Date Awarded

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


American Studies


Michael Blakey

Committee Member

Grey Gundaker

Committee Member

Chinua Thelwell


The brutal slaying of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014 by Police officer Darren Wilson is part of an endemic system of institutional racism against Blacks in St. Louis, Missouri. This system takes place in racialized spaces that entail disparate health care, failing schools, commercial redlining, an unjust justice system and several additional oppressive forces. I am seeking to understand the ways in which Hip Hop respond to these systems of oppression. I am interested in Hip Hop’s response because Hip Hoppers are enduring racism. Further, Hip Hop’s representation in popular culture draws attention to misogyny, drugs, violence and the glorification of money. Hip Hop scholars have already provided a significant amount of attention to debunking popular misconceptions and revealing that Hip Hop is so much more. I would like to add to this contribution by focusing on three emcees from St. Louis: Marcus Gray (Flame), Travis Tyler (Thi’sl), and Kareem Jackson (Tef Poe). their unique background of being from St. Louis, couches them as local experts in which they are able to respond to the killing of Michael Brown, the continued oppressive conditions and localized disenfranchisement. Using a performance studies framework, which involves a focus on embodied behaviors and cultural transmission, this paper analyzes the repertoires of Flame’s, Thi’sl’s and Tef Poe’s performances and activism. I contextualize their responses through a thorough examination of their background and their notions of the evils plaguing Ferguson. I argue that the three models of activism revealed by Flame’s, Thi’sl’s and Tef Poe’s performances in response to the killing of Michael Brown present the ways in which Hip Hop artists respond to the killing of Michael Brown. This paper will explore Hip Hop’s role within the larger Black freedom struggle.



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