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从女性黑人说唱音乐中看美国传统文化(Black Female Rappers in American Culture)

时间:2014-03-19 16:21来源:www.ukassignment.org 作者:yangcheng 点击:
American culture, being traditionally perceived as quite liberal and democratic, is in fact paralysed by the overwhelming power of stereotypes which shape the current image of culture at large and its industries, including music, in particular. Even the most innovative and advanced movements turn to be submitted to the canons of the ideology that dominates in American culture. Unfortunately, such a situation does not contribute to the development of really free, liberal and focused on spiritual, moral and intellectual progress of the consumers of the culture.

Probably one of the most interesting, new and, unfortunately, typical example of the domination of stereotypes in American culture is the development of female black rap music, which has become particularly intensive in 1980s and is still quite dynamically developing. At first glance black female rap music should be free from traditional stereotypes, it should be innovative and contributing to black female emancipation and increasing the role of black females in the society at large but, in actuality, the situation is absolutely different.
Despite the fact that many female rappers pretend to be unique at developing the new image of a free and independent black female, it turns to be that practically all of them, or at least the most popular of them, are ideologically dependent on the male dominance in proper and figurative sense of this word. It means that as a rule black female rappers tend to create an image which can be well accepted by the wide audience and which is created on the basis of the dominating ideology in American culture, notably in American rap music that is characterised by the male dominance and the role of a black female is so to say secondary or subordinated to a male. As a result, instead of a new image of a black female that could be independent and free of male dominance, rap music industry and the audience have got a negative image of a black female, or an image of a black female that tends to underline her sexuality.
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Speaking about black female rappers, it should be pointed out that their role and the impact on the development of the culture of African Americans and American culture at large should not be underestimated. Regardless the fact that many of black female rappers were created due to the male rappers they still contributed to the progress of rap music industry and introduced something new and founded a basis for further development of rap music among black females on the professional level.
The development of black female rappers as a strong power in rap music and culture has started in 1980s and nowadays it is still popular and interesting. Black female rappers may be viewed differently but their importance for music and culture cannot be denied. At this respect it should be pointed out that many cultural and music critics “praise rap’s role as an educational tool, point out that black women rappers are examples of aggressive pro-women lyricists in popular music, and defend rap’s ghetto stories as real life reflections that should draw attention to the burning of racism and economic oppression, rather than to question of obscenity” (Rose 1994, 1).
At the same time, on analysing the development of black female rappers, it should be said there could be clearly defined two main trends, which have been typical for black female rappers since 1980s. Initially, black female rappers had to “wear the same clothes as men, curse with the same intonation, and adopt a harsh mentality that didn’t place much value on feminine instincts” (Nelson 1998, 188) that was actually a natural consequences of male domination in rap music and culture at large.
On the other hand, later a new trend has become popular. Black females broke ground using sex or feminine image which was deliberately underlined. As Nelson George points out, “most commercially successful female group (and one of rap’s best selling act of any gender) began as slightly chubby b-girls who have evolved into glamour girls, and have been talking about sex since 1986” (1998, 185). Quite noteworthy is the fact that many female rappers used similar themes in their songs.
Nonetheless, it is impossible to objectively evaluate the role of black female rappers without analysis of the work of the most outstanding black female rappers. One of the most popular and well known black female rappers, whose contribution in the development of rap music is undoubted, is Dana Owens, better known as Queen Latifah. By the way her adapted Arabic name Latifah is quite symbolic and means ‘beautiful’, ‘sensitive’, ‘kind’. She became popular in 1989 with her hit single “Ladies First”. According to Monica Lynch, the Tommy Boy executive who put Latifah on, the song “signalled the empowerment of a new breed of female MC’s” (Hip Hop Divas 2001, 52). In fact this song arrived quite in time because at came at a period in rap when many female rappers were just dissing one another but not doing the same to their sexist male counterparts. In such a situation her album “All Hail” was not a sort of an album traditional for black female rappers of that time but it was an album of a woman who was not afraid to confront sexist and disrespectful behaviour. As the matter of fact, Queen Latifah has managed to put the right messages at the right time for, as many critics underlined, “the topic of empowerment for the ladies made a big impact on many socially, including capturing the attention of hip-hop journalists debating and documenting the female perspective” (Hip Hop Divas 2001, 53). Moreover, her trend to underline female independence and equality often provoked discussions about her.
However, Queen Latifah was not very successful from commercial point of view for she has got only one gold record but financial side of the business was obviously not the most important in her contribution to the development of black female rap music. In fact she is an excellent example of positive female representation in rap music since her image is traditionally perceived as positive. As Treach said “she represents black women power. That’s why all the ladies were behind her whether they were rap fans or not” (Hip Hop Ladies 2001, 56). Unfortunately, Queen Latifah is a rare exception with her social and spiritual aims superior to financial ones which were basic for the vast majority of black female rappers later.
Anther significant personality among black female rappers is Sister Souljah. In fact she is a very gifted person who managed to apply her talent and knowledge in different fields though she is traditionally thought of as “a controversial American hip-hop generation author, activist, recording artist, and film producer” (Collins 2000, 221). Obviously her talent as a rapper was probably the most significant in her life. It was she who was the female voice of hip-hop formation Public Enemy and her first solo album 360 Degrees of Power was released in 1992. At the same time, it should be pointed out that she was really quite a controversial person, for instance, on commenting the Los Angeles riots, she said quite a provoking phrase: “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?” (Collins 2000, 222). This statement, being severely criticise by the President Bill Clinton, inspired the creation of the first Sister Souljah moment.
However, in late 1990s she basically focused on her literary career and published her autobiography “No Disrespect” (1995) and the novel “The Coldest Winter Ever” (1999). Nonetheless, in her work both as a rapper and as a writer she raised disturbing problems of racial inequality, which sometimes simply overshadow another problem the problem of equality and ruin of stereotypes concerning black females.
Nonetheless, Sister Souljah represents relatively new generation of black female rappers while there is a very important figure in the black female movement, which produced a very serious impact on the development of rap music at large and its female branch in particular, and she is MC Lyte. Actually she is one of the major black female rappers. Moreover, she was the first who received the gold album. She started her music career very early when she was only 12 and soon after that she signed a contract with First Priority that was obviously a great success for a young African American girl. Naturally she continued her career and she released her debut album Lyte as a Rock in 1988 when she was 17 only. It was really a great success but what was really important for her and for black female rappers was the fact that it was a good example for other black female rappers to follow.
At the same time, there was also a great danger in it because in such an age she could hardly realise the importance of the message she gave to the audience while her commercial success was not less significant than her success as a rapper. The years to follow she managed to make a guest appearance on a remix of Sinead O’Connor’s “I wants your hands on me”, which became a dance hit. In 1990s she continued to release her albums. It is quite noteworthy that she collaborated with other black female rappers such as Missy Elliott “Cold Rock a Party”.

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