Authentic Ideals of Masculinity in Hip-Hop Culture: A Contemporary Extension of the Masculine Rhetoric of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements

Megan Morris

Abstract


The production and interpretation of hip-hop culture, particularly rap music, revolves around the concept of authenticity, or “keeping it real.” This authenticity is constructed by its artists and consumers from both racial and gendered ideals. The discourse surrounding hip-hop culture is centred on the belief that in order for one to participate in hip-hop, and for their participation to be considered authentic, they must adhere to, and define themselves, according to its dominant racial and gendered identity. This authentic hip-hop identity is predominantly African American and primarily encompasses an aggressive brand of masculinity. Authors, however, often overlook hip-hop culture’s understanding of authenticity as an extension of historical racial discourse. The masculine rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and more specifically the aesthetic ideals of “cool pose,” has embedded itself in the continued efforts of African American men to define themselves against a dominant white culture. As the proclaimed “voice of a generation” these efforts are manifest in the music, the artists and the fans of hip-hop culture.

Looking at artists such as Tupac, Jay Z, and 5th Ward Weebie, I argue that their representation of hyper-masculinity, through their work and public image, is an active attempt to mediate economic, social and political neglect prevalent within the African American urban community. This notion of authenticity is not merely the glorification of wealth, consumption, criminal activity and violence, but a contextually relevant endorsement of a particular black manhood that is the contemporary reflection of the masculine rhetoric of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.

Full Text:

PDF