In this explosive book, Houston Baker takes stock of the current state of Black Studies in the university and outlines its responsibilities to the newest form of black urban expression—rap. A frank, polemical essay, Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy is an uninhibited defense of Black Studies and an extended commentary on the importance of rap. Written in the midst of the political correctness wars and in the aftermath of the Los Angeles riots, Baker's meditation on the academy and black urban expression has generated much controversy and comment from both ends of the political spectrum.
Dr. Dre. Snoop Dogg. Ice Cube. Some of the biggest stars in hip hop made their careers in Los Angeles. And today there is a new generation of young, mostly black, men busting out rhymes and hoping to one day find themselves “blowin’ up”—getting signed to a record label and becoming famous. Many of these aspiring rappers get their start in Leimart Park, home to the legendary hip hop open-mic workshop Project Blowed. In Blowin’ Up, Jooyoung Lee takes us deep inside Project Blowed and the surrounding music industry, offering an unparalleled look at hip hop in the making.
While most books on rap are written from the perspective of listeners and the market, Blowin’ Up looks specifically at the creative side of rappers. As Lee shows, learning how to rap involves a great deal of discipline, and it takes practice to acquire the necessary skills to put on a good show. Along with Lee—who is himself a pop-locker—we watch as the rappers at Project Blowed learn the basics, from how to hold a microphone to how to control their breath amid all those words. And we meet rappers like E. Crimsin, Nocando, VerBS, and Flawliss as they freestyle and battle with each other. For the men at Project Blowed, hip hop offers a creative alternative to the gang lifestyle, substituting verbal competition for physical violence, and provides an outlet for setting goals and working toward them.
Engagingly descriptive and chock-full of entertaining personalities and real-life vignettes, Blowin’ Up not only delivers a behind-the-scenes view of the underground world of hip hop, but also makes a strong case for supporting the creative aspirations of young, urban, black men, who are often growing up in the shadow of gang violence and dead-end jobs.
In Buena Vista in the Club, Geoffrey Baker traces the trajectory of the Havana hip hop scene from the late 1980s to the present and analyzes its partial eclipse by reggaetón. While Cuban officials initially rejected rap as “the music of the enemy,” leading figures in the hip hop scene soon convinced certain cultural institutions to accept and then promote rap as part of Cuba’s national culture. Culminating in the creation of the state-run Cuban Rap Agency, this process of “nationalization” drew on the shared ideological roots of hip hop and the Cuban nation and the historical connections between Cubans and African Americans. At the same time, young Havana rappers used hip hop, the music of urban inequality par excellence, to critique the rapid changes occurring in Havana since the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union fell, its subsidy of Cuba ceased, and a tourism-based economy emerged. Baker considers the explosion of reggaetón in the early 2000s as a reflection of the “new materialism” that accompanied the influx of foreign consumer goods and cultural priorities into “sociocapitalist” Havana. Exploring the transnational dimensions of Cuba’s urban music, he examines how foreigners supported and documented Havana’s growing hip hop scene starting in the late 1990s and represented it in print and on film and CD. He argues that the discursive framing of Cuban rap played a crucial part in its success.
Musicians rapping in kriolu --a hybrid of Portuguese and West African languages spoken in Cape Verde--have recently emerged from Lisbon's periphery. They popularize the struggles with identity and belonging among young people in a Cape Verdean immigrant community that shares not only the kriolu language but its culture and history. Drawing on fieldwork and archival research in Portugal and Cape Verde, Derek Pardue introduces Lisbon's kriolu rap scene and its role in challenging metropolitan Portuguese identities. Pardue demonstrates that Cape Verde, while relatively small within the Portuguese diaspora, offers valuable lessons about the politics of experience and social agency within a postcolonial context that remains poorly understood. As he argues, knowing more about both Cape Verdeans and the Portuguese invites clearer assessments of the relationship between the experience and policies of migration. That in turn allows us to better gauge citizenship as a balance of individual achievement and cultural ascription. Deftly shifting from domestic to public spaces and from social media to ethnographic theory, Pardue describes an overlooked phenomenon transforming Portugal, one sure to have parallels in former colonial powers across twenty-first-century Europe.
The population of Mexican-origin peoples in the United States is a diverse one, as reflected by age, class, gender, sexuality, and religion. Far from antiquated concepts of mestizaje, recent scholarship has shown that Mexican@/Chican@ culture is a mixture of indigenous, African, and Spanish and other European peoples and cultures. No one reflects this rich blend of cultures better than Chican@ rappers, whose lyrics and iconography can help to deepen our understanding of what it means to be Chican@ or Mexican@ today. While some identify as Mexican mestizos, others identify as indigenous people or base their identities on their class and racial/ethnic makeup. No less significant is the intimate level of contact between Chican@s and black Americans. Via a firm theoretical foundation, Pancho McFarland explores the language and ethos of Chican@/Mexican@ hip hop and sheds new light on three distinct identities reflected in the music: indigenous/Mexica, Mexican nationalist/immigrant, and street hopper. With particular attention to the intersection of black and Chicano cultures, the author places exciting recent developments in music forms within the context of progressive social change, social justice, identity, and a new transnational, polycultural America.
This multilayered study of the representation of black masculinity in musical and cultural performance takes aim at the reduction of African American male culture to stereotypes of deviance, misogyny, and excess. Broadening the significance of hip-hop culture by linking it to other expressive forms within popular culture, Miles White examines how these representations have both encouraged the demonization of young black males in the United States and abroad and contributed to the construction of their identities.
From Jim Crow to Jay-Z traces black male representations to chattel slavery and American minstrelsy as early examples of fetishization and commodification of black male subjectivity.
Continuing with diverse discussions including black action films, heavyweight prizefighting, Elvis Presley's performance of blackness, and white rappers such as Vanilla Ice and Eminem, White establishes a sophisticated framework for interpreting and critiquing black masculinity in hip-hop music and culture. Arguing that black music has undeniably shaped American popular culture and that hip-hop tropes have exerted a defining influence on young male aspirations and behavior, White draws a critical link between the body, musical sound, and the construction of identity.
Hip Hop Desis explores the aesthetics and politics of South Asian American (desi) hip hop artists. Nitasha Tamar Sharma argues that through their lives and lyrics, young “hip hop desis” express a global race consciousness that reflects both their sense of connection with Blacks as racialized minorities in the United States and their diasporic sensibility as part of a global community of South Asians. She emphasizes the role of appropriation and sampling in the ways that hip hop desis craft their identities, create art, and pursue social activism. Some desi artists produce what she calls “ethnic hip hop,” incorporating South Asian languages, instruments, and immigrant themes. Through ethnic hip hop, artists, including KB, Sammy, and Deejay Bella, express “alternative desiness,” challenging assumptions about their identities as South Asians, children of immigrants, minorities, and Americans. Hip hop desis also contest and seek to bridge perceived divisions between Blacks and South Asian Americans. By taking up themes considered irrelevant to many Asian Americans, desi performers, such as D’Lo, Chee Malabar of Himalayan Project, and Rawj of Feenom Circle, create a multiracial form of Black popular culture to fight racism and enact social change.
Hip Hop Underground is a vivid ethnography of the author's observations and experiences in the multiracial world of the San Francisco underground hip hop scene. While Anthony Kwame Harrison interviewed area hip hop artists for this entertaining and informative book, he also performed as the emcee "Mad Squirrel." His immersion in the subculture provides him with unique insights into this dynamic and racially diverse but close-knit community.
Hip Hop Underground examines the changing nature of race among young Americans, and examines the issues of ethnic and racial identification, interaction, and understanding. Critiquing the notion that the Bay Area underground music scene is genuinely "colorblind," Harrison focuses on the issue of race to show how various ethnic groups engage hip hop in remarkably divergent ways—as a means to both claim subcultural legitimacy and establish their racial authenticity.
Throughout Africa, artists use hip-hop both to describe their lives and to create shared spaces for uncensored social commentary, feminist challenges to patriarchy, and resistance against state institutions, while at the same time engaging with the global hip-hop community. In Hip-Hop in Africa, Msia Kibona Clark examines some of Africa’s biggest hip-hop scenes and shows how hip-hop helps us understand specifically African narratives of social, political, and economic realities.
Clark looks at the use of hip-hop in protest, both as a means of articulating social problems and as a tool for mobilizing listeners around those problems. She also details the spread of hip-hop culture in Africa following its emergence in the United States, assessing the impact of urbanization and demographics on the spread of hip-hop culture.
Hip-Hop in Africa is a tribute to a genre and its artists as well as a timely examination that pushes the study of music and diaspora in critical new directions. Accessibly written by one of the foremost experts on African hip-hop, this book will easily find its place in the classroom.
In this lively ethnography Ian Condry interprets Japan’s vibrant hip-hop scene, explaining how a music and culture that originated halfway around the world is appropriated and remade in Tokyo clubs and recording studios. Illuminating different aspects of Japanese hip-hop, Condry chronicles how self-described “yellow B-Boys” express their devotion to “black culture,” how they combine the figure of the samurai with American rapping techniques and gangsta imagery, and how underground artists compete with pop icons to define “real” Japanese hip-hop. He discusses how rappers manipulate the Japanese language to achieve rhyme and rhythmic flow and how Japan’s female rappers struggle to find a place in a male-dominated genre. Condry pays particular attention to the messages of emcees, considering how their raps take on subjects including Japan’s education system, its sex industry, teenage bullying victims turned schoolyard murderers, and even America’s handling of the war on terror.
Condry attended more than 120 hip-hop performances in clubs in and around Tokyo, sat in on dozens of studio recording sessions, and interviewed rappers, music company executives, music store owners, and journalists. Situating the voices of Japanese artists in the specific nightclubs where hip-hop is performed—what musicians and fans call the genba (actual site) of the scene—he draws attention to the collaborative, improvisatory character of cultural globalization. He contends that it was the pull of grassroots connections and individual performers rather than the push of big media corporations that initially energized and popularized hip-hop in Japan. Zeebra, DJ Krush, Crazy-A, Rhymester, and a host of other artists created Japanese rap, one performance at a time.
From its earliest days, hip hop was more than just music, encapsulating the ideas of community and exchange. Artists like Mellow Man Ace and Kid Frost opened doors by infusing Spanish into their lyrics, calling for racial and social equality; others employed hip hop to comment on the effects of neo-liberalization and global capital. In recent decades, the cultural exchange has expanded—the music traveling from the United States to Latin America and back as visual artists, music producers, MCs, vocalists, and dancers combine their Latin cultures with influences from north of the U.S. border to create new artistic experiences. And while there is an extensive body of work on U.S. hip hop, it continues to evolve in an increasingly multilingual, multiethnic, intergenerational, and global collection of cultural expressions.
A truly international effort, La Verdad: An International Dialogue on Hip Hop Latinidades brings together exciting new work about Latino/a hip hop across more than a dozen countries, from scholars and practitioners in the United States and in Latin America, highlighting in new ways the participation of women, indigenous peoples, and Afro-descendants in a reimagined global, hip hop nation. From graffitera crews in Costa Rica and Nicaragua to Mexican hip hop in New York, from Aymara rap in Bolivia to Chicano rap in Taiwan, this volume explodes stereotypes of who and how hip hop is consumed, lived, and performed. Examining hip hop movements in Spanish, English, Portuguese, Aymara, and Creole, La Verdad demonstrates that Latino hip hop is a multilingual expression of gender, indigeneity, activism, and social justice.
Hiplife is a popular music genre in Ghana that mixes hip-hop beatmaking and rap with highlife music, proverbial speech, and Akan storytelling. In the 1990s, young Ghanaian musicians were drawn to hip-hop's dual ethos of black masculine empowerment and capitalist success. They made their underground sound mainstream by infusing carefree bravado with traditional respectful oratory and familiar Ghanaian rhythms. Living the Hiplife is an ethnographic account of hiplife in Ghana and its diaspora, based on extensive research among artists and audiences in Accra, Ghana's capital city; New York; and London. Jesse Weaver Shipley examines the production, consumption, and circulation of hiplife music, culture, and fashion in relation to broader cultural and political shifts in neoliberalizing Ghana.
Shipley shows how young hiplife musicians produce and transform different kinds of value—aesthetic, moral, linguistic, economic—using music to gain social status and wealth, and to become respectable public figures. In this entrepreneurial age, youth use celebrity as a form of currency, aligning music-making with self-making and aesthetic pleasure with business success. Registering both the globalization of electronic, digital media and the changing nature of African diasporic relations to Africa, hiplife links collective Pan-Africanist visions with individualist aspiration, highlighting the potential and limits of social mobility for African youth.
The author has also directed a film entitled Living the Hiplife and with two DJs produced mixtapes that feature the music in the book available for free download.
At once the most lucrative, popular, and culturally oppositional musical force in the United States, hip hop demands the kind of interpretation Imani Perry provides here: criticism engaged with this vibrant musical form on its own terms. A scholar and a fan, Perry considers the art, politics, and culture of hip hop through an analysis of song lyrics, the words of the prophets of the hood. Recognizing prevailing characterizations of hip hop as a transnational musical form, Perry advances a powerful argument that hip hop is first and foremost black American music. At the same time, she contends that many studies have shortchanged the aesthetic value of rap by attributing its form and content primarily to socioeconomic factors. Her innovative analysis revels in the artistry of hip hop, revealing it as an art of innovation, not deprivation.
Perry offers detailed readings of the lyrics of many hip hop artists, including Ice Cube, Public Enemy, De La Soul, krs-One, OutKast, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Tupac Shakur, Lil’ Kim, Biggie Smalls, Nas, Method Man, and Lauryn Hill. She focuses on the cultural foundations of the music and on the form and narrative features of the songs—the call and response, the reliance on the break, the use of metaphor, and the recurring figures of the trickster and the outlaw. Perry also provides complex considerations of hip hop’s association with crime, violence, and misogyny. She shows that while its message may be disconcerting, rap often expresses brilliant insights about existence in a society mired in difficult racial and gender politics. Hip hop, she suggests, airs a much wider, more troubling range of black experience than was projected during the civil rights era. It provides a unique public space where the sacred and the profane impulses within African American culture unite.
In this first musicological history of rap music, Cheryl L. Keyes traces the genre's history from its roots in West African bardic traditions, the Jamaican dancehall tradition, and African American vernacular expressions to its permeation of the cultural mainstream as a major tenet of hip-hop lifestyle and culture.
Rap music, according to Keyes, is a forum that addresses the political and economic disfranchisement of black youths and other groups, fosters ethnic pride, and displays culture values and aesthetics. Blending popular culture with folklore and ethnomusicology, Keyes offers a nuanced portrait of the artists, themes, and varying styles reflective of urban life and street consciousness.
Drawing on the music, lives, politics, and interests of figures including Afrika Bambaataa, the "godfather of hip-hop," and his Zulu Nation, George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Grandmaster Flash, Kool "DJ" Herc, MC Lyte, LL Cool J, De La Soul, Public Enemy, Ice-T, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and The Last Poets, Rap Music and Street Consciousness challenges outsider views of the genre. The book also draws on ethnographic research done in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and London, as well as interviews with performers, producers, directors, fans, and managers.
Keyes's vivid and wide-ranging analysis covers the emergence and personas of female rappers and white rappers, the legal repercussions of technological advancements such as electronic mixing and digital sampling, the advent of rap music videos, and the existence of gangsta rap, Southern rap, acid rap, and dance-centered rap subgenres. Also considered are the crossover careers of rap artists in movies and television; rapper-turned-mogul phenomenons such as Queen Latifah; the multimedia empire of Sean "P. Diddy" Combs; the cataclysmic rise of Death Row Records; East Coast versus West Coast tensions; the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Christopher "The Notorious B.I.G." Wallace; and the unification efforts of the Nation of Islam and the Hip-Hop Nation.
Project Blowed is a legendary hiphop workshop based in Los Angeles. It began in 1994 when a group of youths moved their already renowned open-mic nights from the Good Life, a Crenshaw district health food store, to the KAOS Network, an arts center in Leimert Park. The local freestyle of articulate, rapid-fire, extemporaneous delivery, the juxtaposition of meaningful words and sounds, and the way that MCs followed one another without missing a beat, quickly became known throughout the LA underground. Leimert Park has long been a center of African American culture and arts in Los Angeles, and Project Blowed inspired youth throughout the city to consider the neighborhood the epicenter of their own cultural movement. The Real Hiphop is an in-depth account of the language and culture of Project Blowed, based on the seven years Marcyliena Morgan spent observing the workshop and the KAOS Network. Morgan is a leading scholar of hiphop, and throughout the volume her ethnographic analysis of the LA underground opens up into a broader examination of the artistic and cultural value of hiphop.
Morgan intersperses her observations with excerpts from interviews and transcripts of freestyle lyrics. Providing a thorough linguistic interpretation of the music, she teases out the cultural antecedents and ideologies embedded in the language, emphases, and wordplay. She discusses the artistic skills and cultural knowledge MCs must acquire to rock the mic, the socialization of hiphop culture’s core and long-term members, and the persistent focus on skills, competition, and evaluation. She brings attention to adults who provided material and moral support to sustain underground hiphop, identifies the ways that women choose to participate in Project Blowed, and vividly renders the dynamics of the workshop’s famous lyrical battles.
Rhymin’ and Stealin’ begins with a crucial premise: the fundamental element of hip-hop culture and aesthetics is the overt use of preexisting material to new ends. Whether it is taking an old dance move for a breakdancing battle, using spray paint to create street art, quoting from a famous speech, or sampling a rapper or 1970s funk song, hip-hop aesthetics involve borrowing from the past. By appropriating and reappropriating these elements, they become transformed into something new, something different, something hip-hop. Rhymin’ and Stealin’ is the first book-length study of musical borrowing in hip-hop music, which not only includes digital sampling but also demonstrates a wider web of references and quotations within the hip-hop world. Examples from Nas, Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest, Eminem, and many others show that the transformation of preexisting material is the fundamental element of hip-hop aesthetics. Although all music genres use and adapt preexisting material in different ways, hip-hop music celebrates and flaunts its “open source” culture through highly varied means. It is this interest in the web of references, borrowed material, and digitally sampled sounds that forms the basis of this book—sampling and other types of borrowing becomes a framework with which to analyze hip-hop music and wider cultural trends.
Rap’s critique of police brutality in the 1980s. The Hip Hop Political Convention. The rise (and fall) of Kwame Kilpatrick, the “hip-hop mayor” of Detroit. Barack Obama echoing the body language of Jay-Z on the campaign trail.
A growing number of black activists and artists claim that rap and hip-hop are the basis of an influential new urban social movement. Simultaneously, black citizens evince concern with the effect that rap and hip-hop culture exerts on African American communities. According to a recent Pew survey conducted on the opinions of Black Americans, 71 percent of blacks think that rap is a bad influence. To what extent are African American hopes and fears about hip-hop’s potential political power justified? In Stare in the Darkness, Lester K. Spence answers this question using a blend of neoliberal analysis, survey data, experiments, and case studies.
Spence finds that rap does in fact influence black political attitudes. However, rap also reproduces rather than critiques neoliberal ideology. Furthermore, black activists seeking to create an innovative model of hip-hop politics are hamstrung by their reliance on outmoded forms of organizing. By considering the possibilities inherent in the most prolific and prominent activities of hip-hop politics, Stare in the Darkness reveals, in a clear and practical manner, the political consequences of rap culture for black publics.
Hip-hop has come a long way from its origins in the Bronx in the 1970s, when rapping and DJing were just part of a lively, decidedly local scene that also venerated b-boying and graffiti. Now hip-hop is a global phenomenon and, in the United States, a massively successful corporate enterprise predominantly controlled and consumed by whites while the most prominent performers are black. How does this shift in racial dynamics affect our understanding of contemporary hip-hop, especially when the music perpetuates stereotypes of black men? Do black listeners interpret hip-hop differently from white fans?
These questions have dogged hip-hop for decades, but unlike most pundits, Michael P. Jeffries finds answers by interviewing everyday people. Instead of turning to performers or media critics, Thug Life focuses on the music’s fans—young men, both black and white—and the resulting account avoids romanticism, offering an unbiased examination of how hip-hop works in people’s daily lives. As Jeffries weaves the fans’ voices together with his own sophisticated analysis, we are able to understand hip-hop as a tool listeners use to make sense of themselves and society as well as a rich, self-contained world containing politics and pleasure, virtue and vice.