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Title: Rap's collective consciousness : the significance and dynamics of cypher in hip hop culture
Authors: Porteous, Catherine
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Cypher contributes significantly to the ‘underground’ hip hop scene in New York, as well as further afield; its rich musical and cultural roots can be traced directly from African oral traditions and cultural practices, and it reflects the epitome of hip hop culture by the way it advocates the principles of communication, knowledge and truth whilst enabling empowerment and fulfilment of its participants in a multi-faceted social dynamic. Cypher is unique in terms of its practice, as it requires little to no monetary or material input to take part, and is accessible to people from all backgrounds, but particularly to those from marginalised communities. It is an important musicological phenomenon which, seemingly unconsciously, contributes significantly towards the survival of hip hop; with so much discussion about the ‘death’ of hip hop, it is refreshing to have the assurance that certain practices within hip hop culture, such as cypher, are very much thriving and playing a large role in the survival, if not the existence, of hip hop culture as a whole. While there have been significant studies in hip hop culture in the fields of sociology and English studies, there remain relatively few published texts that have been written from a musicological standpoint. This thesis contributes to hip hop scholarship in a pioneering sense, especially since cypher is a form of rap which in itself is rarely investigated. In terms of the theoretical contributions that are made in this study, it is fair to say that cypher has a strong musicological and social role in its practice as well as holding great prominence in African-American culture; it forms an intrinsic part of everyday life for many of its participants. Using a combination of scholarly research and fieldwork methodology, using the latter to be able to account for experiencing cypher first-hand, means that this thesis presents academic research whilst remaining true to the essence of hip hop by keepin’ it real. With an emphasis on authenticity running throughout hip hop culture, the ability to reflect a genuine understanding of the role and dynamics of cypher has been of paramount importance in order to achieve credibility in the academic field as well as in the hip hop community. This thesis fully supports the notion that cypher has a highly significant role in hip hop culture, and, furthermore, that cypher reflects a team spirit that for some provides a form of cultural compensation and an alternative education; cypher also gives a voice to marginalised individuals and communities. This research marks cypher on the musicological map.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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