Academic journal article The Journal of Hip Hop Studies

Typologies of Black Male Sensitivity in R&B and Hip Hop

Academic journal article The Journal of Hip Hop Studies

Typologies of Black Male Sensitivity in R&B and Hip Hop

Article excerpt

R&B and Hip Hop are two music genres that have gained global appeal in recent years. This appeal may be a reflection of a wider audience's ability to identify and relate to the lyrics used by R&B and Hip Hop artists.1 Early R&B was used as a way for artists to express their feelings about the world, life, as well as experiences associated with the civil rights movement.2 While the lyrical content associated with R&B has changed, artists still draw from personal experiences for many of their lyrics.3

Hip Hop also evolved as a means of expression for many social ills taking place within the Black community using rhyming and rapping lyrics in contrast to R&B lyrics which traditionally are sung.4 While R&B is a softer music genre that lends itself to the free expression of feelings, Hip Hop is a genre more recently known for its misogynistic views toward Black women as sexual objects.5 Even though Hip Hop is associated with negative displays of Black women, research has found that men in Hip Hop desire love as long as it fits into the parameters of male dominance and heterosexuality.6 Research that has examined how love is expressed in Hip Hop and R&B songs have found the traditional discourse of hegemony to be particularly evident in R&B love songs.7

Given the global appeal of R&B and Hip-Hop,8 few studies to date have examined how Black male sensitivity is expressed in these genres. Thus, the following question was foundational in the development of this study: What do the discourses revealed in R&B and Hip Hop suggest about Black male sensitivity? Before we answer this question, we began by providing a general overview of scholarship related to Black masculinity as well as how Black masculinity is expressed in different realms of society.

In particular, this scholarly overview will focus on conceptualizations of Black male sensitivity, both within and outside of R&B and Hip Hop. Next, we provide the theoretical framework on which the current study is based. Then, we discuss the methodology that was used in this study. After this, we discuss the significance of the current study before presenting what these songs revealed. Finally, we will end by discussing what the four typologies of masculinity revealed in R&B and Hip Hop songs suggest about Black male sensitivity, the expression of Black male sensitivity, as well as implications of Black male sensitivity for Black male-female interpersonal relationships and the Black community more broadly.

Review of Literature

Research in the area of masculinity and Black men has suggested that Black men define manhood through self, family, human community, and spirituality and humanism.9 These ideas of manhood differ considerably from those inherent within White masculinity whereby dominance over women and avoiding displays of emotions, vulnerability, or weakness are highly regarded.10 Since the 1970s, research has suggested that male stereotypes of stoicism and the inability of men to express emotion make it especially hard for them to show weakness or vulnerability when in the company of other men or their wives.11

According to Lewis,12 a large part of men's stoicism is based on the few examples of male emotional intimacy provided them as well as the promotion of traditional male role expectations of avoiding personal vulnerability and openness, which make achieving emotional intimacy difficult for men. In more recent work on male perceptions of intimacy, Patrick and Beckenbach13 found that male stereotypes of not expressing vulnerable emotions makes achieving intimacy with women difficult. This study also found that some elements of intimacy for men involved them having the ability to share (emotions, thoughts, words, and physical expressions) and present the worst part of themselves.14 While societal constraints oftentimes prevent Black men from expressing masculinity in the same way as White males,15 this does not mean that Black men do not develop alternate ways of expressing masculinity. …

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