Skip to main content

Flip the Script

European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality

Flip the Script

European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality

Hip hop has long been a vehicle for protest in the United States, used by its primarily African American creators to address issues of prejudice, repression, and exclusion. But the music is now a worldwide phenomenon, and outside the United States it has been taken up by those facing similar struggles. Flip the Script offers a close look at the role of hip hop in Europe, where it has become a politically powerful and commercially successful form of expression for the children and grandchildren of immigrants from former colonies.
Through analysis of recorded music and other media, as well as interviews and fieldwork with hip hop communities, J. Griffith Rollefson shows how this music created by black Americans is deployed by Senegalese Parisians, Turkish Berliners, and South Asian Londoners to both differentiate themselves from and relate themselves to the dominant culture. By listening closely to the ways these postcolonial citizens in Europe express their solidarity with African Americans through music, Rollefson shows, we can literally hear the hybrid realities of a global double consciousness.

Read the introduction.

304 pages | 11 halftones, 11 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Black Studies

Culture Studies

Music: Ethnomusicology, General Music


"Rollefson offers valuable conceptual tools for understanding European hip hop. He also expands hip hop scholarship through his serious engagement with musical sound, offering a welcome advocacy of musicological tools and knowledge."

Journal of World Popular Music

"Ultimately, Flip the Script is a dense and ambitious book that will be valuable to a vast array of scholars. It will be particularly useful for those interested in European Studies, as it casts light on the postcolonial and racial dimensions that are often omitted from the analysis of European identities. It will also interest scholars studying globalization and postcolonialism, given its fresh perspective on the circulation of cultural practices, aesthetics, and political models, and the way these elements can contribute to specific local issues."


"Taken as a whole, Flip the Script is an innovative and dynamic piece of scholarship that lays a valuable foundation for future work connecting the fields of hip hop and postcolonial studies."

Journal of Popular Music Studies

"Intertwining the voices and perspectives of hip hop artists with those of postcolonial scholars, this book effectively blurs the line between scholar and 'schooler,' subsequently decolonizing hierarchies of knowledge formation."


"Flip the Script is a must-read for hip hop fans that are seeking to broaden their horizons and understand how hip hop is being made and consumed in Europe. Rollefson takes into consideration different scenes, different countries, and different artists, and puts them in discussion to create a narrative that brings to light all of the complex factors of how hip hop functions in postcolonial Europe. It’s a complex subject, but Rollefson has crafted a book that is very readable, and helps build a base knowledge that will leave you hungry to learn more."

Scratched Vinyl

"Rollefson's title applies just as well to the monograph itself as to the inversions of meaning that his musical and poetic sources perform. Ripping up the typical script in which researchers narrate and star in their own writing, Rollefson achieves that rarest of outcomes: a true exchange between artists and academics, guided by at times uncanny convergences of thought across time and space. . . . Fluent in most of the methodologies that have defined musicological and ethnomusicological study in recent decades, Rollefson incorporates fieldwork, music analysis, close reading, and an array of postcolonial, critical race, and feminist perspectives into a necessary and overdue synthesis."

Notes, the Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association

“After four decades, the old US cultural copyrights on hip hop have expired. The form has travelled and the style become a planetary phenomenon. This detailed, innovative and exhilarating book tracks their impact across the postcolonial world. At last we have a critical survey that can match the complexity and power of the music.”

Paul Gilroy, author of The Black Atlantic

"Employing sophisticated theoretical analysis mixed with ample hip-hop savvy, J. Griffith Rollefson deftly explains how hip hop artists not only flip the historical scripts of European colonial authority and narrowly defined national identities, but rip and shred them. Simply stated, this is a powerful book with a killer flow. "

Murray Forman, Northeastern University

"Flip the Script takes us on a marvelous journey from Paris to Berlin, London to Cork, offering a brilliantly textured portrait of European hip hop. Rollefson’s lively readings of performances help us to hear hip hop music as a postcolonial art and practice that can lead us to a more equitable and just future. An inspiring and hopeful book."

Ellie M. Hisama, Columbia University

Flip the Script is highly original and ambitious, and a substantial contribution to research on hip hop and postcolonialism. Rollefson combines ethnographic methods with close readings of media texts in a way that allows him to account for both the texture of everyday life in the communities he worked in, and musical and textual details of the art emanating from within those communities.”

Thomas Solomon, University of Bergen

Table of Contents


Hip Hop as Postcolonial Art and Practice
1          “J’accuse”: Hip Hop’s Postcolonial Politics in Paris
2          Nostalgia “En noir et blanc”: Black Music and Postcoloniality from Sefyu’s Paris to Buddy Bolden’s New Orleans
3          Musical (African) Americanization: Strategic Essentialism, Hybridity, and Commerce in Aggro Berlin
4          Heiße Waren: Hot Commodities, “Der Neger Bonus,” and the Commercial Authentic
5          M.I.A.’s “Terrorist Chic”: Black Atlantic Music and South Asian Postcolonial Politics in London
6          Marché Noir: The Hip Hop Hustle in the City of Light
7          “Wherever We Go”: UK Hip Hop and the Deformation of Mastery
8          “Straight Outta B.C.”: Differance, Defness, and Juice Aleem’s Precolonial Afrofuturist Critique


Hip Hop Studies and/as Postcolonial Studies
Discography and Videography

Audio, video, and other resources are posted on this book’s companion website:


Society for Ethnomusicology: Ruth Stone Prize

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press