Hip Hop Goes Transmedia
by Marguerite de Bourgoing
While hip hop is notoriously an individualistic expression, the collaborations give depth to what is otherwise an individualistic expression, and independent rappers are no exception. They need to support each other to attain their common goal. Collaborations often have the strategy of reaching out to each other’s followers. Beefs (verbal fights) are equally standard and entertaining in hip hop but fans also like to see artists united and collaborating. This goes back to the idea of movement. The idea of collaboration is exemplified in the rapport producers have with artists (who make the beats and often the arrangements for the songs). The DJ is also often the third element to the association, Producers in hip hop are mainly their own persons, and while many producers have a special relationship with one or several artists, it is by no means exclusive. All hip hop albums with hardly any exception, feature other artists.
El Prez in one of the interviews he gave us, was comparing the scene to superheroes in comic books, aware that the fans like to see the artists get together. Indeed to push the comparison there are different factions of superheroes that also interact with each other more or less loosely. For a fan spotting the cameos in the music videos is part of the construction of this mythology. Watching the video of an up and coming rapper artist like Fashawn (who chose his name because he wanted it to sound like a superhero), it is fun to spot how many artists briefly appear, showing the wide backing he has amongst the hip hop community.
5. It ain’t hard to tell
Rappers are great storytellers, therefore they already have the gift of word, inherited from a great oral tradition of storytelling. It’s how you build that story that makes it effective on a transmedia level. Stevie Crooks (named after the brand Crooks and Castle) wears a ski mass during some of his performances and affects a kind of robin hood persona “in the eyes of crooks the industry has fell in this category fueling him to steal hiphop back and bring the Essense, love ,passion, and pure soul that we once knew”. The infamous Speak is very vocal about his Jewish Mexican origins and has a provocative flow “I like to play shows and amaze the crowd with fantastic raps and pelvic thrusting. I enjoy balloons, confetti, dancing, bubbles, chaos and hood rat girls with English accents and pro nails.” U-N-I (you and I ) emphasis their relationship with their fans, by posting or retwweting the pics they send them of them with their merchandise. El Prez dropped his latest mixtape of President’s day. Enigmatic rapper Blu who’s first album was a critical success names himself on twitter @herfavcolor and tweets that way: “Only5%OfTheTwittsInMyBrain MakeItToThePage”, “AnyBodyRememberWhenkubrickTookItToJupiter, OhBoyIsInThatCrazyRoom, Boom,InsertLadyGagaVidsRightThere, Climactik!”, “LatePass..IActuallyWantedToMeetKanyeTilIJustDiscoveredAmberRose,Wow,HeHasNoReasonToSayAWordtoAnyOneElse,BravoBravoBravo!”
6. It’s a man’s world but it would be nothing without a woman
One of the problems today in hip hop is the lack of good female rappers. Regularly I read tweets asking where Lauryn Hill is. Murs famously said “women can’t rap”. The hip hop audience has a higher level of male and it is an overall male dominated world. However, don’t underestimate the power of women. At LA Stereo we featured a few female emcees like Sirah.
Some of the female fans are the most vocal, and while some artists have specifically a more male audience, for an artist to succeed he needs to appeal cross genre. With a few exceptions for a story to be truly transmedia it should to be embraced by men and women. Despite the numerous mention of “ho’s”, there is an overall strong percentage of strong and intelligent women acting on the LA hip hop scene. Yeah you know if you’ve made it if you feature on the 2DopeBoyz ( a blog run by two guys who are very vocal about their tastes and distates) but in LA you still haven’t quite made it if you haven’t been endorsed by Devi Dev. A radio personality, she’s like a friend with a motherly approach to the artists. As a proper journalist she masters the art of the tweet evolving effortlessly between compte-rendu of concerts, anodyne facts and conversations with the artists. She’s able to tell off up and coming Nipssey Hussle about throwing gansta signs on stage. She’s the voice of reason commenting on why there are too many rappers, why it’s not recommended to date a rapper, and she has a wide public appeal without ever falling into demagogy.(On that chapter lets not to forget that LA Stereo was started by two women Kristin Guillory and myself).
7. We were scholars before colleges
Hip hop is an art form that exists in a society with a strong written tradition yet it is an art form that travels mainly orally (many of the artists we interview tell us they don’t write their rhymes down). This explains how it embraces easily a visual aesthetic and some of the other aspects described above, as it isn’t assigned to a rigid structure. It’s a reminder how oral cultures manifest themselves in ways that aren’t just verbal. Hip hop is an art form that has developed its own mythology, world, and prophets within contemporary society. It is an art form that constantly references itself as well as the previous eras as expressed with the practice of sampling. Most of what enables it to exist and survive within society is its own rebellious attitude, contradictions that it has to deal with, overall characterized by a “… don’t give a f*** attitude”. Therefore it is fluid form that references itself and follows its own evolution, inhabited by its own doubts, certitudes and celebrations. In a very Nietschean way, Nas a more introspective rapper announced that hip hop was dead, while jay-z epitomizes the Renaissance man in hip hop who has everything (you can check his impressive resume here). All the rappers in the world are emulating both attitudes. Hip hop has a backbone yet is fluid in its manifestations. However, to exist in hip hop you ultimately have to be embraced by the community of rappers, made of the pioneers, the golden era, etc. It’s actually remarkable how that older community is still active. On Twitter one can follower rev from Run DMC who gives spiritual words of advice or legend rapper and producer QTip.
To conclude hip hop is still a vital genre that is making the most of the digital revolution we are going through as it shows its constant capacity of adaptation, innovation and creativity.
Marguerite graduated from Oxford University and the Sorbonne Paris IV, with an M.A. in Art History and in Philosophy. She then worked for two years at the Cinémathèque française in Paris where she developed a passion for cinema. During this time she assisted Marc Riboud, a photographer from Magnum, with whom she explored the language of documentary. She moved to London where she lived for six years, working as a Production Coordinator on factual programs, before joining Discovery UK in the programming department. Recently Marguerite moved to L.A and completed the Annenberg Online Communitites Program MA at USC to define and develop new audiences online, particularly for documentaries. She’s currently developing her own franchise LA Stereo.tv with the help of her team: documenting the rise of the independant hip hop scene, and urbansalt.com with former classmates: curating the LA street style.