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From Jim Crow to Jay-Z

Race, Rap, and the Performance of Masculinity

Miles White

Publication Year: 2011

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._x000B__x000B_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.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: African American Music in Global Perspective

Title Page, Copyright, Seriies Page, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The journalist Wallace Terry once commented that every book is born in debt, and this book is no different. There are many people who have contributed in some way or another to its existence. It began as a dissertation at the University of Washington and is first indebted to the faculty of the ethnomusicology department for the teaching assistantships ...

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pp. 1-8

In Playing in the Dark, Toni Morrison offers a compelling reading of the American literary canon that exposes a largely unremarked but salient “Africanist presence” embedded within the nation’s great works of literature. Morrison interrogates the assumption that the American literary canon has not been substantially influenced by four hundred years of ...

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1. Shadow and Act: American Popular Music and the Absent Black Presence

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pp. 9-18

The body was an indispensable component of musical performance until the arrival of sound recording in the early part of the twentieth century. In essence, the representation of live music as sound object, stored on prefabricated discs and mechanically reproduced on phonographs, meant that the social enjoyment of music no longer required a physical body ...

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2. The Fire This Time: Black Masculinity and the Politics of Racial Performance

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pp. 19-31

The transatlantic slave trade and chattel slavery in the United States began the commercial enterprise in which the black body was transformed into a commodity to be traded in the public marketplace. The institutionalization of slavery naturalized in the social sphere the assumption of agency over the black body and everything it produced or laid claim to. ...

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3. Affective Gestures: Hip-hop Aesthetics, Blackness, and the Literacy of Performance

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pp. 32-62

In hip-hop culture, uniqueness and the expression of individual identity are prioritized through behavior, modes of dress, language, and other ways. Even when styles and expressive behaviors are emulated, imitated, and adopted by those wishing to identify with the culture, they are often at some point adapted and signified upon ...

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4. Real Niggas: Black Men, Hard Men, and the Rise of Gangsta Culture

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pp. 63-88

The first time I recall hearing gangsta rap was in 1988, in the dormitory room of a private, predominantly white liberal arts college in the Southwest where I was belatedly earning my bachelor’s degree in English literature. N.W.A.’s album Straight Outta Compton had recently dropped, and a small group of male students whom I knew fairly well ...

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5. Race Rebels: Whiteness and the New Masculine Desire

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pp. 89-126

In “The Problem with White Hipness,” Ingrid Monson has suggested how certain affectations that signified and indexed the cool and the hip became associated with black avant-garde jazz musicians from late 1940s bebop culture, and which appeared to reject white mainstream conformity through a music and lifestyle viewed as socially deviant and therefore liberatory. ...

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pp. 127-134

Hip-hop is as popular among youth in Europe as it is in many parts of the world and has had an active if relatively small underground scene since the early 1980s. Masculine performance by adolescent and young white males in the culture of hip-hop in much of Europe derives from interpretations of American black masculinity ...


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pp. 135-136


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pp. 137-146


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pp. 147-154


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pp. 155-164

About the Author, Further Reading, Publication Information

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252093678
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036620

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: African American Music in Global Perspective