[Cross-posted from New Books in Popular Music] Cultural movements don’t exist in vacuums. Consciously or not, all movements borrow from, and sometimes reject, those that came before. In Hip Hop’s Inheritance: From the Harlem Renaissance to the Hip Hop Feminist Movement (Lexington Books, 2011), the first in a trilogy of books that cast a critical eye upon hip hop as a social and cultural movement, Reiland Rabaka traces the pre-history of hip hop as a series of separate yet connected movements that dealt with inequalities of race/ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. Using Africana, feminist, and queer critical theories as tools for understanding, Rabaka follows the history of black, women’s, and LGBT resistance to heterosexual white male hegemony in U.S. culture. Rabaka’s focus is always on the roles that art and artists (literary, visual, musical) have in people’s active resistances to oppression. The Harlem Renaissance, Black Arts Movement, Black Women’s Liberation, and Feminist Art Movements are just a few of the cultural happenings that Rabaka details as precursors to today’s “conscious” rap, feminist rap, and Homo-Hop, among others. All along, Rabaka’s message is not simply academic, he is also speaking directly to contemporary hip hoppers, urging them not to forget their past and to learn from the struggles of their forbears.
Reiland Rabaka is an Associate Professor of African, African American, and Caribbean Studies in the Department of Ethnic Studies and the Humanities Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he is also an Affiliate Professor in the Women and Gender Studies Program and a Research Fellow at the Center for Studies of Ethnicity and Race in America (CSERA). He has published ten books, including Hip Hop’s Amnesia: From Blues and Black Women’s Club Movement to Rap and the Hip Hop Movement (2012) and The Hip Hop Movement: From R&B and the Civil Rights Movement to Rap and the Hip Hop Generation (2013).