Chicano Rap: Gender and Violence in the Postindustrial Barrio

Chicano Rap: Gender and Violence in the Postindustrial Barrio

Chicano Rap: Gender and Violence in the Postindustrial Barrio

Chicano Rap: Gender and Violence in the Postindustrial Barrio


Powered by a driving beat, clever lyrics, and assertive attitudes, rap music and hip hop culture have engrossed American youth since the mid-1980s. Although the first rappers were African Americans, rap and hip hop culture quickly spread to other ethnic groups who have added their own cultural elements to the music. Chicano Rap offers the first in-depth look at how Chicano/a youth have adopted and adapted rap music and hip hop culture to express their views on gender and violence, as well as on how Chicano/a youth fit into a globalizing world.

Pancho McFarland examines over five hundred songs and seventy rap artists from all the major Chicano rap regions--San Diego, San Francisco and Northern California, Texas, and Chicago and the Midwest. He discusses the cultural, political, historical, and economic contexts in which Chicano rap has emerged and how these have shaped the violence and misogyny often expressed in Chicano rap and hip hop. In particular, he argues that the misogyny and violence of Chicano rap are direct outcomes of the "patriarchal dominance paradigm" that governs human relations in the United States. McFarland also explains how globalization, economic restructuring, and the conservative shift in national politics have affected Chicano/a youth and Chicano rap. He concludes with a look at how Xicana feminists, some Chicano rappers, and other cultural workers are striving to reach Chicano/a youth with a democratic, peaceful, empowering, and liberating message.


In 1980 my cousin Pete Cortez introduced me to the Sugar Hill Gang's “Rapper's Delight.” It was unlike anything I had heard or seen. the cover to the fourteen-minute extended-play single was eye-catching, with a bright orange, yellow, and red psychedelic cylinder shape on a sky-blue background. the music of “Rapper's Delight” consisted of reinterpreted disco funk sounds including a sample of Chic's 1979 hit “Good Times.” But it was the vocal delivery and lyrics that most intrigued me. the three MCs boast and tell funny stories in short, rapid, rhythmic, and rhyming phrases. Big Bank Hank uses part of his verse to court an imaginary woman by comparing himself to Superman and boasting that he is, in fact, far superior. Wonder Mike tells of an awful dinner at his friend's house. I thought the song was musical and lyrical genius. I enjoyed the word play, clever use of image and metaphor, the way the MCs gave new meaning to familiar words, and the use of disparaging humor that was similar to the dozens (a form of African American humor in which two people compete to deliver the most creative insult).

Growing up in mostly Mexican American/Chicana/o communities of the Southwest, I witnessed and learned to participate in verbal joking and humorous storytelling sessions with aunts, uncles, and peers. the lyrics to “Rapper's Delight” reminded me of family get-togethers, hanging out with friends at parks and in school, and the type of humor to which I had become accustomed. I later learned that the type of disparaging humor in Mexican/Chicana/o communities I witnessed was called cábula. the way the Sugar Hill Gang practiced cábula or the dozens was especially fun and entertaining. I, like millions of other Black, Brown, White, Asian, and other youths, was hooked.

I listened to my piano idol, Stevie Wonder, and other funk pioneers; Mexican (American) rancheras, cumbias, and other popular music my mother played; and the psychedelic rock and roll my father preferred. But after this initial exposure to rap in my cousin's basement in Colorado . . .

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