Rapping Up Our History: JK-47

This week’s episode of Rapping Up Our History is focused on JK-47. Earlier this year, the Tweed Heads artist released his debut album, Made For This, showcasing his skilled lyricism and strong social message.

In Perspectives on the Evolution of Hip-hop Music (2015), Basham concludes that Hip-hop has undergone a change in the genres short lifespan and produce promising evidence that it has positive impacts for social issues. While I agree with Basham, that this change hasn’t cancelled out the other themes of Hip-hop, I think the impact that the music has had on social issues has grown exponentially and spread internationally (Basham, 2015).

JK-47 is not the first artist to shine a touch on the racial injustice incurred from Indigenous Australians, but he delivers a strong voice to the conversation and is able to do so across rich lo-fi and boom-bap centric instrumentals. Hip-hop in Australia has an even shorter lifespan than its American counterpart, but we’re already mirroring the strides they’ve made.

The album has a mix of high energy braggadocios and solemn introspection that sees JK-47 at his best. One of the key themes in Made For This is his struggle for identity. In Andrew Green’s The Ethnography of Hip-hop Nostalgia, Hip-hop in Mexico is analysed and attributed for preserving the Mexican identity (Green, 2017). While the history of Indigenous Australians is vastly different, I feel as though Hip-hop in Australia is helping Indigenous artists like JK to regain and redefine their identity.

I’d love to hear what you thought of the album and how you connected with it. The next episode of Rapping Up Our History will take a deep dive into Ziggy Ramo’s Black Thoughts.

Frank Tremain.

Advertisement

Ethnographic Digital Artefact Pitch

I will be researching Hip-Hop in Australia and its use of social commentary for Indigenous Australians. This is a subject I am extremely passionate about and will be beneficial to my portfolio as a music journalist.

In Winter and Lavis’ Looking, But Not Listening? Theorising the Practice and Ethics of Online Ethnography (2020), they believe listening allows researchers to account for how people are speaking online (Winter & Lavis, 2020). This is predominately how I will be carrying out my study, by observing the music on platforms like Spotify and YouTube, and the response to this music on social media such as FaceBook and Instagram.

As part of my auto-ethnographic study, I will be exploring how this particular type of music makes me feel and what I gain from it. My digital artefact will take place on my YouTube and on this blog where I will review albums from Indigenous artists that are tackling issues of social injustice. I think this research will help me and my audience better understand the experiences of Indigenous Australians and will measure how useful the medium of Hip-Hop is as a social commentary. Here are a few of the questions that I’m looking to discuss throughout my research:

  • How do people (fans or non-fans) react to this music?
  • What are the similarities or differences between each song/album and what impact does this have?
  • What do I learn from the music and how does it make me feel?
  • What is the future of this music in regards to social change and the genre of Hip-Hop in Australia?

I have researched this topic more broadly in other subjects and I am on track with my Gantt chart in identifying artists and albums. I have also already begun reading secondary research that has been insightful in how to ethically conduct my ethnographic research.

If you would like to keep up with my digital artefact, you can subscribe to my YouTube and my blog where I will be uploading a series of reviews.

Frank Tremain.

Background Research & Ethical Concerns

In week one, Hip-Hop in Australia was identified as a media niche that I am interested and have experience in. In the following week, I began to map this niche out. Last week, I began to problematise my media niche and narrowed my topic down to Hip-Hop in Australia and its social commentary for Indigenous Australians. In this week’s blog post, I will consider the ethical concerns of conducting an ethnographic study and begin to source the background research for my digital artefact. Although ethnography was initially challenging to understand, my research for the previous blog posts have taught me a lot.

Background Research

Kevin C. Holt’s Emcee Ethnographies: A Brief Sketch of U.S. Hip-Hop Ethnography (2019) is one of the main secondary sources that will be referenced throughout my digital artefact and has already helped shape the direction of my work. Holt references many other ethnographic studies of Hip-Hop and while none explicitly focus on Australia, the approaches and theoretical frameworks used can be applied to my own study. For example, Holt begins by defining Hip-Hop through analysing how other ethnographers have categorised it either as a musical genre, a cultural movement, an aesthetic or even a feeling (Holt, 2019). This conversation could be included in my first audio episode for my digital artefact, where I could start to define Hip-Hop in Australia and decide what aspect will be focused on for my study. With my problematisation in mind, it’s more likely the musical genre will be analysed to determine the feeling and potential social and cultural change that this has.

Additionally, this source provides a large variety of other ethnographic Hip-Hop studies that I will be investigating, most notably, a book by Tricia Rose titled The Hip-Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip-Hop – And Why It Matters (2008). Rose takes an alternative framework by theorising that Hip-Hop as it exists today is only a shell of a more authentic former self and the mainstream music in recent years is exempt from the realm of Hip-Hop (Rose, 2008). This will be an interesting source to contrast my auto-ethnography and to help define the genre in Australia.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2_VVL_DpQw/

In Andrew Green’s The Ethnography of Hip-Hop Nostalgia (2017), Green explores “the way that Hip-Hop musicians in Mexico City use their creative practice to perpetuate musical traditions associated with indigenous and national identity” (Green, 2017). This will be a useful source in approaching ethnographic research while focusing on one country. Although the observations that Green makes are primarily achieved in person by being at concerts and conducting interviews, my study will be done entirely online by analysing the online public discourse along with my own auto-ethnographic study.

Ethical Concerns

Ethnographers “tend to explain relationships or attitudes or social events by looking for their connections to other-things-happening in a defined analytic whole” (Arnould, 1998). This quote fits perfectly to my media niche and though I’m excited to begin my research, its important to recognise the ethical concerns. In Winter and Lavis’ Looking, But Not Listening? Theorising the Practice and Ethics of Online Ethnography (2020), they believe listening allows researchers to account for how people are speaking online (Winter & Lavis, 2020). This is applicable to the subject of my research such as the music, as well as the reaction to the music from publications and the public. By actively listening and observing, I will be able to make gain insight into my media niche, however, there are still issues of anonymity.

Although the majority of my research will be conducted online, there are still users who are not entirely anonymous but I can avoid any ethical issues by not directly quoting to referring to certain users but instead paraphrase their comments and draw conclusions from my observations across multiple social media platforms. Another ethical concern that I have is using incorrect terminology and discuss the subject matter carelessly. Due to the nature of the topic, I will make sure to use the appropriate language and approach the media niche with empathy and understanding. Furthermore, as an ethical researcher I will ensure I remain respectful and responsible before, during and after my research.

In the next week or so, I will be releasing a pitch video summarising my four blog posts before beginning to release episodes of my digital artefact. Stay tuned!

Frank Tremain.

Planning & Problematising

For any new readers, I am doing an ethnographic study on my media niche, Hip-Hop in Australia. In the first week, I identified this niche and the definition of ethnography while in the second week, I began to map this media niche out. This week’s blog will begin to problematise my media niche and plan my research approach.

Problematising My Media Niche

After discussing my ideas with Chris, I’ve decided to narrow my niche further and investigate the use of Hip-Hop and its social commentary for Indigenous Australians.

Hip-Hop first began during the 1970s in The Bronx to unify minorities through a creative outlet in New York City. Shortly after, the genre became a form of social recognition and status for African-American and Latino youth and was a vehicle for collective uplift and social critique of policies and politics that disadvantage minority groups (Petchauer, 2011). As stated in my previous blog, Hip-Hop in Australia didn’t really begin to find success until the early 2000s.

Similarly to the inherent nature of Hip-Hop in America, Hip-Hop in Australia has grown into its own form of social commentary. To problematise this media niche, my ethnographic study will analyse and investigate the use of social commentary by Indigenous Australians and the response from publications, Hip-Hop fans and Australians in general. This research will help readers better understand this niche by demonstrating its importance on providing minorities with a voice and educating audiences on social issues. Ideally, the research will also map the interconnected relationships of Hip-Hop to Indigenous Australians. The audience of this research will include:

  • Avid fans of Hip-Hop in Australia
  • Casual music fans or Australians wanting to understand the social significance of Hip-Hop
  • Myself and future employers, as this project aligns with my career

Planning My Research Approach

The research plan for my digital artefact will begin with listening to as many albums and songs related to the experience of Indigenous Australians. Some of the key artists I will be looking at over the next couple of weeks include Ziggy Ramo, Briggs, JK-47 and Kobie Dee.

Following this, I will then observe the response to the media niche from publications, Hip-Hop fans and casual music listeners. This observation period will include reading reviews, watching interviews and taking notes and screenshots of online comments and posts. All of this can be done through social media on my phone and laptop.

“Auto-ethnography is an intriguing and promising qualitative method. Although working through these challenges can lead to the production of an excellent text, the intimate and personal nature of auto-ethnography can, in fact, make it one of the most challenging qualitative approaches to attempt.” – Sarah Wall (2006).

As a white Australian, I feel as though I am the target audience for this type of Hip-Hop music regarding the experience of Indigenous Australians. While I’ll leave it to my research to dive deeper into this, I recognise that auto-ethnography will work effectively in making observations on my listening experience including how the music makes me feel and what I can learn from it (Wall, 2006).

Made with Microsoft Word.

This Gantt Chart details the research schedule I will undertake throughout the semester. I will first begin by recording and presenting my pitch in week five, followed by identifying artists, albums and related news to the media niche. Then, I will monitor comments and online discussion surrounding the problem before collecting secondary sources and beginning my digital artefact and report. Secondary sources can be used with observation to triangulate emerging findings and used in conjunction with analysis to substantiate the findings (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). This means I can use studies relating to Hip-Hop in America and compare this to Australia, theorising the music’s future impact.

At the moment, I am unsure what form my digital artefact will take but I think I will present it as a two or three part audio series with a blog complimenting each episode. Depending on time constraints and if the nature of my research demands, I could also potentially present my findings as a YouTube series.

Frank Tremain.

Narrowing My Niche

Last week, I chose the media niche of Hip-Hop in Australia to explore throughout BCM241 for my Digital Artefact. In this week’s blog, I aim to narrow my niche by identifying the key players and the network surrounding the niche.

To visualise the network of Hip-Hop in Australia, I created a mind map that, by no means is meant to represent all the webs of relationships and players, but instead provides examples of some of the aspects that I interact with.

Made with MindMup.

My media niche exists both with an online presence, including the platforms of distribution and social media, as well as an offline presence including concerts, studios and streetwear. I’ve listed some of the key players within the scene, including brands that are often collaborated with, publications that cover the culture and venues where the niche resides. All of these create a network of relations that provide a way for developing an unconventional understanding of social processes (Burrell, 2009).

Although, Internet ethnographies emerged during the 1990s, and were considered detached from the ‘real world’, this media niche is closely linked to people’s offline world and culture (Airoldi, 2018). Hip-Hop has always been more than the music, but “a means for seeing, celebrating, experiencing, understanding, confronting and commenting on life and the world … In other words, is a way of living – a culture” (The Kennedy Centre, n.d.). Though this quote originally applied to Hip-Hop in America, the same can be said about Australia. In the video below, this is expressed from the evident link between Australian culture, Hip-Hop culture and Hip-Hop in Australia.

This niche is incredibly relevant to my career so this research will firstly be valuable to myself. Additionally, this research could interest other creatives within the industry and even just casual listeners who are becoming more and more familiar with the genre as it grows and want to know more about it from an academic stance. By doing so, I would be one of the first to write about Australia in Hip-Hop in relation to ethnography but I have found some articles based on American Hip-Hop which will be useful in directing my research and my approach.

To problematise my media niche, I could aim to create a clearer definition of Hip-Hop in Australia from the type of music and the listeners that it attracts. With the genre being so young in Australia, this would create new fans by helping people understand and educating marketers (like myself) on how to better advertise and work within the industry. In next week’s blog, I will dive deeper into problematising my media niche and how I will approach this so if you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it! After this ethnographic research, I hope to be able to have a more refined understanding of Hip-Hop in Australia that will improve my researching skills as well as benefit my active role in my media niche.

Frank Tremain.

Media Niche: Hip-Hop in Australia

For Media Ethnographies (BCM241), we are required to begin exploring a media niche that we have interest and experience in. There are several media niches I immerse myself in but the one I find myself interacting with daily, is Hip-Hop in Australia.

Hip-Hop has been something I’ve enjoyed as a consumer since a young age and in particular, Hip-Hop in Australia is something I’ve followed for almost ten years. Since the start of the year, I have been working as a journalist and curator for AUD’$, an independent media network that has been reporting on Hip-Hop in Australia for over four years.

The idea of Australian Hip-Hop is young, beginning when Hilltop Hoods found success with their debut album The Calling in 2003. Throughout the 2000s and into the early 2010s, the genre became accustomed to a sound referred to as ‘skip hop’ (Marsland, 2015). It wasn’t until the mid-2010s when Hip-Hop in Australia began to progress into the diverse and constantly growing sound that we hear today. It’s hard to confine all the Australian artists into a bubble of Australian Hip-Hop when the sub-genres and calibre of artists continue to push boundaries and break this mould. For now, Hip-Hop in Australia is a relatively small circle, but the reason this media niche should interest you is because within the the next ten years, Australia’s rap scene will make a serious name for itself in the international market.

Unlike some other media niches, Hip-Hop in Australia lives off line but the obvious platforms that the niche exists online is Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud and AudioMack. Additionally, social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook home many media networks and consumers that are all a part of the cultural discussion. One platform that includes both the music and discussion, is YouTube. There are several YouTubers who make reaction videos and interviews that are at the forefront of the cultural discussion and play key roles in the media niche similar to the artist themselves.

Ethnography places a strong emphasis on culture and as an ethnographer, it is my responsibility to describe, analyse and interpret the different social realities of cultural members and the communication activities that occur (Daymon & Holloway, 2011). For the ethnographic study of Hip-Hop in Australia, I believe it would be best to apply both a conventional ethnography but also an auto-ethnography by ‘peeling back multiple layers of consciousness, thoughts, feelings and beliefs’ (Boyle & Parry, 2007). An ethnographic investigation would be beneficial to me as both a researcher and a worker in this field. I will be able to gain a deeper insight of the consumers, the content and the culture of this niche. By doing so, I will be able to adjust my own content of journalistic writing and the marketing of my content to better reach and understand my target audience (Miller, 2016). It could also potentially improve my role as a journalist in broadening this media niche.

While this topic is quite large, next week’s blog will begin to narrow this field by identifying some of the key players in the culture today.

Frank Tremain.