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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Life writing by hip hop artists occupies a remarkable segment of the memoir boom. Mostly ignored by scholars, hip hop autobiographies and memoirs cover a broad range of styles and subjects. They creatively subvert mainstream life-writing traditions associated with “prominent white males,” and link up with African American artistic forms. By analyzing hip hop autobiographies from an intermedial perspective that highlights the semiotic systems involved in meaning-making, this chapter argues that the polyvocal and relational memoirs of Common and of Questlove, as well as the comic-book graphic narratives of 50 Cent and of M.F. Grimm, are multilayered works of art that challenge staid reading practices. As African American artists’ autobiographies have been misconstrued as politicized ethnographies, sensitivity to the media-specific features of these texts provides access to their methods of demonstrating the philosophical significance of their artistic conceptualization.

Keywords: life writing, African American, autobiography, intermediality, polyvocality, graphic narrative, relationality, reading practices

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