Centering Blackness: Hip-Hop and the Outing of Marginality

  • Cheryl Sterling


Music permeates all life. It normalizes socialization processes. It reflects and refracts subjectivity and self-reflexivity, political processes, cultural injunctions and imperatives, social contradictions, and social change. Like most literary and performative artistic forms, it reorders existence and allows us to inhabit a different world through its imaginative cultural narratives. Complementarily, popular music, says George Lipsitz, is by nature dialogical. It embraces the past and allows for an ongoing interplay between history and the present, nurtured by the vision of the artist (Lipsitz, Time Passages 99). Since music crosses spatial and temporal boundaries, its dialogism is readily translocative in the ease and flexibility of its transposition from the global to the local context. In crossing global boundaries, music is reinvented in local spaces to reflect questions or definitions of cultural identity through its direct, experiential nature and its impact on the body, on levels of sociability, and on personal engagement. Turning the lens to black music styles, the global dissemination creates a polemic in understanding how music reshapes orthodoxies and constructs cultural narratives. While listened to and enjoyed, the social currency of black music is not necessarily inscribed on the black body. For as much as black musical traditions are found everywhere and have been co-opted into local contexts, acceptance of the black being (beyond the artists who create the music) is not a global phenomena.


Black Woman Social Contract Public Sphere Drug Dealer Social Currency 
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© Cheryl Sterling 2012

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  • Cheryl Sterling

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