Authenticity in Hip Hop Music

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The Issue of Racial Construct and Authenticity in Music

The issue of racial construct and authenticity in music, particularly in rap and hip hop, has dominated the area of sociological research for the past couple of decades since the two genres of music were incepted in the early 1990s.

The Manifestation of White Audience

During the early days when hip hop was introduced, people did not seem to pay much attention to this music until the extent of its white audience was manifested. Ostensibly, series of sociological studies point out that the basic assumption surrounding racial authenticity and hip hop music have always been that the identity of people of color is legitimate by default, whereas the identity of the whites is either invalid or suspect.

The Role of White Hip Hop Artists

In as much as the originality and identity of hip hop music has been widely associated with African Americans, the majority of the well-rehearsed and volatile debates on the issue have put strong emphasis on the contested white hip hop artists' acceptability. Besides, other concerns pointing that the whites have played an integral role as hip hoppers who have aided in the expansion of the market for rap music as a leading demographic within that market, as well as critical players behind the scene, have made hip hop music more popular than before [1]. Even so, the juxtaposition of hip hop and the white identity still continues to present a lot of intriguing sociological concerns.

The 'Elvis Effect' and Authenticity

The issue regarding the participation of the whites in the traditionally African American avenues of cultural production, also commonly referred to as the 'Elvis Effect,' has spurred the work of authenticity to a greater deal [2]. Grounded in this occurrence, African Americans have made notable efforts to secure hip hop music distinctly as their own creation. As series of debates continue to move into the 21st century, all sorts of audiences are approaching the concerns of the authenticity of hip hop and whiteness, with different interests, assumptions, and expectations.

Improvement of Race Relations

The big question, therefore, is whether the participation of the whites in hip hop music optimistically championed as indicative of improvement of race relations by the Americans. Of course, this major concern is a highly contentious issue, and for the debaters who hold this matter with the weight that it deserves, and those who try to theorize the social significance of this, can make the audience and other academic researchers understand the connection between hip hop and race and how significant it is, without forgetting its consequential endeavor [3].

The Worldwide Appeal of Hip Hop

The diffusion and worldwide appeal of hip hop through the social barriers of class and race demonstrate how important and influential it is. Different writers have emphasized on the Afro-Americanization of the native male Americans by pointing out the cultural weight of the male hip hop artists as well as the prominence of the male athletes [4].

The Appeal and Presence of Hip Hop Culture

It has also been noticed that the assimilation of the whites into American culture has also resulted in both the female and the male youths in America emulating and imitating the styles in which the black males gesticulate, dress, talk, and walk while relating to others. The phenomenon mentioned above illustrates the extent to which the culture of hip hop has had a growing appeal and a universal presence. With such a strong societal presence, which increasingly continues to permeate different types of cultures, it is imperative for the workers in the social service sectors, the educators, and the parents to be cognizant of the roles that hip hop culture and music can play in the identities of the culture's target audience, particularly the impressionable young people.

Musical Preferences and Identity

Each genre of music within popular culture has its fans with a specific marker of identity linked to the musical preference they share. Whereas the fact that different fans might prefer listening to specific musical genres, this does not necessarily mean that an individual may not enjoy music from a different genre [5].

Interests in Urban Music

For instance, a hip hop fan would enjoy listening to hip hop and still tune in for punk music. However, expert opinion suggests that to some extent, genres in different musical cultures are always embedded within the whole lifestyle and culture, thus making it hard for an individual to be a partial fan. Grounded in this reason, it is justifiable to claim that the idea that hip hop seemed to have originated from African Americans does not mean that only the blacks can be identified by this music genre. In fact, there is also a high possibility that some African Americans might be more interested in urban music than hip hop and rap, which has been widely identified with the blacks [6]. Recent findings have also shown that white hip hop artists have continued to garner much attention in research concerning the growth of hip hop in the United States. The contemporary research centers on the steady rising impact of the whites' movement in hip hop music. Eminem, for example, who is a white hip hop artist, has been described as a master who masks his whiteness into hip hop music, making it a non-issue [7]. Sociological findings also unleash the famous territory of the popularization of the early 1990s gangsta rap, which was seen among the white middle-class adolescents.

Expanding the Scope of Research

As far as the issue of racial identity and authentication of hip hop music is concerned, it is high time that contemporary researchers in sociology need to put more emphasis on individuals and populations falling outside the black and white racial binary in America [8]. The best place to begin the search is the multiracial arenas where hip hop culture is widely preferred and celebrated. Besides, if experts are going to continue talking about hip hop as a culture and not a musical genre, then a serious interrogation of cultural processes is going to be absolutely essential. However, such studies might not possibly bring answers to, or help in solving the great debates relating to racial identity and authenticity that has continued to exist. The above-mentioned argument, which has existed for more than three decades now may not come to a closure, even though further research would help in injecting new life into the current discussions. With all said and done, burgeoning findings reaffirm the thesis for the paper that the basic assumption surrounding racial authenticity and hip hop music have always been that the identity of people of color is legitimate by default, whereas the identity of the whites is either invalid or suspect.


Cutler, Cecilia. Keepin'It Real: White Hip‐Hoppers' Discourses of Language, Race, and Authenticity." Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 13, no. 2 (2003): 211-233.

Fraley, Todd. "I got a natural skill…: Hip-hop, authenticity, and whiteness." The Howard Journal of Communications 20, no. 1 (2009): 37-54.

Harkness, Geoff. "True school: situational authenticity in Chicago’s hip-hop underground." Cultural Sociology 6, no. 3 (2012): 283-298.

Hess, Mickey. "Hip-hop realness and the white performer." Critical Studies in Media Communication 22, no. 5 (2005): 372-389.

Sharma, Nitasha Tamar. Hip hop desis: South Asian Americans, blackness, and a global race consciousness. Duke University Press, 2010.

Westinen, Elina. "The discursive construction of authenticity: Resources, scales and polycentricity in Finnish hip hop culture." Jyväskylä studies in humanities; 1459-4331; 227.(2014).

[1]Cecilia, Cutler. Keepin'It Real: White Hip‐Hoppers' Discourses of Language, Race, and Authenticity. (Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 2003) 211-233.

[2] Ibid., 217.

[3] Todd, Fraley. I got a natural skill…: Hip-hop, authenticity, and whiteness. (The Howard Journal of Communications, 2009): 37-54.

[4] Mickey, Hess. Hip-hop realness and the white performer. (Critical Studies in Media Communication, 2005): 372-389.

[5] Elina, Westinen. The discursive construction of authenticity: Resources, scales and polycentricity in Finnish hip hop culture. (Jyväskylä studies in humanities, 2014).

[6] Geoff, Harkness. True school: situational authenticity in Chicago’s hip-hop underground. (Cultural Sociology, 2012): 283-298

[7] Ibid., 289.

[8] Tamar, S. Nitasha. Hip hop desis: South Asian Americans, blackness, and a global race consciousness. (Duke University Press, 2010).

October 05, 2023

Music Sociology


Race and Ethnicity

Subject area:

Hip Hop

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Expertise Hip Hop
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