Call for Papers: Creating Purpose, Power, and Passion: Understanding the Rhetoric of Hip Hop

Creating Purpose, Power, and Passion: Understanding the Rhetoric of Hip Hop

Special Guest Editors: Andre E. Johnson and Damariye L. Smith

For the Journal of Hip Hop Studies

Hip Hop has moved from being a sub-culture hidden on the decadent and decaying streets of inner-city America to society affording its full-fledged acceptance and mainstream status of rap music in the broader U.S. and global consumer culture. The Journal of Hip Hop Studies recently published a special issue that contends for collapsing “global” Hip Hop (studies) into Hip Hop studies. During the time of receiving submissions for this CFP, JHHS will release a special issue on Hip Hop Feminism. JHHS aims to move the field forward by conceptualizing Hip Hop as an African diasporic phenomenon and fighting White Supremacy in academia.

“Creating Purpose, Power, and Passion” carries on this mission and examines the ways in which Hip Hop "speaks" to a diverse group of people. Fighting the traditional notions of rhetoric that privileges particular voices and written texts, this special issue, centers Hip Hop rhetoric. While some in academia and even the society at large still devalue and stereotype Hip Hop, the rhetoric of Hip Hop provides keen insights into the dispossessed peoples of this world. Along with the trend of scholars inside and outside of communication studies and rhetoric, we are using "rhetoric" here as an examination or understanding of discourse(s) that help us flesh out meanings from and within Hip Hop culture. We are looking for essays, creative pieces and other types of scholarly works (poems, syllabi, etc.) that interrogate both: the multiple ways in which speaks and the variety of meanings that these varied ways of “speaking” present. This analysis will present a more comprehensive understanding of marginalized lives and the ways in which they fight the power!

While scholars have examined Hip Hop's rhetorical features (Smitherman, 1997, Cummings & Roy, 2002; Pough, 2004; Campbell, 2005; McCann, 2017; Scuillo, 2018, Rudrow, 2020), this call intends to push the boundaries even further. We welcome submissions that de-center written text and focus on African diasporic modalities of communication. For instance, papers can not only highlight the rhetorical and discursive boundaries of Hip Hop but also, detail how graffiti artists “speak” through their art and how b-boys and b-girls communicate with their moves. Submissions can also examine Hip Hop and digital humanities, especially in light of the popularity of social media sites such as Tik Tok in addition to the longer standing ones: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It is our hope that this special issue will further the discussion of Hip Hop and rhetoric and not only how rhetoric helps shapes our understanding of Hip Hop but how Hip Hop also helps shape our understanding of rhetoric.

While this call is intentionally wide, we are highly interested in submissions that do not focus solely on rap music. Some suggested topics include:

The rhetoric of the origins of Hip Hop

Hip Hop and Gender

Graffiti and the rhetoric of street art

Law enforcement, surveillance, and the rhetoric of policing

Hip Hop and breakin

Black oratorical and rhetorical tradition and Hip Hop

The rhetoric of place and space in Hip Hop

Spoken word/Poetry slams

The rhetoric of Hip Hop studies and scholarship

Preaching and Hip Hop

Radicalism and Hip Hop

Afro-pessimism, Afrofuturism and Hip Hop

Rhetorical theory and criticism

Hip Hop pedagogy

Politics and Hip Hop

Rhetorical understandings of the theories of Hip Hop

Hip Hop and sports

Hip Hop and photography

We welcome a variety of submissions, ranging from poems to letters to traditional essays. Essays should be no more than 20 typed, double-spaced pages (12 pt. font), including notes. The Journal of Hip Hop Studies uses the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition. Please use footnotes rather than endnotes. Submitted essays will be peer-reviewed. Your cover letter should include the title of your essay, name, email address, and phone number. Your essay should begin with the title of the essay and should NOT include your name.

Deadline for submission is August 15, 2020

Please send completed essays to Damariye L. Smith at and Andre E. Johnson at

About the Guest Editors:

Andre E. Johnson is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies in the Department of Communication & Film at the University of Memphis. He teaches classes in African American Public Address, Rhetoric, Race, and Religion, Media Studies, Interracial Communication, Rhetoric and Popular Culture, and Hip Hop Studies. He is the author of the forthcoming book, No Future in this Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (University Press of Mississippi, 2020).

Damariye L. Smith is a 4th year doctoral student and graduate teaching assistant at the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee studying Rhetoric and Media Studies. His research focuses on the intersections of Race, Rhetoric, and Education policy, specifically on issues revolving around African Americans in higher education contexts. He is currently working on his dissertation titled, "The Anatomy of the Commencement Speech: An Examination of Barack Obama's Rhetoric Delivered at HBCUs."


Campbell, K. E. (2005). Gettin'our groove on Rhetoric, language, and literacy for the hip hop generation. Wayne State University Press.

Cummings, M. S., & Roy, A. (2002). Manifestations of Afrocentricity in rap music. Howard Journal of Communication, 13(1), 59-76.

McCann, B. J. (2012). Contesting the mark of criminality: Race, place, and the prerogative of violence in NWA's Straight Outta Compton. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 29(5), 367-386.

McCann, B. J. (2017). The mark of criminality: Rhetoric, race, and gangsta rap in the war-on-crime era. University of Alabama Press.

Pough, G. (2004). Check it Before I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere. Northeastern University Press.

Rudrow, K. J. (2020). I was scared to death": storytelling, masculinity, & vulnerability in "Wet Dreamz. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 1-13.

Sciullo, N. J. (2014). Using hip-hop music and music videos to teach Aristotle's three proofs. Communication Teacher, 28(3), 165-169.

Smitherman, G. (1997). "The Chain Remain the Same" Communicative Practices in the Hip Hop Nation. Journal of Black Studies, 28(1), 3-25.