95 :: relate, translate, remix, undo? (redux)

[This is a reprint of a post I published elsewhere in spring 2007, relevant to Thursday’s discussion.]

“The aftermath of a car bomb explosion today in a popular market in Amil district in Baghdad.” (NYT)

G-Unit: rap emptied-out, having its new emptiness revealed. Wrong things in wrong places, or random things in right places; uncanny symmetries.

The Uncanny: “a Freudian concept of an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange.” Mine but not mine. But if not yours, then whose? Many dead.

Ma, I ain’t gotta tell you but it’s ya boy Hov
From the U.S., you just, lay down slow
Catch ya boy minglin’ in England, nettlin’ in the Netherlands
Checkin’ in daily under aliases
We rebellious, we back home, screamin’ leave Iraq alone
But all my soldiers in the field, I will wish you safe return
But only love kills war when will they learn
It’s international Hov, I been havin’ the flow
Before Bin Laden got Manhattan blowed
Before Ronald Reagan got Manhattan blowed
Before I was cappin’ it then back before
Before we had it all day, poppin’ in the hallway
Cop one offa someone to give you more yey
Yea, but that’s another stor-ay
But for now mami turn it around and let the boy play

— Panjabi MC f/ Jay-Z, “Beware of the Boyz.” Or sample it as “Mundian to Bach Ke”

Now you are ready to rewind back to 2003, South Asianified/Middle Easternized beats are all over hip-hop.

Patel in “Bhangra Over Bombs Over Baghdad,” Village Voice, gives us this:

This isn’t like DJ Quik’s “Addicted” or Erick Sermon’s “React” because that’s just hip-hop jackin’ for beats wherever them beats is found. This is jumping on a bhangra track intact, giving a shout to the Neptunes, dropping your BK hustle, and coming out clean on the other side. This is rhythmic dialogue where duplicity indeed exists. And for all my brown folks on the fringes of musical exoticism—the Punjabi Wall Streeters on line at SOB’s, the Sikhs parading down Broadway, the Sean Pauls who DJ over bhangra riddims, and the Lenkys who make them—this is cultural validation.

But then Tina Chadha, also reporting at the Voice, gives us this, “Mix This: Young South Asians’ Love-Hate Relationship with Hip-Hop’s New Indian Beats”:

“Some hip-hop artists don’t give a shit about Indian people,” says Vidya Murthy, a 23-year-old in marketing at an entertainment magazine, reacting to the belly dancing and harems in videos for songs like Truth Hurts’ “Addictive” and Erick Sermon’s “React” that clearly sample Indian music. Sunaina Maira, author of Desis in the House, a study of second-generation Indian Americans growing up in New York, says that for young Indians these images bring back memories of growing up unrecognized and of confronting racism.

But then we finally come to this. Hope? Timbaland at the end of the Chadha article:

“People getting into the beats now don’t know the history. They play-toy with it,” says the Grammy-nominated producer, who researches the culture. “These people have a voice that needs to be heard. We’re trying to make ‘world hip-hop.’ ”

Tim says he doesn’t think this sound is a passing fad: “It’s different enough to last.” Even Truth Hurts, who initially didn’t know India was in Asia, is sticking with the Indian rap game. “I think us just sampling Indian music and trying to make it our own gets cheesy after a while,” says Truth. “That’s why I’m working with the new U.K. bhangra producers, the Krey Twinz. And I’m definitely going to have Indian people in my video and show the culture.” She’s even set to appear in an “America meets Bollywood” film. Sermon, who says he didn’t know his song was offensive until now, promises next time he’ll be more aware. “With Panjabi MC’s song there is going to be a surge of people asking questions and learning more,” he assures.

Hmm. My sense of hope in culture and cultural difference is improved (though my upcoming Angelina Jolie post might put the kibosh on that!)

It’s too bad it’s time for me to stop, because I wonder where Shakira fits into this.

But I do think that if I am to continue this post, which I might later in the week, I want to go back to where I began, back to the death, and to the politics of the global uncanny.

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