Department or Program

African American Studies


This thesis examines Hip Hop as a genre of oral literature. To begin this study, I examine a wide range of scholarship on orality, including what is considered the canonical work, Orality and Literature, by Walter Ong. This theorist’s conclusion draws a binary opposition between orality and writing. Hip Hop music encourages a broader definition of orality that approaches what African author Ngugi wa Thiong’o calls orature. I use Hip Hop to push back on Ong’s conclusions, and demonstrate how orality and writing can coexist in a culture. I found that there were three categories of Hip Hop songs that demonstrated the link between orality and writing. First, there are two types of Hip Hop songs that that form an intertextual relation with other songs through sampling. The first kind features a DJ that samples words and phrases to make it appear as if they are speaking over the beat. The second kind, reinterprets what the original speaker’s message was by sampling their music in a new song. Second, there is a group of Hip Hop songs that feature unique vocal styles that demonstrate how the artist intends to give an oral performance, even though they wrote the lyrics before performing them. Through these examples, my thesis examines how Hip Hop acts as orature, and broadens the definition of orality. Third, there are certain Hip Hop songs that play off of the traditional storytelling form of Western culture, demonstrating how oral culture can influence written and oral styles of storytelling.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Houchins, Sue

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2016

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 PDF File

Open Access

Available to all.