[News] Hip-Hop and the Corporate Function of Colonization

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 10 17:50:58 EDT 2007


Hip-Hop and the Corporate Function of Colonization

Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.

Green Institute Communications Fellow

looked at the function of mass media as primary 
mechanisms of the maintenance of colony, recent 
events have again emerged requiring further 
investigation into the function of corporate 
control over the cultural expression of colonized 
populations.  Though not specific to hip-hop the 
example as explored through that most popular of 
cultural expressions may help to make more clear 
the imperative of organization and political 
struggle in 2007.  Within the last few weeks 
alone we have seen recent decisions and trends 
evolve demonstrating the intent and need among 
those in power to further ensure that mass media 
will perform its primary (only?) function of 
manipulating popular consciousness for the 
purpose of manipulating behavior of the audience 
(victims).   These developments can only be 
understood in the context of a continuing process 
of subjugation in which media play a primary role in suppressing dissent.

Most recently examples of this include the 
successful lobbying (legal bribery) of congress 
by Time Warner to 
postal rates for magazines making new or small 
magazines unable to start or compete for national 
distribution.  There are the continuing efforts 
to sell itself off to either Warner Music Group 
or the newest media trend of a private equity 
firm.  And then there was the 
<http://www.loc.gov/crb/>Copyright Royalty Board 
issuing its new policy of charging commercial and 
non-commercial terrestrial and internet 
broadcasters per-song royalty fees which have 
been estimated to mean that 
of internet broadcasters will fold unable to 
afford the cost of operation.  This decision, it 
must be noted, also affects my own beloved 
Washington, DC Pacifica Radio affiliate WPFW 
whose song royalties fees, based on this 
decision, will no longer be covered by the 
right-wing-led Corporation for Public 
Broadcasting meaning further economic hardship for the network.

To this must be added the recent exposure of 
Interscope Records’ 
committee,” who have determined that the recently 
released album from Young Buck would not include 
a track called 
tha Police due to its “violent content.”  These 
examples form a segment of what is the need of 
those in power to maintain intellectual 
boundaries established for their own 
protection.  This elite uses the structure of 
corporate governance to maintain this control in 
relative anonymity where CEOs and commercial 
spokespeople become mere illusions masking their 
position as modern-day colonial 
administrators.  At times called the 
petit-bourgeoisie, or even the Black bourgeoisie, 
they are simply that group which, as 
administrators, administer to society that which 
limits or confounds ranges of thought so as to 
keep people from stepping – intellectually or 
literally – beyond acceptable parameters.  In 
this case these administrators become the 
intellectual equivalent of the guard at the gate 
telling you beyond this line you may not cross, 
that is, not without serious repercussion.

Continued references to 
Fanon, too often made with no equal reference or 
focus on what prompted his brilliant analyses, 
ignore the fundamental colonizing process still 
underway.  This corporate-led lockdown of mass 
media and popular culture is part of a long 
historical process to maintain “order” over 
populations whose ability to produce and 
popularize a revolutionary culture and, 
therefore, conscious behavior would mean the end 
of established power.  This threat, one that is 
and should be feared, is mitigated by a corporate 
structure designed, as Fanon explained, to not 
“destroy the culture of the colonized” but to 
instead allow certain forms to be carefully 
selected for promotion and popularity.  This 
popularity then encourages perceptions of the 
colonized that support their colonization and, in 
fact, encourage a behavior among the colonized 
which produces self-inflicted wounds that while 
in reality result from externally-based 
oppression are justified via perception.  Here, 
again, is how a Viacom-owned radio station would 
broadcast Don Imus while also broadcasting the 
very hip-hop later blamed for his remarks on BET, 
MTV, and here in Washington, DC on WPGC 95.5 FM, 
the city’s leading Black-targeted radio 
station.  “We play what the people want and 
produce” is their claim.  Yet when DC-area 
artists, such as Head-Roc, DJ EuRok, Pookanu, 
Asheru to name too few, produce high quality 
hip-hop critical of our colonial status, police 
brutality, impoverished schools, etc. or even 
make music that is just fun-loving and 
brilliantly worded they are 
suppressed.  Censorship is political not 
linguistic.  It’s not the “fuck” in Young Buck’s 
Fuck da Police that was censored.

             The sociology of a corporation 
demonstrates its function.  Boards of directors 
with interlocks that extend the influence of this 
tiny collective, themselves selected by 
controlling holders of stock, elect Chief 
Executive Officers (CEOs) who – as employees of 
those stockholders – work at the bidding of their 
further removed and mostly anonymous (certainly 
to us) bosses.  What those bosses want is well 
beyond money, which itself exists only to 
manage/manipulate the behavior of the majority 
who have none, they want security and 
safety.  Both require a popular consciousness or 
“manufactured” opinion which supports this by 
preventing even the idea of the righteous – even 
if forceful – redistribution of wealth and 
service.  This is why songs saying “fuck the 
police” must be censored, attacked, omitted or 
demonized even if, as is the case with Young 
Buck, a video may picture Huey Newton but is 
actually more about an individual self-defense of 
selling dope than a collective self-defense in 
the furtherance of revolutionary intercommunalism or Black nationalism.

             Corporate lockdown of popular media 
is a political necessity and scientific 
inevitability requiring further description of 
this process, along with suggested avenues of 
resistance, which will be the focus of subsequent 
columns.  Our approach to the study of and 
response to media must be akin to that of Huey P. 
Newton who said he “studied law to become a better burglar.”

Jared A. Ball, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of 
communication studies at Morgan State 
University.  He is editor-at- large of the 
Journal of Hip-Hop and Global Culture from 
<http://wblinc.org/>Words, Beats and Life and 
hosts Jazz & Justice Mondays 1-3p EST on DC's 
<http://wpfw.org/>WPFW 89.3 FM Pacifica Radio. 
Ball is also the founder and creator of FreeMix 
Radio: The Original Mixtape Radio Show, a hip-hop 
mixtape committed to the practice of underground 
emancipatory journalism.  Ball is also a board 
member of the International Association for 
Hip-Hop Education and a Communications Fellow 
with the <http://www.greeninstitute.net/>Green 
Institute.  He is currently working on his first 
book Hip-Hop as Mass Media: The Mixtape and 
Emancipatory Journalism and can be found online 
at <http://voxunion.com/>voxunion.com.

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