Given the relative paucity of scholarship on hip-hop as live experience, how can extraordinary hip-hop liveness be thought of as a zone of collective experience and feeling? How might such thought draw on existing scholarship on the ecstatic in Black performance, and on related metaphysical freedom concepts from Black cultural studies? And how can the fleeting freedoms won in these live experiences be envisaged as historically contingent? Exploring a rare archival recording featuring rappers Tricky, Krissy Kriss, and Willie Wee—made in a party in Bristol, England, in 1987—this essay proposes the idea of ‘the hip-hop moment’: a means to address the remarkable, oceanic collective experiences that sometimes unfold around brilliance in the hip-hop jam, party or concert. Analyzing this sonic artefact as durational, collectively generated, and the product of particular historic circumstances, the essay asks what might its collective paroxysm of joy have meant for the community that produced it? The essay looks to how Bristol hip-hop’s multicultural but Black-led party scene forged an outlaw cultural space around such moments during the 1980s; to the historically constrained contexts of working-class Black life in this small, largely white city during the 1970s and 1980s; and to the new possibilities hip-hop’s arrival was seen to open in the years immediately before the recording was made. The more analytic aspects are braided with extracts from interviews conducted with Krissy Kriss in Bristol in 2018, highlighting his own empirically rich view on hip-hop as a source of metaphysical freedom, collective identity, and self-affirmation.

You do not currently have access to this content.