From the Ride'n'Tie to Ryde-or-Die: A pedagogy of survival in Black youth popular cultural forms
Benson, Michon Anita
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation investigates key similarities between l9th-century slave accounts and what I call "hip-hop captivity narratives." As a corrective to the negative attention accorded hip-hop, in general, my project identifies particular aspects of slave authors' literary strategies that urban hip-hop artists reinvent in their own music and filmmaking works. My primary goal is to position hip-hop texts as the most recent arrivals in a long-standing African American tradition of instructional, survivalist literature. Such a goal closes two gulfs: one, between "the literary academy" and "the street," and two, between hip-hop generationers' and their Black Civil Rights forbearers' perceptions of social and/or communal progress. The Introduction situates my work within African American Studies and argues a New Historicist approach for the study of hip-hop culture. Chapter One, "The Education of Hip-Hop," argues that more than a form of entertainment, hip-hop is an educational project. I delineate elements that contemporary rap music and film borrow from the slave narrative tradition. Chapter Two, "Sounds from the Underground: The Pedagogy of Survival in Rap Texts," argues that the music of underground and mainstream rappers publicly and privately demonstrates Black youth's cultural ties to one another and to their history, reinforcing the bonds of shared political objectives, such as unity and liberation. Examining Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (1989) through the lens of DuBoisian double consciousness, Chapter Three, "Be a Man!, Get a Job! Stay Black: Dangerous Ghetto Manifestoes in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing," provides a novel reading of some challenges young men experience as they attempt to simultaneously actualize manhood, Blackness, and socio-economic mobility in a post-modern, post-Civil Rights era still fraught with vestiges of the period of slavery. Finally, Chapter Four, "We Ride Together; We Die Together: Thug Misses, Gangsta Bytches, and 'Ryde-or-Die Chicks'," discusses the lyrics and images of female rappers and reads Black female characters in the hip-hop filmic text, Set it Off (1996). Such an exercise highlights key ways young urban women publicly support the actuation of Black manhood within the boundaries of male-dominated popular cultural forms.
American studies; Black studies; Music; Cinema