Voices Underground: Hip Hop as Black Rhetoric

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
...presented at USC's Norman Lear Center's Popular Music Project

In this article I use metaphoric criticism as a framework for a content analysis of underground hip hop lyrics. Findings suggest that form equals argument: that meaning and identity reside in no one place, but reappear often on the surface of quotidian experience.

The four major clusters of metaphor found, coded and critiques are battle/struggle, life, game, and science. Analysis reveals that incorporating various forms of culture requires a worldview that is not predicated on finality, on the conclusions reached by one narrator. The flexibility afforded by hip hop’s metaphoric style is a necessary precondition for the constitution of today’s culture and identity, and, as author Amiri Baraka describes, “a specific humanization!”

“Voices Underground: Hip Hop as Black Rhetoric,” The Literary Griot: International Journal of Black Expressive Cultural Studies 10. 2 (Fall 1998): 61-84.