BEYOND THE CREW: HIP-HOP AND PROFESSIONALIZATION IN MEXICO CITY
The concept of profesionalización – professionalization – has become increasingly important in the hip-hop scene in Mexico City, where I have conducted field research since 2012. A deceptively simple term, profesionalización can refer to a variety of changing practices relating to artistic presentation, the organization of hip-hop events, and the hip-hop scene’s model of creative production. It is, further, inflected by class and age, associated at some points with hip-hop’s youngest generation, who have no qualms with making money from music; and at others with artists who are well-organized, arrive punctually, and do not overrun their designated performance times. The emerging power of professionalization relates to the increasing specialization of hip-hop production, and the increasing importance of the digital reproduction of music; increasingly, success is made on YouTube and Spotify. Informal “crews” are, in some cases, giving way to more formal “teams; and there is increasing emphasis in some arenas on the formalization of live performances. Equally, profesionalización is related to the increasing importance of image within hip-hop. In this paper I explore profesionalización as an emergent, negotiated value within the hip-hop scene. Drawing from the sociological literature on the professions, I emphasize that this value is not confined to rap, but is rather constructed through dynamic practices across hip-hop as broadly defined. Efforts to encourage “professional” modes of behavior are reflected not only within recorded music, but are also a property of hip-hop pedagogy, event organization, and the ways that production is structured. Ultimately, I argue, we must understand profesionalización within hip-hop as a means of exploring citizenship in an emerging multiparty democracy.
Dr Andrew James Green is an ethnomusicologist and popular music scholar whose research focuses on the Mexican music industries. He received his PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London in 2016, and since 2018 has been Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Glasgow (although he is currently on furlough). His work focuses on politics, activism, music as labour, and the impact of cultural policy, and he has published work in Ethnomusicology Forum, Popular Music, Popular Music and Society, and The International Journal of Cultural Policy.