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Rae Sremmurd: Appropriation or Appreciation

Last night I attended a Rae Sremmurd concert at the Electric Factory, a popular venue in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia.

For those who don’t know, Rae Sremmurd (Ear Drummers spelled backwards) are a rap duo from Tupelo, Mississippi who are currently on their Sremmlife II tour. The two brothers, Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy, are best known for high-energy concerts and a multitude of chart-topping hits including “No Type,” “Throw Sum Mo,” and more recently, their single off of Sremmlife II titled “Black Beatles”.

The Sremmlife crew gave a stellar performance; the highlight was the last song in which the opener, and up and coming Atlanta-based rapper Lil Yachty joined them on stage to perform “Black Beatles”.

Throughout the concert, however, I found I spent more time studying the nature of the crowd rather than listening to the music. As I surveyed the venue, it was clear that the majority of the concertgoers were high-school aged white males. The attire was also overwhelmingly homogenous; basketball jerseys, high-top sneakers, and backwards flat-brimmed baseball caps. It also appeared that most of the teenagers in attendance were suburban.

Prior to Rae Sremmurd’s set, the duo’s DJ and hype man played their popular single, “Up Like Trump,” but before spinning it, asserted that the Sremmlife crew were adamantly against the Republican nominee for president. The DJ proceeded to lead an anti-Trump chant, which was received lukewarmly by the crowd. While some participated, many stayed quiet, and a few individuals in the group next to mine replaced Trump’s name with “Crooked Hillary,” and shouted that instead. Donald Trump has been widely criticized for his shaky track record with African Americans and lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

I continued studying the crowd as the concert progressed. At one point I encountered one white male who had attempted to replicate the opener Lil Yachty’s hairstyle by putting red beads into his shoulder length hair. I was also surprised to see that the majority of the crowd had no problem singing along to Rae Sremmurd’s songs, regardless of the lyrics which often included the N-word.

Fetishization is defined as “being excessively or irrationally devoted to an object or activity”. By attending a concert in the first place, one can, in a way, fetishize a performer or band, but what I saw last night at the Rae Sremmurd concert, in my opinion, went beyond that. The droves of white males in attendance openly fetishized and appropriated the performers’ culture, yet appeared to have little regard or sensitivity when it came to the issues that their culture, black culture, face in our nation today.

While writing this article, it’s definitely important to look at oneself critically as well. I am a white male, which means I fit into the demographic I’m describing. I do think white males as a group, myself included, need to evaluate the way we fetishize and appropriate black culture, especially when it comes to rap and hip-hop.

Asa Cadwallader (276)
Managing Editor

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