Oct 6, 2012

Hip Hop and the Death of the Author

My favorite pop music is Rock and Funk in the 1970s.

I think that the 1970s were the golden age of Rock and now it is dead as I wrote in the entry "The Song for All of the Stupid Boys in the World."

I think that rock music isn't contemporary music now either. Hip hop killed Rock music in the 90s, and Nirvana was the last band that created new rock music. And then rock musicians have basically rehashed old rock music, so I mainly listen to rock music from the 60s and 70s.
Sometimes I used to try listening to Hip Hop music, but Hip Hop sounded so strange that I couldn't get used to it. Recently I realized that what was different between Rock and Hip Hop and now I enjoy listening to hip hop music.

Roland Barthes, a French critic, wrote about the concept "the death of the author." For the traditional literary critics, literary works were always related to their authors, but Barthes insisted that we should read the texts themselves. Texts weren't creations by their authors, but each text is related to and quoted by others.

Roland Barthes' theory is based on structuralism. Claude Levi-Strauss, one of the most famous anthropologists, studied mythology by applying structuralism. Mythology doesn't have its authors, so it can't be related to its authors. Levi-Strauss focused on the variations of the texts of mythology and revealed the meaning and structure of mythology.

Hip Hop brought "the death of the author" to the world of pop music. Rock music was treated in the traditional way of literary criticism, but Hip Hop music is rather like mythology.

After the Beatles released the album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", Rock musicians made many albums, which were thought as art works created by them.

On the contrary Hip Hop music aren't creations of the special authors. In the beginnings of Hip Hop, DJs played pieces of songs with turntables on the street. They didn't create their original songs but just edited and quoted songs, which already existed.

Please watch this video, "Otis" by Kanye West and Jay-Z.

Otis Redding's, a legendary soul singer, song was quoted. His voice and shout were reconstructed, and raps of Kanye West and Jay-Z were overdubbed.

Who is the author of this song "Otis"? Otis Redding? Kanye West and Jay-Z?

I realized that I should enjoy the song itself and forget about who was the author. Barthes called this attitude "the pleasure of the text."

In the Hip Hop world the author is actually dead.


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