American Sociological Association

Listening for the Interior in Hip-Hop and R&B Music

This article analyzes how four Black musical artists make “quiet,” or the inner life of African Americans, legible. Specifically, we consider ways that the quiet found within the lyrics of recent acclaimed albums from two hip-hop artists and two neo-soul artists—Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN (2017) and Rapsody’s Laila’s Wisdom (2017), Solange’s A Seat at the Table (2016) and Maxwell’s blackSUMMERS’night (2016), respectively—offer subtle, quotidian challenges to oppression, dehumanization, and objectification. We find that quiet occurs as artists describe the use of metaphysical space, or how place is used to make and take space for the self and to find peace, the protection of the interior self, and the gifts of quiet to the struggle for resistance.These lyrics speak to the interior safe space that Blacks seek as refuge from oppression by the dominant culture and demands from within their community. We contend that Blacks exercise power through their dominion over their interior selves, which in turn expresses their humanity. It is their control of the content of inner life, whatever those contents may be, that is an expression of sovereignty.


Tennille Nicole Allen and Antonia Randolph





Starting Page


Ending Page