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Critical Race Theory Interpretation of Messages in Hip Hop Paper

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A Critical Race Theory interpretation of
Afrocentric messages in Hip Hop
Luis A. Caraballo-Burgos
SYG 6126.7887
Final Paper
April 25, 2010
As long as you can be convinced you never did anything, you can never do anything.
- Malcolm X

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Caraballo
1
Within the genre and culture of Hip Hop one is able to find a whole host of issues which
lend themselves to a critique. To that end this paper will situate a critique of Hip Hop through
the lens provided by critical race theory which has over the last several decades become a
primarily pervasive theoretical framework for understanding, interpreting, and critiquing issues
of race and ethnicity in the social sciences, particularly sociology. Critical race scholars at times
write about their own experiences with racism to depict, anecdotally, issues that have far
reaching and much greater influence in contemporary society than can often be understood
through larger macro-level descriptions. In Hip Hop, the most vocal proponents have tended to
write about their own, or their interpretations of others, experiences in order to authenticate
themselves within the culture. This paper will focus around one of the less popular concepts that
Hip Hop has endeavored upon, the pro-Black, African pride, Afrocentric aesthetic that was
popularized by groups and performers such as: A Tribe Called Quest, X-Clan, 3rd Base and
Public Enemy, and continued by performers such as: dead prez, Common, Mos Def and Talib
Kweli. I will first introduce the biases inherent to this paper. I will then continue by presenting
a brief history of the racial dynamics that created Hip Hop. Following that discussion, I will
discuss the four main tenets or themes of critical race theory that will inform this critique.
Finally, I will discuss issues of identity and the support of and discomfort with Afrocentric
messages.
Authors aligned with critical race theory have astutely recognized that although the civil
rights movements of the 1960s helped to drive the United States towards racial equality in the
eyes of the law, the pace of such movements slowed dramatically in the years since the mid-
1970s (Delgado 1995). Critical race theory attempts to develop an understanding of the
socializing mechanisms built in to our American society that have trained us to be observant and

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A Critical Race Theory interpretation of Afrocentric messages in Hip Hop Luis A. Caraballo-Burgos SYG 6126.7887 Final Paper April 25, 2010 As long as you can be convinced you never did anything, you can never do anything. - Malcolm X Caraballo 1 Within the genre and culture of Hip Hop one is able to find a whole host of issues which lend themselves to a critique. To that end this paper will situate a critique of Hip Hop through the lens provided by critical race theory which has over the last several decades become a primarily pervasive theoretical framework for understanding, interpreting, and critiquing issues of race and ethnicity in the social sciences, particularly sociology. Critical race scholars at times write about their own experiences with racism to depict, anecdotally, issues that have far reaching and much greater influence in contemporary society than can often be understood through larger macro-level descriptions. In Hip Hop, the most vocal proponents have tended to write about their own, or their interpretations of others, experiences in order to authenticate themselves within the culture. This paper will focus around one of the less popular concepts that Hip Hop has endeavored upon, the pro-Black, African pride, Afrocentric aesthetic that was popularized by groups and performers such as: A Tribe Called Quest, X-Clan, 3rd Base and Public Enemy, and continued by performers such as: dead prez, Common, Mos Def and Talib Kweli. I will first introduce the bia ...
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