"Meaning Through Hip-Hop Remediation: In Defense of Social Practices"

I would like to look at hip-hop music as an example of the medium of recorded sound and its specific characteristics as a remediated or hypermediated form of Kittler's gramophone. It very explicitly participates in the characteristics of recorded sound that Kittler draws attention to with the reference: "As the Columbia Phonograph Company recognized in 1890, the phonograph can be used as a machine for composing music simply by allowing consumers to play their favorite songs backwards: ‘A musician could get one popular melody every day by experimenting in that way'" (Kittler 35). DJs go beyond playing a recording backwards, they scratch and mix layers of recorded sound. I want to consider this in terms of Bolter and Gursin's ideas about hypermediation and remediation and question whether their version applies to this case.

Some examples I would like to look at are Erik B. and Rakim's "When I be on the Mic", in which Rakim talks about the movements of Erik B.'s hands as he scratches:

"make the record fire undetected by the naked eye
just feel the vibe ‘cause your ears never lie
nowadays djs bags of tricks graphic
on some behind the back shit catch it and scratch it
classic this cat got his craft mastered
hands is mad quick like its mixed with magic
spin it back and forth and grab it
and know just where it is (there it is)"

The references to scratching are layered over the scratching they reference, in this way the mediation of the DJ is highlighted and made opaque rather than fading into transparency.

I would also like to look at the discursive relationship that is established by this form of remediation. What is the effect of sampling a James Brown, Muddy Waters, or Velvet Underground song? Also, now that hip-hop music has its own history, it is able to reference itself. One example of this: KRS-One's "old school" song "Outtah Here" discusses the unreliability and fickleness of the music industry. In 2003 Blueprint sampled this song but recontextualized the beat by rhyming over it about white collar corporate corruption and industry fickleness. The music builds up layers of residual meaning that are dependant on its ability to be recorded and manipulated (remediated).

Working Bibliography

Kittler, Friedrich A. Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1999.

Bolter, Jay David and Richard Gursin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000.

Potter, Russell. Spectacular vernaculars: hip-hop and the politics of postmodernism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.