Hip Hop History in the Age of Colorblindness

Loren Kajikawa


This essay outlines a critical pedagogy for teaching about hip hop and rap at a time when the music has become so firmly a part of mainstream U.S. culture. No longer controversial in the way that it was in the 1980s and 1990s when popular music studies was first becoming established, teachers can no longer assume that rap is politically progressive or that their students are committed to the black struggle because they are fans. Although it’s not a bad thing that scholars and teachers now spend less time arguing for hip hop’s legitimacy as music, there’s also something disconcerting about white students’ casual acceptance of rap as “their” music at a time when profound racial inequities still exist in employment, education, incarceration rates, etc. With over three decades of recorded music history, there’s no problem filling a syllabus. But should a hip hop survey cover more than the succession of artists, styles, and sub-genres? What could a critical pedagogy for rap music look like at a time when politicians and pundits encourage us to put race behind us?


rap; hip-hop; race; history; politics

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ISSN 2155-109X