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Just Say No to 360s: The Politics of Independent Hip-Hop

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

My dissertation addresses to what extent and how independent hip-hop challenges or reproduces U.S. mainstream hip-hop culture and U.S. culture more generally. I contend that independent hip-hop remains a complex contemporary subculture. My research design utilizes a mixed methods approach. First, I analyze the lyrics of independent hip-hop albums through a content analysis of twenty-five independent albums from 2000-2013. I uncover the dominant ideologies of independent hip-hop artists regarding race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and calls for social change. By systemically analyzing the content of the lyrics in these albums, I uncover the salient grievances of the independent hip-hop community and how they vary across artists. Second, I utilize interviews with forty-six members of the independent hip-hop community who are self-defined listeners and fans active in the hip-hop community. I explore the meanings that they associate with hip-hop culture, and whether and how this shapes their engagement with oppositional consciousness. More specifically, I further examine the complex and contradictory cultural politics of independent hip-hop music, and how it challenges or reinforces dominant ideologies about race, class, gender, and sexuality. Ultimately, while artists and listeners consistently express grievances related to both race and class inequality, its gender and sexual politics are contradictory. Nonetheless, independent hip-hop expresses the oppositional consciousness of its artists and listeners as well as the limits of that consciousness.

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