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From Jay-Z to Dead Prez: Examining Representations of Black Masculinity in Mainstream Versus Underground Hip-Hop Music

by Crystal Belle

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The evolution of hip-hop music and culture has impacted the visibility of Black men and the Black male body. As hip-hop continues to become commercially viable, performances of Black masculinities can be easily found on magazine covers, television shows, and popular websites. How do these representations affect the collective consciousness of Black men, while helping to construct a particular brand of masculinity that plays into the White imagination? This theoretical article explores how representations of Black masculinity vary in underground versus mainstream hip-hop, stemming directly from White patriarchal ideals of manhood. Conceptual and theoretical analyses of songs from the likes of Jay-Z and Dead Prez and Imani Perry’s Prophets of the Hood help provide an understanding of the parallels between hip-hop performances/identities and Black masculinities.

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