Tradition in a Changing Society

By: William Whitehurst

Society has the tendency to go through cycles of changes based on people’s shared values, ideas, attitudes, and assumptions. These cycles of change come with the introduction of new laws, trends, and technologies. A time period can be analyzed by the things that a society holds at a high value. Before this fast-paced sharing of information and vast amounts of technology, people used to build relationships, whether business or personal, through face-to-face communication. The main things they valued included family and loyalty. Today, it is clear that technology and reputation are the two things that our society values the most. Computers, cell phones, and tablets rule the virtual world and make it easy to communicate over multiple platforms. Through these devices, coupled with social media, one is always represented online in some way, shape, or form. Social media has become the biggest platform for personal expression and it is has become all too easy to share personal information. With dozens of social media sites and even more devices, it has become a daily routine for one to post their day-to-day activities. The reason for sharing such personal information in abundance is trying to keep or build one’s own reputation, which is an attitude that is shared by many people. In fact, regardless if whether one is rich or poor, keeping one’s reputation is something that is universally valued. Jackie Siegel can certainly attest to this. Even when her family was going through a rough time, she would still try to keep up the appearance that nothing was wrong. She did this to keep her and her family’s reputation in tact (Queen of Versailles). Today’s society has a need for public gratification and acceptance, and will go through great lengths to achieve that.

The items I selected show us that people are becoming more introverted due to the many advancements in technologies. The steady decline of face-to-face communication is an unforeseen consequence of these new technologies. However, for the time being, the positives outweigh the negatives and technology keeps our society plugged into the outside world at all times. Though it seems that we are straying away from traditional ways of living and communicating, people still value certain practices and traditions. This is why the third item I choose is so different from the first two, yet just as important. As Cvetkovich states, “In insisting on the value of apparently marginal or ephemeral materials, the collectors of gay and lesbian archives propose that affects — associated with nostalgia, personal memory, fantasy, and trauma — make a document significant” (Cvetkovich 112). The meaningful message of this quote is to highlight the fact that anything that causes someone joy, pain, or any type of significant emotion, is deemed as a significant item. This is interesting because although we are all guilty of living in the moment and trying to stay up to date with everything that is relevant, we all as a society still tend to share some traditional values from time to time. We all have that one old, worn, or torn item that is special to us for our own reasons. I think that this is important for everyone in a society to have because it keeps one level-headed and down to earth, just like the Hershey bar did for David Siegel (Queen of Versailles). No matter how advanced the world becomes or how many times our society will change, there will always be an old childhood item that keeps a little tradition sprinkled into our ever-growing technological world.

 

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I chose this item because it is the door into the digital and virtual universe. A computer not only allow you to delve into the World Wide Web, but it also allows you to store any and all documents, music, movies, pictures, and files that you could ever need. This machine is one of the most important items that anyone could have in this day and age. Owning a computer has endless advantages and will give you access to mostly anything you want to find. This is important in a world where information is being created and processed at an exponential level. The main thing that choosing this item highlights is the fact that our society has an intense need for information and being up to date and in the know.

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Today, it has become almost impossible to find a person that does not have a cell phone. The reason for this is because land lines have become a thing of the past and the primary means of communication is through the use of a cellular device. This, in turn, tells us that people need a device that they can have with them at all times to stay in touch with the outside world. There is a massive epidemic of fear of missing out and it has effected a majority of the world.

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I chose this necklace because it is a very important item to me. It represents who I am and brings me back to my childhood every time I look at it. This necklace was given to me as a baby by my grandmother. I have cherished and taken care of this necklace for as long as I can remember. Every single person has such an item that brings them back to when they first received it or to whom it was that gave it to them. Society cherishes personal items that have meaning and place special value onto things that they feel are important to them. This is one of the very few things that has remained unchanged in our society. This is due to tradition and following in the footsteps of our elders.

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/

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How People of Different Social Classes Value Their Personal Items Differently By: Mitchell Pokrywa

How People of Different Social Classes Value Their Personal Items Differently
By: Mitchell Pokrywa

Each and every person has different values for different things, and it is evident when comparing people of different social classes just how different that margin of value is. Someone who is super rich values things differently than someone with not as much money would value certain possessions that they have.
When watching The Queen of Versailles this became evident to me with the interviews they had with the family, as well as the interviews they had with the nanny. During the interviews with the family you can tell how distraught they really feel about being under pressure of losing their dream home and having to cut back on the things they have. However, it was obvious to me and I think anyone else watching that even with the cutbacks they had to do they were still able to live more than comfortably and they had no real reason to feel so distraught about the situation they were in. The only reason they felt distraught was because they didn’t want their social standing to come into question and were greedy in the fact that they wanted to keep living they way they were before (The Queen of Versailles).

However, when they interviewed the nanny about how she moved some of her things into the kid’s playhouse, she explained how her family never had owned a home and having this space was special to her because it was her idea or symbolism of her own home, and she was brought to tears when explaining that story (The Queen of Versailles). The point I am trying to make is that despite the problems the family was going through, they still had more then everything they could have ever needed, but they were acting like they were in crisis. The nanny was more appreciative of the small things she had and what those things meant to her. The difference between their value of each other’s belongings was evident in the way each person discussed what things mattered to them.
bag
This is my punching bag and to me it is more than just a punching bag. It is my release. After I have a long day or a bad day, this is where I escape. To me it means I can put everything else aside and focus my energy and clear my mind. I value this item a lot and it helps me get through a lot of things.
tv
This is my television, and it is also very valued by me. I use it all the time and without one I would feel like I was missing out on a lot of things. I feel like this is a necessary item to have and is very useful to obtain knowledge and information.
dog
This is my dog and he is very important to me. I value my dog as a member of my family and treat him as such. He is a loyal companion and he means a lot to me. I would never do anything to harm or hurt him. He serves as an important part of our family.

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit:https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/

Damon Albarn: Steps Through Music, among Faith

Damon Albarn - Lonely Press Play

 

Damon Albarn – Lonely Press Play

          The 30 minutes culture show from BBC  aired a special episode in dedication to Blur’s front man, Damon Albarn. The documentary chronicles Albarn’s musical life, depicting his childhood days and memories through his growth in music until when he felt it would be necessary to release a solo recording. This was ahead of his upcoming solo LP, which was to be released in April 2014. Albarn is famous for performing with Blur and other famous collaborators around Britain. His decision to release his first solo was confirmed via twitter, which stated, New @DamonAlbarn album #EverydayRobots out 28 April. Title track video Everyday Robots premieres tomorrow (BBC.UK)” Albarn has been a household name in America and Britain, and his proficient skills in writing music, singing, and music production have enabled him to withstand the test of time, associated with the changing times in the entertainment industry. In Albarn’s interview, we realize the transformation and growth in his music. The interviewer’s first solo album will take his fans back to the beginning of his 25-year oldcareer to where he is today.

BBC Culture Show: Damon Albarn

 

Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn

Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn

          Born and raised in East London, Albarn attended Stanway Comprehensive School. Albarns’ music career began while in school. With Graham Coxon, they formed Blur, which has grown to be one of the most popular group bands all around the world. In one of his interviews through the Quietus, Albarn takes us back to his early life at Leytonstones (Rogers). Having discovered his talent in an era when many perceived music as a form of entertainment art and not as a life career, Albarn could motivate many people into enjoying music. Albarn was able to bring in a different feel of music in the entertainment industry. Through his band, he could revolutionize the music industry, and bring in a new wave of music in the sector. In 1991, Blur experienced a breakthrough in its music (Harris). Even though the audience received the music with mixed reactions, their debut album Leisure was also a favorite for Albarn. This is evident when he sings a line of his songs from the same album Half my road was now a motorway” (Ringen). Another essential economic aspect of Albarn’s musical career is that he transformed the perception of music as an art into a reliable income-generating source.

The cultural context of Albarn’s interview depicts a society that has moved from a reserved era, where music was preserved as entertainment for the rich, to an era where many openly accepted it, not just as entertainment but also as a career. In the interview, Albarn depicts the cultural situation of the community around him. It is evident that he lived in a friendly society as one of his neighbors positively identifies him from his humble background. Albarn remembers his previous tours in Africa, and the experiences he underwent while touring. Consequently, Albarn admits the financial difficulties he underwent in the early years of his career. He states that the new solo record will incorporate all these experiences in one. In his own words, he states that the new album will set people on different themes of different times explored since the beginning of his career. Consequently, his song ‘Hollow Ponds’ has been described as dramatic because of his decision to sing about the changes experienced in the landscape. He admits that, unlike most musicians of his time singing similar genres, he chooses to sing about a different aspect of life. For instance, he avoids Highway themed songs, which tend to be similar for most musicians.

 

 The documentary allows the audience to relate with Albarn’s life in different perspectives. His patience to nurture his band and collaborations with other bands is also depicted in the film. His influence amongst various populations is remarkable. And Albarn’s ability to incorporate the influence of his family into his music brings out a man who is passionate of his family and proud of his roots. He openly admits his dad’s influence to his life. His relations with his neighbors around his neighborhood is also revealed via the BBC clip, whereby his neighbor openly wishes him good luck after reminding him of previous encounters in life with his former home. Albarn emerges as a person of strong emotions, who can relate with the events of his life.

Albarn’s songs are evidently influenced by his love life, past, environment, and family amongst other elements. For instance, in the documentary during his interview, Albarn openly admits that some lyrics in his song like “I do love you, but it’s just a fact that the history….than you know“, directly talk to particular people (Rogers). His successful works with Blur include a number of successful projects such as The Bad and The Queen album. His collaborations in Mali were also successful. With his band, he performed for a Hyde Park Show in 2012, which coincided with the year’s Olympics. In the same year, the band received a Brit award for their outstanding contribution in today’s music world.

The documentary on Albarn offers an eye opening session for other upcoming musicians and individuals in the society. Through his talent, Albarn has been able to succeed in a path where others feared to tread. His contribution to the music fraternity and ability to nurture different bands in music is also remarkable. By listening to the documentary, any upcoming artist who wishes to make it in the music world would be equally successful. One his most famous songs, The Universal, depict the visions Albarn had for the music industry and the world at large. In his interview, Albarn describes a generation in which he envisions universal free satellites in every home (Ringen). Besides his growth, he was keen to inspire other musicians and group bands in other regions. For instance, the growth of The Gorillaz in America implies that Albarn’s music influences different groups of people throughout the world. In my view, I am supportive of his decision to produce a solo record. This way, Albarn will also display his talent to the world, and future generations would relate with his music even better.

The Gorillaz

 

His quality of music has significantly affected the lives of many. Despite being successful in the musical realm, Albarn has proved to the world that, through their success, they can create a positive impact in the lives of others in society. Furthermore, this quality traverses down his family members, as he openly acknowledges that they also work in collaboration with various organizations in Africa. This inspired him to visit the continent, probably to allow him give back to the society. It is without a doubt that the success of a man is not measured by how wealthy a man is, but by his ability to transform and inspire the lives of those around him. Albarn has fulfilled these essential aspects of his life, and it is time he also concentrates on his personal growth through his solo album.

Before I started my research on Damon Albarn, I was thinking about write this blog post about English rock band Oasis; while I typed in “Oasis band” in search bar, band Blur popped up. Since Damon Albarn is going to release his solo on April 28th, I decided to do some research on his current news and how do his life events connect to his new songs. Damon Albarn is also the frequently  artist I listen to, no matter which songs I erase from my ipod, I definitely keep Damon and his band’s music. I can always find songs from Damon to fit my mood, because of the various rhyme of  his works. “I became record where I was singing about very much about my own experiences,[…] you know,[…] how do we really exist[…]?” Damon Albarn said in the film. This newest solo is about Damon, about his music, about his life; one scene from the film, Damon walked to the woods and said:” I had to find a tree…it’s a really old tree[…]; I used to bury things underneath it.” Same in his new LP, the album is like a story book of his life and memories and feelings, like the Mentos he hided under the tree, they are old, but they are sweet.

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How the Beatles won the West

By: Nick Sherm

In 1964 during the height of the “beatlemania” in the world, a film titled A hard days night was released starring the Beatles. It was a black and white comedy film that was directed by Richard Lester who also is known for such works as Superman 2 and 3 as well as Butch and Sundance: the Early days. The film a Hard days night portrayed a few days into the lives of the Beatles themselves, which instantly became the most fascinating thing in the world to the fans of these artists.  Being one of the first inside look films made of its kind, this movie gave people the experience of “hanging out” with the beatles and seeing what they actually do in their time not making great music.  

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In the movie the Beatles are going to another city in England to make it to a tv show, They are instantly rushed up to by a group of crazed fans they must escape from.  This showed how the Beatles were treated in real life, huge celebrities. Everyone loved the Beatles back then, especially after their american tour in 1964 where an estimated four thousand Beatles fans were present to greet them when the plane landed and two times that at the concert its self.  

This movie gave a comedic, fun and cool view to how the bands crazy lives and schedules paned out when they had to do them.  Very goofy and interesting I’m sure every time.  The Beatles were the most popular band in the world at the time and possibly still are.  With 1.6 billion singles sold in the U.S alone, 600 million albums sold world wide, and countless number one hits they have a good argument to go toe to toe with anyone they want.  Dominating the entertainment industry as a group for over 10 years and individually after the break up for over 30.

In my opinion the Beatles are one of the best bands ever made, this is a popular opinion obviously but the way i see it they were the pioneers of many processes in the album creating process introducing new sound elements to each of their albums thus redefining their own style each time. This was a we don’t want to make the same thing twice mentality that true artists strive to do. From first to last Please Please Be, to Let it be 1963 to 1970, they always managed to keep the fans interested with their change. Making music at a rate of about 2 albums a year you can really tell that was their passion.

During the week of April 4, 1964, The Beatles occupied the top five positions on the Bilboard Hot 100 singles chart. The top 2 positions on the albums chart, the number 1 position in the British singles chart, the first two positions in the British albums chart and the number 1 position in the British EP chart,  the most complete domination of the British and American charts in history. Today, you’re lucky to have one top 10 album and single at the same time. This was the kind of power the band had, no one else could do this.

Another thing the Beatles pioneered was stadium concerts and mass entertainment that way.  The Beatles were highly successful in selling out their early concerts in 1963, 1964 and 1965 they were only playing shows booked in auditoriums, theaters and amphitheaters that seated anywhere between 1000 and 10,000 ticket holders imagine how much it would cost to see Kanye West or Jay z in an a small theater. The Beatles took popularity over as fast as they took the charts.  

The bands break up is as much of a story as their career its self. Of the 4 members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison. Many McCartney acknowledged that The Beatles had effectively disbanded in a November 1969 interview conducted by Life magazine. At the beginning of 1970 McCartney Harrison and Starr briefly joined to complete recordings for the final album Let it Be.  It is said that John Lennon who is arguable the most popular or the band members aside from Paul McCartney was the reason for the bands break up and his wife Yoko Ono.

The reason i chose this film was because obviously the beatles are one of my favorite bands.  The film is funny and its great to see the band together in the height of their popularity. It gives you a sense of nostalgia even watching it thinking about what was in the future for the guys so early into their creative process.  The beatles will forever be one of the most amazing bands of all time, everything starts somewhere and that just happened to have been England

“Almost Famous” Analysis

Music, as we have been studying all semester, has the power to transcend boundaries and to give shape and meaning to human existence. A few songs come to mind: “We Are The World,” which was played in class and was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie in 1985 to help raise funds to fight famine in Africa, Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer,” which is a song of hope and struggle, Sylvia Robinson’s “Pillow Talk,” a song which Alice Echols asserts was seminal in women’s sexual liberation, or Nirvana’s “It Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which profoundly captures youthful angst in the 1990s are all powerful examples of how music is more than just the sum of notes and spaces. In other words, music is bigger than the music. Many insights about society and politics can be revealed if one approaches the study of music from a cultural perspective.

Cameron’s Crow movie “Almost Famous,” which he both wrote and directed is first and foremost an homage to rock “n” roll. But that is just one way to appreciate the film. Another way is to examine the social and cultural forces that helped shape the music of the era. The movie is loosely biographical and looks back at Crowe’s early career as a teenage music journalist. The movie is a coming of age story centered around 15-year old William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit), and his unlikely rise from high school nerd to a rock “n” roll journalist for Rolling Stone magazine. We meet the famous rock critic Lester Bangs (played by the late, inimitable Philip Seymour Hoffman) who raves for purity and truth in rock and disdains the fact that rock has become an “industry of cool.” Bangs advises Miller to make his journalistic reputation as one who is “honest and unmerciful.” Bangs later gives Miller a $35 assignment to write a review on the band “Black Sabbath.”

“Almost Famous,” although showcasing real musical groups of the 1960s and 1970s, focuses on a fictional rock band called “Stillwater.” What Crowe has done in the movie is to juxtapose real and fictional characters in order to give us a sense of the time and age. Early on in the movie, we are introduced to William Miller’s mother (played by Frances McDormand) who may be representative of the conservative establishment and antiquated parental fears about the dangers of rock “n” roll and/or popular music. At one point, she rails against the evils of popular music and says “They’re obviously on drugs,” as she points to the clean-cut figures of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel on an album cover. In a way, Miller’s mother embodies the fears that conservative Americans in the 1960s and 1970s harbored about the putative corrupting influence of rock music. At one point in the movie, Mrs. Miller drops William off at a concert and then yells to him, “Don’t take drugs!,” an embarrassing comment that elicited peals of laughter from other concert-goers and a sarcastic “Yes, mother” comment from a disembodied voice.

“Almost Famous” does not look at a specific musical era in particular, but loosely follows musical groups from the 1960s through the 1970s. This was a period of tremendous social change, including –but not limited to- the sexual revolution. It was a period of challenging established traditional notions of sex and behavior, and admitting that -gasp!- women too had sexual needs and actually enjoyed sex. This liberalization in sexual attitudes, in which petting and premarital sex were considered acceptable, is evident in the movie. A number of groupies, who would rather call themselves “Band-Aids,” led by Penny Lane (played by Kate Hudson) reflect this liberalization in attitudes. These girls have no qualms performing oral sex on band members, and although they claim that is the limit of the promiscuity, later events in the movie tell a different story.

“Almost Famous” also lends credence to Rojek’s observation that listening to music in today’s age has become “deterritorialized.” Today, the majority of people consume music or listen to music using an iPhone or some personal mp3 player or some other personal technology. In other words, the public spaces in which people consumed music in the 1960s and 1970s has gradually diminished and been eliminated to the point where we listen to music today in a form of digital obscurity (a person and the personal technology they use to consume music). The experience of listening to music in the period depicted in “Almost Famous” is drastically different today. It is possible to imagine William Miller or Lester bangs going to a record store to obtain a popular new record. The whole visual experience (the art work on the album cover plus the illustrations) and tactile experience (the feel, touch and smell of the new record) is non-existent today compared to that era. Today, the ease of downloading music directly has diminished the totality of somatic experience in consuming music.

Although Crowe does not delve too much into period detail, he does give a fair and balanced treatment of rock “n” roll without bias. The movies gives us a sense of the excitement and change and hope of the 1960s. If anything, New York Times film critic A. O. Scott writes that Crowe succeeds by “evoking the joyful, reckless, earnest energy of rock in the years between 60’s idealism and punk nihilism.” There is fair amount of recklessness in the movie exemplified by the leading member of “Stillwater,” Russell Hammond (played by Billy Crudup), jumping off the roof of a building while screaming out, “I’m on drugs.” In keeping consistent with the emerging drug culture of the 1960s and 1970s, Almost Famous depicts generous use of drugs like LSD, Quaaludes, marijuana, and plenty alcohol. The frenetic energy of the period is also reflected in the wild parties and kinetic concerts.

I chose “Almost Famous” for one simple reason: the music was just too good. In fact, the first time I watched Crowe’s film, I wasn’t sure if I was watching a movie or listening to a movie. It is a veritable smorgasbord of good, scratch that, great rock “n” roll music. Some gems that come to mind include Led Zeppelin’s “That’s The Way” and “Tangerine,” Deep Purple’s “Burn,” Lou Reed’s “I’m Waiting for the Man,” Joni Mitchell’s “River,” Cat Stevens’s “The Wind,” Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child.” Another reason to love “Almost Famous” besides the music, is Philip Seymour Hoffman’s role as Lester Bangs. Hoffman, one of the greatest, underappreciated actors of our age shows a sliver of his brilliance, as he completely inhabits the world of Lester Bangs, passionate rock critic extraordinaire.

If I were to further research this movie, I’d probably want to delve more deeply into the specific politics and economic climate of the era. Music is not produced in a vacuum, but is rather a product of the culture and climate of the time. It would be interesting to see if one could draw direct connections between particular social or political events with the creation or expression of a particular of of music or song. It would be insightful to research the history of specific groups like Led Zeppelin to study the development of the creative process and how it is influenced by culture and politics.

 

 

 

Living On: Tupac Shakur

Tupac Resurrection’s Documentary focused on how Tupac expressed himself through his music as well as his acting career. He grew up being the child of two Black Panther activists and a drug dealing step dad. He saw the Black struggle since he was part of the black struggle. Most of his music revolved around portraying the everyday injustices that were being inflicted on African Americans, whether or not it was being inflicted on him. He was a strong believer of the African American community and wanted and succeeded in representing them in the music industry. He told stories within his rhymes of what he witnessed hanging around drug dealers and criminals when he was growing up. They were his role models; they helped him stay out of trouble while he chased more beneficial opportunities in rapping and acting.

He knew that despite the Civil Rights movement that African Americans were still dealing with injustice. He used his “thug life” concept in his music to relate to those who are going through the turmoil’s of poverty and living a dangerous lifestyle. Although Tupac was aware that his music also influenced other kids that did not relate, he nonetheless wanted to because it seemed to be a trend. He had his own concept of what would reach the African American culture and what should be displayed to the rest of America. He wanted to expose the tragic lives that most media was not willing to show. He may have not been the creator of thug culture; sexism, criminals but he promoted some of it in his music. Yet he did it in a way in which showed all of the dynamics in American culture.

Tupac was exposed to both an educated and privileged lifestyle while going to school in Baltimore and living in poor urban neighborhood. He wrote poetry, acted, rapped and performed for a variety of different things. His career towards the heart of rap culture; he was becoming one of the most influential rappers of his time. However rap was still under the hot seat by many people who believed it to be negative, derogatory, violent and offensive to women. American culture was still trying to hold to old values and political conservatism. There was always well known figures whether they be politicians or activists who publicly opposed not only his lyrics but his entire image. That’s what most Americans were afraid of, afraid of glamorizing a dangerous lifestyle. Afraid of the freedom that came with Black expression in the arts.

I have learned that music can take on a life of its own. The more Tupac wrote about gangster life, the more his life became that. He stated in the documentary that he saw more of the police while he was rapping than when he wasn’t, even though he was in or around the ghetto. People did not know how to react to the brutal honesty that he was portraying in his music. He didn’t want to censor who he was or where he came from. What he wrote about was realistic and was meant to be relatable. He did it for his own people, the only way he knew he could reach them. However his reach spread farther than the African American community, it spread to all of America. He had fans of every race and religion and they were all waiting on his next move.

Many thought of him as a leader, someone who could guide them through the everyday ordeals. He was promoting a new resistance to the black oppression and people were not ready for that. But no could deny that Tupac had an undeniable aura of Black power. He took things into his own hands and became master of his own destiny. Rap and Hip Hop was brought to the forefront of American politics. When he was killed, there was plenty of people questioning why he died. A blog I have come across called “Nikki Giovanni Speaks On The Domination Of Black Music & The “Assassination” Of 2 Pac” talked about the meaning of his death. She indeed viewed his death as an assassination of a political, economic and social movement. He created a movement through his music like no ever had for the African American people.

The Tupac Resurrection Film gave you both sides of the story. What the media portrayed and what he was trying to portray. I believe that this documentary was a fair view of Tupac’s career and life because it showed both the pits and falls and successes of his actions. It told you the whole story from the character himself but also what everyone else thought. It displayed interviews of enemies and close friends but more importantly, his interviews. He explained how he felt about everything; he spoke of what he believed to be true. That’s what fans loved about him the most, that we was true to himself regardless of his stature. I would say fame didn’t change him but it did, he questioned his surroundings more than ever and where he was going. The film showed him growing up in poverty, his search for happiness in acting and rapping, and his struggle to prevail over racism, his time in jail, and his power in and outside of his rapping career.

Interestingly enough, its 2014 and people still speak of Tupac as if he’s still alive and that’s because he is. Tupac found a way to stay alive through his music. The youth today still listens to his albums and still talk about how prominent his message was. He still touches hearts and souls today. How many artists can you say about that to this day? He is not in the past, he is in the present and we will be seeing him in the future as well. Tupac is still relevant to people today, 18 years after his death. He lives on because people want his dream to live on, nor do they want his death be in vain. I did not know much about Tupac until watching this documentary, which is why I chose to talk about him. I knew people loved but I never understood why. I thought he was a typical rapper just like the mainstream rappers today but I was wrong. He was much more than just a rapper; he was an activist, leader and inspiration across the nation.

However I found it intriguing knowing that Tupac was raised by Black Panther activists who influenced his movement more than anything else. They wanted better lives for African Americans but they also fought their own demons. His mother became a crack addict and Tupac became involved in criminal activity, everything that they did into want to happen, happened. Tupac embraced this disadvantageous lifestyle, knowing that it would only bring harm. I would have like to know why that is, why chose to live a lifestyle he didn’t have to? Did he choose this lifestyle or did it choose him? Of course, just like any other human being he was flawed but his actions were contradicting what most African Americans wanted. They did not want to be a stereotype. Did Tupac really have a plan? What was it?

The Colonel D.S. “Nikki Giovanni Speaks On The Domination Of Black Music & The “Assassination” Of 2 Pac” Web log post. http://truthabouttupac.com. 4 Jan. 2014

Original Rap Culture Identity

Jeremy Potiha

Film Response Blog Assignment

 

                  Rap music at its core art form is one of the most powerful self-expressing forms of Music that people can be exposed to and this idea is depicted in the film 8 mile starring the rapper Eminem or Marshall Mathers. The film focuses on the hardships of a minimum wage blue collar work life and its effects on a person’s mentality striving/influencing them to create a more suitable or comfortable lifestyle. The rapper Eminem faces an interesting dilemma past the fact of blue collar work and that dilemma is him being a white rapper trying to succeed in the Rap genre which started as an expression for urban black males to express their masculinity and handling of important issues dealing with race. This fact of the rap genre makes it increasingly difficult for the white rapper Eminem to not only strive but at the very least maintain a level of respect with his rap counterparts/colleagues. Through the underground rap scene in 1995 and its fundamental/core elements that Mohammed describes in his article “A coming of Age” of rapping, break dancing, graffiti and the DJ Eminem tries to excel in this culture by proving he is capable of mastering the African American art music genre of Rap and Hip Hop. Eminem embodies the old school rap qualities depicted in 8 mile and allows these qualities to influence and define himself into creating a person he is comfortable with. The use of “old school” rap and its qualities help the expansion of Rap as well as being a template for the growth of certain individuals who allow the influence of Music to go beyond the eardrums into the heart.

                  The film focuses itself in a poor urban/ghetto Detroit neighborhood in 1995 at the time when Rap was booming based on its core elements described in the Muhammad article mentioned earlier. The film depicts the rappers hardships (especially a white rapper) successfully rising through the rap cultures basic elements which in this film most vividly depict the fundamental aspect of “battle rapping” one of the earliest forms of Rap in the Hip Hop culture. Through battle rapping one was able to rap against another rapper and establish his “dominance” over the other rapper and creating legitimacy for themselves amongst the Rap scene. The film depicts a time of the Rap culture being extremely fresh and new before O’Shea article mentions of the “Graying of Hip hop” and its old icons looking for new ways to re-invent themselves through modern technologies. Eminem as a battle rapper does not have this luxury and must do things in an “old fashion” such as signing himself up to perform on stage as a battle rapper or selling hard copy CDs from his trunk to help establish his legitimacy in the rap culture. Before the Napster/Pandora phenomenon mentioned in the Pareles article, rappers had to self-promote themselves and constantly put themselves out in the culture to gain exposure. They did not have the comfort of Internet assistance and therefore faced many hardships of achieving glory/fame through Rap music as seen in 8 mile.

                  The film moves away from this phenomenon of new age rap promotion and control and relates back to the era of fundamental Hip hop which illustrated the hardships of the culture and how to move forward through the crisis faced by the people. As Kanye West speaks of in the Muhammad article “I’m a professional musician because I have the structure of Universal Records. I’m a professional creative,” he continued, “I’ve never been allowed to be in a continually creative structured place that makes product. I’ve had meetings where a guy actually told me, ‘What we’re trying to figure out is how we can control you.’ This is a rap dilemma of the Common Era extremely different than that of what is depicted in 8 mile. 8 mile focuses on a style of rap based on free form of self-expression and sincerity as opposed to what Rap has become today through the record companies control of the art form. Rappers here were not focused on generating income but rather focused on being accepted culturally by their peers through a rap style “battle rap” that portrays a rappers genuine thoughts/ideas. Eminem raps of his life hardships in the 8 mile battles and his hopes of achieving success through the culture as opposed to promoting a certain type of “rap lifestyle” to negatively affect youth and people in general. 8 mile is based on the “old school” form of Hip Hop focused on its roots and core principles of genuine self-expression which was the basis of appealing to the masses and generating Hip hop as a true and respectable art form.

                  In the 2pac song of “Old School” we are exposed to these thoughts of fundamental Rap/Hip Hop and its genuine nature allowing Rap to excel. The hook has lyrics of “What more could I say? I wouldn’t be here today. If the Old school didn’t pave the way” The old school that Tupac speaks about is the Rap scene depicted in the 8 mile film of its core/fundamental roots and values. The battle rap and its help of allowing for self-expression and genuine emotion allow for the Rap/Hip Hop scene to grow and expand into the force it is in the modern world. However, without being exposed to the roots of Hip Hop or the “Old School” rappers would not achieve the same respect and praise or be able to express their ideas to a mass audience. “I’m on the train headin uptown, free styling, Me and my homies breakin nights, tryin to keep it true. Aint nothing like the old school”. 2pac describes and credits the old school Hip Hop roots of making him the rapper he was able to become as we also see with Eminem in 8 mile. The film depicts this reality of the “old school” almost flawlessly. Before the days of Internet downloading and Record company ownership/censorship of Rap existed as spoken of the articles mentioned earlier this form of “old school” Rap scene in the film of “battle rap” and “freestyle” dominated the culture and was vital for a rapper to engage in to create and promote himself as being a genuine and real almost “mascot” of the culture.

                  In reference to our class discussions the film 8 mile shows the influence of Music and Rap in this case on an individual and the power that Music has “beyond the eardrum”. Music not only influences our ears, but impacts our mind, heart and soul. Eminem used Music/Rap far beyond the form of listening but embodied the culture within himself and how he carried himself. Rap music allowed Eminem to recreate himself into a person he was more comfortable with then the blue collar worker that previously represented his life. He allowed Rap music to travel through the eardrum into the soul and created an influence strong enough to alter his life and thoughts. Rap was a venue of self-expression as well as income for Eminem greatly expanding from just the enjoyment of listening. Music was the “red carpet” for Eminem and its influence allowed him to utilize the culture surrounding the music into his personal life creating a person that he could be proud of and represented the love of the Rap scene. In this case Music had the power to not only influence but to change a life adding happiness and fulfillment to an otherwise depressed individual. Without the role/influence of Music in 8 mile Eminem would almost be an unhappy robot going out daily life, with Music he is able to create himself into somebody he is comfortable with embodying the Rap culture. Music goes way beyond the eardrum and travels into the heart creating a power that can help change an individual completely if the individual allows the culture represented in the Music to have this effect. Eminem once exposed to the culture of the Rap scene the music went past his ears into something that defined him as a person and allowed him to pursue a life revolving around this Rap culture/scene.

                  As a White male growing up in a predominately Black neighborhood of Coney Island Brooklyn this film has a strong personal connection to my ideas/life. I was extremely influenced by the Rap scene/culture of raw self-expression and genuine emotion and it dictated my life. I used the form of Rap music depicted in 8 mile to help myself get through personal issues. If something such as family issues, or money/health problems came into my life I would use the “battle rap” culture to express my issues in a way that was still relevant to the Rap culture. This not only helped me forget about my issues but allowed people going through the same things to feel comfortable to do the same. Battle and freestyle rap are extremely effective ways of getting things off your chest in a manner that motivates you and the film depicts these realities throughout. Eminem on stage in his battle raps of his personal job dilemmas, being white in a Rap culture, family problems, etc in such ways that the crowd feeds off his energy which ultimately helps Eminem forget about the pain and focus on the satisfaction that Rap can have and the therapeutical aspect it possess. Rap is a powerful tool that can be used isolate you from issue to create a field that is willing to listen and help guide through the issues of the rapper. I have used Rap in my personal life to ease pain and Eminem does the same in 8 mile as well taking it a step further as turning himself into the embodiment of old school Rap and its culture ultimately defining himself through Rap and Hip Hop. This outlines the extreme influence Music can be in human life and provide people with comfort and expression of their lives.

                  To further research the topic I would dive into the Rappers from the old school or who embody the “old school” characteristics of self-expression, freestyle/battle rap and how these qualities in turn influenced their growth as musicians and people in the Rap scene. Rappers such as Eminem who allowed the Rap culture to define themselves have enjoyed great success through their embodiment of the 8 mile depicted Rap culture. I would follow rappers such as these and see if their use of the fundamental Hip hop qualities have made them more successful or comfortable as artists as opposed to the up and coming rappers who are less focuses on these qualities and instead on appeasing the record companies as witnessed in the “Coming of age” article written by Ashamed Muhammad who makes valid points on the current state of Hip Hop and its popularity. Perhaps the popularity that Hip hop has reached because of its appeal to the troubled person has destroyed its fundamental qualities that helped establish the genre? If the qualities of core Hip Hop such as DJ, rapping, etc have vanished can this still be considered “Hip Hop” or does it take on a new role/name? These are interesting questions that would help guide my future research about the current state and growth of Rap.

                  The film 8 mile is a great example of Chris Rojek point in his article of how “popular” Music can culturally shape and change a person with what we see with Eminem. 8 mile is a time before Music censorship of record companies in Rap and focuses on the raw 4 elements outlined by the reading of rap, DJ, graffiti, and break dance. Music becomes a lifestyle for Eminem extending past just “listening with your ears”. It travels to the heart. 8 mile takes many of the themes from Class/readings and apply it to the movie such as the Cultural War idea as a white rapper Eminem is falling into Black culture and moving away from the acceptable way of action of preserving the White race. Rap like early day disco was a way of African American emergence of free expression and battling political culture, which Eminem fully embraces as a White male ignoring cultural norm for the Music that gave him his identity.

 

Folk Magic

I have wandered aimlessly through the campus of Cook/Douglass and uncovered beautiful scenery, scenery consisting of vibrant backdrops and striking locations such as the “Kissing Bridge”, “Passion Puddle” and the architectural beauty known as Voorhees Chapel. All of these locations serve as campus and more specifically as Cook/Douglass landmarks. Yet, it is not sites that I wish to focus on (I could devote an entire blog to the most beautiful places to visit on campus) I instead, turn my attention to the opposite spectrum… anti-notoriety… places like a desolate field that I walked past one early Sunday morning. On this field there were no trees, no rocks, no benches of any sort… No. it was just a sprawling and monochromatically green field that spanned from the Eagleton Institute to the Loree computer lab. It was a lonely and depressingly uninhabited looking field and yet, there was much beauty in its simplicity.

The infamous Rutgers Day, a day of gathering with family and friends, rallying Rutgers pride, and acquiring free items took place on April 26th, 2014. And while people were enjoying the festivities on the College Avenue, Busch, and Livingston campuses, the jewel known as the New Jersey Folk Festival graced the presence of the Cook/Douglass campus. This year was the 40th anniversary of the NJ Folk Festival. I was drawn to attend by the promises of delicious food, great company, and entertainment; I was not disappointed.

A picture I took during the NJ Folk Festival

The “uninhabited” field

Remember that “uninhabited field?” Well I barely recognized it, seeing as it was now accompanied by the many tents and pedestrians adorning its existence. And flowing through the empty space were intervals of laughter which then intertwined with the melodic folk music thus generating a product of collectivity. People seemed refreshed by this rare environment. And the interactions with the vendors, many of whom were small business owners and sold wonderfully crafted vintage/heritage/handmade crafts, illustrated this. Everything from the music to the crafted items that were for sale, coincided with Pete Seeger’s song “If I had a Hammer,” because the song itself promoted self-reliance and the pride associated with building something with your own two hands. The folk festival was a much needed break from the oversaturated ‘pop music’ that shrieks over the radio or the mainstream rap that bleeds out of student’s headphones on the buses. I felt honored to have attended.

Memoirs Of a Movie Soundtrack

I have a confession to make…

Sometimes when I hear that song from Titanic I cry…

Often times when I hear that song from the Disney Pixar’s movie Up I cry…

You know that movie Beaches?  The one where Bette Midler sings “Wind Beneath My Wings”… Yeah, you could probably guess the rest…it makes me cry

“That Titanic song” is actually called “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. That “Up song” is called “Married Life” and they are both testaments to the fact that songs can evoke particular emotions within people when needed (or maybe that I am way too emotional). Soundtracks play an integral role in the movie watching process. The amalgam and almost formulaic combination of ‘song and movie’ is like a friendship where two individuals bear strong influences over one another, changing the overall big picture of their lives forever. (That big picture is a broad metaphor for movies of course) Songs serve as emotional triggers that are able to elicit responses that successfully translate into emotions that the movie creator wants the movie watcher to feel.  It certainly helps (and this is arguable) that movies and music not be listened to with ear buds, because it isolates the viewer opposed to uniting them with other fellow movie watchers. Take the movie Jaws for example. The theme song makes people cringe and movie watchers unite in their anticipated fear for what the next scene will feature. While Disney’s Frozen has children (and maybe adults too) singing “Let it Go” worldwide. The musical stratosphere is far reaching and the music itself is changed to match the particular content of the movies that they are featured in.

So why am I discussing soundtracks? Because recently, I was watching the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, directed by Rob Marshall and I noticed the magnificent quality of its soundtrack. I then asked myself (Especially after having taken the American Topics: Music Beyond Ear buds) what constitutes a “good” soundtrack from a “bad” one. Is it the songs themselves? Is it the way that they are used? Particularly with this movie, I noticed how the songs were culturally infused. The historical and cultural setting of this movie was Japan before and after World War II. Musically, the soundtrack featured a wide array of instruments that could crescendo the viewer into an abyss of blissful movie watching. And then I recognized one of the songs. It was called The Chairmen’s Waltz. I had recognized it from a dance show called “So You Think You Can Dance” that I had seen as a little girl. I remembered that the replay option had just become available on our cable unit and I replayed it over and over and over again. I was mesmerized by the sharp violin and the fluidity of the movements. The art, dance, music, and overall vibe of the movie were embodied by the people and the performance that all played out in front of me.