Assignment 1 Blog 2: Straight Outta X-Factor – Honey G and the return of Gangsta Rap

Anna Georgette Gilford, a 35-year old IT Recruitment firm runner, has been labelled as ‘grotesque’ and ‘diabolical’ by the likes of Piers Morgan, and has broken through the barriers of the British media to be at the forefront of viewer’s eyes and ears every weekend. Anna, whose alter-ego is the infamous Honey G – currently competing in this year’s X Factor competition – has divided opinion with her old-school hip-hop imitations which essentially come off like a parody music act.

A parody is essentially an exaggerated, twisted, and preposterous imitation of a particular genre, often attempting to criticise yet sound like the subject of the performers choice and is often comic, blurring distinctions between the progressive and the conservative (Williams, 2011). The parody, often or not, is a protest against a particular genre of music, a statement of creative free will or genre resentment. However, with the popularisation of Honey G through her mimicking of the subculture and genre of late 80’s/early 90’s West Coast hip-hop, I would argue that she is merely reaffirming Adorno’s (1990:306) suggestion that popular music is standardised, particularly when the attempt is made to circumvent standardisation, which Honey G does each week with her covers of famous rap songs, which she often freestyles her own bars within.

Honey G’s parody of old-school hip-hop is operating in a British culture currently interested in Grime music – landmark artist Skepta won the prestigious Mercury Prize earlier this year – and is essentially using her new-found platform to style-surf between the new and the old, allowing her to re-interpret and negate various levels of authenticity (Berzano & Genova, 2015).

Whilst Morgan (2005) argues that women in hip-hop are striving to forge an identity and presence that is consistently feminist, progressive, and passionate, in which the scene can then become an energised space where all hip-hop artists, regardless of gender, gain membership through artistic skills, I would suggest that Honey G’s parodic nature reinforces hegemonic ideologies that suggest that misogyny within hip-hop is as alive as ever, particularly with the re-emergence of gangsta rap (Watkins, 2005) in the shape of films such as Straight Outta Compton (2015) and All Eyez On Me (2017) – which are about N.W.A. and Tupac Shakur, both major players in gangsta rap – and is therefore delaying the progressive nature femininity in hip-hop is striving to push. Amongst the various covers Honey G has performed during her time on The X Factor are records such as California Love (1995) by Tupac Shakur featuring Dr Dre and Roger Troutman and Gangsta’s Paradise (1995) by Coolio which are both classified as West Coast hip-hop and gangsta rap, genres that are seen as clearly degrading and marginalising towards woman, yet a clear trend in contemporary mainstream hip-hop (Jeffries, 2011; Brunner, 2015).

Whilst Honey G’s performances are in a way reappropriating traditional hip-hop ideals and repurposing them for a contemporary white British audience, I would argue that she is instead standardising and reinforcing not only her portrayal of the hip-hop genre as music – which is often seen as a rebellious genre, rather than a standardised one – but of its hegemonic misogynistic ideals.

Bibliography

Adorno, T. (1990). On Popular Music. In: S. Frith and A. Goodwin, ed., On Record: Rock, Pop, and the Written Word, 1st ed. New York: Pantheon, p.306.

Berzano, L. and Genova, C. (2015). Lifestyles and Subcultures. 1st ed. New York: Routledge.

Williams, C. (2011). Gilbert and Sullivan. New York: Columbia University Press.

Brunner, J. (2015). Rap Music: Differences in Derogatory Word Use Between Mainstream and LGBTQ Artists. Undergraduate. University Of Gavle.

Jeffries, M. (2011). Thug life. 1st ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Morgan, M. (2005). Hip-Hop Women Shredding the Veil: Race and Class in Popular Feminist Identity. South Atlantic Quarterly, [online] 104(3), pp.425-444. Available at: http://saq.dukejournals.org/content/104/3/425.short [Accessed 17 Nov. 2016].

Watkins, S. (2005). Hip hop matters. 1st ed. Boston: Beacon Press.

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