Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Roots and Reality Check, Part 2: Is “Conscious” Hip-Hop On the Next?

I might've failed to mention that the chick was creative

But once the man got to her, he altered the native
Told her if she got an image and a gimmick
That she could make money, and she did it like a dummy
Now I see her in commercials, she's universal
She used to only swing it with the inner-city circle
Now she be in the burbs lookin' rock and dressin' hip
And on some dumb shit, when she comes to the city
Talkin about poppin glocks, servin rocks, and hittin switches
Now she's a gangsta rollin with gangsta bitches
Always smokin blunts and gettin drunk
Tellin me sad stories, now she only fucks with the funk
Stressin how hardcore and real she is
She was really the realest, before she got into show-biz

-- Common, “I Used to L.O.V.E. Her

This entry is a follow-up to Roots and Reality Check Part 1: Nuthin’ is Free, which was a reaction to a hot back-and-forth on the topic of free speech and hip hop at American University Washington College of Law’s Roots and Reality II: Hip Hop, Law, and Social Justice Organizing conference held in April.

Another provocative topic that emerged during the final roundtable, entitled “On the Next: Hip Hop in the Grassroots,” was the question of whether “conscious” or politically-engaged hip hop could be commercially viable? And if so, should it be?

I think that the conventional wisdom is a flat “no.” Typically two reasons are given for this, which were expressed by one panelist, Jemar Daniels (J.D., original co-organizer of Roots II). The first reason is the belief that politics won’t sell. After all, who wants to hear about revolution when they can bounce to a repetitive dance track? The other reason often espoused by local conscious artists, like artist and panelist, Head Roc, is that hip hop produced for mass consumption inherently compromises a political message. Interestingly, these are the same reasons that industry folks put out to justify the current sad state of most popular hip-hop, and maintain the status quo of video-vixened, auto-tuned up music.

But, are these reasons true? Another panelist, Mazi Mutafa, founder of Words Beats and Life, Inc., flipped these ideas on their head, by droppin’ science of his own: because some conscious hip hop does sell (take a look at some of Jay-Z’s, Kayne’s, and Common’s music) why do we give life to a myth that no conscious hip hop can’t be commercial? (Head-nodding.)

Mazi’s got a point. Some hip-hop with conscious elements can and do blow-up. Regardless of what you think about Kayne, his body of work from College Dropout’s “Jesus Walks” to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s “All of the Lights,” contains politicalized themes about perseverance, violence, and power. These tracks are not Dead Prez’s “Hip Hop,” or even Jay-Z’s “99 Problems,” but they are critical and complicated in ways much of popular radio hip-hop is not. But they are more like Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie,” which is analytically rich, among other things.

There’s a lot more to say on this subject, but I think it breaks down to this: explicitly political hip hop may not sell platinum because the politics may scare some listeners or may rhyme in a language unfamiliar to others, but this gap can be bridged, ‘cause we know that politicized hip hop music can sell if industry execs, artist power-houses, or savvy producers give life to it.

And maybe if hip-hop lovers are willing to expand their ideas of what’s political and “conscious,” we may be surprised by the reception to the message. I want us to find a way to defy the conventional wisdom because hip hop politics have got to become popular—as a way to resist the crushing political forces, like mass incarceration, which threaten the communities where hip-hop calls home. I can’t be down with sellin’ out, but I can be down with transforming what’s “out” there.

-- Richael Faithful

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Law Reviews and Hip-Hop; Thoughts on Placing Your Article

A 05/10/11 LexisNexis search with no date restrictions on journals with the most articles containing the word “hip-hop” produced some interesting results. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (24) is by far in the lead, but the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law (18), Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law Journal (15), UC-Davis Law Review (15), Howard Law Journal (12), and UCLA Entertainment Law Review (12) round out a strong top 6.

Here we see 3 of the Top 10 Arts, Entertainment and Sports Law journals according to the W&L law review rankings. Not bad it would seem for an area that is relatively new to the legal academy.

The next 5 are also a strong group of journals: Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts (11), DePaul Journal of Art, Technology & Intellectual Property Law (10), Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal (10), Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal (10), and New York University Law Review (10).

Here again are another 4 articles in the Top 16 Arts, Entertainment and Sports Law journals. 7 of the Top 16 of these specialty journals have published 10 or more articles that at least mention “hip-hop.”

Several journals had 9 articles (Cardozo Law Review & de novo and Michigan Journal of Race & Law). Several came in with 8 (Berkeley Technology law Journal, California Law Review & The Circuit, DePaul Law Review, and Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology). Strong showings at 7 as well (American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law, Michigan Law Review, and Stanford Law Review).

For the sake of space I only included those journals with 6 (Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review, New York University Review of Law & Social Change, Southern California Law Review, Tulane Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property, University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, and Virginia Sports and Entertainment Law Journal) and 5 articles (Asian Law Journal, Boston University Law Review, Indiana Law Journal & Supplement, Iowa Law Review, Kentucky Law Journal, Law & Society Review, Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Texas Review of Entertainment & Sports Law, Tulane Law Review, University of Colorado Law Review, University of Pittsburgh Law Review, University of Richmond Law Review, Villanova Sports & Entertainment Law Journal, Washington & Lee Law Review, and The Yale Law Journal). There are many more journals with fewer articles, but they’d be too cumbersome to mention.

The above list also includes 3 of the Top 8 journals in Minority, Race and Ethnic Issues according to W&L rankings.

Those journals that feature “hip-hop” in the title are much fewer in number. The Michigan Journal of Race & Law and UCLA Entertainment Law Review lead the way with 2 articles each. The 13 other journals that feature an article with “hip-hop” in the title are Michigan Law Review, National Black Law Journal, North Carolina Law Review, Oklahoma City University Law Review, Rutgers Race and the Law Review, Santa Clara Law Review, Stanford Law Review, Texas Review of Entertainment & Sports Law, University of Louisville Law Review, Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, and Virginia Sports and Entertainment Law Journal.

A reasonable question for scholars hoping to place their hip-hop article is, “Will I be able to place my article at a reputable journal?” A good question! The evidence looks rewarding. Not only do hip-hop articles place frequently in the highest specialty journals, they also place in perhaps some unexpectedly strong General Law reviews. Looking at those reviews that have published more than 5 articles and again using the W&L General U.S. Law Review list… Articles that contain “hip-hop” appear in the journals ranked 3, 4, 5, 9, 22, 23, 24, and 29. I obviously didn’t go through the whole list, but these are not bad numbers.

Articles that featured “hip-hop” in the title faired well too. They placed in General Law reviews at 4, 9, 24, 75, 101, and 187. Again, not too bad. They also placed in the Arts, Entertainment and Sports Law journals at positions 6, 9, and 12 for those specialty journals.

-- Nick J. Sciullo

Placing your hip-hop scholarship

It occurred to me that there really isn't a list of journals that publish on hip-hop. While, law reviews are increasingly embracing hip-hop as part of the larger critical race theory dialogue, there are also other journals that are actively soliciting hip-hop contributions. I've listed them below, in no particular order. I will follow up this post with some thoughts on law reviews and hip-hop scholarship.

Words. Beats. Life.
Publisher: Words Beats & Life Inc.
Citation: APA
Length: 5,000 for research articles, shorter for other forms
Publication frequency: 2 editions per year
Submission email: submissions@wblic.org

The Journal of African American History
Publisher: Association for the Study of African American Life and History
Citation: Chicago Manual of Style
Length: 35 page maximum
Publication frequency: 4 editions per year
Submission email: Hard copy only, in triplicate

Popular Music and Society
Publisher: Routledge
Citation: Will review APA, Chicago/Turabian, and MLA; MLA for publication
Length: 4,000-10,000 words
Publication frequency: 5 editions per year
Submission email: TMOGCB1@wpo.cso.niu.edu

American Music
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Citation: Chicago Manual of Style
Length: 25-50 pages
Publication frequency: 4 editions per year
Submission email: nlearner@davidson.edu

Journal of Popular Music Studies
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell/International Association for the Study of Popular Music
Citation: Chicago Manual of Style
Length: 5,000-7,500 words
Publication frequency: 4 editions per year
Submission email: submissions@thejpms.net

Popular Music
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Citation: Specified in author guidelines
Length: 10,000 word maximum
Publication frequency: 1 per year
Submission email: cos01kn@gold.ac.uk

Publisher: University of Illinois Press/Society for Ethnomusicology
Citation: Chicago Manual of Style
Length: 10,000 word maximum
Publication frequency: 3 editions per year
Submission email: ethnomusicology@umd.edu

Publisher: Texas A&M University
Citation: MLA
Length: 10,000 word maximum
Publication frequency: 4 times per year

Journal of Black Studies
Publisher: Sage
Citation: APA
Length: 25 page maximum
Publication frequency: 6 times per year

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Bar Exam

Artist: Common
Track: Gladiator
Album: Universal Mind Control

Verse 1:

I was told by a wise old to come from the heart
Though I might've did The Light, I don't run from the dark
The dark knight to spark mics, and start fights
The warrior archetype like Kimbo Slice
It's strength in the beard, am I loved or feared
A beast amongst boys like Paul I'm Revere'd
Vroof, vroof vroof vroof vroof vroof vroof well
Like Jacob Jewel, I keep clientele
You frail on the mic like you might break a nail
I might smoke a joint but I won't take the L
I knew a fat girl who broke the scale
Still touched down cause I was off Artell
Had dreams of breaking Mike Vick out of jail
Took the underground rail to the NFL
I rebel, NYSL
Here to leave a trail like Nelson Mandela

They say he's a radical, he don't fit the game
A heart full of glory and a fist of pain
A couple of battle scars but shit's the same
Are you not entertained
So all the onlookers and the bystanders
Wait til intermission, run buy your camera
Record the moment, cause it'll be platinum
And you could say you seen Common rock the stadium

My words is the sword, my skill is the shield
My life is the style I stay dressed to kill
A legend like Will Smith with the steel
I could save the world when shit get for real
Skinny George Foreman, all in your grill
My rhyme style is blind, it's all in the feel
Touch it and watch the blood fall when it's real
The weak raps you wrote you could call that your will
My drive VROOM is how I stay the livest
Your guys got you gassed, my flow is a hybrid
Crashed I survived it, gashes over eyelids
You easy to take out cause you hot garbage
I'm amped like wattage, the truth nigga honest
Any moment opponents drop out like college
Kneel and pay homage to the rap Ziggy Stardust
Stadium hands in the air, fists balled up