Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
From Jim Crow to Jay-Z

From Jim Crow to Jay-Z: Race, Rap, and the Performance of Masculinity

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 176
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    From Jim Crow to Jay-Z
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09367-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Music

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    InPlaying 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 the African and African American presence in the United States. In so doing she introduces a refreshing reading of the national literature that allows for a richer and more profound understanding of the American character, one that cannot be separated from its multiracial heritage through what she deems...

  5. 1. Shadow and Act: American Popular Music and the Absent Black Presence
    (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 in the room playing an instrument or singing a song. The dissemination of new songs in the popular music industry gradually segued away from sheet music into the new medium of phonograph recordings and later into radio. As these gradually penetrated both upper-and middle-class urban...

  6. 2. The Fire This Time: Black Masculinity and the Politics of Racial Performance
    (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. After Reconstruction and with the rise of Jim Crow laws in the Deep South, this presumption continued as the legalized policing of black bodies in white space through political disenfranchisement, social segregation, and the more onerous legacy of lynch mobs. The project of...

  7. 3. Affective Gestures: Hip-hop Aesthetics, Blackness, and the Literacy of Performance
    (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—there are those who innovate and those who “bite” (appropriate) the innovations of others. In this way, expressive behaviors continue to evolve, continually creating something new from something old, always seeking that which is “fresh.”¹ These styles and behaviors are conveyed by cultural trendsetters, whether they have name recognition through...

  8. 4. Real Niggas: Black Men, Hard Men, and the Rise of Gangsta Culture
    (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 albumStraight Outta Comptonhad recently dropped, and a small group of male students whom I knew fairly well were gathered around a CD player giving it the kind of attention one would give a highly anticipated sporting event. I had found my way into the room by following the sound of some seriously funkified music that reminded me of old school...

  9. 5. Race Rebels: Whiteness and the New Masculine Desire
    (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. The jazz culture of bebop would inspire the bohemianism of the white hipster and the beat poets and writers of the 1950s that included Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and other socially alienated white intellectuals. Through the adoption of modes of black male expressive behavior...

  10. Epilogue
    (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 modeled via electronically mediated sources that are now readily available, as are live performances by top name African American rap acts who have been touring West, Central, and Eastern Europe for the past twenty or thirty years. Such appropriations are not as central to the...

  11. Appendix
    (pp. 135-136)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 137-146)
  13. References
    (pp. 147-154)
  14. Index
    (pp. 155-164)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 165-166)