Appreciation: The New Appropriation
Musicians and producers find enjoyment in arguing about cultural appropriation. They accuse Korean pop artists of stealing hip hop style from Black artists and “claiming it” as their own without any appreciation for the lyrics, the apparel, and the dance moves they mindlessly copy. Nevertheless, these stolen elements in hip hop must be an offering as a gift. Black artists write songs for the world to educate us about their experiences through rhythms, words, and gestures. When Korean artists reflect those elements, they show us that they have been paying attention to the significance of music’s cultural relevance.
Western music artists, especially Black artists, have become familiar with the concept and have actively stopped participating in writing music for Korean pop artists. Korean pop artists have suggested that Black music and their appropriated culture are a misunderstood concept. Some Korean artists have indicated that it is the producers that promote Black artists’ music and that the music career promotes the use of Black music as a basis of economic opportunity. In addition, Korean pop artists have also indicated that they are not appropriating someone else’s music culture because they have used different genres, infuse their own artistic creativity and illustrate their appreciation for the culture they emulate.
Korean artists are producing pop music, historically derived from western pop artists attracting an international fan base. Their music utilizes music elements obtained from multiple music genres. In particular, the primary genre used is pop music. Most of South Korea’s music artists have labeled their music under the Korean pop genre. One of the reasons Korean pop artists have been attracted to hip hop and other Western music genres is that Western pop music provides a greater chance of being recognized by the public and increases financial gain. Knowing that the audience of Korean pop music has expressed interest in Western music, Korean pop artists use upbeat, rhythmic, soft, and catchy soundbites to gain appeal from many listeners. However, these artists are incorporating Western music qualities with elements from Black hip hop culture. Korean artists imitate the style and dark themes often portrayed in Black Western videos and music themes. Korean music has capitalized on its opportunities economically despite the ever-growing concerns of cultural appropriation, whether the novelty of Western music or the contrasting rhythmic and distinct style.
On the other hand, some staunch supporters claim that Korean artists continue to deliberately borrow with no attribution and respect for cultural norms. According to the author of the article, “Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation,” Bari Weiss states that “few of us doubt that stealing is wrong, especially from the poor. The accusation of cultural appropriation is overwhelmingly being used as an objection to syncretism. The mixing of culture and thoughts and ethnicities often ends in creating new subsets of thoughts and culture. Thus, creating a melting pot.” Korean artists use a different music genre as a reliability for their popularity. They still exploit black culture in their music videos and promotions as an aesthetic for their pop songs. Two elements in hip hop that Korean pop artists commonly benefit significantly from are dressing and acting like gangsters.
In contrast, actual Black hip hop artists struggle to have their artistry and their work be recognized in the music industry. Black artists’ themes benefit other countries and inspire other racially different artists, yet black artists do not receive credit and feel exploited. Bari Weiss also states that “the impulse is one of homage and not derision, borrowing should be encouraged. Culture should be shared, not hoarded.” Korean artists are continuing to steal from Black hip hop artists even without producing hip hop music. Hip hop artists’ culture significantly influences numerous other artists, sharing new and unique ideas. However, attribution is not responsibly attributed and cultural values are not respected.
Korean artists are trying to become a commercial success since the music industry is still a business. When it comes to the topic of business, the top priority is financial gain in order to remain successful. Any industry would take advantage of any possible resource that could be useful to make a profit. The Korean music industry is no different from how they would try to adapt to widespread economic gains independent of cultural appropriation ramifications. According to the author of the article, “What is (the wrong of) cultural appropriation,” Patti Lenard states that “cultural appropriation can be defined as the taking of a valuable, yet reusable or non-exhaustible aspect, of another individual’s culture for one’s use, where the taker knows what they are doing, and where the context of this taking is contested.”
The continuous barrage of arguments on both sides of the spectrum of cultural appropriation and its impact on fashion, media, and music will continue to impact the value of attribution significantly. Political correctness outweighs the popularity and revenue that is afforded by Western pop and hip hop influences. Patti Lenard also states that “cultural appropriation appears to be additionally defined by the existence of underlying power structures which support or permit those with more power to take from those with less.” One example that Patti Lenard used was Kylie Jenner wearing cornrows in an Instagram post. Kylie Jenner may not be wearing a predominantly Black hairstyle with the intent to exploit the culture; however, she is still receiving high praise and profits off of it. No matter what kind of intentions artists would have, their main objective is to make money at no cost, whether they are culturally appropriating or not.
Society tends to mistake what it means to appropriate culture, which brings debates about whether a celebrity is exploiting that culture or not. There is nothing wrong with opposing whether Korean artists are unethical in promoting and producing their music. However, the lack of consideration for an oppressed culture should not be justified by a business standpoint or whether the hip hop genre in songs. An artist should be successful without exploiting a different culture and showing respect towards it from behind the scenes. Nonetheless, artists continue to seek increasing popularity and wealth regardless of political culture and social appropriateness.
Patti Tamara Lenard, P. B. (n.d.). What is (the wrong of) cultural appropriation? – Patti Tamara Lenard, Peter Balint, 2020. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1468796819866498?journalCode=etna
Weiss, B. (2017, August 30). Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/opinion/cultural-appropriation.html?smid=em-share