"Don't Believe the Hype": The Polemics of Hip Hop and the Poetics of Resistance and Resilience in Black Girlhood

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At a time when Hip Hop is mired in masculinity, and scholars are "struggling for the soul of this movement" through excavating legacies in a black nationalist past, black girls and women continue to be bombarded with incessant, one-dimensional, images of black women who are reduced solely to sum of their sexual parts. Without the presence of a counter narrative on black womanhood and femininity in Hip Hop, black girls who are growing up encountering Hip Hop are left to define and negotiate their identities as emerging black women within a sexualized context. This dissertation asks: how can black girls, and more specifically, working class black girls, who are faced with inequities because of their race, class, and gender find new ways to define themselves, and name their experiences, in their own words and on their own terms? How can black girls develop ways of being resistant and resilient in the face of adversity, and in the midst of this Hip Hop "attack on black womanhood?"

Using myriad forms of writing and fusing genres of critical essay, poetry, prose, ethnography, and life history, this dissertation, as a feminist, artistic, cultural, and political Hip Hop intervention, seeks to address the aforementioned issues by demonstrating the importance of black women's vocality in Hip Hop. It examines how black women in Hip Hop have negotiated race, class, gender, and sexuality from 1979 to the present. It addresses the disappearance or hiatus of the black female rapper and the subsequent rise and reign of the video vixen, and the implications this has for black girls coming of age during this hyper-commercialization of Hip Hop. It discusses how creative writing workshops, which teach black girls between the ages of 12-17 about the importance of vocality and feminist resistance through poetry/spoken word, can become a new method for investigating black girlhood and exploring issues of resistance and resilience.