The Real Deal: Hip-hop Mixtape Artwork and Black Masculinity

  • Emmett Robinson Smith


Despite hip-hop’s status as a means of resistance to myriad systems of institutionalized racism, oppression, and poverty, its rise in mainstream popularity has caused a dramatic increase in its corporate monetization. This causes a transfer of control from the artist to the record label, at times jeopardizing hip-hop’s fundamental principles of rebellion, resistance, and risk. An alternative mode of expression, however – the mixtape – puts power back into the hands of hip-hop artists, becoming a crucial vessel for unmitigated artistic expression and meaning. One of the most significant and immediately striking aspects of the mixtape is the cover art. By honing in on the visual aspects of five select mixtapes, it becomes evident that the images presented on their covers advance male hip-hop artists’ freedom of expression of black masculinity. These images, though at times problematic in their own way, become a crucial source of meaning not only in the realm of hip-hop, but in the genre’s relationship with broader societal perceptions of the black male. 

How to Cite
Smith, Emmett. 2018. “The Real Deal: Hip-Hop Mixtape Artwork and Black Masculinity”. FORUM: University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture & The Arts, no. 26 (June).