Hip Hop as Political Expression: Potentialities for the Power of Voice in Urban America

  • Melina Abdullah


Hip Hop is widely thought of as an artistic expression,2 with three core components (rap music—including MCing and DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti). Even as art, Hip Hop is often relegated as the faddish rantings of misguided urban youth by mainstream critics and academicians. In contrast, many of those of the “Hip Hop generation” contend that the culture is much more than art, serving as a political voice through which artists serve to “represent” the conditions, frustrations and challenges of an oft forgotten segment of society. At the center of the 25-year-old controversy is Hip Hop’s most enduring element: rap music. In this chapter, I echo the voice of many Hip Hop activists and work to build a theory that supports the validity of Hip Hop’s impact beyond its artistic form. I argue that Hip Hop evolved as a central core of political expression for an otherwise voiceless generation of marginalized people and holds tremendous potential as a movement for urban youth. Hip Hop’s grassroots emergence is the result of both urban conditions that called for a voice of protest and political mobilization in combination with the void of more formal political movements that would allow young people of color from urban communities to express their discontent with the existing system. Furthermore, Hip Hop has the potential to continue in its process of evolution, growing from its current position as a form of political expression to unfold as a catalyst for the formation of an urban political movement. As it stands, “rap music is a contemporary stage for the theater of the powerless.”3


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Copyright information

© Gayle T. Tate and Lewis A. Randolph 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melina Abdullah

There are no affiliations available

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