This essay explores the ethicopolitical context in which black art, black performance, black social movements, and black popular culture find expression. I configure the critical study of hip hop within an accounting of the materiality of antiblack sexual violence in which the modern world is grounded, especially as hip hop emerges through the transmutation of the state’s terroristic repression of black revolution in the 1960s and 1970s into the sexualized violence of the present prison industrial complex. Using a reading of Lil’ Wayne and his song “Mrs. Officer,” I argue that the relationship between erotic practices of state violence and hip hop’s renditions of sex and gender politics is an intimate one that reveals continuities with the originary violence of slavery. I consider Lil’ Wayne in this light: How can we read the present context of increasing black dispossession and criminalization and the historical context of black struggles for self-determination and representation within contemporary cultural production? How is a popular hip hop song that explicitly recalls an infamous police beating, and implicitly brackets the ensuing historic urban uprising, connected to a sonic and visual landscape that consolidates black suffering and its invisibility today, that further eclipses the historical context of (ongoing) black struggles for self-determination, and that endeavors to marshal all manner of black expression into the new discourse of containment, “postracialism”?
Tryon P. Woods; “Beat It like a Cop”: The Erotic Cultural Politics of Punishment in the Era of Postracialism. Social Text 1 March 2013; 31 (1 (114)): 21–41. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-1958881
Download citation file: