Official & Instructional Vidz

Okay, secure the Velcro on your wig piece. What’s about to happen here is a mash-up of sorts. No, let’s call it a Street Scholar Sampler. For this section, I’m gonna play a few samples from several different records. I got a Susan Foster lick, a little T. DeFrantz, and a nice groove from H. Samy Alim. This is where you get a taste, just a taste, of how I play with bits and pieces of scholarship in an attempt to craft something stimulating and funky for your dome piece. Now, I know some folk will try and front by deeming this improper scholarship because scholars methods of “sampling”, like that of musicians prior to rap, use the material to “accent” or “flesh out” a piece of writing, not build a new one. But don’t trip, this is Hip Hop, your peoples, Tricia Rose in her book Black Noise (1994), put it best, “Rap producers have inverted this logic, using samples as a point of reference, as a means by which the process of repetition and re-contextualization can be highlighted and privileged.”(73) Word! As for now, I’m simply laying out components. I’m exploring this material and feeding my sample library for a future composition.

What’s in a frame? Foster describes the frame as the way the dance sets itself apart as a unique event. Therefore, for Soulja Boy, YouTube becomes a digi-space to dooooooo it! Or, at least, demonstrate how it’s done. Yet, cyberspace is not the Hood and is way off the block. In a real social environment a great deal of African American dance takes place in the permissive protection of the circle or cipha. Furthermore, the circle/cipha is more than just a shape outlined by bodies creating a potential performative space to enclose one member of the surrounding collective. We are familiar with this distinct type of movement discourse. What’s often overlooked is how in a social space like a club, recreation center, a block party or yo’mama an’dems backyard bar-b-que, that the participating dancers become the circle. The formation of the circle is realized through the dance by the dancing bodies. Check out a 4-Wall Soul Line Dance, like the Loose Booty, the LR Shake or, just to take it back a bit, the Electric Slide. Still, the call and response mode of communication subsist. The DJ might make the initial call to the floor by playing a particular song that s/he knows will spark a collective movement response. An obvious example would be if s/he played Marcia Griffith’s song, The Electric Slide. Or, a non-verbal call could be made by someone on the dance floor who initiates a dance (for instance, a new trendy dance or line dance) that results in a group of folk, it doesn’t have to be everyone, following her/his lead. It is in or as the circle that various verbal and non-verbal cultural modes of discourse operate. Peep this.

All African diaspora dance, including black social dances, may be likened to verbal language most in its conspicuous employment of "call and response" with the body responding to and provoking the voice of the drum. (DeFrantz 2004)

It is through the call and response communicative strategy that the dance circle/cipha is experienced as a unified field of interaction. In the simplest of ways this mechanism clearly distinguishes a relationship between the leader (caller) and responsive listeners or audience that function as both observers and participants.

Everybody say, “Ho-oh!” . . . “Hooo-oh!”

The above is an example of how call and response is usually referenced. Missing is the complimentary and/or supplementary layers of communication or the “multiple levels of call and multiple levels of response, occurring simultaneously and synergistically.”(Alim 2006) Like when the roles are reversed and the audience, drummer/dj, music and/or spirit take the lead and make the call. Or, when beef comes into play and a circle forms from the tension between two dancers. Or, when Crank Dat Soulja Boy is played and the participants (dancers) response is mixed. Dancers may genuinely respond out of an affinity for the dance signaled by assertive, and quite possibly inventive, implementation of the steps. On the other hand, this genuine response might be marked by a dancer’s disgust, wherein the execution of the dance signifies an attitude of clownin’ or mockery quite possibly followed by a quick exodus off the dancefloor in an effort to send the DJ a message. In either case, with both groups, a certain level of play and/or enjoyment is experienced.

“This is a multilayered totalizing expression that completes the cipher (the process of constantly making things whole). We witness a call and response on the oral/aural, physical (body), and spiritual/metaphysical level.”(Alim 81)

So, given YouTube’s virtual environment is it accurate to assert that Soulja Boy is the circle. He, black body in motion, embodying the non-verbal narratives of African America, becomes a reference to the symbolic design, ideas and activities that shape the circle.

What’s in a shape? The frame. Crank Dat Soulja Boy is set, staged and captured in “real” environments in an effort to portray scenarios, spaces, places and kin-folk that fortify a particular cultural valence and relevance that speaks directly to Soulja Boy’s intentional or target audience(s). Gotta represent. Yet, in the virtual world what’s produced in both the official and instructional videos is a two-dimensional split cipha. The circle is cut into halves, the arcs are flattened into straight lines that are crossed, and their intersection becomes the point of connection on the world-wide-web, a URL (Uniform Resource Locator). The content of the circle is diffused. As presently commonplace as it may seem to post video content online this sort of cultural diffusion is unique, eventful and predictably unprecedented.