Turner Campbell

Contributing writer for The Artifice.

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Superhero Lore in Hip Hop

Superhero comics are inherently archetypal, so what conclusions can we draw from superhero references in Hip Hop? MF DOOM styles himself as a supervillain, borrowing his persona from the Fantastic Four’s Archnemesis, Viktor Von Doom. He creates narratives for DOOM by splicing together soundbites from classic children’s shows, especially superhero cartoons. Several members of the Wu-Tang Clan borrow from superheros instead. Ghostface Killah (who has long associated himself with Iron Man/Tony Stark) recently released "36 Seasons" a hip-hopera about a vigilante anti-hero who battles crooked cops in New York. Wu-Tang member Inspectah Deck teamed up with 7L & Esoteric to form the supergroup CZARFACE, performing music about a hero of the same name. CZARFACE uses narrative sequences reminiscent of DOOM, but with original material instead of repurposed voice-overs. All three groups discuss similar topics, so why would DOOM choose to embody a villain and Ghostface and CZARFACE embody the hero (especially when the latter two also discuss themselves in terms of being villains as well?

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    Latest Comments

    I’m not sure that I agree with your argument. I think even if an artist borrows (or steals) from an influence, they would have to put something of themselves in the work. They wouldn’t be able to stop themselves. Already the artist is influenced by so much–their parents, their schoolteachers, their cultural values–that most of what they create didn’t strictly come from their own mind. Their creation is just their interpretation of their environment, which leaves its indelible imprint on their psyche. I don’t think anyone invents anything, just innovates. T.S. Eliot has an essay called “Tradition and Individual Talent” in which he argues exactly this, and proclaims that instead of searching for what makes a poem (I’ve expanded his argument to all works of art) unique or original. We should instead look at the ways in which the poet incorporates past techniques and adds to the rich tradition of poetry, which has lived long before the individual and will continue to live after him, always growing, always changing. If an idea is good, why should we only use it once? If the first person to paint a horse on a cave wall sued the second person to do the same, would art even exist? Remember that the horse didn’t come from that first person’s mind, it was something they reproduced from their environment. All art is inspired by our environment, and the art of the past is part of that environment because we are exposed to it everyday.

    How to Steal like an Artist: Nothing is Original

    It’s interesting that most games feature a 1st or 3rd person perspective, because almost all single player story based games are told in 2nd person. “You” are the protagonist, around whom all the action depends, and so from a narrative standpoint you have a more direct connection with this constructed world because you’re not getting information second hand from a narrator. This is especially true in RPGs since you are playing a role. For example, in Pokemon you can name your character, and all other characters refer directly to you. You are not able to talk back, though, so I guess in that sense it would second-person limited. But really any game in which you play as a character is “told” through the 2nd person, as it would not exist without you. I think having a 2nd person perspective wouldn’t be too different from a third person perspective, except that like you said, you’d be attacking yourself. I wonder how the developers would explain that perspective in the story, or if they would even attempt to explain it at all.

    The Potential of Second-Person Perspective Games: The Aesthetics of Shooting Yourself