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Misappropriation: Who Makes The Rules?

If Young Thug were white, black Twitter would be losing their f’ing minds. 

The term cultural misappropriation has been used frequently in many recent hip-hop conversations. Used during a Hot 97 interview with Azalia Banks, and aimed squarely at Iggy Azalea, the term [in this context] refers to the convenient use of black culture by “outsiders”. Is Iggy guilty of using our culture [sic] inappropriately? Well, I touched on that already – read up kiddies

But I’ll take my opinion a step further.

The idea of cultural misappropriation brings up something else; an elephant in the room that people seem afraid to discuss. It’s impossible to tear down one white rapper simply for being white – and/or allegedly not possessing authenticity or being fully educated in hip-hop history – without presenting a fully structured set of guidelines. What does one have to do to get a pass? Which white rappers are acceptable and why?

There are plenty of white roots in hip-hop. Eminem, most notably, is one of the most successful rappers of all-time. How about El-P, Beastie Boys or Ra The Rugged Man? How about MC Serch? He’s often acknowledged as the one who gave Nas his first break. How about long-time Mobb Deep associate Alchemist? How about we talk about individuals like Steve Rifkind, who brought us WU-Tang and Mobb Deep and Mike Weiss who brought us acts like Black Moon and Mad Lion. How about Rick Ruben? Those last three were executives, but you know what? They’ve done more for the genre than you (likely) have!

Listen, good music is good music, and bad music is bad music. Ignorant music knows no boundaries. If Young Thug were white, black Twitter would be losing their f’ing minds. There’s a new breed of white rappers like Mac Miller and Action Bronson who, like it or not, are exploding. They – arguably – have a pass. All I’m saying is that we need to define as a culture why it’s acceptable for them to exist without argument, but Iggy can’t do what, in all honesty, a million and one other black artists are already doing.

I just think that we need to be careful here – especially when trying to define who can do what. Unless hip-hop is going to stop taking money from white America, we can’t really protest them being a part of the machine. Standards of (cultural) hip-hop knowledge, authenticity and artistic merit should be set across the board, and stand regardless of race. Because without some more strict definition…we just sound like a bunch of haters. Sorry, not sorry.

No shade – and let me say, I’m a real head. I’m on your side (yes you reading this with the screw face on). I just think that the front lines of our culture needs to be more organized when opening a can worms like this. If you missed my last post in why Iggy is your fault, click here.

Carry on.

Riley About Author

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns