Posts Tagged ‘Prince’

A specter looms over the Music Industry—threatening the present social order of proletariat artist and the bourgeoisie record executive. Like many of the products we buy, music is something that we enjoy every day, but are completely oblivious to the exploitative systems by which it is created. The glimmering facade of wealth, power, and happiness displayed in music videos is in stark contrast to the reality of the industry. This blog post will draw analogies from modern Industry to the Music Industry in order to provide you with a better understanding of Marx’s philosophies.

The history of all musical production is that of class struggles. From the ancient times of the simple African drum circle, to feudal aristocratic patronage, to modern day auto-tuned international pop, the methods of producing music, and the organizational social structures surrounding it, have been in constant flux and revolution. “Freeman and slave, patrician and plebein, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman… (Marx 798)”—record executive and artist. By definition bourgeoisie is “…the class of modern Capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage-labour.” And proletariant is “…the class of modern wage-labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour-power in order to live. (Marx 798)” As you can see, there are distinct similarities that can be drawn between that of the record executive and the bourgeoisie and that of the musical artist and the proletariat. The present system of oppression, maintained by the record companies and bourgeoisie executives, began to form in the late 20th century(1).

The driving force behind the modern system is that of musical recordings, which, through various methods, can be recorded, stored, and distributed—all without the artist stepping foot outside of a recording studio. In the past, the social unit of music, much like the family, was the band. Most musical interactions took place between members of the band, and their audience. The members of the band were insuperable form their natural capital of musical talent and the name they acquired for themselves through the use of that talent. This was all changed with the advent of the first phonograph in the United States in 1877(2). “Unlike modern capital which can be appraised monetarily and invested in this thing or that, this natural capital was directly tied up with the particular work of the owner, was insuperable from it…(Marx 790)” The technological advance of being able to separate the artists from their music—natural capital—was the critical step in the creation of the modern Music Industry.

This separation of the artist from their works, both intellectually and physically, lead to the immediate and rapid development of division of labor regarding the production of modern music. No longer is the artist solely responsible for imagining, creating, and playing his or her music. This responsibility is divided amongst an army of professional musical composers, lyricists, audio producers, sound engineers, recording studio staff, and marketeers all play a specialized role in the production of today’s mass-market music. “Owing to the extensive use of machinery and to division of labor, the work of proletarians has lost all individual character, and , consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine… (Marx 802)” <queue Pink Floyd’s smash-hit…>.  Thus music no longer becomes a pleasure for those working on it, it becomes merely toil and chore.

The added artistic value created by these workers is kept by the record company as profits. Often times artists are forced by companies to adopt stage name in order for the record company to maintain legal rights over both the artist’s music and their name. Take, for example, “The artist formerly known as Prince”. In 1993, a legal battle erupted surrounding the ownership of Prince’s name and musical works. Prince states:

The first step I have taken towards the ultimate goal of emancipation from the chains that bind me to Warner Bros. was to change my name from Prince to the Love Symbol. Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote. The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince. I became merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros…”

Prince’s statements eerily mirror the feelings and goals of proletariats and communists alike. To free themselves from their enslavement by bourgeoisie, to reclaim what is naturally theirs, and to put a stop to the bourgeoisie’s exploitation of the artist.



Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, Wooton, 2008.

Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, Wooton, 2008

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_sound_recording
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonograph
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_(musician)
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music

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Machiavelli vs. Makaveli

We have learned the ways of Machiavelli in our beloved Political Science 101 lectures and readings but I am wondering, how many people know the ways of “Makaveli?”

Makaveli is the alias used by the late American rapper, Tupac Shakur, used on his last studio-recorded album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. The album was released in November 1996, two months after Tupac was shot and killed but is not considered a posthumous album because it was completed when he was still alive. The main question I want to raise is this: why would Tupac choose the alias of Makaveli? What parallels are there between him and Machiavelli?

Tupac read much of Machiavelli’s books when he was imprisoned for 11 months in 1995. When he made his last album he consciously changed his alias. In fact, the name “Tupac Shakur” is not even on the album cover, only “Makaveli” is. He obviously saw some connections between himself as an artist and Machiavelli’s philosophies.

The first parallel that can be drawn is the mystery behind the aim of their works. Machiavelli’s The Prince can be distinctly interpreted in two different ways based on what class you are looking from. It could be seen as a cry for a job from the nobility or an unveiling of the nature of politics. To the nobility itself, they were able to take it as sound advice and it helped save Machiavelli from his imprisonment. On the other hand, it exposed what people need from governing bodies and shows them what is wrong with theirs.

In Tupac’s work, many things are seen two-faced as well. His songs could be interpreted in different ways based again on your class. It could be seen as a something for the ghetto class to relate to or something to expose the harshness of ghetto culture to higher classes. Both Tupac’s music and The Prince seem to accomplish both interpretations through one art form.

Another large parallel is their views on strategizing concerns. Machiavelli stated that, “people should either be caressed or crushed.” [1] Machiavelli used this phrase in the sense that rulers either needed to be great allies to other countries or to make mortal enemies of them. This requires much strategy as to knowing which states are most important and powerful to turn friend or foe. Tupac was a big believer in this too. He “caressed” his fellow gangsters through the political concept of Thug Life, which essentially was supposed to expose ghetto life to the portion of America that can fix it. Tupac drew parallels between the Thug Life movement’s exposing of ghetto life to when images of the Vietnam War were first shown on TV. [2] The images he created were supposed to inspire action and change to improve the quality of ghetto life just as the images of Vietnam helped put an end to the war. This concept embraced those who were living this lifestyle and somewhat inadvertently alienated upper and middle class people. It was seen as glorifying violent culture and anger towards authorities. Tupac created these polar opposites Machiavelli talked about with the strong masses of the ghettos across America behind him, with a few crooked cops alienated against him.

Machiavelli says in The Prince, “So we may conclude that good advice, no matter who it comes from, really comes from the ruler’s own good judgment, and that the ruler’s good judgment never comes from good advice.” [3] Tupac seemed to be a big believer in this theory throughout his career. People constantly told him he was too violent, tried to spoil him with living the rich life of a rap star and forgetting about the movement he was fighting for, and tried to change his music in both style and topic. Throughout all that, he knew to stay true to whom he was and where he was from regardless of what others tried advise him of.

The last main concept of Machiavelli’s I will delve into is that of the theory, “it is much safer to be feared than loved.” [4] It is hard to say whether or not Tupac followed this theory. He certainly was feared by many people but also loved equally if not more than he was feared. It is clear through his music he did not feel safety but it is also clear he didn’t care. He was shot five times in 1994 but was not killed. This shooting combined with a prison sentence made sure that Tupac knew he was far from safe. However, when he got out of jail, he recommitted to music and started recording more than ever. [2] He did not change the style and emotion in his music from before, showing that regardless of how much danger he was in, he was going to do what he was going to do. He was feared, loved, and by some, hated. According to Machiavelli, this hatred created by his alienation of the upper classes would be his downfall, as Machiavelli believed a ruler should, “avoid those things that will make him a subject of hatred or contempt.” [5]

Tupac used the alias Makaveli and clearly has many parallels to the theories of Machiavelli in The Prince in his attitude, political actions, words, interpretations, and most importantly, music.

[1] Wootten, David. “Modern Political Thought.” Machiavelli, Niccolo. “The Prince.” Chapter 3. Page 11.

[2] Tupac Resurrection. Lauren Lazin. Tupac Shakur. Documentary.

[3] Wootten, David. “Modern Political Thought.” Machiavelli, Niccolo. “The Prince.” Chapter 23. Page 48.

[4] Wootten, David. “Modern Political Thought.” Machiavelli, Niccolo. “The Prince.” Chapter 17. Page 35.

[5] Wootten, David. “Modern Political Thought.” Machiavelli, Niccolo. “The Prince.” Chapter 19. Page 38.

Most of the facts about Tupac were taken from previous cited Tupac Resurrection and my general knowledge of his music catalog.

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