Presentation Australian Hip-Hop: Maintaining Voice and Representing Place

Paper presented at the Sociolinguistics of Globalization: (De)centering and (De)standardization International Conference, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
The globalized world can be characterized by a number of elements with the ‘spread’ of English and the transfer of culture and cultural practices being among the most significant (Blommaert, 2010). Observers have noted how an increasingly globalized media, including film, television and music represents one of the most prolific "agents of globalization" (Hafez, 1999: 47) through which such 'spreads' are propelled. One can also point to the significant influence of US media across the globe where ‘cultural imprints’ are often made upon individuals in localized contexts. Perhaps one of the most deeply trodden imprints has been that of hip-hop, a musical genre borne out of resistance and dissent. Since its initial development in New York in the 1970s, academics and scholars from a variety of fields are now “viewing the flow of Hip-Hop cultural materials, practices, and ideologies with an eye toward understanding the multiple processes of identification” (Alim, 2009: 4). However, while processes of globalization have aided the ‘spread’ of the genre itself, the growth of hip-hop within the geographically-distant nation of Australia has seen a form of decentering occur as young artists are moving away from authentic African American hip-hop toward a situation where they seek to “express themselves in a manner that is true, by being true to their own place” (Arthur, 2006: 146). Accordingly, contemporary works produced by young Australian hip-hop artists provide insight into localized struggles and histories of conflict between ethnicities and economies. This presentation examines various lyrical samples from Australian hip-hop artists as a means of sociolinguistic observation and as a basis for understanding how a globalized art form has established itself within the context specific parameters of the local.

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