Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Music Criticism


Susan Fast




One of the main goals of this study is to develop analytical strategies that can meaningfully represent the contributions of women in hip-hop music. In the last five years, a number of music scholars have begun to explore ways of analyzing and theorizing rap's music, but, by and large, the music of women rappers has received little critical attention in the musical academy. Furthermore, musicological studies of rap music have generally avoided examining dance, gesture, and other visual aspects of performance, privileging instead the lyrics and especially the technological aspects of rap (i.e. sampling technology, layering of musical and rhythmic tracks). As a result, those (male) artists who have explicitly political agendas and exploit complex technology tend to receive the most critical attention.

By specifically considering the music of women rappers, this study attempts to challenge discourses that treat hip-hop culture and rap music as disempowering to women and as an exclusively male cultural activity. In addition to analyses of musical tracks and lyrics, this study also locates complexities in additional aspects of performance, particularly complexities produced through the use of vocal timbres and physical imagery. Thus dance, language, gesture, clothing, music, and voice are considered with respects to the ways that women construct and negotiate feminine identities, and challenge disempowering gender, ethnic, and socioeconomic stereotypes.

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