Thursday, May 3, 2012

Women, Hip Hop, and Music: An Interview with Dr. Tammy Kernodle Part II

[By Alysha Griffin]

On yesterday, I provided Part I of my interview with Musicologist, Tammy Kernodle. Today, I provide part II of the interview where I conclude asking Kernodle specific questions about the performative aspects of hip-hop culture as it relates to black women.

“Raising the Roof: Black Women’s Voices in Hip Hop” series seeks to interpret the opportunities and challenges black women encounter participating in hip-hop culture.

Griffin: What do you believe are unique characteristics in music by African Americans? Are there unique characteristics in music by African American women?

Kernodle: I believe that African Americans have this way of embodying the collective experience within the performance of the individual.  We know how to tell great stories in our music even when there are no words.  We are honest in our presentations, because our music has been essential in our ability to persevere through some extreme situations.   The uniqueness of African American women’s music is their ability to expand the context of how music reflects real life.  They provide a gendered context that male musicians often ignore or are not aware of.

Griffin: In your article “Blues as the Black Woman’s Lament,” you establish the African tradition of lamenting as the predecessor of the blues. Do you see female Hip Hop artists engaging in any black musical traditions? If so, what are they?

Kernodle: Yes I believe that rap music extends out of a tradition of blues, soul and gospel performers that documented our experiences while motivating us to keep progressing as a people.  So when you hear certain female MC’s the way that they craft their prose and presentation style is akin to the type of individualized performance aesthetic that jazz singer, instrumentalists, blues women, and soul singers actualized in their performances. 

Griffin: As we try to understand the black woman’s aesthetics across genres, what are some of the re-occurring tropes in the music lyrics of African American women that we may be able to relate to black women’s literature? 

Kernodle: Love relationships, economic conditions, and the complexities of being black and a woman in social environments that tried to make them invisible. 

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