Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Crank That Thang: Contextualizing Black Masculinities and Hip-Hop Dance in the South from 2000-2010

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Crank That Thang: Contextualizing Black Masculinities and Hip-Hop Dance in the South from 2000-2010

Article excerpt

While many scholars have analyzed rap lyrics in search of Black men's artistic expression of Black masculinities, they have often limited the potential and scope of the research by ignoring body movements, particularly in an era when dance instruction songs are plentiful. Body movements work in tandem with lyrics in the expression of masculinities. I have chosen to state Black masculinities, because another commonly held misconception is that Black masculinity is a singular concept. I prefer to acknowledge the multiplicity and plurality of Black masculinities, which are nuanced by age, region, and sexuality. I contend that masculinities are communicated through hip-hop dance and are a non-verbal language that I term Hip-Hop Kinesic Language or HHKL, which finds its verbiage from Rudolf Laban's Laban Movement Analysis. The south has been the primary locus in mainstream hip-hop for male lead dance instruction songs, particularly the state of Georgia.

The South has a distinct history as the site of slavery, Jim Crow, and agricultural economy. It has developed its own masculine identities. These masculinities differ on the basis of race, class, sexual orientation, and place. Lussana and Plath (2009) state the following:

   Furthermore, whereas Southern white conceptions
   of masculinity have typically involved resisting
   interference from outside the region, black men
   in the south have frequently constructed notions
   of masculinity 'within or against the boundaries
   created by slavery, segregation, and poverty.'

Black men have often been positioned as victims in southern history of emasculating lynching, violence, involuntary servitude and un/underemployment. Segregation mandated places a person could go. Thus, rappers endeavor to create personas where they are in control and money is the pass to freedom. However, oftentimes the place they are claiming control over is still a segregated site and the desire for 'real nigga' authenticity makes the potential victims for their propensity toward violence all but exclusively Black. This piece will discuss several histories, because as Joyner states, "no longer can any interpretation of the south be taken seriously without a historical dimension" (Joyner, 1999, p.2). The cultural traditions in the south have in many ways been able to sustain themselves for generations despite how other regions of the country have had their traditions diluted by the influence of popular culture (Joyner, 1999, p.2). Black southern culture is one of resistance, as well as negotiation of their position as oppressed people. In other words, there has been a give and take, where Blacks have organized and fought oppression, but also anecdotes where young Blacks were taught how to peacefully coexist with a volatile white population and within white supremacist institutions.

Atlanta, where some of the dances I will be referring to are said to have originated (or at least have been observed), was known as the "Gateway to the South" after the Civil War. It has a reputation of being a "Black Mecca," a place where even northern Blacks could repatriate and find success. According to a 1974 New York Times article "significant numbers of Northern-born blacks have gone South these days, too--many of them young, ambitious, well-educated professional(s) who are fed up the hassle and danger found in some Yankee cities" (Ayres Jr., June 18, 1974). The city has been heralded as the realization of the "new South". With the plantation economy in shambles after the Civil War, many believed the south must reinvent itself by moving toward a more urban industrial economy.

There is an abundance of federal government work to be found in Atlanta, despite being hit hard by deindustrialization in the 1970s. Over "430 of the Fortune 500 companies have operations in Atlanta" (Bullard, 1989, p.81). However, the reality of life in Atlanta suggests a much different picture for large numbers of Blacks. …

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