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Author Topic: the Legend of Stagolee
Mohamad Khan
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Babbler # 1752

posted 12 May 2003 01:22 AM      Profile for Mohamad Khan   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
there's an interesting article in the Guardian about the original gangsta, touching on things like commodity fetishism in "mainstream" hip-hop:

quote:
The final influence that Stagolee has on rap was participation in commodity culture. In the 1890s, the Stetson became a symbol of black male status; in the late 1990s, baggy pants became a signifier of status. As in earlier generations, ghetto blacks fight against a white appropriation through weird dress. To be able to purchase these commodities, young people in the ghettos resort to hustling, as their parents and grandparents did. They can't afford to believe that a nine-to-five job would solve their problems, because they could never get those jobs.

and the exoticisation of black music by whites:

quote:
William L Benzon wrote that European-American racism has used African-Americans as a screen on which to project repressed emotions, particularly sex and aggression. We can see this when we look at how white people have used Stagolee. The key to this insight is the concept of projection. "One aspect of this projection," Benzon says, "is that whites are attracted to black music as a means of expressing aspects of themselves they cannot adequately express though music from European roots."

From: "Glorified Harlem": Morningside Heights, NYC | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
TommyPaineatWork
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Babbler # 2956

posted 12 May 2003 02:22 AM      Profile for TommyPaineatWork     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The Clash's version, "Wrong 'Em Boyo"

quote:

Stagger Lee met Billy and they go down to gambling


Stagger Lee throwed seven
Billy said that he throwed eight
So Billy said, hey Stagger! I'm gonna make my big attack
I'm gonna have to leave my knife in your back

Why do you try to cheat?
And trample people under your feet
Don't you know it is wrong?
To cheat the trying man
So you better stop, it is the wrong 'em boyo

You lie, steal, cheat and deceit
In such a small, small game
Don't you know it is wrong

Billy Boy has been shot
And Stagger Lee's come out on top
Don't you know it is wrong
To cheat the trying man
To cheat Stagger man
You'd better stop
So you must start all over again-all over again
You got to play it, Billy, play, you got to play it, Billy, play
And you will find it is the right 'em boyo

But if you must lie and deceit
And trample people under your feet
Don't you know it is wrong
It is the wrong 'em boyo



I'm not sure I agree with:

quote:
"One aspect of this projection," Benzon says, "is that whites are attracted to black music as a means of expressing aspects of themselves they cannot adequately express though music from European roots."

There's lots of European music that is similar to Black American music, in that it's music that is born of the downtrodden.

Folk music sure has a long history of that, and we can trace that back centuries to places like Scotland, Wales and England.

It may be that musical tradition which influenced the African American musical tradition. In fact, the traditional music of African Americans surely bears a closer resemblance to U.K. traditional folk than it does west African music?

I'm no expert, mind you.

So, it would seem to me that the commonality is that this is music of the downtrodden, that gets co-opted at some point by the middle and upper class.

In the 1750's, it was Scottish Crofters singing thier troubles; today it's African Americans.

To make it work, to make it convincing and co-optable, it has to have credibility. Or as the co-opters on Much Music say, "street cred."


From: London | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
kingblake
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Babbler # 3453

posted 12 May 2003 03:57 AM      Profile for kingblake     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
interesting article.
i've often thought of making a mix CD made up entirely of StaggerLee-based songs.

From: In Regina, the land of Exotica | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Mohamad Khan
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Babbler # 1752

posted 12 May 2003 11:20 AM      Profile for Mohamad Khan   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
There's lots of European music that is similar to Black American music, in that it's music that is born of the downtrodden.

i also wondered about this part. i think the writer was referring less to any sort of class consciousness or rebellion in black music than to the sex. it's fairly well established that the black African was sexualised in a certain way that would amplify the allure of explicitly sexual black music. the question i would ask is: was white music not sexy enough?


From: "Glorified Harlem": Morningside Heights, NYC | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Ed Weatherbee
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posted 25 May 2003 12:56 AM      Profile for Ed Weatherbee        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Seems to cover a lot of the same ground that Greil Marcus did in "Mystery Train" about 30 years ago. Check out his latest revision of the book from a few years ago...The chapter on Sly Stone and the whole Stagger Lee phenomenum is great..
From: Canada | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged
Mohamad Khan
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Babbler # 1752

posted 04 June 2003 10:14 AM      Profile for Mohamad Khan   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
another neat article about 21st century gangsta rap, arguing that it no longer reflects reality:

Keepin' It Unreal

quote:
At its core the hubbub around Get Rich and the return of gangsta rap is crack-era nostalgia taken to the extreme. Imagine—articulate young black men pining for the heyday of black-on-black crime. Like all nostalgia, neo-gangsta is stuck in history rather than rooted in current reality. The sobering fact is that the streets as 50 presents them, brimming with shoot-outs and crack fiends, do not exist. Of course, drugs are still a plague on America's house, and America's gun violence is a black mark on the developed world. But millennial black America is hardly the Wild West scene it was during gangsta rap's prime. Gangsta could once fairly claim to reflect a brutal present. Now it mythicizes a past that would fade away much faster without it.

In the late '80s, young black men—gangsta rap's creators, and its primary constituency—became their own worst enemies. Drug dealing was becoming a legitimate, if deadly, life option, and with it came an arms race that turned Anyghetto, U.S.A., into Saigon. The Harlem Renaissance drew its power from the optimism of the New Negro, the Black Arts movement pulled from Black Power, gangsta rap tapped the crack age. If Motown and Stax were the joyful noise of us unshackling ourselves into the dream ("Are you ready for a brand-new beat?"), gangsta rap was the sound of us crashing back into the desert of the real ("Life ain't nothin' but bitches and money").



From: "Glorified Harlem": Morningside Heights, NYC | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged

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