Rap Music and Political
BILL E. LAWSON
A number of commentators on hip-hop culture have noted that rap has important political dimensions.1 Philosopher Tommy Lott, for example, has argued that, despite the widely held view among older, middle-class folk that rap is noise emanating from wild, young blacks, there is an element of cultural resistance in rap music.2 Many black youths realize that they are trapped under American apartheid and have used rap as a way to resist the racial assault on their physical and mental well-being in particular and on the black community in general. In keeping with this idea, I will show that some rap music, if one listens closely, can be heard as challenging basic philosophical assumptions underlying the political order. In particular, some rap represents a fundamental challenge to liberal political philosophy.
In some hip-hop music we hear a call for blacks to reassess what it means to be an American citizen. By questioning the fundamental relationship between blacks and the state, this form
1 Tricia Rose, Black Noise- Rap Music and black Culture in Contemporary
America (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1994); Houston A. Baker Jr.,
Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1995); William Eric Perkins, eel, Droppin' Science: Critical Essays on Rap Music
and Hip-Hop Culture (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995); Theresa A.
Martinez, “Popular Culture as Oppositional Culture: Rap As Resistance,”
Sociological Perspectives 40 (1997), pp. 269–291; Alan Light, ed., The Vibe
History of Hip Hop (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999); and Imani Perry,
Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop (Durham: Duke
University Press, 2004).