Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Andrew Berish


Black Feminism, Black Power, Civil Rights, Hip Hop, Nina Simone, Rap Music


The overarching goal of this research is to explicate the implications of hip hop artists sampling Nina Simone's music in their work. By regarding Simone as a critical social theorist in her own right, one can hear the ways that hip hop artists are mobilizing her tradition of socially active self-definition from the Civil Rights/Black Power era(s) in the post-2000 United States. By examining both the lyrics and the instrumental compositions of Lil Wayne, Juelz Santana, Common, Tony Moon, Talib Kweli, Mary J. Blige and Will.I.Am, G-Unit and Timbaland, and bearing in mind the intersecting oppressions of race, class, gender, and sexuality, this study concludes that the way that these artists employ Simone's recorded voice in their works oftentimes corresponds to the degree to which they retain her figurative message. While many would assume that these tendencies would correspond with the subgenres of "mainstream" and "conscious" hip hop, in fact the fluidity and complexity of these artists' positions in subgenre refutes this essentialist notion. By engaging in an intersectional analysis of the political and personal implications of hip hop sampling, this essay provides a critical interpretation of the ways the cultural products of the "Civil Rights era" still operate in contemporary U.S. society. These operations are integral to the human rights struggle in which we are all still very much engaged.