Accuracy & Oppression

Accuracy and oppression? Where in the world is she going with this?  Well, I shall tell you.

I recently read an article on NPR.org about a new rap anthology that is being released. The article “Why The Errors In ‘The Anthology Of Rap’ Matter” by Jacob Ganz was interesting, but I felt it failed to mention a few key issues which I think are extremely important. Though the article’s topic isn’t specifically about women in music, there is a connection here between oppressed groups and their representation (or misrepresentation) by those who would catalog them. This anthology of rap book and it’s shortcomings I feel are very similar to the misrepresentations, purposeful discounting of experience,  and just sloppy journalism many Riot Grrrls experienced in the early 1990s.

So, let me explain.

This is an anthology of rap lyrics. Awesome. Problem: lyrics are wrong! And some people think “Oh well, our bad. No big deal.”  Say what? 

Would you have such a nonchalant attitude if this was a Beatles anthology of song lyrics? I highly doubt it.  If this book was titled  “Classic Rock Anthology,” there would be hordes of unpaid, starving, and paisley clad interns making sure every comma and contraction was painstakingly correct. And then, they would bring in a new batch of interns, and check it all over again.

Marginalized groups have always had a difficult time having their voices heard and heard in a way, shape, and form that they choose.  Rap music is no exception. Often those in privileged positions in society will try to “speak” for these groups, showing their “expertise” on their issues and problems.  This usually ends up being patronizing and yet another way for the actual people in these groups to be silenced. Ya know, the man trying to tell other people about their own history and culture and what not.

Part of a feminist research methodology is acknowledging that those who are in these groups must have the agency and autonomy to define their own experiences and represent themselves. I would hope the Yale University researchers had this in mind when they were working on this publication, and didn’t take the old route of “othering” and “exoticzing” a culture that already has a problematic history being accepted as valid.

While we can go back and forth all day about what these lyrics mean, what the artist was trying to say, the historical and cultural significance of certain songs, ect., one thing should be clear and consistent from the beginning: the actual transcription of the words. Check with the artists themselves, or at least, their record label. Heck, pull outa CD insert. The internet is not the most academic or reliable resource for information you know. I would assume Yale University scholars would have been taught that in writing 101.

By not doing this, you can continue to perpetuate the idea that this music is not important enough nor worthy enough to require serious consideration. You continue the oppression and marginalization. You are misrepresenting the artist and their craft. It’s like misquoting someone in a news article, or transcribing an interview but “correcting” the person’s speech or sentence structure. It’s basically academic dishonesty. And you want to charge people for it?!

There are those who say that people who are noting these inaccuracies are just too picky or too touchy.  But it’s not about being picky or touchy. It’s not about some hipster purism. It’s about one simple thing…..RESPECT.

Salt n Pepa photo via here.

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Posted on November 24, 2010, in Pick Guards - Music Analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Accuracy & Oppression.

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