‘The Message’ is the Medium
Greg de Cuir Jr
This program offers a cross-section of hiphop music and music videos from the early to modern period of the genre in the twentieth century. Three songs and their accompanying videos are utilised to chart the shifts in aesthetics and ideology in hiphop audio and visual style: ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, ‘Check Yo Self’ by Ice Cube and ‘Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down’ by Puff Daddy. The earliest of these pieces, ‘The Message’ (1982), serves as classical urtext for hiphop with both its pioneering method of street-level realism and social critique and an iconic musical composition that has been sampled and referenced by multiple artists of successive generations, among them the examples of Ice Cube and Puff Daddy i this program. The music video for ‘The Message’ can be considered a significant and rare contribution to early video art from the perspective of the black urban class, with its low-budget aesthetic and documentary realism. The videos for the songs by Ice Cube and Puff Daddy exemplify the large-scale, big budget cinematic shift in music video production in general and also the maturation of hiphop as an art, along with the resulting commercialisation of the form and the mainstreaming of its ideology. This online program will be complemented by a live reading of the text ‘The Message is the Medium: Aesthetics, Ideology, and the Hip Hop Music Video’ (originally published in the volume Music / Video: Histories, Aesthetics, Media ) by writer-curator Greg de Cuir Jr, followed by a discussion on the points raised.