Public Sphere: The Hip-Hop Community

The idea of the public sphere was originally explored in Jurgen Habermas’ book, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962), where he stated that the public sphere is a place “private people come together as a public” (Smith, 2013). In most traditional societies, public issues were normally discussed and decided on by the elite however in modern societies, communication advancements have played a role in the decrease of censorship and the social inclusiveness of the public sphere. The globalisation and evolution of Hip-Hop and its presence in online culture greatly demonstrates Habermas’ theory of the public sphere.

Hip-Hop derived from the influx of Caribbean migrants in the 1960’s and politically driven gang culture in the Bronx during the 1970’s. Pinpointing the exact origin of rap is dependent on when one acknowledges a particular cultural expression or product as rap but one event that is collectively agreed to be a significant contribution to Hip-Hop’s origins, is DJ Kool Herc’s 1973 back-to-school ‘bloc party’ (Dyson, 2004). Since then, Hip-Hop has become a global phenomenon and a giant influence on youth culture around the world. Echoing the genres beginnings, the online Hip-Hop culture continues the community nature and allows for larger public discourse. The digital age has provided Hip-Hop with the ability to reach a wider audience, inherently allowing issues discussed within Hip-Hop to be discussed on a larger scale through a range of communication platforms.

During the mid 1970s and early 1980s, Hip-Hop represented an alternate 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). Now, Hip-Hop as a public sphere not only provides the aforementioned, but arguably allows all individuals to voice their issues and create a social commentary that has the potential to create social change.

The role the media has played in Hip-Hop’s public sphere has changed exponentially within the last decade. Initially, the genre was represented in a negative light within the media but as Hip-Hop has grown to be more dominant within popular youth culture, the media’s representation of Hip-Hop began portraying the genre more positively. While the media have a right to critique certain themes of Hip-Hop, I believe what should be highlighted more often is the power of Hip-Hop’s public sphere in social commentary. The Hip-Hop online community is one of my primary public spheres and one that I am proud to be a part of. As the genre’s popularity grows so does the public discourse of certain issues which leads to the continual growth of social change that Hip-Hop can impose.

Frank Tremain


Dyson, M. E. (2004). The Michael Eric Dyson Reader. New York, United States of America: Basic Civitas Books.

Petchauer, E. (2011, July). ‘Knowing What’s Up and Learning What You’re Not Supposed to: Hip-Hop Collegians, Higher Education, and the Limits of Critical Consciousness.’ Journal of Black Studies, 5, 768-790.

Peter Smith (2013) Jurgen Habermas and the “Public Sphere”. Available at: (Accessed 10 April 2019).


Media Ownership: Does It Matter?

“The polarisation that is devouring Australia’s politics is reflected in the increasingly stark polarisation of the country’s professional mass media” (Muller, 2018).

With media ownership in Australia among the most concentrated in the world, I believe this is why we need to be actively consuming our news from multiple sources. The Australian media is owned primarily by media moguls such as Bruce Gordon, Janet Cameron, John Singleton, Kerry Stokes and Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch (AMCA, 2019). I don’t necessarily believe that media ownership matters when it comes to the entertainment news I consume because this is largely an area where I don’t look for specifics. The main news I consume from the entertainment industry is the latest releases of movies and music and in relation to that news, media ownership is irrelevant. However, when I look to consume news regarding the reporting of current affairs and politics, media ownership plays a crucial role in my trust within the news I consume.

In 2006, Australian Senator Helen Coonan stated that “traditional media services are being challenged by new digital technologies and this is resulting in the emergence of new players, new content and new platforms.” Although this may be true, the ownership of mass media is still not overly diverse (Donovan, 2011). This is why it is imperative in today’s socio-political environment to be actively consuming news media from multiple sources, allowing us to create our own opinion based on several perspectives. Thankfully, the digital age has introduced an ease of accessibility to a wide variety of news outlets however the choice is still in our hands.

In the above image, provided from the ACMA, it depicts the spread of ownership within Australia, demonstrating that just because you are consuming news from two different outlets that doesn’t mean you are consuming media from two different owners. In my opinion, this is why I believe that it is our responsibility as a consumer to be aware of today’s media ownership and to vary our intake of media from various outlets, owners and platforms. Media ownership matters, but what matters more is our awareness of this and our ability to understand and recognise owners abuse of their power to promote whatever message they see fit.

Frank Tremain.


Donovan 2011, ‘Concentrated Media Ownership: A Crisis for Democracy’, Independent Australia, 14 March, viewed on 1 April, <,3259>.

Johnston R 2016, ‘Infographic: Who Owns What Media In Australia’, Gizmodo, 15 January, viewed on 1 April, <>.

Muller 2018, ‘How the right-wing media have given a megaphone to reactionary forces in the Liberal Party’, The Conversation, 23 August, viewed on 1 April <>.

Representation & Interpretation: To Pimp A Butterfly’s Cover Art

Encoding/Decoding Model of Communication.

Stuart Hall’s Encoding/Decoding Model of Communication suggests that audiences actively derive their own meaning from media texts, whether these meanings are dominant, negotiated or oppositional (Knite, 2016). In the case of Kendrick Lamar’s cover art for his third studio album, To Pimp A Butterfly (TPAB), the collective audience interpreted the text that may not have been the way Lamar had intended. This is known as the negotiated reading.

The album cover – taken by photographer Denis Rouvre – depicts a group of black men and children celebrating in front of the White House, with a white judge at their feet, presumably dead. Lamar commented on the photo, saying it represents “taking a group of the homies who haven’t seen the world and putting them in these places that they haven’t necessarily seen, or only on TV and showing them something different other than the neighbourhood and them being excited about it” (Weekes, 2017). A seemingly simple explanation to an album cover, however to me and many other viewers, the album cover represented a lot more.

To Pimp A Butterfly Album Cover.

The TPAB cover art encapsulated the albums themes of race, self-love/hate and the trials and tribulations of an African-American man in modern America. Much like he embraces the stereotypes of an African-American man in songs like The Blacker the Berry, Lamar continues this through the imagery of cash, alcohol and chains. As Obama once stated, “there’s no doubt that Hip-Hop culture moves our young people powerfully. And some of it is not just a reflection of reality, it also creates reality” (Weekes, 2017).

My interpretation of the image is that, while Lamar portrays a reality of a stereotypical African-American juxtaposed to the White House, he is also demonstrating the life of an African-American man in ‘White America’. From the teenagers shown holding cash, indicating what kind of society the children are born into in such gang territories, to the adults who embrace this through gang hand signs. It’s an endless cycle. And all of this is taking place under the American flag, right in front of the White House, representing the ignorance of institutional authorities who are supposed to take action towards stopping the violence (Adam, 2015). Much like the album, To Pimp A Butterfly’s cover art is a masterpiece; that beautifully reflects the continually conflictual relationship between African-Americans and ‘White America’.

Frank Tremain.


Adam 2017, ‘Kendrick Lamar’s New Album Title is ‘To Pimp A Butterfly and Analysis of Album Cover’, justrandomthings, 25 September, viewed on 23 March, <>.

Knite N 2016, ‘Encoding / Decoding Theory’, MediaKnite, 2016, viewed 23 March, <>.

Weekes J 2017, ‘How Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ Artwork Is The Lasting Document of America’s Hip-Hop President’, Noisey, 26 January, viewed 23 March, <>.

Media Audiences: Saba – ‘CARE FOR ME’ Review

With today’s ease of access to media, the traditional idea of an audience has changed. This has given audiences an increase in control over their consumption habits by controlling the when, where and how (Walmsley, 2014).

One of my most memorable experiences as a part of an audience was seeing Chicago’s most promising upcoming artist, Saba, live in Sydney during his Australian tour. The concert was sold out, though couldn’t have been more than 600 people. I was able to get front row for his intimate set and I remember thinking to myself how surreal this must feel to him.

In 2017, Saba’s cousin and founding member of Pivot Gang crew, Walter Long Jr. was stabbed to death in Chicago (McGhee, 2017). A year later, Saba released CARE FOR ME, an album that beautifully illustrates the grieving process by manoeuvring through feelings of loneliness, anger, trauma and nostalgia (Pearce, 2018). Confronting his own mortality through his diaristic storytelling, Saba is able to structure a project that comforts himself and his listeners; and acts as a form of meditation for them.

This is  where I found myself in awe – How is it that I can resonate so much with such an album? As a white Australian, who grew up with plenty of support and resources, there’s no way I could relate to lyrics like “Life don’t mean shit to a n**** that ain’t never had shit” (Genius, 2018). But it’s not these one liners that define the audiences connection to the album. It’s the universal feeling of loss, isolation and the brutally honest portrayal of healing. From tracks like LIFE, an angered response to the cards dealt by God, to the glimpse of optimism in HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME, the audience is taken on a journey of healing (Pearce, 2018). A journey every audience needs and something that I think is most powerfully conveyed to a traditional audience.

One of my favourite tracks off the album (and of 2018), was BUSY / SIRENS featuring TheMIND. The songs rawness will always to be an enormous comfort to me in times that I need it. And watching Saba perform this song, you could tell the comfort it brought him, watching an audience from the other side of the world who couldn’t possibly relate to the tragedies he’s faced, sing with him about the loneliness we collectively felt for one reason or another.

As a media audience, we somewhat shared a similar experience while listening to the album in our own time. However being together in one place as part of the audience, I valued Saba’s music and no longer felt such an intimidating feeling of loneliness. Despite this, you should still definitely be a part of the media audience and enjoy the beautiful work of Saba’s CARE FOR ME.

Frank Tremain.


Genius (2018) Saba “LIFE” Official Lyrics & Meaning | Verified. Available at: (Accessed: 14 March 2019).

McGhee J 2017, ‘Man Charged In Fatal River West Stabbing Of Pivot Gang’s John Walt’, DNAinfo, February 9, viewed 14 March <>.

Pearce, S 2018, ‘Saba: CARE FOR ME Album Review’, Pitchfork, 12 April, viewed 13 March, <>.

Walmsley B 2014, ‘The Evolution of Audiences and How We Measure Them’, Fourth Source, 26 September, viewed 13 March <>.

An Introduction To Me

My name is Frank Tremain and I’m currently in my first year at the University of Wollongong. As this is an introduction to myself, I thought it would be necessary to discuss one of the biggest aspects of my life: music.

Throughout my high schooling, music grew to be a passionate interest of mine. Hip-Hop specifically, became a hobby, a habit, and a huge influence on my career aspirations. I released two (it’s really three but I’ve thankfully deleted it off the internet) projects during high school: Let’s Be Frank (2017) and Clutterbrain (2018). These projects were an outlet for my creativity and self-expression; and kept me sane during my final years of school in Bathurst, NSW.

Creating and curating music is a huge passion of mine and one that, after a long process, I knew I wanted to pursue in turning into a career. Though the countless Spotify playlists I made were created in procrastination to HSC, they also enabled me to demonstrate my knowledge and enthusiastic involvement in music; and begin to further explore my interest in pursuing music as a career. Feel free to give my 2018 or 2019 playlist if you’re looking for some new tunes.

Well aware of the small likelihood of making a career from being a country town rapper, I knew I had to incorporate my passion for music with something else. At the start of my senior years, I was lost with what I wanted to do after school; however, throughout the past two years I was able to re-explore my love for writing. Writing was a strong passion of mine in my adolescence and one that I lost in my later years. For the HSC Personal Interest Project for Society & Culture, I investigated Hip-Hop as a social commentary and a medium for minority groups. This major project helped me realise how I could combine my love of music and writing through pursuing a career in music journalism.

Which brings me to where I am now, studying a double degree of Journalism and Communication & Media in hopes to become a music journalist. Though I’m sure my career goals and aspirations will change over the next few years, I’m extremely excited for the upcoming opportunities and the people I will meet along the way.

Thank you for being here for the start of my journey, and I hope you’re just as excited to see how my ideas evolve. This is my first blog post so any feedback is super appreciated! You can comment on this blog or tweet me @franktremain.

Frank Tremain.