[iDC] The Remix discussion

Eduardo Navas eduardo at navasse.net
Sun Apr 16 00:02:41 EDT 2006

Hello Everyone,

Given that there is so much talk of the remix on the list, I have decided to
share the introduction to a particular essay I am cleaning up.  Still being
edited, here is the intro to 42 pages on the remix, which I hope to share
with various communities soon.



Eduardo Navas
April, 2006
Remix Culture: The influence of the DJ¹s Rupture in Repetition
            The DJ as Producer in the music studio:

RZA has decided to dispense with the original master tapes, shipped over
from Britain.  He wants a completely new version, recorded rough-and-ready
without the standard safety net of a time-code.  This convention-trashing,
wildstyle approach to recording elicits some consternation from the studio¹s
engineer, a central casting white guy who warns RZA: ŒYou won¹t be able to
synch to this, you know.¹  RZA waves him away and turns to [Texas¹s Bassist
and leader] Johnny McElhone.


ŒThis riff is in E,¹ McElhone tells RZA.  ŒMaybe we should try it in the
original key, D.¹


ŒWhat are you saying? I understand no keys,¹ says RZA.[1] <#_ftn1>


RZA¹s role in the music studio is a manifestation of the hip-hop producer¹s
complex position at the beginning of the twenty-first century.[2] <#_ftn2>
RZA makes a specific type of music that is dependent on repetition (the
loop).  He is not a musician but a producer who is no longer concerned with
the actual structural form of music, but with how the forms that are created
with basic musical structures can be appropriated with the use of proper
machines.  This means that RZA¹s creative power lies not in a skill of
performance, but on appropriation; this creativity depends on understanding
how to use and reuse readymade sounds and music bits following the tradition
of Duchamp: pre-made material already accepted by culture is recycled to be
reconsidered as a constant question. RZA is a different kind of producer;
his practice is the latest manifestation of a complex struggle by those on
the periphery to gain a voice; he is a success story further promoting the
individual expression of the genius artist, only in his case, he is no
longer expected to go through the pains of labor, but rather to make choices
following a Duchampian model‹this is why he does not need to understand
music language (like a classically trained musician), and demands that the
studio engineer do as he says, even when what RZA wants goes against the
technical conventions of a good studio recording.

Hip-hop culture developed out of scarcity of material for expression.  Its
driving force‹its music, was created with vinyl records that in some places
had been forgotten or tossed aside by those in the center of culture.[3]
<#_ftn3>   Records were reused to create Œbreaks¹ (live improvised
compositions based on the manual repetition of an instrumental section of
two copies of the same record on two turntables.)  It is here where the
disruption of recording with the appropriation of recordings was turned into
a form of resistance that then became in large part co-opted by the culture
industry, culminating in the Hip Hop Producer: RZA.

            Hip-hop shows that recycling information can be one of the most
powerful ways of deconstructing the power of hegemony. The latest
manifestation of this progression is the remix.  Today, the word remix is
often used to analogize the many metas on which the culture industry
functions. This may appear to be an expression of freedom, but as we will
learn upon closer examination, the situation is more complex. Hip-hop has
developed a dualism as an efficient tool for commercial production and as a
form of resistance and disruption; meaning that hip-hop is a form of
expression as well as repression for the masses.  An obvious example of this
is the popularity of the ³bling-bling,²[4] <#_ftn4> which is proof of some
hip-hop heads¹ embrace of their role as commodity fetish producers rather
than culture producers, offering role models that are not fully positive or
            The remix as an ideology extending beyond music, then, is the
bridge that enables mass culture to consume an aesthetic that rose to speak
specifically against the oppression of class differences, while not
necessarily dismissing consumerism itself.  This is possible because the
ideology of the remix functions on two major cultural layers, which is our
subject of interest in this instance.  The first is when a particular object
is introduced in pop culture; the second is when a remix version of that
object is later introduced based on the preexisting authority gained by the
original object.  These layers rely on a type of appropriation that is
highly allegorical and dependent on metalanguages, [...]

[Rest of Chapter to be released soon.]

[1] <#_ftnref1>  Charles Mudede, ³The Turntable,² ctheory.net,  24 April
2003 (20, February 2005). <http://ctheory.net/text_file?pick=382>

[2] <#_ftnref2>  RZA is actually one of the most successful
producers/rappers who emerged during the 90s.  He is leader of the Wu-Tang
Clan, a rap group from New York who redefined the power of the spoken word
in Hip Hop culture.  See: ³RZA² 11 February 2006 (11, February 2006) <
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RZA>. Terry Gross, ³Rapper, Producer, Composer:
The RZA² 7, March 2005 (20, February 2005).

[3] <#_ftnref3>  This is more a general statement on the history of the DJ
as a mixer and remixer during the first generation.  Many of the records
that were being used for turntablism early on were R & B compositions from
the early motown years, in combination with other small label releases from
New York, Detroit and Chicago, between the seventies on through the
eighties.  The actual recycling of records as revived material took place in
the Northern Soul movement in England, where the working class would lose
itself to the R & B sounds that were no longer in vogue in the United States
and which had never really been popular in England in the first place.  See
Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, ³Northern Soul,² Last Night a DJ Saved my
Life (New York: Grove Press, 2000), 75 ­ 105.

[4] <#_ftnref4>  The influence of hip-hop is quite apparent when we consider
that the Oxford dictionary is quick to include most recent slang in its
online edition. See Minya Oh, ³Bling Bling Added to Oxford English
Dictionary,² Mtv, 30 April 2003, (25 February 2005).

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