Rap Rapture and Manic Mortality

  • James W. Perkinson
Part of the Black Religion / Womanist Thought / Social Justice book series (BRWT)


Postmodern culture emerged around the globe in the latter half of the twentieth century as, among other things, an increasingly intensified metropolitan social order structured (in part) around a profound denial of death. Twentieth-century America in particular witnessed a sustained expulsion of the reality of mortality from public life, and an uncompromising attempt to manage some of the more obvious “re-arrangements and enforcements” of mortality (i.e., social structures that concentrate wealth, power, and life chances for some at the expense of others) through popular discourses of racialization and institutionalized tactics of racism. Within such a purview, hip-hop creativity in general and rap ribaldry in particular can be comprehended as a kind of “return of the repressed.” They represent a popular culture fascination that mediates the unconscious of the social order, emerging from the marginalized core of postindustrial desperation. Rap’s rhythmic structures and ritual stridencies—underneath its often less than scintillating lyrics—encode the underground energies of a culture otherwise gone antiseptic in aspiration. Far from only misogyny and foolery in adolescent dress, rap percussion sounds out depths of experience and memory that do not find ready expression in middle class discourse and preoccupation. Rap refigures the denial of death, the racialization of context in black and white, and the banalization of neoliberal conquest and control.


Dominant Culture Gated Community White Skin White Supremacy Deep Truth 
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© James W. Perkinson 2005

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  • James W. Perkinson

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