Rap music as protest: A rhetorical analysis of Public Enemy's lyrics

Joseph Paul Eiswerth, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Rap music has been one of the most popular and controversial forms of entertainment in the 1990s. Rap music serves as a form of social protest used by Blacks who feel oppressed. This study defines rap music as protest rhetoric, provides a history of rap music as an extension of Black African and American oral traditions, and analyzes the lyrics of Public Enemy, one of the most powerful protest rap artists. Although Public Enemy's music does not function in a social movement as previous protest songs, a comparison of Public Enemy's lyrics to conclusions drawn by previous researchers will show that Public Enemy's discourse is a form of social protest without serving as part of a social movement.