Mike Exarchos (University of West London, UK)


Live Hip Hop was born out of the re-appropriation of found sound in the hands of DJs playing funk records, and affordable sampling technology enabled studio practices to reclaim that performative tradition. Consequently, scholars were tempted to describe Hip Hop as quintessentially postmodern — a tendency stemming from the apparent binaries that can be observed on the style’s surface: old and new; analogue and digital; live and machine-made. Yet sample-based Hip Hop consists of all of these polarities at once and is, in essence, hybrid. As a temporal artform, it simultaneously represents multiple dualities in a mixed, juxtaposed, synthesised fashion. The paper distances itself from the postmodernist notion of treating (all) art/efacts as text, and moves away from the deconstruction of signs to a reconnection with the material aspects of sonic composition. It argues that sample-based ‘musicking’ is in fact metamodern and offers a reconstructive proposition to test the hypothesis: producing Hip Hop from newly constructed source material, referencing past styles and analogue signatures, but facilitating a contemporary digital workflow. The rationale is to challenge postmodern notions of “technostalgia” and “retromania” as drivers behind the sample-based rationale, re-framing the negotiation of vintage sonic signatures as part of the contemporary phonographic lexicon. The methodological paradigm embraces further manifestations of metamodernism: exercising multiple practitioner ‘personalities’ (composer and engineer, performer of past styles and remixer); expressing romantic compositional freedom within an Afrocentric, cyclic sensibility; synthesising technical precision with—and towards—the poetics of an envisioned sonic; collapsing ‘time’ through the juxtaposition of multiple sonic époques; and embracing the “generative paradox”. The investigation deploys autoethnographic strategies to shed light upon the fragility, naiveté, and ‘schizophrenic’ tendencies of the 21st century creative practitioner, and the research demonstrates how theoretical paradoxes can be reconciled within the flux of creative practice.