Seminar, Tricia Rose: Black Noise & Hip Hop Wars
Guest Writer: Kerry Wilson

Thursday, November 8, 2012

posted under , , , by Unit for Criticism

[On November 2, 2012, the Unit for Criticism in collaboration with IPRH hosted a seminar with Tricia Rose (Brown) devoted to discussing some of her groundbreaking scholarship on hip hop.]

Kerry Wilson (Institute of Communications Research)

The Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory kicked off this year’s series of events on “The Eighties in Theory and Practice” by hosting a seminar, in collaboration with IPRH, with prominent cultural critic and Brown University Africana studies professor, Tricia Rose. Rose is the author of Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America, Longing to Tell: Black Women Talk about Sexuality and Intimacy, and The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop—and Why It Matters. She also co-edited Microphone Fiends: Youth Music and Youth Culture with Andrew Ross . During the seminar, Rose lectured on and led a discussion about the cultural context of the 1980s as it relates to hip hop culture and the larger discourses of black expressive culture and mainstream popular culture.

Rose pulled from her books to emphasize the social and political structures present in the 1980s that were responsible for creating the conditions for hip hop culture’s emergence. During the 1980s, Rose argued, structural and cultural shifts changed the representations of African Americans in the popular discourse. She marks the year 1989 as especially significant in bringing together hip hop’s complex narrative structures with a noticeable inclusion of female voices and a large presence of local radio outlets and record labels devoted to African American audiences.

After 1989, deregulation increased the concentration of media and, thus, decreased the narrative space for African American cultural expression in the United States by commodifying a monolithic representation of African Americans. Yet, according to Rose, hip hop culture has expanded in other countries because of its centrality to the globalization and export of American culture. The global expansion of hip hop culture exacerbated the already polarizing debate about the merits of hip hop culture and became the impetus for The Hip Hop Wars.

The seminar’s discussion period focused on challenging commercialized hip hop through alternative means of cultural consumption and production. Discussants considered the Internet as a possible, albeit problematic, challenge to the mainstream discourse of a monolithic African American community in commercialized hip hop.

Rose implored the group to seek out alternative media and organizations as a way to subvert the control of corporatized media sources. She especially recommended Robert Glasper’s Black Radio to exemplify the kind of alternative media that still has the potential to inspire challenges to the status quo in the way that US hip hop did in the 1980s and 1990s. According to Rose, scholars who combine theory and practice are better equipped to engage with the realities faced by those outside of the academy and create new knowledge based on praxis.


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