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Hip Hop in American Cinema

Melvin Donalson

Hip Hop in American Cinema examines the manner in which American feature films have served as the primary medium for mainstreaming hip hop culture into American society. With their glamorizing portrayals of graffiti writing, break dancing, rap music, clothing, and language, Hollywood movies have established hip hop as a desirable youth movement. This book demonstrates how Hollywood studios and producers have exploited the profitable connection among rappers, soundtracks, and mass audiences. Hip Hop in American Cinema offers valuable information for courses in film studies, popular culture, and American studies.
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When considering the many youth movements of the twentieth century, hip hop ranks as the most enduring and pervasive cultural milestone. As with other such complex phenomena, it did not develop in a vacuum. Over the first six decades of the century, a number of discernible youth movements occurred that collectively contributed to the emergence of hip hop.

First, the 1920s brought the age of the flapper and the “lost generation.” The flapper was an irreverent challenge to traditional images of womanhood, as women dressed in revealing fashions (showing necks, arms, thighs, legs, and ankles); smoking cigarettes in public; dancing wildly in public; and going out unchaperoned with men in the new invention called the automobile. At the same time, the lost generation was a label attributed to young white writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner, who criticized American values, wealth, and racism, respectively. In addition, the 1920s fostered the New Negro movement where young black writers, such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Wallace Thurman, and Zora Neale Hurston, embraced their African American past, grass root communities, and literary aesthetics to proclaim the Harlem Renaissance. Augmenting the literary achievements, other Negro artists were integrated into the Harlem Renaissance collection of talents: Paul Robeson and Josephine Baker on stage; Aaron Douglas and Meta Fuller in painting and sculpture; and Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and Duke Ellington in music. The social changes, altered attitudes, and creative energy of the 1920s youth movement was...

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