Abstracthiphop is a genre of alternative hip hop music that is much more experimental than traditional hip hop, both lyrically and sonically. It often incorporates elements of jazz, funk, soul, and electronic music, as well as spoken word and poetry.

Historically, scholars have defined hip hop around four expressive practices: deejaying, break(danc)ing, graffiti writing, and emceeing. Occasionally, this model has been supplemented by additional elements such as beat-boxing (i.e., human produced musical percussion), fashion, and knowledge (Gosa 2015).


As a recent branch of black American cultural expression, hip hop is rooted in a political origin story that includes a drive to entrepreneurship. This entrepreneurial impulse, accompanied by a commitment to diversity in its articulation and performance, is at the core of hip hop’s ethos.

Even so, the ambiguity and complexity of hip hop’s ethos are a significant factor in how it is shaped and contested within the social relations that comprise it. As a result, its ethos is more malleable than it might appear to be at first glance.

To be sure, this malleability is not to suggest that hip hop is without flaws. Rather, it suggests that hip hop’s ethos is inextricably tied to the social relations that form it and, as such, is constantly in need of self-correction.

Nevertheless, the qualities that make hip hop’s ethos distinct are also inextricably linked to those of late-capitalism and its broader political economy. As such, hip hop’s ethos is always at risk of becoming a commodity, an item that can be seized and repurposed as an economic tool to advance an individual’s social standing in capitalist society.

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