+31 Negotiating Cultural Identity in Dutch Online Youth Culture: Hip-Hop’s represent

Hip-hop is the dominant youth culture today, both globally and in the Netherlands – and mainly takes place online. The unprecedented popularity of Dutch hip-hop raises the question how Dutch young people with different backgrounds seek and (re)define their cultural identity against a local background.

A central element of hip-hop is “represent”: a term used by the hip-hop “scene” and by academics to denote the performance of local identity. Represent can occur through rapping in specific slang, alluding to area codes or telephone numbers in lyrics, artist names or in user names on social media, or displaying typical buildings in music videos. This research starts from the assumption that social media have changed represent. No longer a sign from artists to their local fans, it has become an open, collaborative performance within the Dutch hip-hop community at large, in which multiple markers of identity can be tested, developed and expanded by all parties involved.

My research project analyzes Dutch hip-hop to investigate how, in the digital era, Dutch youth (hip-hop artists, amateurs and fans) uses the strategy of represent to create and negotiate their cultural identities along different axes of locality, ethnicity, religion, gender, class and age. I combine multimodal discourse analysis of both professional and amateurish hip-hop performances with online ethnography of the reactions to these performances to analyze how representing different parts of the Netherlands enables Dutch youth to construct and reconstruct cultural identities in a global perspective.

Illustration by Jonat Deelstra