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date: 17 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter offers a historical contextualization of crunk, an Atlanta-based subgenre of hip hop, in order to access its political underpinnings. By situating the development of crunk within the context of nonparticipant panic surrounding the 1990s Black spring break event Freaknik, this chapter argues that crunk represents an aestheticization of resistance to concurrent heightened policing of Black youth leisure. While discussions of politics in hip hop music generally centralize lyrical content, crunk, with its emphasis on loud interjectional vocalizations, and extended sections of repetitious chant, necessitates an alternate analytical approach in addressing its political subtext. Accordingly, this chapter offers J. L. Austin’s concept of performative utterances and Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s theory of Signifyin’ as frames for addressing how crunk uses vocality, and by extension language, to manifest political subversion, not through lyrical content or poetic virtuosity but by facilitating the reproduction of a stylized performance that actively resists the silencing/repression of Black youth pleasure.

Keywords: Atlanta, crunk, Southern hip hop, Freaknik, party culture, Black youth, performance, performativity, signifyin(g), moral panic

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