Hip Hop and Postmodernism

In the past hip hop has been linked to postmodernism because of it’s structure and subject matter.  It is very much antiestablishment in the sense that it pulls away from, analyzes, and breaks down popular culture.  The music is all about anti-slavery, black empowerment or what it means to be black in this society. It pushes against the majority (whiteness) and towards the minority (blackness).  It also juxtaposes poverty and wealthy.  The same artist might talk about how he has nothing and everything in one song. Some of the songs are used to make commentaries about popular culture and stereotypes (a subject that the genre has also fed off of).  A good example of this social commentary is Kendrick Lamar’s “Blacker the Berry.”

The song calls into question race relations between white and blacks, but also calls into question the relationship between blacks and other blacks.  He is essentially saying that we condemn white people for killing us but we also kill us.

It is also the fragmented and rhythmic nature of hip hop that reminds some of postmodernism.  It is a style that pulled away from popular music aesthetics in order to carve out a sense of cultural relativism.  By being something different it said “I am good the way I am, I don’t have to be good for y’all.”  Hip Hop wasn’t trying to be popular or fit in with what “sounded good.”  it instead proposed that it sounded good as is. It went against the metanarrative of music and popular culture. Today, many hip hop artists are know for “pop” and less for “protest.”

Pope, Lavar. 2005. “Protest Into Pop: Hip-hop’s Devolution into Mainstream Pop Music and the Underground’s Resistance.” Lehigh Review 13: 80-98. http://preserve.lehigh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=cas-lehighreview-vol-13

Hip Hop and Postmodernism

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