This is the fifth and final post in The Junto’s roundtable on the Black Atlantic. The first was by Marley-Vincent Lindsey, the second was by Mark J. Dixon, the third was by Kristin O’Brassill-Kulfan, and the fourth was by D. S. Battistoli. Ryan Reft is a Historian of Modern America in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress. He also writes for KCET in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in journals such as Souls, Southern California Quarterly, California History, and the Journal of Urban History, and the anthologies, Barack Obama and African American Empowerment and Asian American Sporting Culture.
When A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) dropped its final album We Got It From Here . . . Thanks 4 Your Service, for a generation of Americans who attended college in the 1990s, it hearkened back to Clintonian multiculturalism, Afrocentric rap groups of the Native Tongues movement (De La Soul, Black Sheep, Jungle Brothers, and ATCQ), and hazy apartment parties carried by the rhythms of hip hop and its variants. Though a thoroughly modern creation, hip hop like that of ATCQ results from the accretion of political, social, and cultural forms arising from the Black Atlantic; the transnational culture created by the intersection of European empires, slavery, and colonization from the 1600s forward. Birthed and nurtured by the Black Atlantic, hip hop is our countermemory to American exceptionalism and chauvinistic nationalism. Continue reading