School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

Current students 




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Image of Andrew Duncan

Andrew Duncan

Research Student,


Research Summary

Current Status:

PhD (full-time) - currently registered

Research Topic:

Dope Music: Representations of the U.S. 'War on Drugs' in Hip Hop lyricism from the 1970s to the present day

Research Summary:

My thesis will explore the changing and conflicting representations of the Hip-Hop community's experiences of and attitudes towards the U.S. Government's 'War on Drugs' and the effects of this 'war' on the urban black environments which constitute its primary battlegrounds. Following in the West African Literary tradition, Hip-Hop lyricists function as Griots: documenting societal change and sharing narratives through which black communities can navigate an often dangerous, prohibitive and toxic interplay of police, gangs and drugs. My research focuses squarely on the intersection between literary composition and lyricism, economic transaction - both legal and illicit - and a penal system which has expanded and become militarised as a result of the 'War on Drugs'. Whilst most scholars agree that the trade of illegal narcotics, and the tactics which have been used to police them, have been severely detrimental to African-American neighbourhoods, mainstream Hip-Hop music has largely celebrated the trade as an opportunity to subvert racial discrimination and an oppressive 'white' capitalism. This positive articulation is the antithesis of the position formulated in Hip-Hop's foundational years, where songs such as 'The Message' (1982) and 'White Lines' (1983) not only decried the influence of narcotic substances themselves but also the socio-political factors which magnified their associated problems of social collapse and poverty. My PhD will explore how and why this divergence occurred through close analysis of Hip-Hop lyricism coupled with a contextualizing socio-political analysis of government rhetoric, media representation and law enforcement. This PhD stems directly from my MPhil dissertation - a sociological, historical and cultural study of the city of Chicago and its problems with the drug trade in relation to the first three albums of rapper and producer Kanye West.

Research Interests:

Politics of identity, race and nationhood.

African-American culture, particularly music and film.

Hip hop culture

Research Supervisor/s:

Dr. Nick Heffernan

Dr. Vivien Miller

Primary Funding Source:

Midlands3Cities DTP Scholarship

Research Institutes, Centres and/or Research Clusters Memberships

C3R - University of Nottingham Centre for Research in Race and Rights

LSP - Landscape, Space and Place reading group


"Ego Pluribus Unum: How One Man, Speaking For Many, Changed Hip-Hop",

Irish Association for American Studies journal, (date to be confirmed)

Conference Papers & Presentations:

"Ego Pluribus Unum: How One Man, Speaking For Many, Changed Hip-Hop" - E Pluribus Unum: Out Of Many, One, - The Irish Association for American Studies Postgraduate Symposium, November 2015

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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