Language, identity, and urban youth subculture: Nigerian HIP HOP music as an exemplar

Michael Tosin Gbogi


Towards the turn of the 20th century, a new wave of hip hop music emerged in Nigeria whose sense of popularity activated, and was activated by, the employment of complex linguistic strategies. Indirection, ambiguity, circumlocution, language mixing, pun, double meaning, and inclusive pronominals, among others, are not only used by artists in performing the glocal orientations of their music but also become for them valuable resources in the fashioning of multiple identities. In this paper, I interrogate some of these linguistic markers, using four broad paradigms: “Signifying,” “slangifying,” “double meaning,” and “pronominals and ghetto naming.” Under each of these areas, I show how Nigerian hip hop music is creating–through the mediation of language–sub-identities and a new subculture for a generation of urban youth.

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