“We Real Cool” : The Performance of Black Masculinity in American Hip Hop and the Re-Signification of White America’s Stereotypical View on the Black Male

Hartha, Jennifer

In this paper, I will discuss the ways in which the idea of black masculinity in the U.S. is constructed and how it is being reflected and re-signified by black male hip hop artists. Hip hop is the most salient music genre that comes to mind when talking about black masculinity in the context of American consumerism and art. I will take a close look at P. Diddy’s music video Bad Boy for Life, which was released in 2001. This video is one of the key works for the analysis of mainstream notions of black American masculinity and the role of white males in the process of constructing masculinity in the US. In the following, I will show how this video engages with white America’s stereotypical view on black male hip hop artists and how it parodies these assumptions of black masculinity. Being an aficionado of American hip hop myself, I find it important to make clear that in many cases, rap is wrongly accused of homophobia and misogyny. Sadly enough, there are a lot of artists who support such misanthropic values, but assuming that this problem only exists in hip hop and that it is representative for the entire genre would not acknowledge the complexity and wit of hip hop as a cultural movement and art form. So the questions are: where do these pejorative ideas come from? What does the mainstream image of a black male rapper in the U.S. look like and how do members of the American hip hop community represent themselves?

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Hartha, Jennifer: “We Real Cool”. The Performance of Black Masculinity in American Hip Hop and the Re-Signification of White America’s Stereotypical View on the Black Male. 2014.

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