Discussions with Political Scientists: Lester Spence
Hip-hop has, within a short time span, moved from a free-flowing expression of urban youth to a global–and highly marketable–musical genre. Its influence in culture, fashion, film, and music is ubiquitous, and theories about hip-hop’s importance in the political sphere abound. But what, exactly, is the relationship between hip-hop and politics? Does hip-hop influence the expression and formation of political thought? Does it influence the expression and formation of political action? If the influence exists, what are its boundaries? These are some of the questions tackled in Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-Hop and Black Politics by Lester K. Spence. Spence traces the concurrent neoliberal turn in hip-hop and American politics and examines the implications of both for the politics of black Americans. He infuses the narrative of neoliberal transformation with empirical examination of hip-hop’s impact on the political attitudes of the hip-hop generation and of urban youth. Analyzing track lyrics, survey data, and original experiments, Spence theorizes the boundaries of the space in black American life that is occupied by both hip-hop and politics.