Flo-Riding the New Wave? or, Postmillennial Black Hipness
So, Kanye West is pretty commonly recognized as mainstream hip hop’s acolyte of the New Wave (Gary Numan references, what?), but Flo-Rida’s last two singles are totally obvious remixes/reworkings of iconic New Wave tracks.
First, there’s “Right Round,” the somewhat catchy ode to oral sex based on Dead or Alive’s 1985 “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)”:
“Right Round” is a straight up synthpop song (with some rapping), and it has a lot more in common with, say, Katy Perry’s “Hot n Cold” than with, say, T.I.’s “Dead and Gone”. (Now, there’s an interesting comparison btw. Flo-Rida’s and T.I.’s flow/lyrical stylings…they both are very rhythmically/meter-focused, but TI’s content is a lot more substantive than FR’s…).
Here’s the Dead or Alive version:
Now, here Flo-Rida takes on Echo & The Bunnymen, with the help of Wynter Gordon:
And here’s Echo & etc:
Now, the question that’s begged here is: All these new wave acts were in some way messing around with binary-hetero gender norms, so what’s happening with gender in Flo-Rida’s new-wave-inspired tracks? They always use a female vocalist, and thus maintain a pretty standard gendered division of labor btw. singers and rappers. The female presence probably also does something to secure FR’s heterosexuality (i.e., she serves as the assumed object of his desires). West has been pretty explicit about his attempts to re-value “gay” (I’ll post more on this later); is FR doing something similar here, adopting the trappings of gay white masculinity in order to prove his superiority over other black male rappers?
Let me explain that last claim: “White hipness” () is a cultural logic whereby whites try to dis-identify with “normal” whiteness (e.g., suburban bougieness) by identifying with stereotypical black masculinity (e.g., rappers, bluesmen, etc.) in order to prove their superiority (in taste, knowledge, political progressivism, etc.) over other whites. What West (and maybe Flo-Rida) is doing is dis-identifying with stereotypical black masculinity by identifying (somewhat) with gay white masculinity and its trappings (like New Wave), all in order to prove his superiority over other black male rappers. Is Flo-Rida a scion of postmillennial black hipness?
I promise I’ll post more about this concept of “postmillennial black hipness” later.