Critical Responses | Informative Summaries | Works Cited
"'Flippin’ the Script' / 'Blowin’ Up the Spot': Puttin’ Hip-Hop Online in (African) America and South Africa"
by Elaine Richardson and Sean Lewis
Richardson and Lewis' chapter explains the online hip-hop culture, explores its literacy practices, and delineates its significant features as a community of interest through a thorough an analysis of the hip-hoppers' emails. Aware that the Web is an international communications medium, Richardson and Lewis recognize that making determinations of “race, class, and geographic profiles” is difficult to impossible (252). So the online hip-hop culture identifies its insiders through a “vernacular literacy” (254) that derives from Black speech (253). In particular, the hip-hop online vernacular manifests a “process of disruption and reappropriation” of the linguistic signs embedded in Black speech (269). By generating its own vernacular, “the hip-hop culture and community is signaling that it will define itself. It will no longer be defined by, and in terms of, standard or official literacies, that have been imposed on them” (269). This vernacular literacy is also as a sign of difference from “official hegemonic discourses” (253), and it is even a sign of a “fundamentally anti-hegemonic” ideology (254).
Despite the significance of this online vernacular as a literacy practice, Richardson and Lewis argue that “the central issue of hip-hop [is] that hip-hop is more than the surface appearance of slang and style. It is born from a culture of underground struggle and survival on a deep level, no matter if the surface appears to comply with official dominant discourses” (254). The use of a particular literacy practice is insufficient for membership into this online community of interest: “to be ‘true hip-hoppers,’ community members must develop an allegiance to hip-hop, that is, to alternative/vernacular literacy” (256). As such, the online hip-hop community is a community of interest, not just of linguistic and cultural similarity. Identity–being true to and fitting into the community–becomes a “critical question in hip-hop” (256). The centrality of this concern is borne out in “the notion of 'keepin’ it real,'" staying true to the culture, versus “sellin’ out,” or betraying the culture, which infuses the hip-hop conversations (256). Possibly more important than "keepin’ it real " is subverting the conceptions of hip-hop: “flippin’ the script,” on the conceptions of hip-hop “is the essence of hip-hop, and it is through this central literacy act that websites claim a place within the Web-based hip-hop culture” (267). Such subversions claim and reclaim hip-hop for those in the hip-hop community because the definitions remain vibrant, alive, and within the community's control.It is [. . .] in [these] literacy acts, which are driven by the dual imperatives of keepin’ it real and flippin’ the script, that we are able to find the defining essence of hip-hop on the Web. For hip-hop on the Web to stay real and continue flippin’ the script, it can never allow itself to lose this character and become amorphised into an homogenous Web discourse. (272)