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Title: Hip-hop heads : the social world of musical performers in post-apartheid Cape Town
Authors: Pritchard, Gary
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis provides an ethnographic account of Cape Town’s vibrant underground hip-hop scene. Centering on the social world of rappers or ‘MCs’, this participant observation, conducted over a period of 12 months, draws upon the attendance at over 80 musical performances and dozens of recording and rehearsal sessions, participation as a co-host on a weekly hip-hop radio show, the conduct of 20 semi-structured interviews, alongside sustained and meaningful contact with 67 individual respondents, and the collection of a multitude of relevant documents and creative artefacts. The project argues that the experiences of becoming, belonging and participating as a hip-hop head in Cape Town can be understood by identifying various social processes at work. In this endeavour, the empirical themes of ‘community’, ‘hustling’ and ‘authenticity’, which are key reference points within the culture, are considered. Considerable attention is afforded to the various shifts and continuities in postapartheid social life and their effect on the functioning and structure of hip-hop practice. For instance, while most respondents enjoy unprecedented freedoms and opportunities, the research reveals that hip-hop communities in the city map onto apartheid era racial classifications. These groupings are formed through processes of socialization, identity formation and cooperation, and boundaries are created by the exclusionary mechanisms of differentiation, inequality and discrimination. Membership in these communities largely frame artists’ entrepreneurial activities or ‘hustles’ by determining the type and degree of social and economic capital young musicians can draw upon. This act of hustling is also found to be a highly valued activity that is predominately enacted within the informal economy. The concept of authenticity is shown to be the primary mode of distinction among hip-hop practitioners and is examined as a negotiated performance involving processes of claims making, validation and boundary-formation. Within this unique urban environment, the analysed data unravels a multilayered story, illustrating the variety of experiences involved in being a Cape Town hip-hop head.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

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