History Slam Episode Seventy-One: Race, Gender, and Rap

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By Sean Graham

When teaching courses on the history of popular culture, one of my favourite exercises is to play a song and then ask the class what the song is about. With certain songs, students come up with answers pretty quickly, while in other cases, it takes a little more prodding. In all cases, though, it’s a lot of fun to examine the music in an effort to understand its cultural significance and the artists’ expression of identity.

As a relatively new style of music in the mainstream, rap has not received the same scholarly attention as other genres. Jazz of the interwar period and folk of the Vietnam era have been studied extensively, but rap is just now coming into focus for historians. This is a critical development as it’s a style ripe with material for study.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Francesca D’Amico about her research on rap in North America. We chat about the differences between Canadian and American artists, gender representations, and race construction.

Sean Graham is a William Lyon Mackenzie King post-doctoral fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University where he studies the history of Canadian broadcasting and the CBC. He is an editor at Activehistory.ca and host/producer of the History Slam Podcast. Like any red-blooded Canadian his ultimate dream is to be a curling champion while living on a diet of beer and poutine.

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