Break It Down: Strange Fruit

“Break It Down” is a new HBW Literary Blog initiative that strives to offer critical interpretations of song lyrics, excerpts from novels, and poems. This week, Blog Contributor Goyland Williams has analyzed Strange Fruit, a song written by Abel Meeropol and performed by jazz singer Billie Holiday. *Hold cursor over underlined text to display comments Southern trees bear strange fruit Billie Holiday, similar to many […]

Theorizing Black Music, Theorizing Black Poetry

[By Goyland Williams] Last semester, I had the privilege of taking a course entitled Theorizing Black Music, Theorizing Black Poetry. My curiosity was sparked throughout the course as significant connections were made between themes in blues lyrics and those in African-American poetry. Given the long history of the black oral tradition, the African-American musical tradition has merely been an extension of that narrative and has […]

It Was All A Dream: Liner Notes and 1990s Hip Hop Print and Media Culture

[By Danielle Hall] “It was all a dream I used to read Word Up! magazine …” – opening line from “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G. In the digital age of itunes, mixtapes, and social media, the demand for going to stores to purchase music and/or music magazines is diminishing. Back in May, I was conversing with a professor about music artists and the necessity of liner […]

Contemporary Toasts By Black Women in Music

[By Alysha Griffin] The space for women to enter into Hip Hop is a small one. However, once through, female singers and emcees have held their own against the objectifying and misogynistic nature of Hip Hop culture. Although few have entered on the Hip Hop stage, many have established their lyrical dominance and street credibility. For this, HBW salutes contemporary, female “toast masters.” “Roxanne’s Revenge” […]

Toasts, Black Women, and Hip Hop

[By Alysha Griffin] The canon of African American literature overflows with stories of Stagolees, Shines, and Signifying Monkeys. These antiheroic figures in African American culture created the paradigm for the poetic form known as the toast. Derived from black folklore, toasts are narratives in which a character overcomes a sequence of events. In doing so, they illustrate their extraordinary physical and lyrical abilities. Usually told […]

Musical Influences on Black Writing

[By Kenton Rambsy] Music serves as a backdrop for black writing and informs character interactions, novel settings, reader responses to novels, short stories, and poetry. For instance, consider James Weldon Johnson’s the Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man and how issues of black identity were related to ragtime. In his novel, music takes center stage as the events unfold throughout the novel and the story’s protagonist […]