Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Eric Norlin on Hip-Hop and Blogging

Eric, are these posts you sent me in email really not live links anymore?! What a drag. Needless to say you were WAY ahead of your time (per usual) when you wrote this in 2001.

What you say about blogging and voice ... and especially ANGRY voices ... well, it's right on.

> Rap's beginnings were in an open space -- the
> "commons," if you will. It
> arose out of seemingly nothing -- a network of sound
> that was cobbled
> together. It did not cost anything. It was not owned
> by anyone. It had
> tools associated with it -- with inventors behind
> those tools -- sure.
> But "rap" was the interconnectedness of old and new,
> audience and emcee,
> vinyl and the needle. Much like blogging, rap
> depended upon a long
> history of similar context, but somehow -- in an
> almost undescribable
> way -- seemed *different.* Oddly, no one could say
> why that was. No one
> outside of an anonymous 13 year old black boy in the
> poor neighborhoods
> of Brooklyn, whom ABC news captured saying, "not
> everyone can sing, but
> everyone can rap."
> The evolution began at parties. DJs began to build
> home made/radio shack
> assembled contraptions (similar to those used in
> radio stations) that
> would allow them to continuously play records -- the
> fader. Of course,
> as with all moments of genius, someone probably
> stumbled on the fact
> that -- when used correctly -- the fader could
> "scratch" records -- ie,
> it could allow DJs to link records together, in
> effect creating whole
> new songs from pieces of older songs.
> *This* technique -- "sampling" -- bears so much
> resemblance to
> hypertextual linking (using bits and pieces of other
> material to add
> depth to your new creation) as to be stunning. It
> occurred to me to
> rename sampling as "hyperaudial" or something, but
> then I remembered
> that sampling came *first* -- so we should really
> rename the word
> "hypertextual" to "sampling."
> Of course, it didn't stop with sampling -- pretty
> soon these DJs were
> leading crowd chants over the top of their
> creations. Let's fast forward
> a bit: in the mid 80s, this rhythmic chanting
> ("rapping") was being
> roundly slammed by the media and music biz because
> 1) anyone could do it
> and it didn't require any "real" musical "skill" and
> 2) it just plain
> wasn't music. It all hearkens forward to our current
> blogging
> commentaries (see that NPR fuck): 1) we're just
> exhibitionists with too
> much time on our hands and 2) its not really
> "journalism." Oh by the way
> -- rap has now been around for over 20 years and is
> arguably the most
> important thing to happen to music since the
>, not arguably
> -- it IS the most important thing to happen to music
> since the Beatles.
> ===
> Rap music, much like blogging, originally arose in a
> free space -- and
> was heralded as revolutionary in that "not everyone
> can sing, but
> everyone can rap." I'll never forget the first time
> I heard a small,
> black kid of 13 from brooklyn utter those words....
> Rap's original incarnation was as party music --
> crowd participation and
> chanting ("put your hands in the air and wave em if
> you just don't care"
> kinda stuff). Much like many bloggers just blog
> nonsense to interact
> with fellow bloggers.
> Rap soon evolved into a tool for battle. The
> "battles" were free-form
> events meant to be a test of skill and wit...and the
> general format was
> one of braggadocio and analogy (see LL Cool J). I
> think we see some of
> this in "ego-surfing" and the recent battle between
> Winer and Rageboy.
> The next major evolution in rap came almost
> simultaneously on the East
> and West coasts -- but in much different forms. This
> was the evolution
> of what some would call "political" rap. It was the
> discovery that rap
> could carry social commentary (okay, so afrika
> bambaata did it much
> earlier, but it didn't explode till the mid 80s) --
> the two recognizable
> names would be Public Enemy and N.W.A. (niggas with
> attitudes). The
> famous songs: "Bring the Noise" and "Fuck the
> Police."
> Rap's progression continues -- until it begins to
> reach its current
> stages wherein self-recursive linguistic structures
> are emerging (eminem
> and tupac shakur) -- rap is now occurring within its
> own firm historical
> context. As such it is much like Milton drawing on
> Dante -- the
> references are thick -- and run all the way from
> drumbeats altered
> slightly to turns of phrases alluded to.
> For Blogging, rap's emergence is not only
> instructive in this historical
> sense, but in the larger, sweeping emergence of
> voice. In this context,
> voice emerges out of silence and seems to discover
> some untapped anger
> at not having been heard before. This
> anger/rage/annoyance brings the
> "self-centeredness" that is evident in so much
> blogging. Hopefully,
> blogging's evolution will be similar to rap's in
> that it too will
> eventually reach literary levels of self-recursive
> structures (some
> already does)....