A note on pop culture
Eminem has released a new song Mosh. It turns out that this is a seemingly uncharacteristic call to arms from probably the most significant hip-hop artist in some time (at least on the commercial scene). This blatant anti-bush anthem is more than just “politics suck” as you’d expect, it is asking the hip-hop generation to vote, and vote against Bush no less. As they lyrics say:
- No more blood for oil,
We’ve got our own battles to fight on our home soil,
No more psychological warfare
to trick us to thinking that we ain’t loyal
If we don’t serve our own country we’re patronising our heroes
Look in his eyes it’s all lies
The stars and stripes have been swiped, washed out in white
And replaced with his own face
Mosh now or die
if I could strike tonight you know why, cos I told you to fight
Alternet have written an article on it which is an interesting read for two reasons. Firstly they are dismissive of Eminem’s previous record. While I’m not exactly Eminem’s number one fan, I don’t even have an album of his, I am of the opinion that he has always been quite political – just not in the institutional sense that his latest number is. I actually think that large parts of his social commentary are quite remarkable with a brutal honesty that should be respected, even if it does leave you feeling a little uncomfortable from time to time.
Secondly, the article is interesting because of it point about the possibility of this song mobilising large masses of an electorally apathetic demographic. The article points to the fact that only one third of people aged 18 to 24 voted in the 2000 US election. Moreover his influence will be great in the significant swinging states of “middle-America”.
To me this simply reaffirms my long held belief that pop-culture is probably the single most effective and influential form of protest. Art reflects society and there’s nothing quite like some badass beats with some scathing rhymes to really get you pumped up – even enough to do something about it. I know my personal political awakening had a lot to do with bands like the Dead Kennedys and Rage Against the Machine. They made me angry and as Zack De La Rocha says “anger is a gift”.
My roots are in punk rock. Punk (or ‘real’ punk) was certainly always overtly political and I would argue that the essence of punk is today most alive in the better, and often more political, hip hop. This is because the the awareness of their own socio-economic status and the ability to articulate this position and its ramifications. Perhaps it is a class-consciousness that binds the two in my mind.
Moreover, one only needs to think back to the cultural revolutions of 1968 for yet another example of the importance of pop culture. If it wasn’t for Bob Dylan and the Beatles and so on and so forth then things like the women’s liberation movement, gay rights, civil rights and so on probably would never have got of the ground as they wouldn’t have had the climate or the reach to achieve this.
As an interesting aside, perhaps it was punk’s move back towards a class analysis and away from the identity politics that defined the 1968 cultural revolutions that meant that punk started off as such a rebellion against the ‘hippies’. If I recall correctly the original bass player from the Sex Pistols was kicked out of the band for admitting that he liked the Beatles. Considering the heavy involvement of African Americans in hip-hop it is hardly surprising that they tend towards a more class-based analysis.
Another article on this can be found here.