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The 2021 Pop Convergence: A Virtual Pop Conference, April 22-25th
Artwork by Alex Nero; Design by The Art Dictator
avatar for Kyle DeCoste

Kyle DeCoste

Columbia University
PhD Candidate, Ethnomusicology
San Francisco
Lil Chano From 79th: Voicing Black Boy Joy in the Music of Chance the Rapper

In 2016, journalist Danielle Young coined the hashtag #BlackBoyJoy to describe Chance the Rapper’s creative output—in particular, the carefree Black boyhood he epitomizes through his music. As hashtags often do, #BlackBoyJoy took on a life of its own, spreading throughout social media platforms as a “relief point” in the wake of Black death (Abdurraqib 2017) while also sparking debate about the use of “boy,” an ordinarily pejorative term used to subordinate Black men that relies on notions of children as unknowing or lacking intelligence for its racist efficacy (Elam 2007). Reclaiming boyhood and recasting it as expansive, Black Boy Joy articulates representational possibilities outside the trope of the Strong Black Man, an overdetermining product of the many years of misrecognitions of Black men through the infantilizing caricatures of blackface minstrelsy and recycled in popular music (Morrison 2019, Neal 2005). Interlinking childhood, affect, and race, #BlackBoyJoy renders boyhood radically present, offering images of Black masculinity that defy dominant portrayals of Black men in mainstream hip-hop and popular culture more broadly. While it is relatively easy to identify Chance’s lyrical markers of childhood (lyrical referents include his grandmother’s cocoa butter kisses, watching SpongeBob after school, Chucky Cheese’s, and the like) or music videos (think bright colors, Muppets, and childhood photos), identifying the sonic markers of childhood proves more difficult. This paper explores Chance’s performances of childhood through sound and his novel vocal delivery, in particular. What does childhood sound like and how does Chance evoke it through his vocal performance? What is it about Chance the Rapper’s voice that provokes such divisive responses from audiences and what are the intersectional politics of this reception? Combining perspectives from Black studies, sound studies, and popular discourse, this paper explores Black Boy Joy and its various voicings in the music of Chance the Rapper.

Kyle DeCoste is a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at Columbia University, where his dissertation focuses on performances of childhood in contemporary Black popular music. He is co-author with the Stooges Brass Band of Can’t Be Faded: Twenty Years in the New Orleans Brass Band Game (University Press of Mississippi, 2020). His articles have been published in Ethnomusicology, The Journal of Popular Music Studies, and SEM Student News.
Thursday, April 22
 

3:00pm PDT

 
Friday, April 23
 

10:00am PDT

11:30am PDT

1:00pm PDT

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6:15pm PDT

 
Saturday, April 24
 

10:00am PDT

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1:00pm PDT

2:30pm PDT

4:00pm PDT

 
Sunday, April 25
 

12:00pm PDT

1:00pm PDT

2:00pm PDT