Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2024

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Angelina Tallaj, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Caley Johnson, Ph.D.


Music, as a profound and resonant cultural expression, captures the nuance of societal dynamics, political climates, and the collective emotions of communities throughout time. Colonialism, more specifically the Atlantic slave trade and the experience of suffering, has been reflected in the music as much as it has pioneered styles of new global music in the present. Music, specifically rap, contextualized in the hip-hop movements of the United States and Cuba, reveals primary sources of the effects of systemic racism and the marks of slavery in the contemporary context. The United States and Cuba each have a close relation to the history of slavery as well as the ways in which black people have been systematically discriminated against ever since. In these two countries where systemic racism is so ingrained, rap’s positionality allows people to break from mindsets and economic/social policies that drag them down as a collective group. Rap further serves a similar function in the dialogue of the African diaspora and what it means for blackness in both of these countries, even though its reception from the government has been completely opposite in some respects. Based on recurring themes in the music as they related to colonialism and decolonization, I created 3 subcategories to analyze, applicable to both countries: revolutionary rap, rap embracing self-love and blackness, and everyday rap. I then selected 6 songs, 3 from each country to represent each category, to analyze for their lyrical contents in relation to decolonization theorists, exemplifying the pinnacle of music as a social force more than other mediums of scholarly analysis. The creation of music as a consequence of colonialism demonstrates how history influences music, and rap’s unique position further shows how a colonial creation can be the most effective in decolonizing countries, people, and mindsets.