‘The Construction of the Tower of Babel’, by Hendrick III van Cleve, 16th Century, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo. Click for bigger version, it’s a nice painting. Taken from Giornale Nuovo.

Hi everybody, I’ve been away off in real life (What a fucked up place to spend extended periods of time) but just wanted to stick my neck in and say a few words, and probably piss off a bunch of my friends. The goal of writing these polemical attack posts is to sort of kick the tires on our musical activities and cultural practices and to make sure that everyone is really thinking hard about why and how they’re doing what they’re doing. If you feel this as an attack on you or your music, I’d love to hear your response here in public so we can all learn something.

Gex recently posted up the Stereotyp affiliated Kubu mixtape which has some cool beats on it, below, I like the bass on the second track especially. Then Ty responded by saying “looks like Stereotyp… oh great, another Teutonic ‘barefoot baile’ advocate, what the world needs is more white european & american dudes “keeping it real” & getting sexy by going native.” And I LOLed and started writing a comment but decided to turn it into a post as it got longer and longer. Full disclosure: I am probably one of these sexy white guys that Ty is aiming at, not sure if my involvement in ukg and dancehall qualifies me but anywayyyy.

Here’s my point, more or less: I think it’s lame to use vocals in your music that are in a language you don’t really understand. That said, this is not a direct shot at Stereotyp, maybe he speaks Portuguese or whatever language the people are speaking on his mix, I actually don’t know. In vocal music, especially rap, the vibe and energy of a tune is SO MUCH about the lyrical content that putting vocals on tunes that you, or perhaps more importantly a major chunk of your audience don’t understand is just weird to me. I feel that you are using these people and their words as an idea, or a reference or a signifier in a way that’s totally disconnected from their artistic intentions.

If you, the producer can’t understand all the layers of what they’re saying and the audience can’t either then the words are just rhythmic or melodic noise, a kind of cultural texture. I feel like when it’s melodic singing then it makes a bit more sense because at least the people who don’t understand have some purely formal things to grab hold of, and melody is a kind of unconscious language of emotion and therefore there is some kind of non-verbal communication possible. But rap? Rap is words and rhythm, it’s word music.

As someone who listens to quite a lot of word music I’d argue that in the success of any given artist in any of these scenes (rap, dancehall, grime etc) the words they use, the things they say, their message, their attitude, their swagger, and their lyrical content is much more important than the formal qualities of flow or rhythm. In grime and dancehall the thing that will trigger a rewind is an artist saying something, something specific that has tremendous resonance with the audience. How they say it is important and necessary but WHAT they say is what gets them a forward. Especially in dancehall where a lot of it comes down to clashing and beefing the thing that will win a contest is some particularly clever well-timed and somehow true insult. The flow and pattern is necessary but secondary, it’s a vehicle for the message. So when the message is behind a language barrier the order is reversed – flow is in front and the message is behind, or gone.

A lot of fans will say, “Oh I don’t understand, I don’t care what they’re saying I’m just dancing along” but I actually think in taking that position you’re sort of marginalizing these people and their opportunity for artistic expression. It reduces them to being ‘the sexy and exotic other’ that we don’t understand, and don’t care to understand because we think “oh they’re probably just saying ‘dance, party, fuck’ or something like that, and that’s what we’re doing”. But what about when they’re not saying that? What about when Buju Banton is singing about shooting gays in the head over that nice easy party beat? And you’re dancing along obliviously, and because you and everyone else who doesn’t pay attention dances along then the DJ says “see look, that song always works, I’m gonna return to it” and that message gets repeated and repeated into the world. Whether you like to dance to ‘Boom Bye Bye’ or not (nastiness aside, it’s a good song) in this young new global underground dance whatever scene we’re in I think that we really need to make sure that if we’re gonna engage in a style that we’re doing it on all levels, not just formal (wow this beat pattern is great, I’m gonna put my euro synth bass on it and call it ‘global-fusion’) but on the levels of slang, culture, meaning, people, relationships, beef and history. And some may say: “But it’s too much work to learn all these languages, and I’m on the other side of the world and blee blah bleh” well then I’d say either make some friends who can teach you or maybe you should focus in on something that you can understand and try to develop some depth in it. Basically, not being a tourist is hard work but I think, worth it.


  1. The Buju Banton example reinforces the need for caution perfectly. But the issue isn’t black or white.

    I’d disagree that delivery is only secondary for a nice emcee. I’d say it’s equal to word play and content. However, the balance can shift with the focus of a song.

    As somebody with a long interest in hip hop, there’s a number of things I consider important in a good emcee. And as somebody with a new interest in grime and dancehall, it’s mos def something I struggle with, since I don’t understand a lot of UK/Caribbean slang.

  2. Nice words yourself, Matt. Thought-provoking as usual, and thankfully, in the truest sense of that p word.

    I think what you say about full engagement is a crucial modus operandi, but I also think that from the perpsective of a cultural ‘outsider’, it works better as an ideal. Something you are striving to do, are unlikely to obtain, but believe to be inexplicably tangible, possible enough to keep working at it. So it’s with that in mind that I’m gonna go ahead, take a bite of the big thoughts in this post and try and get the digestion going, at least for myself…

    “The goal of writing these polemical attack posts is to sort of kick the tires on our musical activities and cultural practices and to make sure that everyone is really thinking hard about why and how they’re doing what they’re doing.”

    The thing with the relationship between the exotic and the other is that they are bound in the eyes of the self. When you’re in an affluent society that’s historically culturally diverse, exoticism breeds stereotypes and other such excuses for not thinking. But what about when you’re in a historically homogenous society, in which diversity is new and met with a lot of (disgusting, fascist, xenophobic, retarded) ‘skepticism’? In these places (like Spain, where I’m at and, just to be up-front about my vantage point, exist as a bicultural Texan-Spanish dude), I can tell you that folks who appreciate something *just for being exotic* are a breath of fresh air. It serves as a starting point for people to dig deeper into their curiosity. So in these cases, this type of debate could actually just be feeding the idea that newer crops of producers should only stick to what they know, which is the back of a cultural wall, and then shit just doesn’t go anywhere…

    So I don’t know, since this scene is a ‘globalized’ one to some small extent, I think it’s kind of important to bear in mind that these discussions can very easily turn in to line-drawing, rule-making sessions that are mostly informed by the cultural dynamics (and politics) of former colonizing countries who have been affluent enough long enough to attract a wide array of people.

  3. Also, I’ll hasten to add, I’m not saying that producers or promoters or other such scene-builders should EXPLOIT exoticism. Just that, in a lot of cases, a lot of folks are going to have been attracted to a scene or a sound or whatever by a pre-existing appreciation of stuff that sounds foreign to them. So at least at first (like you said, this scene’s still a baby!), you’re going to get folks using the more (stereo)typical sounds of a particular style of music since that may be what first grabbed’em, y’know?

  4. Thanks for reading. As far as the importance of flow, my personal calculation is this. Put one on top and subtract the other, do you have something you could still like? If someone can flow his ass off but says NOTHING with it, I don’t want to hear it (there are many many people like this). But if you have someone who really can’t flow that well but is saying interesting things I’m more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt than the first guy. This is obviously about personal preference, but still.

    Take grime MC JME for example. He’s definitely not the deepest super skippy flow guy, at all. But when he says things like “I’ll mash up your head like javascript/make it look like the barber slipped” I just get a big smile and want to keep listening. Then on the other side you have someone like Manga (from Roll Deep) who can skitter all over the beat all day but really doesn’t say much and to me is just a big yawn. Like a woman with a beautiful face and a big emptiness behind it, it’s style over substance. Certainly we’re always looking for both in the same place but that does not make them equal to me.

    And Carlos, yes, I agree this is definitely an ideal and should be treated as such. I’m not trying to be scene police and make people stop what they’re doing, far from it. I’m just asking everyone to consider their motives and practices and to possibly focus in and go deeper rather than casting the net wider and shallower. The results will be richer I think.

    I definitely, emphatically do not want people to “stick to what they know” I want people to focus and learn new things, but in a non-superficial way. In a way that it becomes possible that your new work might connect back to the work you’re being influenced by (or stealing) and have some kind of actual back and forth. Really I just want people to break the surface a little more, try and have real human interaction and communication rather than easy ‘referencing’.

  5. “Really I just want people to break the surface a little more, try and have real human interaction and communication rather than easy ‘referencing’.”

    Shit yeah.

  6. maybe im feeling cynical, but rather than get too feelgood (“group hug, amigos, then let’s go into the studio!”) I’d like to keep thinking about this in terms of AUDIENCE.

    who is the Ku Bo mix – and others like it – for? (Stefan Moerth, the Austrian producer behind Ku Bo, calls it his “club oriented, voodooesque side”)

    an interesting thing about beef is that is presupposes & requires *community*

    a great thing about playing latin beats in NYC is that a lot of the audience will understand the lyrics

    what is the relationship between musical content and target audience? Lusophone beats (funk carioca, kuduro) in America & western Europe are fascinating to look at since you’ll get DJs/producers doing entire sets of sometimes explicit vocals in a language they dont understand, based on a scene they’ve never visited (or, at best, been to a few times while on vacation in Rio) — who are they playing for?

    is the fun factor maintained by distance? or, as Carlos suggests, can hearing western-reworkings of beats from other countries spark a more engaged curiosity? how to share music your audience might not understand without peddling exoticism or rudely ignoring the specific verbal content of the lyrics? in the DJ world in particular these are relevant questions, since (as I see it), as DJ is in a conversation w/ a crowd, trying to create a shared dancefloor experience.

    Matt makes a distinction btwn “real human interaction” and “referencing”. A lot of the cool cache of stuff like kuduro comes from precisely that referencing (not even the music) – i mean all the stories of sex + violence + drugs + poverty + criminality that tap into the same impulses that have made suburban white teens one of hiphop’s largest buying audiences. In the case of hiphop, however, a lot of black people are making actual money off of vending their fantasies, so the power structure is radically different. (I bet most western kuduro fans would have trouble locating Angola on a map.)

    But real human interaction would deflate the external fantasized coolness of a lot of ‘other’ music… and a lot of cultural producers are too insecure to risk that coolness.
    So they stay on the side of samples, references, stereotypes & cheap allusions. And not just in music. My favorite recent example is the ‘Miss Favela’ restaurant in Williamsburg:

    interesting example of going local and giving depth to it: Gentleman & Germaican made German-language reggae cool and enjoyed huge success for it; it’s not impossible or idealistic..

  7. I don’t want to refute what any one’s saying as far as power structure, class, race, etc. I tend to agree with the view points that have been expressed, but I don’t think this problem has as much to do with language.

    Ask my Aunt, who was born and spent most of her adult life in West Africa what the lyrics of a classic African tune are and she’ll just say something like, “I don’t know, who cares?” There’s no real fetishization going on, but Congo made some great music and she doesn’t speak French or Lingala, she just likes the groove.

    And can the criticism on production go the other way? What about when young people emulate American hip hop in places like Senegal or El Alto in Bolivia. If they don’t speak English should they not make rap? I’m sure that some of the Aymara rappers in el Alto get shit from traditionalists that they’re emulating a U.S. cultural form.

    Actually… from experience I’ve seen kids that have never been to the U.S. assume all kinds of stuff about African Americans through rap’s image.

    One of my favorite stories is when a young Nigerian kid approached me El Retiro in Madrid and asked me how I survived the Civil war between the East and West Coast.

    I guess all I’m saying it goes both ways. Folks in the U.S. do it, folks in Angola do it. And power structure is what is the problem, not language. (IMHO)

  8. matt

    i really feel what youre saying here

    this comes down to two issues: the authenticity-integrity issue and the issue of empowerment for the vocalists

    i generally completely agree with you, but when i vibe out to kuduro i cant help it that i cant speak portugese. I feel like the energy and emotions in their deliveries is so familiar to me and i love to hear a riddim getting ridden in that way but really i do contantly wish i understood what they were saying

    still what do we non-portugese non-angolan folk do? Are we to not enjoy a whole chunk of global ghetto house music because we can’t speak the language?

    Although I hear what you’re saying about dumb dancefloor participation without a second thought about content being dangerous – its still up in the air for me about whether I’d exect people to reject getting wild to big tunes in other launguages.

    For producers though, I do feel its 100% VITAL to not abuse these vocal styles. I PARTICULARLY hate how producers in the fidgety house scene often borrow urban signifiers to give an edge to their otherwise pretty much totally white euro music (sometimes i wish Lil Jon’s Whut sample didnt exist, its too easy). All those crookers remixes with the word ‘crunk’ in them etc really fucking pisses me off

  9. great post. I responded at Rupture’s but I’ll respond here too more fully, especially since these latest comments are also super interesting..

    I often wonder what the relationship is between the way people make music, and the music itself. I haven’t found it predictable that good music is made as conscientiously as that, although often (the way it is made) is something I like to know, a factor in appreciating it, and sometimes perhaps I can say it explains why a sample ‘works’ musically in a song, or why it doesn’t. It’s even less predictable that music made so conscientiously as that is going to be good music, I think.

    I like when the two (good cultural practice & good music) come together, but this seems more (or as much) a statement about how one should treat other people generally, and something to aim for in life overall. When I hear about how a musician deals with other people, it affects how I feel about them as people, but I’m not sure what it does to how I respond to their music. And I’m not sure I can explain my responses to music in wholly political terms.

    This argument is also interesting because it’s critique of pleasure in music, akin to the feminist critique of pornography. What is the role of pleasure? Some people feel good when they hear certain sounds or music that comes from somewhere far away – and I do think that feeling can be quite genuine. But is feeling good enough?

    your full post and your response (which I hadn’t seen until just now) makes clearer the nuances I was wandering over.

    I also wonder about the “word music” issue – I wonder about that a lot, because as I wrote a while ago (, the discussion of rap is always focused on words, and yet it’s the dance music of choice for millions of people – and I’m not sure that the words/content are always the primary element. Maybe that is always problematic, but there is some pleasure that comes from elements other than the words, and again, what is the significance of that pleasure?

  10. In terms of audience, I think the overarching problem is that I don’t know if you can really say who a mix or a party is really for. The artist can have a particular audience in mind, but the one she’ll get is usually not that audience. When a DJ records a mix for (whatever type of) release or plays at a party in a scene she’s not entirely familiar with, she must rely on some sort of imaginary situation to guide her decision making.

    Given the DJ’s role in determining what vibe to give (guiding the conversation of?) an event that’s above all else social and escapist (from the daily grind, for me at least, and I’d wager for most folks, whatever their grindstone), more often than not I’d say that the imaginary situation will likely bend towards fantasy.

    The problematique or dialectic lies in that, through sound, the audience is presented with a somewhat fantastic situation that is at once social and sub-liminal, most likely with less knowledge of the components of that situation’s composition than the person (the DJ) who is constructing basically all of the sonic space and thus has an unequal share of influence in the determination of that social context.

    Since the audience (except probably DJs) has this more imperfect knowledge, there’s more room for the projection of fantasy on their part (what is a fantasy more than the self’s projection into the unknown?).

    It seems to me like the only answer, really is, as Matt suggests, to learn more about both the music and the place of origin. But that damn grind everyone (in my fantasy) is escaping really keeps you from both, y’know?

    Sorry to hog space here, but I wanna get this last part out. A knowledge of one, music or the place of origin, won’t really do in my experience. Take, for example, when folks DO know the language of the music they’re hearing…I feel like a lot of the way folks who get to travel a lot get offended at the content of the streetwise music we all love so much is steeped in a lack of contact with the realities of life in the social contexts behind each of these, and thus strongly economically class-biased. For example, I listen to screw basically by default, and when a lot of my Houston friends listen to it with me, they’re like, “It’s great, but I can’t help associating this stuff with the assholes who listen to it or a lot of the ones who make it.” They know the context pretty well, and they’ve just decided these folks are assholes and fuck it, which to me is a real shame.

    So maybe what I’m trying to say (sorry, brainstorming = rambling a lot of the time) is that, at least when the righteous beats are rapped over in another language, it sparks a broad conversation (about sex or violence or drugs or poverty or criminality) that, since it’s maybe shallow at first and since this scene is populated by a lot of curious folks with travelling experience, is more likely to be corrected (or at least pulled deeper) than in the scenario above.

    Whew…hope that makes some sense…

  11. Agh, I should be doing other stuff, but I’d also like to highlight the Talented Ripley’s relationship between this dialogue and the discussion of pornography in feminist lit. It’s one that I couldn’t get out of my head as I was writing all that, mostly in the form of, “Who is anyone to police another’s sense of pleasure?” I mean, I think an obvious line to draw is when pleasure becomes the realization of violence that is anything but symbolic, but maybe there’s more to it than that?

  12. DJs and producers def abuse shit like this, and again, I think this is a good conversation to have. But nuance is important.

    A lot of this is certainly “peddling exoticism” or just fetishizing foreign culture. But I love to hear “word music” in other languages. Like French hip hop. It’s nasty. And even if I can’t understand the lyrics, I can still hear some of the word play. I can tell if they are actually rhyming. And some languages are just beautiful. Others, not so much (German, for example). But novelty will always be interesting. I’d probably be even more interested in hearing North African French hip hop. Besides, like another commenter said, some people are totally opposed to foreign and different music, and exploration should be encouraged.

    As for flow, this is music we are talking about, and hip hop is definitely, the “dance music of choice” for a lot of people. A rapper or toaster should have at least a presentable delivery. If not, maybe they should write poetry or a book, and I’ll read it.

    None of this is to say I don’t want to understand what they are saying. Or that I don’t want strong subject matter from an artist. In my own work, I won’t settle for anything less. Here’s something I wrote just yesterday:

    For a moment they grasp / at totems of distraction / Then thunder claps / and soldiers clash / amidst smoldering ash / and broken glass / the political hacks / and / cooperative masses / failed to grasp it / its global collapse / as the markets crash / and cold hard cash / equals to mounds of trash / corrosive passions / like roman lavishness / eroded like acid / our core bastions

  13. Quite an all-star discussion we’ve got going here, I’m delighted. And please, everyone, refute, disagree, hog space, whatever, that’s what this is for.

    Too much to respond to coherently but Boima you should definitely write something about “How I survived the East West Civil War” That is too juicy to pass up!

    Just woke up and saw all these good ideas caught in my internets and just wanted to give a quick nudge and a shove to the direction of discussion before I go get breakfast.

    As far as my comments about Boom Bye Bye and people dancing to things they don’t understand: I’m not really aiming at the dancing audience here as much as I am at the DJs, producers, providers. Asking the full audience always to be informed is a little to utopian, even for this conversation. Although I think what Rupture is saying is extremely true about white people playing music they don’t understand for people who don’t understand it. I just wish at least one person in the equation knew what was being said and was making an active decision. It’s just very very weird when NO ONE IN THE PLACE understands ANYTHING that’s being said in the lyrics.

    I’m trying to say basically that the provider has a responsibility to know what they’re providing. I’m not saying be socially/politcally conscious, but KNOW what you’re playing. Not to dig at Reagonomics but read Eliels comment a while back about him playing ‘Mentirosa’ (a pretty misogynistic song) at a spanish speaking family wedding, and clearing the dancefloor. In this case, the audience understood better than he did (aka not at all) and he got egg on his face.

    I’m not trying to tell audience members not to listen to things they don’t understand. I do this all the time. Lately I’ve been listening to more african stuff like that hip-life compilation that Rupture posted about a while back and Boima’s Coupe Decale mixes. I love this, it’s awesome, I can’t understand 80% of it but the beats, vibes and melodies are wonderful. When I DJ next, I might drop in one song of this stuff, my favorite one thats in the right tempo. However, just because I’m really enjoying it right now I am NOT going to run and download a bunch of mp3s and start trying to play sets of this stuff, because I don’t know enough about it.

    I guess my advice to DJs is not to just lay off anything you don’t understand but if you’re gonna be playing, promoting, repeating and multiplying music into the world, slow down and make a commitment. Know about it, provide in an authoritative way and give people something coherent so that if there’s ONE other person in there who understands what’s being said then there’s communication happening which in my mind is the underlying goal of all artistic practice.

    Keep talking, I’ll be back. And caffeinated!

  14. i actually gained tons of respect for Matt when whilst others were briefly fetishising the grime scene (as prompted by XL records in their massive marketting campaign of the whole scene to push Rascal’s debut album), he was getting stuck right in, collaborating with the top boys in the game and actually setting up a real cultural exchange – the very opposite of the cheap cultural tourism and shallow signifiers that lead to my the Crookers ‘crunk’ remixes I mentioned before.

    Actually Matt was on grime before most of the short-term hypers.

    So respect for that – actually speaking from practice there. I think this is vital and the reason dance music is so faddy and flippant in its tastes right now I think is becuase not enough people take time to really plant their roots culturally

  15. i think rap got a generation of kids paying more attention to lyrical content & nuance then ever before, and raised the narrative level of the pop song a few notches (then came crunk, YEAAAAH!).

    Echoing Boima’s comment, my friend and collaborator Abdelhak, knows ridiculous amounts of Moroccan music, some in languages he knows, some in ones he doesn’t. And while he can play back the singer’s musical line note for note he doesn’t pay attention to any of the lyrics.

    (it’s actually bit of a problem for me, i’ll be like “what are they saying?” and he’ll say “its a song they sing on the mountains where there are lots of old ladies” or “sadness” or something endearingly vague like that)

    + i 2nd the call for Boima’s explanation of how he surived the East Coast/West Coast Civil War

    (David Banner maybe? or Cash Money?)

  16. Wow. What a good debate/discussion.

    As an outsider member of the Australian reggae scene, I am often totally amazed at people’s reluctance to analyse the content of the tunes they play. Often in debates on the local forums, people will defend tunes like Boom Bye Bye, as they are relevant to the Jamaican community where the song originated, so therefore the content should stand for itself. This totally pisses me off, and when DJs at clash events go on about battyman this and that, it just makes me want to have nothing to do with it. So it seems to me that people like to embrace elements of cultures that prop up their own bigotry or narrow-mindedness, and that can be all too easy dealing with dancehall/reggae. And that’s from people who understand the language and context. When these DJs play these tunes out, it really marginalises the scene as well as propping up their own egos. Anyway, two cents from me.

  17. i wanna throw something else into the debate

    what about that old chestnut – VOCAL SCIENCE, the whole garagey cut up vocal thing – turning voice into rhythm/a formal/aesthetic element by stripping off discernible meaning

    I’m kind of into that stuff – but then I realise that politically this means bad things for the VOICE and the content it was originally carrying. I think this is about sampler vs samplee (?) and I wish know there were a lot of really interesting discussions around the time that new dubstep producers started sampling a lot of reggae acepellas while simultaneously that scene started rejecting grime MCs from its dances (fucked up)

  18. i meant to say i wish i could find the links to those posts because it was a pretty epic discussion and was on a similar vibe to this one

  19. NO WAY! (my tellingly mad response to this post, clearly hit close to home here)

    To echo what boima said, my own exp in west africa says most(?) people who listen to american pop music around the globe have NO IDEA (well.. vague notions, sure) what is being said and love it anyway. Thats why we say beyonce is a global artist, not an anglosphere artist. I may understand french & snippets of arabic and wolof, and have a lot of fun trying to figure out whats going on in coupe decale, rai, etc songs, but im not gonna say I fully understand it. Plus, theres value in listening to non english music. Everyone around the world puts up with english language music, & don’t always have the opportunity or chance to listen to a lot of music in their native language. sometimes we should put up with it too – remind us of our insignificance. We are totally spoiled by a huge diversity of amazing and varied english lang music, and we can totally go ahead and never listen to anything but music we totally understand, and most americans do just that, but that sounds more like a step back than a step ahead. In this global music exchange, messages and voices are going to be distorted and lost on both sides.

    I also feel that the fear of accepting our own tourism is sometimes kinda wack b/c I think it can be equally lame when we try to pretend ‘were an expert in YOUR culture’
    when we pretend we can totally transgress our whiteness and ‘get’ those native folks, whether its learning to speak portuguese/punjabi/whatev. or when you see people saying “i spent a year in ___, so im a legit lover of ____.” .. so we should be careful when we say to focus in vs reach wide. (and again, is that for ‘them’ or really for you?) I’m not saying we shouldnt even bother, OF COURSE we should bother, and actually try to hear where people are coming from, what other people are sayin, and engage the globe. But limiting yourself to making native lang music isnt going to do anyone any favors – [ and also imposes that “retreat into whiteness” ] Thats why our engagement is so difficult – b/c we know its imperfect. Asking friends who speak the lang, tryin to translate it – yes, it helps and is def worthwhile, but still very iffy. I think if a dj is gonna play or release a mix or whatever, they should try to get an idea of whats being said, but everyday consumption is gonna be fraught w/ some difficulties.

    But to try to push things ahead.. in this mp3/mix/mash/etc bloggy little world we live in its easy to have disconnect, but more so if we let the U.E.O. (unidentified exotic other) plan sell. there are things id like to see & we are consumers w/ power! we can demand track info, translations of songs, lyrics, information about where samples were taken, etc! People should be embarrassed to not offer these things as a DJ! Isnt that what they should help w/ vs. hoarding their sources? we (my fellow non music-makers, i think the full audience should play a role here, b/c i think the rules of being a dj kinda put pressure to keep voices unrepresented, audiences could help demand something more) can affect things, too.

    PS. “But rap? ” -lets not make rap/hiphop sacred esp. vs. other musics. words as beat or rhythm is the same as words as melody – just dif parts of the aural construct. Lets not think the words in rnb are less relevant as words in hiphop!!!

  20. First I’d like to thank Matt for giving us the opportunity of a general discussion. Most of the arguments that came to my mind when I first read the entry on Mudd Up have been pointed out in the comments above. Jace’s post is kinda misleading in a sense that when Matt challenges mostly djs and producers, Jace’s part make it ambiguously sound like it’s directed to anybody who has interest in “other”‘s music.

    At the same time, I read your post, I was posting a track by Argentina’s Frikstailers that they sent me saying, that’s the music they would do if they were angolan. I think it’s adding an interesting layer to this discussion and that’s why I’m commenting. In that case, it’s not some western white middle class (my god this guys are always blamed) getting interested (in “good” or “bad” ways) in non-white non-western non-middle class music. Or non-white non-western non-middle class interested in western (US) hip-hop (HH in a broader sense). But it’s non-white non-western non-middle class(?) people fantasizing on non-white non-western non-middle class music.

    I don’t want to get into the debate really, but I feel Larissa’s point about pleasure.

    Also, I play Kuduro (that I don’t understand) to dancefloors that don’t understand it. True enough, this is a weird situation. But they’re really enjoying the beats, the flow and it’s melody. And it’s at a moment of the night, where they dropped paying attention to lyrics and get immersed in the sound. No real exoticism excitement here. I think there’s some beauty in this, a very direct relationship to sound and words as sound. Also, on a side note, when nobody’s getting what’s being said, does that cancel the ‘Boom Bye Bye’ example?

    Finally, I hope this conversation cross the English language barrier and that francophone would participate to the discussion as well. I’m thinking of translating your post Matt.
    Keep it up and hope to see you soon up here.

  21. FYI, my ‘misleading’ MuddUp post wasnt a post, it was a quote — directing folks here for the full thing in context. (with Banksy ‘tourist information’ graffiti photo)

    unless you mean my comment above, in which case, yes, this discussion is obviously useful to other folks than just DJs + producers!!

    translation would be great… maybe that’s the subtext of this whole dialogue?

  22. Real quick here:

    Shadetek has engaged various scenes on a level that should be taken as the rule, not the exception. I ride with Bok-Bok on that comment.

    Speaking from a mixed racial/cultural family. Ghana/Guyana, Czech/Roma, Native American/European… I’ve seen Africans oozing gullyness listening to gangster rap they can’t understand (some of it from my old Bay Area stomping ground) , and (paler skinned) Berliners making/recording some of the best reggae ish around. I remember a Senegalese friend was singing “Hate it or Love it” one night, he didn’t know any of the words except for the chorus, but the fact that he understood a few words made all the difference (to me). A little effort goes a long way. I don’t think there’s much excuse for people who speak only one language these days. English is rammed down everybody else’s throats the world over, so it’s nice when you hit those books/travel and master/learn another language. My kids will have grown up speaking English, Spanish , Czech, German, Creolese, and (hopefully) Akan/Twi (although Czech and Twi are over my head at this stage, I just nod and say ‘a-huh’).

    That was rambling.

    Long story short, I don’t give two shits about long-winded authenticity arguments any more. You know the realness when you hear it/see it. Waste of breath.

    There is, however, a lot of exploitive fetishism involved in certain ‘world’ music scenes. Compilations released without giving proper credit to artists, disjointed patois samples in dubstep by kids who don’t understand dancehall lyrics (it’s English people, open your ears). Stuff like that. The list goes on.

    Yeah, as Matt said, don’t be a tourist. Things like mixtapes should have liner notes, but it’s not gonna happen. But one can’t be totally ignorant of something their passionate about. If you like Kuduro/Baile, take capoeira or something. As a DJ you should engage/study the scenes/cultures you take from.

    That said, the audience should NOT hesitate to get buck-wild to whatever tickles their fancy, whether it’s in their native tongue or not. Dance like it’s your birthday. At the same time, there is a certain responsibilty by us so-callled taste-maker types to translate/engage.

    Encounters with the musical “other” have been more than fruitful in the past (Detroit / Kraftwerk/PFunk comes to mind). But there are extra steps necessary to take the levels up from there, giving the credit, where it is due.

    Gotta cut this one short. Back to East London reality.

  23. I work for a professional basketball team, I make videos for in-arena entertainment. Tens of thousands of people at every game. Our Motto:

    “you never know who’s watching”

    …or listening.

    If you’re rocking out in your car by yourself, go on and do your thing. But why would you even risk playing something for the masses that you aren’t even sure about? It’s just going to reflect back on you. Whether that reflection is positive or negitive is up to you…

    You NEVER know who could be in that club. They might leave talkin shit about the DJ, they might come up to you and offer you that next gig

  24. Right now I’m thinking about the djs:

    Rachel has a good point about dj’s keeping info to themselves. I definitely don’t post all of my favorite tracks. That’s part of the job. Something I inherited from the competitive dj culture of hip-hop/dancehall. DJ’s in places like Senegal and Colombia scratched out the names of the labels of their records, when they were importing from each other, because the quality of your tunes made you the best dj.

    At the place I dj regularly, there’s constant competition of who’s got the hottest latest tunes out of Africa and Europe. And to even get close to knowing what’s new you HAVE to research. That’s part of the fun. Anyone who’s spent eight hours on a Saturday in a dusty record shop knows what I’m talking about.

    I also am aware we are creating a new dj culture here collectively in this and other spaces. So I tend to let go of that desire to hoarde when on any of the homie’s blogs. So when Matt says he’s gonna spin my tracks I’m like hell yeah! And I guess now my motiviation IS to spread knowledge. My mix puts Coupe Decale in context of non Francophone musics so that Spanish and English speakers hear their songs in that style and are like, “oh, that’s what’s going on in this music.”

    So thanks Matt!

    To Nate, as a dj I get criticized all the time by people in the crowd. I guess I have the privilege of djing for a pretty knowledgeable crowd about the type musics I play. Someone always knows more about a specific type of music than I do (my job is to play to all those individuals.) You can’t make everyone happy. I’ve played lyrics (in English to an English speaking crowd) that have offended some people, and have been approached, and I just laugh it off with an innocent, “oh sorry!” smile. Just this weekend some dude came up to me and said, “I’m really hating the music your playing right now!” (I was playing Kat de Luna, can’t a brother have a little fun sometimes?)

    To Please Hang Up, the mixed race bay area Londoner above who I’m feeling cause his kids are gonna be octo-lingual (Czech and Twi!?!?), I’m with your notion of letting go of keeping it real. I (probably after moving to the bay area) have learned to let go of notions of the real. While they still pop up I like to think of things in terms of, let’s keep it natural. Don’t force it, just feel it.

    And I think I survived the East/West civil war cause I left the U.S. in the first place. That’s what its all about, perspective. And Matt, maybe that’s what your getting at. I’ll dedicate a post to this, workin on it now.

    Also, Go over to Jace’s site, that shit is FU-NNY! Birdseed is crazy!

  25. Boima, don’t you love it when people do that? I had someone come up to me at a techno party in denmark (where I admittedly was playing grime and dancehall, I took the money) and said “can you play some good music?” Owwwch. Needless to say, that was a hard earned envelope of Euros.

    And for those not reading the response on Rupture’s blog to the quote from this he posted basically, it’s off the chain. Someone called me a wigger, trying to offend me. Super LOL. I responded over there but it’s got me thinking about doing a whole post on wiggers, namely being one and why white people think it’s totally OK to insult you on that basis.

  26. some misc. points that came into my brain while reading all of this:

    the kind of negative effect the original post hints at also happens without language barriers coming into play…just look at the difference between wu-tang and limp bizkit to see how “culturally authentic” musical styles can be co-opted and plundered for unauthentic ends, no linguistic barriers needed.

    cultural piracy goes both ways as well… while the vocals in baile may tie it culturally to brazil, the music itself is rooted in samples of non-brazilian music. are baile creators concerned with how this “cultural theft” will reflect on their musical community, or is it just another step in musical globalization / unification? and whose to say that baile lyrics are actually good? if they’re borrowing from american hip hop culture in the first place, maybe they’re just spewing the same pointless bullshit that is all over top 40 radio? if so, i don’t want a translator. (apologies for my generalizations, just making a point).

    also, maybe the idea of lyrical meaning being lost is selling the ‘music as the message’ short? i know of lots of instrumental (and lyrically unintelligible) tracks that move me emotionally the same way a mlk speech can. maybe lyrics having become so dominant in pop music has made us immune to what the music can say without words. personally, you have to say something really fucking literal and really fucking important for me to be moved by lyrics alone (“nation of millions” comes to mind). otherwise for me, its usually the music that gives me the emotional kick in the ass…couple that with inspiring lyrics and i’m all over it.

    BUT, i agree 100% in my attitude towards the party scene’s dilution of musical meaning. pretty much all of a song’s/genre’s message (if there is one) is stripped away in favor of keeping the hyped up vibe rolling. personally, i’ve always tried to mix in meaningful music as much as possible, using recognizable vocal or instrumental loops as hooks to get people into listening to the “real” stuff.

    and @ mr. shadetek, re: ‘kicking a hive of super intelligent bees’…amen to that! “underground party culture” – or whatever we should call it – has gotten so dumbed down. not that it was ever all that intelligent, but shiiit. some of the stuff that people get hyped about is so fucking moronic i’m in disbelief. what we need is more people having intelligent conversations like this, and hopefully it can bleed a little back into the music and/or scenes we’re all a part of. thanks, much respect to everyone who’s taking part in the discussion.

  27. I’ve been lost in translation with that wigger notion as a non-english fluent speapker (here

    come again the frenchies)and I thought it was about some wig issue. Lost in translation.

    Subtelty. The way you can hide from fools speakin’ the same language as you.
    I do agree with what Rachel and Chief said on the opposite situation of non-english speakin

    people when they listen to music sung in english. My own experience in hip hop is a decade

    unable to understand what I was listening (but as I started translating Snoop’s lyrics I

    said “man, It doesn’t fly high”, so it wasn’t worth to translate everything to enjoy, in

    general you understand a catchphrase and know what it is about), and then I quite noticed

    that the more one Mc spitting smart stuff the more he makes himself inteligible (and one

    year to understand what crunk was about!). In spanish it’s a bit different because

    mysteriously spanish rap is easier to understand than cabrones speaking between themselves.
    Anyway I took it a bit personnaly as i don’t care anymore when I listen to music on a

    dancefloor, moreover I’m persuaded that I can know the sense by feeling the flow and the

    social context of an artist. But truly I don’t care, I mean, if what he sings is “good or

    evil”. For instance on the dancehall issue, we started listening hard to jamaican new

    artists abit more than ten years ago, I see Buju Banton anytime he comes, but also Capleton

    and Bounty, not even talking about Sizzla: they are all true geniuses I like even knowing

    that they got some retarded lyrics about homosexuality for instance. And I think it’s a

    shame to forbid them to play because of those lyrics, what is important about them

    is the energy they give to their music and not the foolish hate they have on some tacks. On

    the other hand I don’t ignore how rude some of their lyrics can be and how it might hurt

    some people, I don’t accept the “it’s a cultural difference” argument, I just put it on a

    lack of social development still ongoing in third world places like Jamaica, hey common

    people we ain’t proud of all western world have done but we all enjoy the little freedom we

    have, to be ourselves at least. To stick on the subject, it’s less offensive to play bashing

    tunes to a non patois understanding crowd than in Jamaica: so lack of understanding can have

    its good aspects too…
    But I get Shadeteksan’s point about the role of DJ, the self given ethics to play music

    halal, if i get it, you can play foreign tunes you have the translation of, right? I think

    it’s more important when U produce. DJ are flyboys, no one take them that seriously. But

    it’s good to have ethics. U know what is better? to have power. And how to get it? By having

    a trade Union, a dj Union. Shadetek president of ethical dj Union!
    @ Rpture: thank Jace to notice my attempt to put some fun in the debate and being short.

    This time I lost

  28. yeah, i know! I wrote him this morning asking some questions about it… (the global ghettotech meme turns into a deadly VIRUS) but its not so bad. part of Stu’s reply:

    “ no means silence, although there will be static for a while.”

  29. I was gonna mention that too. I’ve been checking them for a while and read this this morning and thought “I said kick the tires not kick them off”

    Just to clarify I never really intended this to be a “stop doing that type critique”. I was sort of shocked to see that anyone might take it seriously enough to take it that way.

    “An innocent website was struck by a stray blog post this morning…”

    Still, I confess to a temporary (contrite, remorseful) feeling of self-importance and terrible powerrrrrrrrr (mwahahahaha). Seriously though, I always admired their header graphic.

    I’m off to get a grip on myself, all this smart discussion has gone to my head.

  30. @matt (on rupture’s post)”e-drama, I ain’t never scared, I’m ready for war. I don’t care if I have to fight every music nerd in the whole internets, bring it!”

    i’m with you. we have to voice the unpopular truth to seperate the shit from the shine. the discussion is good for people. but save the drama for andromeda! this dialogue is remarkably civil, save the “wigger” issue over on rupture’s that i tried to end here.

    the biggest other complication i see in this discussion is the the issue of setting “right” and “wrong” musical expression in stone. the fact is it’s always a balance of audience, intent and reality. the “right” way to someone invariably will have some “wrong” in it for someone else.

    this doesn’t mean that as disc jockeys and bloggers (info jockeys?) we shouldn’t be thinking about who we want to draw in and who we don’t mind alienating, i’d just try to remember that it’s o.k. for that to be different for different folks and even for different sets.

    the way i solve these issues is to listen, learn, and focus my questionable material into blasts of decadence… so i get it out of my system… the rest of the time i play stuff i feel i have a good grip on.

    it’s kind of like what ripley was getting to on the critique of pleasure. i feel like any pleasure one has is significant and valid, but that doesn’t mean it should be indulged in every chance one gets. personally, i try to play all my potentially offensive cards at once and keep my hands clean more often.

  31. o man i sense some serious postmodern angst here… can there really be any true authority on things like this?

  32. While mash-ups, unlicensed sampling, pay-by-mail vocals and other forms of one-way non-collaboration prevail in these producer/DJ-oriented scenes, the Dutty Artz team place an emphasis on the more difficult but intensely more rewarding route of collaboration, dialogue and friendship. The DA family believe that by sitting in a room together, vibesing, drinking, debating, and recording, a much richer synthesis is possible, one that can bridge street sufferation and heady experimentation, creating music with long legs capable of crossing national border-lines, social boundaries and musical maps.
    -Matt Shadetek

    All kinda late on this but..

    RE: the Ku Bo mix that started all this, I’d like to point out that most of these tracks were recorded at Stereo’s apt in vienna with the artists- vibesing, smoking and drinking just like we do. I think we overlooked pointing out the talent that voiced the tunes and i want to credit them for their contributions to all this. By ear and talking to Stefan I recognize the vocalists Joyce Muniz, Yasmine Seydi and Edu K, (likely on tour in Vienna at the time thanks to Man Recordings) I don’t know who did the chorus at the intro that comes in later :( I’ll ask.

    The past year has brought and international cast of characters (El Guincho, Maga Bo, Jahdan) looking for a place to crash while they get there respective music things done. I’m one of those whose lot is to welcoming people. I like cooking for folks and hosting and crossing language barriers via the senses. Music is a great bridge for culture.

    I get a by as a latino and can avoid being labeled some terms (see birdshit) but I have been called a chameleon,a farce and a fence-hopper for having always been the guy to immerse himself in some culture he didn’t belong. Yeah, I spent some time poppin shoulders at Basement Bhangra and Mutiny parties. Should my not speaking Punjabi stop me from speaking to a beautiful woman who is or listening and dancing to her music? And after i’ve learned some of it, should i not be able to incorporate some of that into my set if she comes out to see me spin and requests it? You definitely cant please everyone but one of my joys in all this mish-mash-multi-flavor world goober sandwich bizness is that i can find tracks that span cultures and lets both the hip-hop head and the bhangra loving desi-girl be on the dancefloor at the same time.

    Sometimes, I’ll go check King Fumi @ Lava Gina to find out what’s hot on the African Scene. Sometimes, I’m with a bunch of West Indian Guyanese friends. Some people are curious about other things and want to explore and learn from that. I totally appreciate your warnings of exploitation but lets try and look at some of the positives.

    I’m a fan of kuduro and I like to think I can understand just enough Portuguese to distinguish this is a hood life tune vs a ganja tune vs a get-ya-hands-up- and-wine tune. Someone said earlier either here or on Rupture’s blog that they figured out if they could decipher the chorus to a Snoop Dogg track they basically got the point and didn’t bother too much further. I guess I can admit to being guilty of that too. I’m a beat junky, sue me.

    I can’t say I share your fascination for hip-hop as ‘word music.’ The art of storytelling seems sadly stunted by the ascension of the ‘keep it gully/crunk’ themes. It’s gotten to a point I’d totally RATHER listen to something I don’t understand (or atleast not fully) than to listen to one more whack metaphor about the crack game. Short of that, you and i both go deep in dancehall and roots and the lyrical melodies there are far more appealing- to me atleast.

    The last point I wanted to make was that whether they are making money on it or not ….(the whole infrastructure of the music biz is suffering, not even really famous guys like Matt Shadetek are making bank!)…. Artists from such far off places as Angola are now on the lips of kids all over the world. Thats a great thing. Watching Norml Nada dance one-legged on the hood of a car speaks to me in so many more ways about the world than watching lil’ weezy play guitar on the roof of a stretch escalade or whatever.

    I might not always know what Dog Muras is saying but I tunes he’s responsible for and i’m two thousand miles away. His music is getting somewhere and its resonating in the clubs even without clarity of the message. Dj Znobia is writing wicked riddims. I might not know that if it weren’t for people taking up interest and exploring this stuff. Our mission as DJ is to get every gyal dem bumper rolling. I’ve already shared my cautions about knowing whats being said on my playlist. But after I’ve approved the tune for mass consumption (and for myself)- anything goes at the dance.

  33. This discussion has a lot of ‘look at these ethical examples’ going on… i’m more interested in questions.. what kind of social machinery are we making?

    what was striking about Ku Bo was that the lyrics seemed to *all* be in Portuguese — not the postmodern global ghettotech mashup of languages and styles we’ve become accustomed to (with its ‘world hipster’ target audience?)

    If we’re thinking about audience it doesnt matter if Stereotyp is vibing with Lusophone vocalists or is ripping acappellas from the internet,,, its wondering about who the target audience is, and what that means about music circulation & the tangle of pleasure today.

  34. “…its wondering about who the target audience is, and what that means about music circulation & the tangle of pleasure today.”


    “what kind of social machinery are we making?”


    A lot of demographic research deals with this (in kind of boring quantitative terms, but I like it enough to do it). In particular, this reminds me of ‘selection’ hypotheses of migration flows, which I think given the nature of this audience’s geographic dispersion is actually pretty apt.

    The hypothesis basically says that migrant populations in particular regions are dominated by a specific type of people that are not ‘representative’ of folks in their home regions. How they’re not representative is ‘unknown’ (typically migrant-sending countries are not in the OECD and don’t tend to have data like OECD countries) but is likely to depend on stuff like socioeconomic status, educational level, or whatever else Westerner researchers have decided to stratify by up to this point.

    I don’t mean to go off on a stats lesson here, so I’ll get to my point kinda briskly. Most of this type of migration research is written to be used by regional administrators (most often states) to prop up mechanisms, boundaries and filters with which to pick ‘the right kind’ of migrants. Usually, states want to prevent ‘short-term’ migrants from taking jobs that natives want, but keep’em fulfilling the role of working the jobs natives don’t want. They want to keep ‘long-term’ immigrants so they can solve their low-fertility demographic catastrophes (real in Europe, not in the US) with new cohorts of super-smart kids (which, according to standardized testing, second-gen immigrant kids are), all for the low-low price of always having a shitty job they’re vastly overqualified for.

    I’m basically knee-jerk against these types of borders because I…just am. I feel like more often than not, these types of issues resolve themselves. Short-termers (or tourists) will flip, and those who can really feel where they’re at stay when where they’re at feels them. The problem, to me, lies in losing those short-termers (or non-termers) who should’ve been long-termers, who wanted to stay but were either excluded by the crowd, rejected by the system, or didn’t even get the flyer.

    How do you not exclude folks with genuine interest and flawed knowledge of the scene? How do you tap this genuine interest in a way that ‘teaches folks to fish,’ so to speak? How do you get flyers out to more people and make less trash? And perhaps most importantly, is there even a way you can control all this in very different regions, with their various complex and imperfectly understood social systems?

    I dunno, that’s just sorta what Rupture’s questions triggered for me…

  35. Wow Carlos, That makes a lot of sense in the context of Spain, at least from when I spent some time there. Migration is a huge issue, so you basically are dealing with Eastern Europeans vs. Morrocans vs. Sub Saharan Africans, and they all have different levels of familiarity (& desireabilitiy) among “Spaniards.”

    Maybe there’s a Lusophone population in Austria. I don’t know. If not, then Steretyp is probably doing something akin to what’s going on in the U.S. right now with African Americans vs. 1st and 2nd generation Africans.

    In the U.S. the first cultural group to get such treatmet was African-Americans. Jazz was “fetishized” and young downtown whites would rush up to Harlem to dance at places like the Savoy and the Apollo. Then R&B, Rock, Funk, Hip Hop, House, Techno all sythnesized out of Black American ghettos and were all consumed/appropriated by white America. Black culture became American culture. One in the same if you ask me.

    If you ask a coworker of mine, now is the turning point for African American history. He has a pretty negative apacalyptic view of it, which I don’t necessarily share, but I thought I would put it out there. Basically, because of the Obamas, people like me, the growing black middle class, the familiarization of African Americanism in mainstream culture, and the failure of mainstream (white) institutions to address problems in poor African American communities, many mainstream institutions are turning their back on African Americans, and instead reaching out to 1st and 2nd generation Africans to fill the place that African Americans held a generation ago.

    That means… spots in Universities, jobs, romantic partners, music we listen to, and many social programs that were helping African American individuals advance out of a history of oppression and non-social mobility. I really doubted my co-workers skepticism on this, especially since he was talking about me, but this summer I went back to my old university which has a historical problem of attracting black students, especially locally, and most of the young black people I met were 1st or 2nd generation African. It was exciting for me, but I also used to work in the local community and it saddened me that the numbers of poor black streaming in from Chicago were increasing, while the numbers of African American students may have been decreasing.

    Maybe that’s one of the sinister social forces that is going on in this whole global urban movement?

  36. I guess I’m too self-conscious about being such a downer.

    On the flip side I think there’s an awakening on the parts of many Americans and Europeans that Africa, South America, Oceania are not backwards inferior places. Communication increases and people across the world are talking the same technological/musical language. While images 30 years of Africa were colonial images of lions and animal skin clothes, and post independence strife is waning (hopefully?!?) now images of development, and technology are starting to dominate not only Africa, but from China, to Brazil, the world looks like its changing. Maybe people are more willing to accept that the other is more like them, and we ain’t all that different anyway.

    There, happy rainbows, you see them? ;)

  37. i’m glad american hip hop came up. to me it’s an early and more fleshed-out example of this issue.

    it’s often sited as an excellent appropriation of a revolutionary, poor, black art form that is co-opted/made mainstream/poluted by white corporate interests. you’ll get no argument from me on that point. it definitely happened.

    but to hear stan da man (stanley mccary, 50-something pittsburgh rapper via brooklyn) tell it, hip hop was a mostly black movement but with strong open-minded ties to white and latino people. he sees the perceived racial divides taken for granted now as artificial and misleading. i wasn’t there, but this is a guy who knows africa bambaataa as “kevin” and he’s had mixtapes with his rhymes circulating in africa for most of my life, so i tend to believe his take…

    so again, i feel it’s always really complicated. sure, there are negative effects on oppressed peoples whose music is made less potent by conflation with ideologies and values not originally identified with their culture (bambaataa/gucci mane collaboration not forthcoming, for example…), but on the other hand some of that cultural sharing/cross-racial percolation yielded some gold (war, steinski, matt shadetek, etc…).

    slightly unrelated note, i found this davey d essay on hip hop and race to be fairly basic, but good… catch the “eminem is larry byrd not elvis section”.

    and a totally unrelated note, stan da man, my old neighbor i mention above (and hip hop lifetime achievement award winner!) was the first to inform me about grandmaster flowers, who opened for james brown at yankee stadium in ’69, and from whom flash took his “grandmaster” name. love to find some of his sets!

  38. oops… second paragraph should read “it’s often cited as an excellent example of appropriation”, not “excellent appropriation”…

    and yes, boima, there are rainbows. the young, black rappers i work with talk a lot of shit on indians, etc… but when i drop some dope tabla beats for them they feel it. i had one dude geeked on the irish bhodran. so if playing kuduro/baile/tipico/dancehall for some white yuppies makes them more respectful of other cultures maybe it’s not all bad… but re: matt’s original critique it’s still probably better to do it as someone more immersed than a tourist.

  39. Seems like there is more than a little anxiety about the commodity, which travels over oceans and through internet tubes so much more easily than people do… Practices such as “mashups, unlicensed samples, pay-by-mail vocals” — these are (often repurposed, disrespected, mistranslated) commodities used as raw material for new music, so it’s interesting that a bunch of DJs and electronic musicians are so ANTI these practices — weren’t they traditionally the defenders of free sample use? They highlighted the promiscuous, unstable nature of the commodity, even of history.. (haha, this just came on the speakers). Worrying about making ethical/authentic (are multicultural ethics the core of authenticity in international booty bass?) music of pure conscience. So now DJs are saying “make music live together,” hip hop heads are saying “respect the original authentic context of the songs” and techno producers are saying “translate and understand lyrics.” This is a paradigm shift worthy of some sort of mission statement!

    You have all these lil international musics, kuduro, funk, reggaeton, etc, floating all over the place, so easily because they are just relatively small bits of data (in turn often made up of other little bits of appropriated data — samples) that were made to get sucked up by the intertubes and shot all over the place, DJ sets, dorm rooms, NPR, mixtapes, “crossing national border-lines, social boundaries and musical maps” yeah? To me this whole phenomenon is more interesting then how people in the imperial core can make their own kuduro 100% proper and ethical, but then again I am not much of an artist either, just a guy who buys y’alls records on occasion.

    So I guess I have questions about audiences too, since that’s me really: what are you trying to get your audiences to do and what do you NOT want them to do? Because even once you’ve mastered all yr languages and become 100% proper ethical producer-sociologists, you gotta play this shit out.

  40. See? I told you on the other forum that this was a great, reasoned discussion and that I don’t want to bring “the wigger issue” here and ruin things.

    One question in general though: Say we understand everything in the cultural background of a song. How should we act upon this knowledge? Should we start disliking, censoring, and excluding from our sets/blogs tracks we don’t “feel” the message of? In other words, is it up to us, culturally detatched as we are, to select and judge music based on its lyrical contents?

  41. James, I agree about Bambataa period hiphop being more itegrated and interesting, there’s a lot of good evidence to suggest that, especially with Punk.

    And I agree about Rainbows. The fact that we’re even at a stage to have this discussion in terms of ideas is basically unprecendented and I think a very good thing. If we were living in a previous era we might well be saying “Look, I’ve discovered the savage musical style called Kuduro! I’m going to exploit it’s musical resources and tell the musicians they’re savages.” Also we as a group of multi-ethnic geographically diverse people would probably not be talking to each other at all.

    Gavin, I think your point is interesting and yes, I think we are somewhat un-precedented in that we have absorbed all those lessons (often by doing) and are now looking for ways to build on those ideas in a way that is both artistically and ethically rigorous and fun. It’s important to note that personally my motivation for this, is as much out of aesthetic as it is ideological goals. I would much prefer to sit in a studio with someone spitting or singing to my track and be able to comment and participate then doing it via mail or net AND I think it comes out way better.

    An anecdote that I seem to repeat more and more often about this is about Kool Herc trying to play reggae on his sound in the Bronx and then having to bend to popular pressure and start playing soul, disco, funk etc and having local kids hold the mic. Imagine if he had been inflexible and stuck to his guns? To me the synthesis which arises from sitting in a room and disagreeing and working it out makes for way more interesting music then a producer getting an acapella and totally chopping and fucking it up into a hot digital mess with no input from the artist themselves. Compare all the ragga jungle bootlegs to something like Original Nutta by Shy Fx.

    And good question about the audience. Listen and hopefully dance I think. And pay us money!

    Birdseed, welcome aboard.

    “Should we start disliking, censoring, and excluding from our sets/blogs tracks we don’t “feel” the message of? In other words, is it up to us, culturally detatched as we are, to select and judge music based on its lyrical contents?”

    Yes. As I understand it this is part of the nature of being an artist or a thinker, making decisions about what you like and agree with and want to see repeated into the world and ignoring the other stuff (or dissing it on the internet).

    I definitely never have tried to be culturally detached, impartial, objective or anything like that, nor do I think that kind of a position is really viable or desirable.

    Like I said I am not trying to ask ANYONE to stop making mustic I don’t like or agree with. I just ask that people really think about and engage sincerely in what their doing. If you are making nazi square dance drum and bass (which since I made it up I can definitely say I don’t like) I will still fight for your right to make it, play it, whatever (not at my parties, but still). I believe the answer to bad speech is more speech and hopefully better speech. To paraphrase Jean Luc Godard: the best criticism of one film is another.

Comments are closed.