Hip Hop and Race

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Hip hop, as a form of music and popular culture, has become one of the foremost arenas in which discussions of race, racial injustices and the transformation oi racial meanings occur. Through song and celebrity, hip-hop voices offer immediate commentaries on newsworthy racial events as well as critical observations on historical and ongoing patterns of race-based inequality. Some scholars of hip-hop music have hailed it as a postmodern multicultural form that reflects the fluidity and malleability through which young people today fashion their identities; still others view it as perpetuating some of the most damaging ideologies of race and models of racialized behavior in contemporary society.

In this chapter, I survey how sociological researchers and commentators have examined and understood hip hop in relation to race.1 My discussion is primarily set within the United States. I do this with the awareness that hip hop is a global phenomenon and that racial issues are not unique to the United States. Nevertheless, most conventional treatments situate hip hop's crystallization within a US context. Furthermore, the racial dynamics that saturate US society – historically and contemporarily -- are among the most dynamic and globally consequential. Indeed, some have suggested that hip hop's worldwide spread has contributed to exporting US not ions of race to a generation of global youth.