Sampling, Biting, and the Postmodern Subversion of Hip Hop

Palgrave Macmillan (2021)
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Abstract

Drawing on the culture’s history before and after the birth of rap music, this book argues that the values attributed to Hip Hop by ‘postmodern’ scholars stand in stark contrast with those that not only implicitly guided its aesthetic elements, but are explicitly voiced by Hip Hop’s pioneers and rap music’s most consequential artists. It argues that the structural evacuation of the voices of its founders and organic intellectuals in the postmodern theorization of Hip Hop has foreclosed the culture’s ethical values and political goals from scholarly view, undermining its unity and progress. Through a historically informed critique of the hegemonic theoretical framework in Hip Hop Studies, and a re-centering of the culture’s fundamental proscription against ‘biting,' this book articulates and defends the aesthetic and ethical values of Hip Hop against their concealment and subversion by an academic discourse that merely ‘samples’ the culture for its own reactionary ends.

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Chapters

‘Sounding Black’: Theorizing Blackness in Justin Adams Burton’s Posthuman Rap

Because the marketable products of Hip Hop have become nearly synonymous in the popular and scholarly imagination with Black expression and resistance, this chapter offers a close reading of Justin Adams Burton’s Posthuman Rap, in order to reveal the distorting and potentially dangerous consequences... see more

‘Make Something Original’: Hip Hop Sampling from the ‘Golden Era’ to the Wu-Tang Clan

Because the application of the postmodern framework to Hip Hop is usually justified through the use of sampling technology, this chapter turns to the work of Rakim—who introduced sampling to recorded rap music—in order to demonstrate the explicit continuity between the values of original culture, an... see more

‘Pure Treason, I’ll Tell You Why’: The Erasure of Hip Hop Culture by Rap Music and Postmodern Hip Hop Studies

This chapter describes how Hip Hop’s fundamental proscription against biting was violated, and then effectively obscured, by the distorting appropriation of the Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’; a record which not only gave birth to rap as a form of commercially recorded music, but—in the eyes of... see more

Introduction

Most scholars agree that the aesthetics of Hip Hop also express ethical and political values; however, because rap music has overwhelmingly served as the culture’s public face, and because rap’s most characteristic artistic practice is often understood to be sampling, or the appropriation of previou... see more

Conclusion: Hip Hop Studies after Reactionary Postmodernism

This chapter argues that Hip Hop scholars must not only distinguish the more nuanced, complex, and historically informed philosophies of post-structuralism from the one-dimensional ‘reactionary postmodernism’ or ‘perverse modernism’ that dominates much of the academic humanities; they should, moreov... see more

‘The Fifth Element’: Knowledge, or Hip Hop’s Struggle Against Post-Rap Subversion

This chapter traces the emergence of a fifth, non-aesthetic element within Hip Hop; one which was introduced precisely in order to combat the appropriation of the culture’s aesthetic practices by the rapacious forces of the neoliberal culture industry in the era when rap music was spreading Hip Hop’... see more

‘Never Let an MC Steal Your Rhyme’: The Aesthetics and Values of Hip Hop Culture

This chapter traces the evolution of Hip Hop’s aesthetic practices in the early 1970s, starting with the first of the culture’s elements to emerge—wall writing—and then detailing the progressive emergence of the remaining elements: DJing, Breaking, and finally MCing. It argues that the culture’s hon... see more

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Jim Vernon
York University

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