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Internal Colonization and Revolt: Rap as an Underground Political Discourse in Oakland, CA from 1965-2010


This study examines the relationship between rap music and internal colonization in Oakland, California from 1965-2010. As rap music continues to gain exposure and popularity, hip-hop culture has increasingly become a topic in the social sciences and humanities. Most studies of hip-hop culture have predominately focused on the mass-market trend toward worldwide commercialization of rap rather than fully examining how underground units continue to inform and innovate the mass trend. Inadequate attention is currently paid to the political development of rap as an underground narrative from a single location. Using primary sources from Oakland, this project explores rap's development from its origins in the "war" between the Black Panther Party (BPP) and COINTELPRO efforts. I argue two points. First, the messages in Oakland rap were shaped and influenced by the militant, radical, and political nature of the BPP in a way that mainstream rap music was not. Second, the styles of Oakland rap blended into a robust local brand before the scene gained a modicum of popular attention--while the New York/Los Angeles paradigm was in the spotlight. This raises significant questions about the agenda setting role of local rap artists--namely, their ability to create messages and styles of music that are resistant to co-optation even while achieving popularization and commercialization. As such, this study offers new insights into urban politics and addresses fundamental questions of power and equality in a liberal democracy.

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