Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of History
Toure F. Reed
My thesis explores the impact of underclass ideology and the budding neoliberal consensus on black censorship efforts against gangsta rap music in the 1990s and early 2000s. While there are a few scholarly works that focus on blacks’ involvement in the gangsta rap censorship movement, they fail to provide any serious inquiry into their ideological motivations for pursuing censorship. In an effort to fill this gap, my thesis looks at underclass ideology and neoliberalism in relation to two groups that were active in the gangsta rap censorship movement: black liberals and the Nation of Islam (NOI).
I argue that censors took issue with the genre because they saw it as promoting social pathology among African Americans. During the 1990s, crime, violence, broken families, and a host of other social issues had become synonymous with African-American communities in American politics and culture, and black censors felt that limiting black people’s access to gangsta rap could ameliorate these issues. Censors felt an urgent need to suppress gangsta rap, as the Clinton administration used the type of black stereotypes promoted in the genre to justify taking a hardline approach to black criminality and cutting off welfare for black families. Like others swept into the orbit of underclass ideology and neoliberalism, black censors shared two widely-held assumptions about African Americans that informed their critiques of the genre: one, that they exhibited pathological behavior; and two, that black social pathologies could be ameliorated by pursuing measures that would curtail antisocial behavior.
Mitchell, Trumaine W., "The Underclass Culture Wars: Underclass Ideology and Neoliberalism in the Era of Gangsta Rap Censorship, 1993-2000" (2020). Theses and Dissertations. 1300.