Twenty-First-Century Jeremiad: Hip Hop and American Tradition.
Williams, Paul G.
European Journal of American Culture
This article explores the work of Immortal Technique and Mr. Lif, two rappers who have used hip-hop to draw attention to the materialism, economic inequality, racism and militarism of twenty-first-century America. Their lyrics are understood here as an evolution of the tradition of the jeremiad, a genre of Puritan sermon given a particularly American intonation in mid-seventeenth-century New England. This article affirms Bercovitch’s (1978) contention that the Puritan jeremiad has had an enduring presence in American culture, although points of distinction between the jeremiad in the seventeenth century and the twenty-first are articulated here. Those differences include the inability to assume a shared listening community and the difficulty of verbally apprehending rampant commercialism when the trails of multinational capitalism run around the globe and through history. This shift in historical context is linked to the elaboration of symbolism used by the hip-hop jeremiahs: figurative language and allusions rapidly accumulate in a frantic attempt to gain critical perspective on an America these rappers believe has erred in its ways – and must expect apocalyptic repercussions as a consequence.
© 2008 by Intellect
Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 111 - 132