The Minstrelization of Hip Hop and Spoken Word Authenticity: Expressions of Postmodern Blackness

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Title: The Minstrelization of Hip Hop and Spoken Word Authenticity: Expressions of Postmodern Blackness
Author: Lynch, Krystal Andrea
Advisors: Dr. Jon Thompson, Committee Member
Dr. Lucinda MacKethan, Committee Member
Dr. Sheila Smith McKoy, Committee Chair
Abstract: Because of the need to preserve hip hop culture in postmodern American, a question that should be asked is, how is hip-hop music relevant to postmodernism and how is postmodernism relevant to the African-American experience, specifically that of African-American youth culture? This current hip hop generation is chronologically and ideologically removed from the Civil Rights movement of its parents and grandparents and ambivalent to the history of African-American people in general. For a generation that has marginally benefited socially from the struggles of the past, postmodern blackness is a reality. Postmodern blackness is defined as intraracial solidarity, cultural authenticity, and social awareness with the purpose of rousing and empowering black culture through music. Postmodern blackness supplies the foundation for understanding hip hop culture and the people who thrive within the culture. Race plays a primary function as a mark of authenticity within the hip hop culture where white hip hop artists signify a demarcation of racial identity. This new racial identity enables white hip hop artists to comfortably put on blackness as a viable means of self-definition, thereby engaging in the blackface minstrel tradition. The analysis white appropriation of black cultural becomes a normative consumptiveness as the artist avidly upholds postmodern blackness. In a strong sense, white hip hop artists redefine hip hop culture with a multiracial movement that transcends color. This thesis also emphasizes the importance of realness and authenticity in hip hop culture by comparing and contrasting the spoken word movement with commercial hip hop. In light of hip hop's obsession with 'keeping it real,' what the spoken word poets constitute as real African American experience and how that experience fulfills the postmodern black paradigm will be analyzed. Each of these poets employ feminist social critique of commercial hip hop's (ab)use of women. By privileging the female voice in spoken word through the work three spoken word poets, postmodern blackness, as defined by commercial hip hop and its marginalizing effect on women, is challenged. Both white appropriation of hip hop and spoken word advance postmodern blackness by expanding the implications of the definitions of blackness and whiteness and utilizing hip hop culture as a medium for addressing gender concerns and racial identity. Postmodern blackness encompasses the spoken word artist's need for authenticity and authentication. Similarly, white hip hop artists also appropriate and assimilate to postmodern black identity, not only as a means of authenticating their music, but also as a means of racial transformation. The active manifestation of postmodern blackness becomes social awareness, because social awareness recognizes that a large collective voice produces ripples of reflection in a predominantly white society. Though today's hip hop music scene is largely commercialized, commodified, and homogenized, there remains a remnant of dedicated hip hop advocates who strive to preserve and revitalize the culture.
Date: 2005-07-26
Degree: MA
Discipline: English

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