Nicki Minaj and Rosenberg: The internal battle between "authentic" and "unauthentic" music
Hop Hop was born out of the history of black and brown youth feeling that the music, culture and people around them were not talking to their experience. Out of that need to be heard and expressed came about the most fantastic musical artistic forms to grace this country and world within the past thirty plus years. As the music became older it has been so infused (read taken and used by many) so well that it is the as symbiotic with American culture as apple pie and racism. What has been a large issue is what does that growth look like, especially to those who want to maintain the "authentic" caliber of hip hop." Allow me to quickly dispel the myth that there is an authentic sound to hip hop or blackness. The idea of authenticity within the black and brown community is one of the most ridiculous ideas that continues to permeate culture. Toure, pop culture writer and critic in his book "Who's Afraid of Post Blackness" makes the argument that blackness is more diverse now than it ever has been. No one has ownership over the correct way to do blackness. Black people who like to go to brunch and attend wine and scotch tastings are no more or less black than those who like to stay on the block and listen to music at insane volumes. Blackness has to be a collection of all things possible since black people by nature are all things possible. What concerns me about the authenticity argument among black people is that often times it is some of the most nefarious of activities that are associated with being authentically black. This is deeply concerning for those who want to envision a blackness that entails a broad and realistic view of what people can be.
This authenticity dilemma is especially troubling in music. I liken those who believe hip hop should remain authentic to parents who have children and expect them to always stay the same. People grow and change over time. Music has to as well since it is created by people. I have friends my age who still only listen to Biggie and Tupac and Jay-Z and have called other artists unauthentic. They fail to appreciate the breadth of how much we have changed as a culture over the past twenty years. Music has become more global, with the infusion of European club music, Latin beats, Caribbean rhythms and African bass lines all joining forces in hip hop. This melange is what makes the art form still vibrant and amazing. There can be little doubt that this growth has made the music more appealing to various cultures.
I have spent some time traveling the world and noticed the impact of hip hop. In the tropical climates of Antigua, to the French communities in Paris, to the slums and cities in Kenya, to the streets of Montreal, hip hop has its own flavor and culture that continues to grow. There is no doubt that these countries understand the value of making the music representative of their own cultures. No one can dare say that their music isn't hip hop because it definitely is.
Maybe what we need to do is appreciate music for what it is and drop the title of hip hop and rap altogether. Maybe then artists like Nicki Minaj will not have to be ridiculed for their work being unauthentic. But frankly until black people come to terms with the push and pull of the authenticity debate as it relates to the entire culture, then the argument will permeate to other aspects of culture, at the clear detriment to the community at large.