Hip-Hop: It’s Not What You Do, It’s How You Do It.

On any given day, you can catch me jammin’ out to songs off the radio whether it is pop, hip-hop, rap, techno but not country (sorry!). I listen to these songs on the radio for a couple of reasons…

1. If they have a good beat and I can dance to it… then I have no problem with it the song.

2. If it is Beyoncè, I am all set.

In reality, these not the best reasons for listening to songs. But, people listen to songs for different reasons. It may be the lyrics, the artist, the genre or the emotional connections that one may have with a specific song/artist. In our society, social media plays a big part in the promotion of artists and their music. Genres such as Pop, Hip-Hop or Rap are widley listened too and are valued by the younger generations.

Pop and Hip-Hop do not have the same implications now as they did before. Hip-Hop developed out of Bronx, New York around 1970s, as minorities suffered forms of inequality and injustice. The music that they created reflected that and served as a way of expressing reality. If you were to listen to songs such as “Rapper’s Delight” (1979) or “The Message” (1982), they provide truths while also portraying black culture through song.

Fast forwarding to the 2000s, Hip-Hop continued to remain popular. But, the lyrics have become more sexualized and more and more artists have taken up this genre and have made it their own. Yes, Hip-Hop originated through the black culture but that did not mean that others could not perform this genre.

Recently, I watched a video that was created by Amandla Stenberg called “Don’t Cash Drop My Cornrows.” After watching this video, I was speechless because she addressed the complications that come between black and white rappers. She gives a good definition of both cultural appropriation and cultural exchange in terms of black culture and the rise of white rappers using black culture as part of their music. She talks about a good variety of rappers and gives examples of how their music utilizes black culture.

Here is the video:

Take the time to watch this video. As music evolves overtime, it is important that artist continue to recognize the cultural significance in which a specific genre derived from. It is not a matter of authenticity for some but it is a matter of credibility. It is okay to acknowledge how different aspects of specific cultures have influenced thier music but an artist cannot ‘claim’ another culture as their own.


Art. I am talking about the physical art: paintings, sculptures, portraits and ceramics. These types of artworks are what make museums or art collections unique. When I look at such artwork, I spend so much time trying to interpret what the artists create. There may be little information displayed about the specific piece or the artist, but honestly how many people actually read it. What I enjoy most about looking at artwork is when I am able to get lost in my own thoughts to help me make sense of the artwork that is right in front of me.

Last week, while visiting St. Olaf’s Flaten Art Museum. There was a lot of interesting artwork displayed. There was one piece of artwork that stood out.

Steven Lucas

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She Sang the Blues


I don’t know about you, but I find it so fascinating how there have been many women involved in the evolution of the blues/jazz. I mean usually we study the history of different genres of music and it is mostly men who have participated in the crafting of music. I would say that that is not the case for the blues or jazz. I mean think about it, when you drop the names Mamie Smith, Bessie Smith, Billy Holiday, Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald… I immediately think of them as equivalent to all of the well-known male blues/jazz musicians. I am sure others do as well.

Taking a step back in time Bessie Smith (1894-1937) was one of the early blues vocalist who had a successful career. She traveled around the states performing blues creating a name for herself. She was called the ‘Empress of the Blues’ (Evans). When reading the article “Bessie Smith’s ‘Back-Water Blues’: the story behind the song” it was powerful to read how the song “Back-Water Blues” composed by her, made such an impact on the society around her. In this article, it spends a lot of time talking about how the text of this song relates to the Mississippi River flood. This flood impacted many black americans when it happened, but there is much irony in the fact that the song was composed and recorded before the flood actually happened (Evans).It is heart-warming to know that her artistry of composing and preforming allowed for other women to have similar experiences, especially women of color.

I found this poem called “Bessie Smith” by Sybil Kein.

"Bessie Smith" a poem.

“Bessie Smith” a poem.

I think this is such an interesting poem because it encompasses all that Bessie Smith conveyed through her performances of the Blues.

Here! Listen to “Back-Water Blues.”


Works Cited:

Evans, David. 2007. “Bessie Smith’s ‘Back-Water Blues’: the story behind the song.” Popular Music 26, no. 1: 97-116. Music Index, EBSCOhost (accessed March 3, 2015).

Spirituals: An Important Message with the Influence of Religion

African- American spirituals should be performed more because they represent a truth that many can relate to. You do not have to be “African-American” to understand the emotions behind silence, helplessness, struggle and liberation. But, you also do not have to be religious in order to understand the biblical references that are made in many of these songs. There is a connection in the text of spirituals that relate reality (in times of slavery) to the written evidence of the Hebrew’s slavery.

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King, Willis J. “The Negro Spirituals and the Hebrew Psalms.” The Methodist Review (1885-1931) 47, no. 3 (05, 1931): 318.

After reading the first paragraph from the article above, called “The Negro Spirituals and the Hebrew Songs” written by Willis J. King; the relationship of black slavery and biblical slavery is justifed. This whole article does a good job in comparing the similarities and differences between Negro Spirituals and Hebrew Songs. What King does best is capture the positivity that comes out of many of these spirituals. In the first paragraph in the photo above King says “However mournful and depressing the opening lines are, there is almost a note of triumph before the Song is done,” which is so true. It amazes me the amount of spirituals that are out there that are musically joyful, where the text represents very emotional and sometimes painful realities that black slaves went through. But, the beauty in these texts is that the slaves used their religious beliefs to find “triumph” and liberate themselves from the horrors that they had to live through in silence. This is just one small aspect of Spirituals, but it may be the most important because the authenticity of African-American Spiritual text is simply the truth in the message that they are putting out to mentally liberate themselves through a time of struggle.