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Hip-hop and the reconfiguration of Blackness in Sao Paulo: the influence of African American political and musical movements in the twentieth century

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Hip-hop arrived in São Paulo, Brazil in the late 1970s. During this time, African Brazilians organized meetings known as ‘Black parties.’ At Black parties, people listened to music, danced and shared Black experiences. The Black parties were greatly influenced by African-American music such as soul, funk and jazz, and contemporary socio-political movements like Civil Rights and the Black Panther Party. African Brazilians disseminated images and symbols about blackness and called for Black pride. Phrases like James Brown's ‘Say It Loud: I'm Black and I'm Proud' were widespread. Today, hip-hop is recognized as an important influence in African-Brazilian history. The cultural exchange between Black youth in São Paulo and New York contributed to the reconfiguration of the Black movement in Brazil and was the vehicle by which African Brazilians acquired knowledge of the African diaspora. This essay will present three important arguments for understanding how hip-hop became a great political movement among Black youth in Brazil. My first argument is that African-American culture has provided a political language to what Paul Gilroy calls the ‘Black universe.’ This was accomplished through the public circulation of images and symbols about Black struggle. Secondly, São Paulo and New York, though structurally different, have similar histories in the areas of urban planning and population growth, and hip-hop had a comparable effect on marginalized communities in both cities. Finally, the cultural exchange between Black youth of São Paulo and New York helped change the Black movement and identity in São Paulo.
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Keywords: African diaspora; Black youth; Brazilian hip-hop; Hip-hop; São Paulo

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Graduate Program in Social Anthropology, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), Campinas, SP, Brazil

Publication date: March 3, 2016

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