Hip hop feminism and the embodiment of black femininity

Authored by: Marquita R. Smith

The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Music and Gender

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781472456830
eBook ISBN: 9781315613437
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042044


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On 13 December 2013, Beyoncé surprised fans and the music industry with the unexpected release of her fifth studio album, BEYONCÉ. Deemed a ‘visual album’, BEYONCÉ moved beyond popular music convention to include visuals for each audio track. Many of the visual texts offered as part of the album render visions of Beyoncé that counter her polished pop star image in ways that were only previously seen through the guise of her alter ego ‘Sasha Fierce’. Through her performances, Beyoncé calls on specific politics of both race and gender, and provokes questions about the intersection of feminism, performance, and visibility in popular culture. In particular, BEYONCÉ is an album that began a sea change in Beyoncé’s representation. This chapter explores how BEYONCÉ displays a hip hop feminist sensibility that emphasizes the importance of feminism to the lives of black women through a politicized hip hop aesthetic. I ask, how might an intersectional approach to popular music studies – one that attends to the politics of gender, race, and class – enable a reading of BEYONCÉ as a (hip hop) feminist text? Emily Lordi suggests that BEYONCÉ is about “testing, respecting, and dissolving borders between different facets of the self; between sound and vision; fantasy and reality; artist and public; the bodies of lovers; mother and child; sincerity and satire; provocative ratchetness and plain old bad taste” (2013). Indeed, BEYONCÉ dissolves boundaries within the self – gone is the alter ego of Sasha Fierce. Instead, the album presents a more nuanced representation of the intersectionality of black women’s lives.

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