Theory and Methodology of Realestate

This thesis will use the “structured action theory” as a theoretical basis for its  findings. Therefore, the concept of masculinity, though expressed differently, has been  constant for Messerschmidt describes this theory by stating that “gender grows out social  practices in specific social structural settings and serves to inform such practices in  reciprocal relation” (6). Structured action theory also theorizes men “in different social  positions achieve masculinity in different ways,” depending on the “resources available  to them” (Reilly 13). In addition, it is my opinion that many conditions that effect Black  males have evolved, but have largely gone unchanged. According to Winant, “all the  social practices that influenced racial dualism in 1903 continue today: the segregation of  the minority (and particularly black) communities, the discriminatory and regressive  allocation of underemployment, undereducation, and other forms of substantive  inequality to members of these communities”(8). These systems of domination have  been constant for generations of Black men, from the 1940s to the present hip hop  generation. Moreover, Messerschmidt characterizes gender as something one can “do”  (6). I choose to use the word perform. Performance theorist Judith Butler asserts “the  acts by which gender is constituted bear similarities to performative acts within theatrical  contexts” (Butler 272). Acting out one’s gender can be a slightly individual decision but  in most cases they “specify pre-existing cultural relations; they are rarely, if ever,  radically original” (277). Gender is not a static concept. According to the structured  action theory, we show that “we are male or female by means of concocted behaviors that  may by interpreted accordingly” (7). In other words, the way one acts in a hip hop setting 

 

such as a nightclub or bar to demonstrate that they are one gender or another is often  different than the way they perform gender at work. For this reason, I will recount some  of the cultural and gender norms of hip hop spaces in this document. As gender is linked  with behavior, I attempt to show that one who exhibits strong behavior can be seen as  more of a man than others.  

Many scholars have lumped all hip hop together into one essentialist brown mass.  I acknowledge that hip hop differs from east to west, north and south, independent and  commercial, hardcore, crunk, conscious, hyphy, gangsta, screwed, and backpack. Many  of the artists that I interviewed avoided labels and viewed them as limiting. However, the  crowds that they associate themselves with, market their music to, and perform for,  determine the way they perform their masculinity in their lyrics and demeanor when they  are in hip hop spaces. Each of these hip hop categories and identities, however, have  their own performance of what is real, which is affected by the same basic principles of  Black masculinities. Masculine performance in hip hop alters depending on the social  structures that surround the culture.  

 There are other scholars who have done work on masculinity and hip hop. Robin  D.G. Kelley has written two books that were useful to my own work. However, this  thesis is original because in place of just using the words of popular artists, it includes  primary interviews with artists that represent the thousands of rappers who have not yet  made it in front the MTV cameras and cannot afford bling. Kelley and others have not  done ethnographic research and certainly not with ‘underground’ rappers.  

When I speak about a theatrical performance of the real, it is not to take away  from the legitimacy of some of the claims that 50 Cent and others are making. Black 

males are indeed being shot, jailed, and forgotten, disproportionately more than other  races and genders in the United States (Madhubuti 69). It is my claim that a performance  of a particular masculinity seems to prevail in hip hop above others, and it is rooted in the  urban struggle. I characterize it as a performance because many rappers say something  similar. Some of the rappers I interviewed thought of their rap persona as an  “exaggeration.” Ice Cube, the self proclaimed “nigga ya love to hate,” said that rap music  is performed in a “theatrical way” (Saddik 110). Project Pat, a well-known rapper from  Memphis, Tennessee stated the following about the reality of the claims made with in his  rap music:  

Well, it’s just a job. It’s just like Al Pacino can play Carlito  

in Carlito’s Way. It’s a job. Al Pacino’s not a gangster.  

He’s an actor. You gotta look at it like this, I can tell y’all  

rap tales and hood tales and some of the tales be similarly  

true and a lot of the tales guys can relate to. Some of the  

things I’ve done, somebody else did, or I know about, but  

all in all anything on me it had to have been the past. I’m  

not out here doing it now. You can’t be out here selling  

crack on the corners and rappin’. (Diva)  

It is also my belief that alternate forms of Black masculinity arise in hip hop during  short stints of American economic prosperity. The Clinton era budget surplus and job  growth in the United States ushered in the bling-bling period, where gangsta emcees in  the 50 Cent vain took a back seat to flashy metrosexual rappers such as Ma$e and Puff  

Daddy. This form of masculinity has seen a recent reemergence with the rise to stardom  of Kanye West. Some in the academy have attributed hip hop’s version of Black  masculinity (the assumption is that it is one, uniform expression) to a rearticulation of the  Black power patriarchy (hooks 150). 

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