Centre for Research in Communication and Culture


7 December 2016

Performing Hip-Hop Englishness: Place, race, masculinity and the role of rap in the performance of Alternative British identities

Presented By Dr Richard Bramwell
  • 1-2 pm (part of the CRCC Seminar Series)
  • Brockington U1.22

About this event

This paper examines the role of rap culture in two youth centres, an arts charity and a high security prison. Whereas blacks make up roughly 3% of the general population, they constitute 15% of the prisoner population in England and Wales. Despite decades on unequal outcomes for black and ethnic minority groups within the criminal justice system, the social experiences and aesthetic practices of black Britons has been largely overlooked within prison sociology. This paper draws on twelve months of fieldwork in English social and penal institutions in order to examine the construction of identity by young adults through rap music. Through a combination of participant observation, interviews and the close textual analysis of rap lyrics, this paper investigates how black men come to terms with their marginalisation in mainstream society, how they negotiate their identities through the black public sphere, and respond to their conditions of incarceration in prison through this oral-poetic form. The paper critically engages with how youth centres and prisons attempt to produce citizen subjects through the provision of music education programmes and the censorship of particular types of rap lyrics. Through an examination of the pedagogical practices and the social and aesthetic judgements made about rap lyrics by youth workers and prison educators, this paper highlights the aesthetic devaluation of rap that takes place even as social and penal institutions recognise the potential instrumental value of engaging with marginalised groups through this art form. 

This event is part of the CRCC Seminar Series.