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Shante Paradigm Smalls

Shanté Paradigm Smalls is the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow/Visiting Assistant Professor in English at Davidson College. She is working on her book Hip Hop Heresies: New York City’s Queer Interraciality, 1975-2005. Smalls is a member of hip-hop group, B.Q.E., and starred in the hip-hop documentary Pick Up The Mic.

"'Voices Carry': Queer Dissonance and the Travel of NYC 1980s Hip-Hop Sound"
This paper thinks with and against Josh Kun’s theory of audiotopia and Theodor Adorno’s work on dissonance in jazz, classical, and popular music. Queer dissonance articulates against, back to, and with the forces that impact and inform it: New York City public spaces, dance clubs, and other performance venues, queer cultures, hip-hop cultures, capitalism, modernity, postmodernity, identity, sonic material, visual culture, and more. Queer dissonance does not simply disavow or incorporate, or even mimic; it makes sonic room for what is said to be non-existent—the visual and audible queer hip-hop artist. Queer hip-hop culture and performance and its admirers often suffer from the same problems as the broader hip-hop landscape in terms of defaulting to hyper-masculinity, misogyny, and femiphobia. Queer dissonance is crucial for queer hip-hop makers who are bombarded with questions of what is both “authentically” hip-hop and “authentically” gay.
Queer dissonance is explicitly, though not exclusively, about music-making, music-listening, and art-making practices for queer subjects-in-process. Sourcing the work of NYC electro hip-hop DJ and producer, Manuel “Man” Parrish, LA hip-hop group, Age of Consent, and other NYC 1980s queer hip-hop dissidents, as well as the sonic contexts of New York City and way New York City auditory characteristics traveled in the 1980s, this paper traces the aural and visual appearance of queer-identified hip-hop music makers. The paper ends with a brief historiography and ethnography of US queer hip-hop through the present.