- Purchase/rental options available:
In this article I propose a prototype analytic framework for rap that 1) foregrounds the phenomenological and aesthetic encounter with the sonic energy that remains the core experience of rap music; and 2) considers that encounter without segregating vocals, lyrics, and music. I draw on philosopher Graham Harman's object-oriented ontology and experimental musician Paul Schaeffer's technique of "reduced listening" to decenter the emcee in a nonhierarchical, desegregated approach to sound. This approach is intended to generate fresh vectors for listener and creator subjectivity that are based on how individual words, sounds, textures, and rhythms are stored within and transmitted by the mechanics of the rap composition. I test my phenomenological approach using three works by Asian American hip-hop artists whose culturally specific autobiographical narratives are carried and articulated by soundscapes that adhere to and depend on Black aesthetic priorities. Playing with and against Halife Osumare's hip-hop ontology of "connective marginalities" and critical works by poet Thien-Bao Thuc Phi and scholar Oliver Wang, I hope to destabilize rap's ethnocentrism by "getting down" to the molecules of sound, where race and individual identity are emergent but not inevitable or primary properties of rap's sonic complexes. By encouraging the analysis of rap at smaller and shorter scales of syllables and snare hits and larger scales of genre transpositions, I hope to excavate standards of production and performance that, though African American in origin, have not only been established by hip-hop itself but transformed and contributed to by all of its participants.