Hi, I recently saw you post some articles on your FB about appropriation of hip-hop culture by white people and I was wondering where does your own music/performance fit into this dialogue?
you were probly referring to some of the articles ive been sharing about Iggy Azalea, tho i have shared others regarding white persyns working within the medium of house music as well. With Iggy the problems are obvious: * she really obviously and strongly puts on a false accent and uses terms that have strong origins within AAVE that she did not grow up around * she is oblivious to her privilege and defensive when criticised for her appropriation * she denies the history of hip hop and it’s political roots to save her own ass (or maybe she really doesn’t know how the culture came to be, i wouldn’t be surprised given some of the things she has said)
the above three things are things that i, and many other white rappers, would never do. if you catch me slipping then i want to know, but i think if you listen thru my catalogue you wouldn’t think i was just doing my best kanye or kool ad or mf doom impersonation. the accent you hear in my work is legitimate, i am american and my family has southern roots, i grew up with people who left school as soon as they could to get work to support there families, i myself missed an accumulated years of schooling due to illness so i have always had trouble with speaking “correctly” and came from people who didn’t always speak “correctly”.
i was born in america with a life threatening illness to a lower class family, every aspect of my families life revolved around finding ways to pay for my medication. my mother went bankrupt within the first six months of my being born, the medical bill for my first prolonged hospital stay (just over 1 month) was a little more than 250,000 dollars. my mother sold her house, my father left when he realised what it was going to mean to raise someone as sick as me and my mother spent the next decade working never less than two jobs, often up to four to cover my medical bills. a single bottle of the pills i had to take every time i ate cost roughly a months rent in the early 90’s, those bottles contained 90 pills, i was prescribed 15 to 20 a day, tho it fluctuated and could be up to 30. this is meant to be an example of just one single aspect of the daily upkeep my body needed and its financial drain on my family.
when my grandmother died her life insurance left just enough money for my brother, my mother and i to afford tickets to australia, a country we knew had universal healthcare and a place where my mom new a friend who could help us start a new life. in the last four years before we left america for Australia my brother my mother had all been sleeping in a single set of bunk beds in my grandma’s spare room while my mom worked 3 jobs to support us and the rest of my family constantly contributed the little money they had to chip away at the mounting debt and to help me afford my vital medication. because of the healthcare system in america i went the first decade of my life without proper medical treatment, this effects today how long my lifespan will be, even with proper care now you cannot undo a decades worth of neglecting a life threatening illness. because of my illness my mother didn’t see her sister for 17 years since neither her nor her sister ever had the money to make the trip to the other side of the world. my brother grew up not having a relationship with his father (my step father) who we also had to leave behind in america, i have only just been back where i came from for the first time in 17 years last year, it was the first time in my life i was able to afford it because my mother threw a fundraiser and alot of her musician friends chipped in to help out.
i was able to qualify for Australian Welfare until i was 23 before then i stole habitually for years, sold drugs and sometimes was able to make some money from selling art online. i was unfit for work (though i did try to hold down jobs from time to time) due to daily cystic fibrosis coughing fits, stomach aches etc. clinical depression, generalised anxiety disorder and having dropped out of high school at 17 with no job skills. at 25 i finally qualified for proper disability pension and since then my life has been a bit easier, i don’t struggle to pay rent and i have been able to finally start trying to look after my health because i don’t have to work so hard to survive, but now the current government is cracking down on disability pension recipients and there is a good chance i will lose that pension, without which i will no longer have the means to support myself. the money i get now is just enough to afford food, medicine and rent. i still live with my mother. i am seriously considering getting back into dealing if they take away the pension. my life struggle as someone with a life threatening illness is not over now and i’m sceptical it ever will be, hip hop is the vehicle i work within to talk about these issues as it has always been the vehicle of lower class to tell their story of oppression. it is my experience with being othered as a chronically ill persyn that i think gives my voice a place within the history of hip hop.
i am open to other interpretations, i am open to dialogue about it, i am not foolish enough or arrogant enough to spend my time trying to convince people that they should be ok with my work if they are not, i respect it if someone thinks its problematic. i take time to read as many articles on the ongoing dialogue of cultural appropriation in the music industry/art world as i can.
aside from all of that i think the dialogue that seems to be emerging isn’t so much “white people can’t rap” but more “if you are a white rapper, know your place, show respect and do you or don’t do it at all”. there are numerous examples of amazing white rappers who have never made the same mistakes as Iggy azalea.
rock n roll, jazz, blues, house, funk, soul, folk, techno, rn’b - these art forms all have POC roots. it is almost impossible to work within any medium and keep it culturally exclusive, i think that is understood, the problem is a white media that does not recognise the beauty of the many POC cultures and there undeniable contribution to literally every art form we enjoy on a global scale. i hope that we can change this. i hope i make music that sounds like me and gives voice to some of the struggles disabled and chronically ill persyns, poor persyns, persyns who experience depression and issues with drug dependency go through everyday on this earth. i hope i always respect my boundaries/recognise my privilege as a white persyn, in every aspect of my life, including my music. i thank anyone who comes to me to talk about this in a frank dialogue. thank you, anon. ive wanted to write something about this for a while.
i will leave you with a song of mine i feel best exemplifies what i mean when i say i am using hip hop to talk about what it feels like to be held ransom by your frailty in a capitalist country that hates the chronically ill for their inability to “contribute”.
Went to see a white rapper and left feeling insulted
I went to a live show last night to see a white rapper perform (no, not Macklemore, haha). I’m temporarily disabled, so deciding to go to a crowded live show takes a lot more mental and physical energy than usual. Little did I know I would need emotional energy to process the moment the white rapper decided to throw out an Asian stereotype to a predominantly white crowd. His comment was along the lines of, “Asians having DJ-ing locked down because of their small hands.” As the crowd laughed, I realized I was the only Asian person in a predominantly white crowd. I was immediately uncomfortable and pissed off. I sent this email to the white rapper this morning to tell him how angry I was:
“Just saw you perform last night at The Independent. I gotta say, your onstage Asian stereotyping was racist, rude, and totally not necessary. “Oh, Asian people can DJ because they have small hands.” Wow, Asian people are short and small. I haven’t heard that one before. As possibly the only Asian audience member at the venue last night, was I supposed to feel complimented? News flash, there is no such thing as a positive stereotype. Why didn’t you just point out how all of us are so good at math? You really couldn’t think of something more interesting and intelligent to say between songs? How fucking tired and boring. Also, it’s not just that you casually said something racist onstage, but it’s that you said it to a predominantly white crowd who couldn’t see past their own fucking noses to see the Asian woman standing nearby. Your comment encouraged that in them. Do you even know what it feels like to have people basically laughing at you without noticing that you’re standing there? It’s feels fucking alienating. It makes you feel small and worthless. Last night, I went to your show hoping to hear some good hip-hop, but I left feeling stereotyped and insulted. I spend enough time defending myself from casual racism. I don’t need to pay some ignorant white man to say that shit to me. You lost me last night.”