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58 Seiten, Note: 1,5
2. W.E.B. Du Bois and Double Consciousness
3. An Analysis of Kendrick Lamar’s Art
3.1. Definition of the term Music Video
3.2. An Analysis of the Cinematic Techniques in Kendrick Lamar's Music Video Alright
3.3. An analysis of Kendrick Lamar's song Alright and its Visual Representation
4. Double Consciousness in Kendrick Lamar’s Music Video Alright
6. Bibliographical References
Photographers such as Martha Cooper and Camilo José Vergara1 have illustrated and documented the New York inner city of the 1970s in their work. Abandoned houses, ruined buildings and destroyed roads are recurrently the backdrop of street scenes in which both photographers captured everyday life. A strong contrast is repeatedly noticeable in these scenes, as decaying backdrops are juxtaposed by children playing in the foreground2. These urban sceneries do not only document the poor state of these areas, they also depict a generation of young Hispanics and black Americans resilient to the conditions they find themselves in. High unemployment and low income rates led to a “downward spiral” (Chang 13) in many New York boroughs, but particularly in the South Bronx. Journalist and Hip-Hop scholar Jeff Chang refers in his work Can’t Stop Won't Stop - A History of the Hip-Hop Generation to the South Bronx as the “unreconstructed South” (Chang 17). A place in which apartment buildings were regularly set on fire by slumlords, making a profit by “destroying the buildings for insurance money.” (Chang 13). A place in which over a hundred different gangs formed in the 1960s and 1970s, dividing the Bronx into territories controlled through violence and intimidation, by groups such as the Black Spades or the Ghetto Brothers (Chang 50). A place in which these same “gangs structured the chaos [and] provided shelter, comfort and protection” (Chang 49) for the youth in this poverty-stricken area.
The South Bronx, this “mythical wasteland” (Chang 17) is often referred to by scholars and critics as the birth place of Hip-Hop culture and its most popular element, rap music. It is in this borough of New York City where the first so called block parties represented a paradigm shift for the local urban youth. Here they experienced how DJs “would wire turntables to lampposts and then pass a needle between two records, rhythmically repeating phrases and beats (...)” (Strode and Wood 1). The growing popularity of block parties was also due to the fact that “discos were shutting down (.) because gangs like the [Black] Spades were making them unsafe” (Chang 77). Moreover, block parties represented an intriguing new alternative to the discotheque scene, by creating a different form of aesthetic and style. Clive Campbell, better known as DJ Kool Herc, who was the first DJ to play records at a block party, noticed that “the moment when the dancers really got wild was in a song's instrumental break, when the band would drop out and the rhythm section would get elemental.” (Chang 79). Africana Studies academic Tricia Rose acknowledges that “in the earliest stages, DJs were the central figures in hip hop; they supplied the breakbeats for breakdancers (.)” (Rose 17).
Although, the South Bronx is often portrayed as the geographical place of origin of HipHop culture and music, many scholars acknowledge Hip-Hop’s incorporation of diverse cultures and traditions since its early days. The oral performance of rappers at these block parties was introduced at a later stage, as one or more rappers were “shouting playful ditties (...)” (Rose 21) at the audience during DJ routines. Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at UCLA, Cheryl L. Keyes, refers in her essay The Roots and Stylistic Foundations of the Rap Music Tradition, to the West African bardic tradition and explains that “the bard is a storytellersinger and above all a historian who chronicles the nation’s history and transmits cultural traditions (.) through performance.” (Keyes 5). Professor of American and English Literature at King’s College in London, Paul Gilroy proposes in his work The Black Atlantic the concept of transnationalism. Gilroy specifies how the Atlantic Ocean represented “a system of cultural exchange” (Gilroy 14) during and after the slave trade. Thus, cultural practices such as the bardic storytelling tradition were transferred and brought to the American continent by Africans. This use and alteration of African cultural practices can be discerned in many different forms of black American artistic expressions.
In regard to music, American sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois states in the chapter The Sorrow Songs of his work The Souls of Black Folks that “the music is far more ancient than the words (.)” (Du Bois 169), referring to slave songs and their African heritage. He adds that “signs of development” (Du Bois 169) could be noticed in these songs. Du Bois’ description of slave songs offers an insight into Keyes’ notion of modification of Western culture “through an African prism” (Keyes 7), as Du Bois exemplifies how African songs and melodies were sung, modified and carried on from generation to generation. One example he provides is an African nursery rhyme, which has been passed on from generations to generations, which begins with the words “do bana coba, gene me, gene me!” (Du Bois 170). Du Bois explains how “the child sang it to their child and they to their children’s children, (.) knowing as little as our fathers what its words may mean.” (Du Bois 170). Du Bois articulates in this chapter how the African and the American experience of slaves in the United States brought forward a distinct black American culture.
Furthermore, W.E.B. Du Bois describes in The Souls of Black Folk how black Americans have the ability to perceive both their individual self and how they are perceived by others. Du Bois coined the term “double consciousness” in order to describe this notion of “two-ness” (Du Bois 9). Many scholars have written and argued on the meaning of this psychological mode and have published a series of articles and books on this topic, such as Frank M. Kirkland's article On Du Bois ’Notion of Double Consciousness, Bruce Jr. Dickson's W.E.B. Du Bois and the Idea of Double Consciousness and Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic — Modernity and Double Consciousness. Double consciousness can be considered an interdisciplinary field of study, as there are many different approaches to the topic. From literary studies, cultural studies, critical race theory, to psychology and sociology, all fields have examined Du Bois' notion of double consciousness throughout the years. The term double consciousness describes an internal conflict, that arises in minority groups, as a consequence “of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” (Du Bois 8). There are different ways to approach double consciousness. In this paper W.E.B. Du Bois' concept of double consciousness is going to be examined, by analyzing the cultural aspects and the effects double consciousness can have on the individual and on the collective. Here, the work of Frantz Fanon Black Skin, White Mask, as well as Cornel West's Race Matters, are going to help to indicate the effects of double consciousness. Double consciousness can be identified as an internal process, which influences the individual in his choices and ultimately in his being. Kevin Quashie explores in his work The Sovereignty of Quiet — Beyond Resistance in Black Culture the interior, in order to highlight that “but all living is not in protest; to assume such is to disregard the richness of life.” (Quashie 9). Similarly, the concept of double consciousness tries to convey a better understanding of the interior world, but at the same time acknowledges how the exterior can affect and shape the individual.
Moreover, W.E.B. Du Bois' literary approach in The Souls of Black Folk also contributes to the understanding of what it means to have two identities in one body. The book is a collection of essays that were published in 1903 and it explores different areas of the segregated black American experience in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. An analysis of the intimate and subjective writing style of Du Bois allows a better understanding of how Du Bois achieves to describe the notion of double consciousness. Especially, in chapters such as Of Our Spiritual Strivings, Of the Passing of the First-Born and The Sorrow Songs, the intimate writing style allows the reader to understand the concept of double consciousness on an emotional level. In the chapter The Sorrow Songs Du Bois talks about the importance of culture and talks especially about the “greatest gift of the Negro people” (Du Bois 168), when he describes black American music as an integral part in the development of a distinct culture and ultimately also an identity. The notion of finding one's own identity through the establishing of distinct cultural expressions is an important aspect in the understanding of Du Bois’ concept of double consciousness.
Hip Hop culture can be considered as black American culture and has many forms of expressions. Tim Strode and Tim Wood identify in their work The Hip Hop Reader, Hip Hop’s “precursors in the Black Arts Movement, poets like Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, and The Last Poets; novelists like Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim; and musicians like Gil Scott-Heron, all of whom write out of and respond to the late 20th century urban black American experience.” (Strode and Wood 1)
Between Du Bois’ development of the concept of double consciousness and the emerging of Hip Hop culture, there have been seven decades in which black American cultural expressions have allowed the development of numerous black American art movements. Hip Hop culture incorporates various forms of artistic expressions, such as DJing, breakdancing, writing graffiti and rapping. The most recent form of expression “to emerge in hip hop, has become its most prominent facet” (Rose 17). Nowadays, the term Hip Hop is synonymous with the term rapping, due to the popularity the element has acquired since the first commercial success of Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight in 1980 (Rose 22). Adam Bradley establishes in his work The Anthology of Rap a chronological order, in order to illustrate how rap developed over time and defines the years 1978-1984 as The Old School (Bradley 1), 1985-1992 as The Golden Age (Bradley 119), 1993-1999 as Mainstream (Bradley 325) and 2000-2010 as the New Millennium Rap (Bradley 559). Bradley’s chronological categorization allows the reader to trace back Hip Hop’s history. However, this categorization neglects to highlight the many different genres that emerged during and after these periods and how they intersect.
The study of the internal development of Hip Hop culture in general and rap music in particular is as young as the culture itself. However, more and more scholars have found interest in this field of study and explore this rich culture, such as Tricia Rose in her work The Hip Hop Wars — What we Talk About When we Talk About Hip Hop and why it Matters or Jeff Chang in Can’t Stop Won’t Stop and Total Chaos — The Art and Aesthetics of Hip Hop, Dan Charna’s The Big Payback — The History of the Business of Hip Hop, Lakeyta M. Bonnette’s Pulse of the People — Political Rap Music and Black Politics or Kevin Young’s The Grey Album — On the Blackness of Blackness. This paper is going to concentrate on the analysis of a distinct expression of Hip Hop and pop culture - the music video.
The medium emerged in the early 1980s and rapidly gained popularity through the emerging of the television channel MTV (Music Television) (Railton and Watson 1). Henry Keazor and Thorsten Wübbena describe in their work Music Video how “in the wake of the explosion in the production of music videos, design features began to crystallize that have often been subsumed under the term music video aesthetic.” (Keazor and Wübbena 226). The analysis of the aesthetic of a music video entails also the evaluation of certain cinematic techniques, that are at the basis of every music video. Throughout this paper Mark De Valk's and Sarah Arnold's work The Film Handbook is going to provide the necessary technical terms for this analysis.
The music video that is going to be analyzed in this paper, is the music video to the song Alright by the rapper Kendrick Lamar, who already released four studio albums. Kendrick Lamar Duckworth was born in Compton, California in 1987 and signed a record deal with the independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment in 2005 and released his first major-label album in 2012 with the title Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City. In 2015 the album To Pimp a Butterfly was released, for which he won a Grammy award for best rap album of the year.3 On the album the artist talks about identity, racism and the black experience in the United States. Kendrick Lamar addresses political issues such as police brutality in the song and in the music video. Current political and social topics are addressed by the artist on his album and also through live performances4. Especially, after the events of the shooting of Trayvon Martin5 in 2012, the protests in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown6 and the Baltimore protests in 20157, Kendrick Lamar has spoken8 out and written songs about police brutality. The music video for the song Alright was directed by Colin Tilley who won the MTV Award for best director in 2015 for it. 9 The music video allows an in-depth analysis of the aesthetics and cinematic techniques, because the message of the music video is in part also conveyed through the way the music video was shot. Kendrick Lamar's art does not only consists of his music. Visual imagery plays an important role in the delivery of the artists' message and this is also noticeable in the music video to the song Alright.
Throughout this paper the question is going to be answered, whether W.E.B. Du Bois' concept of double consciousness can be discerned in contemporary expressions of Hip Hop culture. Furthermore, it is going to be explored how this concept can be visually represented by analyzing Kendrick Lamar's music video to the song Alright from the Album To Pimp a Butterfly. First, a definition of Du Bois' concept of double consciousness is going to be given in order to delineate the characteristics and possible interpretations of it. The concept is going to be defined as an internal conflict that expresses the hardship of reconciling two distinct perspectives and identities into one body. Moreover, formal aspects of The Souls of Black Folk are going to provide evidence for the argument, that Du Bois writing style facilitates the communication of the concept of double consciousness throughout his work. The effects of double consciousness and the importance of cultural expressions in the process of finding one's own cultural identity are also going to be analyzed in more detail in the second chapter of this paper.
In order to analyze Kendrick Lamar's music video, a brief introduction to the medium is going to be given. Through Keazor's and Wübbena's work the origins of this medium will be determined and presented. Moreover, the most important technical elements of the music video in general are going to be mentioned as well. Railton and Watson propose in their work Music Video and the Politics of Representation a systematic categorization of music videos, by identifying four different type of music videos: 1. Pseudo-Documentary music video, 2. Art music video, 3. Narrative music video and 4. Staged Performance music video (Railton and Watson 49-61). Furthermore, the question as to what the function of a music video is, will also be explored in more detail, highlighting the discussion as to whether its function can be found in the promotion of the song.
The music video Alright is going to be analyzed by determining how the director Colin Tilley establishes the single scenes in the music video. Firstly, possible thematically coherent segments have to be identified. Through a frame by frame analysis the cinematic techniques and the aesthetics of each segment of the music video are going to be analyzed. Secondly, the song lyrics and their visual representation in the music video are also going to be examined. Thirdly, the concept of double consciousness is going to be identified in Kendrick Lamar's music video by illustrating how double consciousness is visually represented.
William Edward Burghardt “W.E.B.” Du Bois was one of the earliest American sociologists to study the lives of African-Americans during the Jim Crow era. Among many of Du Bois' works the study with the title The Philadelphia Negro represents the first social study of a black community that tried to empirically assess social issues. This study was published in 1899 and already discussed the role of perception in the chapter entitled The Meaning of All of This (Du Bois “The Philadelphia Negro” 388-389). Du Bois recognized how changes in society were strongly dependent on the way black Americans were perceived by the white majority population. Therefore, the study of how blacks were perceived and perceived themselves remained one of the central questions in Du Bois' work.
The Souls of Black Folk was published in 1903 and is considered a classic of American literature, as it incorporates a series of essays that try to convey the black experience at the beginning of the 20th century. Du Bois writes in this work about race, culture and education and explores the “meaning of being black (...)” (Du Bois 3). One central element of The Souls of Black Folk is Du Bois' observation on the existence of what he calls “the Veil” (Du Bois 3), which is a metaphor that describes an invisible boundary that separates the black American from the white American experience. This separation is not just metaphorical, as Du Bois delineates the racial boundaries throughout his work and illustrates how “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line” (Du Bois 3). Frank M. Kirkland describes the veil as a “historical disposition of African Americans (...) shaped by the social barrier of racial segregation and colonization (...)” (Kirkland 137) in his work On Du Bois'Notion of Double Consciousness. The obstacles imposed by this barrier lead to an inability of the majority population to comprehend black American experiences. Furthermore, this division between white Americans and black Americans is defined by Du Bois in the chapter Of the Dawn of Freedom as the “color line” (Du Bois 15).
In the forethought of The Souls of Black Folk Du Bois states that he leaves “the world of the white man” and that he has “stepped within the Veil (...)” (Du Bois 3). From this position within the veil, Du Bois introduces to the reader the concept of “double consciousness” (Du Bois 8). This chapter is going to elaborate on the meaning of the concept of double consciousness in more detail. Firstly, the concept is going to be analyzed as an internal struggle that tries to explain the process of reconciling an African and an American identity into one experience. Secondly, an analysis of Du Bois' formal approach of The Souls of Black Folk is going to show how the use of personal anecdotes and a subjective writing style counters the public discourse around race at the early 20th century and contributes to the understanding of the concept of double consciousness on an emotional level. Thirdly, the cultural value of slave music as a manifested representation of double consciousness is going to be explored as a possible solution to the question as to whether the concept of double consciousness is helpful in the development of self-consciousness.
The term “double consciousness” implies that the identity of a black American is fragmented into two identities. On the one hand it allows black Americans to view themselves from their own individual perspective. On the other hand, it leads them to also view themselves from the perspective of the majority population in the United States (Du Bois 8). It is this sensation that Du Bois introduces in the first chapter of The Souls of Black Folk, in order to describe an inner conflict that is present in black Americans. In the first chapter with the title Of Our Spiritual Strivings, Du Bois explains through an account from his own experience how black Americans encounter this second way of perceiving themselves at a young age, when they are confronted with racism for the first time, as Du Bois states “then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others (.)” (Du Bois 8). The awareness and confrontation with one’s otherness triggers the process which is described by Du Bois as double consciousness. Dickson points out in his work W.E.B. Du Bois and the Idea of Double Consciousness that “double consciousness allowed for a sense of distinctiveness that did not imply inferiority” (Dickson 305). In the search of one’s identity black Americans have to reconcile various cultural heritages into one individual experience. They have to reconcile the African heritage with the American experiences. Dickson argues that Du Bois provided a way in which this process of reconciliation of one’s identity would allow the individual to find a resolution by consolidating both identities. However, this multifaceted conception of the self is being described by Du Bois as a rather difficult task, when he states that
“After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” (Du Bois 8)
In this paragraph double consciousness is defined as a sensation, as a manifestation of an interior process. However, it is a sensation that does not provide a “true self-consciousness” (Du Bois 8), but rather produces a multitude of competing inner conflicts. A black American’s “two-ness” (Du Bois 8) is characterized by competing thoughts, strivings and ideals. These psychological challenges affect the individual in his daily life and require “strength” (Du Bois 8) in order to overcome them. Du Bois refers to two different worlds. First the “American world”. Second, the “other world” (Du Bois 8). These two spaces outline the areas in which a black American individual is confined, this limitation is not self-imposed, but rather a consequence of colonization, slavery and segregation.
It is important to reflect on the form Du Bois chooses to express the notion of double consciousness in The Souls of Black Folk. Du Bois arguments are conveyed through an exploration and narration of personal anecdotes, such as the chapter Of the Passing of the FirstBorn, in which the death of Du Bois' child is narrated in a personal and emotional way. Another characteristic of Du Bois intimate writing style is the use of opening poems and songs before the beginning of each chapter. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk is a collection of essays that embodies both African oral and American writing traditions in order to convey the notion of double consciousness through its form. Paul Gilroy's reading of Du Bois offers an explanation of the author's theoretical approach, by emphasizing that the author concentrates on “African origins and expresse[s] a deeper disengagement from modern forms of thought (.)” (Gilroy 113) in order to speak about black American experiences. Du Bois' chapter The Sorrow Songs is an example for the inclusion of African oral discourse in the attempt of expressing a black American experience. By admitting that he knows “little of music” and that he “can say nothing in technical phrase” (Du Bois 169), Du Bois relies on an internal subjective experience, in order to establish his line of argument, adding that he knows “something of men, and knowing them” he knows “that these songs are the articulate message of the slave to the world.” (Du Bois 169). Du Bois' subjectivity in The Souls of Black Folk is an example of black American agency. Furthermore, this subjectivity represents a solution to the problem raised by Du Bois in the first chapter, when he asks “how does it feel to be a problem?” (Du Bois 7). Kevin Quashie highlights in his work The Sovereignty of Quiet - Beyond Resistance in Black Culture that Du Bois' double consciousness refers to “a black subject whose being is conscripted not only by race but also by a racist discourse” (Quashie 12). Du Bois' account of the early 20th century United States demonstrates how a racist discourse influences the mind of a black American when he describes the inequality of opportunities at that time: “all their dazzling opportunities, were theirs, not mine. But they should not keep these prizes, I said; some, all, I would wrest from them. Just how I would do it I could never decide: by reading law, by healing the sick, by telling the wonderful tales that swam in my head,—some way.” (Du Bois 8)
Du Bois contemplates in an internal struggle the possibilities he is offered and acknowledges the existing inequality of opportunities he faces as a black American. Du Bois recognizes the limitations a racist society imposes on him, but is at the same time aware of his capabilities. Quashie explains how “even this determination does not temper the reality that he is irrevocably tethered to what white culture says of him.” (Quashie 13). In this instance the concept of double consciousness can be understood as both an acknowledgment of one's being and the awareness of one's limitations enforced by a persistent racist public discourse. Another aspect, concerning the formal characteristics of Du Bois work, is the different synonymous use of the term double consciousness. Ernest Allen Jr. proposes in his work Ever Feeling one S Twoness: “Double Ideals” and “Double Consciousness” in The Souls of Black Folk, a division of the different terms, by defining three groups: 1) “double consciousness”; 2) “second sight”; and 3) “double ideals”, “double aims”, “double thoughts”, “double strivings”, (...)” (Allen 2). Allen describes the term double consciousness as “negated self-consciousness” (Allen 5), the term second sight as “the ability to navigate two disparate cultures (...)” (Allen 65) and the third category of terms refer to specific examples of black American experiences, such as “artisans, ministers, doctors, intellectuals and artists (...)” (Allen 6). The notion of “negated self-consciousness” (Allen 5) proposed by Allen is the effect of trying to consolidate an individual identity with an American identity, which culminates in an existential condition of affliction. However, this affliction does not necessarily originate from the existence of double consciousness per se, but rather from the level of conflict between prevailing identities. In the case of black Americans, this level is very high given the nature of both contrasting identities. On the one hand, there is the racial identity of black Americans. On the other hand, there is a cultural and historical American identity. However, this second identity is rooted in a history and culture which involves the degradation of the racial identity of black Americans. This discrepancy between both cultural identities leads to an existential condition of affliction, which has also been discussed in Frantz Fanon's work Black Skin, White Masks, where the philosopher writes about the relation between the colonizer and colonized people. Fanon argues that “the feeling of inferiority of the colonized is the correlative to the European's feeling of superiority (.) It is the racist who creates his inferior” (Fanon 69).
In the United States of the early 20th century it is the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed that has to be reconciled into one American identity, according to Du Bois, as he states that “the history of the American Negro is the history (.) of this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a (.) truer self’ (Du Bois 9). However, this process, is being undermined by the reality in which black Americans find themselves at the turn of the century. In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois sees poverty as one of the main obstacles for black Americans, who, after the Emancipation Proclamation, have to establish a life “without a cent, without a home, without land, tools, or savings” (Du Bois 12). The lack of education is another hindrance which Du Bois points out in the chapters Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others and Of the Meaning of Progress. Du Bois opposes Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Compromise of 1895, which assured a basic education, but at the same time constrained black Americans to the subjugation of segregation laws (Du Bois 34). In Of the Meaning of Progress Du Bois’ own experiences as a teacher serve as the foundation for his reflections on education, recognizing the importance of education and diagnosing the poor condition of black Americans’ educational experiences (Du Bois 47). These systemic social issues are consequential to the opening question Du Bois poses: “How does it feel to be a problem?” (Du Bois 7). The concept of double consciousness, is in this regard a question of personal sentiment, or how Gooding-Williams states in In the Shadow of Du Bois, “a subjectively felt social condition” (Gooding-Williams 67). This condition is being presented through personal and subjective accounts of Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folk, in order to give examples of what it is like to be a problem. The aforementioned economic and educational problems are two cases that illustrate this condition in more detail.
Another important aspect in the analysis of the concept of double consciousness is the way Du Bois talks about how black Americans see and judge themselves. In the first chapter Of Our Spiritual Strivings, Du Bois describes the way in which black Americans judge themselves as “measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity” (Du Bois 8). Black Americans measure themselves against an ideal that is not of their own making, but rather an American ideal. Throughout Du Bois’ work the consequences of this behavior can be perceived on several occasions. There are those who “wasted [themselves] in a bitter cry” (Du Bois 8) or others “ashamed of themselves” (Du Bois 10). Cornel West addresses this sense of inferiority in his work Race Matters, when he talks about the notion of a “nihilist threat to black America” (West 14) and defines it as “the lived experience of coping with a life of horrifying meaningless, hopelessness, and (most important) lovelessness” (West 14). West finds that the origins of the contemporary situation that he describes, derive from the “initial black struggle against degradation and devaluation in the enslaved circumstances (.)” (West 15). It has already been indicated how Du Bois’ criticism of Booker T. Washington addresses educational issues. Furthermore, Washington’s proposal is not only an example of public and open submission but was also seen as a sign of acceptance of “the alleged inferiority of the Negro races” by Du Bois (Du Bois 39). By judging oneself “by the tape of a world (...)” (Du Bois 8) that promotes an oppressive public discourse, has substantial implications for a black American individual.
In Of the Training of Black Men Du Bois elaborates on the subject of inferiority, explaining how since the beginning of slavery this sentiment prevailed in public discourse, when he articulates three persistent modes of thinking of the 20th century, that are referred to as “three streams of thinking” (Du Bois 63). The first line of thinking favors the idea of a human consensus and partnership across the races, the second promotes the idea of blacks being ranked between humans and animals and the third approach describes black Americans, wanting freedom but also questioning themselves as to whether the second line of thinking could be true (Du Bois, 63-64). Du Bois is not only showing how this racialized discourse can affect black Americans. Moreover, he highlights how there exists no agency for black Americans on a fundamental level of thought, as these three modes of thinking come “from the shimmering swirl of waters where many, many thoughts ago the slave-ship first saw the square tower of Jamestown (...)” (Du Bois 63). Du Bois' critique goes beyond the actual oppression of black men, by highlighting how philosophical discourse and scientific institutions have further encouraged the establishment of the rationale behind slavery and the oppression of black Americans. This is what Gilroy calls “the discourse of bourgeois humanism which several scholars have implicated in the rise and consolidation of scientific racism” (Gilroy 55). Examples of a racialized scientific discourse in the the 19th century can be found in the practices promoted by Franz Joseph Gall and the pseudoscience of phrenology10.
At the end of this chapter the question whether Du Bois' concept of double consciousness offers a solution to the systemic hindrance of establishing a self-consciousness, is going to be addressed. In the first chapter of The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois initially offers two possible outcomes for young black Americans. To either succumb to the oppressor, or to endure and live with a constant hate towards white people, when he states that “with other black boys the strife was not so fiercely sunny: their youth shrunk into tasteless sycophancy, or into silent hatred of the world about them and mocking distrust of everything white; or wasted itself in a bitter cry (...)” (Du Bois 8)
These possible outcomes would suggest that double consciousness is an attribute which leads to the realization of being an anomaly which then causes these negative reactions. Quashie argues that Du Bois' concept of double consciousness offers the idea that “black subjectivity is without escape from the publicness of racialization - that blackness is always faithful to or in resistance of the projections of white culture” (Quashie 15). Double consciousness is, from this point of view, a psychological mode from which ultimately results “self-questioning, selfdisparagement, and lowering of ideals (...)” (Du Bois 12). However, double consciousness has to be also considered as a catalyst for social and individual change. How this change can be obtained, is presented by Du Bois in several chapters of The Souls of Black Folk. The relevance of culture in this process is undeniable. The Sorrow Songs is the last chapter in Du Bois work and concentrates on the importance of cultural expressions in the forming of a distinct black American culture. Du Bois identifies these melodies as “old songs in which the soul of the black slave spoke to men” and as “voices of the past” (Du Bois 167). The emphasis on the songs being “voices”, refers to African oral traditions which were still practiced by slaves once they arrived in the United States. By tracing the history of black American music, Du Bois acknowledges the value of these songs, as they represent the “greatest gift of the Negro people” (Du Bois 168). This music is essential, not only because it carries historical importance and it tells the story of past lives, but also because it is a manifested representation of double consciousness. The slave song entails both, the African tradition and the American experience, but is nevertheless a distinct product of black American culture. Paul Gilroy highlights how “Du Bois places black music as the central sign of black cultural value, integrity and autonomy. (.) Slave music is signaled in its special position of privileged signifier of black authenticity.” (Gilroy 90). Slave music in itself is multifaceted and conveys different feelings, experiences and stories that allow a passing on of tradition, which establish a sense of self-determination and community after time. The story of how the slave song that was sung by Du Bois' grandfather’s grandmother became “the strange chant which heralds The Coming of John” (Du Bois 170), is an example of the ability of black American culture to endure over time. Moreover, the songs that are at the beginning of every chapter are also imitating this progression towards a merging of cultures, as “the first [song] is African music, the second Afro-American, while the third is a blending of Negro music with the music heard in the foster land. The result is still distinctively Negro and the method of blending original, but the elements are both Negro and Caucasian.” (Du Bois 171).
It is evident how the previous proposition, “to merge his double self (...)” (Du Bois 9), is being applied in the cultural realm of music. Double consciousness in the form of musical expression, is ultimately the vehicle for Du Bois’ proposed solution to the concept of double consciousness, which is the integration of two different identities into one self-conscious body. Moreover, by retracing the “development of the slave song” (Du Bois 171), Du Bois is legitimizing this cultural form as a discourse, offering a counter-discourse to before mentioned racist public discourses that prevailed in the early 20th century.
W.E.B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk presents the concept of double consciousness as a psychological mode, with which the sensation of “two-ness” (Du Bois 8) of black Americans is described. The realization of having two conflicting identities in one body can have negative outcomes. However, Du Bois also acknowledges this mode as being the catalyst for the development of a distinct black American culture that incorporates African traditions. Throughout this paper the concept of double consciousness is going to be explored in contemporary Hip Hop culture. The question as to how double consciousness can be discerned in this contemporary culture will be at the center of the following examination. Furthermore, the analysis will concentrate on the importance of visual imagery in the music video medium. W.E.B. Du Bois' concept of double consciousness is discernable in contemporary visual representations of Hip Hop culture and can be analyzed in Kendrick Lamar's music video to the song Alright. Before the analysis of Kendrick Lamar's music video, a brief introduction to the medium will be presented. Furthermore, the origins, the most important aesthetical and technical terms and its function in contemporary media will be addressed in the following chapter.
Technological advancements have always played a major role in the development and evolution of Hip Hop culture and its different forms of expression. From the invention of the mixer, which allowed DJs to blend music together, to current changes through developments in networking technologies, Hip Hop culture has always adapted and incorporated technological innovations (Chang 112). The music video as a form of presentation for the artists' art has undergone various changes. Henry Keazor and Thorsten Wübbena have written in different publications about the history of the music video and they trace its origins back to the 1907 “phonoscène for the lip-synching technique for the song “Anna, qu'est-ce tu t'attends; ou, Vas- y, ma poule”, produced by [Lèon] Gaumont (...)” (Keazor and Wübbena 224). Furthermore, Keazor and Wübbena mention how movies about music, like The Jazz Singer by Alan Crosland of 1927, played an important role in the development of an aesthetic for the combination of video and music (Keazor and Wübbena 224). However, in the beginning of the 1980s it was the success of the television channel MTV (Music Television) that popularized the medium (Keazor and Wübbena 226). According to Keazior and Wübbena, the production of music videos for television established certain characteristics that are integral for the aesthetics of music videos until this day, such as “the use of high frequency cuts, compositing and collage techniques, visual effects and graphic elements, and their precise synchronization with the musical beat.” (Keazor and Wübbena 226).
Diane Railton and Paul Watson define the music video, as a “promotional device” and argue that “all music videos have an avowedly commercial agenda: they are first and foremost a commercial (...) (Railton and Watson 1). Similarly, Gloria Jean Watkins (bell hooks) argues that the notion of “the commodification of Otherness (...)” (Hooks 366), more precisely in the context of cultural minority expressions being marketed towards a dominant majority. With the spread and popularization of the internet, different ways to market and publish music videos have been established over the years. The most popular digital platform which distributes music videos nowadays is YouTube, which has also offered new creative possibilities to artists and video directors (Keazor and Wübbena 228).
In Diane Railton and Paul Watson's work Music Video and the Politics of Representation, the authors identify four different genres of music videos: 1. PseudoDocumentary Music Video, 2. Art Music Video, 3. Narrative Music Video, 4. Staged Performance Music Video (Railton and Watson 49-61). However, Railton and Watson underline how these categories intersect and that “the boundaries between the various genres are [not] always clearly defined” (Railton and Watson 61). Mainstream Hip Hop music video aesthetics have been rightly criticized as promoting sexist and degrading images of women. Hooks addresses this argument by highlighting that rap does both, it “articulates narratives of coming to critical political consciousness [and] it also exploits stereotypes and essentialist notions of blackness” (Hooks 34). However, artists such as Talib Kweli, Common, Lupe Fiasco, The Roots, J.Cole, Mos Def, Kendrick Lamar and many more, are examples that counter these mainstream tendencies.
In this paper Kendrick Lamar's music video Alright is going to be analyzed in order to examine, how the concept of double consciousness is being visually represented in the music video medium. Furthermore, an analysis of cinematic techniques that are used in order to establish the single scenes is going to be presented in the following chapter.
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