THE ANATOMY OF DIGITAL CLOUT(CHASING): BLACK AESTHETICS, ONLINE VISIBILITY AND RELATIONAL LABOR AMONG DIY HIP-HOP MUSICIANS ON CHICAGO’S SOUTH SIDE
Keywords:Hip-Hop, Social Media, Media Literacy, Visibility Labor, Microcelebrity, Platformed Creation
Prior literature has suggested that it is through popular music that the social, professional and technological aspirations of Black youth often come together. Nowhere is this more evident than in the context of Hip-Hop music, where Black youth inventiveness with digital tools is celebrated and valued far more than any other genre of media entertainment. Though many scholars have theorized on the centrality of authenticity and masculinity to the communication of Hip-Hop artists in digital spaces, little academic work has paid very little attention to artist perspective of how this relational labor and visibility strategy helps them cultivate viable careers as influencers. Using interviews with artists, artist managers and independent label executives, I detail the career potentials for Hip-Hop artists engaging in social media self-branding strategies. I explore the content and character of their work on social media toward acquiring “clout”- a digital form of influence rooted in Hip-Hop that allows marginalized youth to leverage digital tools in build social status, maintain authenticity, cultivate connections with fans, connect to friends and other cultural producers. In this study, I detail examples of three relational strategies that our respondents utilized to acquire “digital clout:” a) Corralling b) Capping and, c) Co-Signing. To conclude, I argue Chicago’s Hip-Hop scene provides an example of why formal institutions need to rethink how race, class, gender and geography influence the digital practices of young people and how their practices add significantly to the understanding of the cultural and communicative diversity arising from globalizing social media.