R&B (Rhythm and Business): The Political Economy of Black Music


“Hot stuff for politically and economically astute pop-music collections.”—Booklist

“A great primer on how poorly the music industry tends to treat its artists.”—New York Press

Courtney Love and Public Enemy’s Chuck D join Kelley and other journalists to examine how black music has been developed, marketed and distributed within the structure of American capitalism.

Norman Kelley is the author of The Head ...

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“Hot stuff for politically and economically astute pop-music collections.”—Booklist

“A great primer on how poorly the music industry tends to treat its artists.”—New York Press

Courtney Love and Public Enemy’s Chuck D join Kelley and other journalists to examine how black music has been developed, marketed and distributed within the structure of American capitalism.

Norman Kelley is the author of The Head Negro in Charge Syndrome: The Dead End of Black Politics (Nation Books, 2004) and the Nina Halligan mystery series. He lives in Brooklyn.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Seminal rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy once asked the musical question, "Who stole the soul?" In this anthology, perhaps the first to deal solely with the business of black music, Chuck D, editor Kelley (author of the Nina Halligan mysteries), and other name contributors (including Courtney Love) attempt to come up with some answers. This is not a study of the appropriation of African American musical styles which was ably covered in Leroi Jones's Blues People: Negro Music in White America, among other titles but rather an examination of why white-owned entertainment conglomerates have profited so much and blacks as a whole so little from the worldwide explosion of hip-hop. Kelley's introductory piece sets the tone, describing the current state of the music industry as a continuation of a "structure of stealing" that has plagued African Americans for centuries. The history of the modern recording industry, including the gray line between major and "independent" labels, is dissected in several eyeopening contributions that should be required reading for anyone interested in popular music. The collection comprises 20 pieces (seven are new and two are substantially revised) from a variety of journalists, music industry insiders, and historians, as well as an interview with Rap Coalition founder Wendy Day. Recommended for larger public and all academic libraries. David Valencia, King Cty. Lib. Syst., Seattle Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781888451689
  • Publisher: Akashic Books
  • Publication date: 8/1/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 330
  • Sales rank: 1,426,858
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Norman Kelley has written for Newsday, the Village Voice, The Nation, and New York Press. He is the author of "The Head Negro in Charge Syndrome (Nation Books 2004), and the Nina Halligan mystery series -- Black Heat (HarperCollins), The Big Mango (Akashic), and A Phat Death (Akashic). He lives in Brooklyn.
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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 The Structure of Stealing
Notes on the Political Economy of Black Music 6
Papa's Got a Brand-New Bag: Big Music's Post-Fordist Regime and the Role of Independent Music Labels 24
The Discordant Sound of Music 44
Tell Me Something I Don't Already Know: The Harvard Report on Soul Music Revisited 59
The Ballad of the Mid-Level Artist 77
Pt. 2 The Politics of Race Music
The Anatomy of a "Race" Music Label 86
Crossing Over: From Black Rhythm & Blues to White Rock 'n' Roll 112
"All for One, and One for All": Black Enterprise, Racial Politics and the Business of Soul 138
Soul for Sale: The Marketing of Black Musical Expression 158
Pt. 3 Do Plantains Go with Collard Greens? The Political Economy of Jazz and Salsa
If You're Black Get Back: Double Standards in the Recording Industry 176
Kind of Blue: Jazz Competes with Its Past, Settles for the Hard Sell 185
Crossover Schemes: New York Salsa as Politics, Culture, and Commerce 192
Pt. 4 The Politics of the Noise
Money, Power, and Respect: A Critique of the Business of Rap Music 220
How Not to Get Jerked! The Hip Hop Elementary Roundtable 235
Interview: Wendy Day, Advocate for Rappers 255
Death of a Nation - Where Ignorance Is Rewarded for a New Race Creation: The Niggro 267
Pt. 5 The Future of Music
The Heavenly Juke Box 272
Music and New Technology: Making Music in the Digital Age 302
Senate Testimony of the Future of Music Coalition, April 3, 2001 319
Artist Rights and Record Companies: A Letter to Fellow Recording Artists 329
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2002

    A Fatally Flawed Work

    This should have been fantastic, since the topic is a potent one, but unfortunately the book has been ruined by sloppy, careless editing. The end result is both repetitious and underdeveloped. It is repetitious because Kelley has allowed for a redundancy in the essays included. (As an aside, does anyone else find it ironic that the most well-known contributor included here, Courtney Love, is white? I¿m not impressed.) Anyway, it is also underdeveloped because, while there is an undeniable problem with the way the music industry has treated African-American artists historically, this malignancy has by now spread to the treatment of both black and white musicians, and seeped into all of the arts: the music business, the film business, art galleries, book publishing, etc., in both the mainstream media and among the independents. In fact, some of the worst offenders among those ripping off artists are independent music labels, film studios, art galleries, and book publishers. I am a musician and visual artist who lives and works in New York City, and it is incredible how many stories I¿ve heard about musicians, artists, writers, and filmmakers being ripped off by independent companies, including many companies that have bragged about their integrity and about how much better they treat their talent than does the mainstream. Kelley has only skimmed the surface.

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