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Prophets of rage : expressions of Black nationalism in hip hop Manyoni, Julian R.


This paper deals with the development of Black nationalist politics in hip hop, focusing primarily on the years up to 1994. This investigation examines two primary strains of nationalist hip hop which emerged in the late 1980s: Afrocentric hip hop nationalism and pro-Black hip hop nationalism. Afrocentric nationalism is based primarily on the notion of Africa as the root of all Black diasporic culture and the idea that a return (either physically or intellectually) to Africa and it's glorious past is the key to develop the Black nation and confront white racism and oppression. Pro-Black hip hop nationalism is expressed by rappers who look to the recent past in order to find their inspiration. They draw their inspiration from the leaders and ideologies of the civil rights struggles of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, in particular the 1960s when the movement developed a more militant stance. The paper seeks to examine critically these two forms of hip hop nationalism with special focus on how they envision and represent the Black nation through their art. What becomes apparent is that the main themes in the visual and lyrical imagery tend to be somewhat consistent in both these two forms. In Afrocentric hip hop, the central theme and preoccupation is with location. The literal and symbolic return to the African motherland is what the Black nationalist agenda must be predicated upon, while in pro-Black hip hop the concept of time (and Nation Time) is central. The paper then examines the way in which the above forms of hip hop nationalism use their respective themes, both in terms of effectiveness and coherence, ending in a sharp critique of the almost universally sexist nature of the discourse of nation. Finally, the thesis touches briefly on the next generation (1996-2000) of nation conscious hip hop artists in relation to the artists examined in the main body of the paper and looks at their socio-political ideologies and aims in relation to their predecessors.

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