Music is something that brings people from all walks of life together it binds us and it divides us by telling us things that we don’t want to hear and causes us to argue on which genre and artist are better but it brings us together by genre and the enjoyment of listening to good music. There is one hotly debated question inside of music one that extends more than a century now is cultural appropriation ever ok or what is cultural appropriation in music? and what should be considered cultural appropriation? These questions have been asked over the course of music history yet remain unanswered and probably will remain unanswered for the foreseeable future, however as of late there have been to notable sources that have tried to provide some guidelines for recognizing cultural appropriation namely an article from music critic Chris Richards and another article from the website aesthetics for birds, which is a round table discussion by multiple philosophy professors about cultural appropriation and hopefully with some of my thoughts mixed in we can hopefully provide a little more clarity to this foggy question.
First, let’s begin by summarizing Chris Richards’s argument. Chris Richards argues that cultural appropriation is ok if the artist is using material and making something new along with if they understand the nuances of the music that they are taking from notably he brings up white rappers as the most flagrant offenders as many of them do not understand where rap comes from and what it means to the African American community or how rap was created Chris Richards also states that we should when listening to music ask if the artist is a tourist or a traveler and he explains this as a tourist is someone who visits and looks around and takes what they want back and leaves everything else behind whereas travelers move through the world to participate and don’t pick and choose the parts of the culture they like and don’t like but instead except all of it. I agree with Chris Richards here as I think if the artist well represents the culture understands it and makes something new or inventive from this genre that sounds good I can overlook any cultural appropriation accusations made against them also I think something that is key as well as is understanding where the artist comes from and if they have been recognized by other artists in the genre that they are borrowing from a fantastic example of this that fills these criteria of doing something new and where they come from and being recognized is Eminem as he grew very poor in Detroit living the same lifestyle as the people who created rap and because of his style of rapping he was recognized by one of the greatest rap icons Dr.Dre.
The aesthetics for birds article is a little harder to summarize as it is the thoughts from ten different people. The article starts out by asking this is cultural appropriation ever ok and then asks these sub-questions what is the difference between iggy azalea and Eminem? How does success factor into the accusations of cultural appropriation? And should artists be excused from their appropriation if their music steers attention towards the source it draws from? The thing that came up amongst a bunch of the answers was that cultural appropriation was about power with one of the correspondents saying “ The answer depends not on identity, but power.” this, of course, referring to the systems of power that they are in. each of the people who responded had the different answers for the comparison of Eminem and Iggy Azalea some came up with the reason Iggy Azalea and Eminem is that Eminem has a very specific sound and does not steal the sound of African Americans however there were some others who said otherwise namely one saying that Eminem has transcended race or that its the way that Eminem presents himself and his life as a tough street life living in poverty and criminal activities two other of the people who responded said that it was half sexism and racism. The majority of the discussion was focused on debating this topic of the difference between Eminem and Iggy Azalea however there were some responses for the other questions namely the one about if artists should be excused from the cultural appropriation for steering people toward a genre the census there was also quite varied with the responses ranging for people saying yes that its ok to overlook cultural appropriation if it steers towards the people who the albums about. Personally I think that comparing Eminem and Iggy Azalea is a little offensive towards Eminem, but that’s not what this whole thing is about. What I do think about this is the difference between Eminem is the way he came up the way his life was before he was famous the fact that he grew up on the streets of Detroit and plus being signed to a record label by Dr. Dre only helped his brand but even without this he has his own style of rap whereas Iggy Azealas style is very generic and does nothing new or interesting. Now when it comes to if fame plays a role in how the artist’s music is perceived I mean like yes and no there always gonna by those who are going to say things to try and tear people down but if the music is widely excepted as good and represents the genre well then I think it’s fine but this one is a little more ambiguous and can be little harder to answer just because of the sheer fact that if the more famous you are the more people are gonna hear the music and try and tear it down and not for the right reasons just to try and hurt the artist. The last question in this article I do agree with some as for me personally I have listened to music by two artists and like the way that one has sounded prompting me to look into more of there music leading me into a new genre I would have never listened to so I do think it is ok to overlook cultural appropriation if the music steers towards a new genre, however, I think that it shouldn’t be called out because of what it does.
Overall I think that music is being stifled by this cultural appropriation it stifles creativity and the ability for artists to experiment and try new things there is a quote from professor Alexus Mcloud from the aesthetics for birds article says “ I think that cultural appropriation, as such, is always okay. This doesn’t mean, of course, that any use of what we might call “cultural goods” (for lack of a better phrase) is acceptable, but rather that the acceptability of their use is independent of features of the racial, cultural, ethnic, or other identities of those who use them. Cultural goods, as ideas and ways of acting, cannot be owned, just as one (whether an individual or group) cannot copyright ideas, mathematical equations, languages, or accents”. This I think accentuates why cultural appropriation is so hard to define as well as that something like music isn’t something that can be owned I think by one race as music isn’t about race but where you come from and to have artist fearing that they will be called on cultural appropriation is something that could end up robbing the music industry of its greatest artist and albums because of the term cultural appropriation. I think that if the music is good and you put a new spin on it and like making it regardless of where you come from you should be able to make any kind of music. And that is what I think so I hoped that this helped you look at somethings in a new way.