Thursday, May 21, 2020

Rebekah Farrugia & Kellie D. Hay's "Women Rapping Revolution"

Rebekah Farrugia is Professor of Media Studies in the Department of Communication, Journalism, and Public Relations at Oakland University. She is the author of Beyond the Dance Floor: Female DJs, Technology, and Electronic Dance Music Culture.

Kellie D. Hay is Professor of Cultural Studies in the Department of Communication, Journalism, and Public Relations at Oakland University. She has authored many articles about music, politics, and cultural identity, and specializes in critical qualitative methodologies.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Women Rapping Revolution: Hip Hop and Community Building in Detroit, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Women Rapping Revolution features emcee Mahogany Jones’s track “Skin Deep” from her album Pure. Ronald “iRonic” Lee Jr. produced the track that features fellow Detroit emcee Insite the Riot and vocalist Ozara Ode.' In our analysis, we contend that “Skin Deep’s” music and lyrics invite listeners to reflect on the history of whiteness and colonization in the United States. Specifically, the track zeroes in on the privileging of light skin and emphasizes the need for Black girls and women to love themselves in a country where they continue to be exoticized and treated as less than white women.

Upon receiving the call to participate in the Page 99 Test we eagerly flipped through our book to see whether or not this one page would give readers an accurate sense of the project as a whole. To our amazement, page 99 is an uncannily accurate snapshot of the subject matter we engage in Women Rapping Revolution. Specifically, it is a page from the chapter where we expand upon the concept of the “Vulnerable Maverick,” a construct we introduce and use as a framework for analyzing Black women’s subjectivity in their roles as artists and cultural citizens. The pairing of vulnerability with a maverick’s attitude and power rescues vulnerability from weakness. It is a response and contrast to the controlling image known as the Strong Black Woman, which forecloses the possibility of vulnerability.

In reference to “Skin Deep,” Insite the Riot explains on page 99 that the song expresses her belief that “vulnerability is a strength, self-confidence is a necessity, and recognizing our own beauty is vital.” iRonic Lee adds that “these issues are frequently experienced and seldom dealt with or even expressed artistically.” We argue that together these artists create fresh texture, where colorism and institutionalized racism brush up against perseverance and the joy of self-love in melodic rhythms, a jazzy hook, and soft and steady voices.

Women Rapping Revolution is an ethnographic study about a women-centered collective called The Foundation (2009-2016) that had a dynamic presence in Detroit’s hip hop underground at a time when the city was undergoing immense transition as it fell into and emerged from bankruptcy. Throughout, we employ an interdisciplinary framework to showcase how women and some men in the city embody hip hop’s roots as a community-building enterprise to create spaces and places for themselves in an increasingly neoliberal environment. While in many ways diverse, a common set of ethics, aesthetics, and an overarching commitment to social justice binds these artists together.
Learn more about Women Rapping Revolution at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue