Two writers on works that can teach us all about

flow, layering, and complexity:

Tricia Rose, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (Wesleyan/Univ. Press of New England, 1994), on the three structural components common to breakdancing, graffiti, and rap: flow, layering, and ruptures in line.

Colson Whitehead, from a review of Rose's book in The Village Voice (7-26-94, p. 81): "Lyrical flow provides the narrative in a rap song; scratching ruptures and suspends that narrative and calls for its return; and the stacking of samples and rhythm tracks adds layers, giving songs a deeper, more complicated texture."

Rose: "Let us imagine these hip hop principles as a blueprint for social resistance and affirmation: create sustaining narratives, accumulate them, layer, embellish, and transform them. However, be also prepared for rupture, find pleasure in it, in fact, plan on social rupture. When these ruptures occur, use them in creative ways that will prepare you for a future in which survival will demand a sudden shift in ground tactics."

"Adrian Piper works genius at demystifying the political economy of what she tags 'racial classification.' Her call to American whites to face up to their black heritage (and to blacks to do the reverse) takes multiracialism/multiculturalism beyond politically correct arts programming and into the realm of configuring a new American identity.

"The work of writers and media artists Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Coco Fusco also stands out. In her contribution to the anthology Black Popular Culture Fusco tells us that in Cuba, where the black people in her family come from, there's an expression that goes 'Chivo que rompe tambor con su pellejo paga,' which translates literally, 'The goat who breaks the drum will have to pay with his skin.' The phrase has another meaning as well: 'The trouble-maker turns him- or herself into the instrument to continue the music.' Fusco argues that 'black popular cultures, especialy musical cultures, have generated an abundance of archetypes that embrace dissonance and contend with internal difference; these [are] semantic residues of histories of contradiction and conflict. Maybe one of these days our intellectual debate will catch up with our popular cultural ability to engage dissent, without the defensiveness that continuously rears its head.'"

Gómez-Peña's work takes on America in the 'intercultural crisis.' Writes critic Richard Schechner: 'Interculturalists [such as Gómez-Peña] refuse utopian scheems, refuse to cloak power arrangements and struggles. Instead, interculturalists probe the confront

---Lisa Jones, from "Is Biracial Enough? (or, What's This About a Multiracial Category on the Census?: A Conversation)," from Bulletproof Diva: Tales of Race, Sex and Hair (NY: Doubleday, 1994), pp. 64-65.


If you quote any material from these pages, please give proper acknowledgment, including citing in full the source that I have mentioned.

My address:
Peter Schmidt
Department of English
Swarthmore College
Swarthmore PA 19081 USA