hadouken / problem of appropriation / hot topic MERGED

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petergunn

plywood violin
Well, specifically in music, with the digitizing of physical product making for infinite cost-free inventories, the ability to sell product without geography being an obstacle or dictating how it must be sold, and the long tail theory screaming at the music industry to start considering that small niche markets might now be able to generate more-than-decent amounts of wealth without worrying about having to enter the "hits" market, it is becoming an age where sustaining, cultivating and turning profit out of "little sub-scenes" independently and without compromising to fit within a standardized marketing system is becoming increasingly possible!

You should be excited. If there is a time to care about this stuff, it's now.



wait, then why is everyone so gloomy over in the grime thread?
 

MATT MAson

Streetonomics
I couldn't agree more Mr UFO.

There are (at least) two different things here that we are discussing and people seem to be confusing. One is outright theft with total contempt for the originators. The other is appropriating and borrowing a sound to create something new. And this is not the first time these two things have been confused when talking about black music, and for good reason.

There is a long, well documented history in the music business of white artists/ execs stealing black music, putting a white face on it and selling it to the mass market. Outright racist and morally repugnant decisions are still made by record labels all over the world on a regular basis, and have been for decades. Today the majors are a little more subtle about it. I don’t know this for sure and have always got on well with her and like some of her records, but the whole Lady Sovereign project, or at least the thinking behind it - the decision to sign a white girl nobody had heard of to a major to put out grime records, when there were plenty of young black people which strong grassroots fan bases doing the same thing (and doing it better), always felt a bit like this to me. But I could be way off the mark on that.

Sometimes racism in the music and media isn’t subtle at all. When I used to edit RWD, potential advertisers and media buyers would regularly complain that the magazine was “too black” for them to advertise with us. They would specifically say that there were too many black people in it. How are you supposed to respond to that? For me people at marketing agencies trying to attach themselves to urban culture whilst making statements like that are thinking no differently to the guys at Chevron stealing oil and murdering the people who own the land its on in Darfur. That problem is clearly on another scale, but the idea behind it is the same. It’s spiritually bankrupt to take something that doesn’t belong to you like that.

I don’t think this what Hadouken are doing. They don’t come across like this. That Boy That Girl is a song about life in Shoreditch. They seem to be proud of the fact they are straight outta Old Street, and grime is certainly a fitting backdrop for such a number.

To say hipsters and Shoreditch twats of all creeds and colours have no association with or right to appropriate grime is as misleading as saying disco and punk have nothing to do with hip hop. Old Street has long been a part of the garage scene, the grime scene and the dubstep scene. Weather or you vomit at the sight of trucker hats and tight jeans, to not acknowledge this is intellectually dishonest.

The Truman Brewery has been home to Essential Distribution, Ammunition and MC Creed’s offices, among other “grimy” enterprises over the years, as well as a bajillion trendy hipster offices/studios of some kind or another. It is the perfect example of the intersection of grime and hipsters that has long existed in East London. The Vybe Bar, 93 Feet East and the many other studio complexes, clubs and bars that populate Shoreditch/Whitechapel and beyond are homes to all sorts of crowds and cultures working side by side. I see no reason why they shouldn’t borrow a cup of sugar from one another from time to time. This is, after all, how good neighbors become good friends.

The UK, London in particular, is an incredibly diverse and integrated place for the most part. I think this is something all types of British musicians and artists should be allowed to celebrate. Borrowing and understanding the music from each other’s backgrounds and culture is vital to the survival and development of exciting new British music and culture.

Hadouken are doing something innovative that as far as I can tell (and I should point out I have no idea who they are or what their motives are, all my assumptions have been made purely by listening to their music) is not a shallow cynical attempt by whitey to steal black music. Because there is always a huge suspicion of anyone who isn’t black doing something with what is perceived as black music, and because theft is sometimes passed off as appropriation, it’s not always possible to appropriate sounds and cultures in an honest way and I think this is damaging.

Yes, the music and media industries are still unacceptably racist. But this has also created an atmosphere of guilt, where bands and acts won’t try to appropriate things they should be able to, because they don’t want to come off like Elvis.

I remember seeing the BBC do this when they launched 1Xtra and made the decision to call it a “black” music station rather than an “urban” music station, which is what it actually is. When they launched in 2002, we did a front cover advertorial on it in RWD. White, blonde haired, blue-eyed poster child for the Arian nation Femme Fatale was chosen for the front cover. After the shoot was done, the tagline that had to go on the cover, that the BBC insisted on, was along the lines of “The UK’s First National Black Music Station.” Given Femme was the cover star, and given that it is a term that I always felt better described the music we covered, I strongly suggested they use the term ‘urban music’. They said no, and as it was RWD, and they were paying for it, that was that.

When the mag came out, people went bat-shit at me. I was asked “What’s this white girl doing saying she makes black music?” a million times. It was a bad look for RWD, Femme (who had done nothing wrong, and had every right to be a UK garage DJ), 1Xtra and the phrase ‘black music’.

Grime owes as much to the likes of Slimzee and Geenius as it does to Dizzee and Wiley. The only unifying theme seems to be East London. Slimzee, Geenius and Wiley were three of the people that complained to me personally about 1Xtra, all arguing the BBC shouldn’t be calling grime black music. UK garage and grime are both perceived as black forms of music by the mainstream press, and indeed by many musicians, this is something I’ve always struggled with. UK garage was pioneered by a very, very diverse group of people appropriating an even more diverse range of sounds. Same with jungle, acid house, house, US garage, disco, even hip hop. The list goes on. If you study all of these scenes, it’s never as clear cut as black and white. This is a function of post-modernism. The western world has gotten way too complex in the last 50 years for contemporary forms of music and culture to be of one colour or another, and I don’t believe there is anything wrong with saying that.

I remember seeing Ms Dynamite being asked whether she thought grime should be branded as black music at the urban music seminar one year. Her response was “We’ve had so much stolen from us.” She got a huge applause, and she was right about the stealing part, but not about UK garage. I don’t believe the many crimes committed against black people inside and outside of the music industry mean non-black people should be looked down upon for appropriating what is seen to be black music. I think it should be encouraged. I also think stealing black music and sanitizing it for a white audience, or making fun of it, should be discouraged, aggressively. But they are two very different things, and if Hadouken’s music be the sound of appropriation for the right reasons, then play on.
 
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nomos

Administrator
I'll admit to having formed my opinion of Hadouken through a limited sampling of their music and imagery (from their myspace) and a bit of press. And I am concerned about being perceived to be occupying an overly dogmatic position here, when I'm really concerned with a lot of the subtleties being lost. I have almost no truck with "authenticity" arguments, particularly when they're reducible to simple equations of sound and race/class/gender. And I'm not concerned that anyone is damaging grime or stealing it. It's a particular type of cynicism and lack of reflexivity that pervades parts of popular culture that I'm arguing against.

MATT MAson said:
The UK, London in particular, is an incredibly diverse and integrated place for the most part. I think this is something all types of British musicians and artists should be allowed to celebrate. Borrowing and understanding the music from each other’s backgrounds and culture is vital to the survival and development of exciting new British music and culture.

^^ This is a crucial point. Creatively and politically this has been one of the most important features of British urban music (I'm going back to and including aspects of punk) in the last three decades. I'd never argue that Hadouken or any other group should not be influenced by things like grime or that they shouldn't incorporate that influence into their music. More groups should be doing this and there should be more institutional support for it (in industry and radio). To deter such gestures on principle, or, more often, via an argument that it's mere appropriation, only Balkanizes the situation further. It creates the conditions for BritPop, CanRock or the new pan-Western 'indie rock' to emerge as bastions of reactionary 'whiteness.' By this I mean these waves of "deep" anachronistic affection for music that recalls a mythical era "pure" rock/popular music that ends up being glaringly monchromatic, except when it pulls in a bit of ironically framed urban exotica. It's the irony and exoticisation that are the problem, not the the borrowing. As for grime and its borders, I think infection, appropriation and mutation should be encouraged. That's where newness comes from. By all means, take it and fuck with the formula, but do it like you mean it.

MATT MAson said:
Hadouken are doing something innovative that as far as I can tell (and I should point out I have no idea who they are or what their motives are, all my assumptions have been made purely by listening to their music)

This I'm not convinced of, but as I've said, I've heard and seen only a limited amount. And it could be that I'm projecting what I imagine to be a large part of their fanbase on to the group itself. The type of audience I'm envisioning is one that will tend to be dismissive of "urban" sounds in ways that can either be (not so) subtly racist or just generally cynical about sincerity of expression, which is a problematic trend that extends beyond music.

There's a type of listener who would like to have a little taste of it in a format that they're comfortable with, but would hate to have their friends find a grime mixtape amongst their collection. A Canadian example - I'm reminded of a Bare Naked Ladies "rap" that fit too neatly within this dynamic. The problem isn't that BNK rapped, that they "stole" rap or anything like that. The problem is in what sort of audience predispositions it tapped into - i.e. an unwillingness to engage rap outside of a context that has been completely sanitized by ironic distance. E.g. "Kardinal is too cheesy because he really means it, but it's cool when BNK do it for a laugh." What's worse is when these monochromatic representations of music history (e.g. BritPop, CanRock) are then harnessed by government and marketers in ways that construct a homogenously white version of the nation and popular culture. See the lineups of official Canada Day celebrations and the "I Am Canadian" Molson commercials for evidence. Likewise, Tony Blair and Blur.

In Hadouken's case, this portion of the audience may well not reflect Hadouken themselves. I really don't know. I'm not really convinced by their bars about the Shoreditch scene but I also don't really know the loaded cultural politics of the neighbourhood enough to say anything about it. Maybe they're the new Specials though and I'm completely missing the point.

MATT MAson said:
is not a shallow cynical attempt by whitey to steal black music. Because there is always a huge suspicion of anyone who isn’t black doing something with what is perceived as black music, and because theft is sometimes passed off as appropriation, it’s not always possible to appropriate sounds and cultures in an honest way and I think this is damaging.

I wouldn't argue that it's an attempt to steal and I'm not at all one to be suspicious of white people doing something that's perceived as balck. That sums up my entire high school experience and I wouldn't want to inflict that ignorance on anyone.

Anyway, I don't really know much about this group apart from my first and second impressions. I'm not comfortable leading a charge against them or being lumped in with some of the statements that have been made on this thread. But I stand by everything I've said in general about latent (typically complicated, unconscious and structural) racism in indie scenes. I've just been around and in them enough to know this from a lot of experience. Likewise my arguments about irony as an escape hatch from commitment and sincerity.

Last word, can we please kill off the term "hipster." It's bullshit. I'd like to see people actually describe who in particular they dislike and why specifically that is. I think it would reveal a lot about the assumptions that are loaded into that term.
 

nomos

Administrator
And, for what it's worth, the way "indie" is being used here is too vague, undefined and unhistoricized to be of any real use.

In my posts I'm referring to my own experience in North American indie rock scenes (spanning, say, Fugazi, Jehu, Superchunk, Eric's Trip, Sloan, SY, Teenbeat, KRS, local bands, etc. etc.) at points between the early-1990s and the early-2000s. Then I suppose there's the whole trans-Atlantic pop phenomenon of the Strokes, White Stripes and whatever followed. And it seems like Hadouken is being lumped into that as well (and now MIA too?) which is really a stretch given that they seem like fairly divergent styles and audiences to me. Like "hipster," indie often has the whiff of being code for "white" or "not authentically 'street.'"
 
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Logan Sama

BestThereIsAtWhatIDo
Ok

Clearly I have no problem with people who are not of colour appropriating Grime. I am personal evidence of that. Clearly I have no problem with people who are not living a 24 hour street life of under priveliged grind and hustle appropriating Grime. Again, personal evidence.

I just have a problem with the fact that firstly the productions are piss poor knock offs of tracks made by people who will never get their moment of recognition, and the flow and lyrics are also a piss poor knock off, and after springing up from nowhere there is a huge media marketing push on them. I am a straight up hater. I hold my hands up. But it doesn't mean I am wrong.

If I EVER fucking read that JME copied the vocal stylings of Hadouken, or that General LOK record I might dust off copies their 'production' styles I will feel inclined to commit hate crimes.

If it was someone coming out saying "you know what, there is this sound called Grime, we really love it, it's great and we want to incorporate it into this indie sound to represent the diverse culture clash in East London right now, and also it fucking rocks the party." I would respect that. Ripping off Grime's ideas under the banner of Nu-Rave and getting critical acclaim for it whilst journalists clamour to make knowing references of how Grime is dead really, reeeeeally gets on my tits.
 

ripley

Well-known member
One of the things coming out in this debate (as it has in several others regarding appropriation and authenticity), is people are discussing what artists do and how critics and the public receive them all in one piece.

Pre-existing systems of racism, sexism, etc, are going to affect how music is received. That isn't necessarily the same thing as an artist being complicit with or seeking out to cash in on that system.

Judging how the press (or the general public whoever that is) receives certain artists is more useful when you separate that from judging how artists choose to represent themselves. This doesn't mean there is no relation, but in some cases I would judge an artist less harshly if they are ignorant of these systems (good faith appropriation or whatever) than one who is cynically exploiting them. A lot of the criticism here is as much with the willingness or complicity of the music press to feed a band into a pre-existing racist (sexist etc) value system.

I think it's a good thing when artists try to manage how the press receives them, but it can't be easy to do, and is also not the same skill as being an artist. Even worse, if you try to do that you are open to accusations that you are not being 'genuine' or a real artist.
 

Sick Boy

All about pride and egos
I spy with my little eye... about 1,000 generalisations.



Fuck being "entitled" to make music. I don't need anyone's permission to mix grime, regardless of my class.

No, there isn't a law against you making certain kinds of music. There are many ways however that you could make yourself look like an arse, and you'd probably look like an arse as a grime MC.
 

UFO over easy

online mahjong
it's frustrating for sure, but it's how the mainstream operates. that's one of the reasons I admire certain folks for abandoning their dreams of making it huge on a major and releasing their stuff independantly.
 
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UFO over easy

online mahjong
I know there's at least one person from hadouken on here.. I think his username is pilau. Maybe if we stop the petty namecalling he'll come out and engage with some of the points raised in the topic? That'd be pretty funky.
 

mos dan

fact music
comparing them to Gay Dad isn't namecalling if you like Gay Dad.

I don't, as it happens.

Interesting though - good detective work Ben!
 

nomos

Administrator
I know there's at least one person from hadouken on here.. I think his username is pilau. Maybe if we stop the petty namecalling he'll come out and engage with some of the points raised in the topic? That'd be pretty funky.

that would be great
 
S

simon silverdollar

Guest
Hadouken came out in Old Street on some faux-indie label I have never heard of and get write ups in the NME and from Jo Whiley.

.

yeah, like a million other indie bands. so what, specifically, makes hadouken so offensive to you?

i think sick boy's comments on dogdy crypto-racist motivations behind appropriation point to a reason (and his argument is definitely OTM (as ILx would say!) in lot of cases) , but i'm still not sure that this stands up in hadouken's case. i'm just not sure they're taking the piss. i think they like grime, and respect it.

i worry that much of the hate they get is simply because there's a band from a scene that most people here don't like being opening influenced by a scene that most people here do like.
 

Poisonous Dart

Lone Swordsman
Woooow...

If a rock band in the US got a DJ/producer and made hybrid music that was getting popular and the frontman jacked the style of a well known underground emcee I guarantee you ALL HELL WOULD BREAK LOOSE in the Hip Hop/Rap community. This is interesting...I just listened to some Hadouken joints and checked some websites including their MySpace page. Only in the UK, I guess. I can't really comment since I dont know about any of this firsthand. Thank God for YouTube. One.
 
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