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Institute for the Humanities pres.

FellowSpeak: “'He’d be a good rhymer': Polish Hip-Hop and the Legacy of Romanticism"

Alena Aniskiewicz, Institute for the Humanities Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Hip-hop at a record store. Hip-hop at a record store.
Hip-hop at a record store.
2019-20 Postdoctoral Fellow Alena Aniskiewicz gives a 30-minute talk followed by Q & A.

In 2012, the Polish rapper Doniu told The New York Times, “If Mickiewicz was alive today; he’d be a good rhymer.” Identifying Adam Mickiewicz—a nineteenth-century Romantic poet—as a precursor to the “rhymers” of contemporary hip-hop, Doniu’s assertion speaks to Polish hip-hop communities’ efforts to locate the international genre within national cultural traditions. This talk will examine the Romantic legacies of “freestyling” and politically engaged lyrics as they are referenced and performed in the work of Polish hip-hop artist Peja and his group Slums Attack. Capitalizing on the resonance between national and genre ideals of authenticity and speaking to and for marginalized communities, Peja positions himself as heir to the Romantic poets whose work has shaped ideas of Polishness for two hundred years. In so doing, he performs a vision a Poland that remains defined by its national past, even as it embraces a modern global music.
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