Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric | A Peer Reviewed Journal of Current Event Analysis

Web Name: Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric | A Peer Reviewed Journal of Current Event Analysis






Latest Issue

Volume 12, Issue 2

Creating Purpose, Power, and Passion: Sister Souljah and the Rhetoric of Hip Hop

Andre E. Johnson
Damariyé L. Smith

This article introduces a special issue of the Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric addressing the rhetoric of Hip Hop. The essays that follow address a wide range of salient issues, showcasing both how scholars of rhetoric contribute to a richer understanding of Hip Hop and rhetoric and how Hip Hop helps to shape our understanding of rhetoric. Keywords: Rhetoric of Hip Hop

The Hip-Hop Sublime: On the Phenomenology of Hip-Hop’s Sound

Tyler Bunzey

Hip-Hop’s aesthetics have traditionally been associated with literacy in hip-hop scholarship, focusing on how sampling and written lyrical content mirror the production of literary poetry. However, this type of association with literacy relies on an ideology of literacy that places literacy at the top of an aesthetic hierarchy. This hierarchy is particularly problematic given the racialized stakes of literacy in the United States. In practice, however, Hip-Hop resists this association with literacy, particularly in the realm of the sonic. Hip-Hop’s sound functions phenomenologically—evading the capture of the sign—in a formation that this paper refers to as the Hip-Hop sublime. Building on a tradition of signifying beyond words in the Black expressive tradition, the Hip-Hop sublime refers to the affective communal registers of sound that are only available in relationship with the musical culture itself. Attention to the Hip-Hop sublime not only impacts theorizations of Hip-Hop’s sound, but it also proposes a disposition of listening that insists on a communally interpretative relationship between listener, artist, and community. Keywords: Hip-Hop, Hip-Hop sublime, Black music, literacy, phenomenology

The Political Efficacy of Kendrick Lamar’s Performance Rhetoric

Nicole Lowman


In contrast to those who view political efficacy as only affecting public policy, this article argues that self-narration involving a critique of the state like those issued from Kendrick Lamar’s televised award show performances in 2015, 2016, and 2018 are political gestures that broaden the national conversation on racially-motivated police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. The four performances discussed here provide a clear view of how hip hop rhetoric engages with and disputes common sense discourse rooted in white supremacist logics, particularly regarding the infallibility of police and the criminality of Black bodies. The sum of Lamar’s discourses and his political critiques characterizes a rhetorical device I call a poetics of inversion, a varied, multivalent, and politically efficacious rhetorical strategy involving self-narration, political gestures, and reformulation of hegemonic American mythologies. Examining Lamar’s performances brings into focus the political efficacy of his lyrical rhetoric and his visual, auditory, and performative rhetorical gestures. Keywords: hip hop rhetoric, Black Lives Matter, political efficacy, poetics of inversion, Kendrick Lamar

Capitalistic Recuperation: The Spectacle of Performative Progressivism in Hip Hop

Lee Murkey

Andrea N. Hunt

This article explores the state of mainstream Hip Hop and the rhetoric of consumption that is so persuasive today. We begin with a discussion of the educational system and how it functions as an ideological state apparatus to propagate capitalism as a benevolent ideological foundation. This propagation is a form of control that helps maintain the status quo. We describe the dehumanization and alienation within the educational system using a Freirean perspective. The article ends with a critical analysis of the process of capitalistic recuperation in Hip Hop and how this operates within the spectacle as described by Guy Debord. Keywords: Hip Hop, consumption, Paulo Freire, spectacle

Black Joy in the Hour of Chaos: ‘911 is a Joke’ and Its Multiple Messages of Resistance

george white, jr.

The video “911 is a Joke” offers more than just a critique of America’s healthcare system disparities. The rapper Flavor Flav shows a gleefully absurdist call to action for oppressed peoples and their allies. In this essay, I examine the video of “911 is a Joke” to argue that the music samples and Flavor Flav’s visual performances urge us to find the joy in rejecting subordination to White Supremacy. Keywords: Public Enemy, Flavor Flav, Black Lives Matter, Healthcare, COVID-19

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The Theorhetorical Significance of Club Quarantine

Moya Harris

Frank A. Thomas

The search for the sacred is often intensified during times of crisis. There have been varied rhetorical responses during the COVID-19 crisis in the Black community, with much of them initiating from within the church. The sacred/secular dichotomy has created difficultly for some churches to adapt virtually. Despite this tension, fresh theorhetorical moments are emerging that are not necessarily occurring within the church. Compelling events on social media have created community and healing, warranting a scholarly examination from a theorhetorical perspective.

In this essay, we attempt to do this by offering an examination of DJ D-Nice’s Club Quarantine on Instagram. Drawing upon sources from rhetorical theology and theomusicology, we argue that Club Quarantine creates a virtual space that reframes both sacred and secular. Moreover, by understanding the rhetorical dynamics of DJ Nice’s performance, we also maintain that Club Quarantine blurs that sacred/secular divide by providing its own unique brand of holiness that spoke to many while dealing with quarantine and stay at home orders. Keywords: Rhetorical theology, sacred, secular, hip hop, homiletics

A Call (and Response) To Battle Rap

DiArron M.
Dianna Watkins Dickerson

Although battle rap is not a new cultural phenomenon on the hip hop scene, its value as a text is not widely listed in academic circles. Therefore, we contend battle rap culture is a prime space to analyze the influence and inherent understanding of hip hop. This art form’s struggle, strain, conquest, and challenge ebbs and flows like an athletic competition infusing a culturally distinct experience of Black ontology. With this in mind, we argue battle rap creates a competitive podium where we can examine communication, culture and critically assess identification within specific groups. Keywords: Battle Rap, Black Identity, Rhetoric, Hip Hop

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