To get some respect, we had to tear this muthafucka up.
(Ice Cube, ‘We had to tear this muthafucka up’, 1992)
29 April 1992
For Francis Fukuyama, former adviser to the Reagan administration, the essence of humanity lives on at the end of history in Compton, Los Angeles.
While most of America eases itself into the contented life of prosperous posthistorical consumption, some people are still willing to risk their lives in their
desire for recognition and respect. Somehow, citizenship in the universal homogeneous state isn’t enough. Significantly
The seductive force of American supercapitalism unlocks new markets, unleashing the energy of desire, and provides a destructive version of Satan's rage. At the vanguard of this seduction has been the youthful rage and rebellion of the devil's music, American rock 'n' roll and its multiple related subgenres. This book looks at the most pervasive forms of American popular music in the post-cold-war period. Gangsta rap exploits and informs the consumption of luxury brands. The 'mom and pop rage' of the nu metal bands self-consciously exposes itself as the violent expression, the excess of the implacable banal excess, and of shopping-mall consumerism. The book explores the negativity and the 'niggativity' of American rap/metal in the 1990s in relation to a number of key events in the decade such as the Rodney King riots and the Columbine High School massacre. On the face of it, the gangsta 'nigga' is an unlikely point of identification for suburban white culture. But the phenomenon of the 'wigga' (white, wanna-be-nigga) and the success of companies like Nike testify to the fascination that such a figure holds. Rage Against the Machine (also known as Rage or RATM) do not normally have problems with machines, indeed their music and living depend upon them. Rather, the 'machine' is for Rage another word for the new world order of global capitalism. Death metal groups such as Morbid Angel and Deicide aim to outdo the others in its singular relation to death, shock and outrage.
Rock ’n’ rage
At the end of the 1980s, a negative turn occurred in American popular music
that determined some of the most successful and influential forms of the 1990s
and beyond. NWA’s Straight Outta Compton (1988) provided the gangsta phenomenon with its definitive record, while Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of
Millions to Hold Us Back (1988) informed such ‘niggativity’ with a sharp political focus. In 1991, Nirvana’s Nevermind became the defining statement of the
‘grunge’ generation that, after Cobain’s suicide in 1994, gave way to even
negativity of this form was noted by neoconservatism, even as it was abjected
as its social antithesis. ‘In our world there are still people who run around risking their lives in bloody battles over a name or a flag or a piece of clothing’,
wrote Francis Fukuyama, before adding with regret that ‘they tend to belong to
gangs with names like the Bloods and the Cripps and make their living dealing
drugs’ (Fukuyama, cited in Drury, 1994:185–6). The next chapter looks at the
uncanny proximity between negativity and the niggativity of the gangsta.