At the end of 2006, when Nas released his album Hip Hop is Dead, he wasn’t too far off, at least as far as rap is concerned.1 Not only have sales been in a nosedive for the last several years, with recent declines doubling those for the recording industry overall, but there has been mounting discontent among fans, who have grown frustrated with the tired, gangsta-inspired lyrics that glorify violence, materialism, and misogyny at the expense of a more socially conscious agenda. As Michael Eric Dyson puts it, a “noble verbal art has been replaced by the mindless redundancy of themes we’re all too familiar with: women, weed, wine, cars, and jewelry” (148). With the candidacy and election of Barack Obama, however, many have...

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