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.



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