Looking At The Reinforced Sub Culture Cultural Studies Essay

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Since 1994, hip-hop appeared on the style map of trendspotters in radio and TV, the turn of millennium reinforced this sub-culture created by second generation immigrants in the suburbs of Stockholm; this sub-culture recreates appropriations of Latin, African, Indian and Arab cultures by remixing them and claiming authenticity with an exotic "cool" signified. Hip hop became the channel for a new youth culture, as Peter Christenson and Donald Robert pointed out: "… of all the current popular music styles, the rap-hip hop culture most defines the pop cultural cutting edge, thus providing adolescents concerned with "coolness" and peer status much crucial information on subjects such as the latest slang and the most recent trends in dance and fashion" [1] .

The hip-hop group, The Latin Kings, wrote their first album in 1994 named "Welcome to the suburb" and promoted it as the authentic Swedish hip-hop. The variety of The Latin Kings music such as, freshness of the sampling, combination of children songs, reggae and salsa has contributed to their first album success. Furthermore the innovative usage of the Swedish language that incorporates slang from the streets from Botkyrka have outraged and fascinated the national audiences, while their unique representation of everyday life for non-native youth living in immigrant suburbs impressed the wider public. Thematically imitating the tradition of American hip-hop, the integrants of The Latin Kings, Dogge, Chepe and Salla rapped about the ghetto life style in the Southern suburbs of Stockholm, highlighting their authentic black head (svartskalle) identity with Latin roots. Their songs are driven by materialistic and idealistic desires; on hand they wanted to make money and on the other hand they wanted to raise a political cause of combating discrimination and segregation. This situation is similar to the jazz artists of the 1920s and 1930s such as Arne Dommerus and Putte Wickman, who identified themselves with the African American culture in the United States. The Latin Kings go beyond cultural identification, because they constructed a local counterpart in the image of the blackhead.

The Latin Kings define their creative identity as an immigrant, but in any occasions have questioned their innate Swedishnees by choice and by birth. The realities of everyday-life in Stockholm are represented in their rapping, and their imagery is emerged in a sense of belonging to a local community but also to a global community. The main topic in the lyrics of The Latin Kings is the everyday life in the suburb of Botkyrka, with its hard suburban reality mainly caused by lack of tolerance in the Swedish national context and by segregation. They try to construct in their songs different kinds of Swedish identities, which are more problematized and nuanced that the ones based on principles of ethnic purity, linguistic harmony, and unproblematic cultural similarity. The Latin Kings draw the attention to the existence of the marginal and social reality of the Botkyrka suburb, a reality that had never before been allowed in conventional national Swedish culture or even in the public area.

The immigrant landscape can be seen as the primary identity in the texts of the Latin Kings. In their writings they show their membership when they in different ways use images and phrases associated with immigrant status and oppression. Many young second-generation immigrants living in Sweden don't feel included in the society. Very often they experience this situation when they talk about their affiliation. Although they hold a Swedish citizenship, they neither identify themselves as Swedes nor with their parents' country of origin. Since one needs to belong to a community, this lack of affiliation reinforces the immigrant-partner-identity as their primary identity.

The Afro-American sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, who had relevance to the situation of blacks in the United States during the early 1900s, says that the black man in the West is developing a "double consciousness". On the one hand, they are citizens and participate in the Community which represents the nation. But on the other hand, they aren't having any involvement in the cultural community. This "double consciousness" and the black self-consciousness can not be separated from the white gaze. What Du Bois believes is the blacks 'basic mode' is the tension between being submissive and at the same time to resist. [2] Du Bois argues that "the West's divisions into nation-states have developed a loyalty to the black problem in the West". On one hand, the affinities of the new nation, on the other the global solidarity with their group that share a common origin and historical fate. The first in the form of slavery, and the second in the form of discrimination in society, and like the situation of blacks in the United States, one can draw parallels to the Swedish immigrant youth opposition to society and solidarity within their own group. [3] 

[...] Black black black blackhead is what I'm

and I am not ashamed of the hahaa

blackhead and I am proud

my black hair I've never hid it

nothing is what you get

and nobody cares how one feels

dead or alive it does not matter

when the value of one is equal to zero

but I'm struggling and fighting, I walk to the top

being named blackhead and it was the drop…[...] [4] 

The tension between being subdued and at the same time to resist is portrayed on the above Latin Kings text.

Submissive equality is seen in the sixth row, "and nobody cares how one feels", this may be linked to the feeling experienced by many young immigrants in the Swedish society. The seventh and eighth row is one form of defeatism, "dead or alive does not matter / when the value of one is equal to zero" they don't allow themselves to be suppressed, but they allow themselves to respond with opposition or silence, which is express in the ninth row, "but I'm struggling and fighting, I walk towards the top"

The primary identity of the Latin Kings can be seen as a form of resistance. As I have shown above, the word "blackhead" changed its meaning. "Blackhead" is used in society as something negative, because "blackhead" expresses a deviation from the Swedish norm. But this word has instead been given a different meaning, a positive meaning. By calling themselves "blackheads", The Latin Kings are exposing one's affiliation to one's own, this is essential for solidarity of the group and this is a key element of the immigrant-partner-identity. Indeed, immigrant and ethnicity are seen as the primary identity of the Latin Kings. Through their lyrics they expose their affection, calling themselves as "Blackhead" and at the same time they show dissatisfaction with the Swedish society.

Social identity is also associated with masculinity that in consequence associated with power, attitude and rebel actions against the established national authorities such as: police, schools, social system and the like, this is what Connell argues when he discusses about protest masculinity. [5] There is a gender practice that according to Connell includes violence, opposition to school, less crime, heavy use of drugs or alcohols. "Masculine protest" or protest masculinity defines motive patterns that occur in childhood experiences of powerlessness individuals, who express their radical protest against the established national masculinity. In the Latin Kings songs, I find an approach and a response to powerlessness, what Connell refers to, "claims to positions of power based on gender," [6] a mannered exaggeration of masculine conventions. This experience is also common in the working class collective experience. Connell argues that this form of masculinity is common among ethnic minorities and street gangs in United States, then making links with gangs in the Swedish suburbs are not so distant.

[...] In the darkness I see a faint light

I hear the sirens running, I see the blue light

Stop in the name of the law, this is the police

Suck my dick…., you look like a pig...[...] [7] 

The above quote is from the Latin Kings song "Benge" and can be seen as an attempt to portray protest masculinity, through discontent and disgust against the police.

Protest masculinity usually grows up in environments where there is presence of poverty and violence, this environment creates protest just as a response to the stigmatization and powerlessness the individuals residing in these areas deal with. The youth who grow up in this environment tend to adopt aggressive attitudes towards the national system, claiming power just as a reaction of the lack of economic means. Power is symbolized in their case, including territorial sovereignty as in the suburban community, and social hierarchies, which are contained therein. It is interesting how protest masculinity has been clearly linked to the hegemonic masculinity in the form of a resistance to it. [8] 

Protest masculinity is defined by Connell as a configuration of gender practice which includes the currently accepted answer to the question of the legitimacy of patriarchy and consequently a domination of men over women could be guaranteed. The portray of jargon attitudes that are directly related to a macho attitude can be seen as an attempt to establish a hegemonic masculinity. Violence metaphors and weapons fixation is under Connell view just a defence of a hegemonic masculinity [9] . Hip-hop bad-boy image has its origin in the American-ghetto culture harsh atmosphere in which violence and aggressive power is a frequent phenomenon. Thus, protest songs about masculinity are portrayed in The Latin Kings' texts, by expressing aggressive attitudes towards society's authorities.

Immigrants in Sweden are not only on the receiving or rather giving, end of cultural appropriation; "natives borrow too". In the middle of the 1990s immigrants particularly in suburban areas in Stockholm, have created a new cultural idiom of immigrant youth, by producing and consuming hip hop music and styles that shape a unique second generation sub-culture. The consumption of hip-hop music by native Swedes, suggests that as commodities cross cultural and national boundaries, the "deflections, rejections and subversions that can take place at each point in the economic cycle of production exchange consumption" [10] , need to be founded on the relationships between the local and global stances of cross-cultural consumption.

The identity and tension of belonging is a local and global disputed topic in contemporary cultural theory [11] . In several of the texts I have analyzed, there are many examples of this tension. It seems that local is related to the patriotic preference, in this case their own suburb; and the global is related to the lashings of the language, such as dialect loans from other countries and so on. In order to define a subculture, I use the term explained by Phil Cohen. Who argues, firstly, that subcultures are symbolic structures and should not be confused with the real young people who are its bearers and promoters; secondly, that a certain lifestyle actually consists of several subsystems and it is the way in which these are expressed in the way of life as a whole determines its distinctiveness. [12] 

There are two basic subsystems. The first is the "plastic" forms - clothing and music - which are not directly created by the subculture but are important to define the sub-cultural value. The second is the "infrastructure" forms - jargon and ritual; these are highly resistant to renew but still reflects the changes in the "plastic" forms. Within hip-hop all these elements are represented. The clothes and the music are unique. The jargon is very significant, and usually is characterized by an aggressive and expressive attitude towards social problems and racial tension, etc…

There are many significant examples of the local in the lyrics. Swedish hip-hop can be seen as a modern mythology of life as observed in the suburbs. The telling about the "neighbourhood" or the "own concrete" can be seen as a defence against the media's stigmatization of these areas. An example of the local district in the form of nationalism, I find the Latin Kings song, "Botkyrka Stylee"


We like the concrete party, it is like a fucking safari

So stay calm, stay in the car … low profile len

The thing is to have the right style

Otherwise, it will be crap with the Rizla blackheads [..] [13] 

From the first sentence can be concluded that one should not mess with Botkyrka. Furthermore, if you do not have the right style, should "stay in the car". This can be interpreted as an invitation, if you do not have the right style, i.e. you are not welcome. It can also be seen as the Latin Kings are trying to portray Botkyrka and the people who live there as something better. "Concrete" is an important part of establishing the identity of the local pattern. It is something that represents the suburb and the concrete can be seen as a metaphor for the hard life.

Living the "hard life" is something of a norm for rappers. To pretend to be criminal, have a tangled home situations or context, is something that many rappers embrace. Ove Sernhede believe that the whole can be seen as a game of clichés and rapping about their problems would attract a wider audience who are attracted by the "exciting" suburban life. But he also believes that what appears in the text is actually a life reality [14] .

The global context in particular, takes the claim in the dialect. A large number of words come from other languages, which is explained by the fact that many of the Swedish suburbs are multinational. In parallel with immigration in the 1980s, working immigrants and political refugees from Greece and Turkey came to Sweden and settled in the big city suburbs, new words began to circulate in the language of the flora. Words from the Turkish, for example, "Gus" meaning girl, (which includes Latin Kings use extensively in their texts), and "Gitte" which means go, along with many other words used in the everyday life rate among young people and in their lyrics.

A few years later came a large group of Latinos and their languages, especially Spanish, which is reflected in the suburban line. Subsequently there have been a large number of working immigrants and refugees from around the world and even their language has influenced the songs. Latin Kings use a large degree of these "New Swedish" word in the text.

It's easy to find many similarities with the American hip hop culture in the texts. Authenticity is something associated with hip hop. Hip Hop tradition and the "lived reality", aims at a form of authenticity. Ulf Lindberg writes about rap, as "an urban street culture of social Darwinism. And that tradition and the "reality" are both references to signal the authenticity. Authenticity, which can be seen as a global phenomenon in hip-hop, is to portray him as "real" rap song, which many rappers pursue. Hip Hop can be seen as a game or a contest, where it is important to be "original". [15] 

The Latin Kings hip-hop is not only a mere picture reflecting the life on the streets of the suburb of Stockholm, just as the language used is not only for recording. It is true that The Latin Kings music is very convincing and authentic as it reflexes the suburban reality, but I believe that it convey more than that. It expresses a reflection of a life that confronts discrimination, just in order to raise awareness among the national realm. Their rap becomes a vehicle for stressing their social message by employing violent words and imagery in order to portray their fictional language and environment depicting the local slang that when employed become inaccessible to people who never heard it before.

This paper has aimed to highlight how social identity is portrayed in the Swedish hip hop. Based on textual analysis and focusing on ethnicity and gender. I have found that immigrant landscape can be seen as the primary identity in the texts of the Latin Kings. In their writings they show their membership using different images and phrases associated with immigrant status and oppression. Part of the identity that portrays artists is associated with a nationalistic sense of suburbia. The suburban nationalism view is expressed in contrast to the "Swedish life" as empty and dry. This is also expressed focusing on the good side of suburbia multiculturalism, life and movement; and through a Romanization and a remarkable defence of the "hard life" in the suburb; and its destructive forces such as violence, crime and drugs.

The thesis also aimed to explore the tension everywhere - local and global. The local was represented by a nationalism district, a love of one's own suburbs and the people who live there; when it comes to the global I have found foundations in the dialect which is a mixture of several languages, and by the radical authenticity the Swedish hip-hop carries.