Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis and Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

First Advisor

Ricardo Cruz


My work is always necessarily two-headed. Double-voiced. Call-and-response at once. Paranoid self-talk as dichotomous monologue to move the crowd. Part of this has to do with the deep cuts and scratches in my mind. Recorded and remixed across DNA double helixes. Structurally split. Generationally divided. A style and family history built on breaking down.

Evidence of how ill I am.

And then there’s the matter of skin. The material concerns of cultural cross-fertilization. Itching to plant seeds where the grass is always greener. Color collaborations and appropriations. Writing white/out with black art ink. Distinctions dangerously hidden behind backbeats or shamelessly displayed front and center for familiar-feeling consumption. Sell-out concerns always whispering or shouting further dissonance.

Hip-hop became home when it welcomed all the voices in my head. And anyone who knows me knows how hard it can be for me to leave the house. White-flight phobias in reverse. Pale-faced. Afraid I’ll look like I’ve seen a ghost.

Hip-hop pushed me to split.

Like MF DOOM as hip-hop “Supervillain,” part hero, part madman, I come at writing and teaching writing ruptured. With desires to both build and destroy. Empower and self-destruct. Anything inching towards complete cohesion a saving grace and the mark of the beast.

Best to keep it real/reel. Fragmentation always feeling painfully honest.

So On My Grind is broken down into chapters of fragments designed to blur. “Hip-Hop Alone” written as both MC and alienated imposter. “Ain’t Shit: Freewriting to Freestyling” written as both instructor-theorist and disillusioned hip-hop disciple. “Bootleg Ghetto Pass Revoked” functioning as both self-conscious Blaxploitation flick and freestyle praxis. Each of the chapters doing creative and critical work, as much a nod to my deep-seated belief in the power of edutainment as a conscious recognition that any hip-hop text is always doing at least a few things at once.

I’m most interested in the mess that happens when the chapters and fragments collide. The collage-effects made possible by the friction of the faulty/fault line design. Where the teacher-narrator of “Ain’t Shit” buys psychiatric dope on the corner in “Bootleg Ghetto Pass Revoked,” to numb the pain of the sick critic in “Hip-Hop Alone.” The voices in the chapters, while not necessarily unified, certainly speak the same language. They talk shit to each other. Signify to spit the truth through lies.

All of it freestyled to the offbeat rhythms in my head. A suspicious half-trust in “first thought best thought” practices to the beat. Where editing meant freestyling over the original freestyles until they sounded right. Until they flowed. I flowed until I reached a flow state untouched by my illness. My mental state spit mysterious and spiritual. Ritualistic grinding through “ain’t shit” states of mind with flow-faith.

On My Grind preaches belief and doubt. Devotion and heresy. Holding onto hope and completely losing it.


Imported from ProQuest Nave_ilstu_0092E_10921.pdf


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