Controversial Themes in Black Popular Music
Controversial themes have always been explored in popular Black music. Because Black experiences influence Black mainstream culture (as with any culture), the social climate of historical eras influence how these themes are explored in popular culture, specifically in the form of music. The presence of controversial themes like racisms, sex and violence in black forms of music like the Blues, R&B/ Soul, Disco, Funk, and Hip-Hop are shaped by the happenings in the Black community during the time periods that each form was popular. Thus, the presence of such themes can be used to compare today’s popular culture, through Hip Hop and Contemporary R&B, with past popular culture, through earlier forms of popular Black music. Racism and social injustice are issues that faced black people throughout their entire history in this country. It is only natural then, for those themes to be translated into popular culture in the form of music. Racial themes can be heard in the earliest forms of Black music. William Barlow states in his book Looking Up at Down- The Emergence of Blues Culture that, “It is no accident that blues came to the forefront of black culture at a time when African Americans were confronting a serious decline in their collective economic and political status in the South” (Barlow 7). Blues was born out of racism; taking elements from work songs and spirituals to express how hard was to be black in America during the early part of the 20th Century. Racism continued to be explored in later forms of Black music because it continued to be an issue for Black people. In his book The Death of Rhythm and Blues, Nelson George discusses the “New Negro” that emerges in America after World War II (George 59). This “New Negro” was more socially and racially conscious after seeing Black men going overseas during the war to fight for freedom and returning home to be denied that freedom. This new mentality in blacks...
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