• Stepping Stones Kottla

Cultural Appropriation - By Matilda Ensér



Cultural appropriation, sometimes also called cultural misappropriation, is the adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation can be controversial when members of a dominant culture insult minority cultures, or when a culture adopts elements from another culture and tries to make it into their own, or use it in a harmful and bad way. Adopts elements from another culture without respecting it and not gaining knowledge of its history.

Cultural appropriation comes in many different forms. We can see it in fashion, music and art. For many years whites have been accused of borrowing music, fashion and art forms from other cultural groups and popularizing it as their own. But what does this say about music? And what is cultural appropriation in music? Cultural appropriation in music is about borrowing/stealing musical elements from other cultures into their own.

Cultural appropriation in hip hop and rap music culture

The hip hop and rap music culture is originally black but is nowadays influenced by white artists. “At a time when the sound of pop music is very black, the artists performing those sounds, as least the most popular ones, are very likely to be white.” This is a quote that appears in The Guardian in February 2015 and explains cultural appropriation in rap music and hip hop culture. White artists play black music as rap music. Rap culture and music is historically rooted in African American music culture. Hip hop culture was as well produced by the African Americans and the concept originates from rap music in the 1970s. “To rap” is a verb in this culture and means a sort of rhythmic mix between singing and speaking. The verb has had different meanings throughout history but has always been referred to something with rhythm. In the seventeenth century “to rap” meant producing a rhythmic sound like drumming and clapping.

Many white artists that consummate African American hip hop culture argue that their adaptation of the culture is an appreciation of the culture rather than appropriation. They mean that they feel a special notion of identity and belonging to hip hop culture. They believe it’s more than a music culture and does not believe that their adaptation of the culture is appropriation. In the perspective of some African Americans, hip hop artists think that white Americans can adapt the traditional hip hop culture in a bad way. Such as Azealia Banks. This statement can be proven by the fact that one of the most successful rap artists is the white rapper Eminem. Even though the culture is originally African American. Today many African American rap artists use the rap culture to express their own stories and strengthen themselves against the white western dominated society. This industry favours white rappers such as Eminem instead of its original culture isn’t fair. Because it’s easier for them to get credit and get into the culture.

This is cultural appropriation. When members of a dominant culture insult minority cultures, or when a culture adopts elements from another culture and tries to make it into their own, or use it in a harmful and bad way. This is only one example of what cultural appropriation is in music culture.

Artists that have been accused of cultural appropriation

It has happened many times in history that white artists get credit for the work of black artists. Due to cultural appropriation, Elvis Presley is regarded as being “King of Rock and Roll” despite that his music was influenced by a black artist who never got the credit for his work. Today many artists such as Madonna and Taylor Swift have been accused of cultural appropriation.

Madonna was the Italian-American superstar called “Queen of pop” that has been accused of borrowing culture to sell her own music including the gay culture, black culture, Latin culture and Indian culture. Madonna may be the biggest stealer. Some examples is when she borrowed from the Latin American culture for her video “La Isla Bonita” 1986 and from the gay, black and Latino culture for her video “Vogue” 1990.

After the music video “Shake it off” made by Taylor Swift opinions spread through the internet saying the video had black stereotypes and mocked the black culture. They also pointed out that all of the ballerinas in the video are white, while the black women are only seen dancing.

I believe that cultural appropriation exists everywhere. I believe that people are stealing elements from different cultures and people all the time. I see this topic from two different sides. First the good side, the side that people get inspired and admire other people's work. People get inspired by the hard-working works, made out of people from different cultures. People then take elements from this great work and turn it into their own. This means that people admire other people's work and confirm that they have done great work, in order to borrow elements from it. But it has its backside. People these days are so desperate for success, and for some people, in order to get successful, they steal. They steal elements from other minority cultures to make it their own, and into their own culture that happens to be dominant. This behaviour isn’t acceptable. This is something that needs to change. But in our society today dominant cultures insult minority cultures and adapt its elements. Unfortunately, this happens to be “okay” in our society today. Our world needs to change and needs to start to appreciate and recognize all cultures and their work, borrows, uses and be able to take inspiration. But no make it yours without any sense of belonging.