Moya Bailey Talks to Krip-Hop Nation About Her Essay, "The ILLEST:Disability As a Metaphor in Hip-Hop Music"

Leroy - Posted on 04 March 2013

Moya Bailey

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(Also listen to our audio conversation about her essay and more)

Hip Hop music is most often derided for it's homophobic and
misogynistic lyrics with few or any critics examining the way ableism operates in the genre. This article engages several lyrical tropes in hip hop that rely on problematic constructions of disability. Looking at the "left" coast hyphy sound, I examine the use of disability as metaphor for freedom and abandon. This metaphorical use of disability leaves much to be desired for people with actual disabilities.

I write,

"By examining ableism in hip hop through the multiple lenses of disability, queer, critical race, and feminist theories we can go beyond the ineffective dichotomy of positive and negative representation and possibly discover useful theorizing derived outside the insulated world of academe. Ableism is the system of oppression that privileges able-bodied people and culture over and above those with disabilities. In the liminal spaces of hip hop the reappropriation of ableist language can mark a new way of using words that departs from generally accepted disparaging connotations. Though this project makes a case for a transgressive reading of ableism in hip hop, ableism in and of itself is still oppressive. Additionally, not all of it can be reimagined. Some of it is simply the vile invective that maintains hierarchies of oppression through able bodied privilege. Though other genres of music and popular culture generally reinforce ableism (Pop Music’s love of “crazy” love), its presence in hip hop speaks, I argue, to centuries-old stigma management strategies of politics of respectability that remain futile."


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