Monday, January 14, 2013

The Hip Hop Matrix

As exciting as "Hip Hop Matrix" sounds, it's not rappers literally dodging bullets or fighting off machines to save humanity.

What is the Hip Hop matrix you may ask? To understand what it is, you must first understand where the term came from.

Much like Hip Hop itself, the "Hip Hop Matrix" wasn't just invented out of thin air, it is a product of its predecessors: The Blues Matrix.

By definition of a  Houston A. Baker, Jr. (a noted African-American literary critic) a matrix is:
"... a point of ceaseless input and output, a web of intersecting, crisscrossing impulses always in productive transit." (Baker, 4)"
Mr. Baker also defines Blues as:
"... a mediational site where familiar antinomies are resolved (or dissolved) in the office of adequate cultural understanding" (Baker, 5
So, a Blues Matrix is an a mediational site where familiar antinomies are resolved (or dissolved) in the office of adequate cultural understanding in a point of ceaseless input and output, a web of intersecting, crisscrossing impulses always in productive transit.

In layman's terms, the Blues Matrix is an ever evolving tool used to understand things within "blues" culture.

For example, my girlfriend is a psychology major, so she's always learning these nonsense things about the brain and tries to explain it to me. I sit there and nod in agreement with the occasional "Wow, that's cool" or "That's interesting. So it finally dawned on her to try to explain it to me in terms that I'd understand: music terms. She'd explain psychology using words like sticatto and fermatta in lieu of synapse and acetylcholine. BAM! Band Matrix. I'm pretty sure many of you reading have translated things for other people in this fashion.

Switching gears back to Hip Hop, just to reiterate, what is the Hip Hop Matrix? An ever evolving tool used to understand things within "Hip Hop" culture. Now, this makes more sense.

Houston Baker said in his book, Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature, that he the Blues Matrix (as a"vernacular trope") has a huge impact in the study of American literature, criticism, and culture.
So what we get drunk? So what we don't sleep? We're just having fun; We don't care who sees. So what we go out? That's how it's supposed to be; Living young and wild and free. (YOUNG, WILD & FREE LYRICS - WIZ KHALIFA)
Lets rewind. Way back to the Roaring 20's. Back when alcohol was prohibited. 1925. Cue in an old school Wiz Khalifa named Dorothy Ellingston. She was the pinnacle of living young, wild and free. At the age of 16, she was already in night clubs, had fake IDs, was sleeping with men, and drinking faux alcohol. She had that familiar YOLO mentality, "Clubbing hard, fucking [wo]men, ain't much to do" (The motto -Drake) wasn't that far off from a typical night for this jazz baby.

Besides her fast lane lifestyle, she was shallower than a kiddie pool. She didn't care about what anyone thought of her. She only cared about what was in her cup and who she was sleeping with that night. Hell, she even kept a notebook listing all her sexual encounters, judging them on their appearance and performance.

Psychologist claimed she only acted out because she genuinely enjoyed being bad. They also noted that she had sex solely to feel good. She was cray.

As you would've already figured, her parents didn't like her YOLO-ness. Dorothy hated her mom like snails hate salt since she was all up in her face about what she doing and grounding her for breaking the law. Seems pretty fair, in my opinion.

Finally, one day Dorothy snapped. Her mom, as usual, was telling her how much if a disgrace she was and telling her to get a job. Dorothy left the room, returned and shot her twice in the back of the head. Yep. Just like that Dorothy was free to YOLO her life away, and that she did. After shooting her mom, she left that night to a jazz club and danced for the entire night.

"She went dancing. She was the life of the party... She danced for twelve hours straight... She wasn't concerned about the future. She wasn't even concerned about the past. She was concerned about the now." (James R. Smith Deadly Women: Parents Peril)

She was later arrested and confessed to the murder of her mother, but coroner didn't believe she did it. It was imposible for a sixteen year old girl to commit a crime like that. Why? Because it was never heard of that someone would kill their own mom. This was the first time ever matricide was reported. The press didn't buy her confession. They reported that Jazz music lead Dorothy to kill her mom. The press named that culture: Jazzmania.
"...people got their blood worked up; they got excited; they lost thier inhibitions and it felt like affected thier psyche and that they actually... became insane." (James Smith, Deadly Women: Parents Peril)

In August of 1925, she is found guilty of 1st degree murder of her mother and sent to San Quinton prison. She later then "changed" in prison. She preached to kids to not live like her.
"She advised kids to obey their parents, learn trade, not ride in fast automobiles with people." (Paul Prexter, Deadly Women: Parents Peril)
As crazy as that sounds, translated into the the Hip Hop Matrix, that person may strike you as familiar.

50 Cent! What? How? Crazy right?
You can find me in the club, bottle full of bubLook mami, I got the X if you into takin' drugsI'm into havin' sex, I ain't into makin' loveSo come gimme a hug, if you're into gettin' rubbed (In the Club, 50 Cent)

Sounds similar to our Jazz baby, right? 50 cent was about selling and heroin and cocaine ( and even chose to rename himself as "50 Cent" as a metaphor for change. ( Now, sort of like our Jazz baby, 50 Cent is a philanthropist. His non-profit organization "G-Unity" provides grants to other non-profit organizations whose focuses are to improve the quality of life for low-income communities.

There is one point in particular that jumps out at me in his Houston Baker's book. He says:
"... a blues matrix (as a vernacular trope for American cultural explanation in general) posses enourmous force for the study of literature, criticism, and culture." (Baker 14)

Hopefully many of you reading this can apply your own matrixes for explaining things in your life.

"50 Cent." Crime / Punishment., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2013.
Baker, Houston A., Jr. Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1984. Print.
Cheng, Cheri. "Interview W/ 50 Cent." Interview W/ 50 Cent. Davey D's Hip Hop Corners, n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2013.
Mohr, Marie. "Deadly Women: Parents Peril." YouTube. YouTube, 10 Dec. 2012. Web. 14 Jan. 2013. <>.


  1. I like how you referenced Dorothy Ellingston as cray. It is a good modern way to describe someone way back in the day.

  2. I thought you could have defined "cray" but I did like you similes. I like how you explained that cultures can be synonymous with each other despite the generational gap.

  3. I liked the comparison of Dorthy Ellingston to Wiz Khalifa. The use of his lyrics really helped me grasp the fact that she was young, wild, and free.

  4. Your use of modern and classic examples is used well, I wouldve liked another example from the past but at the same time i liked how you could link that one example to many from current hip hop culture

    1. I wish I had more, but I found Dorothy completely by accident. If it weren't for the tv show in Investigation Discovery, this blog would've been pretty uninteresting. Lol.

  5. I loved that you compared the 1920s with things that are relevant to us now (well, a few years ago...50 is a little seasoned LOL) and tied it all together. It was really interesting that you compared Dorothy with a famous rapper that we all know and explained the matrix!

  6. I liked your introduction, totally got me interested. I never knew some of the things you posted like 50 cent's name choice meaning, good job!

  7. Honestly, when I saw this topic on the blog sheet in class one of the main reasons why didn't choose it was because I didn't know what the hip hop matrix was. I think that you explained it well, especially with the examples. I like how you took an old story and explained with lyrics from a song that is much newer compared to that time period.
    I can also see the hip hop matrix being used not only as a way to explain complicated terms or old stories, but also as way to explain your current feelings or emotions. For example, I'm sure that we've all had days when we just aren't in the right mind to deal with people and the everyday bullshit that comes up. Usually it's pretty apparent based on our body language and our facial expressions, but for whatever reason people still ask the same question that we try so hard to avoid, "What's Wrong?" most of the time we'll say "nothing" but what we really wanna say is :
    This morning, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed (bed)
    I'm sick of people putting lies in my head (head)
    I don't really wanna work, I'm tired
    I hate my 9 to 5
    And I'm thinking bout killin my boss today
    Killin my boss today
    I'm thinking bout killin my boss today (it's just a thought man)
    Killin my boss today (yeah)
    -Slap, Ludacris

  8. Great example involving your girlfriend and the need to relate terms in order to better explain. Also the occasional reference to modern day rap with drake, 50 cent, and the word cray. Great mix of past and present!

  9. Great job explaining the "Hip Hop Matrix." I thought It was interesting how you draw similarities between generations; I never thought of how similar the idols of each generation are.

  10. I liked the story. It really helped me understand what the "Hip Hop Matrix" is

  11. I think you chose the right path of explaining the Hip Hop Matrix by mentioning the Blues Matrix. It really helps explain how there are more factors to a product than those that are seen; exactly what a Matrix is! (50 Cent was a great example)

  12. The blog was entertaining...great job!! You really elaborated on the topic leaving no room for confusion. Also how you used today's slang to describe the past was good.

  13. I appreciate how you used Wiz Khalifa as a modern example of Dorothy Ellingston. Most all of us know about or can relate to Wiz, but I'm sure not everyone knew about Dorothy Ellingston. At least I didn't. This comparison helped me to understand your point and furthermore how you described the hip hop matrix.

  14. The way you explain the hip hop matrix was really unique! Comparing Dorothy to Wiz, 50, and Drake's lyrics/lifestyle definitely helped me to better understand what you were talking about.