This article sheds light on the pervasive yet largely uncommented upon presence of geek culture and Orientalism in hip hop, revealing the constructed, performed, and mediated nature of racialized masculinity in popular culture. By observing a range of media artifacts but concentrating on RZA’s memoir The Tao of the Wu (2009), this article contends that geeky hip hop Orientalism performs a strategy of style codeswitching, wherein the combination of intellectualism and the fantasized East expand the repertoire of Black masculinity and fantastical worldmaking. Heavy in Orientalist themes that mirror the hyper intellectualism associated with geekiness, The Tao of the Wu evinces the strong bond between geek culture and early hip hop music. Specifically, this article focuses on RZA’s mental cultivation over physicality and his enchantment by children’s media culture (comics, anime, and kung fu cinema).
Merging hip hop and geek culture, which conventionally appear to exist on opposite poles, results in new interracial paradigms of geek and hip hop representations. Hip hop geekiness largely detours from an otherwise presumed whiteness in routing itself along a storied legacy of African American Orientalism. In this way, geeky hip hop Orientalism contributes to more queered and quotidian versions of Afro Asian aesthetics, politics, and interracial fantasy worlds. A deep consideration of the bonds among hip hop, geekiness, and Orientalism helps to reimagine the embodiments and performances of racialized masculinity, which, though complex and limited, can gesture towards the freedoms promised in a more expansive spectrum of gender and sexual affinities and identities.