Singing Blackness Racial Discourse in Black Cuban and Black Dominican Rap and Hip-Hop

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Anastasia Valecce


In this article I propose the exploration of racial discourse in recent Black Caribbean rap and hip-hop productions. Rap and hip-hop are often used as a sociopolitical tool that—through writing and language—achieve to create activist movements. Specifically, I study the work of the Cuban hip-hop group Obsesión [Obsession] and of Cuban rapper Robe L Ninho and the work of Dominican rappers Circuito Negro and JNoa. I particularly focus on some of their songs that make of the genre an opportunity to approach the racial topic in their communities and a way to celebrate Blackness. This way, these hip-hop and rap songs break the most commercial, common, and expected pattern of lyrics that focus on topics that oversexualize the female (Black) body, that often objectify women, and that reproduce a patriarchal and heteronormative discourse. Instead, these songs, through the topics that they explore, aim to create community and craft a space for social activism. They do so, for example, by singing about hair (Obsesión and Robe L Ninho) and by singing about their Afro-Caribbean communities and their existence as Black people in their neighborhoods (Circuito Negro, JNoa). Among a variety of tracks, I mainly focus on songs that are connected in topic and that represent a continuum
in the production of  approximately the last decade. So, for example I analyze the songs “Los pelos [Hair]” by Obsesión (2014) and “N.E.G.R.O. [N.E.G.R.O.]” by Robe L Ninho (2022) that focus on Afro hair, celebrate the beauty of it, and denounce the prejudices against it almost a decade apart from each other. Then, I focus on the song “Revolufunk” by Circuito Negro (2011) and the song “Qué fue
[What Happened?]” (2022) by JNoa. In this case also there is a generational gap between the artists that symbolize both the evolution of the genre and the consistency of the topics that they cover and that are connected to Blackness. In addition to the racial discourse and the connection of topics across the last decade, these songs also create an inter-Caribbean discourse that transcends the concept of nation and nationality and instead identifies with and shapes a message for Black Spanish-speaking Caribbean people. These songs reveal a poetic that adds urban sounds to a spoken word tradition and that mixes writing, oral tradition, and language in lieu to create a sociopolitical activist movement for Afro-Caribbean people. Also, by focusing on race in countries where the Black communities are often made invisible, they shed light on minorities that usually are relegated to the lowest layers of society. Thus, through their music, these artists raise awareness on their Blackness and on their communities, but they also create a transversal Afro-Caribbean narrative that connects and creates a sense of community among Blacks in the Caribbean in their native Spanish language. This study, so, represents an opportunity to shift a US-centered discourse on Blackness and race and opens new ways of living and understanding the African diaspora in other geographies.


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