Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


African American Studies


Herbert G. Ruffin


Black Power, electro-hop, gangsta rap, Los Angeles, sonic studies, soundscape

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The purpose of this thesis is to analyze how Black popular music sonically represents urban, ghetto landscapes through lyrics, timbres, tones, tempos, and samples as forms of social commentary and signifiers of an authentic Black experience. This project adopts the concept of the soundscape in order to tease out the ways music artists and producers sonically recreate their social environments, specifically understood as “the streets,” in order to provide nuanced social critiques about the social forces that dictate daily life. The project is situated in the South Central section of Los Angeles, California and follows a sonic chronology that traces the social commentary in the music from Los Angeles based artists between 1969 through 1992. Taking the streets as a spatial imaginary in Black popular culture, specifically in Black popular music, this thesis demonstrates how Los Angeles based artists deliberately employed sound to represent how locals responded to the way demographic shifts, economic stratification, the illicit drug economy, and militarized policing practices helped transform South Central Los Angeles’s social and political landscape.


Open Access



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