The Social Factory

the blog of King's CMCI PostGrad Society


Doing Women’s Film and Television History Conference 2014

Read Tamsyn Dent’s report on the panel she did with CMCI’s Bridget Conor and Natalie Wreyford at the Doing Women’s Film and Television History Conference 2014. The panel was entitled “Forget the female, take that away from my job title, I’m a writer and I expect to be treated the same’: Challenging myths of participation in creative work. Reflecting too perhaps, Nicki Menaj’s comments yesterday that she no longer wants to be considered just a “female rapper”.

Tamsyn Dent

Conferences are a great way to get away from the computer screen, share ideas, thoughts on research and catch up with other academics from related fields so I felt very honoured to have a paper accepted as part of a panel presentation on the 2nd ‘Doing Women’s Film and Television History’ conference organised by a committee of academics from the Women’s Film and Television History Network (click on link to take you straight to their site).

The purpose of this conference is to provide a space for academics, activists and industry professionals to consider the specific contribution of women to film and television. Given that women have been significantly contributing to film and television for over a hundred years, it is perhaps a little depressing that this is only the second year that the conference has been running but here’s hoping that its scope and status continues to develop into…

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The Great Hip Hop Hoax – Film Review by Laura Speers

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The Great Hip Hop Hoax

Director Jeanie Finlay (2013)

The Great Hip Hop Hoax follows a rap duo from Dundee in Scotland who fabricate an elaborate story to secure a record deal. Following a humiliating audition in London where the pair are laughed at by a panel of judges for being Scottish rappers, they become more determined to make their dream come true. Billy Boyd and Gavin Bain reinvent themselves as brash and outlandish Silibil N’ Brains, who hail from California. As soon as the rappers fake American accents their fortunes turn. Booking agents, promoters and even music executives are soon duped by the pretence. Quickly touted as the ‘next big thing’, they land a contract with Sony, but the audacious masquerade and constant fear of being exposed as frauds takes its toll on the rappers. The film documents the astonishing true story of the duo’s rise to fame, their downfall, and the personal toll of the deception.

The film is made up of confessional interviews with the two rappers, as well as music industry personnel, close loved ones who were in on the hoax and others implicated in their web of lies. Intermingled with the unfolding narrative is shaky amateur footage shot by the rappers themselves, which captures the outlandish exploits of the pair following their first advance from Sony. In addition, stylised animation is deployed as a visual means to reconstruct the past. The animation also captures the two-dimensional nature of their rap characters.

At the heart of the story is the contentious issue of authenticity. To be taken seriously, the rappers feel the need to pretend they are from where the culture originates, the USA. Although substantial research on hip hop to date has emerged from the USA, there has been a shift in the last decade recognising hip hop as a global music. Tony Mitchell’s edited book Global Noise: Rap and Hip Hop Outside the USA (2001) arguably signalled the emergence of a body of scholarly work on rap, known as global hip hop studies (Alim et al., 2009). Since then, studies of localised hip hop scenes have been carried out all over the world recognising and celebrating the culture as a meaningful medium of expression and affiliation for youth. However, in the case of the music industry, it seems rap is only authentic if it is American and based on conventional, almost stereotypical, tropes of hip hop. As Gavin states in the film, “It has nothing to do with how good you are. If you want to get on a label, you have to be marketable.” Herein lies the tension between what is deemed ‘authentic’ and what ‘sells’.

For a music that holds ‘being true to oneself’ (Harkness, 2012) as a fundamental tenet of “keepin’ it real”, rappers who fabricate personas and live a lie portraying themselves as American, might immediately seem inauthentic. However, the documentary conveys the complex and often paradoxical nature of authenticity. If these two Scottish rappers wanted nothing more than to be hip hop stars, then perhaps we can understand them as ‘being true’ to that ideal. The contested and messy way in which authenticity can be interpreted and practised is what makes it such a highly charged issue in hip hop (Pennycook, 1997).

The essentialist debate of whether rappers are only considered authentic if they are from where the culture originates and fit the characteristics of the ‘original’ participants i.e. black, working-class and urban (Harkness, 2012) is not just limited to hip hop. There are similar debates in other genres, for instance country music (Peterson, 1997), blues (Grazian, 2003), punk (Williams, 2006) and dance music (Thornton, 1995). Furthermore, as the world becomes increasingly globalised and governed by capitalism, different music and cultural forms will continue to be appropriated and adopted in unlikely places across the globe, making questions of authenticity ever more salient.

Aside from the complicated questions raised about identity and authenticity, the story is also about friendship. Rather than experiencing a sense of condemnation or disapproval towards the main protagonists, the viewer feels sympathy for the young pair who were prepared to go to any length to reach their dreams, ultimately costing them their friendship. The interviews with Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd featured in the documentary had to be shot separately as they were not on speaking terms. The film is thus not just an entertaining account of rappers taking on the British music industry but a moving morality tale about friendship too.

The documentary will not solely be of interest to hip hop fans, but also to audiences interested in popular music or the music industry as the film provides a provocative insight into the way in which the artist-management system functions. Artists have a better chance of success with a well-known manager; though quite often have to relinquish rights to the label, perhaps unwittingly precipitating their downfall. The documentary will also appeal to scholars of authenticity because of the questions it raises concerning what constitutes the ‘real’ and ‘fake’, and the role of commercialisation in music.

The actual deception took place in 2004 leaving the inevitable question at the end of the film that if, ten years on, the pair would be able to ‘make it’ as Scottish rappers today. Although we are now living in a different cultural landscape, which celebrates hybridised and localised manifestations of hip hop, the documentary highlights the crippling power of the music industry. As long as it continues to exercise a controlling influence, in effect the music industry functions as the gatekeeper of authenticity.

 

Works Cited

Alim, H., Ibrahim, A., Pennycook, A. (eds.) (2009). Global Linguistic Flows: Hip Hop Cultures, Youth Identities, and the Politics of Language. London & New York: Routledge.

Grazian, D. (2003). Blue Chicago: The Search for Authenticity in Urban Blues Clubs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Harkness, R. (2012). True School: Situational Authenticity in Chicago’s Hip Hop Underground. Cultural Sociology. 6(3) 283-298.

Mitchell, T. (2001). Global Noise: Rap and Hip-hop Outside the USA. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press.

Pennycook, A. (2007). Language, Localization, and the Real: Hip-Hop and the Global Spread of Authenticity. Journal of Language, Identity & Education 6(2) 101-115.

Peterson, R. A. (1997). Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Williams, J. (2006). Authentic Identities: Straightedge Subculture, Music and the Internet. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 25(2) 173-200.

Thorton, S. (1996). Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Hanover: University Press of New England.

 

 

 


Just For The Love Of It by Nick Wilson

Amateurs, Professionals, and the British Early Music Movement

Many aspects of the British early music movement (“Early Music”) continue to intrigue. One thinks of the authenticity debate; the relationship between high culture and commerce; the incubating role of the BBC; or even what I refer to as “re-enchanting art”—the capacity we have of discovering “old” music through performance, as if for the first time. One fascinating aspect that all too often gets overlooked is the role of the amateur. By the 1960s the territory of classical music performance had become deeply divided. The increasing dominance of the music “profession” had effectively severed ties with everyday music-making, tradition and ritual. A gulf had opened up between performing classical music “just for the love of it” and the serious “business” of classical music concert performance. It would not be overstating things to suggest that such a gulf remains to this day.

Though characterized as an ideological movement born out of a scholarly obsession with recreating the past, Early Music appealed to amateur musicians, not least because it offered an exciting “new” world of sound. There was also the possibility of getting up-close and personal with the fascinating instruments that produced these sounds. In the infant years of the early music revival, “early” really meant early. A whole array of bizarre medieval and Renaissance instruments—cornetts, crumhorns, dulcians, nakers, rebecs, regals, sackbuts, and many other “buzzers and whiners” dating at least as far back as the 14th century—was suddenly let loose on an otherwise fairly conventional audience, conjuring up altogether “other” times. The sound of a familiar Bach concerto played at Baroque pitch on period instruments prior to many of the “original” instruments being mastered, was shockingly new. This aural landscape was genuinely exciting for many musicians who had come to feel classical music performance had lost its way. The performances and subsequent recordings of medieval, Renaissance, and early Baroque music by the likes of Michael Morrow’s Musica Reservata and David Munrow’s Early Music Consort of London (founded “to present authentic and uninhibited performances”) in the 1960s, were crucial in catalyzing interest in historical performance. But more than this, amateur musicians quickly found themselves being able to join in, as copies of old instruments became increasingly widely available. Before long it was possible for enthusiasts to construct affordable historical instruments from DIY kits, encouraging an even closer allegiance with this form of music-making. Such “early adopters” of early music were central to its subsequent success—forming its audience and fan-base.

Read More here: Musicology Now

 


New tricks with old music by Nick Wilson

As a musician myself I have certainly received my fair share of warranted (and un-warranted) criticism over the years. There is nowhere to hide on the concert platform. Performing music necessarily requires being open to others, exposing more of the self than is demanded in most other walks of life. It is perhaps only natural, therefore, that the controversial subject of authenticity should remain so stubbornly relevant to our understanding and pleasure of (musical) performance. “Keepin’ it real” is as germane to the historically informed performance (HIP) of “old” music as it is to Hip Hop, after all.

– See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2013/11/new-tricks-old-music-authenticity-early-music/#sthash.6qNWRVnL.dpufthe art of reenactment


The Libidinal Economy of Music Videos by Toby Bennett

In 1981, Video famously Killed the Radio Star with the launch of MTV. This was supposed to be pop music’s moment of Wagnerian spectacle, the harmonious integration of artforms in glorious technicolour – and, yes, there are plenty of examples that live up to such a claim. But it turns out that if you chisel away at a Gesamtkunstwerk for long enough, then all you’re left with is twerk. It’s a familiar story: MTV now rarely shows music videos (even if it does sync music harder and faster than almost anyone else), online streaming sites have become the medium of choice, and videos themselves are talked about in terms of their view-count far more than their creativity. So, over thirty years later, has YouTube finally killed the music video?

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Today in “Kimye”: Kanye West’s video for “Bound 2”

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Kanye West just premiered his latest video for “Bound 2” on Ellen, and it might be just the thing to get last week’s Lilly Allen video  off everyone’s mind. By the way, I just love how we are talking about music videos in general, feels like a pre-Jersey Shore era, but online, when MTV was actually about music. Anyway, in this video, majestic landscapes and animals are followed by West and images of his fiancé/baby’s mama Kim Kardashian. It’s quite a sight to see, and will be the talk of the Internet this week, no doubt. The song is actually my favorite off “Yeezus,” it’s got more of that old school soul-influenced Kanye, the kind of stuff that Ghostface Killah still approves of when it comes to Mr. West’s work.

Check out West’s interview with Ellen here.

-Stefania Marghitu