The Politics of Conventionalizing Style in Houston Hip Hop

My dissertation research examines macro- and micro-level processes of stylistic conventionalization in Houston Hip Hop. By stylistic conventionalization, I mean the process whereby semiotic elements including the sartorial, the kinesic, the linguistic, and other material elements come to "hang together" (Coupland 2007) formally, as a shared but partial collective repertoire of items used in social practice. I also mean to capture the meaning side of this process, by which stylistic practice becomes linked (in)directly with persona(e), stances, ideological orientations, and, more generally, socially-situated, interest-laden positions.

Hip Hop Parody as Veiled Critique

In a chapter from a forthcoming edited volume, African American Language in Pop Culture, I discuss how artists participating in locally-marginalized hip hop culture(s) circulate parodies of popular (local) rap music on the internet, spreading these culturally-charged texts amongst musically-socialized, online communities. These parodic performances merit close scrutiny, as they provide us with rich insights into the processes and results of conventionalization through semiotic boundary construction. In terms of process, I propose that Bauman and Briggs' (1990) notion of "intertextual gaps" helps explain how social actors exploit shared, partially-fragmented knowledge of generic norms linking practices with the taste culture of which they are partially constitutive. Generic knowledge shared by performer and audience enable parodists to minimize some gaps between the parodic performances and prior texts (i.e. songs), creating continuity between performances. This process enables the parodist to take up the subject position associated with intertextual precedents, in order to voice the subject of critique "from the inside out." Self-directed attacks thus function at the meta-discursive level, commenting on the naturalness or desirability of (classed, racialized, gendered) subject positions associated with taste cultures.


Chris Taylor
Dept. of Linguistics, MS23
Rice University
Houston, TX 77005