goto Appendx main menu Of Gangstas and Guerrillas :
Matthew T. Grant
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The cultural commodity, like a drug, organizes the environment of the consuming subject. It produces a powerful spatiotemporal hallucination. For example, "gangsta" rap coming out of Los Angeles, as one such commodity, produces a hallucination of that city that "in contrast to the Los Angeles of my youth" is a world of surreal violence, extravagant excess, and political nihilism. After having come in contact with this intoxicant, I can only perceive L.A. as a double exposure:  the image produced by my experiences overlaid by that produced by cultural commodities. Part of the hallucination that is Los Angeles, and that comes across on gangsta rap recordings (or in gangsta movies like Menace II Society), reflects the sublime horror of the absurd disparities that rule that city. The "set"—the palm trees, the mountains, the beaches—seems inimical to the violence enacted on it. These disparities influence gangsta rap formally. The highly refined music produced by Dr. Dre, with its ethereal Moog lines and polymerized bass curves, provides the lush backdrop against which the listener hears lines like 

Seven execution style murders 
I have no remorse cuz I'm the fuckin' murderer 
Haven't you ever heard of a 
killer? (RBX) [sound sample] 

An aesthetics of brutal contradiction has been part of the Los Angeles mystique since the 1940s, and gangsta rap stands as the most recent innovation in this tradition. These contradictions are class contradictions:  the contrast between the bejeweled upper crust and the bloody bottom rung is a contrast between Heaven and Hell. I use these biblical locations to describe Los Angeles (in English "the angels") to accentuate the mythical aura of that city, but I also hope to uncover the material underpinnings of these metaphysical sites. Los Angeles really is Heaven and Hell, or rather, Heaven as Hell. As will become evident, the musical commodities under discussion rely on this imagery, sometimes deconstructing it, sometimes not. Rock music, since its first eruptions in the 1950s, has been denounced by cultural conservatives and religious fundamentalists as the "devil's music." The racism of that appellation, directed against what was then called "race music," testified to an anxiety within the white community that this music would corrupt its youth. Like Adam and Eve, children are corrupted by knowledge. The "corruption" undergone by white youth at the hands of the gangsta rappers results from their exposure to "street knowledge." The pedagogy Appendx 2 page break 35 | 36of the oppressed, that pedagogy practiced by the oppressed, has the demonic potential to teach the angels revolution. next page

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