Web 2.0 – Television is Evolving

Television has limited itself greatly by not having user agency for viewing like YouTube does. When an entire “library” of media is accessible at any time or mood, this is very convenient and attractive for viewers. By staying on a regulated programming that is timed and not user friendly, television has limited itself. YouTube however offers “a significant shift in agency (producer-controlled flow as distinct from user-generated flow), and a shift from flow as default to flow as a condition that requires active selection” (Uricchio 33).

Also, YouTube’s collaborative aspect of encouraged participation and recommendation based off of previous viewings is very convenient for viewers. YouTube “has launched a number of initiatives that seek to restore notions of collectivity” (Uricchio 34). With features like the comment section that encourages audiences to vocalize their opinions on the work, as well as, inspire reaction videos to those comments. Not to mention, videos are sharable and connect people that have common interests like people who enjoy watching cat videos. Even “YouTube’s collaborative annotation system enables users to invite people to create speech bubbles, notes and spotlights on their videos” (Uricchio 34). Now much like concerts for musicians, YouTube has thousands of meet ups with popular “Youtubers” and their fans to actual conferences like VidCon. The interactivity of Youtube is truly unmatchable.

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The thing television had going for itself in 2009 when William Uricchio wrote this essay “The Future of a Medium Once Known as Television,” was its unique access to liveliness. Uricchio wrote that “if one searches on YouTube for live television, one is prompted with subcategories such as ‘bloopers, mistakes, accidents, gone wrong, and fights’—indications that liveness is understood by YouTube’s minions as an excess of signification that cannot be cleaned up, edited away or reshot” (32). However, inaccessibility to live content on YouTube is no longer the case. Now even YouTube has live showings from news, to gaming, to sports, etc. 

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It seems the television industry has greatly limited itself, and YouTube is utilizing this as advantage to gain more clients. Youtube’s “notion of liveness is one of simulation and “on demand”; its embrace of flow is selective and user-generated; and its sense of community and connection is networked and drawn together through recommendation, annotation and prompts” (Uricchio 35).

However, this article is assuming that streaming is not a form of television. Streaming sites, like Netflix, were not popular when this article was first released, yet now, streaming sites could very likely replace traditional television all together. I would argue that streaming is an evolved form of television that has occurred due to the necessary demand.

Consumers want the accessibility of YouTube that is much like a library that one can easily select from. Though Netflix does not yet have live viewing, YouTube does, leaving traditional television as unnecessary. The sense of community that YouTube capitalizes on is not the same as it for streaming sites. Streaming sites’ communities have come less from interactive set ups created by the site, and instead from the limited quantity of available content. It is not uncommon to hear from a friend “have you seen this show on Netflix?” that starts a conversation and sense of community. It is so common to watch Netflix in today’s society, that even the term “Netflix and chill” refers to an interest in having sex with someone. It is in this new developed form of “television” that these networks will keep up with “consumers’ changing needs.” Who knows maybe even streaming sites like Netflix will one day have a comment section?

Genre Parody: Boy Band Music Video

Genre parody is a text that utilizes “the codes of a genre at the same time… self-consciously parod[ies] those codes” (Sturken and Cartwright 329). The humor of genre parody functions by the viewers’ acknowledgement of the distinct variations between the original text and the new text. Genre parody does not mean for audiences to digest the parodied context in a serious reflective manner, but rather playfully enjoy “both the old text and its parodic remake” (Sturken and Cartwright 330).

Amy Schumer’s television show, Inside Amy Schumer, parodies various works of culture from music videos to movie styles to simply social expectations. In a clever and hilarious sketch, “Girl, You Don’t Need  Makeup,” Schumer makes fun of the boy band music video genre. She particularly parodies boy band One Direction and the unrealistic messages this group sends to young women.

In an original One Direction music video “What Makes You Beautiful,” four teenage looking pop stars sing to their love interests, or women in general, about recognizing their own natural beauty. They use lyrics like “you’re insecure, don’t know what for” and “don’t need make-up to cover up being the way that you are is enough.” In a variety of the One Direction music videos, all the boys have a similar uniform of short sleeve button up shirts, tshirts, maybe a vest, and skinny jeans. Throughout their videos they give a air of forced positivity and silliness. Also, the video is shot in a clear pop boy band music video style with a catchy tune, fast cuts, impromptu choreography, and close ups of the individuals singing and flirting to the camera.


One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” on the left, and Inside Amy Schumer’s “Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup” on the right, both show a boy band member talking seductively to the video’s love interest on how she should see herself. What Schumer’s video highlights by mimicking this is that both boys, whether complimenting or criticizing her, are telling the girl how to be, something she should do for herself.


These two shots capitalize on the boys’ silliness. The images look like they could be from the same video, but the image on the left is the parody group and the image on the right is One Direction.

Dance Numbers

Boy band music videos have identical style with all the performers wearing similar clothes while dancing simultaneously. Top left is Backstreet Boys, top right ‘N Sync, bottom left is One Direction, bottom right is Amy Schumer’s unnamed parody boy band.  

Close Ups

Close ups of the various boy band performers singing to the camera. 

Amy Schumer makes light of all of these boy band genre tropes in her video. The “What Makes You Beautiful” lyrics state “you’re insecure, don’t know what for,” and Amy’s video suggests women are insecure because society and media tells women they are not good enough. Similarly, the parodic performers in her video sing “Magazines say that you’re wack. Girl don’t believe them.” However the parody shows, once Amy is empowered and takes off her makeup as the seemingly supportive boy band suggests, the boys do not actually like what they see. The boy band recognizes and states that they prefer women when they have makeup on. One Direction’s song states “being the way you are is enough,” but Schumer’s video points out, through genre parody, that men and media do not actually feel this way. 

Genre Parody: Horror

Genre parody is a creation that mimics the conventions and style of another work with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect or to create a commentary about the style itself. Parody works through its easily recognizable connections to genre tropes as it twists those tropes to deliver its message. It is similar to pastiche, which is a composition in another artist’s manner, without satirical intent, and will often have similar compositions to the genre its attempting to parody, but is exaggerated or changed in a way that highlights a genres key tropes.

As always, I’ll give an example from my favorite genre here, horror. Horror is such a saturated genre that it has been parodied from practically the beginning of film, as it can also take tropes from horror stories that had existed before then. In modern cinema, a significant portion of the horror genre relies on pastiche. Some of this horror branches out into the realm of parody and that’s where I’ll pull my great example of a horror genre parody from here. One of the most iconic and overdone genres within film, beginning with a group of college or high school youths starting a camping trip, or a get together somewhere in the wilderness, and which devolves into a bloodbath where all the students get separated and slowly die. This specific branch of slasher films really took off in 1980 with the film Friday the 13th as its masked killer Jason snuck his way into nightmares all around the country. This was immediately followed by The Evil Dead (1981) which while not hugely popular at the time has become a cult classic for the genre. With a genre producing such iconic films as these it was only a matter before it began to be parodied in movies such as the Scream and Scary Movie series, and then much more directly represented recently with movies such as The Cabin in the Woods (2012).

Today however, I’ll give my what I believe to be one of the best parodies ever made Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)

First the film begins by playing into the traditional cabin slasher opening, however the change in this parody is that it shows both sides of the story. Usually this genre would open up with an ominous warning by some strange man to the group of youths as they encounter some strange omen foretelling of bad things to come. However, within the early scenes here we see that Tucker and Dale are just two hillbillies going on vacation but their rough look leads to misinterpretation.



The next big element that is parodied is that of the gruesome deaths that are usually part of this genre, and in combination the absolute uselessness of the majority of cast and authority figures in dealing with the supposed “threat”. In many of these camp slasher films, the youths are not only killed by the slasher, but the horrifying accidents which seem impossible. This is exaggerated with Tucker and Dale vs Evil as the kids literally throw themselves onto their own weapons and into wood chippers. This is a clear hyperbole playing on the lack of intelligence shown in many horror genre films as they try to further the plot their culling of side characters through often completely stupid ways.


Finally we see a parody within the conclusion as the film plays off the “creation of a killer” films that often come out as prequels to many of the major horror films. *spoilers* The final youth left and the “protagonist” on the youth’s side himself becomes the killer who locks away our main heroine, using her as bait to draw out the people he still believes are the real monsters. His disfiguration is an obvious play towards villains such as Jason and Freddy Kruger and the hostage situation he forces allows Dale to become our traditional hero and save the girl in the end.


Any horror movie buff should enjoy this comedic genre parody and the fun it pokes at some of the more questionably realistic slasher elements in film, and many of the overused plot elements prevalent within this genre.

Do we still use architecture to assert our power?

The Washington Monument. Mount Rushmore. The Lincoln Memorial. The Statue of Liberty.

They’re the monuments Americans grow up learning about and forming their American identities over. But why? Lawrence Vale answers this question of representation through monuments in his book “Architecture, Power, and National Identity.” In it, he claims that “reassuring civic messages and discomforting authoritarian ones engage in a kind of cognitive coexistence” in national monuments. These monuments are emblematic of American life because they embody both power and diplomacy.  For example, the Statue of Liberty reminds onlookers of an alliance with France and freedom for all, which would constitute as a reassuring civic message. However, this monument can also be construed as a declaration of power over other nations. In this country, freedom reigns, and the statue firmly sits upon the idea that discriminatory ideals of other nations are left at the harbor. In other words, liberty reigns above all, and other countries are powerless to stop it.

The Statue of Liberty

Looking into the meaning behind any popular historic monument will yield similar analyses, but these same principles also apply present-day structures. Some of the most archetypal examples of building for power in contemporary society can be found right here on campus. The most obvious example is the UT tower. This tower in particular sits an inch above the Capitol building, demonstrating pride and power over not only other universities, but also the state of Texas itself. In class, we talked about how towers are phallic, representing boldness and pride, which is exactly what the UT tower does through its stature.

The UT tower, like many monuments (such as the Washington Monument), uses a phallic design to evoke a sense of power.

More recently, the bridge that links the communications buildings carries these same messages of pride, and reassurance that Hale writes about. This massive structure beautifully glimmers during the day and illuminates at night, announcing the entrance to the University. However, the bridge itself serves almost no practical purpose. In order to find the entrance, students must climb to the second floor of an arbitrary building. The bridge then deposits students on the third floor of another random building that opens into an elevated plaza. Given that there’s a much more direct crosswalk right underneath the structure, the bridge would only be useful for a select few students that just happen to have back to back classes in the respective buildings that the bridge connects. This in itself proves that even many of today’s structures are built primarily with ideas of power and “reassuring civic messages,” as Vale asserts.

The bridge announces to prospective students that the University will help ‘bridge’ the gap between the present and the future, but it also represents wealth and beauty: two major contributors to power.


U2’s Zoo TV Tour- A Sincere Parody


A genre parody is a criticism of a certain culture or technique, executed using the medium of that genre, a work that is “ participating in the codes of a genre at the same time that they are self-consciously parodying those codes.” Genre parodies often dial up the common tropes of the targeted genre to 11 in order to make the viewer painfully aware of what is being targeted and criticized.

An excellent example of genre parody would be U2’s Zoo TV tour, done after their massively successful album Achtung Baby. The Zoo TV tour took the materialistic rock star lifestyle and criticized it through the tour’s absurd, maximalist production and dark visuals and rhetoric.

During the development of Achtung Baby, U2 were faced with a dilemma. They had risen to fame by producing earnest, socially conscious music that dealt with heavy topics such as drug addiction and warfare. This music was massively popular, and led to them becoming one of the biggest bands in the world. All this commercial success was often at odds with the ethos of the band, and led to an identity crisis of sorts leading up to Achtung Baby. Instead of continuing to be hypocritical, or rejecting fame entirely, frontman Bono says that “instead of running away from the contradictions, I should run into them and wrap my arms around them and give ’em a big kiss.”


While this embrace of contradiction was apparent on Achtung Baby, it became obvious during the Zoo TV tour. The set design was maximalist in a way U2 tours had never been before- cars hung from the ceiling acting as spotlights, and a belly dancer appeared during “Mysterious Ways.” Bono also adopted a series of characters onstage, such as The Fly and MacPhisto. The Fly was Bono’s take on the traditional rock star, and donned a leather jacket and sunglasses that have become a central part of his image. MacPhisto was Bono’s take on the devil, and was intended to represent the temptation and sin that goes hand in hand with the rock star lifestyle. While this maximalism may have been a criticism, it was also an embrace. The sunglasses that Bono donned to mock other rock stars have not left his face, in one form or another, since. Bono himself said about his parody of the rock star lifestyle: “You actually find out that you like some of the bullshit. I mean, some of it’s fun.”


The Zoo TV tour as a parody was also an exercise in postmodernism. The criticism of the rock star lifestyle while simultaneously embracing it indicated U2’s acceptance of their place in pop culture. Even the imagery of the tour was unquestionably postmodern. Giant projectors set up on the stage projected different messages to the audience, the most famous being the simple statement EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG. This statement, along with several other aspects of the tour, challenged master narratives, such as the narrative that materialism is universally wrong. Sure, the rock star lifestyle may be materialistic and sinful, but, as Bono said, “some of it’s fun.”


An Exploration of Modernism and Postmodernism

Modernism and Postmodernism are both significant philosophical movements that have ties in the societal, economic, and artistic environments of their era.  However, the two are not mutually exclusive they are essentially taking the same subject matter and using the zeitgeist to illustrate their own perspective on the subject.

Modernism is a critique of the 19th century bourgeois culture, it rejects the values and styles of realism by moving away from the objective description, the concrete idea, and shifts towards abstraction and embodies the essence of inward consciousness. In film, this is shown through having a narrative with no conventional beginning, middle, and end.  A good example of this would be the film Memento, by disrupting this linear narrative it constantly keeps the audience on their toes, forcing a certain perspective in order to communicate the plot throughout the film. Literary pieces that exemplify this come from Faulkner, Hemingway, and Camus, they envision themselves as a sort of self-exiled
hero, not fitting into sociaiety and are constantly in a self state of crisis.

On the other hand, postmodernism focuses on simulacrum. It takes a step back from the situation and becomes reflexive to reveal the reasoning behind the actions. Also, it abolishes the boundary between high and low culture, there is no more hierarchy of culture because as postmodern theorist Santiago Colas said, “We may attempt to forget or ignore mass culture, but it will neither forget nor ignore us.” A distinctive feature of postmodernism is the emphasis on a understanding the metanarrative, and the overarching meaning behind ideas. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard is a good example of this, it takes two seemingly insignificant characters from the classic Shakespearean play of Hamlet and portrays their perspective on everything that is happening. It gives a unique view on what on the plot and allows the reader to have a cerebral and rather disorienting experience alongside the two characters. This novel is distinctively postmodern because it seeks to delve deeper into an established work, and gives a fresh new take on why things are occurring. Stoppard gives an ironic and deceptively simple perspective to the minor characters, there are often hidden meanings behind the words that take a lot of knowledge to recognize and acknowledge. What is distinctive about this film is its direct comparison of a modernist time period in Hamlet, and taking a completely postmodern twist on the whole things. The two ideologies are constantly being contradicted and interwoven throughout the entirety of the novel. At one point Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have an existential crisis in the play, this self-reflexivity is a prominent characteristic of postmodernism. It forces the readers to be mindful of the duality of the two plays on one stage, the whole idea behind the book is really dynamic and engaging which is why it has extended to plays and a film. Artistically, Andy Warhol embodies postmodern ideals. His pastiche representations of average household items are what made him famous, he pushes the boundaries of conventional items and displays them in colorful and beautiful ways that are incredibly unique.





P.S. I know this was late Laura, please don’t fail me…. 🙁

The Irony of Postmodernism

While postmodernism has taken over our media in a noticeably different     form than modernism, it often does so by reusing artifacts from the modernism time. Authors, film directors, and video game creators often quote or make references to well-known existing modern media. These references are made to make the media appealing to a wide range of people, as well as to demonstrate the popular postmodern style. In their article Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright argue that “In postmodernism, the sense that everything has been done before gives way to relentless quoting and remakes, a context in which the only way to get noticed is to be ironic, to quote-not only words but also clothing and appearance styles.” We live in a time where it is hard to be original, because so much has already been created. As a result, trends in media and fashion reflect historical trends. This is the primary source of distancing irony in postmodernism. We are trying to be new by using the old, which would not be expected in any other circumstance.

Despite this irony being a prevalent element of postmodernism, we often do not even notice it. One explanation for this is that the references go over our head. For example, the reference to The Matrix in the movie Shrek (pictured below) was intended to appeal to an older audience (the children’s parents), but might be too mature to be understood by Shrek’s main audience (children). This is an interesting concept that was derived in postmodernism. Previously, a children’s movie would only be focused on entertaining children.

Shrek matrix

The creators of Shrek wanted to make their film enjoyable to the most amount of people. Another explanation us not noticing is that references like these are so common, they blend in with the media. Playing off scenarios from old media has become so standard in our postmodern idea of humor that they are almost expected. The “non-noticing” phenomenon adds to the irony of postmodernism. It’s ironic that references are put in children’s movies that they aren’t intended to understand, and that postmodern comedy relies on new jokes about old media.

The irony that arose in postmodernism makes me wonder what the next phase will be. What is after postmodernism? Post-postmodernism? I wonder how comedy will be created in this system. In a way, postmodernism was the hipster of the era. It took what was old and made it ironically cool again. Will the new era ironically quote the media of the postmodern era? I think this will be unenjoyable and boring. Media creators in future times will be presented with the same problem creators face now (that everything has been done), but will lack the option to reference it ironically because even that’s been done. Virtual reality and other technology are pushing society towards a new more involved and more immersive visual media experience. These advancements might make the postmodern irony almost obsolete. Interacting with media will feel so much like real life, you won’t notice any ironic discrepancies.

The Distancing Irony in Fight Club

According to Sturken and Cartwright, a distancing irony is used to “ask viewers to notice the structure of the show in order to distance them from the surface pleasures of the text…” and helps “viewers be engaged at a critically conscious level.” Quoting can be a reference to something, in manner, mode, or style, and in postmodern examples, irony is usually used to reflect on different aspects of contemporary culture.

David Fincher’s Fight Club (as well as the original novel by Chuck Palahniuk) integrates many postmodern ironies into its narrative structure. Overall, the film displays a flattening of affect: using hyper violence, media, and drug use to depict an emotionless, detached, and unauthentic life of the main character, while commenting on society as a whole.

The unstable narrator immediately makes the audience suspend their belief in the alternate reality and aware of their own existence. The story is framed by entering the ending first and tracing back from the beginning. Everything that the main character is thinking, he is directing towards you, in your seat in your world.

The plot turns the “truth” in many human events that we see as normal on their heads, which is a component of postmodern work. This includes the notions of empowerment and masculinity, the redundancies of a desk job, hurting the ones you love, consumerism, and even the illusion of safety on airplanes. The narrator is a character that is struggling with his identity and one aspect of this is tied to the consumerism of the culture he inhabits. When looking through an Ikea catalogue he asks the viewer: “What kind of dining set defines me as a person?” He is placing what is on the surface as the “truth,” which is another point of postmodernism.

He attends an “AA” style meeting in the beginning of the film called “Remaining Men Together.” This scene draws on the stereotypical support group setting, and is ironic in itself due to our societies beliefs on how to “be a man.” Then as he sits at his numbingly painful desk job, like millions of Americans do each day, he states “everything is a copy of a copy of a copy.” This disassociation from reality and popular thinking is a technique to distance the character from society, and make the audience think critically about their own reality. This is coupled with a fourth wall break, where his sidekick (ahem) goes from questioning him to speaking to the audience directly. He calls out the “truth” that society feeds us, and how we as individuals proliferate all of our own made up problems.

By the end of the film, the narrator’s own sense of self-awareness is what brings the narrative full circle. Although we want nothing more than to escape from our perceived “truth,” ironically we are just trapping ourselves in our own irrational desires.

Rage Against the Machine: An Exclusively Subversive Band


Rage Against the Machine is the best example of a band in the musical industry acting subversively. I cannot think of any band that has achieved their level of success by having their entire catalog of songs dedicated to advocating acting subversive against whatever cause they felt necessary to draw listener’s attention towards. Their name even provides a straightforward metaphor that is easy to decipher, machine can be interpreted as meaning a topic they often criticize, government.

Zack de la Rocha, Rage Against the Machine’s front man, has never been shy when discussing subjects most mainstream music tends to avoid because it could been seen as offensive and hurt their reputation. Rather he has embraced the activist role that comes along with the topics the band covers in their songs. Rage Against the Machine’s unique blend of rock and hip-hop (known as rap metal) elements are also another way that they act subversively within the music industry, because traditionally those two genres did not coexist with each other. Zack has even testified in front of a United Nations committee about the content of their song “Voice of the Voiceless”, which was about a possible mishandling of a prosecution of a Black Panther. The fact that a singer for a band was called for questioning in front of an organization that represents over a hundred nations from all over the world shows the reach that their music was, and in some ways still is, able to achieve.

The band’s lead single of their self-titled debut album, “Killing in the Name”, was in response to an event Madison mentioned in her blog post as well, the Rodney King beating. Because they are from Los Angeles, Rage Against the Machine decided that the perfect way to start their career was to release a song that condemned their actions that day, as well as all abuses of power by those with a badge. While a little less controversial than N.W.A.’s insight on the matter, Rage Against the Machine’s single was successful in its own right, as that song is the one people who are not familiar with their music have most certainly heard, with over 82 million streams on Spotify currently. In addition to protesting police brutality, it also called attention to the racism that appeared to be present in various different positions of power: police and politicians alike. The lyrics, “some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses”, are repeated several times. These lyrics do not try to conceal their message at all, and it is this sort of bluntness that Rage Against the Machine is known for now. The hook for the song also later calls these forces the “chosen whites” clearly a sarcastic comment meant to make listener’s realize how insane some of the comments being made in support of the police’s actions were because a rational response when hearing that phrase is to be shocked and then ponder what Zack is actually meaning when he said those words. On a side note about this event, the band later decided to cover N.W.A.’s take on the Rodney King incident and release it, to further relate this to Madison’s post.

There are several other really well known songs by Rage Against the Machine that are just as effective at drawing attention to the different causes they are about, showcasing their special talent of creating hit music that can get major air play while talking about very controversial topics on the very far left of the political spectrum. Because this band is the quintessential “fight against the establishment” band I would argue that their subversive music was very effective at it’s goal because they got a world wide audience to listen to their songs about subject matter they felt was important to start a discussion about.


(note that this song/video was released before 9/11 and the Iraq War)

Hip Hop: A Breeding Ground for Subversion

Fuck the police comin’ straight from the underground
A young nigga got it bad cause I’m brown
And not the other color so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority”

By now, everyone reading should be bobbing their heads to the unheard beat and getting more angsty by the second. In 1988, N.W.A. released their hit album Straight Outta Compton. On it was arguably their most notorious track “Fuck tha Police”. This song is unapologetically real, heavy, and filled with passion. To make it clear, N.W.A. basically said, “fuck it” and dropped this incredible song that expresses unpopular views regarding the law and police brutality. The song’s creation was sparked by the brutal assault of Rodney King by the LAPD, which went on to fuel dozens of riots in Los Angeles during the year of 1992. For a majority of the Straight Outta Compton tour, “Fuck tha Police” was the one song not to be played under any circumstances. It was banned from the radio, public libraries, even retail chains. Politicians both conservative and liberal actively took measures to slander the song and N.W.A. as a group. The FBI even wrote a letter and sent it to N.W.A.  Why? It’s just a song, right? Not exactly. While it is just a song, its socio-political power oversteps this boundary using great strides. Because of its subversive nature, “Fuck tha Police” was considered a threat from all angles. The song wasn’t just a taunt pointed toward law enforcement to rustle their feathers. It grew into an anthem shared among individuals of color who feel as though they have not been treated fairly by those whose job is to enforce justice. It was a proclamation. A cry for recognition. A promise, even. One would possibly assume that due to such strong acts of subversion that the group would lose some of its fan base but quite the opposite happened, actually. Their notoriety surged and everyone quickly came to know who N.W.A. was and what they stood for. I would argue that had it not been for their incredibly subversive style of rap, N.W.A. would not have made as much of an impact on the hip hop and rap scene. To facilitate change, one or some must be willing to step on some toes– in this case, more like crush entire feet, given the nature of the song. The subversive style of rap that N.W.A. embodied was also present in the work of Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., A Tribe Called Quest, UGK, and Killer Mike to name a few. What I find incredibly interesting is that this subversive rebellion toward the justice system and America in general has not died out as time passes on. If anything, the fire has only continued to spread as new sets of ears are entering the scene and hungrily searching for outlets to find a means of self-expression. We see this continuation of subversive lyricism in the works of artists such as Eminem, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def, and  Kendrick Lamar, especially. To Pimp A Butterfly, K. Dot’s third album, took the nation by storm with it’s funky, complex beats and politically-charged themes apparent throughout the album. A particular song that comes to mind is “The Blacker the Berry,” where Lamar artfully addresses the racialized self-hatred that many African American individuals battle as a result of white-washing and undermining other cultures, especially those that belong to people of color.

“I’m African-American, I’m African
I’m black as the moon, heritage of a small village
Pardon my residence
Came from the bottom of mankind
My hair is nappy, my dick is big, my nose is round and wide
You hate me don’t you?
You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture
You’re fuckin’ evil, I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey” 

As I listened to that song for the first time on the night of the album drop I found myself outside my apartment, chain-smoking No. 27’s with tears in my eyes. This was not solely due to the overall mind-boggling production of the album but because of the raw honesty it championed. An eery feeling of discomfort was present in me as well because 20 years ago, young black men were rapping about the same grievances that appear to still be present in America today. The subversive quality of Kendrick’s work differs from a lot of past rappers’ work because it possesses a postmodern style of delivery. While some of his lyrics explicitly get the point across that he is hoping to make, often times you have to dig deeper into the verses to uncover the true meaning of his rhymes. Rappers mentioned earlier like N.W.A. blatantly showcase their subversive style integrated into their music, making them more modern. In following the footsteps of hip hop icons of the past, Kendrick has carved his name into the rap game and doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon.

So, are these hip hop artists reaping success in being subversive? Yes. A hundred times, yes. Their work is re-sparking conversations about race and the justice system that have been discussed for decades through this medium. The music that is being produced by these subversive artists is allowing for individuals to ask the question, “Why are things the way that they are?” Social change begins with a special desire to question the authority and rules already in place, and subversive rappers allows for these questions to become illuminated. In Kendrick’s song “Alright,” the pre-hook goes:

“Wouldn’t you know
We been hurt and down before
Nigga, when our pride was low
Lookin’ at the world like, “Where do we go?”
Nigga, and we hate po-po
Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho
Nigga, I’m at the preacher’s door
My knees gettin’ weak and my gun might blow
But we gon’ be alright.”


One day, maybe we will be.