When Cultures Integrate

This week we watched Asia Rising: The Next Generation of Hip Hop (2019), a documentary delving into the rise of Asian hip hop music.

As the internet has gained prominence, the assimilation of cultures has been widespread (Athique and Baulch, 2019). In Asia, as more people started to use the internet to explore different genres of music, American hip hop was introduced to the region.

Now, not only were people listening to this completely new genre of music, but it was all in English as well, so they were consuming this music that was so far from what they were used to.

I was fascinated hearing some of the Asian hip hop artists saying that they learnt English from hip hop music, often blissfully unaware of the profanity that fills the songs in that genre specifically.

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For most of these emerging Asian hip hop artists, this wasn’t the worst thing, yes they might have accidentally dropped the F-bomb at an inappropriate time, but it wasn’t a massive deal.

However, Indonesian-Chinese rapper Rich Brian was not so lucky. Rich Brian taught himself English through music by the likes of Childish Gambino, Macklemore, Tyler the Creator and 2Chainz, and when he started to make his own music, he had to create a stage name. He initially went with Rich Chigga.

Learning English from hip hop music means you are going to be interacting with offensive language, however, you won’t understand the context behind some of this language and the racist beginnings of where these words come from.

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There are so many amazing possibilities for integrating cultures in music with the accessibility of the internet (Athique and Baulch, 2019), but I think it’s important to also acknowledge its limitations and the risks involved. Rich Brian admitted his naivety and fixed his mistake and I think that is ultimately what we can hope for.

References

Athique, A. and Baulch, E., 2019. Digital transactions in Asia. New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Manley, P., 2019. Move Over K-Pop & J-Pop, C-Pop Is On The Rise. [online] Trend & Chaos. Available at: <https://trendandchaos.com/move-over-k-pop-j-pop-c-pop-is-on-the-rise/&gt;

Martin, M., 2019. The Creative Economy 102 – Say hello to the creative industries. [online] EU Startups. Available at: <https://www.eu-startups.com/2019/10/the-creative-economy-102-say-hello-to-the-creative-industries/&gt;

Newstead, A., 2018. Rich Brian has the curious success story you wish you had. [online] triple j. Available at: <https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/news/musicnews/rich-brian-profile-the-curious-success-story-you-wish-you-had/9547004&gt;

Saito, A., 2017. Moe and Internet Memes: The Resistance and Accommodation of Japanese Popular Culture in China. Cultural Studies Review, 23(1).

2 thoughts on “When Cultures Integrate

  1. I found it interesting how you mention how the advancement of the internet has brought positive and negative aspects to sharing art internationally and across different cultures. You express how western rap has been used as a learning tool for some Asian artists to learn English, and how this has been mostly positive; but not for Rich Brian who misunderstood the connotation and history behind the racist English slang word he used for his original rap name. This reminded me about anime’s impact on western cultures and how it has led to English fans wanting to learn how to speak Japanese (Japan Info 2015). This want to learn Japanese across western cultures is understandably positive and exciting. It can increase tourism in Japan, support the Japanese economy and create a sense of connectivity across two contrasting cultures. However, cultural context is a very important factor into understanding anime (Hunt 2020, p. 33) and the English translations of anime content can misrepresent Japanese culture, create a divide and risk offending Japanese society by creating offensive interpretations of slang, much like Rich Brian.

    I also enjoyed and agree with your statement about acknowledging the risks and limitations involved with integrating cultures over the internet. It made me raise some questions, for example, should we be more understanding of these types of misinterpretations and mistakes? Should we create more accessible, encouraging, and accurate resources to learn about different cultures and languages? How could this be done? This is a great read and blog!

    Reference List –

    Hunt, L 2020, ‘The Economies of Anime: Anime as a soft power, a cultural product and a (trans)national medium’, PhD thesis, Brunel University London.

    Japan Info 2015, How Has Japanese Anime Influenced the World?, Japan Info, viewed 27 August 2021, .

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