1. WHAT IS THIS GANGSTRESSISM IN POPULAR CULTURE? READING RAP MUSIC AS A LEGITIMATE HUSTLE AND ANALYZING THE ROLE OF AGENCY IN INTRAFEMALE AGGRESSION
This dissertation examines the roles of agency, autonomy, and historical context in Black female rappers' practice of gangstaism, as well as the effects of this discourse on women's perceptions of Black-on-Black intrafemale (IF) violence. I present a framework of gangstressism, which grounds gangstress practice in the political, social and economic realities for female hip hop generationers. Specifically, I identified the pursuit of a rapping career and the rap music industry as a legitimate hustle and site for economic mobility, respectively, which allows for an illustration of the ways that limited production agency, solo or "lone woman" status, insecurities (i.e., low self-esteem), and limited autonomy (i.e., socioeconomic status) interact and sometimes lead to intrafemale aggression or competiton for scarce resources. Additionally, this analysis problematizes women's appropriation of misogynist language by illustrating the ways in which it both compromises the health of its proponents and functions as a weapon against other women. Consequently, this framework extends previous research on Black women performers because it explicitly links women and girls' struggles for agency and autonomy on the streets and in the studios. Further, this research extends previous work in that it focuses on women's aggression and violence as resistance, rather than on sexual agency. Even further, this is the first study to explicitly discuss and utilize hip hop feminism (which demands attention to historical context, in addition to race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation) as an epistemology, rather than simply as a practice. Regarding influencers on female rap lyrics, I explore how constraints on women and girls' production-level agency affect such content. Thus, the present work extends previous research in that I define agency in term of Black women's roles as cultural producers in rap music, rather than limiting it to the performance level (i.e., returning the gaze). Specifically, I developed an original coding scheme and method of quantifying agency to document both the appropriation of misogynist language (particularly the word bitch) and use of themes (such as spirituality and aggression) by both female and male artists on female artists' rap albums, as a function of female agency and historical context. Consequently, this study is the first quantitative content analysis of not only rap music by female artists, but also of rap music, in general. Among other results, I found that higher agency lowered both the odds of men and women using the term bitch to insult women, and the occurrence of themes such as crime and drugs. In terms of effects of music exposure, this research is also the first to investigate the effects of exposure to both violent and prosocial music by female rappers, and to use a female-only sample. Results suggest that IF aggressive lyrics may have negative implications for Black women in terms of normalizing aggression against them. Overall, using an interdisciplinary and inter-methodologically pluralistics approach, this work identifies a complex interplay of variables that influence intrafemale aggression and other aspects of gangstressism, which may be useful for developing future interventions that empower female fans and aspiring artists.New terms: "gangstress"; "Black-on-Black intrafemale (IF) violence."
2. "FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT": RAP AND POLITICAL PROMISE
Hiphop subculture is considered by many scholars and practitioners to be globally resistive to oppression with the potential of becoming a political movement. The researcher finds that defiance in and of itself is the dominant message of popular rap music and that rap artists present themselves and their music as representing the disenfranchised. . . . The researcher concludes that rap artists defy any consistent message and present an image of political self-importance that is ultimately impotent.