Abstract and Keywords
This chapter examines how hip hop exemplifies the instrumentalization of verbal arsenals, lyrical kung fu, and other rhetorical gestures to “words as weapons.” Indeed, this weaponization of knowledge may be thought of as the very premise of hip hop—of rap music as martial art. While this theorization will help explain hip hop’s enduring polycultural commitment to martial arts, the aim here is a more foundational one—to account for the ways that the trope of physical violence functions in hip hop discourses and performative practices. The chapter employs a political economy framework to argue that this translation from the discursive to the material is a counterhegemonic response to the conflation of the First and Second Amendments of the US Constitution: “the freedom of speech” and “the right to bear arms.” The chapter concludes by explaining why hip hop has proven an unlikely force for nonviolence in the Black Lives Matter moment.
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