Publication Date

April 2019

Advisor(s)

Axelle Karera

Major

College of Social Studies

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

Trap music, despite prevailing as the most influential genre of rap music in the last decade and portraying the excessive violence experienced by Black youth, has not been given a full account in hip-hop scholarship or critical Black study. The first chapter of this thesis explores the origin of this omission, by analyzing the disciplinarian strategies implicit in recent hip-hop scholarship, which presumes that social inclusion is a primary goal of Black representation. To exemplify this oversight, the chapter examines the discographies of conscious rapper Kendrick Lamar, whose music conforms to the inclusionary narratives of hip-hop scholarship, and trap artist 21 Savage, who describes the lasting effects of antiblack violence and submits extravagance, rather than respectability, as a guiding value for Black life. The second chapter explores Black fugitivity, and critiques aesthetic analyses of fugitivity that do not engage with commodified music, such as trap, despite a supposed interest in Black art that resists classification. The third chapter concludes the inquiry by demonstrating how trap music frequently rejects utilitarian valuation of work, embraces the freedoms offered by leisure, portrays the diffusion of antiblack violence, and reproduces exclusionary biases. Rather than claim that one of these various aspects as emblematic, I argue that the intractable variability of trap music reflects the undecidability of blackness, which cannot be decisively articulated. (cw: excessive and gratuitous violence).

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