Angel Haze: "It Feels Like a Punch To The Gut When Someone Takes Our Culture and Runs With It"

Angel Haze's column on hip-hop, hypocrisy and race.

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Jan 20 2015, 1:20pm

What would I like to say to white artists making hip-hop? That’s a complicated question.

It’s a weird time to talk about race in hip-hop, when so many people want to be black. But people only want to be black when they’re white, and only when blackness itself has been whitewashed. When being black is so stereotyped by the media that you don’t know what it means to be black anymore.

In America, it’s still not ok to be black. People have created this sort of caricature of black people. It’s like fucking Jim Crow all over again. People say they want everyone to be seen as an equal, but they still want to call us niggers. There seems to be this hypocrisy, because people want to appropriate black culture but only when it’s cool or beneficial to them. Like, they want to do it but they don’t want to be in it. And that’s the reason that people don’t have a right, to some extent, to use black music to their own gains.

Cultural appropriation should be a conversation. It should be something that people say: like, why the fuck are you doing this or why the fuck are you rapping about this when you’re not from here? It’s an opportunity for us to reassert the culture we come from: this is what you’re appropriating, this is what we are, as a culture, as a people. There should be so many different conversations happening and, for one, I’ve learned a lot just from Twitter about hip-hop and what it means to certain people. For some people, it’s who they are, it’s where they come from, it’s their roots and how they grow.

For anybody to try to take ownership of that, acting like it’s their history too, is sort of like blackface. You wanna put it on but you can’t handle the stigma and shit that comes with it, and you don’t want that stigma. The thing is, there’s hip-hop and then there’s pop-rap and there’s nothing wrong with pop-rap, in all its forms. There are people like Atmosphere. There’s Macklemore - who I’ve been a fan of for years, when he was just making music in his mum’s basement - but he’s a pop rapper and everyone knows that. Pop rap is a thing now; it’s an area of music, a genre in itself.

I like pop-rap, I like trap, I liked fusion, I like all that shit. I fuck with everything. Whatever happened in the past, I appreciate Azealia Banks music. I can appreciate all perspectives, but right now, there’s such a focus on race in the world that it feels like a punch to the gut when someone who isn’t part of a culture dominantly takes it and runs with it. It’s fucking disrespectful.

In a way, the type of music a person makes is irrelevant. Make all the rap music you want, but don't appropriate the culture and then distance yourself from its most negative aspects. You want to be the face of hip-hop? Then make it the face of hip-hop.

There’s a war on police brutality in this country, and what actual liberty means. You want to make rap music? Great, go ahead, but do it using your story, not ours. You want to be down? Be down when it counts, too. You want to act like us? Then put yourself in our shoes when tragedy strikes - especially then. I don't hate anyone or anything for doing the things that inspire them. I hate it when people turn blind eyes to things that need to be addressed.

Angel Haze is on Twitter