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21 - Hip Hop Nation Language

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

H. Samy Alim
Affiliation:
Duke University
Edward Finegan
Affiliation:
University of Southern California
John R. Rickford
Affiliation:
Stanford University, California
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Summary

Editors' introduction

This chapter is a good example of how rapidly American English can change, for it deals with a phenomenon that had scarcely begun when the first edition of Language in the USA was published in 1980. “Rapper's Delight,” the first hip hop song, was recorded in 1979. Between then and now, rapping (“the aesthetic placement of verbal rhymes over musical beats”) and other elements of hip hop have come to dominate popular music and youth culture, not only in the USA but all over the world, including Africa, Europe, and Asia. Among the five other hip hop elements identified in this chapter are DJing (record spinning) and breakdancing (streetdancing). Like rappin, all had their roots in the streets, party and concert halls, and other performance venues of African America. Although African Americans still predominate on the American hip hop scene, performers now come from other ethnic groups too (e.g., Eminem, who is white, and Fat Joe, who is Puerto Rican).

Pointing to the frequency with which it comes up in song and album titles and in his own interviews with writers and hip hop artists, H. Samy Alim argues that language – especially Hip Hop Nation Language (HHNL) – is central to the Hip Hop Nation (the “borderless” composite of hip hop communities worldwide). He identifies ten tenets of HHNL, including its rootedness in African American language and discursive practices, its regional variability, its synergistic combination of speech, music, and literature, and its links with surrounding sociopolitical circumstances, like police brutality and the disproportionate incarceration of the African American hip hop generation.

Type
Chapter
Information
Language in the USA
Themes for the Twenty-first Century
, pp. 387 - 409
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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