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.