Fear of a Hip-Hop Planet: Rap Nationalism, The Gangsta, and the Making of the Dirty South.

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Title: Fear of a Hip-Hop Planet: Rap Nationalism, The Gangsta, and the Making of the Dirty South.
Author: Cavazo, Rodney Bo
Advisors: Katherine Mellen Charron, Committee Member
Craig Thompson Friend, Committee Member
Blair LM Kelley, Committee Chair
Abstract: ABSTRACT CAVAZO, RODNEY BO. Fear of a Hip-Hop Planet: Rap Nationalism, The Gangsta, and the Making of the Dirty South. (Under the direction of Blair LM Kelley) From the streets of New York, to the inner cities of Los Angeles, to the Gaza Strip, hip-hop music has touched a diverse range of people from all over the world. Hip-hop music and culture has grown in popularity all over the U.S. and the globe, crossing race, class, and gender lines like few other art forms have before. Hip-hop music exists on a continuum of historically black musical traditions and draws from various moments in the history of black resistance. My project will focus on an examination of the several important mainstream hip-hop groups and also positioning hip-hop music within a long history of black cultural traditions. Additionally I seek to gain a better understanding of how these particular artists presented their version of black masculinity, and how they opposed what they perceived as oppressive power structures and white masculine constructions. Through three case studies that explore distinct moments in hip-hop history, the thesis will trace the shifts in hip-hop identity over time. The project begins with an exploration of the politically conscious rap of Public Enemy that examines the ways that the group drew both from historic forms of black cultural nationalism from the black arts movement and a savvy, self-crafted business model. The project then explores the roots of the gangsta chic that seems dominant in current mainstream hip-hop through an analysis of the group N.W.A. The project concludes with an exploration of the shifting of hip-hop culture southward, through a discussion of the Atlanta-based group OutKast that examines the diverse representations of black masculinity presented by the group. This project frames hip-hop as a form of performance; that is, artists not as everyday people, but as hyperbolic representations of black life. Hip-hop music has reflected some people’s lives, but as an art form it primarily serves as cultural script that can never fully reflect the totality of lived experience. From this framework, the thesis will address a few key questions. What are the historical and social conditions that inspired young black artists to speak out? What are the progressive and regressive elements of masculinity constructed by mainstream hip-hop artists? How does hip-hop represent a unique cultural expression where black art becomes both a form of protest and a product? I contend that hip-hop music emerged at a unique historical moment that allowed it to constitute a multi-faceted cultural form. Hip-hop was born as both protest and product, in an often conflicted conversation with the larger society. Hip-hop gave young black men the space to forge, present, and perform complex masculinities. It was a vehicle for the voiceless; through the power of art, these artists helped to craft their own history. But while hip hop resisted and recast negative stereotypes of black men, it often re-inscribed the oppression of black women and men who did not match up to hyper-masculine ideals. While hip-hop music has served as a form of subversion that gave voice to a subset of the African American underclass, it often has done so at the expense of others. The core of this study, besides all the complexities, seeks to understand historically how hip-hop has helped giving agency to young men who desired to represent themselves however they chose.
Date: 2009-12-08
Degree: MA
Discipline: History
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/1521

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