“Can’t Tote No Gun but I’m Strapped Right Now”: Hip-Hop as Language and Refuge Amongst Low-Income Black Youth

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University of Delaware
This project seeks to (1) highlight the importance of hip-hop/rap music in the lives of low-income Black youth, (2) trace low-income Black youths’ internal processing of hip-hop/rap music and (3) demonstrate the communicative potential of hip-hop/rap in understanding the lived experiences of low-income Black youth. To gain insight on low-income Black youths’ interaction with hip-hop, a select group of low-income Black youth from the Riverside neighborhood in Wilmington, DE participated in an online survey and semi-structured follow-up call pertaining to their hip-hop/rap listening. The youths’ responses indicate that hip-hop is a vehicle for youth to (1) identify and process their lived experiences and (2) engage in healthy emotional regulation. In addition, lyrical hip-hop translations provided by youth, alongside contemporary sociolinguistic framings of hip-hop language, reveal phenomenological complexities in low-income Black youth’s lived experiences that are otherwise ineffable. Centrally, the study connects the role of hip-hop among low-income Black youth to its linguistic potential and offers hip-hop as a valuable tool for youth-centered researchers and educators.
Hip-hop, Rap, Black youth, Wilmington, DE, Hip-hop nation language, YPAR