Regina N. Bradley

Assistant Professor of African American Literature at Armstrong State University

Biography

Spring 2016: Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellowship

Chronicling Stankonia: Recognizing America’s Hip Hop South

Project Description

Chronicling Stankonia: Recognizing America’s Hip Hop South

In a recent interview with the New York Times, southern hip hop pioneer Andre “3000” Benjamin of the Atlanta, Georgia rap duo OutKast discussed his feelings about touring to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik album. The group’s blend of funk, gospel, and memory opened doors for alternative narratives of (southern)  Blackness to be considered part of the hip hop spectrum. Benjamin recently expressed anxiety about being suffocated from the expectations of his previous body of work, stating “sometimes nostalgia is a cage.” I am particularly struck by his critique of nostalgia because of how he, rhyming partner Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, and southern rappers use time and memory to construct their southernness. Nostalgia is the foundation for contemporary southern identities: functioning plantations and tours, Civil War, and Civil Rights Movement re-enactments are an integral part of the contemporary southern culturescape. Benjamin’s critique of nostalgia within southern  hip hop invokes questions of how time and memory intersect with hip hop to construct a contemporary southern Black identity. This question grounds my study Chronicling Stankonia: Recognizing America’s Hip Hop South.

Chronicling Stankonia (under contract, UNC Press) situates hip hop as an intervention in constructing post-Civil Rights Black identities and cultural discourse. For southern Blacks, the past is often restricted to three recognizable historical moments – the Antebellum Era, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement. However, the challenge for post-Civil Rights southern Blacks is speaking truth to power when their truths depart a recognized trajectory of power established by previous generations. Part of southern hip hop culture's truth remains attached to the past but its power is grounded in the fact that younger southerners use hip hop to embrace the possibility of multiple Souths, multiple narratives, and multiple entry points into contemporary Southern Black identities.To interrogate how these multiple sites of identity take shape, my book centers Atlanta, GA hip hop duo OutKast as the founding theoreticians of the Hip Hop South. Their use of hip hop as a starting point for creating and recycling historical touchstones of southern Blackness in the present and future are a departure point for understanding how post-Civil Rights southern Blacks articulate their relationship with the co-dependence of time, space, and memory in the South’s present state.


 

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