Pulse of the People

Pulse of the People: Political Rap Music and Black Politics

Lakeyta M. Bonnette
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x1p58
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  • Book Info
    Pulse of the People
    Book Description:

    Hip-Hop music encompasses an extraordinarily diverse range of approaches to politics. Some rap and Hip-Hop artists engage directly with elections and social justice organizations; others may use their platform to call out discrimination, poverty, sexism, racism, police brutality, and other social ills. InPulse of the People, Lakeyta M. Bonnette illustrates the ways rap music serves as a vehicle for the expression and advancement of the political thoughts of urban Blacks, a population frequently marginalized in American society and alienated from electoral politics.

    Pulse of the Peoplelays a foundation for the study of political rap music and public opinion research and demonstrates ways in which political attitudes asserted in the music have been transformed into direct action and behavior of constituents. Bonnette examines the history of rap music and its relationship to and extension from other cultural and political vehicles in Black America, presenting criteria for identifying the specific subgenre of music that is political rap. She complements the statistics of rap music exposure with lyrical analysis of rap songs that espouse Black Nationalist and Black Feminist attitudes. Touching on a number of critical moments in American racial politicsincluding the 2008 and 2012 elections and the cases of the Jena 6, Troy Davis, and Trayvon MartinPulse of the Peoplemakes a compelling case for the influence of rap music in the political arena and greatly expands our understanding of the ways political ideologies and public opinion are formed.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9113-1
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction. Watch for the Hook
    (pp. 1-5)

    In 2006, comedian Dave Chappelle releasedDave Chappelle’s Block Party,a documentary chronicling a 2004 concert he produced in Brooklyn, New York. Featuring socially and politically conscious rap artists such as Dead Prez, Erykah Badu, The Roots, The Fugees, Lauryn Hill, Talib Kweli, Kanye West, Common, and Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, the secret and free event was easily the rap concert of the year. It was reminiscent of the many street rap battles that existed on New York corners when Hip- Hop first came into existence. Chapelle is a vocal fan of not only Hip-Hop but political...

  4. Chapter 1 Behind the Music: Black Political Attitudes and Rap Music
    (pp. 6-29)

    In 2005, Chicagoan rap artist KanyeWest, one of Hip-Hop’s most defiant and politically incorrect rappers, decided to deviate from the teleprompter before him and instead voice his opinion on live television during a fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the rebuilding of New Orleans. When it was his turn to speak, West publicly stated “George Bush doesn’t like Black people.” The shocking comment caught the co-host of the telethon, Michael Myers, and the producers by surprise. After days of watching Black people in New Orleans wade through filthy water, beg to be saved from their flooded homes, and...

  5. Chapter 2 Music and Political Resistance: The Cultural Foundation of Black Politics
    (pp. 30-50)

    In 2008, in the midst of the political campaign to elect the first African American president of the United States, Nas, a New York rapper who has produced many political rap songs led a protest outside Fox News Studios. He claimed that the network, specifically anchor Bill O’Reilly, was racist and presented racist ideas on his news show, especially in reference to President Barack Obama, which could be detrimental to Obama’s campaign and life. O’Reilly featured guests on his show who stated that the fist bump between Obama and his wife Michelle Obama was a “terrorist fist-jab,” claimed Obama was...

  6. Chapter 3 It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop: Rap Music and Black Nationalism
    (pp. 51-74)

    In 2004, rapper Jadakiss’s political song “Why,” was discussed onThe O’Reilly Factor,a right-leaning news show hosted by conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly on Fox News. O’Reilly, a vocal critic of rap music, featured the song because he believed it was an “atrocity” and offered a biased view of the Republican administration (Heim 2004). Jadakiss’s song, a top 20 single on the Hip-Hop charts, posed many titillating political questions about former president George W. Bush, the Republican administration, the 2000 national election, and the events of September 11, 2001 (Heim 2004). Some of the most controversial questions implied Bush’s involvement...

  7. Chapter 4 Beyond the Music: Black Feminism and Rap Music
    (pp. 75-102)

    In 2007, controversial radio host Don Imus described the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as “nappy headed hos.” In response to widespread criticism, he claimed that the term was derived from Hip-Hop music and thus should not be considered racist or offensive. Imus’s attempt to justify his blatant use of divisive, abhorrent language by using rap music as a scapegoat sparked many discussions about the effects of explicit lyrics in rap music. Many organizations and leaders were outraged at the disrespect the Rutgers women endured.

    Many people embraced Hip-Hop as the scapegoat and turned the discussion to the influence and...

  8. Chapter 5 The Future of Politics: The Implications of Rap Music and Political Attitudes
    (pp. 103-139)

    The crowd gathering outside the 2006 Video Music Awards (VMAs) was no doubt surprised when Yasiin Bey, the rapper and actor formerly known as Mos Def, began an impromptu concert from the flatbed truck outside Radio City Music Hall. The VMAs are a big deal in the music industry; they are one of several music awards at which artists and label executives gather to celebrate those who have created chart-topping albums in the previous year. While these events often attract myriad celebrities, from actors to singers and songwriters, one group of artists is always visibly missing or underrepresented. Artists who...

  9. Conclusion. It’s Still Bigger Than Hip-Hop: The Future of Rap and Politics
    (pp. 140-154)

    During the past thirty years, Hip-Hop culture has evolved from its foundation as an urban cultural form into an international phenomenon. There are rappers in countries as diverse as New Zealand, Australia, Ghana, Iceland, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Japan, Tunisia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Norway, Egypt, and Cuba, among many others. Rap and Hip-Hop as forms of resistance have spread across the world as one of America’s greatest exports. Many cultures and nations utilize rap songs as a means of resistance, motivation, information and entertainment for marginalized movements and groups. In fact, rap songs aided the recent “Arab Spring,” which saw the...

  10. Appendix 1. Political Rap Songs
    (pp. 155-170)
  11. Appendix 2. HSAN and BPP Demands
    (pp. 171-176)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 177-184)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 185-196)
  14. Discography
    (pp. 197-208)
  15. Index
    (pp. 209-216)
  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 217-219)