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Rice and Rap: Hip Hop Music, Black/Asian American Racialization, and the Role of the U.S. Multicultural Neoliberal State


This paper explores Black and Asian American racialization within the multicultural neoliberal state. Looking at Los Angeles in the 1980s and early 1990s, I examine the rise of multiculturalism and neoliberalism within the US, as it parallels the rise and commercialization of hip hop music sub-genre, gangsta rap. By examining the multicultural neoliberal state, and its consequences for communities of color, I look at the ways in which Black/Asian American racialization occurred through the tropes of the gangster and the model minority, respectively. Moreover, I contend that the multicultural neoliberal state relied on popular constructions of Asianness and Blackness in order to maintain whiteness, conceal state-violences, and define its national borders of inclusion and exclusion, and gangsta rap provided an ideal space for this. My project also explores progressive rap and the ways in which it manifested from the same conditions of gangsta rap, yet managed to produce itself differently. Lastly, I conclude with a close examination of the hip hop duo Blue Scholars (featuring Asian American emcee Prometheus Brown) and their song, “Morning of America,” which addresses and challenges this particular moment of the 1980s through the lens of the colonized subject and racialized other.

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