Christina Zanfagna

Christina Zanfagna is an Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Santa Clara University. Her research on Holy Hip Hop was recently published in Black Music Research Journal. She has worked for Afropop Worldwide, San Quentin’s Prison University Project, and the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation. She performs flamenco dance throughout the Bay Area.



"'Earthquake Music': The Cataclysmic Landscapes and Soundscapes of Holy Hip Hop"

While sitting in the International Food Court in downtown Los Angeles in 2007, Pastor Graham—a young hip hop pastor and MC with the collective Hood Ministries—named his unique brand of gospel rap over gangsta beats, “Earthquake Music.” Extending his metaphor of musical eruption, “Earthquake music” signifies multiple and intersecting processes in the gospel rap milieu: the recent “underground” explosion of Holy Hip Hop in Los Angeles; the holy hip hop artists who live in African American communities that sit astride the lethal Newport-Inglewood fault; the harsh apocalyptic beats that permeate gospel rap albums; and the hip hop ministries that continue to rattle and polarize church communities throughout the Southland.

In this presentation, I will illustrate how the musical practices of Holy Hip Hop make audible and visible the complex historical, spatial, political, and economic relationships between the 1992 riots, the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake, and a church standing on the former site of a Western Surplus gun store. In particular, the audibly entangled sound worlds that Holy Hip Hop assembles (e.g. gangsta rap, urban gospel, neo-soul music, Jamaican dancehall, Black preaching, local street vernaculars, political oratories, and sampled soul, funk, and R&B), rest on the tension between the leakiness of these sound worlds and the acute spatial distinctions, separations, and segregations that constitute the power-laden physical and social geography of Los Angeles. This is the audible city that only Holy Hip Hop can sound out.

My Speakers Sessions

Saturday, March 24

11:15am EDT