Canonical scholarship on rap music (i.e. Joan Morgan's When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost) assumes a link between female sex and gender. This gendered conversation limits the scope of analysis and often renders rap as, simply, misogynistic. It is often the Black feminine p that is silenced, misread, and ignored in these analyses. In this thesis, I seek to reevaluate the influence of Black feminine performances in rap music. I apply black feminist theorist Hortense Spiller's concept of the flesh, explicated in her landmark text "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Book," to theorize a radical practice of imagination through Black feminine performances. I define imagination as the ability to conceive of that which is not immediately present and argue that performances of imagination break from all dualities, particularly man/woman/ and male/female. Through close readings of OutKast's "Elevators (Me & You)" and "Jazzy Belle" from the album ATLiens and Missy Elliot's "The Rain [Supa Dupa Fly]" and "Work It," I read for the flesh expressed as imagination to explore the ways in which rap musical and visual productions are used to imagine and create alternative selves, identities, and realities. I conclude that Outkast interrogates the alienation and outkasting of Black populations in America and imagines the endless possibilities of that which is outside of the norm. Further, though Jazzy Belle is critiqued for failing to adhere to the patriarchal construction of women as pure and chaste, I read her failure as a demand to imagine non-normative femininities. In the case of "The Rain [Supa Dupa Fly]," I posit that imagination is expressed through the theatrical depictions of Elliott's imagined body. The iconic plastic bag suit and the manipulations of her proportions through special effects combine to make a body which is not legible within the gendered discourse. Additionally, her subversion of language in "Work It" is an example of the ways in which performance imagines possibilities for expression that language alone cannot sufficiently provide.
Table of Contents
This table of contents is under embargo until 31 August 2021
About this Honors Thesis
|Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor|
|File download under embargo until 31 August 2021||2018-08-28||File download under embargo until 31 August 2021|