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The Long Island Rap Renaissance: hip-hop’s suburban turn and America’s changing Black middle class, 1986-1993

Project description

Tracing hip-hop's Black suburban history to deepen understanding of its social character

Hip-hop’s history has generally been theorised through the social lens of its inner-city origins in post-industrial New York as ‘ghetto’ music. Yet, from 1986 to 1993 many of the genre’s most innovative and commercially successful acts came from small Black towns in suburban Long Island. The EU funded LI-RAP project is the first work to explore this era-defining explosion of hip-hop innovation from the suburbs, with the aim of more fully illuminating the genre’s complex history of race, class and geography. LI-RAP frames its account by looking to New York’s rapid wave of Black suburbanisation in the post-Civil Rights decades, and to the shifting fortunes of these little-documented Black communities, which often viewed themselves as middle class.


The Long Island Rap Renaissance: hip-hop’s suburban turn and America’s changing Black middle class, 1986-1993 is the first scholarship to bring together a neglected strand of hip-hop history – that of the major role played by artists from New York’s Black outer suburbs in the international explosion of hip-hop as a cultural and aesthetic force from 1986 – with an account of the history of race, class and Black suburbanization that frames it. Not only does this research mark an important revision in hip-hop studies – which thus far has tended to view hip-hop as quintessentially urban ghetto music, focusing its social analysis on extreme inner-city social/economic marginalization, and occluding the socially and geographically complex reality of hip-hop’s development in the 1980-1990s. It also provides an invaluable youthful lens on the major conjunctural shifts, and losses, experienced by African Americans in post-Civil Rights America. This will bring new insights to debates explored by sociologists like Omi and Winant (1986), Landry (1988), Marable (2002) and Wiese (2004) regarding the increasingly ambivalent experience of race, class and suburbia for middle-class Blacks in the 1980s.
Looking both to the history of hip-hop’s presence in Long Island, to the developments created there and how its music sounded the suburban Black experience, the study will entwine aspects of cultural and aesthetic history, accounting these globally impactful developments in popular music, with a profound social and political history that is particularly pertinent in today’s political climate. The aim will be to achieve a more nuanced generational understanding of race and class at this pivotal moment in history as it fed into hip-hop, its politics and aesthetics. The study will revise these received histories and make legible the true diversity of African American and Afrodiasporic culture(s) in hip hop.


Net EU contribution
€ 196 590,72
T12 YN60 Cork

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Ireland Southern South-East
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 196 590,72