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  • Black Masculinity and Hip-Hop Music:Black Gay Men Who Rap
  • Huntly P. Brown (bio)
Black Masculinity and Hip-Hop Music: Black Gay Men Who Rap. XinLing Li. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, 175 pp.

[With] time hip-hop has come to be seen as incompatible with homosexuality not only because of Black stereotypes associated with the form but also because representations of gay men in the media have been predominantly white and non-masculine.

XinLing Li, Black Masculinity and Hip-Hop Music1

Gay Hip Hop: The Future of Black Masculinities

Cultural theorist and social scientist XinLing Li's reflections on hip-hop culture are both timely and relevant. XinLing's work on hip-hop represents a salient contribution to the field of popular culture, cultural studies, and Black studies combined particularly so given hip-hop's importance in contemporary cultural movements and art form. Hip-hop has a long tradition in activist expressions and invites new and creative art forms, like rap music that has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon.2 With these frameworks in mind, Li's articulations and work on hip-hop calls for critical reading of the representations of gay, Black, masculinities, suggesting that there are limited—and not yet well defined—visible manifestations of Black gay men who rap in the contemporary music industry. Thus, there is an urgency for Li's work that excites my own fascination and interests in Black gay masculinities and men who rap in hip-hop.

Li's work on Black gay hip-hop situates itself in questions of hip-hop, the future, and the minimal representations of gay males and other queer [End Page 115] bodies in the music industry. The music industry as a global-capital entity is also a focal point for Ling's analysis of Black masculinities.3 Li's contentions suggest that there are consistent gaps in the manifestations of hip-hop culture that trouble questions of gender politics, cultural theory, and sexuality discourses centering Black gay men as his subject.

XinLing Li in Black Masculinity & Hip-Hop Music: Black Gay Men Who Rap, writes against the grain, to problematize and critically intervene into questions of incompatibilities, and how historicized tropes of Black exclusion, silencing and erasure function together. Li charts his thinking on these ideas through a dialogue of time, marking enslavement as pivotal to the construction of Black male stereotypes. These histories that Li is attentive to challenge feminized tropes that reinscribe antiquated and colonial logics that have contemporary connections and implications for global capital today. Here global capital serves as a method and a prime function in the contemporary music industry that takes hold and molds particular types of Black men who are perceived to embody and, therefore, expected to continue a time-honored Black musical tradition. By positioning Black gay men who rap in Li's discussion, Li methodologically works to queer hip-hop, by positioning the histories and futures of Black gay masculinities today.

Subject Formation: Theorizing about Black Gay Men in the Music Industry

XinLing Li applies important theoretical and methodological concepts that are critical to this works undertaking. Chiefly, Li employs the use of spectacle as both theory and methodology. By working through the tensions of history, and enslavement, Li dialogues about spectacle through an analysis of Black movements like the Black Panther Party (BPP). By discussing groups like the BPP and the methods of resistance employed through spectacle, Li brings a critical methodology that is unique and works to capture the working-class realities that some Black communities experienced during the post-reconstruction, and Jim Crow eras. Here XinLing Li makes references to Dr. Gwendolyn Pough's work which argues that the symbols during these civil rights movements were critical to the work of visibility, and raising consciousness around the issues and concerns of Black folk: ". . . they used spectacle and representation to control gaze and, as such, bring wreck to what the broader public thought it knew about Black people."4 [End Page 116]

The methodological and conceptual use of spectacle as epistemology comes from a tradition of Black performance. XinLing is attentive to these histories, and engages through a genealogy of Black studies, from the origins of...


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pp. 115-119
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