Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Sociolinguistics has looked at myriad contexts to make sense of language variation, with specific attention paid to African American English(AAE) as a language variety replete with salient indexes of class and regionality (Morgan 1994, Rickford & Rickford 2000, Smitherman 2006), but little work has been done on AAE embodied stance and dialogicality (Dubois 2007) as it branches into the multimodal (Mondada 2014a). In this paper, we highlight the body as a site through which functional stance is made manifest by observing the phenomenon of the gun bar as performed in contemporary battle rap. Battle rappers competing within formats like the YouTube disseminated Ultimate Rap League routinely draw upon prior discourse, both general and localized, during the course of verbal acts. We discuss the intertextuality of the gun bar as a generic feature of battle rap and its functions, including appeals to ethos and (re)contextualization of local memory. These embodied performances represent a routinized order that function, alongside their verbalized content, as an essential element in the successful enactment of a bar. We find that the rappers accomplish successful communication of the gun bar through nuanced embodiment alongside strategic metaphor that is accessible to the interlocutors. These findings tie together work done in sociolinguistics via AAE and HHNL (Hip Hop Nation Language), and functional theories of stance and embodiment as a means of reifying battle rap/hip hop culture through a prominent mediatized venue (Alim 2006, Williams 2016).