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.
we had a critic at school last year who swore that most cutting edge artists have no idea what their work is really about. it seemed rather self-gratifying to me, as she is a failed painter, and believes that the critic’s job was to make sense of it for the artist and the rest of us. i’ll bet you wouldn’t totally disagree with her, would you?
that said, you make some interesting points. i see how you got that phd. keep posting it on facebook so my addiction can lead me to some real thought.
that artist’s point about artists not knowing what they’re doing and the critic’s role in articulating that to artists was made by Kant in about 1790. i do disagree with that view – it makes art seem like some sort of mystic experience rather than a careful, considered practice. in the era of conceptual/meta-art (i.e., art about “art” and the artworld), i think it’s especially true that artists know full well what the eff they’re doing. now, this doesn’t mean that artists are always aware of every possible interpretation of their work (bonjour, M. Foucault…), but to say that artists have absolutely no clue what their work is about is both (1) empirically false, and (2) demeaning to artists.
Thought this article seemed related, in a tangential way, to what you’re exploring here. You’ve probably already read it, but what the hell. I share because I love.