In the article “Keepin’ It Real–Black Youth, Hip-Hop Culture, and Black Identity” author Andreana Clay expands on the concept of “cultural capital” elucidated by Bourdieu by analyzing how black youth use hip-hop to authenticate their identities.

Clay has this to say about “cultural capital:”

“Cultural capital is used to position people in a particular status hierarchy among their peers. Furthermore, it acts as a criterion for setting up boundaries and determining who is legitimate or authentic in a setting, excluding those that lack legitimacy.” (p. 1349)

There’s a growing literature that examines how gender and racial identities are actually “performed” the same way that an actor performs in a play or a television show. Our racial and gender identities then are not just a product of our phenotype and/or our genitalia, but are a product of how we literally ACT. For Clay, hip-hop becomes one way to sift and separate the black from the not-so-black, and the black black from the simply black. Note how she uses “cultural capital” differently here–cultural capital becomes something that individuals possess in order to communicate amongst their peers, rather than a form that is used by multinational corporations in order to extract profit. I note also that when she talks about a “hip-hop identity” it actually isn’t clear what about these kids’ identity makes them hip-hop…other than their race, and the fact that they say that hip-hop is an important part of their lives. No breaking, no graffiti, none of them are MCs or DJs that I can tell, and the one musical moment that Clay cites is actually an Usher moment. Maybe Usher is hip-hop…but I’m sure some would beg to differ.

The abstract:

The relationship between Black youth and hip-hop culture is the focus of this article. The author considers how African American youth use hip-hop as a form of cultural capital in everyday settings. By focusing on how Black youth interact with one another at the City Youth Center, the article examines how this particular form of cultural capital may be used to authenticate a Black identity. Finally, how the articulation of this identity is based on traditional gender roles is explored. Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital is heavily relied on to investigate how Black youth construct legitimate racial boundaries in predominately Black settings. The intention is to provide an extension of Bourdieu’s theory by examining how Black youth identity is formed and renegotiated in everyday interactions with other Black youth and how this negotiation is mediated through hip-hop culture.