The issue of authenticity frequently becomes a part of cultural studies.  What is an “authentic” representation of a culture or place?  Who decides and how does that change from culture to culture and place to place?

To get started thinking about these topics, I recommend listening to (or reading the transcript) this NPR podcast on Papua New Guinea.  Additionally, here is an article on cultural authenticity and the “Tourist Trap.”

AUTHENTICITY IN MUSIC

WARNING: These videos (especially the NWA’s Straight outta Compton) contain explicit lyrics that glorify violence, misogynistic behavior and criminality with remarkably foul language.  I don’t endorse using these videos in a K-12 setting.  However, they are instructive is assessing how authenticity is constructed with gender, race, class and geography.

Note how the clothing choices (NOT a minor detail for rappers) lend to the appearance of ‘street cred.’  Don’t forget that these are millionaires who built their fortunes on portraying the street.

This cover of NWA’s Straight Outta Compton breaks all the normative rules of hard-core rap: race, class and gender norms are all inverted.  Does that change how you approach the lyrics?

Does seeing Gweneth Paltrow break out in the rap change how you think of her as a person or performer?

This might be the most bizarre since a country, fireside guitar song is the polar opposite of NWA.

The “Gentleman Rhymer” Mr. B provides an intriguing mash-up as South Central Los Angeles (Compton) is swapped for South London (Surrey).  The video is deliberately ironic, but is also a cultural commentary on how hip-hop and traditional English culture are a jarring juxtaposition.

WHOLE FOODS AND CULTURAL REPRESENTATIONS

Whole Foods is an organic food market that promotes and capitalizes on  values of environmental sustainability, nutritional education and fostering local agriculture (not typical lower-class priorities).  The idea of “keeping it real” in the Whole Food Parking is laughable…which makes this video work.  What cultural markers symbolize upper-class living in this video?

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