Abstract Hip Hop

Abstract Hip Hop

The sub-genre of abstract hip hop eschews many of the conventions that conventional hip hop music follows, both lyrically and musically. This sub-genre often incorporates elements of jazz, funk, soul, and electronic music as well as spoken word and poetry.

Hip hop ethos emerges from black diasporic traditions of expressive performance (Zora Neale Hurston and Amiri Baraka) that issue from processes of recuperative rootedness in local specificities and expansive mobility across space and time. These traditions orient hip hop toward both self-promotion and collective community promotion.

This orientation to self-promotion and heightened attention to locality get conveyed through hip-hop recording artists’ mentions of local references and “shout outs” to people they are close with (e.g., crew members and friends). It also gets manifested through hip-hop’s practice of sampling past music commodities to envision new musical futures (Schumacher 1995) or graffiti writers’ seizure of public space as canvases for self-promotion, which aims to enhance the use value of scarce material resources that racialized youth communities experience on a daily basis.

This ambiguity and pliability of hip hop’s stylistic continuities enable it to be both mobile and resist attempts to demarcate, devalue, and/or contain it. This pliability also affords marginalized groups of youth a chance to communicate their coded meaning through language, performance, and/or what James Scott refers to as hidden transcripts (Scott 1990), which are produced beyond direct observation by powerholders. As such, they provide a platform for the expression of a potent ethos of the subaltern embraced within socially marginalized youth communities throughout the world.

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