What do you consider a “culture vulture?” Is it someone who merely partakes in the culture around them? Or is it someone who forms parts of their identity from cultures other than their own? Is it based on the color of their skin? Their family background? The area where they were raised?
According to Urban Dictionary, a “culture vulture” is “someone who steals traits, language and/or fashion from another ethnic or social group in order to create their own identity.” However, according to Cambridge Dictionary it means “someone who is very interested in music, art, theatre and the like.”
The first definition more accurately describes the terms’ use in pop culture, especially when it comes to hip-hop culture. So with this definition one could say Eminem is the ultimate hip-hop “culture vulture,” and maybe he is. Or maybe he was raised in a trailer park with no guidance and worked his way from 8-Mile’s gritty reality to become, arguably, one of the most influential rappers to touch the mic, and he represents the culture he comes from.
In reality, the term “culture vulture” is just another way to accuse someone of cultural appropriation.
Whatever the case, the term “culture vulture” can come off offensive most of the time, especially in a world where we are trying to break down walls between people, create social equality and eliminate harmful terminology. It’s become something like a racial epithet to spew at the “vultures.”
In its true nature it is a derogatory term that
In its true nature it is a derogatory term that creates barriers between people. To call someone a culture vulture, especially for something like hip-hop, is like saying particular arts, music, fashion, etc. are only to be enjoyed and appreciated by certain cultures.
How could anyone really believe this?
The culture of a society is collectively created by the people who live in it. America itself is a cultural melting pot. The good ol’ U.S. of A. may have cultural staples like apple pie, baseball and misogyny, but the culture is always changing, with new things entering the mix.
Few things were actually created in the American culture. One of the biggest American creations is Jazz music, and although jazz is considered an American art form, the basis was created from tribal music in Africa. Therefore, jazz music—the basis for most music in America—is derived from a different culture.
So would you call jazz a type of “culture vulture?” Probably not.
Furthermore, there isn’t one genre of jazz music, nor was it created to be that exclusive. There are many forms of jazz that people enjoy.
Like jazz, hip-hop has many forms reaching many cultures. When you think about it, both genres of music were basically started the same way. Although they were created in struggling ghettos on the East Coast, they have both branched out since, opening the floodgate of cultural integration across the world.
Kendrick Lamar, one of hip-hop’s biggest artist, has transformed his public identity with the pseudonym Kung-Fu Kenny and has changed his entire style into a Bruce-Lee, Rush Hour 2 influenced swagger that relies on authentic Asian dress and cultural stereotypes to create his newfound identity.. This may be seen as cultural appropriation to many, but is that even a bad thing? Lamar may just be showing appreciation and giving attribution to a particular culture that he enjoys.
No matter what’s in the world today, it was probably created through many cultural influences, creating an audience base of many cultural backgrounds. Who’s to say that one person can’t create an identity from many cultural factors? Don’t forget to think about where your own identity comes from, and what cultural influences you consume. So next time you accuse someone of being a culture vulture, think about the impending harm this derogatory epithet will inflict.