July 27, 2008
“We talk a lot about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., but it’s time to be like them, as strong as them. They were mortal men like us and every one of us can be like them. I don’t want to be a role model. I just want to be someone who says, this is who I am, this is what I do. I say what’s on my mind.” --Tupac Amaru Shakur (T.I.P).
This quote was spoken by one of hip-hop’s most legendary idols, Tupac Shakur. Tupac has become an integral icon of the hip-hop culture and will live on eternally through his dynamic lyrics and poems. Most of Tupac’s raps concerned growing up around violence and hardships in ghettos, and racial inequality in the United States. He experienced many of these factors growing up, especially race related issues. For instance, on October 1991, Tupac was stopped by two officers for allegedly jaywalking. When he responded with a profanity, he was choked and beaten severely (All eyez on me). Tupac’s lyrics always went deep into the meaning of many political and social subjects including violence, and that is what sparked the initial response of his song, “Changes”. The purpose of this song was to state how everyone knows that racial violence and issues on the streets would never change. It shows how people have to succumb to the fact that there will always be poverty, racism, police brutality and violence in the world. This is reiterated by the lyric, “Some things will never change”. This song went straight to number one on the charts in many countries in Europe and around the world. This resulted in Tupac gaining a broader and more receptive audience to his controversial lyrics. So imagine if Tupac had used a different method to get his message across, for example, just writing the lyrics without music or creating a photo collage. Not only would the audience change but the message would also be effected by the difference in mediums.
Transmediation refers to the process of “responding to cultural texts in a range of sign systems—art, movement, sculpture, dance, music, multimedia communication, and so on (Reading Online). Leonard Schlain highlights the importance of engaging in transmediation when writing:
“Digital information comes in multiple forms, and students must learn to tell stories
not just with words and numbers but also through images, graphics, color, sound,
music, and dance. There is a grammar and literacy to each of these forms of
sharp visual-interpretation skills to interact with the media analytically. Each form of
communication has its own rules and grammar and should be taught in ways that
lead students to be more specific and concise in communicating” (Edutopia).
So remediating a text through a different tool ultimately will change the way it is communicated to its audience. For example, imagine the oratory medium that Tupac used to convey his hit song, “Changes” was instead only a written form of the lyrics. This traditional technology would not only affect the message behind the song but the audience’s acceptance of it. The second way I have communicated this song is visually. I have constructed a collage of what I thought the song was trying to convey. This leaves area for the original message to be interpreted differently among each individual and losing sight of the originality of it. Although these mediums are proper for some texts, I think that Tupac choose the correct form, auditory to communicate his message.
I began my remediation process by handwriting the first verse of the song, “Changes”. By doing this, the audience must then adapt to the new medium. Reading the lyrics of the song instead of hearing it changes the way that it is received. More people are likely to not be introduced to the writing simply because it has been transferred from auditory to written. As a song it has exposure to the wide, variety of people that enjoy listening to music. Written on a piece of paper would affect who has access to read it causing the audience to shift from music lovers to people that just so happen to come in to contact with the text. Since it was originally presented as a song, reading the piece of work takes away the strength of the song, which is portrayed through the powerful voice of Tupac Shakur. When he raps this song, it demands the listener’s attention because of the controversial lines and the way that it is spoken. Most rappers choose to rap about their money and cars while, Tupac used his words to try and make a difference. He bought much needed attention to important issues, such as racism. On the other hand, there is one key benefit to the transmediation of this song. If it originally were only meant to be read, people would be able to focus more on the underlying theme of the song. The audience would not be blurred by the music in the background and could listen to its true meaning. When people think of music, they often associate entertainment with it, causing the artist’s lyrics to be downplayed. Presenting the song so that it is only read can ensure that the reader is affected by the lyrics. Having the lyrics distributed on paper will also help it reach a variety of people. People that may not enjoy listening to rap music, would have the opportunity to judge the lyrics by its context not its genre. Although, remediating the song and presenting the lyrics of it changes the audience, I believe it aids in expressing its meaning.
My experience of transforming the song into a collage was harder than I expected. I chose an overall background that pictured Tupac Shakur surrounded by newspaper clippings with headlines such as, “When Guns Replace Words”. I chose to incorporate this picture because it depicts the gun violence described in the song. Also shown is a picture of police officers fighting off a crowd. This shows their brutality towards the people. Another picture I put into the collage was of people protesting for change. They want to be heard and they demand change. Their way of achieving this is by protesting while Tupac’s way is through this song. While I looked for pictures that matched the song, I also tried to ensure that they expressed the deeper meaning that Tupac was trying to get across. I did not just want to select a picture simply because the word was used in the song. I saw this as a problem because if “Changes” was an image that is exactly what would happen to the song. People would view the collage differently and the meaning would change. Tupacs’s originality would be gone and the effectiveness of the song would deplete. Of course, the main factors expressed in the song would be understood but the underlying issues discussed may be overlooked. I do believe that there is a risk for leaving a piece open for the public to discuss versus having someone directly state it. Although having the song presented as a collage gives the audience an unlimited amount of ways to interpret it, this is also one of its beneficial factors. When people are able to give their own opinions and thoughts about something, they are able to open their minds to new ideas and theories. Expressed as a collage, the audience is able to give feedback and think about a subject more in depth. A picture is worth a thousand words and therefore, more problems explained in the song are more likely to be unmasked because of an image.
While experimenting with these two remediations, I learned some very important things; the way something is communicated changes its audience and affects the overall message. The medium someone chooses to get a message across is a key factor when developing that message. Like I have previously discussed, each medium produces its own strengths and weaknesses. I believe that Tupac Shakur chose the best method to communicate with his audience.
“Changes”. 2paclegacy. 2008. 27 July 2008. <www.2paclegacy.com>
Semali, Ladislaus M. “Transmediation as a metaphor for new literacies in multimedia classrooms”. Reading Online. 2001 December. 27 July 2008. <www.readingonline.org>
“Tupac Amaru Shakur”. All eyez on me. 2005. 27 July 2008. <www.alleyezonme.com>