Norman Kelley: Rhythm Nation: The Political Economy of Black Music
A four-part series.
Today, most analyses of black culture are processed through the theoretical prism of the Frankfurt School's "cultural industry" paradigm or through the theoretical template of cultural studies, where the lexicon of post-structuralism thought can be dropped on any subject, provided one uses the requisite "acadospeak" to obfuscate the fact that nothing of real importance is being discussed.
Rather than analyzing the trajectory of black music through the music industry, today's new jack intellectuals have been more interested in discussing or breaking down the high/low distinctions of culture. They are more interested in "interrogating" certain "privileged discourses," than in the nuts and bolts of the music industry:
• how artists are recruited,
• how contracts are structured for maximums profits for records firms,
• how much firms spend on the production of an artist's CD,
• whether rap artists make their living solely by selling units or doing performances (a situation similar to that of blues musicians),
• how musicians lose their copyright to their music,
• the lack of royalty payments, and
• the incredible monopoly of the Big Six.