Kendall’s obsession with rap speaks volumes about the show’s relationship to race.

Some of the most iconic presences in fiction are more memorable to mention than actually encountered: Moby-Dick, Kurtz, Godot, the Tiny Wu-Tang Clan. The last of these is from the most recent episode of Succession, “Too much birthday”And refers to a group of children performing covers of the Wu-Tang Clan, intended to be a highlight of Kendall Roy’s 40th birthday.e birthday party. Viewers never really got to see the band because Kendall cancels their performance before they could take the stage, after the night didn’t live up to their expectations. (Things rarely do for Kendall these days.)

It’s a joke, but the implications of which may seem a bit nauseous the more you think about it. them.

As established in Successionpilot, when he prepares for a reunion by rapping “An Open Letter to NYC” by the Beastie Boys in the back of a limousine, Kendall Roy is a fan of hip-hop, especially hip-hop a vintage from the 90s, a facet of his character that is on display several times throughout the new episode. The marquee above the entrance to his party reads “The Notorious KEN: Ready to Die, “while the event’s playlist includes period classics like the hit produced by DJ Premier of KRS-One”MCs act like they don’t know. “And Kendall’s fandom isn’t the only way for hip-hop Succession. The influence of the music is unmistakable in Nicholas Britell’s much loved score, in which majestic and classic melodies slide over boom-bap drum loops. (Britell is awesome, but Automator did better.) In 2019, Britell and Pusha T even collaborated on “Puppets”, A rap remix of the Succession theme.

SuccessionThe relationship of ‘with hip-hop – which is always carried out at arm’s length ironic, even when the music takes center stage – strikes me more and more as a kind of microcosm of the relationship between the show and the the race. The spectacle’s presentation of a definitively black working-class musical form against a background of white wealth is certainly a nod to the privileged obscurity of its characters (especially Kendall), but it also resonates like a metonymy by inadvertence of Black’s rather stunted stance. characters in the world of the series itself. It’s a joke, but the implications can be a little nauseous the more you think about it.

Historically astute hip-hop fans already know that Kendall’s musical preoccupations are a nod to one of the strangest footnotes in rap industry history. In 1995 Brian Brater and Jarret Myer founded Rawkus Records with financial support from their former Horace Mann classmate James Murdoch. The following year, Murdoch’s father Rupert bought a controlling stake in the young record company. In the second half of the 1990s, Rawkus would become one of the most influential labels of its time, releasing beloved compilation series like Lyricists Fair and Sound bombardment as well as back-to-back rap classics that define the era like Company Flow’s Funcrusher More and Black Star Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star. As a teenager who vacuumed these and other tracks on Rawkus, I don’t even remember if I was aware that the guy who owned the most popular “underground” label in the game owned also News Corp; if so, it was only weakly.

Succession never directly imply that there is something similar in Kendall’s own past; Since Kendall is only 40, he would’ve been a teenager in Rawkus’ heyday, not to mention most of the other raps he names on the series. (When Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 rooms released in 1993, Kendall wouldn’t have been much older than the Tiny Wu-Tang Clan themselves.) But it’s still evident that as a youngster he associated music with freshness and transgression, an imagined authenticity and danger that we can only imagine was particularly appealing to someone whose socio-economic circumstances offered very little of either. At times when his family and business worlds close in on him, Kendall seems to retreat into the rebellious fantasies that music has long offered.

Succession is not a very diverse spectacle, a condition which is undoubtedly integrated into its subject. The elite corridors of power of American corporations that Succession the representations have been predominantly Caucasian for as long as they have existed. Succession is also, unequivocally, a show about awful people. With the exception of Greg, who is too far into comedic relief to serve as a meaningful pivot for audience identification, every main character in the series is despicable. The degrees of contempt may differ, but it is often more a mere opportunity than anyone’s moral compass.

The vanity of Succession So allows the series to relegate non-white characters, particularly black ones, to secondary roles, while ensuring that these characters won’t be treated particularly well. A recent example is high-powered lawyer Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan in an underwritten role), whom Kendall snatches under the noses of her siblings, then dumps abruptly, convinced he knows what is best for her. legal strategy. (Indications so far: he doesn’t.) It’s a blatant and disrespectful move, one that it’s hard to imagine duplicating with one of the older, whiter lawyers that his father prefers.

It doesn’t mean that Succession is a racist spectacle, simply that its whiteness allows it to avoid confronting the subject of race with real complexity, which is of course one of the many advantages that whiteness has historically conferred on true whites. It should be noted, however, that a show with such a low interest in true black people would feature hip-hop music in such a prominent and often memorable way. SuccessionThe most notorious hip-hop moment of “Dundee”, the eighth episode of season 2.e birthday gala for her father, Kendall takes the stage and takes off his jacket to reveal a Logan Roy themed baseball jersey, then proceeds to serenade her bewildered father with “L to OG», A rap he wrote for the occasion. Soon he coaxed the whole gala into a singalong, a cringe-worthy tour de force in a show that has no shortage of them. (The trail was later released as a single.)

Kendall’s self-esteem for hip-hop is always presented in a comedic vein. The idea of ​​Tiny Wu-Tang Clan is fun, as is his father’s birthday serenade; we laugh and grin. The most delicate question is Why it’s funny why the show’s use of music produces this particular form of comedic discomfort. And I think a lot of it comes down to running. It’s funny because (almost) everyone is white: the Roy family, the crowd at the birthday gala, the target audience for Tiny Wu-Tang Clan. The level of irony at which this particular humor operates is one that the show can only harness because of its whiteness, which is a bit disturbing when you consider who really created hip-hop music.

One of the most difficult feats Succession must succeed is to maintain a moral center in the midst of the immorality of its characters; without that balance, it ceases to function as satire and simply becomes luxury porn against the backdrop of cruelty, or cruelty porn against the backdrop of luxury. Until recently, I felt that the third season of the show had focused too much on internal power struggles while losing sight of the larger ramifications; it was just asking viewers to choose a team, while the only correct answer should not be any of them. The last two episodes seemed like a necessary course correction: Episode 6, “What It Takes,” reminded us that the subject of “L to the OG” lends itself to the support of a white supremacist fascist for the president. , while “Too Much Birthday” reminds us that Roman, who has always been the most nihilistic character on the show, might just walk away with the brass ring because of the fact that he’s a monster, not despite it.

Always, SuccessionThe clumsiness of the breed reveals the tension of this balance. This is a show in which whites mostly treat non-whites meanly when they have to interact with them, and it is sometimes unclear whether the show satirizes this dynamic. or just treat it like a joke we’re all on, which isn’t the same. (This begs the question, on the one hand, of who “we” are.) Likewise, SuccessionThe relationship between hip-hop and hip-hop must be shrouded in irony to anticipate more thorny questions about the show’s own racial politics. There’s a point in “What It Takes” where Tom tells Greg that the right-hand function they’re attending is “a nice, safe space where you don’t have to pretend to like. Hamilton“—A lame and dated line that gnawed at me, and not because I’m a fan of Hamilton. I couldn’t tell who was supposed to be the butt of the joke: Tom, for not loving him? Greg, for sincerely protesting this? The sickening but well-intentioned integrationism of Hamilton himself? I’m not even sure the show knows the answer. We had better laugh and not ask.

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