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37 D oowutchalike In such volatile moments, with one dominant toppling and another not yet consolidated, the field flies open, or at least so it feels. The period is scarcely the only one of expansive and strange experimentation—by default, for example, the early days of Old School are ripe with inventions workable and not, songs like “Rappin’ Duke” (by the eponymous artist) and the collective adventures of the “Roxanne” series. In any period, moreover, a great proportion of rap exists beyond that moment’s organizing structures—the kind of music often referred to as “pop rap,” a term less indicative of its success than its deracinated eagerness to please (though these may accompany each other, as in MC Hammer’s 1990 Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ’Em, then the bestselling rap album ever).

Are just as much thematic, social, political; it is equally a leap from Black Power and Black Nationalist hip-hop to gangsta rap. That is to say, the conversion is a matter of styles and t h e b o u r g eo is a n d t h e b o u l e va r d 27 worldviews at once. It is a formal and ideological tandem which haunts this book; they change together or not at all. This chapter is concerned not with naming the change so much as understanding its particulars—in grasping the fires of the moment and the forces that helped reshape a genre in the era’s crucible.

The mode of Black Power and Black Nationalism imagined a confrontation at the border of ghetto and suburb, and purposed to reach across that border, from the boulevard to the bourgeois. Gangsta mode, contrarily, offered up the spectacle of Black youth and a Black underclass ensnared (and even reveling) in a world of immanent violence that retreated from borders of geography, race, and class—and turned the violence on itself. 30 t h e b o u r g eo is a n d t h e b o u l e va r d 37 If this begins to describe the anxieties and imaginations that gangsta played to, and thus to account for the timing and force of its rise, it doesn’t get at the nuances and fissures present from gangsta’s earliest moments.

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