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date: 22 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

“Recuperating the Real” revisits the perennial question of authenticity in hip hop to show how its original iteration connotes a commitment to Black liberation. In the post–golden era, this counterhegemonic version of realness was overshadowed in mainstream rap productions by an alternate version that reinscribes dominant norms more than it challenges them. This chapter delineates these versions as hip hop authenticity and rap authenticity, and traces their common origins through their divergence and eventual loose associations with conscious hip hop and gangsta rap respectively. It then argues that scholars have disproportionately attended to rap authenticity at the expense of hip hop authenticity. Consequently, performances of realness that commercialize a supposed Black cultural pathology have been exhaustively critiqued. However, hip hoppers’ use of authenticity discourse as a means of critical self-definition and communal boundary work organically rooted in Black resistance against intersecting systems of oppression remains undertheorized.

Keywords: hip hop, rap, authenticity, realness, liberation, conscious, gangsta, blackness, Black culture, Black politics

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