Routes, Rap, Reggae: Hearing the Histories of Hip-hop and Reggae Together

This dissertation was submitted in 2006 in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Music) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I received my Ph.D. in 2007. As they say, the best dissertation is a done dissertation, and while this didn’t deserve to win any prizes, I am proud of the work, especially if it might inform future scholarship on hip-hop and reggae.

Download a PDF of the complete document here. Thanks for reading! Let’s keep the convo going.

Here’s the abstract:

This dissertation examines the translocal interplay of hip-hop and reggae, considering their myriad interactions during the late twentieth century as complex musical embodiments of the social flows and cultural politics in and between Jamaica and the United States. Employing a mix of historical, discographical, and ethnographic sources, the argument takes into account the global circulation of both genres while focusing on their local, historically-contingent meanings in Kingston, Jamaica and New York City. The text largely takes the form of a chronological social and cultural history of musical style in order to reflect on and challenge the forms of representation that have characterized the telling of hip-hop’s and reggae’s stories to date. A particular set of melodic figures—collectively heard as the Mad Mad complex—provides an audible thread with which to illuminate the roles that technology, migration, and mass media have played in the ongoing formation of hip-hop and reggae as transnationally constituted genres advancing an intertwined, overlapping, and at times incompatible cultural politics of blackness.

Related materials abound across this website. See, e.g., the Boston Jerk album, the Zunguzung Meme, the Raggamuffin Hip-hop Megamix, etc.