CL’s American Debut and Black Culture

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With 5 million views in a week on her newest music video ‘Lifted’, K-Pop star CL is striving to make her way into the U.S. market. Born in South Korea, Chaelin Lee has been around the world. She has lived in France and Japan, and has learned to speak French, Japanese, English and her native Korean.

Since being accepted into YG entertainment, she has been living in South Korea for a number of years advancing her musical career. She is part of the popular girl group 2NE1, and has been working on solo music as well. Even though she has some singles in English, her newest song ‘Lifted’ is her American debut. ‘Lifted’ displays her rapping skill in a reggae/hip-hop fusion, and the video includes a number of her friends jamming to the beat.

South Korea is a homogeneous society that easily adopts other cultures’ concepts into their fashion and music world. But it doesn’t always give attention to the people behind the concepts or new fads. Even though ‘Lifted’ is CL’s American debut, it is surprising to see that she includes African-Americans heavily in her video. Hip-hop and reggae are genres of music rooted in African, Caribbean, and Black culture. But often today, many artists who are not blessed in melanin significantly benefit from Black culture, such as Justin Timberlake, Iggy Azalea, and Gwen Stefani. Whether you like or dislike their music, it needs to be acknowledged that their success is influenced by a marginalized community.

For example, Gwen Stefani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’ had Asians displaying afros, cornrows, and hip-hop styled clothing, accessories, and dances. The sting would be less severe if these artists gave at least the same amount of attention to the communities they profit from. For instance, having more than one Black person involved in a music video, either as back-up dancers, musicians, writers, or clothing designers. The representation of the Black community in hip-hop influenced art is not as prominent as many from the Black community would hope.

Even though CL is making a lot of money from rapping, singing, and an image that is rooted in Black culture, it was great to see her interacting with those who didn’t look like her in her music video. Of course there can always be more done, but it is encouraging to see Blacks represented in her American debut.

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