The Signifyin (g) Tradition of the Hip-hop Music Video Open Access

Scallan, Ryan (2015)

Permanent URL:


This thesis attempts to interpret and contextualize Henry Louis Gates 1989 text, The Signifying Monkey, through the textual and formal analysis of hip-hop music videos spanning the last three decades. Through the exploration of Gates's theoretical frameworks, each chapter places prominent black cultural theorists in dialogue with one another in order to find space for new interpretations and understandings of black cultural traditions imbedded within hip-hop music video culture. Each chapter moves through different themes within The Signifying Monkey, drawing structural and theoretical comparisons between prominent African American modernist authors and hip-hop music video auteurs. Dissenting theorists from Stuart Hall's Birmingham School of Cultural Studies provide alternate perspectives and complicate notions of cultural continuity across mediums specific to African American cultural traditions. The final chapter focuses on a 2014 roundtable discussion involving Michael Eric Dyson and the rapper Nas. The discussion operates as an example of hip-hop scholars' tendency to focus solely on the lyrical and narrative importance of rap music. This thesis aims to prove that the formal and textual aspects of hip-hop music videos serve as important visual examples of Signification and contain decades of valuable contextual information.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Rap Videos and Signifyin (g)...7

Chapter 2: "Knowledge Born, What's the Science Baby?"...25

Chapter 3: Signification in the Digital Age...41

Parting Thoughts...64


Work Cited...67

About this Master's Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files