IASPM International Conferences - Proceedings, Situating Popular Musics

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"Topomusica" in rap music: Role of geography in hip-hop music
Kenneth French

Last modified: 2013-01-22


Territoriality and a sense of place are important features of American rap music, as the credibility of a rapper is based on where you are from or what 'hood you represent. This paper builds upon music and place research by introducing the concept of “topomusica” or the importance and inclusion of geography or locality (place names) in music. The study analyses the diffusion of hip-hop from the South Bronx to other inner cities in the US, in which rap regions are distinguishable by rap styles and local slang usages. Many American rappers have categorised themselves geographically to represent the East Coast, West Coast, “Dirty South”, or Midwest. A brief study of selected rappers from around the world provides some evidence of the inclusion of geography in global rap music. The concept of “topomusica” may be applied to global hip-hop music in future research.

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