The Hip Hop & Obama Reader

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Barack Obama, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States on 2015-09-17 01:23Z by Steven

The Hip Hop & Obama Reader

Oxford University Press
336 Pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780199341801
Paperback ISBN: 9780199341818

Edited by:

Travis L. Gosa, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Erik Nielson, Assistant Professor of Liberal Arts
University of Richmond

  • Offers a comprehensive, scholarly analysis of the relationship between hip hop and politics in the era of Obama.
  • The first hip hop anthology to center on contemporary politics, activism, and social change.
  • Features contributions from distinguished scholars, award-winning journalists, and public intellectuals.

Barack Obama flipped the script on more than three decades of conventional wisdom when he openly embraced hip hop–often regarded as politically radioactive–in his presidential campaigns. Just as important was the extent to which hip hop artists and activists embraced him in return. This new relationship fundamentally altered the dynamics between popular culture, race, youth, and national politics. But what does this relationship look like now, and what will it look like in the decades to come?

The Hip Hop & Obama Reader attempts to answer these questions by offering the first systematic analysis of hip hop and politics in the Obama era and beyond. Over the course of 14 chapters, leading scholars and activists offer new perspectives on hip hop’s role in political mobilization, grassroots organizing, campaign branding, and voter turnout, as well as the ever-changing linguistic, cultural, racial, and gendered dimensions of hip hop in the U.S. and abroad. Inviting readers to reassess how Obama’s presidency continues to be shaped by the voice of hip hop and, conversely, how hip hop music and politics have been shaped by Obama, The Hip Hop & Obama Reader critically examines hip hop’s potential to effect social change in the 21st century. This volume is essential reading for scholars and fans of hip hop, as well as those interested in the shifting relationship between democracy and popular culture.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • About the Contributors
  • Foreword Tricia Rose, Brown University
  • Introduction: The State of Hip Hop in the Age of Obama / Erik Nielson, University of Richmond; Travis L. Gosa, Cornell University
    • 1. Message from the Grassroots: Hip Hop Activism, Millennials, and the Race for the White House / Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar, University of Connecticut
    • 2. It’s Bigger Than Barack: Hip Hop Political Organizing, 2004-2013 / Elizabeth Méndez Berry, New York University; Bakari Kitwana, Author and CEO, Rap Sessions
    • 3. “There Are No Saviors”: Hip Hop and Community Activism in the Obama Era / Kevin Powell, Author and Activist
    • 4. “Obama Nation”: Hip Hop and Global Protest / Sujatha Fernandes, Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York
    • 5. “Record! I am Arab”: Paranoid Arab Boys, Global Cyphers, and Hip Hop Nationalism / Torie Rose DeGhett, Columbia University
    • 6. Obama, Hip Hop, African American History, and “Historical Revivalism” / Pero G. Dagbovie, Michigan State University
    • 7. “Change That Wouldn’t Fill a Homeless Man’s Cup Up”: Filipino-American Political Hip Hop and Community Organizing in the Age of Obama / Anthony Kwame Harrison, Virginia Tech
    • 8. Obama/Time: The President in the Hip-Hop Nation / Murray Forman, Northeastern University
    • 9. One Day It Will All Make Sense: Obama, Politics and Common Sense / Charlie Braxton, Author and Activist
    • 10. “New Slaves”: The Soul of Hip-Hop Sold to Da Massah in the Age of Obama / Raphael Heaggans, Niagara University
    • 11. YouTube and Bad Bitches: Hip Hop’s Seduction Of Girls and The Distortion Of Participatory Culture / Kyra D. Gaunt, City University of New York
    • 12. A Performative Account of Black Girlhood / Ruth Nicole Brown, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    • 13. The King’s English: Obama, Jay Z, and the Science of Code Switching / Michael P. Jeffries, Wellesley College
    • 14. My President is Black: Speech Act Theory and Presidential Allusions in the Lyrics of Rap Music / James Peterson and Cynthia Estremera, Lehigh University
    • Afterword: When Will Black Lives Matter? Neoliberalism, Democracy, and the Queering of American Activism in the Post-Obama Era / Cathy J. Cohen, University of Chicago
  • Subject Index
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Paint the White House black: Barack Obama and the meaning of race in America [Haltinner Review]

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Book/Video Reviews, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2014-08-28 19:21Z by Steven

Paint the White House black: Barack Obama and the meaning of race in America [Haltinner Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 10, 2014
Special Issue: Ethnic and Racial Studies Review
pages 1938-1941
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2013.871314

Kristin Haltinner, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology
University of Idaho

Paint the White House black: Barack Obama and the meaning of race in America, by Michael P. Jeffries, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2013, 210 pp., $22.95 (soft cover), ISBN 978-08-047-8096-4

In his song ‘Paint the White House Black’ (1993), after which Jeffries’ book is named, George Clinton raps:

Colors don’t clash, people just do

Color me happy next to you

Aww, just like it should, there goes the Neighborhood

That is what they’d have us believe

Paint the White House black, brown

Paint the White House…

Paint the White House black, brown

Paint the White House, black…

Like Clinton, Jeffries calls on all people to interrogate the ‘metalanguage’ of race (15). In his song, George Clinton highlights the hypocrisy of Bill Clinton’s presidency, expresses the need for race- and class-critical politics and calls for black or brown representation in the White House. In contrast, Jeffries’ book argues that having a president of colour does little to challenge institutional racism or the ‘language’ of race and that Americans must explore how race functions as a dynamic and powerful force in society.

Jeffries’ book begins with the paradox of Obama’s presidency: the question of whether race relations have improved or disintegrated since 2008. Rather than falling into the tempting trap of simply providing resolution to this dichotomy, Jeffries implores readers to investigate the underlying processes that contribute to current racial discourse and the birth of the question itself.

To do this, Jeffries expands previous understandings of race and racial formation by calling on scholars and citizens to explore ‘race in action’ (3), that is, to use the case study of Obama to examine the creation of racial meanings and knowledge. Jeffries builds on the work of Hall and Higginbotham to launch his analysis, arguing first that ‘race operates as a language’ in that it creates and hides deeper implications and significance while concurrently holding distinct, context-dependent meanings (7) and, second, that race defines and produces other socially constructed categories such as class or gender. Jeffries argues that the best way to examine current racial knowledge and its operation is through engaging with theories of intersectionality to ‘search for and highlight all the social forces that give cultural events racial meaning’ (14).

The book consists of four substantive chapters that provide evidence and analysis for Jeffries’ claims. Chapter two engages with intersectionality to examine how current racial knowledge is simultaneously constructed by and produces the concept of nation. Jeffries successfully argues that much of the vitriol targeted at Obama is due to the continued connection between Americanism, whiteness and the ‘politics of inheritance’ (15). Obama struggles with this in his memoir where he describes both wanting to be, like his father, an honourable black man – one who chases the American dream, but also witness to and halted by broader social inequality and black marginalization. Jeffries uses Obama’s experiences to argue for a novel construction of national identity built on a new collective culture that challenges supremacy in all forms and encourages connections between ‘ethnoracial communities’ (45).

Chapter three explores the politics of multiracial identity and the social objectification of multiracial bodies as symbols of a post-racial society. Jeffries uses the experience of multiracial young adults to demonstrate how race operates as a ‘metalanguage’ by either hiding its relation to other social forces or racializing phenomena that may not be racially based. Through these interviews, the malleable nature of race and multiraciality is identified and white supremacy accurately cited as the lynchpin of racism. Multiracial identity is, in turn, presented as one possible weapon in the war to fight racial oppression. Continuing his critique of post-racial ideology, in chapter four Jeffries more deeply discusses the ways in which multiracial people are falsely used as evidence of a post-racial America or ‘the end of black politics’ (16). Through an intersectional analysis, Jeffries demonstrates how class informs and defeats this assumption: recognizing the persistent operation of a ‘black counterpublic’ and the ways in which black political institutions have been undermined (93). He ultimately calls on citizens to demand change to the institutions that create inadequate leadership and host political power, rather than solely critiquing leaders of colour…

Read the entire review here.

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Paint the White House Black: Barack Obama and the Meaning of Race in America [Review]

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Book/Video Reviews, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-10-02 02:13Z by Steven

Paint the White House Black: Barack Obama and the Meaning of Race in America [Review]

Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews
Volume 42, Number 5 (September 2013)
page 763
DOI: 10.1177/0094306113499714e

Paint the White House Black: Barack Obama and the Meaning of Race in America, by Michael P. Jeffries. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013. 210pp. paper. ISBN: 9780804780964.

The ascendancy of Barack Obama from an orphan raised by his grandparents to the most powerful man on the planet is extraordinary not only due to its rapid progression, but also because of its impact on racism in America. Surely the election of a black President will heal America’s wounds of modern racism and erase the scars of slavery. However, in his poignant book Paint the White House Black, Michael P. Jeffries points out that President Obama’s election has placed the United States no closer to the idealized post-racial society that many Americans seem to strive for. Indeed, if anything, the election of America’s first black President raises interesting questions about the nature and pervasiveness of race.

In his book, Jeffries skillfully outlines his thesis, beginning with a description of the politics of inheritance, the racialized natureof patriotism, and the intersectionality of black identity and nationalism. He proceeds with a discussion of multiracial identity and its impact on black politics by incorporating theoretical arguments made by others, as well as his own analysis of self-collected interview data. Next, Jeffries discusses the intersection of gender and blackness by focusing on the First Lady, Michelle Obama, before concluding with a concise chapter that summarizes his arguments quite nicely. The writing is both accessible and direct. Though the scholarly nature of this work requires the inclusion of specialized jargon, the detailed notes section leaves the reader with all the information needed to fully understand this topic…

Read the entire review here.

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Michael Jeffries on the Cultural Significance of President Obama

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-01-24 02:06Z by Steven

Michael Jeffries on the Cultural Significance of President Obama

Wellesley College News
Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts

New Book by Wellesley American Studies Professor Tackles Race in America

Michael Jeffries, Knafel Assistant Professor of Social Sciences and Assistant Professor of American Studies, studies race, gender, politics, identity, and popular culture. His new book, Paint the White House Black: Barack Obama and the Meaning of Race in America, looks at how race relies on other social forces, like gender and class, for its meaning and impact.

The book features discussions of race and nationhood, discourses of “biracialism” and Obama’s mixed heritage, the purported emergence of a “post-racial society,” and popular symbols of Michelle Obama as a modern black woman; we asked him about some of those themes.

Your book focuses on “an understanding of how race works in America” rather than emphasizing the details of President Obama’s political career; why is it important for the reader to think about the topic this way?

We need to move away from “great man” or “great woman” explanations for historical change. President Obama is a supremely talented politician, and an important thinker and speaker in many ways, but he operates within all sorts of constraints. Likewise, our impressions of the president are constrained by our cultural context—the language we use, the images we see, and the stories that are amplified by media outlets become the raw material for building our own personal models of Barack Obama. The way we talk and think about race is obviously a major factor in all this, but race is such a contentious and taboo topic that racial discussion is fraught with missteps and misunderstandings. The only way to get a grip on Obama-mania and effectively counteract racism is to force ourselves to think about race in concert with other ideas, like class and gender…

Read the entire interview here.

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Paint the White House Black: Barack Obama and the Meaning of Race in America

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-01-24 01:54Z by Steven

Paint the White House Black: Barack Obama and the Meaning of Race in America

Stanford University Press
224 pages
2 tables
Cloth ISBN: 9780804780957
Paper ISBN: 9780804780964
E-book ISBN: 9780804785570

Michael P. Jeffries, Sidney R. Knafel Assistant Professor of American Studies
Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts

Barack Obama’s election as the first black president in American history forced a reconsideration of racial reality and possibility. It also incited an outpouring of discussion and analysis of Obama’s personal and political exploits. Paint the White House Black fills a significant void in Obama-themed debate, shifting the emphasis from the details of Obama’s political career to an understanding of how race works in America. In this groundbreaking book, race, rather than Obama, is the central focus.

Michael P. Jeffries approaches Obama’s election and administration as common cultural ground for thinking about race. He uncovers contemporary stereotypes and anxieties by examining historically rooted conceptions of race and nationhood, discourses of “biracialism” and Obama’s mixed heritage, the purported emergence of a “post-racial society,” and popular symbols of Michelle Obama as a modern black woman. In so doing, Jeffries casts new light on how we think about race and enables us to see how race, in turn, operates within our daily lives.

Race is a difficult concept to grasp, with outbursts and silences that disguise its relationships with a host of other phenomena. Using Barack Obama as its point of departure, Paint the White House Black boldly aims to understand race by tracing the web of interactions that bind it to other social and historical forces.


  • Acknowledgments
  • CHAPTER 2: MY (FOUNDING) FATHER’S SON: Race, Nation, and the Politics of Inheritance
  • CHAPTER 3: “MUTTS LIKE Me”: Barack Obama, Tragic Mulattos, and Cool Mixed-Race Millennial
  • CHAPTER 4: POSTRACIALISM RECONSIDERED: Class, the Black Counterpublic, and the End of Black Politics
  • CHAPTER 5: THE PERILS OF BEING SUPERWOMAN: Michelle Obama’s Public Image
  • Appendix I. A Discussion of Racial Inequality
  • Appendix II. Interviewing Multiracial Students
  • Notes
  • Index
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‘Mutts like Me’: Multiracial Students’ Perceptions of Barack Obama

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Campus Life, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-04-22 22:24Z by Steven

‘Mutts like Me’: Multiracial Students’ Perceptions of Barack Obama

Qualitative Sociology
Volume 35, Number 2 (2012)
pages 183-200
DOI: 10.1007/s11133-012-9226-4

Michael P. Jeffries, Assistant Professor of American Studies
Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts

Existent sociological studies of multiracialism in the United States focus on identity construction, the cultural and legislative battle over multiracial categorization, and the implications of demographic shifts towards an increasingly “mixed race” population. This article engages literature from each of these areas, and uses data from in-depth interviews with self-identified multiracial students to document their perceptions of President Barack Obama and trace the symbolic boundaries of multiracial identity. Interviews are specifically directed towards the influence of race on Obama’s identity management and political career, the relationship between Obama and respondents’ multiracial identity, and Obama’s impact on America’s racial history. Respondents hold favorable opinions of the President despite his inconsistent affirmation of multiracial identity. They believe that emphasis on Obama’s blackness rather than multiracialism is the unfortunate result of both personal choices and political pressures. In addition, the cohort insists that racism remains is a major factor in Obama’s career and in America at large.

Read the entire article here.

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