Reconstituting "the Message": An Exploration of Double Consciousness in Rap Artistry

Dissertation, Northwestern University (1995)
Abstract
This project explores the rhetorical range and modes of invention utilized by rap artists in their arguments concerning social identity, self consciousness, and empowerment. My central thesis highlights the discursive legacy of W. E. B. Du Bois and African American artistic production and articulation. Du Bois' concept of double consciousness provides an interpretive frame for understanding and critiquing the terms set forth in rap music constituting notions of "blackness," "masculinity," "femininity," and "community." The dissertation is divided along generic distinctions in rap artistry: revolutionary nationalism, cultural nationalism, "gangsta" rap, and the female voice. Each rap genre is analyzed in terms that reveal its correspondence with double consciousness. As such, the rhetorical strategies that artists employ in their arguments and social commentary are interrogated in terms of how they re-claim, re-order, and refute Du Bois' early existential philosphy. In this way the project demonstrates a key process of rap rhetorical invention and situates rap discourse within a larger field of African American aesthetic inquiry and argument
Keywords Du Bois, W. E. B   Rap   African Americans   Popular music
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