Hip Hop, Rap, Narrative, Personhood, Black America, Law, Popular Culture


Hip hop, as a cultural phenomenon, leverages rap as a narrative form in periods of acutely visible political unrest in the Black American community to combat pejorative narratives of Black America as revealed in the American criminal justice system’s treatment of Black Americans. Hip-hop themes were prevalent in golden-age rap of the 1980s in response Regan-era war-on-drugs policy, which severely disadvantaged the Black community and devalued the Black personhood. Hip hop used narrative to reclaim the Black personhood while it served to encourage political involvement in the Black community, urging Blacks to participate in rewriting the narrative of Black America. In response to six highly visible cases of police brutality from 2012 to 2016, hip-hop themes began to re-emerge in mainstream rap, suggesting a revival of golden-age rap. Examination of hip-hop themes in golden-age and revival rap illustrate thematic correlates between the two periods of rap, providing further evidence of hip hop’s return to mainstream rap. Such a cultural revival in the mainstream rap narrative brings with it the potential of a surging political revival in the Black community as again Black America seeks to shape its own narrative.

Issue and Volume

Vol. 11, no. 1



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