Taking into account the effects of the Great Migration in our analysis seems mandatory, as well as more recent urban transformations (onwards North to South as well as East to West, sometimes conversely). The Chicago School, more precisely Louis Wirth’s sociology, provide also a relevant framework, to consider the urban environment as a fostering factor for Urban Black Music.
The musical category “urban music” has been longly debated, considering its remaining segregationist dimension. We will not discuss the acceptability of such an expression for the moment: our agenda consists more in drawing parallels between urban moves, exchanges, communicating vessels, and musical developments. Our hypothesis is that no one can put music – as a cultural practice and expression – aside, in the margins. On the contrary, its own corporeity is crossed by the movements finding their source in the industries employing workers, most noticeably the motorcars industry (Detroit, Chicago).
While it appears a nowadays concern, the adjective urban is rejected here in its commercial consistency (see, for instance, this relevant article published on the NPR: “Is this the end for Urban Music?”). We should instead question a sensible link, a relationship between human migrations and how does it affects the musical production seen as culturally meaningful.
As a result, we would rather put it this way: apart from commercial labels, can we prove and circumscribe the effects of migrations and their potential benefits and their consequences on the African-American music development ? For Caroline Rolland-Diamond, the construction of a Black mass culture (deeply rooted in urban areas), representing more noticeably women, is concomitant of the visibiltiy of the African American elites:
[…] si les élites avant-gardistes new-yorkaises jouèrent un rôle important dans
l’émergence d’une identité noire fière d’elle-même et de ses racines africaines,
au même moment l’invention d’une culture de masse urbaine permit à la classe
ouvrière noire, et en particulier aux femmes, d’exprimer leur nouvelle attitude
1 Rolland-Diamond, Caroline. Black America: une histoire des luttes pour l’égalité et la justice, XIXe-XXIe siècle. La Découverte, 2019, p.22.