Hip Hop at Europe's Edge: Music, Agency, and Social Change

Hip Hop at Europe's Edge: Music, Agency, and Social Change

Hip Hop at Europe's Edge: Music, Agency, and Social Change

Hip Hop at Europe's Edge: Music, Agency, and Social Change

Synopsis

Responding to the development of a lively hip hop culture in Central and Eastern European countries, this interdisciplinary study demonstrates how a universal model of hip hop serves as a contextually situated platform of cultural exchange and becomes locally inflected. After the Soviet Union fell, hip hop became popular in urban environments in the region, but it has often been stigmatized as inauthentic, due to an apparent lack of connection to African American historical roots and black identity. Originally strongly influenced by aesthetics from the US, hip hop in Central and Eastern Europe has gradually developed unique, local trajectories, a number of which are showcased in this volume. On the one hand, hip hop functions as a marker of Western cosmopolitanism and democratic ideology, but as the contributors show, it is also a malleable genre that has been infused with so much local identity that it has lost most of its previous associations with "the West" in the experiences of local musicians, audiences, and producers. Contextualizing hip hop through the prism of local experiences and regional musical expressions, these valuable case studies reveal the broad spectrum of its impact on popular culture and youth identity in the post-Soviet world.

Excerpt

Milosz Miszczynski and Adriana Helbig

Vladimir putin made headlines when he appeared on the televised 2009 “Battle for Respect” music contest run by Muz tv (Russia’s MTV) to deliver an antidrug message to young people. Putin’s decision to engage with hip hop, while admittedly awkward, hints at the powerful cultural and political role that the genre plays in former socialist contexts. From the most marginalized to the most influential, people engage with hip hop to shape and make credible their economic, political, and social realities. However, if even the president of a country as influential in global politics as Russia is participating in televised rap events, then why is scholarship on hip hop in former socialist countries so scarce?

Hip hop in Eastern Europe has been stigmatized as inauthentic, due to its apparent lack of historical connection to the genre’s African American roots and alleged lack of connection to black identity. Strongly influenced by aesthetics from the United States since the early the 1990s when hip hop first traveled across post-socialist borders, hip hop has since developed unique trajectories in each locale. the degree of access to music from the United States in the post-socialist era depended on a country’s political relationship with the West prior to the breakup of the Eastern Bloc. the state of the music industries following socialist collapse also determined how musical genres were introduced, circulated, and appropriated, post-1989. Networks of corruption that took root in the collapsed Eastern economies in the 1990s determined the type of technologies to which people had access. Illegally dubbed cassettes and compact discs sold at bazaars shaped post-socialist aesthetics and relationships to music from the West, which in certain aspects of the everyday seemed just as inaccessible for the majority as it had during the socialist era. Social, economic, and political attitudes toward digital . . .

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