2 years ago
ButterflyBandit
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Feminist Elizabethan: K-Pop Has a Cultural Appropriation Problem
Hip-hop was first introduced and accepted on a wide-scale basis in South Korea in the 90s when the South Korean artists Seo Taiji and the Boys released "Nan Arayo." "Nan Arayo" was a song that was the first of its kind in South Korea and it incorporated jack swing-inspired beats, upbeat rap lyrics and catchy choruses. This song was so popular that it forever changed the country’s music industry and has helped create what K-pop is today – a hip-hop laden music scene.
While it is clear that the K-pop industry enjoys and likes hip-hop there have been times where their use and incorporation of hip-hop has crossed the line of admiration and appreciation and has entered into the realm of cultural appropriation.
K-pop artists commonly wear grills, braids, cornrows, chains, do-rags, bandanas and other items for their music videos and their performances, and for the most part, the artists seem to wear these as a costume. Many K-pop artists do not seem to have an understanding of the social and historical significance behind these items besides the fact that these items have been worn by Black hip-hop artists nor do most K-pop artists seem to be aware that hip-hop was created to give a voice to an oppressed group (i.e., Black Americans). In fact, there are some K-pop artists who regularly use hip-hop and claim to love the genre but don’t know any of the history behind hip-hop as can be seen in the below clip where BTS gets schooled by Coolio.
www.youtube.com1DAA50E1-0355-420D-A1AD-2C244287F3DCCreated with sketchtool.
Obviously, not all K-pop artists, especially the new generation, are going to know the founders of hip-hop due to the fact that they are so young and because they did not grow up in the original hip-hop generation. However, while not knowing the founders of hip-hop is excusable, to wear cultural items while completely ignoring any possible cultural significance that the items may have, is not. To do so can be incredibly insulting to the culture and can potentially cause the perpetuation and generation of stereotypes.
The following are a sampling of some of the different Korean artists who are guilty of cultural appropriation.
www.youtube.com1DAA50E1-0355-420D-A1AD-2C244287F3DCCreated with sketchtool.
In this clip, CL from 2NE1 sings her debut solo song “The Baddest Female.” The song is an anthem to all of the women who are confident in themselves, who do as they please and who are just overall badass, cool chicks. The way that this “cool” image is conveyed is through the use of a grill (e.g., CL wears a gold grill with elongated canines), chains, large gold hoop earrings, bandanas and through a pair of shoes that are hanging off of a power line. Not so coincidentally, all of these items are associated with Black Americans. Grills, for example, were made famous by the Black hip-hop artists of the 80s; thick, heavy chains were worn by the originators of hip-hop and were symbols that they had made it despite racism and that they had escaped poverty; hoop earrings are an African fashion; bandanas are heavily associated with gang affiliations like the Bloods and the Crips; and shoes that are tied together and are hanging off a power line tend to be associated with urban African American communities and bullying and death (though it should be said that there are multiple meanings associated with shoe tossing and that these meanings can vary depending on the culture and the area).
While using these elements in themselves isn’t so bad, what turns CL’s music video into a moment of cultural appropriation...
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@SkullBunneh and it is definitely hard to figure out how much control a k-pop idol truly has. it seems like nowadays the idols are more in control than they used to be but it is still hard to figure out how much say they actually do have.
Yup, that's true. But what I'm saying is teaching someone to appreciate the culture instead if mimicking it is where the change happens. Many will view kpop approach to Hiphop as a joke and those same people will say some derogatory about Koreans. Are they any better than those who wrongly represented them? No, they're putting themselves on the same plate of negativity. This article also fails to mention that while GD is guilty of this problem, he has had icons of the genres praise his work. From artists like Missy Elliot who appeared of one of his albums to recently hanging out and making friends with Kanye West. Also, GD has been a fan of the genre since he was young. His first Hiphop album, like many other kids who aren't black, was by Wu-tang. I also don't like that it calls the children in his video "props". I'm sure their parents wouldn't appreciate that. I know I wouldn't. And you're right, now that artists are becoming more aware of the strings attached to them, they can say yes and no to a lot of things. But sometimes that only comes if you're willing to fight for it. But overall, my point is, education is the only way to fix this problem. And not just Koreans understanding the history of Hiphop, but Black people willing to speak out positively and help correct it. Everyone needs a history lesson.
Oh and when I said "your last comment is the exact problem with this cultural problem" I meant you hit the nail on the head. I hope you didn't take that the wrong way. My apologies if I wasn't clear. ^_^
I may not be educated enough to comment on this card and have an impact with what I'm saying, as I'm relatively new to k pop and know next to nothing about the history of Hip-Hop culture. In my personal oppinion, when someone asks me what my I opinion is on Hip-hop, my instinct is not going to be to delve into the rich cultural background of Hip-Hop. When and if someone where to ask me what my I opinion on the genera is I would honestly say, I'm not crazy about hip-hop, but there are some songs I can honestly say I enjoy. In the case of the first link, the one in which Bang tan gets 'Schooled' by Coolio, I think it should be made clear that in the first couple episodes of AHL (American Hustle Life), BTS was charged with the task of researching key events in Hip-hop culture's history, so they, at the very least, have a very rudimentary understanding of the culture. As for GD and CL (or even Big bang and 2NE1 as collective groups), when someone asks them what style/genre they base there music in, they always tend to say something along the lines of 'We base our group/selves in Hip-Hop, but we also branch out into other generals as well' This statement makes it clear to me that they don't explicitly take Hip-hop as a culture, but rather as a genere. This however does not demote their music, even the songs that they stylize as 'hip-hop'. In short, what I believe to be happening in the 'Hip-hop' corner of kpop is that the artists are seeing hip-hop as a genere and not as a culture. There is nothing wrong with this, however, I think it would be interesting to see more artists that find themselves settling into a hip-hop genere being at least rudimentaly introduced to hip-hop the culture. Much like with BTS where they decided to go to LA to train their craft and learn more about their culture. As for the commentary saying things about how artists maybe not intentionally wear clothes that are 'modeled' after Nazi uniforms, I can agree that there have been times where I saw reseblances, such as SHINee's 'Everybody' performance and M/V outfits, I think this may be an overreaction, their outfits, discluding the hats and occasional handkerchief wrapped around wrist or upper arm, their outfits were not in any way Nazi in appearence. I think our minds have become so trained to look for the negative it's easy to misread a situation. I looked up the photoshoot in which @kpopandkimchi referenced in regards to Rap Monster and found an article in which the user outlined neo-nazism in kpop very clearly. What I found in the article was the opposite of shocking if I'm being quite honest, and while I cannot deny that there was a Nazi emblem on RM's hat, many of the other points were all drawn towards startling similar points, the military-esque ensembles many artists have taken to wearing. I myself am a fan of the outfits, especially the ones in which a stark navy/black/white outfit is paired with a rediculous amount of tassles and bling, so I may be a bit biased when I say that the military outfits are not in anyway shaped or modeled after Nazi uniforms, Namjoon's photoshoot being the exception I have never seen any other explicit emblems such as that, in the article it was stated that the author thought one of the possible explinations for the hat would be that, as of late, Bang tan has been military style clothing for some of their promos, and maybe a stylist went to their box of props and said 'hmmm military style hat... Yep! There it is!' without further examining in. While it may be a stretch, I hope it to the case.. I'm tired I need sleep oh my God I've been typing this 4ever