Book: Provincial Headz
Chapter: The Consumption of Hip Hop: Commercialization, Distinction and the Subaltern
Chapter 4 investigates the consumption of hip hop in terms of the broader nation’s consumer culture, artefact/product and identity situated within the commercialization of hip hop and rap music in global terms. This is used to develop an argument which takes DeLanda’s presentation on assemblage and Bourdieu’s theories of habitus as points of departure to construct a provincial hip hop assemblage theory that I promote as distinctive from both American and British city-centric. This theory is demonstrated by comparing pirate radio shows and independent record shops of the city with mainstream radio shows and high street music shops (the latter often the only contact non-urbanites had to hip hop news), to explore how this assembled habitus of hip hop developed through divergent and limited exposure, connection, and distancing. This interrogation brings forth the questions of material representation, taste, class and society, and themes of distinction are pursued to illustrate that during the mid-1980s the provincial hip hop experience was somewhat at odds with both Britishness and the broader perception of British hip hop. The result was an awkward cultural existence which I argue impacted upon the first creations of lo-fi non-urban British hip hop music, where headz own interpretations of their demographic and cultural context were both suppressed and exploited in an attempt to produce hip hop. Here, I begin to layer the story of acquired cultural hybridity and anchor the formative cultural values of the established and the subaltern as drivers for knowledge and vision within non-urban hip hop. Establishment is discussed within the arenas of Thatcherism, football hooliganism and regional and local identity politics, whilst the subaltern engages with headz desire to dig deeper into underground hip hop as a counter-approach to commercial consumption. The concept to ‘dig’ is central to the idea of ‘knowledge’ of self, past, present and future in hip hop, and has become widely accepted as the fifth core element of hip hop culture, which I expand upon here in order to frame how this element supported the trajectory of the provincial British.