Lyrical (re)citation: Remembering, recycling and revoicing bars from the rap canon Journal Article uri icon



  • Rap music has been the soundtrack to global rebellions against the hegemonic status quo. For this reason, it has often been construed as the antithesis of tradition, breaking old systems to make space for the novel and the original. Along these lines, the hip hop community has deeply valued originality as an essential feature of the emcee’s authorial voice. Copying the rhymes and styles of fellow rappers has often been condemned as ‘biting’. While these practices of ingenuity are plenty within the rap scene, it is integral that hip hop studies also account for practices that directly contradict this ethos of ingenuity: practices of re-citation, re-cycling, re-membering and re-voicing. This study examines the lyrics and the testimonies of rappers for evidence of these practices. The record shows that many emcees are constantly engaged in memorizing the language forms of other rappers and faithfully replicating those forms in their own artistic creations. These practices of re-cycling are contextualized within social theories of voice that posit authorial voice as fundamentally co-constructed by an author’s social scene. The study seeks to complicate the caricature of the self-made–self-taught rapper, which has often led to stereotypical depictions of rappers as unstudied, off-the-cuff and extemporary.

publication date

  • December 1, 2022

has restriction

  • hybrid

Date in CU Experts

  • February 7, 2024 1:45 AM

Full Author List

  • Nzinga K

author count

  • 1

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2632-6825

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2632-6833

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 145

end page

  • 164


  • 3


  • 1