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Abstract

Kendrick Lamar’s “Ab-Soul’s Outro” and “HiiiPower” employ complex patterns of Signifyin(g), testifyin’, and other classical African-American literary tropes in order to construct a nuanced style. Lamar creates a double-voiced text not only within his narrative, but also within the form itself. Lamar plays on rap's unique status in African-American literature as an oral text; it is an extension of the vernacular. Through this oral text, Lamar decentralizes the Eurocentric focus of classical interpretation and qualification of literature to a new Afrocentric perspective that privileges the oral text. These raps are complex, wrapped up in their current context along with a deeply rooted historical and literary context. Closely read, the raps function as liminal texts, straddling the horizons of music and literature as well as the horizons of white and black literary conventions. Because of this complexity, Lamar’s tracks transcend the techniques of interpretation readily applicable to music and thus can be classified as literature. Disclaimer: Liberty University does not endorse some of the language and attitudes copied from the songs that form the subject of this paper. Be warned that some of the language is profane and offensive.

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