Hip-Hop and the Dilution of Resistance in the Mainstream
Wicks, Amanda Stacy
Hip-Hop music has undergone a major transition from its inception in the late 1970s to the 21st-century. The genre shifted from being an underground counter-culture, to being at the center of the mainstream. This transition has spawned dueling schools of thought amongst scholars regarding the current state of Hip-Hop. One school of thought is predicated upon a desire for Hip-Hop to return to its origins of consciously speaking truth and engendering real-life political and social change. The other school of thought basks in Hip-Hop’s mainstream success and acknowledges that there are Hip-Hop artists who still present real, conscious messages. Intervening in the ongoing debate about Hip-Hop’s status, I offer a more nuanced approach that problematizes both schools of thought by examining the inevitabilities of mainstream success. Pointing to the work of Kendrick Lamar as an example, I probe the tension between resistance and mainstream consumption in an effort to reveal the reality of Hip-Hop’s fate. When met with mass-consumption, the power of socially and politically engaged messages is ineluctably diluted rendering Hip-Hop’s position in the mainstream much more complex than what has been previously explored.