‘Original’ hip-hop and ‘formularized’ K-pop: Authenticity and the good/bad music paradigm

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By Ida Bulölö

Rhymin’ astronomical, original, shit is phenomenal
– Nine, Whutcha Want

In this essay I explore the value of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ music, and look into the ways that ideas surrounding the quality of music are constructed. It seems that the verdict of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is largely based on the authenticity of the music. Yet authenticity is a very difficult concept, as ideas on authenticity widely differ, not only between music genres but also personally. I thought it would be interesting to compare two opposites in the spectrum, to see how they are constructed within the ‘good’/’bad’ music paradigm in connection with the music being seen as authentic or not. These two genres are hip-hop and K-pop (Korean pop music). To me, they represent one of the biggest dichotomies when it comes to the notion of ‘authentic music’, despite the fact that I regularly listen to both. In hip-hop, especially the ‘oldskool’ genre, there is a huge emphasis on originality and creativity. Being a ‘real’ rapper—not a sell-out, commercial, in-it-for-the-money-MC—is one of the most important conditions for having the hip-hop audience take you seriously. Rappers cannot admit to being ‘produced’ instead of being ‘authentic’, for this will damage their reputation seriously. MCs should not be merely a product of their record label, but have their own voice. In K-pop—which many people see as the epitome of formularized, ‘bad’ music—we see total recognition for the fact that these musicians are made by companies and are not much different from being a consumer good instead of an artist. The audiences, as well as the musicians, are fully aware of this fact and nobody tries to pretend otherwise. By comparing these two music genres I hope to gain more insight into the way authenticity in relation to music is constructed. Continue reading

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Two cities, one genre, countless vibes: Exploring the hip-hop community in Amsterdam and Los Angeles

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By Ariella Abrams and Andrew Frantela

Growing up in Los Angeles has provided us with the ideal environment to be avid consumers of hip-hop music. Prior to exploring Amsterdam, we had never been exposed to anything but the American version of the genre. Conducting this research while on exchange in Amsterdam, it was intriguing to see a starkly different perspective of the hip-hop genre—the Dutch perspective, or ‘Nederhop’. Furthermore, we were particularly interested in the opposing concepts of ‘underground’ hip-hop and ‘mainstream’ hip-hop. The underground scene seemed more authentic to us, not to mention the fact that underground hip-hop is just cool. We delved into research that would enlighten us about what causes the differentiation and how the players in the scene interact with the genre. Since we both have our own experiences with the underground hip-hop scene in Los Angeles, we decided to compare underground hip-hop scenes in Los Angeles and Amsterdam. While approaching our research, we were mindful not to employ any prior biased opinions on hip-hop or particular artists. We allowed for our interviewees to come to their own conclusions about the purposes of the genre and the way they feel when listening to hip-hop. This resulted in many of them having very different opinions on the subject, and not hesitating to voice them passionately. Continue reading