--Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar, Director, Institute for African American Studies, University of Connecticut and author of Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity (The Johns Hopkins University Press), 2004 and Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap (University Press of Kansas), 2007.
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Black Directions v2n6 reviews the social-scientific literature on the effect of rap music on white racial attitudes. Additionally, the Thora Institute conducts its own statistical analysis of white rap fans. Below are some quotable quotes I came across doing some of the background reading for the issue.
WHITES/RAP/WHITES’ RAP/WHITES & RAP
“today’s acceptance of hip-hop as mainstream popular culture has radically altered the racial landscape. And in that nebulous space where hip-hop and popular culture meet, we see specific shifts in the ways Americans are processing race. These shifts help explain the dawning of a new reality of race in America.”1
Chris, 21, white rap fan in Denver: “I think everyone should just be equal, but the blacks are trying to be better than everyone else. They don’t have it bad in this country. They just say gimme gimme gimme.”
William Upski Wimsatt: “Chris isn’t unusual. Many white rap fans feel this way.”2
“But the white audience doesn’t just consume rap, it shapes rap also. Rappers and record labels aren’t stupid. They know who’s listening and the music gets tailored to the audience.”3
“The white rap audience is as diverse as the music itself. . . . They want to experience blackness, dramatic and direct . . . but not too direct, thank you very much.”4
“it’s often indistinguishable where hip-hop ends and prison and/or street culture begins. Parents, regardless of race, should be concerned about the various messages transmitted to youth under the rubric of hip-hop.
“However, white youth are not simply consuming pop culture messages wholesale, anymore than Black kids are.”5
“most White hip-hop activists see a radical analysis of race at the forefront of their engagement with other social and political issues. Such an analysis is paramount in what distinguishes them as white hip-hop activists, as opposed to liberal, conservatives and to a lesser extent progressives.”6
“The real test of white kids and hip-hop is what happens with police brutality when the white officers policing Black and Latino communities are those same young whites who grew up on hip hop.”7
“Hip-hop lifestyling offered, to use an advertising term, a complicated kind of aspirational quality. . . .
“. . . selling white youth on their fetishization of black style, and black youth on their fetishization of white wealth.”8
“The business of hip-hop isn’t vastly different from any other corporate American industry. While the artistic and creative sides of hip-hop remain largely dominated by Blacks, the business side of the industry is firmly in the hands of white American men.”9
1. Bakari Kitwana, Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop: Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabes, and the New Reality of Race in America (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005), xvi.
2. William Upski Wimsatt, Bomb the Suburbs (NY: Soft Skull Press, 2001), 25.
3. Ibid., 23.
5. Kitwana, Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop, 3.
6. Ibid., 172.
7. Quoted in Kitwana, Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop, 3-4.
8. Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2005), 425.
9. Kitwana, Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop, 46.
Black Directions v2n6: Will White Rap Fans Help or Hurt Black America?To order this issue send a check or money order for $9 made out to “Thora Institute LLC” to “White Rap Fans,” Thora Institute LLC, P.O. Box 367, New Haven, CT 06513-0367.
To keep abreast of the latest high-quality social science research on black America, subscribe to the Black Directions newsletter. Send a check or money order for $36 (33% off) made out to “Thora Institute LLC” for a year’s Black Directions subscription (six issues) to Thora Institute LLC, P.O. Box 367, New Haven, CT 06513-0367. Only Black Directions separates the myths from the facts about black America.
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--Algernon Austin, Ph.D.
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