problem in American Studies,” American Quarterly 47, no. 3 (1995). 6. For a cogent analysis of grime see Richard Bramwell’s UK Hip-­Hop, Grime and the City: The Aesthetics and Ethics of London’s Rap Scenes (London: Routledge, 2015). 7. Simon Reynolds, “Grime Is It Then?,” August 3, 2003, http://blissout.blogspot.com /2003_08_01_archive.html (last accessed November 20, 2008); see also Reynolds, “A Life of Grime,” Spin 21, no. 8 (August 2005): 84–­90. 8. Personal interview, May 2007. 9. Ruth Jamieson, “Urban Review: New Flesh, Universally Dirty,” http://www.bbc.co.uk /music/release/m5w6/,  July 20, 2006 (last accessed August 12, 2008). 10. Coakley, “The Problem with UK Hip-­Hop Is . . .” UKHH.com, June 24, 2004, http:// www.ukhh.com/features/articles/will_ukhiphop_blow_up/index2.html (last accessed December 12, 2008). 11. David Hesmondhalgh and Caspar Melville, “Urban Breakbeat Culture: Repercussions of Hip-Hop in the United Kingdom,” in Mitchell, Global Noise, 87. 12. Roots Manuva, Awfully Deep (Big Dada, 2005). 13. Personal interview, May 2007. 14. “Brits Debate over ‘Urban’ Music,” BBC, February 11, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi /entertainment/music/4253845.stm (last accessed November 8, 2008). 15. Juice Aleem, personal interview,  June 2007. 16. New Flesh, Universally Dirty (Big Dada, 2006). 17. Baker, Blues, Ideology, and Afro-­American Literature, 6. 18. Elijah Wald, Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues (New York: Harper Collins, 2004), 271. 19. Ibid., 271–­72. 20. Rollefson, “ ‘Robot Voodoo Power’ Thesis,” 83–­109. 21. Reprinted in J. Heywood Alexander, To Stretch Our Ears: A Documentary History of America’s Music (New York: W. W. Norton, 2002), 128–­30. 22. David R. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (New York: Verso, 1999), 115–­32; Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). 23. Radano, Lying Up a Nation, 8. 24. Gates, Signifying Monkey. 25. Floyd, Power of Black Music, 4.

Notes to Pages 186–204  263 26. Ibid., 5. 27. In a similar manner Juice Aleem’s video for the track “Distorted Minds” (Ninja Tune, 2004) makes explicit the slippage between text and meaning as images issue from the MC’s mouth with each word—­some clearly related to the word, others linked through context, and still others strangely disjunct or wholly dissociated from the lyric.

Chapter Eight 1.  Juice Aleem, “First Lesson,” on Jerusalaam Come (BigDada/Ninja Tune, 2009). 2. Louis Pattison, “Juice Aleem, Jerusaalem Come Review,” BBC.co.uk, http://www.bbc .co.uk/music/reviews/gh4h (last accessed May 12, 2015). 3. Gilroy, “Roots and Routes.” The “routes and roots” figure gestures to the unproductive “essentialism vs. anti-­essentialism” debates and also to Juice Aleem’s own anti-­anti-­essentialist figure of a time traveling Kunte Kinte on the album, playing on the protagonist of the film Roots. 4. Rollefson, “ ‘Robot Voodoo Power’ Thesis,” 2008. 5. Gilroy, “After the Love Has Gone,” 52. 6. Moten, In the Break, 24. 7. Baker, Blues, Ideology, and Afro-­American Literature, 10. As we will see in the next chapter, Baker’s methodology is particularly appropriate for approaching Aleem’s Afrofuturist metaphysics in both form and content. 8. KRS-­One, “Sound of da Police,” on Return of the Boom Bap (Jive, 1993). 9. The Festival of Ideas panel, “Hip Hop Psych,” was the brainchild of my then-­colleagues at the University of Cambridge, Akeem Sule (psychiatry) and Becky Inkster (neuroscience). They continue to work on an outreach program of the same name. More information at http://www .hiphoppsych.co.uk/ (last accessed August 31, 2016). 10. The first chapter of Gilroy’s Black Atlantic is titled “The Black Atlantic as a Counterculture of Modernity.” The Derrida texts that I am drawing on primarily are “The Violence of the Letter: From Lévi-­Strauss to Rousseau” and the performative lecture “Difference,” Bulletin de la Société française de philosophie 62, no. 3 (1968): 73–­101. 11. Here I recommend you mute the video on first listening before listening with video. I encourage you to purchase the album thereafter in any case. 12. Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 123–­24. 13. The name “Bruce Leroy,” is, of course, a play on martial arts hero Bruce Lee, and also posits a foreshadowing of Leroy’s emergence as a “master,” ultimately becoming Le Roy [Fr.]: the king. We will address KoS in detail in the conclusion. 14. Willie Hatch, “The Glow,” on The Last Dragon (Motown, 1985). 15. Activated Olmec, comments at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vpzvhhr_ok (last accessed May 12, 2015). 16. See Potter, Spectacular Vernaculars, and Krims, Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity, for further examples and theorizations of such slippages and punning in hip hop performance. 17. Bhabha, Location of Culture, 55. 18. Ibid., 79. See also Sandoval’s Methodology of the Oppressed for an elaboration of the idea of strategic “differential consciousness.”

264  Notes to Pages 204–223 19. NWA, “Straight Outta Compton,” on Straight Outta Compton (Ruthless/Priority, 1988). Despite the good hip hop/bad hip hop binary and its commonplace mapping onto the conscious/gangsta binary, this is a track and an album that begins: “You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.” 20. Miles White makes this argument clearly and forcefully in his From Jim Crow to Jay-­Z (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011). 21. Christopher Goffard, You Will See Fire: A Search for Justice in Kenya (New York: Norton, 2011). 22. Blumer, Symbolic Interactionism. The classic examples are Nas’s “NY State of Mind” and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message.” 23. Bhabha, Location of Culture, 88. 24. Ibid. 25. Ellison, Invisible Man, 8. 26. Bhabha, Location of Culture, 86. 27. Mostern, “Postcolonialism after W. E. B. Du Bois,” 65. 28. Ellison, Invisible Man, 6–­7. 29. Bhabha, Location of Culture, 55. 30. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan or The Matter Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil (1651), ed. Richard Tuck, Cambridge Texts in the History of  Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). The foundational text in social contract theory likens the absolute sovereign to the biblical Leviathan monster, suggesting that a legitimate form of government must be one in which the people confer power to a central government and then submit to its authority. The text is central to contemporary discourses of hegemony. 31. Gilroy, Black Atlantic, 123. I theorize this concept in “ ‘Robot Voodoo Power’ Thesis.” 32. Derrida, “Violence of the Letter,” in Of Grammatology, 101. Claude Lévi-­Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, trans. John Weightman and Doreen Weightman (1955; New York: Penguin, 1992). 33. See Kanye West’s critique in “New Slaves” on Yeezus (Roc-­A-­Fella/Def  Jam, 2013), and Prince’s critique from the “symbol” years. 34. Bhabha, Location of Culture, 55. 35. Resonating behind this theory of defness is the penultimate stanza 5 of Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, “Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight, / Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” The lines (especially in sonic form as prophetically spoken by the poet) prefigure the offensive valences of “defness,” “the evil eye/I,” and their postcoloniality. See Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Five Poems (Caedmon TC 1002, 1958). 36. Moten, In the Break, 10–­11. 37. Williams, Marxism and Literature, 123–­24 (emphasis added). 38. Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” 39. Moten, In the Break, 7. 40. Derrida, “Différance,” 257 (emphasis added). 41. See the introduction to Moten, In the Break. 42. Aleem, personal communication, April 27, 2015. 43. Aleem, in the public discussion following our panel “Hip Hop Psych” at the University of Cambridge.

Notes to Pages 224–236  265 44. Leonard Susskind, “The World as a Hologram,” Journal of Mathematical Physics 36, no. 11 (1995): 6377–­96. The Abstract begins: “According to ‘t Hooft the combination of quantum mechanics and gravity requires the three dimensional world to be an image of data that can be stored on a two dimensional projection much like a holographic image. The two dimensional description only requires one discrete degree of freedom per Planck area and yet it is rich enough to describe all three dimensional phenomena. After outlining ‘t Hooft’s proposal I give a preliminary informal description of how it may be implemented.” Thanks to my colleague Brian Michael Murphy, who suggested a line of inquiry that led me down this path after a presentation of this research at the 2015 IASPM-­US conference at the University of Louisville. Thanks also to Richard Elliott and my colleagues at the University of Sussex, for their input on a draft of this chapter. 45. Ellison, “What America Would Be Like Without Blacks,” 109–­10.

Conclusion 1. Clover, 1989. 2. Gilroy, Black Atlantic, 1. 3. Said, Culture and Imperialism, 336. 4. Eric B and Rakim, “I Know You Got Soul” (4th & B’Way, 1987). 5. Mos Def, “Fear Not of Man,” on Black on Both Sides (Rawkus, 1999). 6. Kendrick Lamar, “Alright,” on To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg/Interscope/Aftermath, 2015). 7. Thanks to my Society for Musicology in Ireland colleagues and the Irish Research Council for their support of the April 2016 conference Music in Ireland: 1916 & Beyond (of which my paper on Irish hip hop was a standout of the “beyond!”). See http://musicireland1916.ie/ (last accessed September 12, 2016). 8. A Tribe Called Quest, “Award Tour” ( Jive, 1993). 9. See Prévos’s “The Evolution of French Rap Music” for the basic contours of the “adoption and adaptation narrative.” 10. I encourage you to investigate this and all of the following artists. Stevie G’s full playlist for my global hip hop class at University College Cork (“Irish based hip-­hop for Planet Rap at UCC”) is available at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLbM3bLcFMthrFrpbMkw GZCDfxyfn53ZfC. 11. Stevie and I are co-­authoring the “Ireland/Éire” entry in Greg Schick and Sina Nitzsche’s forthcoming Hip Hop Atlas. 12. Lauren Murphy, “Rebel Yell: The Cork Renaissance?” Irish Times, May 31, 2015. http:// www.irishtimes.com/culture/stage/rebel-­yell-­the-­cork-­renaissance-­1.2099878. 13. Dan O’Mahony, “It’s Adding Up for Trio of Irish Rappers, Rusangano Family,” Irish Times. http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/artsfilmtv/its-­adding-­up-­for-­trio-­of-­irish -­rappersrusangano-­family-­321453.html. 14. Villegas, “Hip Hop Over Homework.” 15. The Good Vibe Society, “December 11th,” http://www.thepointofeverything.com /2012/12/13/listen-­to-­cork-­rappers-­the-­good-­vibe-­societys-­tribute-­to-­the-­burning-­of-­cork -­december-­11th/ (last accessed May 12, 2015).

266  Notes to Pages 236–243 16. The Good Vibe Society, “December 11th,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jc MvdqbXREg (last accessed January 21, 2016). Video by Marc Butler. The lyrical transcription is based on that of  YouTube poster Michael Daly. 17. Brosy (Ronan Brosnan), personal communication,  January 21, 2016. 18. Rudyard Kipling, “Recessional” (1897), http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176152 (last accessed January 21, 2016). 19. Said, Culture and Imperialism, 66. 20. Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden. 21. See Jean-­Paul Sartre’s biting critique of the contradictions of the colonial imperative in the preface to Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1963), 15–­21. For an extended discussion of the mechanisms of colonial dominion see Fanon’s first section, “Concerning Violence,” 36–­106. 22. Said, Culture and Imperialism, 336. 23. Balibar, “Racism as Universalism.” 24. Torgovnick, Gone Primitive. 25. A clip of the Ali interview on RTÉ is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y NrNpw7hmcE (last accessed January 21, 2016). 26. The Good Vibe Society, “December 11th.” See the full footage here: https://www.you tube.com/watch?v=8QWvBBMtRak. 27. See Roediger, Wages of Whiteness, and Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999). 28. RTÉ News, “Ennis Honours Muhammad Ali,” http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0901 /121240-­alim/ (last accessed May 20, 2015). 29. Coates, Between the World and Me, 11, 8.


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Discography and Videography

50 Cent. Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Interscope, 2003. B-­Tight. Der Neger (in Mir). Aggro Berlin, 2002. B-­Tight and Tony D hosted by SIDO. Heiße Ware. Aggro Berlin, 2005. Blue Scholars. The Long March. Independent/Massline, 2006. The Coup. Kill My Landlord. Wild Pitch Records, 1993. Da Lench Mob. Guerillas in tha Mist. Street Knowledge Records, 1992. D-­Irie. “Was jetzt los!?!” (Single). Shok Muzik, 2006. De La Soul. Buhloon Mind State. Rhino, 1993. Ellington, Duke. A Drum Is a Woman. Columbia, 1956. Eric B and Rakim. Follow the Leader. Universal/MCA, 1988. ———. “I Know You Got Soul.” 4th & B’Way, 1987. Gang Starr. Hard To Earn. Virgin, 1994. The Good Vibe Society. “December 11th.” Video by Mark Butler. https://www.youtube.com /watch?v=JcMvdqbXREg (last accessed  January 21, 2016). Gordy, Berry. The Last Dragon. Motown, 1985. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. “The Message” (single). Sugar Hill Records, 1982. Hatch, Willie. “The Glow.” On The Last Dragon. Motown, 1985. Hughes, Albert, dir. Menace II Society. New Line, 1993. Ice Cube. AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Priority Records, 1990. Ice T. and Andy Baybutt. Something  from Nothing: The Art of Rap. Kaleidoscope, 2012. Jay-­Z and Kanye West. Watch the Throne. Def  Jam, 2011. Juice Aleem. Jerusalaam Come. Big Dada/Ninja Tune Records, 2009. Kassovitz, Mathieu. La Haine. Canal+, 1995. KRS-­One. Return of the Boom-­Bap. Jive/RCA, 1993. Lamar, Kendrick. To Pimp a Butterfly. Top Dawg/Interscope/Aftermath, 2015. M.I.A. Arular. XL, 2005.

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Abu Ghraib, 187–­88, 192, 193, 230 activism, 22, 25, 110, 145, 150, 241, 248–­49n23 Addo, Franklyn, 244 “Adrift on an Aimless Tide” (track), 235 African American culture, 5, 10, 38, 42, 43, 58, 69, 78, 94, 101–­2, 135, 144, 145, 155, 163, 164–­ 65, 167, 185, 243; art of, 8; musics, 32, 42, 54, 64, 74, 81, 82, 91, 98, 100, 134, 145, 184, 185–­86, 250n7, 255n26, 257n11; spirituals, 53, 54; vernaculars, 79, 80, 81. See also blackness; identity;  jazz; postcolonialism African American hermeneutics, 185 African American modernities, 74, 166, 185 African American racial politics, 77, 78 Afro-­Beat music, 153 Afro-­Caribbean, 99, 100, 111, 199, 209; Britons, 98, 100, 101, 102, 176, 179, 194; diaspora, 99; music, 111, 118, 124; polyrhythm, 124; religion, 188. See also Juice Aleem Afrocentrism, 67, 218; Afrocentric eccentricity, 196; Afrocentric Five Percenter, 204; Afrocentric movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s, 125; Afrocentric rap, 66 afro-­deutsch, 62, 65 Afrofuturism, 198, 263n7; Afrofuturist Cri­­ tique, 14, 194, 196, 198, 212, 220, 225; pre-

colonial Afrofuturism, 203, 224. See also Juice Aleem Afro-­Germans, 62 Aggro Berlin, 12, 55, 57, 59–­61, 64–­65, 69–­78, 81–­89, 91, 253n2, 254n16; Aggro.TV, 83. See also Berlin Akan, 227 Algerian-­French fusion, 24 Ali, Muhammad, 155, 241 Alliance Urbaine, 30 allosonic sampling, 123 Alpa Gun, 59–­60, 69 Alternatif, 31 alternative economies, 140 “Amazon” (track), 104–­5, 127, 128, 129, 131 Americanization, (African), 5, 12–­13, 55–­78, 81, 94, 95, 247–­48n24 Amewu aka Halbgott, 57, 244 amputation: fantasy of, 76; self-­amputation, 76, 230 Anikulapo-­Kuti, Fela, 153–­54, 156 Anklage Fünf (Accusation Five) (album), 70 anti-­anti-­essentialism, 196, 198, 211, 212, 223, 224, 225, 263n3 ApocalypsE, 235, 244 Arab Spring, 237, 240

284  Index Arriviste ideology, 14, 32, 149, 150, 159 “Arrivistes” (Go Getters/Social Climbers) (track), 142, 146, 151, 153, 156 arrivistes (hustlers), 14, 151, 153 Arular (album), 13, 95, 96, 99, 102, 103, 107, 115, 118, 119, 125, 127, 132, 137–­38, 187. See also M.I.A. Arulpragasam, Mathangi “Maya.” See M.I.A. Asian Dub Foundation, 101 “Astro-­black” (song), 192 ATM, 244 “Aulnaywood,” 22 Ausländer, 75 authenticity, 2, 10, 32, 38, 61, 65, 77, 80–­81, 84, 86, 88, 94, 95, 96, 105, 107, 108, 134, 136, 151, 162, 166, 171, 175, 211, 212, 228; authentically inauthentic, 13, 96, 107, 108, 118; authenticized caricatures, 60; and black gangsta masculinity, 204; in black music, 13, 58, 79, 80, 81, 89, 171; black musical authenticity, 13, 79–­81, 89; commercial authentic, 13, 79–­92, 229; cultivated authenticity, 88; hyper­­authenticity, 65, 80; postcolonial authenticity, 106; racial authenticities, 108; soul authenticity, 183; of unschooled musicians, 80; working-­class authenticity, 31. See also M.I.A. “Award Tour” (track), 233 Axiom, 25–­29, 244 Ayad, Muhamed. See Tony D

Baraka, Amiri, 4, 32, 45, 137, 165, 174 “Barrio Science” (track), 23. See also “Ciencia de Barrio” (track) Bayside Boys, 116, 229 Beat Assailant, 30 Bechet, Sydney, 40, 43, 251n21 Benetton syndrome, 31–­32, 99 Berlin, 1, 2, 8, 9, 12–­13, 16, 17, 55–­92, 139–­41, 157, 168, 172, 197, 227–­28; after World War II, 56; Kreuzberg, 55, 82; Märkisches Viertel, 85; post–­Cold War, 12; Turkish Berliners, 2, 64; West Berlin, 56, 62. See also Aggro Berlin; Germany; hip hop Bernstein, Leonard, 44 Besatzungskinder, 62 Bey, Yasiin (Mos Def), 231, 233 Beyoncé, 95, 228 Bhabha, Homi, 4, 14–­15, 41, 104, 150, 203–­4, 208, 209, 213, 220, 261n15 Big Chill House, 168, 172, 173, 175 Big Dada, 168, 177, 194, 195, 197 Bingo, 105, 131 Birmingham (UK), 175, 194, 200, 203, 206, 216, 217, 223. See also Juice Aleem black American music, 2, 8–­9, 42, 62, 134–­36, 230 Black and Tans, 236 Blackara, 14, 139, 142–­43, 144–­46, 149–­59, 163, 229 black Atlantic, 13, 49, 96, 98–­99, 120, 123–­24, 131, 135, 137, 171, 247–­48n23, 258n16; The Black Atlantic, 17, 97–­99, 108, 134, 136; Black Bada$$, Joey, 244 Atlantic flows, 198–­99; black Atlantic muBaker, Houston A., 4, 10, 74, 164, 165, 166, 167, sic, 93–­138, 171, 228; Black Atlantic traffic, 175, 181–­82, 185, 187, 189, 196, 197, 201, 221, 38–­39. See also diaspora; hip hop; M.I.A. 247n13, 247n22, 250n7 black British/Britons, 14, 93, 94, 96, 98, 100, Bambaataa, Afrika, 97 102, 124, 145, 172, 206, 252n34 “Bamboo Banga” (track), 116 blackface, 67, 71–­74, 166, 184, 204 “Banana Skit” (track), 109, 111, 112, 114, 115 Black Lives Matter, 231, 243 “Bang Bang” (track), 142, 143, 144, 150, 151, black market, 95, 140, 151 156, 158 black masculinity, 61, 140–­41, 144, 217–­18 Banks, Azealia, 95 banlieues (suburbs), 12, 19, 21, 22, 30, 31, 162, blackness, 5, 13, 42, 49–­50, 62, 69, 70, 78, 81, 90–­91, 97–­98, 100–­102, 105–­7, 137, 140–­42, 258n16. See also riots

Index  285 146, 166, 178, 184, 193, 204, 225, 258n51. See also Afrocentrism; diaspora; hip hop; identity Black Panther, 70 black poststructuralism, 10 Black Power, 64, 67, 102, 125, 145, 154, 155, 156 black radicalism, 196 Bleus, Les, 50 blues, 13, 34, 36, 44, 46, 54, 79, 80, 164–­68, 175–­79, 181–­89, 191–­92, 197, 201, 214, 229, 247n13; for American audiences, 79; Blues People, 165, 167; classic blues, 80–­81, 84; “Homesick Blues,” 56, 69 Blue Scholars, 36, 250n6 Bo Diddley Beat, 199 Bolden, Buddy, 12, 38–­44, 54, 251n21 “Bomb Squad,” 113 Boots, 65, 66, 67, 68, 70 Boramy, 160 “Borders” (track), 134 Brexit, 9, 18; post-­Brexit, 3 Brixton Riot. See London Brosy, 236–­40, 242, 243 Brown,  James, 23 Bruel, Patrick, 20 B-­Tight (Robert “Bobby” Edward Davis) (aka Der Neger), 59, 61–­77, 82, 83, 85, 87–­ 90, 253n2, 254n15 “Bucky Done Gun” (track), 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 132, 187 “Buffalo Stance” (track), 125 Burning of Cork City, 236. See also Ireland Butler, Marc, 236 Capitale Sale (Dirty Capital), 14, 142, 159, 160, 162 capitalism: consumer capitalism, 58; late cap­­ italism, 33; multicultural capitalism, 17; neoliberal capitalism, 4; post-­industrial capitalism, 4; racial capitalism, 251n22; slave capitalism, 239 Captain Horatio Hornblower (film), 56

Caribbean music, 3, 36, 45, 46, 47, 99, 100, 104, 111, 117, 118, 124, 144, 169, 170, 176, 179, 188–­90, 199, 206. See also Afro-­Caribbean Césaire, Aimé, 110, 156 Ce Soir (ou Jamais!) (Tonight [or Never!]) (television program), 28 Chadha, Gurinder, 100, 258n19 Chance the Rapper, 244 Charles, Ray, 44 Chefket, 57. See also �evket Cherry, Neneh, 125–­26 Chester, 173 Chic, 159 Chuck D, 107, 137 “Ciencia de Barrio” (track), 23 Cipher Jewels, 194, 202, 204 cité (housing project), 30, 50, 148 civil rights, 15, 39, 101, 145, 211, 216 Clash, The, 124, 179 close reading, 10, 12, 13, 16, 167, 196, 249n2, 253n45 club drugs, 173 Cold War: American Cold War, 56, 64, 78; post–­Cold War Berlin, 12 colonialism: anticolonial leaders, 156; British colonialism, 99, 111; colonial-­era archive, 39; colonial-­era slave trade, 5; colonial nos­­ talgia, 37; dialectics of colonialism and post­­ colonialism, 37; exploitation colonialism, 40; global anticolonial struggles, 236, 238; redefinition of colonial narratives, 203. See also global/globalization; neocolonialism; postcolonialism “Colossal Insight” (track), 172 Columbiaclub, 12, 55, 56, 59, 61–­64, 69, 78, 228 commercialized resistance music, 5, 8, 9, 118 community radio, 1, 139 Confucius MC, 175 conspicuous consumption, 14, 17, 149, 150 consumer culture, 5, 13, 84, 84, 106; Ameri­can consumer, 58, 150; consumer capitalism, 58; pseudo-­ethnic consumer, 32; wealthy consumers, 150

286  Index Conti, Bill, 124 contrapuntal polyphony, 37 Cork, 232, 234–­38, 241 Coup, The, 41, 61, 65, 66 Crawford, Richard, 79, 80, 81 Creole jazz, 43, 251n21. See also jazz creolization, 39, 58, 186 “Cross Road Blues” (song), 182 crunk, 143–­44, 170 Culture and Imperialism, 17, 37, 226 Daïland, 30–­32, 258n16 “Dale Latino” (make it Latin) (track), 24 “Dash the Curry Skit” (track), 111 Davis, Robert “Bobby” Edward. See B-­Tight D’Beats, 240 de Andrade, Oswald, 110 décalage, 67, 77, 99. See also diaspora “December 11th” (track), 236, 238, 241, 242 Deepo, Danny, 234, 243 defness, 14–­15, 194, 196–­97, 212–­15, 220–­21, 225, 264n35 De La Soul, 125, 155 “Der Araber und der Neger” (track), 87–­88 Derek B, 176 Der Neger, 62. See B-­Tight Der Neger (in Mir) (album), 72, 75 “Der Neger” (track), 63, 64, 65, 66, 68, 72, 74, 76, 85, 253n2 der Neger Bonus, 90–­91 Derrida,  Jacques, 14, 197, 198, 203, 211, 212, 213, 215, 220, 222 Develop, 143 Deviant, 234, 243 Dias, 21 diaspora, 36, 67–­69, 77, 78, 94, 98, 99, 120, 135, 203; African diaspora politics, 46, 49, 61, 68, 97–­99; Afro-­diasporic music, 38; black diaspora, 68, 99; black diasporic aesthetics, 108; connections, 65; global black diaspora, 65; Irish diaspora, 235; Northern Hemisphere of diaspora, 104; prophecy of

Afrodiasporic enslavement, 209. See also United States différance, 14, 15, 197, 211, 212, 213, 220, 221 “Différance” (essay), 213, 220. See also Derrida,  Jacques discrimination, 23, 28, 154 double consciousness, 1, 4, 6, 9, 12, 17, 41–­43, 54, 75, 154, 208, 228, 231, 232, 247–­48n23, 250n9, 258n29 Dr. Dre, 62, 143 Dreyfus Affair, 28 “Drinkin’ Gourd” (song), 213 Drum Is a Woman, A (album), 39, 251n19 drums: Afro-­Latin hand drums, 104; bass drums, 116, 122, 219; Brazilian surdo drummers, 116, 122; Caribbean steel drums, 104, 105, 180, 188, 189, 191; drum’n’bass, 100; fast-­tempo drum machine, 123; jungle/ drum, 104, 235; Roland MC-­505 Groovebox, 112; Roland TR-­808, 123, 143. See also hip hop Du Bois, W. E. B., 4, 41, 53, 54, 74, 78, 144, 149, 154, 209 “Dude, The” (track), 134 Ebonics, 65 Ebu Blackitude, 194, 198–­200, 203–­5 Ecoute La Rue Marianne (Listen to the Street Marianne) (album), 162 Edussuriya, Samantha, 103–­6 Edwards, Brent Hayes, 67–­68, 77, 78 Egyptology, 206, 218–­23, 239 8 Mile (film), 174 electronic dance music, 173 Ellington, Duke, 38, 43, 44, 45, 127, 251n19 Elliot, Missy, 117 Ellison, Ralph, 4, 42, 43, 53, 76, 107, 135, 145, 208, 209, 224, 225 Eminem, 121, 174 Enlightenment, 6, 9, 10, 12, 17, 20, 52, 195, 205, 208, 210, 222, 225, 239, 240, 243, 247–­ 48n22, 253n46; colonial Enlightenment,

Index  287 113; pre-­Enlightenment, 196, 246n9. See also laïcité (secularism) “En noir et blanc” (Black and White) (track), 12, 25, 34–­54, 81, 201, 228. See also post­ colonialism; Sefyu EPMD, 159 Eric B, 113 Erlmann, Veit, 31, 32, 33, 99 Espace Léo Ferré, 30 “Esuneutics,” 187 ethnicity: ethnonational isolationisms, 61; French, 23; German, 77; multiethnic in­­ clusiveness, 149; and music, 32–­33, 81, 247–­48n23; neo-­ethnicity, 31, 258n16; “New Ethnicity,” 32; non-­European, 140; pseudo-­ ethnic, 32 ethnomusicology, 16, 31, 253n42 Europe/EU, 2–­6, 9, 11, 13, 15–­18, 22, 25, 28, 30, 36, 38–­40, 52, 55–­58, 61–­64, 68, 77–­ 77, 80–­81, 92–­93, 95, 117, 140–­41, 145–­ 46, 154, 178, 183, 186, 189, 195, 200, 201, 226–­27, 230, 233–­34, 241, 246n11; Euro-­ Americanization, 80; Europeanness, 17; and minority youth, 141. See also hip hop; identity; postcolonialism Extrait d’Amertume (Extract of Bitterness) (album), 160–­61 “Fallen, The” (track), 206, 209–­10, 214, 215, 217, 218 Familia, La, 21 Fanon, Frantz, 4, 96, 110, 156, 203, 209 Farma G, 171–­74, 176, 244 Father of the Blues, 79 Fax, Akil, 31 “Feeling Good” (track), 44, 252n34 Fela Kuti, 153, 154 feminism, 13, 206, 234. See also terrorism: terrorist chic Festival Etudiant Contra le Racisme, 25 fetishism, 71 50 Cent, 148

“Fire, Fire” (track), 115–­18, 128 “First Lesson” (track), 198, 200–­204 Five Percenters, 204 flamenco, 23, 180, 182, 189 Fler, 59, 60, 61, 69, 70, 75, 77 FN, 19–­20 Forman, Murray, 126 Foucault, Michel, 10, 196 France, 9, 19, 20, 24–­36, 49, 50, 52, 57, 146, 149, 160, 161, 163, 201, 226, 251n21, 252n35; colonialism in, 155; dreams of a race-­free France, 163; Latino French identity, 24; French colonies, 22; French national imag­ inary, 51; postcolonial France, 25–­26; postwar France, 29; race discrimination in, 154. See also colonialism; Enlightenment; hip hop; hybridity; postcolonialism France métissée, on l’aime et on y vit!, La (mulatto France, we love it and we live it!), 25, 29, 32 “FranSSe” (track), 87 “Freedom—­Better Now” (poem), 241 freedom fighter, 103, 104, 113, 115 “Freedom Skit” (track), 115, 118–­19, 127 French Socialist Party, 19, 20, 162 Front National Party. See FN Fun-­Da-­Mental, 101 funk, 62, 100, 178, 260n54; baile funk, 99, 122, 123–­26 (see “Injeção”); funky house, 169, 173; G-­funk beats, 62, 143–­44 Furious Five, 96–­97 “Galang” (track), 104, 124–­26, 134, 144, 220 gangsta, 86, 111, 143; black gangsta masculinity, 204; gangsta bling, 6, 37; gangsta language, 114; gangsta masculinities, 13; German gangsta rap, 73, 140, 148, 156, 175; West Coast gangsta rap, 57, 143, 170. See also rap; United States Gang Starr, 229 gangsterism, 204 gaps, 46

288  Index garage rap, 169, 170, 171, 173 Gates, Henry Louis, 178, 185–­88 gender, 96, 105; body, 88; constructions, 105; equality, 154; in 1950s Germany, 60; performance, 88–­89; politics, 13; postcoloniality, 112; roles, 243; stereotypes, 72. See also M.I.A.; terrorism: terrorist chic Geo, 36 Germany, 9, 13, 15, 55, 57–­71, 73–­77, 82, 85–­ 91, 168, 175, 179, 226–­27; German body politic, 77; German minority hip hop art­ ists, 60; multiracial German public, 12; post-­Holocaust Germany, 59; Turkish-­ German Gastarbeiter (guestworkers), 13; Turkish German hip hop youth, 55; Western Germany, 31. See also Berlin; hip hop Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (album), 148, 150 Ghetto Music (album), 30, 31 G-­Hot, 59, 60, 69–­70, 77 gift/Gift (poison), 74–­75 Gilroy, Paul, 4, 8, 10, 11, 14, 17, 61, 88, 93–­99, 101, 106, 108, 120, 134–­37, 144–­45, 196, 198, 227, 247n17, 250n9. See also anti-­anti-­ essentialism; authenticity; black Atlantic Gioia, Ted, 38, 40 Glissant, Édouard, 4, 45, 46, 47, 98, 227, 252n36 Glitter, Gary, 229 global/globalization: capitalism, 5, 31, 206; cities, 3; contemporary globalization, 41; culture, 2, 3, 47, 94, 135, 169, 243, 258n16; culture industry, 2, 47, 94, 95, 136, 169, 239, 243, 258n16; homogenizing globalization, 3; market, 3, 135; nationalism, 53; neoliberal globalization, 3–­4; as postcoloniality, 3; solidarity, 4; trade, 94. See also colonialism; hip hop “Glow, The” (track), 202 GMC, 234, 243 God Knows, 235 “Gods and Earths,” 204 Good Vibe Society, 236, 237, 238, 241 Gordy, Berry, 202

Gramsci, Antonio, 5, 38, 138 Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, 96, 229 Grand Wizzard Theodore, 229 Greg “le Grec” (The Greek), 160 Gymnase Japy, 25, 26, 29 Gypsy, 180, 182, 189 Halbgott. See Amewu aka Halbgott Handy, W. C., 13, 79, 80, 81, 84, 142, 182 harpsichord, 161, 162 heartbeat rhythm, 36 hegemony, 56, 124, 137, 192, 195, 201, 264n30 Heiße Ware (Hot Commodity) (album), 13, 79, 85–­90, 91 hip hop: in Berlin, 8, 9, 58, 81; Chilean-­French, 21; conscious hip hop, 7, 140; drums, 23, 27, 62, 100, 180, 240; Eastern European, 7; European, 2–­7, 12, 15–­17, 58–­59, 62, 64, 68–­69, 78, 92, 95, 234; French, 8, 11–­12, 19, 21, 23, 28, 47, 162; global, 15, 36, 94, 231, 232, 233, 246n5; good hip hop/bad hip hop, 7–­9, 264n19; Hip Hop Nation Language (HHNL), 65; hip hop studies, 3, 15, 94, 226–­44, 246n5, 246n10; Irish, 15, 232–­35; marginality of, 8; metaphor, 113–­15; mix­­ tapes, 86; South Asian, 98, 101; Turkish German hip hop youth, 55; in United States/US, 3, 7, 37, 55, 56, 65, 67, 69, 97, 99, 121, 140, 144, 152, 170, 176, 230, 155, 233, 239, 243. See also Aggro Berlin; drums; London; Paris; postcolonialism; United Kingdom Hitler, Adolf, 55, 64, 66, 149 “Hit The Road Jack” (song), 44 Hk, 21 holograms, 197, 198, 218, 219–­24; holographic glow, 202; holographic image, 224, 265n44; holographic metaphysics, 223–­24; Holo­ graphic Principle, 198. See also Juice Aleem homophobia, 7, 48, 59, 73, 203, 221, 233, 252n39 homophony, 37, 54

Index  289 hoodie, 55, 120–­21 “Hoodie” (track), 122, 127 “Horse Outside” (track), 234 House of Pain, 235 hustlers. See arrivistes (hustlers) Hutch, Willie, 202 hybridity, 3, 4, 6, 8, 11, 12, 17, 24, 33, 37, 41, 45, 46, 49, 51, 58, 75, 92, 96, 102, 108, 131, 135, 137, 145, 169, 170, 186, 199, 201, 231, 245n2; afro-­deutsch, 62; Gypsy hybridity, 182; multiplicity, 131; music, 9, 46, 81, 184, 186; postcolonial hybridity, 12; subjectivity, 108; US Latino hybrid, 24. See also hip hop; multiculturalism; race hypermasculinity, 88, 150 Ice Cube, 73 “Ich bin ein Ausländer” (I am a foreigner) (track), 59 identity: American national, 40, 246n10; black, 62, 67, 156, 191; black American, 145; black British, 93; ethnic, 6, 60; hip hop, 68, 121; Latino, 23; Latino French, 24; middle-­ class, 61; minority, 78; multicultural, 32; national, 51, 75, 179; racial, 20, 75, 97, 217; unfinished, 1, 17; working-­class, 77 I’m British But . . . (documentary film), 100 immigration, 2, 19, 24, 40, 117, 179; African immigration, 29; anti-­immigration, 19, 20; “second-­generation immigrants,” 28; UK, 179 imperialism, 1, 37, 57, 58–­59, 226, 227, 231, 238–­40; American cultural imperialism, 56, 78, 239; Euro-­American cultural imperialism, 154; racist imperialism, 113. See also colonialism; racism Ingram, James, 159 Inja, 244 “Injeção” (track), 122, 123, 124 “Insha’Allah!” (God willing), 108 Invisible Man, 208, 209, 225 Ireland, 23–­26, 238, 240–­43; Afro-­Irish, 235; diaspora, 235; Easter Rising, 232; Irish-­

language rap, 234; Irishness, 232, 235; Irish Republican Army (IRA), 236, 237; Irish Revolution, 237, 238; Irish War of  Indepen­ dence, 236, 241; stereotypes about Ire­­land, 235; traditional music, 15, 234–­35. See also identity Islamophobia, 13, 101 “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” (song), 44 Jamaica: Jamaican dancehall, 30, 35, 99, 122, 152, 170, 190; Jamaican dance steps, 117; patois, 117, 122, 124, 200, 209; postcolonial Jamaica, 204; Rasta, 202 Jamelia, 174 Jameson, Fredric, 31, 38 Jay-­Z, 121 jazz, 38–­40, 43–­44, 46, 54, 78, 87, 134, 135, 139, 157, 180, 213, 225, 233, 251n21, 252n35, 257n11. See also Creole jazz Jehst, 173 Jerusalaam Come (album), 14, 15, 17, 188, 194–­ 203, 218, 224, 229. See also Juice Aleem “Jet Club,” 152 “Jim Crow” (song), 184 Johnson, LeDell, 183 Johnson, Robert, 182, 183, 184 Johnson, Tommy, 182 Jones, LeRoi. See Baraka, Amiri Jones, Quincy, 134, 135, 136, 159 Juice Aleem (Aleem Edmead), 14–­15, 17, 168, 171–­72, 175–­84, 187–­93, 194–­223, 229–­ 30, 244, 252n39, 263n27, 263n3; Afro-­ Caribbean religion, 188; and Bible, 206, 207, 209, 211, 214; biblical chorus, 214, 219; holograms, 197–­98, 223, 224; and metaphysical etymology, 197, 210–­12, 214, 215, 219, 224; and New Flesh, 168, 171, 180, 186; and precolonial Afrofuturism, 203; precolonial critique, 196. See also Afrofuturism; hip hop; KoS; rap Jungle Brothers, 125, 176 JusMe, 234, 244

290  Index Kala (album), 116 Kezo Kiliblack, 31–­32 Khosa, 160 “Killer’s Tears, The” (track), 229 King, Martin Luther,  Jr., 216–­17 Kingston, 119, 122, 136, 201 Kipling, Rudyard, 238–­40 Kismet (play/musical), 240–­41, 243 Klepto Thug, 31 Knowledge of Self, 171, 202, 227, 233. See also KoS KoS, 234, 238. See also Knowledge of Self KRS-­One, 197 “KunteKinteTarDiss” (track), 221, 261n10, 263n3 L’affaire NTM, 20, 21 laïcité (secularism), 20, 21, 245n1 Lamar, Kendrick, 231, 233, 243, 244 Last Dragon, The (film), 202 Latifah, Queen, 125, 176 Latino youth, 3 “La vie en rose” (song), 49 Lemar, 174 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” 216, 217, 223 “Let Us Cheer the Weary Traveler” (song), 54 Leviathan, 210 Lévi-­Strauss, Claude, 198, 211, 212, 252n39 L’histoire du soldat (A Soldier’s Tale), 183 liberté, égalité, fraternité, 11–­12, 20, 30 “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” (music video), 30 Lil Jon, 143 Lipsitz, George, 4, 5, 37, 38, 41 “Listen Up” (multimedia project), 134–­36 Lister, Ben, 219, 222 LL Cool J, 120 Location of Culture, The, 41, 203, 258n29, 261n15 London, 2, 8, 9, 13, 16, 56–­61, 64, 69, 93–­138, 140, 153, 157, 167–­76, 197, 206, 227, 233, 245n1; black Atlantic London, 96; Brixton Riot, 97–­98, 102, 157, 206; race riots (anti-­

racist revolutions), 96; South Asian Lon­­ doner, 2, 69, 124. See also hip hop Lopes, Bruno. See Shen, Kool Lying Up a Nation, 74, 81, 107, 137 lynching, 70–­71, 75 “Lyrics of Fury” (track), 113 “Macarena, The” (track), 116, 229 Malcolm X, 24, 145, 149, 155 “Ma Lettre au President” (track), 26 Mani Peterson, 139, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146–­53, 155–­59, 160, 163, 244 Manu, Mac, 151, 152, 153 MAP, 21, 24 Marché Noir (Black Market), 13, 14, 139–­63, 260–­61n2 Marius No.1, 175 “Marseillaise, La” (song), 8, 27 Maske (album), 86 mbila, 104 McCarthy, Gary. See GMC McCauley, James, 123 “Mein Block” (track), 61 Mel, Melle, 96, 97, 100, 107, 114, 115, 117 memory, 11, 155, 157; of slavery, 98; social memory, 144, 156 “Memphis Blues” (song), 80 Menace II Society (film), 139, 144, 150, 158, 260n1 “Me So Horny” (track), 124 “Message, The” (track), 97, 117, 125 metaphor: blues metaphor, 178; of color, 19; décalage metaphor, 77; German phallic slang metaphor, 88; mix metaphors, 36, 169, 227–­29; photos act as, 75; postcolonial metaphor, 132, 134; sexualized metaphors, 123. See also hip hop metaphysical etymology, 197, 210, 211, 212, 214, 215 Method Man, 30 M.I.A. (Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam), 13, 17, 95, 96, 99, 100–­138, 171, 187, 205, 220,

Index  291 228, 229, 240, 244. See also authenticity; postcolonialism; terrorism: terrorist chic Miami Bass, 123, 124, 136 Mickey Gatch, 236, 237, 238, 239, 240, 242, 243 Mikey Fingers, 234, 243 Minaj, Nicki, 95 Ministère des Affaires Populaires (Ministry of  Popular Affaires). See MAP misogyny, 7, 13; and lyrics, 86, 123 Mitchell, Tony, 94, 95 mixité, 36, 39, 53, 54 Modernism, 74, 166, 185 “Momma Said Knock You Out” (track), 120, 124 Monsieur R, 87 Moorish, 195, 203 Morville, Didier. See Star,  Joey Mos Def, 231, 233. See also Bey, Yasiin Moten, Fred, 10, 196, 213, 221, 225, 247n22 Ms. Dynamite, 102–­3 MTV, 57, 59 multiculturalism, 11, 33, 51; and capitalism, 17; and identity, 32 MuRli, 235 musicology, 10, 16, 31, 33, 79, 137, 161, 247n19, 260n59 My Fair Lady (film), 109 My Name is John, 235 mysticism, 234; biblical mysticism, 195; Indian mysticism, 260n54; precolonial mysticism, 198 myths: African myths, 186; Afro-­Cuban myths, 183; black soul myths, 183; European myths, 183; martial arts, 229 Nation of Islam, 155 Natural Zion High, 30 Nawaz, Aki, 101 Nazism, 25, 64, 87, 248n2 Neger, 65, 68, 71, 254n15 Neger Neger (album), 75, 76, 89

“Neger Neger” (track), 71, 72 Négritude, 67 Negro, 41, 53, 65, 74, 78, 87, 107, 110, 139, 144, 149, 153, 224, 225, 252n34. See also United States neocolonialism, 5, 24, 40, 41, 206, 226. See also colonialism; United States New Flesh, 14, 167–­69, 171, 177, 180, 183–­86, 190–­93. See also Juice Aleem New Orleans, 12, 34, 39, 43, 46, 201, 251n21 New World, 39, 72, 101, 111, 120, 188, 201; blacks, 94, 100, 106; musical cultures, 99, 135, 171 nigga(z), 65, 68, 79, 214 nigger, 59, 65, 67, 87 Nina Simone Sings Duke Ellington (album), 38 Ninja Tune/Big Dada, 177, 195, 197 “No Church in the Wild” (track), 7 “Not Yet Free” (track), 67 Nous sommes le Sixième République (We are the Sixth Republic) (album), 25 NTM, 20–­21 NWA, 204 Obama, Barack, 13, 82, 90–­91, 257n17 O’Brien,  Jonathan, 102–­3, 105 O-­Dog, 139, 144, 260n1 Offensive Records, 144, 158 Of Grammatology, 211–­12 “Of the Sorrow Songs,” 53, 54, 74, 213 Omar, King, 160. See also Sidi-­O Onyx, 170 Pabón, Rico, 244 Paganini, Nicolo, 183–­84 Paris, 1, 8, 9, 11–­16, 19–­33, 34, 39, 43, 46, 50, 56–­61, 64, 69, 139–­50, 152, 155, 157, 159–­63, 168, 172, 176, 227, 245n1, 246n5, 249n3, 258n16. See also riots; Sefyu Part 2, 180, 183 Philippines, 239; Irish missionaries in the Philippines, 135; Philippine-­American War, 36, 239

292  Index Piaf, Édith, 49 Pitfall, 112, 115, 129 Pizko, 21, 22, 23, 24, 33, 156, 244 Place Congo (Congo Square), 39–­40 political consciousness, 1, 4, 6, 7, 37–­38 political Right, 28, 163 popular music, 42, 54, 59, 60, 79, 80, 81, 84, 100, 105, 124, 145, 169, 213, 228, 232 postcolonialism, 4–­6, 40, 209; aesthetics, 187; Caribbean, 46, 170; communities, 3, 159; consciousness, 41, 46; cosmopolitanism, 169; discourses, 73, 110, 115, 243; hybridity, 12; Irish postcolonial hip hop, 239; migra­­ tion, 94; modernity, 153, 154; music, 96, 154; nations, 4, 50, 156; paradoxes, 5, 228–­ 29; postcolonial studies, 3, 15, 40, 226–­43; postcolonial youth, 22. See also colonialism; United States poststructuralism, 10, 182, 195, 212. See also black poststructuralism; structuralism Potter, Russell A., 73, 89, 94 Powell, Enoch, 101 Premiere, 159 Présence Africaine, 29 Presley, Elvis, 60 Prévos, André, 21, 58, 245n1 Propa-­Ghandi, 101 protest music, 7 Psy, 229 Public Enemy, 70, 107, 113, 137, 154 “Pull Up the People” (track), 111–­15, 129 Q-­Tip, 233, 238 Quantizers, 160 quantum physics, 221, 223, 224 Queen, 229 Qui suis-­je? (Who am I?) (album), 44, 45, 249n3 rabbit holes, 36, 41–­42, 243 race: African American racial politics, 78; dia­­ lectics of, 12, 64; ideology of, 6, 95; marginalization, 77, 99; mixed-­race, 49, 50;

otherness, 71, 87; supremacist racial ideology, 75; tensions, 29 race records, 84 racism, 16, 20–­22, 25–­29, 35, 50–­51, 66–­69, 73, 78, 87–­95, 110, 145, 147, 203, 227, 239; Afri­ can American experience of, 67, 68, 70; anti­ black racism, 67, 78; antiracism, 19, 50, 78, 101, 107, 204, 216; antiracism of  Black Power, 101; antiracist coalition, 101; contemporary metropolitan racism, 203; mock-­racist hook, 66; Nazi racism, 87; populist racism, 101; racist imperialism, 113; racist nursery rhyme, 67; realities of, 11; structural racism, 5, 8, 97, 153–­54, 239; white supremacy, 154, 239, 243. See also colonialism; FN; postcolo­ nialism; riots; SOS-­Racisme Radano, Ronald, 58, 74, 81, 87, 96, 107, 137, 184 Radio Plurielle, 139, 148, 157, 159, 160 Rakas, Los, 244 Rakim, 113, 176, 231, 233 R&B, 134, 159 R&B/Hip-­Hop, 175, 258n26 rap: African American rap, 100, 121, 155; Afro­­ centric rap, 66; def rapper, 15; in French, 30, 33, 34, 47, 87, 159, 160; gangsta rap, 7, 73, 140, 143, 156, 170, 175, 204; garage rap, 169, 170; in German, 57, 59, 61, 64, 75, 77, 85–­87, 94, 172; girl-­rapper, 105, 121; hooded rapper, 120; in Irish, 234; Japanese rappers, 100; luxury rap, 7; New York rap, 70; porno-­ rap, 86; Rap Populaire Festif, 21; in Span­­ ish, 23. See also Berlin; Juice Aleem; London; M.I.A.; Paris Rascal, Dizzee, 171, 174 Ras L’Front (Fed Up with the Front), 19, 21, 22, 25 Rastafari culture, 107, 188, 207, 209; Jamaican Rasta, 202; Rasta voice, 215 Rebel County, 238. See also Cork “Recessional” (poem), 238 reggae, 46, 100, 124, 179, 201, 207 “Rendez-­vous de la Liberté,” 20

Index  293 rhythmic heartbeat, 36. See also heartbeat rhythm Rice, Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy,” 184 Richard X, 127 riots, 19, 22, 25, 27, 57, 102; Brixton Riot, 97–­ 97; race riots (anti-­racist revolutions), 96. See also banlieues (suburbs); London; = Paris Rivera, Rocky (Eye A Sage), 244 rock-­and-­roll, 60 “Rock My Hologram” (track), 198, 218–­22 Rodney P, 176 Roll Deep Crew, 173 Roots Manuva, 15, 168, 172, 194, 197, 229 Rubber Bandits, 234 Rubicon, 127–­28 Rusangano Family, 244 sadomasochism, 119, 187, 230; imagery, 187. See also sexuality Said, Edward, 4, 17, 37, 40, 41, 53, 96, 226, 227, 231, 239 salsa, 46, 122 Sankofa, 227 Santana, Carlos, 23 Sarkozy, Nikolas, 11, 19, 25, 29, 147, 149, 150, 162 “Save the Hoodie” campaign, 121 ScaryÉire, 235 “Scratch Live” software, 159 secularism. See laïcité (secularism) Sefyu (Soukouna, Youssef ), 12, 25, 30, 34–­54, 81, 210, 217, 228, 229, 244, 253n43. See also “En noir et blanc” Senegal, 22, 25, 34, 43, 51, 52, 156. See also Sefyu Senghor, Léopold, 156 Serato, 159–­60 �evket, 57, 244. See also Chefket sexism, 13, 154 “Sex Machine” (track), 23 sexuality: bestial sexuality, 88; black and orientalist sexualities, 89; discourses around commercial black music, 96; explicit lyrics,

123; imagery of, 87, 130; machismo, 217; metaphor, 123, 131; sadomasochism, 119, 187; sexualized war imagery, 187; sexual predators, 73; violence, 87 shaker, 36, 62, 63, 111, 157 Shen, Kool, 21, 25 Shok Muzik, 82 Sidi-­O, 160–­63. See also Omar, King Sido, 59, 61, 66, 69, 70, 75, 77, 82, 86, 89 Simone, Nina, 34, 38, 39, 43, 44, 53, 54, 249n3, 251n20, 252n252 Sixth Republic, 25–­26, 29 Skalpel, 21, 22, 23, 24, 33 Skinny Man, 173 slavery: African slaves, 40; Afrodiasporic en­­ slavement, 209; colonial-­era slave trade, 5; global slave trade, 123, 200, 201, 251n22; master/slave dialectic, 42, 104, 203, 247n22; memory of slavery, 98; new slavery, 146, 151; New World slavery, 72; postslavery, 209; slave capitalism, 239; slave music, 178, 184, 214. See also colonialism; Enlightenment Slick Rick, 176 Smith, Bessie, 80 Snow, Rejjie, 235, 243 soft power, 56, 226 Solaar, 15, 20, 25 sonic rhetorics, 11, 196 SOS-­Racisme, 163. See also racism soul, 54, 99, 100, 135, 136, 137, 159, 174, 179, 183, 225 Soul Sessions (album), 174 Souls of Black Folk, The, 41, 53, 78 “Sound of da Police” (track), 197 South Asian Britons, 96, 98, 99, 101. See also United Kingdom South Bronx, 3, 47, 122 Sovereign, Lady, 121, 171 Specter, 89 Spekulativ Fiktion, 234, 243 Spiegel, Der, 59, 60, 61, 72, 90, 91 Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, 4, 15, 120, 213, 252n39, 258n29, 259n45, 264n38

294  Index Sri Lanka, 13, 103, 104, 106, 108, 115, 116, 119, 128, 129, 130, 131, 134; ethnic civil war, 119; Tamil Tigers, 103, 129 Staples, Vince, 244 Star,  Joey, 21, 25 Star Wars (film), 205 stereotypes: African American racial stereo­ types, 68, 82; Afro-­German stereotypes, 65, 68; antiblack stereotypes, 66; B-­Tight’s catalog of, 70; deformed stereotypes, 106; gender stereotypes, 72; list of, 158; national stereotypes, 15; nineteenth-­century stereotypes, 73; racial stereotypes, 64, 68, 89 Stevie G, 232 “St. Louis Blues” (song), 80 Stone,  Joss, 174 “Straight Outta B.C.” (track), 194, 202, 204 Straight Outta Compton (album), 204 “Stranger in Paradise” (song), 240–­41, 243 Stravinsky, Igor, 183 Strayhorn, Billy, 38, 43 Street Fabulous, 44 Streets, The, 174 structuralism, 195, 198, 211, 212. See also poststructuralism Students Against Racism Festival, 25, 26. See also Festival Etudiant Contra le Racisme subcultures, 8, 169 subversive listening, 96, 107 “Sunshowers” (track), 93, 124, 126, 131, 134 Super Bowl, 228, 229 surdo drums, 116, 122 survivalist theory, 185 Swift, Dirty, 139, 141, 142, 159, 160, 244 symbolism, 36, 70; mythic symbolism, 182; poetic symbolism, 128 syncretism, 40, 108, 123, 124 Taïro, 160 Tarik, 139, 142, 159 Task Force, 171, 173 Temper-­Mental MissElayneous, 234, 243 “10 Dollar” (track), 124

“Ten Little Indians” (song), 67 Teroabar, 157 terrorism, 17, 102, 103, 107, 109, 110, 114, 119, 121, 125, 132–­34, 205, 236; Islamic terrorism, 109, 134; lyrical terrorist imagery, 103; racial terrorism, 247–­48n23; radicalized terrorist imagery, 100; terrorist chic, 13, 95, 102–­6, 114, 116, 118, 119, 121, 134, 136, 138, 228; violence and images of, 113. See also M.I.A. There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack, 93, 136 third world, 13, 96, 104, 106, 107, 110, 112, 113–­ 15, 119–­20, 125, 131–­33, 154, 258n28 Thuram, Lilian, 25, 50, 51 Tigrona, Deize, 122, 123 Timbaland, 117 Toastie Tailor, 180, 188–­92 Tony D (Muhamed Ayad), 13, 59, 60, 69, 70, 72, 73, 77, 82, 83–­84, 85, 87–­89, 229, 244 Totalschaden (totally screwed/destroyed) (album), 72, 73 trad-­tablism, 234 Tribe Called Quest, A, 125, 226, 229, 233, 247–­48n24 Troubles, The, 234, 238 2 Live Crew, 123–­24 Tyler the Creator, 335 Tzu, Jun, 234, 243 UKG (UK Garage), 170 UK hip hop, 14, 164–­94. See also hip hop Understanding (album), 171 Union Jack, 94, 97, 98, 106, 136 United Kingdom: black music, 176; surveillance culture, 124, 126. See also black British/Britons; hip hop; Juice Aleem; M.I.A.; urban/urban music United States, 3, 16, 25, 40, 46, 58, 60, 69, 78, 80, 90, 94, 99, 117, 147, 173, 180, 186, 187; Afro-­diasporic peoples in, 42; Great Seal of the, 220; in the late 1960s, 154; military intervention of, 190; transatlantic relationship with, 169; and War on Terror, 103, 113.

Index  295 See also Americanization, (African); black American music; colonialism; hip hop; gangsta; jazz; racism; rock-­and-­roll Universally Dirty (album), 14, 167, 177, 180, 193 Universal Music Group, 83 Universal Zulu Nation, 97 urban/urban music, 14, 61, 100–­103, 111, 124, 126, 162, 171, 174–­75, 178–­79, 195, 214, 256n51; as a politically correct alternative to black music, 174. See also Juice Aleem; United Kingdom verlan, 17, 52, 253n44 victimhood, 70 Village, The (film), 148–­49 Vingt-­Quatre Heures (Twenty-­four Hours) Studio, 159 violence: aesthetic of, 114; against migrant communities, 100; anticolonial nonviolence, 223; authenticates the, 61; fantasy of, 87; glorifying violence, 7; imagery of, 126; lyrics of, 88, 170; metaphors of, 113; physical, 132; postcolonial, 132; promotional materials of, 85; sexuality of, 87; of writing, 198. See also gangsta; M.I.A. “Violence of the Letter, The” (essay), 211, 215, 252n39, 263n10 visual strategies, 71, 73, 104 “Vollblut Araber, Der” (the full-­blooded Arab), 59, 72 War on Terror, 103, 107, 109, 113, 114, 187, 190, 206 Washington, Booker T., 74, 166

Watch the Throne (album), 7 Werd, 65 West, Kanye, 7 Western: corporate culture, 133; ex-­colonial governments, 134; logocentrisms, 9, 199, 212, 252n39; metaphysics, 48, 212, 252n39; paradoxes of Western modernity, 4, 6, 212; paternalistic Western society, 109; universalism, 165 “Wherever We Go” (track), 14, 165–­93, 218 White, Frank. See Fler “White Man’s Burden, The” (poem), 6, 239 whiteness, 6, 42, 49, 81, 109, 137, 184, 225, 239, 242–­43 Who Am I?. See Qui suis-­je? “Who Is He?” (track), 217, 218 Wiley, 168, 172–­73, 197 Winner, Septimus, 67 Wira, 160 working-­class: ethnic Germans, 61; ideologies, 101; masculine working-­class authenticity, 31. See also identity World War I, 80, 238 World War II, 56 X, 181, 182, 191. See also symbolism xenophobia, 20, 29, 46, 180 Xiao Venom, 139, 141, 142, 143, 144–­60, 163 Young Phantom, 235 “Zehn Kleine Negerlein” (Ten Little Niggers) (song), 67 Zitty, 90, 91 Zuberi, Nabeel, 100–­102