Booty-shaking Towards Utopia

[co-written with DJ Ripley]

It should be no surprise to anyone reading this blog that for those like the two of us (Ripley & bent) the “personal is political” mantra saturates our lives on and off the dancefloor. We are constantly thinking, talking, grinding, mixing and dubbing our way through the politics of music and dance in the 21st century. From the infamous “boobahton” Facebook debate of 2010 to exciting workshops we did at the Allied Media Conference this year, we question our own approaches and those of others to beats and booty-bouncing. It’s not about tearing anyone down or harshing a mellow, but quite simply about having the best parties and music culture possible.

We stand firmly in the camp of those who can both think critically and throw slamming dance parties at the same time (to quote Ripley). Or, in other words, we are those seeking, building, imagining “a utopia where everyone in the world considers the politics of their booty shaking” as Emynd so succinctly put it in this recent twitter mishmash convo. Consider it a snippet from a continuous discussion played out backward and forward through time online, in person, on the dancefloor and via mixtapes — one which defies easy conclusions. [i couldn’t get the whole thing to embed, so click the link!]


[View the story “Politics of booty shaking #1” on Storify]

Ripley ended the story with Emynd’s response because it summed up one of the motivating factors behind our and many folks’ involvement in music, but that’s only one way the conversation could have gone. Some of the points raised early on by Uncle Jesse connect to later arguments in the thread — he talks about “us” and “them” in the music, and suggest there are specific concerns about representation and race that matter, even painfully, to him as well as others. Jubilee is suspicious of the whole process of publicly engaging with these tricky questions in a medium like Twitter. This should remind us that many times these conversations may happen face to face — just because we don’t see them in the media doesn’t mean folks aren’t talking.

But we think there are good reasons to speak up as well and continue the discussion. On Twitter or other public (or privately-owned but sorta-public-acting) sites like Facebook, there are a lot more readers than there are speakers. And for a lot of people learning about scenes, or choosing where to get involved, the kinds of conversations that are visible are what shape who chooses to get involved. So alongside the possibility of sharing with the people in the debate or discussion, there is everything you communicate to the lurkers, to the readers, to the new faces, or those who have been silent up until now.

Since bent and Ripley, like so many others are “committed to resisting negative forces such as racism, misogyny, and homophobia in social spaces like dances, clubs, and bars” one way of doing that is to enter into the public debate and try to change its terms, to carve out a space for clearer language about what we’re really interested in — so many people get hung up on fake conflicts like thinking vs. dancing, or smart vs. fun/raw/sexy. But the existence of so many slamming parties and djs and producers and rappers who do it ALL (props to iBomba, Azucar, Maracuyeah!, Anthology of Booty, Cupcake Collective, Hey Queen, Precolumbian, Rizzla, D’hana, Le1f, Venus X, Chief Boima, and other Dutty Artz folks to name just a few) proves them wrong.

And another side effect of speaking out is that then people who are onto the same stuff can see you — for every grumpy naysayer in public on Twitter or YouTube comments there are ten emails, txts, DMs, or even just silent nods plus a bit more inspiration to carry on in the beautiful struggle!

1 Comment

  1. it was such a pleasure to see some of these issues take front and center light at AMC… if u care about dignity + media…. u have to come next year.

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