Music videos have allowed artists like Missy Elliott to merge visual art, performance, language, and music together. With a range of social media like Instagram and Snapchat, among others, rappers are in a sense constantly presenting themselves, their ideas, and their music in new ways. What are your thoughts on this practice? Any advantages or disadvantages to consider?
Rappers have consistently been on the cutting edge of entertainment and technology. We have DJs because of hip-hop culture! Soulja Boy became a YouTube sensation before most people knew who he was, and he did this before YouTube was a bookmark in everyone's browser. This melding that you're talking about is not a surprise to me, and in fact, I believe we'll see more innovation from rappers at that nexus of social media and entertainment. I can't think of any disadvantages, except that artists have to be more deliberate and diligent about managing their image because so many people have access to them. The advantage, of course, is that they can reach more people, instantly.
What other projects are you working on?
I'm currently working on a book project that examines the use of the word “ratchet.” The term ratchet, in a very general sense, refers to those acts, individuals, and behaviors which are not socially acceptable within black middle-class ideologies. The book defines the concept of “ratchet” using the way that it operated in the discursive practices of my informants in Washington, D.C., examines how ratchet hip-hop operates through black same-sex desiring women's bodies, and finally considers the way self-representations of black same-sex women use ratchet aesthetics to construct “authentic” black queer women's performances. Using this very specific example of how ratchet is mobilized, I hope to consider the potential for thinking through the deployment of the term “ratchet” within American popular culture more broadly.
RSVP for Art and Ideas: Dr. Nikki Lane on June 29.