Archive for January, 2010

January 31st, 2010

Global Hip-hop

Since I’m in a syllabus sharing mood, I figured I should finally get around to posting the one I put together in Spring 2008 for a course on “Global Hip-hop.” A series of case studies examining how hip-hop travels outside the US, what it carries with it, and how people adapt its forms to their own ends, it was a hugely fun class to teach, and I was thrilled by the response at Brandeis. (At 150 students — which is where we finally capped enrollment — it was easily the biggest class I’ve taught, as well as the largest that Music or AAAS had hosted in years.) I’m sorry that I can’t include here all the audio and video that we reviewed (never mind pdfs), but poke around the webz and you’ll find lots of the examples referenced in the readings, as well as many of the articles themselves.

I’ve posted other syllabi here, fyi.

AAAS 135b:
GLOBAL HIP-HOP

Spring 2008
Brandeis University

Wayne Marshall
Florence Levy Kay Fellow
Music / African and Afro-American Studies

COURSE DESCRIPTION

Over the past several years, hip-hop has been heralded as a global phenomenon and an American export par excellence. Although a flurry of books, articles, and college classes have begun to examine the cultural, social, and political significance of hip-hop’s worldwide resonance, studies of the genre rarely focus on the specific ways that hip-hop travels, how it is engaged, represented, reproduced, and changed in various locales around the world, and how it animates local cultural politics despite carrying such strong, and sometimes contradictory, connotations of what it means to be American and African-American. This course considers hip-hop as itself constituted by international movements and exchanges and as a product that circulates globally in complex ways, cast variously as American, African-American, and/or black, and recast through the cultural logics of the new spaces it enters, the new soundscapes it permeates.

A host of questions arise in considering the scope and significance of global hip-hop: What does the genre, in its various forms (audio, video, sartorial, etc.), carry with it outside the US? What do people bring to it in new local contexts? How are American ideologies of race and nation mediated by hip-hop’s global reach? Why do some global (which is to say, local) hip-hop scenes fasten onto the genre’s politics of place and community, of struggle and opposition to the status quo, while others appear more enamored with hip-hop’s portrayal of personal gain, hustler archetypes, and conspicuous consumption? How do hip-hop scenes differ from North to South America, North to South Africa, Europe to Asia? What threads unite them?

In pursuit of such questions, we will read across the emerging literature on global hip-hop as we also explore the growing resources available via the internet, where websites and blogs, MySpace and YouTube and the like, appear to be facilitating a further florescence of international (and peer-to-peer) exchanges around hip-hop. We will consider a number of case studies of hip-hop scenes around the world as well as closely related (and sometimes antagonistic) musical/stylistic offshoots and hybrids, including: Puerto Rico (reggaeton), Brazil (funk carioca), England (grime), South Africa (kwaito), Tanzania (bongo flava), Jamaica (dancehall), Germany, Japan, Kenya, Cuba, Morocco/France, and Australia. We will also examine the international roots of hip-hop in multicultural New York and how American hip-hop figures the foreign (as in “orientalist” gestures and other sonic representations of otherness). Larger themes to be explored include postcolonialism and globalization, mass media and migration, race and nation.

MAIN SOURCES

Basu, Dipannita and Sidney J. Lemelle, eds. The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005.

Condry, Ian. Hip-hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

Forman, Murray and Mark Anthony Neal, eds. That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Mitchell, Tony, ed. Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

20% – Class Attendance and Participation: all students are expected to attend all class meetings and to participate in discussions, especially in Thursday sections

40% – Weekly Wikipedia Edits: each week students will make a small but substantive edit or addition to a Wikipedia article related to course materials. Students will also post a brief note to an open thread on LATTE explaining what they have done and why.

40% – Final Paper: a 10-15 page essay investigating a hip-hop scene outside the US: what representations exist and/or frame the scene’s narrative, how does the global/local dynamic play out, how does it compare to other places, etc.

CLASS CALENDAR

Week 1: Introduction & a Brief History of Hip-hop’s Roots in Multicultural New York

Kelley, Robin D.G. “Foreward.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, xi-xvii. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Mitchell, Tony. “Introduction: Another Root—Hip-hop Outside the USA.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 1- 38. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Chang, Jeff. “Inventos Hip-Hop: An Interview with Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi.” In Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, ed. Jeff Chang, 255-261. New York: BasicCivitas / Perseus Books, 2006.

_______. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation. New York: St. Martins Press, 2005. (Chapters 1-4.)

Flores, Juan. “Puerto Rocks: Rap, Roots, and Amnesia.” In That’s the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader, 69-86. New York; London: Routledge, 2004.

Hebdige, Dick. “Rap and Hip-hop: The New York Connection.” In That’s the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader, 223-232. New York; London: Routledge, 2004.

Marshall, Wayne. “Hearing Hip-hop’s Jamaican Accent.” Institute for Studies in American Music Newsletter 34, no. 2 (2005): 8-9, 14-15.
http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/isam/NewsletS05/Marshall.htm

Week 2: Hip-hop in Jamaica, Jamaica in Hip-hop

Patterson, Orlando. “Ecumenical America: Global Culture and the American Cosmos.” World Policy Journal 11(2): 103-17 (1994).

Thomas, Deborah. “Modern Blackness; or, Theoretical ‘Tripping’ on Black Vernacular Culture.” In Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and the Politics of Culture in Jamaica, 230-62. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004.

Kenner, Rob. “Dancehall,” In The Vibe History of Hip-hop, ed. Alan Light, 350-7. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.

Marshall, Wayne. “Bling-bling for Rastafari: How Jamaicans Deal with Hip-hop.” Social and Economic Studies 55: 1 & 2 (2006): 49- 74.

_______. “Follow Me Now: The Zigzagging Zunguzung Meme” .

Week 3: Hip-hop, Reggae, and Reggaeton in Puerto Rico

Negrón-Muntaner, Frances and Raquel Z. Rivera, “Reggaeton Nation.” NACLA News. 17 December 2007.

Santos, Mayra. 1996. “Puerto Rican Underground.” Centro 8, no. 1 & 2: 219-231.

Flores, Juan. 2004. “Creolité in the ‘Hood: Diaspora as Source and Challenge.” Centro 16, no. 2 (Fall): 283-289.

Giovannetti, Jorge L. “Popular Music and Culture in Puerto Rico: Jamaican and Rap Music as Cross-Cultural Symbols.” In Musical Migrations: Transnationalism and Cultural Hybridity in the Americas, ed. Frances R. Aparicio and Cándida F. Jáquez, 81-98. New York: Palgrave, 2003.

Marshall, Wayne. “From Música Negra to Reggaeton Latino.” In Reading Reggaeton (forthcoming, Duke University Press).

Week 4: Hip-hop vs. Reggaeton in Cuba

Pacini-Hernández, Deborah and Reebee Garofalo. “Hip Hop in Havana: Rap, Race and National Identity in Contemporary Cuba.” Journal for Popular Music Studies, 2000: 1-41.

Baker, Geoffrey. 2005. “¡Hip hop, Revolución! Nationalizing Rap in Cuba.” Ethnomusicology 49, no. 3: 368-402.

_______. 2006. “La Habana que no conoces: Cuban rap and the social construction of urban space.” Ethnomusicology Forum 15, no. 2: 215-46.

_______. 2008. “The Politics of Dancing.” In Reading Reggaeton (forthcoming, Duke University Press).

Fairley, Jan. 2008. “How To Make Love With Your Clothes On: Dancing Regeton, Gender and Sexuality in Cuba.” In Reading Reggaeton (forthcoming, Duke University Press).

Wunderlich, Annelise. “Cuban Hip-hop: Making Space for New Voices of Dissent.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 167-79. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Jacobs-Fantauzzi, Eli. Inventos: Hip Hop Cubano. DVD. (2003)

Week 5: Hip-hop vs. Funk in Brazil

Behague, Gerard. “Rap, Reggae, Rock, or Samba: The Local and the Global in Brazilian Popular Music (1985-95).” Latin American Music Review 27, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2006): 79-90.

Sansone, Livio. “The Localization of Global Funk in Bahia and Rio.” In Brazilian Popular Music & Globalization, 135-60. London: Routledge, 2002.

Yúdice, George. “The Funkification of Rio.” In Microphone Fiends, 193-220. London: Routledge, 1994.

Cumming, Andy. “Who Let the Yobs Out?” (Stylus)

_______. “Interview with DJ Marlboro.” (Hyperdub)
http://web.archive.org/web/20040422141408/http://www.hyperdub.com/ softwar/marlboro.cfm

Scruggs, Greg. “Stirring the Pot.” Beat Diaspora, 17 December 2007.
http://beatdiaspora.blogspot.com/2007/12/stirring-pot.html

Week 6: Hip-hop meets House in South Africa

Robinson, Simon. “That’s Kwaito Style.” (Time)
http://www.time.com/time/europe/html/040419/kwaito.html

Clark, Grant. “Kwaito: The Voice of Youth.” (BBC World Service)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/rhythms/south africa.shtml

Steingo, Gavin. “South African Music After Apartheid: Kwaito, the “Party Politic,” and the Appropriation of Gold as a Sign of Success.” Popular Music and Society, July 2005.
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2822/is_3_28/ai_n15648564

Stanley-Niaah, Sonjah. “Mapping of Black Atlantic Performance Geographies: From Slave Ship to Ghetto.” In Black Geographies and the Politics of Place, ed. by Katherine McKittrick and Clyde Woods, 193-217. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007.

Magubane, Zine. “Globalization and Gangster Rap: Hip Hop in the Post-Apartheid City.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 208-29. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Ariefdien, Shaheen and Nazli Abrahams. “Cape Flats Academy: Hip-Hop Arts in South Africa.” In Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, ed. Jeff Chang, 262-70. New York: BasicCivitas / Perseus Books, 2006.

Salkind, Micah. “Kwaito Culture as Nonpolitics In A Black Atlantic Creative Context.” Kwaito Genealogy, 13 Dec 2008. http://kwaitogeneology.wordpress.com/2008/12/13/kwaito

Week 7: Hip-hop in Kenya, Bongo Flava in Tanzania

Lemelle, Sidney J. “‘Ni wapi Tunakwenda’: Hip Hop Culture and the Children of Arusha.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 230-54. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Rebensdorf, Alicia. “‘Representing the Real’: Exploring Appropriations of Hip-hop Culture in the Internet and Nairobi.” Senior Thesis, Lewis & Clark.
http://lclark.edu/~soan/alicia/rebensdorf.101.html

Ferguson, James. “Of Mimicry and Membership: Africans and the ‘New World Society.'” Cultural Anthropology 17, no. 4 (2002): 551-569.

Martin, Lydia. “Bongo Flava: Swahili Rap from Tanzania (CD review).” (Afropop)
http://www.afropop.org/explore/album_review/ID/2604/ Bongo+Flava:+Swahili+Rap+from+Tanzania

Mueller, Gavin. “Bongoflava: The Primer.” (Stylus)
http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/pop_playground/bongoflava-the-primer.htm

Wanguhu, Michael. Hip Hop Colony: The Hip Hop Explosion in Africa. DVD. (2005)

Week 8: Postcolonial UK Soundclash: Hip-hop, Reggae, Grime, and Bhangra

Gilroy, Paul. “It’s a Family Affair.” In That’s the Joint!: The Hip- hop Studies Reader, 87-94. New York; London: Routledge, 2004.

Hesmondhalgh, David and Caspar Melville. “Urban Breakbeat Culture: Repercussions of Hip-Hop in the United Kingdom.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 86-110. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Frere-Jones, Sasha. “True Grime.” (New Yorker)
http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/03/21/050321crmu_music

Chang, Jeff. “Future Shock.” Village Voice, 19 January 2004.
http://www.villagevoice.com/music/0403,chang,50366,22.html

Sharma, Sanjay. “Noisy Asians or ‘Asian Noise’?” In Disorienting Rhythms: The Politics of the New Asian Dance Music, ed. Sanjay Sharma, John Hutnyk, and Ashwani Sharma, 32-57. London: Zed Books, 1996.

Week 9: Hip-hop and Raï in France / North Africa

Gross, Joan, David McMurray, and Ted Swedenburg. “Arab Noise and Ramadan Nights: Rai, Rap, and Franco-Maghrebi Identities.” Diaspora 3:1 (1994): 3- 39. [Reprinted in The Anthropology of Globalization: A Reader, ed. by Jonathan Xavier and Renato Rosaldo, 198-230. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2002.]

Swedenburg, Ted. “Islamic Hip-hop vs. Islamophobia.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 57-85. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Rosen, Jody. “David Brooks, Playa Hater.” Slate, 10 November 2005.
http://www.slate.com/id/2130120

Prevos, Andre J. M. “Postcolonial Popular Music in France: Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture in the 1980s and 1990s.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 39-56. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Helenon, Veronique. “Africa on Their Mind: Rap, Blackness, and Citizenship in France.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 151-66. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Meghelli, Samir. “Interview with Youcef (Intik).” In Tha Global Cipha: Hip Hop Culture and Consciousness, ed. by James G. Spady, H. Samy Alim, and Samir Meghelli. 656-67. Philadelphia: Black History Museum Publishers, 2006.

Week 10: Hip-hop in Germany

Bennett, Andy. “Hip-Hop am Main, Rappin’ on the Tyne: Hip-hop Culture as a Local Construct in Two European Cities.” In That’s the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader, 177-200. New York; London: Routledge, 2004.

Pennay, Mark. “Rap in Germany: The Birth of a Genre.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 111-134. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Brown, Timothy S. “‘Keeping it Real’ in a Different ‘Hood: (African-) Americanization and Hip-hop in Germany.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 137-50. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Week 11: Hip-hop in Japan

Condry, Ian. Hip-hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

Wood, Joe. “The Yellow Negro.” Transition 73 (“The White Issue”): 40-67.

Week 12: Hip-hop in Australia and the Pacific

Maxwell, Ian. “Sydney Stylee: Hip-Hop Down Under Comin’ Up.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, ed. Tony Mitchell, 259-79. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Mitchell, Tony. “Kia Kaha! (Be Strong!): Maori and Pacific Islander Hip-hop in Aotearoa-New Zealand.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, ed. Tony Mitchell, 280-305. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Henderson, April K. “Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 180-199. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Week 13: Conclusions: Brave New World Music?

Christgau, Robert. “Planet Rock: The World’s Most Local Pop Goes International.” Village Voice, 2 May 2002. http://www.villagevoice.com/music/0219,christgau,34334,22.html

Schwartz, Mark. “Planet Rock: Hip Hop Supa National.” In The Vibe History of Hip-hop, ed. Alan Light, 361-72. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.

Chang, Jeff. “It’s a Hip-hop World.” Foreign Policy 163, Nov/Dec 2007, 58-65.

Host, Vivian (and contributors). “The New World Music.” XLR8R 109 (Aug 2007): 64-73.

Marshall, Wayne. “Global Ghettotech vs. Indie Rock: The Contempo Cartography of Hip”
http://wayneandwax.com/?p=205

10 comments

January 29th, 2010

Share Alike, Or

What Happens in Riddim Method Stays in Riddim Method

I’ve written a lot here about the “riddim method,” a cheeky term suggested by my co-author Peter Manuel to describe a well-worn practice (and in the case of our article, a distinctly Jamaican version of it). We jest, but we’re serious. In short, what we try to explain is an approach to musical materials as shared/public/communal resources which people feel a certain license to riff on, reinvent, rearrange, remix — an approach sharpened and modernized in some special ways in the soundsystem<->studio industry-ecology of L20C Kingston, and an approach long gone global via reggae’s own migrations not to mention as absorbed and additionally broadcast by hip-hop, house, jungle, garage, grime, you name it.

But just because people participate in riddim/remix culture doesn’t mean they aren’t quick to turn the screws of copyright when it suits them. As Peter and I note in our article and as Larisa’s thesis will no doubt illuminate in lots of nuanced detail, plenty of reggae artists, musicians, and producers have sued each other over the years over allegedly unauthorized examples of plagiarism or infringement or tiefing.

Take Nando Boom, for instance, one of the Panamanian pioneers of dancehall reggaespañol. My co-editor-y-compi, Raquel, told me many months ago that Sñr Boom was suing Don Omar (as well as Wisin y Yandel and their producers) for the unauthorized use of elements from his “Enfermo de Amor” in their relatively successful single, “MySpace” (a song initially discussed here way back when). So thanks to Raq for putting it on my radar, though I’ve been steadily wondering — even while sitting on a draft of this post — what’s been happening with the suit. In that regard, I gotta thank my tweep Tito for letting me know yesterday that the case was recently settled, at least between Nando Boom and Don Omar.

Indeed, it apparently was announced earlier this month that Sñr Boom was withdrawing “counterfeit charges” against Don Omar and would accept his $100k offer as “bastante” despite having turned up his nose at it for about a year and a half (he initially demanded a sum in the millions and is still waiting on W&Y to “square up”).

When I discussed “MySpace” back in June 2007, what I appreciated about it was the brief moments when Don Omar performs a retro style reggae/ton flow —

We hear a number of signposts of the new reggaeton — state-of-the-art synths, emotive harmonic progression, dembow loops — but we also hear a nostalgia for “old school” stylee in a few retro interludes (e.g., around 1:10, 2:10), complete with throw-back, flip-tongue rapping by Don Omar over a crunchy, skanking, digi-reggae loop (though I can’t quite place it) –

Jace was quick to note that the riddim itself seemed to be a version of “Night Nurse,” and about that he was right. What neither of us caught at the time was that Omar was actually directly alluding to — really, re-performing — a central phrase from Nando Boom’s own version of “Night Nurse” (and it’s worth noting that a good number of Boom’s songs, including his own big hits, have been covers of Jamaican dancehall recordings):

While taking more departures than Arzu’s siempre fiel (save for Spanish) “Amor” — including, of course, the very melody / flow and lyrics that Don Omar recites — Nando Boom’s song is itself quite audibly a version of Gregory Isaac’s rubadub classic, employing the Night Nurse riddim as well as some of Isaac’s vocal melodies (and, yeah, underlying medical conceit). Doing what Omar does in “MySpace” or what Nando does on “Enfermo” — i.e., inserting a musical mnemonic, invoking a familiar phrase — is not merely commonplace but arguably central to the poetics of reggae and its many musical kin. (Can I get a zunguzungung?)

Call it quotation, homage, allusion — we have lots of words for this sort of thing (including, I’m afraid, “interpolation,” which is an attempt to bend language & culture to the demands of commerce & its legal armature). So while there’s no disputing that Don Omar has, in a word, “copied” something from Nando Boom, there’s no way that Sñr Boom himself can avoid the same charge on the very song for which he is claiming ownership. (Or just about any other song in his “catalog,” to risk reifying another recording industry concept.)

Tego Calderon noted the inherent irony of the case a while back:



“Defamation”? Oh man, could the litigiousness get any more specious? (I better watch my mouth though, don’t?)

To his credit, Omar has essentially gone the genteel route, proclaiming himself a “caballero” all along, apologizing throughout, offering praise and respect for Nando, and offering $100k in recompense. Actually, it’s not clear how much they eventually settled for. Nando Boom will only say it’s “bastante”; he won’t specify p/q “hay secuestradores” (kidnappers).

Now, I’m not saying that Sñr Boom didn’t pay some serious dues. I feel too that, in some sense — indeed, in the same sense that applies to the pioneers of hip-hop who never got to profit from its eventual global commercial triumph — dude deserves some “reggaeton money,” if you know what I’m saying. Despite his seminal contributions to the genre, Nando Boom never made the kind of cheese that these guys have. And maybe that’s what Don Omar’s magnanimous settlement is nodding to. Still, I don’t know about shaking down random infringers participants in riddim/remix/REGGAE culture.

Among other things, it just adds to bad precedent — and I don’t mean actual legal precedent, since this never went to court, and I’m not really sure about the wider implications of a Panamanian ruling about reggae copyright infringement (except that it could be bad for a lot of Panamanian reggae artists) — I’m talking about how bad faith behavior can have chilling effects on an immense, international, interlocked system of peer-to-peer cultural norms.

I hope Wisin y Yandel and the producers of the song continue to stand their ground. Or maybe just break dude off with a micro-writing credit or something, if that’s what he’s getting at. That seems fair enough, especially if it can be dialed down to the degree to which his so-called “property” animates the song — good luck trying to calculate that, folks.

I can understand if the bad blood / press might have itself felt like bastante to Omar, but I still can’t believe he didn’t go to court over this. Would it really have cost him $100k in lawyers’ fees? (Did they really make that kinda dough with “MySpace”?) Then again, given that the Panamanian courts had apparently granted Nando Boom’s request to arrest Don Omar and Wisin y Yandel should they ever come to Panama (see last para here), who knows whether he could have beaten the charge. In a US trial, I think he might be able to make a decent argument, despite that I don’t have great faith in this country’s legal system when it comes to policing musical practice. But when the issue becomes a question of national patrimony (even if that so-called patrimony is also Jamaican), tensions can really flare.

As I’ve been noting for a while, this sort of geographical enmity / argument among reggaeton’s “stakeholders” (i.e., would-be stockholders) — in particular between Panama and Puerto Rico — animates a great deal of online discourse about reggaeton, and my chapter in the reggaeton book was an attempt to speak to and sort out the various claims. Ultimately, I try to show the various and distinctive ways that each node in the network — Jamaica, Panama, Puerto Rico, New York — have done their part to shape what we now call reggaeton. Clearly, not enough people have read it ;)

Nearly every blogpost, news article, and vaguely related YouTube video have played host to strongly jingoistic arguments about who is owed what in this case. See, for example, the comments from one particularly UNHINGED fellow on that blogpost about Tego pointing out Boom’s hypocrisy —

TWO DIFFERENT SONGS
P.RICANS KEEP TAKEN OUR MUSIC

CARLITO EL PANAMENO is practically calling for his gente to receive reparations from reggaeton. But shouldn’t that open the floodgates of such claims? Should reggae and hip-hop artists, in turn, shake down their legion interpreters in Panama and Puerto Rico alike? I mean, if that’s the game, better be prepared to play by those rules. If it’s true that, as is alleged, Hector El Father decided to drop a dime on Omar + W&Y, I wonder whether Nando Boom should worry about someone making a call to the Cool Ruler.

13 comments

January 28th, 2010

Music Industry and Digital Youth Culture

Next Tuesday (Feb 2) will be the initial meeting of the first class I’m teaching at MIT. I’m excited about the course, a new one, which invites students to read along with me and collectively investigate what I’ve been calling music industry — that is, a broader understanding of musically-propelled cultural practice than something like “THE music industry,” with its focus on commerce, tends to demarcate — in particular as it relates to the more well-worn (if no less confusing) term, digital youth culture.

Wording aside, the subject matter should be familiar for readers of this blog. The discussions about music I try to host here are often, and perhaps also increasingly (see, all the youthful youtubery posted here in recent years), centered on the fraught and fertile intersections between musical/cultural practice, technological tools, industry and commerce, public debates, and the stories we tell about all these things.

If the subject matter is familiar to regular readers, I suspect some of the specific readings I’ve selected might be new to some — in part because some are fairly new. In sketching out the course’s — and my larger project’s — purview, I reach across various disciplinary literatures and genres (from the dry to the webby) to focus our foray on a few primary areas of inquiry: music/culture industry history; digital/media theory; and youth ethnography.

Finally — & this probably goes without saying — I welcome any comments, other suggested readings, etc. I will likely offer this course again in 2011 and intend to keep tweaking it. Plus, as already noted, this course emerges out of my current research project, and any help on that would be, as the digital youth used to put it, teh awesome.

Without further…

21F.060 / 21M.539: Topics in Media and Cultural Studies
“Music Industry and Digital Youth Culture”

Spring 2010
MIT

Wayne Marshall
Mellon Fellow in the Humanities
Foreign Languages and Literatures
Music and Theater Arts

Tuesday/Thursday 2:30-4:00 pm
Room 16-628

Course Description

Giving emphasis to the specific tools used to produce and disseminate media today, this course examines how digital technologies — especially peer-to-peer networks and so-called social media sites — are shaping and being shaped by the practices and values of the people using them. Taking into account a variety of forms and platforms, our study will focus on music as a crucial connective thread in contemporary media and culture.

Background

The convergence of global pop, social networks, and international digital youth culture constitutes a profound shift in how we imagine and access the world around us, but one which has yet to undergo a sustained and appropriately interdisciplinary examination — in particular, an approach which attends to specific tools (e.g., YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, imeem, blogs, torrents, production software, etc.) while situating them in the broader contexts of media studies, social science approaches, and digital humanities. Reading across these perspectives, we will ask: What is music industry today? And what can it tell us about the possibilities and constraints of cultural production in our digital, increasingly networked, and perhaps “post-scarcity” age.

Class meetings will involve discussions of readings and various musical and video texts as well as regular demonstrations/investigations of particular technologies of production, circulation, and representation. Assignments will include documentation of collective and individual research topics, developing a hands-on familiarity with particular digital tools, conducting online ethnographic experiments, composing critical appraisals of readings and media texts, as well as a final research project which – in terms of topic, scope, and expression – will be primarily developed by individual students depending on their areas of interest.

Course Requirements and Grading Distribution:

Discussion, Attendance – 20 % – Throughout term
Response Papers / Wiki work – 30 % – Throughout term
Individual Presentations – 20 % – Week 14
Final Paper (8-10 pages) – 30 % – Due last day of class (5/13)

COURSE SCHEDULE

Part I: 20th Century Pop Culture and Music Industry 1.0

Week 1: Mass/Pop/Web Culture & Its Discontents

Middleton, Richard. 1990. “‘Roll Over Beethoven’: Sites and Soundings on the Music-Historical Map” (short excerpt: p. 13-16) and “‘It’s All Over Now’: Popular Music and Mass Culture – Adorno’s Theory” (34-63). In Studying Popular Music. Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Shirky, Clay. “The Shock of Inclusion.” Edge: World Question Center. Jan 2010.
http://www.edge.org/q2010/q10_1.html#shirky

Keen, Andrew. 2006. “Web 2.0: The second generation of the Internet has arrived. It’s worse than you think.” The Weekly Standard (Feb 15).
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/714fjczq.asp

Week 2: Music Industrialization, Commodification, & Consolidation

Suisman, David. 2009. Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (prologue, ch. 1, 8)

Taylor, Timothy D. 2007. “The Commodification of Music at the Dawn of the Era of ‘Mechanical Music.’” Ethnomusicology 51(2): 281-305.

Kot, Greg. 2009. Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music. New York: Scribner. (ch. 1, 2)

Week 3: Enclosure and Read-Only Culture

Boyle, James. 2008. The Public Doman: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. New Haven: Yale University Press. (ch. 3, 4, 6)

Lessig, Lawrence. 2008. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. New York: Penguin Press. (ch. 1, 3)

Part II: Digital Turns in Music, Culture & Society

Week 4: The Politics of Digitization (Napster, Mashups, & Hip-hop)

Abelson, Hal, Ken Ledeen & Harry Lewis. 2008. Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness after the Digital Explosion. New York: Addison-Wesley. (ch. 1, 6)

Gillespie, Tarleton. “The Politics of ‘Platforms.’” New Media & Society, 2010.
http://ecommons.library.cornell.edu/bitstream/1813/12774/1/pop.pdf

Katz, Mark. 2004. Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music. Berkeley: University of California Press. (ch. 7)

Week 5: The MP3 Era

Sterne, Jonathan. 2006. “The MP3 as Cultural Artifact.” New Media & Society 8(5): 825–842.

Katz, Mark. 2004. Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music. Berkeley: University of California Press. (ch. 8)

Rodman, Gilbert and Cheyanne Vanderdockt. 2006. “Music for Nothing or, I want my MP3.” Cultural Studies 20(2): 245-261.

Kot, Greg. 2009. Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music. New York: Scribner. (ch. 3, 20)

Week 6: Peer Production

Benkler, Yochai. 2006. The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven: Yale University Press. http://www.congo-education.net/wealth-of-networks/ (ch. 1, 3, 8)

Week 7: Dot Organizing

Shirky, Clay. 2009. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations. New York: Penguin. (ch. 2, 3)

Weinberger, David. 2008. Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. New York: Holt. (ch. 1, 7)

Week 8: Spreadability, Virality, and Value

Jenkins, Henry. 2009. “If It Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead (parts 1-8).”
http://www.henryjenkins.org/archives.html

Lessig, Lawrence. 2008. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. New York: Penguin Press. (ch. 5, 6)

Part III: Digital Youth Culture and Music Industry 2.0

Week 9: Digital Youth Practices & Problems

Palfrey. John and Urs Gasser. 2008. Born Digital. New York: Basic Books. (Introduction, ch. 5, 6)

Watkins, Craig. 2009. The Young and the Digital. Boston: Beacon Press. (ch. 1, 4)

Week 10: New Media Literacies & Cultural Production

Lange, Patricia G. and Mizuko Ito. “Final Report: Creative Production.” In Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.
http://digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu/book-creativeproduction

Horst, Heather A., Becky Herr-Stephenson, and Laura Robinson. “Final Report: Media Ecologies.” In Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.
http://digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu/book-mediaecologies

Week 11: YouTube & Participatory Culture

Burgess, Jean and Joshua Green. 2009. YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Week 12: Blogs & “Nu” World Music

Zuckerman, Ethan. 2009. “From protest to collaboration: Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ and lessons for xenophiles.” http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2009/04/02/from-protest-to-collaboration-paul-simons-graceland-and-lessons-for-xenophiles/

Marshall, Wayne. 2007. “Nu Whirl Music, Blogged in Translation?”
http://wayneandwax.com/?p=143

Dacks, David. 2009. “State of the World: How Globalistas Are Tearing Down Cultural Barriers.”
http://www.exclaim.ca/articles/research.aspx?csid1=130

Clayton, Jace. “World Music 2.0.” The National, 31 December 2009.
http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091231/REVIEW/701019840/1008/

Week 13: Social Networks, Network Culture, and 21st Century Music Industry

boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. 2007. “Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13(1): article 11.
http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html

Andrejevic, Mark. “Exploiting YouTube: Contradictions of User-Generated Labor.” In The YouTube Reader, eds. Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau, 406-23. Stockholm: National Library of Sweden, 2009.

Varnelis, Kazys. “The meaning of network culture.” Eurozine, 14 January 2010.
http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2010-01-14-varnelis-en.html

Williamson, John and Martin Cloonan. 2007. “Rethinking the Music Industry.” Popular Music 26(2): 305-322.

Week 14: Project/paper Presentations

11 comments

January 26th, 2010

Panamanian Reggae Rabbit Holes

Boima’s post about a Panamanian/Nigerian jerk-off made me wonder about this Suku Castro character calling out “TODO MUNDO JERKEANDO!” So I did a quick googlywuzzit on his name and landed on this page, which not only hosts yet another interesting example of jerk practice in Panama (a mix containing no Spanish verses but cut’n’pasting several Jamaican dancehall vocalists pon the Ur-a-Jerk riddim) but offers up an embarrassment of Panamanian reggae riches, from mamboton joints splicing Drake acapellas to samba-sampling Scaredem-style dancehall by none other than Suku himself.

This is all, sin duda, par for the course inna Panama where, as I’ve been noting, the ol’ riddim method is audibly alive and well. I’m gonna have to keep falling into these reggae rabbit holes to get a sense of how deep they go. & I’m grateful to Boima and any other digital spelunkers — never mind actual ppl in Pana — for leaving lights along the way.*

* Much as I attempt to avoid travel/tourist/adventure metaphors in my writing about music from other times and places, I kind of like ‘spelunker’ in this case for the way it calls attention to my being fairly in-the-dark here — both in terms of what am able to access and see and hear (via second-language internetting) and in terms of my understanding itself needing plenty more illumination (not to fall into an ocularcentric frame, but let me stop the self-conscious qualifying already…)

4 comments

January 26th, 2010

Making the World Safe

I suspect some dear readers out there, much as they like me, are getting sick of seeing my bristly face when they load the page, so I figured I’d get something else up here at the top, though I don’t have time for a proper post right now. One thing about those beard shots — ok, 2 things — 1) some people like em; 2) you can’t exactly call me a typical navel-gazing blogger now, can you?

As for placeholders, I’ve got a couple good ones per ongoing conversations in the comments.

The first comes c/o “Acid Washed Genes,” where we’ve been having a pretty lively discussion of “gypsy” signifiers, balkan beats, and nu-whirled politricks. Special shoutout to Joro-boro who, among other gems, posted a link to the following video, about which he writes

It is kolbasti and according to my Turkish friends it is a style of music and dance originating from the Laz communities in the Trabzon area.

In addition to it being kolbasti, I would add that it is awesome:

The second is just a thought, inspired by some reportage c/o Marlon and Tito, who both have noticed a number of English language pop/club songs drifting into formerly Spanish-only (if not reggaeton-only) playlists. It’s easy enough to blame Pitbull alone for that, but I think the responsibility might actually lie with reggaeton itself. I have been thinking, for some time now, that reggaeton was remarkable for making space in Anglo media for Spanish language music, but I might have gotten it totally wrong: instead, reggaeton has made it safe for English language pop/club music to work its way into formerly Spanish-only spaces. Maybe the genre’s anti-imperialist detractors were right all along? Reggaeton: making the Latin world safe for Ke$ha.

I don’t have a video for that, but I do have a reggaetony YooToob which people seem intent to send my way. I wonder whether it will rub you as wrongly as it rubs me.

5 comments

January 22nd, 2010

Annual Bushy Beard Cull

Not as extreme a contrast as last year’s before and after, but better photos —

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6 comments

January 21st, 2010

Dubby Sounds for Baby

Not only do Flack and I share a penchant for experimental party music, we also share the experience of being dads to two young kids — in his case, twins!

Of course, I’ve given lots of thought to seeking sounds for babies, and I’ve been meaning to make a mix of my own reflecting some of the music that seems to soothe the girls (and their folks) when we’re chillin at home. But Flack has actually gone and delivered, throwing together some Dubby Sounds for Baby, including lots of tasty tunes, big basslines, and even some mashed up Raymond Scott (something we also have in common). Go on & grab it; fine for adults too!

(more kiddy mixxage?)

1 comment

January 18th, 2010

And a Two

ness-marsh-jan-2010-03

It’s a little hard to believe, despite having lived thru 24/7/365X2, but yesterday was Nico’s second birthday! Our walking, talking little girl is no longer a baby, by a long shot. But she continues to delight and surprise. Here’s a recent video of us playing on either side of my iPhone —

One of these days we’ll figure out how to turn the camera around the proper way; meantime, fun rules.

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January 18th, 2010

dem bow legacies (riddim meth0d repost)

[Since we're talking about reggaeton again, and about the absence/return of dembow, it seems like a good moment to repatriate the following riddimmeth0d post from early 2006. The post, a complement to an article on reggaeton I wrote for the Boston Phoenix, features a mix which uses the dembow drumloop to string the songs together, most of which represent the sound of the genre during its mid-decade heyday. For more mixxage along these lines, see also: Dem Bow Dem, a mix of "Dem Bow" cover versions (as opposed to songs which only gesture to the dembow rhythmically or timbrally). This was initially posted on 19 January 2006, almost 4 years ago to the day!]

to accompany my piece on reggaeton (with sidebar!) in this week’s phoenix, i’ve put together a mix intended to demonstrate just how deep the dem bow runs through contemporary reggaeton (as well as to establish some sonic links to jamaican dancehall and to other styles).

the sonic-social-symbolic connections here are multiple, myriad. though one can try and try to convey them in prose, sometimes hearing them is really the best way. and that’s what the riddim method‘s all about (for me anyhow): letting the music do the talking.

so let’s get to the sounds in question, but permit me just a couple of notes to orient your attention to what you’ll be hearing.

wayne&wax, “dem bow mix” [mp3] (40 min / 48 mb)

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it almost makes no sense to make a “dem bow mix” of reggaeton songs since the vast majority of reggaeton songs appear to feature some element of the inspiring, originary riddim. (and i’m not exagerrating when i say the vast majority.) thus, to make a reggaeton mix is to make a dem bow mix, and vice versa. that’s how inextricable the two are. the dem bow is reggaeton’s rhythmic DNA, a constant feature of the genre’s rhythmtexturtimbre, performing a function somewhere between ‘amen’ and clave. rather than boiling the blood of copyrighters, such use should prove a demonstration of the degree to which a vast world of derivative works can emerge from the creative sampling of recorded music, but which would not be possible – or conceivable even – without an utter disregard for, disrespect for, and disagreement with (american “international”) copyright law.

in the mix i’ve posted here, you’ll hear many appearances of dem bow, including more subtle, textural uses of the percussive loop as well as riddims that really foreground it. moreover, just for good measure, i often add an additional layer of the dem bow (in various versions) to thread pieces together, though a close examination will reveal the riddim already lurking in most of the tracks i’ve selected here. finally, as might be expected, i’ve also cooked up a couple specials and some little segments that i hope prove interesting.

i begin with the dem bow riddim itself (an “original” instrumental version, technically, as one would find on any one of a number of reggaeton “beats” CDs), overlayed with some clips from the BBC/”the world” radio program which aired last summer and featured some interview clips and beatboxing boom-chicking from yours truly. i like the way the mainstream media “hype” comes across here, complete with mis-pronunciations (“reggae-tawn”) and slight exaggeration. from there, we move into shabba ranks’s “dem bow,” the hit which propelled the dem bow riddim to NY, PR, and beyond. i don’t really want to get into the implications here of an entire genre essentially emerging from something that draws such stark lines in the sand, but suffice it to say that shabba’s thematic focus on “dem bow” is consistent with a lot of reggae (and some reggaeton): it’s anti-gay, anti-oral-sex, anti-imperialist.

the latter point – shabba’s pro-black stance against colonial(ist) oppression – points us to an interesting, and often overlooked, irony: that the dem bow is closely related to another dancehall riddim, the poco man jam, created by steelie&clevie in 1990, essentially “re-licked” (and tweaked) by bobby digital for shabba’s “dem bow,” and associated with and juggled alongside each other ever since. of course, “poco” in this case refers to the afro-jamaican religion, pocomania (alt. pukkumina), but i can’t help hearing a strong resonance with another meaning of poco. reggaeton’s relationship to race is something that has gone pretty unexamined in all of this coverage, so that’s another dimension – linked as it is to circumstances in the post-colonial americas – which i attempted to address, if only briefly, in my article for the phoenix.

after the dem bow/poco man section (including tunes by gregory peck, cutty ranks, and super cat), we hear panamanian founding-figure el general performing “son bow,” his traduccion of shabba’s “dem bow,” and from there, we get into the real deal: some PR-reppin’ from tony touch to kick it off, followed by some early, ruff-n-ready sounds from ivy queen. once we get into the reggaeton songs, we essentially thread our way through various “big chunes” that employ the dem bow, making a couple detours as we go: we hear how reggaeton producers nod to contemporary hip-hop as we segue from “el tiburon” to the busta rhymes song that seemingly inspired its chord-progression (as well as a dubplate-version by kingston-based DJ scrum dilly); there’s a section devoted to “juggling” over what we might think of as the gasolina riddim (for luny tunes appear to approach their riddims much like, say, lenky approached the diwali and steelie&clevie approached the poco man); and finally we close with two mini-mixes, the first devoted to bachataton or reggaetonchata or whatever they’re calling the increasingly common mixture of reggaeton and bachata (actually, i think they’re calling it reggaeton, and genres like bachata may be in serious danger of being eaten by reggaeton), the second devoted to some salsa-drenched remixes, including one of my own, connecting el gran combo’s “ojos chinos” to the tego song that alludes to it.

that – and the tracklist below – should be enough to give you a handle on all of this (si no ya lo tienes). ojala que hope you dig. if you do, go out and get yerself some reggaeton today. (i recommend these.)

wayne&wax, “dem bow mix” [mp3] (40 min / 48 mb)

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tracklist:

Dem Bow intro: BBC “The World” excerpts
Shabba Ranks, “Dem Bow”
Gregory Peck, “Poco Man Jam”
Cutty Ranks, “Retreat”
Super Cat, “Nuff Man a Dead”
Shabba Ranks, “Dem Bow”
El General, “Son Bow”
Tony Touch, “Pa’ Que Tu Lo Sepa”
Ivy Queen, “Yo Soy La Queen”
Tony Touch ft. Nina Sky, “Play That Song”
Wisin & Yandel, “Rakata”
Alexis, Fido, & Baby Ranks, “El Tiburon”
Busta Rhymes, “Break Ya Neck” (w&w dembow mix)
Scrum Dilly, “Nah Go Stray (dubplate)” (w&w dembow mix)
Hector “El Bambino,” “Dale Castigo”
Daddy Yankee, “Dale Caliente”
Daddy Yankee, “Cojela Que Va Sin Jockey”
Ivy Queen, “Marroneo”
Daddy Yankee, “King Daddy”
Tony Touch ft. Lisa M, “Toca Me La”
Daddy Yankee, “Gasolina”
Don Omar ft. N.O.R.E., “Reggaeton Latino (remix)”
Don Omar, “Dile”
K Mill, “Metele Perro”
Ivy Queen, “La Mala”
Pitbull, Master Joe, & O.G. Black, “Mil Amores”
Ivy Queen, “Te He Querido, Te He Llorado”
Tego Calderon, “Metele Sazon”
Tego Calderon, “Dominicana”
El Gran Combo, “Ojos Chinos” (w&w dembow mix)
Daddy Yankee, “Sabor A Melao”
Dem Bow outro (Shabba Ranks vs. El General)

pocoman nuh bow. dem jam, seen tu sabes?

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January 14th, 2010

Bongo Flavored Independence?

When Boima was in Boston recently, back from a trip that brought him to Dubai and Dar es Salaam (aka Bongo) Nairobi, he mentioned that he noticed CDs on sale on the street, like the one pictured below, which compiled current hip-hop (and r&b) instrumentals, presumably for local rappers and singers to use for their own remixes and versions —

Latest Instrumentals 2009

Boima expressly brought this to my attn because, as you can see above, the #1 instro is none other than what I’ve taken to calling the Miss Independent riddim. Unfortunately, Boima hasn’t turned up any vocal versions to add to the spate of recordings on the riddim one can find in Panama (or Jamaica). But I’m sharing this here in the hope that some readers might be able to point me to other examples, whether from the Bongo Flava scene or elsewhere.

Following this illicit riddim around has clearly become a fun little obsession for me. Thanks, Chief!

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January 12th, 2010

Hurban Renewal

Ok, back to reggaeton. So, once again, back to questions of vitality and vocality. Or, how it’s doing and for whom & from whence it speaks.

the reggaeton crash
one way of looking at the “reggaeton” “crash” (and recovery?)

I was tickled to see Birdseed name reggaeton genre of the year for 2009, fully contra Gavin’s provocative post about the genre’s crash. If one is not persuaded by Birdseed’s praise of reggaeton’s post-dembow turn to synthy club beats (right alongside, let’s note, its longtime main sources: hip-hop and dancehall), the real proof in the pudding is Dominican dembow, but more on that below…

First, a couple other items relating to reggaeton’s urbanity, if you will. This is gonna get a little meta, but my post about Gavin’s post resulted in a post by Marisol which got cross-posted to Racialicious, where it generated an intense and interesting conversation about Calle 13, reggaeton, and transnational racial politics, among other things. Marisol’s central argument riffs off something I wrote in my response to Gavin:

Wayne makes a good point that “música urbana” basically functions as a (seemingly sexier and less scary euphemism) for reggaeton’s old moniker of “música negra.” So it’s interesting to me that reggaeton’s resident blanquito has appointed himself the gatekeeper of said race music. … I’m curious about the work that placing a blanquito at the center of “música urbana” does. For sure it makes the music palatable to the a wider audience, as so many blanquitos have crossed-over “race musics” in the past. But I think the work that Calle 13 very clearly does is “fuel fantasies about reggaetons inherent latinidad,” as Wayne points out in his chapter “From Música Negra to Reggaeton Latino” in Reggaeton (Duke UP). There is something appealing to the many music critics who have profiled the group in their brand of Latin World music, something in stark contrast with the repetitive samples and versioning of Black music that is central to many other reggaeton acts.

I recommend that anyone interested in reggaeton and race read the entire exchange.

As it happens, I was asked recently to write another dictionary blurb, an entry for Calle 13. Trying to sum up an act like Calle 13 is difficult even with the 9000 or so words tossed around on that Racialicious post, but I only had 200. In light of the conversation at Racialicious, I found Calle 13’s polarization of the reggaeton audience (never mind of their peers in so-called música urbana) difficult to leave out. Here’s what I came up with (exceeding word limit a little) —

Calle 13 is a Puerto Rican hip-hop group comprising two step-brothers, René Pérez Joglar (b. 23 February 1978), better known as Residente, the group’s acid tongued vocalist, and Eduardo José Cabra Martínez (b. 10 September 1978), aka Visitante, a producer who brings together a diverse sonic palette using synthesizers, samples, and live instrumentation while drawing from reggaeton, cumbia, electro and a variety of other genres. The group hails from San Juan, named after street on which Residente grew up. Prior to their debut album, they garnered attention with “Querido F.B.I.,” a blistering critique of the assassination of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, longtime leader of the pro-independence movement. Distributed freely over the Internet, the song made Calle 13 a household name in Puerto Rico. Brimming with sarcasm and satire, Calle 13 initially posed as an alternative reggaeton group working within as they subverted the genre’s conventions; in recent years they have distanced themselves from reggaeton, preferring the broader label, música urbana. Thanks especially to Residente’s irreverent, sexually explicit and “vulgar” lyrics and pointed political statements, Calle 13 courts controversy, especially among Puerto Rican elites, as they enjoy a remarkable degree of commercial and critical success, including almost a dozen Latin Grammys. Their popularity notwithstanding, Calle 13’s reception as the poster boys of música urbana has been colored by resentment over their whiteness, class privilege, and disproportionate acclaim.

I still have time to edit this, incidentally, so if you feel strongly about the word choice or what gets put in vs. left out, I’m all ears.

Curiously, a few years before “música urbana” became the new industry term, the media had already announced the dawn and dusk of the “hurban” era — a term given to the new formats adopted (and, before too long, dropped) by such radio franchises as La Kalle, centered on reggaeton but also including Spanish-language rap, r&b, NYC-based bachata and other styles that could be confidently classed as hispanic-urban. I corresponded recently with a student working on a paper about the rise and fall of “hurban,” or as they described the project:

I am currently interested in the mass proliferation of “hurban” media outlets during 2004-2006, and their eventual demise from mainstream radio. Basically, I hope to analysis why “mainstream” Reggaeton, a la N.O.R.E.’s Oye Mi Canto and Daddy yankee’s Gasolina, has “fallen off,” so to speak, of the mainstream U.S. media circuit.

So if you can answer some of these questions, that would be so helpful:

Why do you think Reggaeton and the “hurban” radio station phenomena failed to hold a spot in the mainstream media? Was it a backlash from Anglo-audiences, who were quick to jump on the catchy Reggaeton bandwagon but soon decided they did not really understand the music? Or was it a feeling from the young Latino demographic that the music “sold out” to corporate interests?

Or, was it simply the repetitive nature of the music (use of dem-bow, “copycat” artists, similar lyrics) no longer attracted the same attention?

Do you think there will be a resurgence of Reggaeton in the mainstream pop music circuit?

These are interesting questions, if familiar. I was happy to hazard some answers, though once again, I’d be eager to hear from people who have other evidence or narratives to offer. Here’s what I replied:

I think one thing that needs to be put into context is how much the “hurban” marketing angle was a relatively contained (if well hyped) experiment on the part of major media conglomerates like Clear Channel and Univision. If we understand it as an exercise in top-down, corporate branding — as opposed to grassroots demand, regardless of the extent to which it sought to tap into that — then it becomes easier to explain the sudden abandonment of the format when it failed to meet high expectations.

Another thing to note is that the question of the rise and fall of “hurban” is separate from the question of reggaeton’s fleeting heyday in the Anglo mainstream; hurban format stations were not pitched at Anglo listeners. On the other hand, reggaeton’s receding from mainstream urban radio and MTV (where it maintains a marginal presence, but a presence all the same) and the failure of the “hurban” format might have the same root cause(s), as you imply. My sense is that a certain lack of interest in reggaeton/hurban was less about an Anglo lack of comprehension or a Latino disenchantment with the corporatization of the genre, and more with a sense of saturation and sameness: at the height of reggaeton’s (mainstream/media) popularity, radio DJs and major record labels were pulling from a relatively small pool of hits and artists, and the Luny Tunes sound was so dominant — and momentarily successful — that it crowded out other approaches. I think a lot of people just got bored.

That said, it’s worth noting that reggaeton — or whatever one wants to call it (and it’s telling that “música urbana,” not so different from “hurban” as labels go, has become the latest umbrella term for the music) — continues to offer a fair amount of variety to listeners willing to seek it out. I’m not sure what it will be called the next time there is a resurgence of Spanish-language dance-pop in the mainstream pop circuit, but I’m quite confident that we’ll hear that sort of thing again. The underlying reasons for reggaeton’s mid-decade explosion — burgeoning Latino demographics in the US, savvy music entrepreneurs, a timely stylistic overlap with contemporary club music — are factors that remain very much in play.

In the other corner of reggaeton’s big tent, across from the slick commercial stuff that fills-out Birdseed’s YouTube queue and aspires to radio spins and TV airings (and, yes, YouTube views) — the stuff that Jace more or less dubs music for airports — is Dominican dembow, an exceedingly local (if also diasporic / virtual) reanimation of reggaeton’s former (and formative) sound. In a somewhat surprising and awesome move, the DR’s hip-hop scene has embraced PR’s mid-90s underground aesthetic — the stuff of Playero and The Noise mixtapes — fullup of samples from classic (that is, early-mid 90s) dancehall riddims like Bam Bam and Drum Song, rubikscube beats shuffling the same snares, hats, and hits into an endless array of colorful configurations.

The poster child track for Dominican dembow is the bizarre and unforgettable “Pépe.” But I highly recommend the mixes by DJ Scuff (the first of which includes samples from “Pépe”) —

I’m particularly struck by how these productions resonate with Marisol’s questions about sampling & reggaeton’s racial politics — questions raised, notably, not just by DR dembow but by PR’s ‘regreso’ acts as well):

Is it time to think of sampling practices within reggaeton as an overtly political act? Is sampling consciously hailing an audience and interpolating the performer and audience in a specific genre?

I often wonder how much these theories about sample-riffic music and memory/signification require particularly active, engaged, and perhaps cognocentric (?) modes of listening, though we might posit — especially with the sorts of samples recycled in (proto/regreso) reggaeton / Dominican dembow (i.e., largely, short percussive sounds with distinctive timbres) — that there are modes of embodied (and perhaps even what Adorno would call regressive) listening that also, in their own ways, involve forms of musical memory. At any rate, that this practice is happening at the producerly level is remarkable in its own right.

Along those lines, I want to note that the 2nd DJ Scuff video embedded above contains a sample of the infamous DR-diasporic YouTube hit, “Watagatapitusberry” (about which, start with Marisol’s post from last October). One reason this is interesting is that it folds a track with no overt sonic references to reggaeton directly into the dembow diaspora. It makes me think that, in some ways, we may as well think of “Watagatapitusberry” and “Pépe” and even DR kids posting jerkin videos as all of-a-piece. We needn’t call that piece reggaeton (which marks another moment, another layer of activity, perhaps), and I don’t think música urbana says it any better.

More important than giving all this seemingly related activity a name is to note that the efflorescence of shared referents and practices, all this artful work of technological reproduction (to refix Benjamin for our labor/leisure effacing age), continues unabated outside the corporate mediasphere (that is, if things like YouTube can exist outside of that; I’m not sure they can). This vibrant shared and co-produced culture thrives on overlapping publics networked by language, diaspora, dance, Facebook, and filesharing. This is the point that I try to underscore whenever I get asked about the so-called reggaeton crash — if we only look to corporate radio, to the formal commercial sphere, for measures of music’s vitality, we may well overlook the lion’s share of what’s happening. Que fue indeed.

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Wayne&Wax

I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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