Monday, February 10, 2014

rhythm and blues and authenticity

The Coup's Boots Riley, speaking to Chicago rapper ShowYouSuck (Clinton Sandifer) in the February 6 issue of the Chicago Reader:

The short answer is, the hip-hop audience hasn't changed. It's just the people who are willing to come to the type of hip-hop that we're doing has changed. And to be fair, the style of hip-hop I do is not the style of hip-hop that a lot of people are listening to, based on what gets played on the radio and what gets played on video shows. A lot of black folks are going there. But even those audiences—who listen to the radio and who watch those video shows, 106 & Park—it's mainly white kids too. It's just that certain kinds of music sell because of the idea that it has a largely black audience, and that's always been the trick.

Peter Guralnick has a book called
Sweet Soul Music in which he talks about one of the reasons that him and his friends were more into Stax Records as opposed to Motown Records in the 60s—they had this idea that Stax Records was more of the black culture than Motown was. It had this image behind it that this is what black people listen to. So what happened was, a lot of white kids started buying it.

But in his book, he interviews people and finds out that no, they were marketing it toward white kids with the idea of authenticity behind it. Who was buying it was mainly white kids, just like any product in the United States. But what does get sold sometimes is this idea of authenticity. And if you don't have a certain image, then you must not really be authentic. Because we all know, black folks only act a certain way. And if you're not acting that way, then you probably don't have many black folks who listen to your stuff. [