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Reading Reflection (Urgent- DUE In 24 Hours) QUESTION: Please pick a section from Chapter 2: “Hood Politics” from Promise That You Will Sing About Me (in

Reading Reflection (Urgent- DUE In 24 Hours) QUESTION:

Please pick a section from Chapter 2: “Hood Politics” from Promise That You Will Sing About Me (in

Click here to Order a Custom answer to this Question from our writers. It’s fast and plagiarism-free.

Reading Reflection (Urgent- DUE In 24 Hours) QUESTION:

Please pick a section from Chapter 2: “Hood Politics” from Promise That You Will Sing About Me (in the attachment) and relate it to one of the themes from a previous week in the course. For example hip hop and feminism, Black Power, neighborhood geography, etc.

You should begin by crafting an arguable claim about how the chosen section relates to a previous course theme (hip hop and feminism, Black Power).

Try to be as specific as possible. For example, if you make a claim that there is a connection between Tupac and Kendrick’s work, make sure that you give specific ways their work is connected in your claim. Please use at least three direct quotations from Promise That You Will Sing About Me AND at least two quotes from optional text/films in order to support your answer.

Note: Your responses should be 2-3 paragraphs ( No less than 800 words)and provide evidence from the texts and film to support your answers.

Quotes: When you are “quoting from the book,” please include the author’s last name and page numbers (Lewis, 72). Make sure to always take a minute to “unpack” or explain what the passage is saying in your own words. This will help me understand why you’ve chosen the particular quote to help support your answer.

Texts (Promise That You Will Sing About Me) and Another optional text about hip hop and feminism are in the attachment below.

Film link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fLKcHu-LJo Brittney Cooper

“Maybe I’ll Be a Poet, Rapper”: Hip-Hop Feminism

and Literary Aesthetics in Push

In�the�first�decade�of�the�twenty-first�century,�the�number�of�mainstream�blackfemale�rap�artists�decreased�drastically.�In�fact,�by�2005,�the�Grammy�Awards�had
eliminated�the�award�for�best�female�rap�artist,�due�to�the�paucity�of�nominees.1

Simultaneously,�hip-hop�literature,�known�alternately�as�“street�lit,”�“ghetto�lit,”
and�“lit�hop,”�written�by�black�women�and�marketed�to�young�women�and�girls�from
ages�thirteen�to�thirty,�exploded;�titles�like�Nikki�Turner’s�A Hustler’s Wife,�sell�yearly
in�the�hundreds�of�thousands�(Marshall,�Staples,�and�Gibson�28).�It�is�not�coinci-
dental�that�the�entrepreneurial�spirit�that�has�characterized�black�men’s�rise�to�fame
in�hip�hop�has�been�adopted�by�female�street�novelists,�many�of�whom�self-publish
their�gritty�urban�tales.�The�rapid�explosion�of�black�female�street-lit�authors�is�a
cultural�and�literary�phenomenon�that�demands�the�attention�of�scholars�who�are
interested�in�the�ways�that�black�women�use�literature�to�articulate�black�female
subjectivity.�It�stands�to�reason,�then,�that�if�we�want�to�locate�narratives�of�women’s
lives�in�the�hip-hop�generation,�we�must�turn�to�hip�hop’s�literature.

Sapphire’s�1996�novel�Push draws�on�the�“gritty�urban�street�chronicles”�of�hip-
hop�aesthetics�to�tell�the�story�of�Claireece�“Precious”�Jones,�a�teenager�coming�of
age�in�what�William�Jelani�Cobb�refers�to�as�the�golden�era�of�hip�hop,�1984�to�1992.2

This�text�predates�the�rise�of�hip-hop�or�street�literature�by�several�years.3 Sapphire’s
effort�to�tie�Push,�through�implicit�and�explicit�textual�allusions,�to�the�work�of�Toni
Morrison,�Alice�Walker,�Audre�Lorde,�and�Pat�Parker�connects�these�seemingly
divergent�“high�vs.�low�art”�approaches�to�black�women’s�storytelling.�Critics�have
tended�to�ascribe�literary�value�to�texts�based�on�their�proximity�to�the�aesthetic
qualities�of�works�by�more�canonical�authors,�such�as�Zora�Neale�Hurston,�Toni
Morrison,�Alice�Walker,�and�Gayl�Jones.�Because�these�novelists�have�all�drawn�heavily
on�blues�and�jazz�aesthetics�in�constructing�their�novels,�literary�critics�identified
the�blues�and�jazz�as�a�significant�unifying�characteristic�of�the�African�American
women’s�literary�tradition.4 This�has�tended�to�mean�that�African�American�literary
texts,�particularly�those�of�black�women,�must�be�beholden�to�the�literary�nexus�of
jazz�and�the�blues�if�they�want�to�be�considered�“serious”�literature.

Push acts�as�a�bridge�text�between�earlier�generations�of�black�women’s�writing
and�the�urban�street�dramas�that�predominate�today.�Sapphire’s�invocation�of�hip�hop
is�an�early�portrait�of�a�hip-hop�aesthetic�in�prose�form�that�offers�relevance�while
avoiding�the�pitfalls�of�presentism.�Further,�the�novel�offers�a�critical�model�for
the�ways�in�which�hip-hop�texts�(might)�engage�with�their�literary�forebears.�Push
demonstrates�the�need�for�literary�works�to�grapple�with�the�politics,�poetics,�and
aesthetics�of�hip�hop,�while�remaining�connected�with�these�prior�works.�Moreover,
Push calls�into�existence�a�new�generation�of�black�women’s�stories,�stories�that
consider�age-old�of�questions�of�family,�motherhood,�friendship,�sex,�and�love,�but
in�the�context�of�hip-hop�culture,�the�AIDS�epidemic,�the�conservative�backlash�of
the�1980s,�and�the�deindustrialized�city�confronting�urban�blight.

Thus,�two�questions�inform�my�examination�of�the�use�of�hip-hop�aesthetics�in
Sapphire’s�1996�novel�Push.�First,�given�the�centrality�of�blues�and�jazz�music�to�the
African�American�literary�tradition,�how�does�contemporary�African�American�liter-
ature—and�in�particular,�work�by�African�American�women—encounter�and�engage

55
African American Review 46.1 (Spring 2013): 55-69
© 2014 Johns Hopkins University Press and Saint Louis University

Cooper_Cooper 5/23/2014 6:34 PM Page 55

hip-hop�culture�and�its�aesthetic�contours?�Second,�how�are�hip-hop�aesthetics,
which�are�generally�characterized�as�issuing�from�and�being�informed�by�black�male
experiences,�informed�and�shaped�by�the�stories�of�African�American�women?
Sapphire�offers�preliminary�thoughts�on�how�we�might�answer�these�questions�in�an
interview�with�literary�critic�Wendy�Rountree,�who�attempts�to�read�Push as�a�blues
novel.�Whereas�Rountree�argues�that�“Sapphire�creates�a�young�blues�woman,
Precious,�who�conquers�physical�and�emotional�abuse,�reclaims�her�voice,�and�tells
her�story�by�masterfully�weaving�her�painful�experiences�into�blues�expression”�(133),
Sapphire�characterizes�the�text�as�a�“blues/hip�hop/jazz�novel.”�She�notes�that�in
addition�to�the�themes�of�acceptance,�submission,�and�transcendence�that�issue
from�the�blues,�“it�is�in�hip�hop,�the�music�of�Precious’�generation,�that�we�find�the
open�defiance,�visibility�of�the�formally�invisible�(ghetto�youth),�and�the�movement
from�the�periphery�of�the�culture�to�it’s�[sic]�center”�(Sapphire�qtd.�in�Rountree�133).
Although�Rountree�acknowledges�the�hybrid�nature�of�the�novel,�hip�hop�retains
import�only�parenthetically�in�her�reading.�However,�Push actively�resists�a�singular
reading�through�the�blues�tradition,�because�the�social�concerns�of�the�hip-hop
generation�primarily�inform�the�protagonist’s�negotiation�of�age-old�questions
about�motherhood,�sexuality,�family,�and�racism.

Instead,�Push foregrounds�and�is�informed�by�a�hip-hop�aesthetic.�This�aesthetic
issues�from�a�generational�confrontation�with�economic�lack,�privation,�and�the
realities�of�civil�rights-era�and�Black�Power-era�dreams�deferred,�and�takes�three
primary�forms.�First,�it�uses�a�kind�of�social�alchemy�that�transforms�lack�into
substance.�Lacking�access�to�formal�musical�training�in�increasingly�underfunded
public�schools,�urban�youth�made�their�own�minimalist�instruments.�In�the�beginning,
hip-hop�musicians�had�three�basic�instruments:�two�turntables,�a�microphone,�and
a�person�who�could�beatbox,�a�technique�in�which�a�person�blew�air�rhythmically
through�his�or�her�mouth�to�create�percussion.�By�the�early�1990s,�rapper�Tupac
Shakur�had�cemented�this�pervasive�social�alchemy�by�famously�lamenting�the�expe-
rience�of�“trying�to�make�a�dollar�out�of�fifteen�cents.”�Second,�hip-hop�music�and
cultural�expression�privilege�a�well-honed�facility�for�defiance;�in�fact,�hip-hop
expression�could�be�said�to�issue�from�a�set�of�cultural�experiences�that�pivot�upon
a�dialectic�of�deviance�and�defiance.�By�deviance,�I�refer�to�the�ways�that�larger�cul-
tural�narratives�and�structures�of�power�sought�to�demonize�and�pathologize�black
and�brown�communities�from�without.�The�cultural�response�to�these�conditions
among�hip-hop�youth�was�not�uplift�or�respectability�politics,�nonviolent�direct�action,
or�armed�political�resistance,�but�open�cultural�defiance.�The�goal�of�such�open
defiance�was�to�demand�visibility,�recognition,�and�voice,�if�not�access�to�better�social
conditions.�Finally,�hip-hop�aesthetics�privilege�street�consciousness�and�cultural�
literacy.�Hip-hop�music�and�texts�celebrate�protagonists�who�know�how�to�survive
in�the�mean�streets�of�the�city,�and�these�texts�issue�tests�of�one’s�cultural�and�street
knowledge,�by�references�to�history,�current�affairs,�geographical�location,�popular
culture,�old�music,�new�music,�and�current�slang.�Thus,�hip-hop�texts�provide�a
smorgasbord�of�cultural�references,�and�the�reader’s�or�listener’s�degree�of�knowledge
determines�the�extent�to�which�he�or�she�can�make�meaning�out�of�the�text�and/or
navigate�the�neighborhood.

Those Are the Breaks: Hip-hop Aesthetics and Literary Technique

Precious�begins�her�story�with�a�shocking�confession:�“I�was�left�back�whenI�was�twelve�because�I�had�a�baby�for�my�fahver,”�(3).�Her�precarious�social
situation�makes�her�unsure�if�her�story�is�“even�a�story,”�but�she�presses�on,�testifying
that�she�is�“gonna�try�to�make�sense�and�tell�the�truth,�else�what’s�the�fucking�use?”

56 AFRICAN AMERICAN REVIEW

Cooper_Cooper 5/23/2014 6:34 PM Page 56

Precious’s�confrontational�style�reflects�the�street�lit�that�emerged�after�Push,�in
which�“authors�tell�their�stories�boldly,�without�nuance,�and�with�pride�over�and
over�again.�It’s�as�if�street-lit�authors�are�saying,�as�rappers�did�in�the�beginning�of
hip�hop,�‘We�are�here.�This�is�how�it�is.�Make�of�us�what�you�will’�”�(Smith�192).

It�is�September�24,�1987.�Precious�has�just�walked�into�“I.S.�146�on�134th Street
between�Lenox�Avenue�and�Adam�Clayton�Powell,�Jr.�Blvd”�in�Harlem�(4).�This
vivid�description�of�her�exact�location�is�part�of�a�hip-hop�ethos�where�physical
location,�a�marker�of�social�location,�is�everything.�Two�anchor�points�situate�the
narrative�of�hip-hop�progress:�“where�ya�from”�and�“where�ya�at.”�School�is�a
space�of�contention�for�Precious.�She�is�continually�in�conflict�with�her�teachers.
After�one�particularly�heated�exchange�with�her�teacher,�she�refuses�to�leave�class,
telling�him,�“I�ain’�going�nowhere�motherfucker�till�the�bell�ring.�I�came�to�learn
maff�and�you�gon’�teach�me.”�In�a�self-reflexive�moment,�Precious�intimates,�“’N�I
really�do�want�to�learn.�Everyday�I�tell�myself�something�gonna�happen,�some�shit
like�on�TV.�I’m�gonna�break�through�or�somebody�gonna�break�through�to�me—
I’m�gonna�learn,�catch�up,�be�normal”�(5).�She�even�gets�mad�when�other�students
become�disruptive,�noting�that�when�“the�other�natives�get�restless�I�break�on�’em”
(5).�It�is�significant�that�Precious�thinks�of�her�classmates�as�natives,�which�auto-
matically�denotes�the�school�as�a�colonized�space.�Pregnant�with�her�second�child,
on�the�verge�of�being�seventeen,�and�in�eighth�grade,�she�gets�expelled�from�school
for�being�pregnant�and�for�having�“an�attitude�of�total�uncooperation”�(8).�Precious
definitely�needs�a�break,�though�she�cannot�seem�to�catch�one.

The�repetition�of�the�word�break is�useful�for�thinking�about�the�aesthetic�con-
tours�of�breaking�within�a�hip-hop�context,�in�which�“the�breaks”�refer�to�bad�luck
or�unfortunate�circumstances�as�they�do�in�the�classic�song�by�rapper�Kurtis�Blow.5

Precious�not�only�needs�a�break,�but�she�is�also�willing�to�“break�bad”�or�get�violent
with�her�classmates.�However,�more�so�than�all�of�this,�she�proclaims�her�own�need
for�a�break-through.�Instead,�the�school�expels�her.�Luckily,�her�school�principal�Mrs.
Lichtenstein,�referred�to�as�“the�white�bitch,”�takes�enough�of�an�interest�in�Precious
to�suggest�that�she�consider�enrolling�in�an�alternative�school.�Her�mother�is�livid.
“Go�down�to�welfare,�school�can’t�help�you�none,�now”�(22).�Now�that�she�is�pregnant
with�her�second�child�by�her�father,�that�is.�Precious’s�home�life�is�its�own�site�of
brokenness.

Reflecting�on�her�mother’s�refusal�to�acknowledge�her�father’s�abuse,�Precious
concludes�that�“that�stinky�hoe�give�me�to�him�[because]�Probably�thas�what�he
require�to�fuck�her,�some�of�me.”�Precious�then�has�a�flashback�to�one�of�their�many
encounters:�“He�climb�on�me.�.�.�.�I�fall�back�on�bed,�he�fall�right�on�top�of�me.”
In�the�midst�of�such�horrendous�abuse,�Precious�“change[s]�stations,�change[s]�bodies”
(24).�“I�be�dancing�in�videos!”�she�tells�us.�“In�movies!�I�be�breaking,�fly,�jus’�a�dancing.
Umm�hmm�heating�up�the�stage�at�the�Apollo�for�Doug�E.�Fresh�or�Al�B.�Sure!
They�love�me!�Say�I’m�one�of�the�best�dancers”�(24).

In�this�understandable�“break”�from,�or�suspension�of�reality,�Precious�not�only
changes�her�metaphoric�radio�or�television�station�but�also�changes�bodies,�shifting
corporeally�and�temporally.�The�change�in�station�signals�a�shift�from�a�set�of�cultural
resources�that�no�longer�works.�She�changes�to�a�station�that�she�can�understand,
in�which�she�can�be�a�version�of�herself�that�she�desires.�Tellingly,�she�changes�to�a
hip-hop�station.�On�that�station,�the�music�she�hears�conjures�visions�of�being�a
video�girl�and�a�breakdancer�for�the�likes�of�hip-hop�pioneer�Doug�E.�Fresh.�She�is
not�“flying�away”�but�rather�“breaking�fly,”�or�dancing�with�skill,�flair,�and�alacrity.
Though�Precious�is�the�victim�of�many�bad�breaks,�and�though�she�deals�with�those
traumas�by�taking�intermittent�breaks�from�reality,�her�fantasies,�configured�in�the
nexus�between�breaking�away�from�reality�and�breaking�fly�on�a�hip-hop�stage,
invite�us�to�see�these�“breaks”�and�the�brokenness�of�her�life�as�spaces�that�allow
for�joy�and�creativity�along�with�critique�and�lament.

“MAybE I’LL bE A PoEt, RAPPER”: HIP-HoP FEMINISM ANd LItERARy AEStHEtICS IN PUSH 57

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Kurtis�Blow�deploys�“the�breaks”�as�a�metaphoric�double�entendre�that�signifies
the�precarious�social�circumstances�that�characterize�the�lives�of�urban�youth�in�the
1980s,�and�the�aesthetic�generativity�and expectations�of�the�musical�break.�For
instance,�when�the�chorus�moves�from�explicating�what�exactly�“are�the�breaks”�to
proclaiming�“break�it�up”�three�times�and�then�telling�the�audience�to�“break�down,”
there�is�an�extension�and�repetition�of�this�part�of�the�beat,�which�acts�as�an�invita-
tion�for�listeners�to�really�start�dancing.�Blow’s�multivalent�use�of�“the�break(s)”
reveals�it�to�be�a�germinal�cultural�metaphor�for�discussing�hip-hop�literary�aesthetics.
Alonzo�Westbrook�defines�the�break�as�“the�part�in�an�old�school�song�where�the
singer�would�pause�for�an�instrumental�part.�During�the�break,�deejays�would�rap�and
b-boys�would�break�dance”�(Westbrook�18).�The�“instrumental�part”�is�known�as
the�breakbeat.�Breakbeats�could�also�be�parts�of�a�song�that�a�deejay�finds�especially
compelling,�at�which�point�he�or�she�manipulates�the�turntable�to�cause�that�part�of
the�record�to�repeat,�much�like�a�broken�record,�but�with�more�intentionality�and
flair.�The�break�is�not�only�critical�in�the�immediate�moment�of�a�hip-hop�event,
defining�as�it�does�a�deejay’s�skill�for�getting�the�party�started�and�keeping�it�going,
but�is�also�literally�one�of�the�most�important�germinal�moments�for�developing�and
showcasing�hip-hop�artistry.�The�engagement�of�hip-hop�artists�with�the�breakbeat
centrally�influenced�the�development�of�breakdancing�and�rapping.�That�moment
celebrates�the�creative�use�of�voices�and�bodies�in�a�joyful�engagement�with�the
corporeal.

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