Adam's discussion of the blues arising in the Jim Crow context (vs.slavery) makes me think of the best book I read this past year, THE NEW JIM CROW, Michelle Alexander's book on mass incarceration and the so-called war on drugs. She makes the case that Jim Crow was the post-slavery system of continued oppression and that mass incarceration is the post-civil rights system of continuing oppression. Among many interesting things, she says that there are as many (or more? I forget) African Americans in prison or on parole than there were slaves in 1850.
I actually know very little about hip-hop,but Adam's first video makes me wonder how the cultural dynamics of blues arising within Jim Crow may be similar or different from the arising of hip-hop within the system of mass incarceration. This is just something to have in the back of the mind as we explore in more detail the Jim Crow/Blues relationship -- more subtle than just the "Ouch."
This may be getting a bit off topic, but I wanted to mention a few more things from the book -- I don't have it in front of me, so this is recollection: 1)This country has a higher percentage of its population in prison/jail than any other country in the world; Soviet Union used to be the highest. I poked around on the internet to see if this was true and in general found support for it. 2) This was not always the case; in 1980, we had .5 million prisoners; now we have more than 2 million -- yes, fourfold increase. 3) The author goes into depth on how African Americans are the ones who end up in prison (and how rights are taken away even after the "debt to society" has been paid). For example, there was a HUGE difference in the prison sentence per ounce between crack cocaine and powder cocaine -- I think that was very recently changed. Also, the "war on drugs" was fought more intensely in African American neighborhoods. White college kids would often be let off for drug offenses that would land an African American in jail. 4) Local law enforcement received big bucks and fancy equipment to fight the war -- and being "successful" in locking people up meant continued big budgets. 5) Privatization of prisons (and community employment from prisons) results in a lobby to keep the prisoners coming.
I'll stop there. I highly recommend the book, obviously. In the current context, I guess it is a reminder that potentially blues-inducing social conditions (that are race-based) are not all in the past.
Last Edited by on Jan 03, 2013 8:04 AM
I haven't watched the following video yet, but we probably all should. It's Mark Anthony Neal, one of the best and most prolific contemporary commentators on black music, speaking at the Blues and the Spirit conference on the subject "Naming Evil in the World: Hip-Hop's Blues Footprints."
Here's another with the title "What the Music Says: Reflections on Blues and Hip-Hop Intersections."