By Keevin Brown
African-American culture has been the subject of white America’s reverence since before the days of minstrelsy. The 2015 Grammy’s decision not to televise the hip-hop category speaks to a deeper issue of cultural appropriation, voyeurism, and exploitation.
The awards ceremony opted to have winners in the hip-hop category once again receive their Grammys on stage in front of the packed audience at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. So the audience saw Kendrick Lamar (pictured) and other nominees and winners of hip-hop awards, but those of us watching the ceremony on television didn’t.
The culture and flare that African Americans have, has always been emulated and corrupted to suit the needs of mainstream culture. For a white woman such as Iggy Azalea to claim to be hip hop—even as she makes racist comments about Black people–is deeply offensive. She should get no love at the Grammys.
What Blacks in America suffered by way of cultural appropriation has created a reckless disregard for Blacks as people. Angelina Jolie’s lips are regarded as beautiful, but Black women’s lips have always been full but never in vogue. Iggy Azalea’s buttocks are plump and the mainstream media adorns her, yet Black women are made to feel ashamed of their bodies.
Hip hop has been used to sell cars, tourism, and even fast food, but when it comes down to televising hip-hop artists for achieving industry recognition for their musical works, they are shuffled out of view. The rules of racism dictate that the hierarchies are rooted in the exploitation of those on the bottom. As Black people’s culture was being admired and studied, we were simultaneously dehumanized to the point where we were only seen as dancers, singers, and other various forms of entertainment. Mainstream America didn’t accept us as people, but was far too happy to embrace our cultural contributions to this country.
Hip hop as a genre and a culture is uniquely African American and a product of Black cultural expression. Cultural critics once predicted that the African-American art form would fade away once its presence had run its course. When hip hop began to bleed out of the inner-city and into the suburban areas, the impact was undeniable. People who would never step foot in the ghetto had a peek into the lives of young urban Blacks from the safety of their homes.
When the tsunami of hip hop could no longer be confined to the ghetto, white people found a way to commodify it, thus controlling the image, message, and conduits in which hip hop reaches the public. This is why at the Grammys, hip-hop artists can be used to promote the ceremony, but not be seen when it comes time to be formally be acknowledged for their artistry.