Today’s Q&A is with Lakeyta M. Bonnette, author of Pulse of the People: Political Rap Music and Black Politics, which lays a foundation for the study of political rap music and public opinion research and demonstrates ways in which political attitudes asserted in the music have been transformed into direct action and behavior of constituents. In it, Bonnette examines the history of rap music and its relationship to and extension from other cultural and political vehicles within Black America, presenting criteria for identifying the specific subgenre of music that is political rap. She complements the statistics of rap music exposure with lyrical analysis of rap songs that espouse Black Nationalist and Black Feminist attitudes. Touching on a number of critical moments in American racial politics—including the 2008 and 2012 elections and the cases of the Jena 6, Troy Davis, and Trayvon Martin—Pulse of the People makes a compelling case for the influence of rap music in the political arena and greatly expands our understanding of the ways political ideologies and public opinion are formed.
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Penn Press: What ideologies are most affected by exposure to political rap?
Lekeyta Bonnette: In this book the ideologies that were examined were Black Nationalist and Black Feminist ideology. Both of these ideologies were positively impacted by exposure to political rap in comparison to no music or exposure to non-political rap.
Has political rap become its own genre, or does it remain an assumed subgenre of mainstream rap?
Political rap has always been its own subgenre of rap in general, but not in the way as categorized by me in this text. Most people will acknowledge that political rap or message rap exists, but this rap has been more aligned with artists presenting a specific ideology consistently in their music. This book suggests that political rap songs exist from artists that may not be classified as politically oriented and thus the songs should be analyzed separately and not focus solely on the political consistency of the artist.
Why has political rap become particularly resonant in this current political climate?
With the political and social issues that are occurring globally we are seeing more and more marginalized communities utilize this cultural form to assert their ideas, grievances and issues. This is occurring because of the popularity of the genre.