You Ain't Messin' Wit My Dougie: Black Masculinities in Post-Millennial Hip-Hop Song and Dance

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Black masculinities displayed by the hip-hop generation have received quite a bit of attention in academia for the past decade. However, the analysis often begins and ends with an examination of rap lyrics. Bodies communicate concepts like masculinities and femininities, so it is shortsighted to exclude them from an analysis of hip-hop and Black masculinities.

    This dissertation attempts to complicate and nuance black masculinities post-2000 by viewing them through the lens of rap music, hip-hop dance, movements, and kinesic imagery.  Historically, Black Dance has been monitored, controlled, and appropriated because of its ability to build communities and inspire subversion. Hip-Hop is an important mass medium that reifies power relations and hip-hop dance is another element that has been used to substantiate assumptions about Black masculinities.  

     This dissertation argues that the larger implications of hip-hop dance instruction songs are that they can be used to distract from rebellious sentiments, and legitimize patriarchy, consumerism, and violence as authentically Black and male.  

    Many of the case studies in this dissertation involve songs that describe dances, both in instruction and purpose.  Just as linguists have argued that a Hip-Hop Nation Language exists, I argue for the existence of a Hip-Hop Kinesic Language (HHKL), in which body movements are a discourse used by hip-hoppers to communicate concepts such as masculinities.  

    This dissertation utilizes Laban Movement Analysis, which provides a language with which to describe the movements used by artists.  The song/dances are also connected to the masculine histories and social contexts of the regions out of which they come.    The song/dances I selected all received major radio and video play and were recognized in the hip-hop communities as mainstream. The three regions from which the song/dances came from were the East Coast (New York), West Coast (California), and the South (Georgia).Using LMA, the videos of the artists performing the dances and songs were analyzed.  

    This piece reflects larger relationships between the white supremacist state and African Americans, and means by which the latter have subverted the former's desires to dominate them.  The state, in an attempt to control African American nationalism and economic and social independence, has co-opted Black art and media including dance.  Hip-Hop dance and dance instruction songs have followed this trajectory, but still have the power to inspire and possibly foment resistance.  Historically, African slaves in North and South America have used song and dance to strengthen communities and disguise insurrectionary activities.  Hip-Hop dance contains the same potential.