Skip to content

Travel / Escape: Hip Hop’s Transatlantic Mobilities

Timo Müller

Pages 385 - 406



This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0.

Creative Commons License

Upscale travel to Europe has become a frequent status symbol in mainstream hip hop. Given their emphasis on money and pleasure, these travel accounts have been criticized for glossing over, and thus upholding, racial and economic hierarchies. Yet the very figure of the Black upscale traveler presents a challenge to these hierarchies. This article examines how rappers deploy the tropes of European travel to negotiate the complicated history of Black transatlantic mobility and assert a Black presence often missing from accounts (and imaginaries) of Americans in Europe. These rappers may fulfill stereotypes of individualist leisure tourism, but the impulse behind their work is revisionist. Drawing on works by Jay Z, Kanye West, Rick Ross, and Beyoncé, the article examines how this revisionist impulse plays out in the words, imagery, and iconography of American hip hop about Europe.

Key Words: hip hop; rap music; travel; mobility; Black Atlantic

1 Alderman, Derek H. “Introduction to the Special Issue: African Americans and Tourism.” African Americans and Tourism. Ed. Derek H. Alderman. Spec. issue of Tourism Geographies: An International Journal of Tourism Space, Place and Environment 15.3 (2013): 375-79. Web. 21 May 2023.

2 Alim, H. Samy. Roc the Mic Right: The Language of Hip Hop Culture. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.

3 Androutsopoulos, Jannis, and Arno Scholz. “Spaghetti Funk: Appropriations of Hip-Hop Culture and Rap Music in Europe.” Popular Music and Society 26.4 (2003): 463-79. Web. 23 May 2023.

4 Baker, Houston A., Jr. Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. Chicago, IL: U of Chicago P, 1987. Print.

5 Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge, 1994. Print.

6 Boyd, Todd. “Check Yo Self Before You Wreck Yo Self: The Death of Politics in Rap Music and Popular Culture.” That’s the Joint! The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. Ed. Murray Forman and Mark Anthony Neal. New York: Routledge, 2004. 325-39. Print.

7 Bradley, Regina N. “Kanye West’s Sonic [Hip-Hop] Cosmopolitanism.” The Cultural Impact of Kanye West. Ed. Julius Bailey. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 97-107. Print.

8 Burns, Lori, and Alyssa Woods. “Rap Gods and Monsters: Words, Music, and Images in the Hip-Hop Intertexts of Eminem, Jay-Z, and Kanye West.” The Pop Palimpsest: Intertextuality in Recorded Popular Music. Ed. Lori Burns and Serge Lacasse. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2018. 215-51. Print.

9 Carter, Perry L. “Coloured Places and Pigmented Holidays: Racialized Leisure Travel.” Tourism Geographies 10.3 (2008): 265-84. Print.

10 Carters, The. “Apeshit.” Genius. Genius Lyrics. Web. 23 May 2023.

11 ---. “Apeshit.” YouTube. Uploaded by Beyoncé. 16 June 2018. Web. 23 May 2023.

12 Chakrabarty, Dipesh. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2007. Print.

13 Coles, Robert. Black Writers Abroad: A Study of Black American Writers in Europe and Africa. New York: Garland, 1999. Print.

14 Colletta, Lisa, ed. The Legacy of the Grand Tour: New Essays on Travel, Literature, and Culture. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2015. Print.

15 Coombs, Adam. “There’s a Disconnect: The Entrepreneurial Ethics of Jay-Z and Donald Trump.” Black Camera 11.1 (2019): 348-65. Web. 23 May 2023.

16 Cresswell, Tim. On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.

17 Doel, Marcus A. Poststructuralist Geographies: The Diabolical Art of Spatial Science. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1999. Print.

18 Driscoll, Christopher, and Monica R. Miller. “Niggas in Paris? Traveling between the ‘Who’ and ‘What’ of Diaspora in the Study of African American Religion.” Journal of Africana Religions 4.1 (2016): 28-53. Web. 23 May 2023.

19 Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press, 1986. Print.

20 Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African American Literary Criticism. 1988. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014. Print.

21 Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. 1993. London: Verso, 1995. Print.

22 Gunn, Jenny. “The Outside Meets the Institution: The Carters’ ‘Apeshit’ Video.” Black Camera 11.1 (2019): 385-98. Web. 23 May 2023.

23 Jay-Z. “Clique.” Genius. Genius Lyrics. Web. 23 May 2023.

24 ---. “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt.” Genius. Genius Lyrics. Web. 4 Dec. 2022.

25 Johnson, T. Hasan. “The Prodigal God and the Legacy of Socially Responsible Hip Hop.” Jay-Z: Essays on Hip Hop’s Philosopher King. Ed. Julius Bailey. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011. 84-98. Print.

26 Keyes, Cheryl L. Rap Music and Street Consciousness. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2002. Print.

27 Krebs, Nicolas D. “Confidently (Non)cognizant of Neoliberalism: Kanye West and the Interruption of Taylor Swift.” The Cultural Impact of Kanye West. Ed. Julius Bailey. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 195-208. Print.

28 Mbembe, Achille. Afriques Indociles: Christianisme, Pouvoir et État en Société Postcoloniale. Paris: Éditions Karthala, 1988. Print.

29 McCarren, Felicia. French Moves: The Cultural Politics of Le Hip Hop. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013. Print.

30 McInnis, Jarvis C. “Black Women’s Geographies and the Afterlives of the Sugar Plantation.” American Literary History 31.4 (2019): 741-74. Web. 23 May 2023.

31 Mendes, Ana Cristina, and Julian Wacker. “The Louvre going APESHIT: Audiovisual Re-Curation and Intellectual Labour in The Carters’ Afrosurrealist Music Video.” Postcolonial Studies 24.4 (2021): 484-97. Web. 4 Dec. 2022.

32 Milutinović, Zoran. The Rebirth of Area Studies: Challenges for History, Politics and International Relations in the 21st Century. London: I. B. Tauris, 2020. Print.

33 Miszczynski, Milosz, and Adriana Helbig, eds. Hip Hop at Europe’s Edge: Music, Agency, and Social Change. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2017. Print.

34 Perry, Imani. Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2004. Print.

35 Pettinger, Alasdair. Always Elsewhere: Travels of the Black Atlantic. London: Cassel, 1998. Print.

36 Potter, Russell A. Spectacular Vernaculars: Hip-Hop and the Politics of Postmodernism. Ithaca: SUNY Press, 1995. Print.

37 Rollefson, J. Griffith. Critical Excess: Watch the Throne and the New Gilded Age. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2021. Print.

38 ---. Flip the Script: European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality. Chicago, IL: U of Chicago P, 2017. Print.

39 Sheller, Mimi. Mobility Justice: The Politics of Movement in an Age of Extremes. London: Verso, 2018. Print.

40 Smith, Virginia Whatley. “African American Travel Literature.” The Cambridge Companion to American Travel Writing. Ed. Alfred Bendixen and Judith Hamera. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. 179-213. Print.

41 Spence, Lester K. Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-Hop and Black Politics. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2011. Print.

42 Stovall, Tyler. Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Print.

43 Taylor, Yuval, and Jake Austen. Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.

44 Totten, Gary. African American Travel Narratives from Abroad: Mobility and Cultural Work in the Age of Jim Crow. Boston: U of Massachusetts P, 2015. Print.

45 Urry, John. Mobilities. Cambridge: Polity, 2007. Print.

46 Vannini, Phillip, ed. The Cultures of Alternative Mobilities: Routes Less Travelled. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009. Print.

47 Watts, Eric K. “An Exploration of Spectacular Consumption: Gangsta Rap as Cultural Commodity.” Communication Studies 48.1 (1997): 42-58. Web. 23 May 2023.

48 West, Kanye. “Jay Z ft. Kanye West: Ni**as in Paris.” YouTube. Uploaded by Kanye West. 9 Feb. 2012. Web. 23 May 2023.

49 ---. “Ni**as in Paris.” Songlyrics. Soundmedia. Web. 23 May 2023.


Export Citation