This thesis sets out to explore the expression of dissent and social protest in African American music, namely blues and hip hop. My argument is that African American music, and these two genres in particular, has been an important forum for the African American community to express their discontent regarding their situation and treatment in the United States. There is a continuation in black music to make social commentary, and blues and hip hop has the richest subtext in relation to this topic. I look at how these two genres can be interpreted as protest, whether it is a direct approach to the subject of social, cultural or political circumstances, or if it is more explicit.
The protest in African American music developed from being an expression of rural disillusion in the blues, to becoming a voice of urban alienation with the culmination of hip hop. The historical and social conditions blacks have faced in America will serve as a backdrop and explanation of the oppositional elements of the music, whether they are expressed directly in the lyrics or can be read in the subtext of the music. The lyrics vary from subtle subversive elements to direct social protest, a natural result of the historical era in which they emerged.
Furthermore, I look at the significance of protest music and subversive elements to the musician and the audience. The creation of an identity and a black consciousness is essential in the struggle for racial equality, and music has played a part in that construction. Both the blues and hip hop are music mainly created by lower/working class blacks, and thus the music has provdided them with a alternative perspective of "us", instead of being implemented with the stigma of being "the others".
I rely a lot on the interpretation of lyrics, as well as scholars' and writers' understanding of the music and its meaning. This thesis is not meant to compare and parallel the two genres, nevertheless, some similarities occur and are relevant to my thesis, as they validate that there has been a continuation of opposition and dissent in these musical forms.