Public Sphere: The Hip-Hop Community

The idea of the public sphere was originally explored in Jurgen Habermas’ book, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962), where he stated that the public sphere is a place “private people come together as a public” (Smith, 2013). In most traditional societies, public issues were normally discussed and decided on by the elite however in modern societies, communication advancements have played a role in the decrease of censorship and the social inclusiveness of the public sphere. The globalisation and evolution of Hip-Hop and its presence in online culture greatly demonstrates Habermas’ theory of the public sphere.

Hip-Hop derived from the influx of Caribbean migrants in the 1960’s and politically driven gang culture in the Bronx during the 1970’s. Pinpointing the exact origin of rap is dependent on when one acknowledges a particular cultural expression or product as rap but one event that is collectively agreed to be a significant contribution to Hip-Hop’s origins, is DJ Kool Herc’s 1973 back-to-school ‘bloc party’ (Dyson, 2004). Since then, Hip-Hop has become a global phenomenon and a giant influence on youth culture around the world. Echoing the genres beginnings, the online Hip-Hop culture continues the community nature and allows for larger public discourse. The digital age has provided Hip-Hop with the ability to reach a wider audience, inherently allowing issues discussed within Hip-Hop to be discussed on a larger scale through a range of communication platforms.

During the mid 1970s and early 1980s, Hip-Hop represented an alternate form of social recognition and status for African-American and Latino youth and was a vehicle for collective uplift and social critique of policies and politics that disadvantage minority groups (Petchauer, 2011). Now, Hip-Hop as a public sphere not only provides the aforementioned, but arguably allows all individuals to voice their issues and create a social commentary that has the potential to create social change.

The role the media has played in Hip-Hop’s public sphere has changed exponentially within the last decade. Initially, the genre was represented in a negative light within the media but as Hip-Hop has grown to be more dominant within popular youth culture, the media’s representation of Hip-Hop began portraying the genre more positively. While the media have a right to critique certain themes of Hip-Hop, I believe what should be highlighted more often is the power of Hip-Hop’s public sphere in social commentary. The Hip-Hop online community is one of my primary public spheres and one that I am proud to be a part of. As the genre’s popularity grows so does the public discourse of certain issues which leads to the continual growth of social change that Hip-Hop can impose.

Frank Tremain


Dyson, M. E. (2004). The Michael Eric Dyson Reader. New York, United States of America: Basic Civitas Books.

Petchauer, E. (2011, July). ‘Knowing What’s Up and Learning What You’re Not Supposed to: Hip-Hop Collegians, Higher Education, and the Limits of Critical Consciousness.’ Journal of Black Studies, 5, 768-790.

Peter Smith (2013) Jurgen Habermas and the “Public Sphere”. Available at: (Accessed 10 April 2019).


10 thoughts on “Public Sphere: The Hip-Hop Community

  1. cglesty April 10, 2019 / 8:38 am

    You’ve used such an interesting perspective on the public sphere! I never would have thought to discuss music, and hip-hop is an excellent choice. Public Spheres have been traditional represented for and by higher class white men, so discussing hip-hop and its roots in African American, American Caribbean, and Latino origins provides such a nice contrast and gives a voice to groups often marginalised and ignored. Especially since the genre has grown to represent all voices. I especially liked how you referenced Hip-Hops growing popularity as a reason people are more inclined to take it’s social commentary seriously. Have you seen Hasan Minaj’s Patriot Act on Netflix? He does has an episode that is incredibly similar to what you’ve discussed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • franktremain April 10, 2019 / 12:49 pm

      Thank you! I haven’t seen it but I’ll definitely check it out, thanks for the recommendation


  2. Gai Scott April 10, 2019 / 9:09 am

    Another interesting article.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lachlanuni April 10, 2019 / 12:49 pm

    100% agree with your last points about media portraying hip-hop more positively now, especially as it dominates the Billboard 100, and deemed by many as the “new rock n roll”. The documentary series “Hip-Hop Evolution” on Netflix would tie in really well to your knowledge of the hip-hop public sphere, has some really cool insights into the culture of hip-hop as a whole. Well done on bringing something different to the table, it was a very informative read and you connected it brilliantly to the theory. Next time I’d love to hear you explore your personal connection to the topic more! Maybe try some hyperlinks too 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    • franktremain April 10, 2019 / 1:15 pm

      Hip-Hop is very much so the new Rock. In a 2017 Nielsen music report, it found that Hip-Hop exceeded Rock for the first time, becoming responsible for 25% of music consumption in the U.S. which is insane! Cheers for your comment and feedback, I was thinking of adding more of more own personal connection but just got way into the more investigative side of things. & I totally forgot to add hyperlinks so fixed it up now though, cheers!


  4. alana April 10, 2019 / 2:16 pm

    I LOVED this blog post. I really liked how you delved into one specific public sphere of which i didn’t know much about, and now have an interest to go look into more about the topic. I liked how you kind of touch upon the fact of exclusion of a public sphere, where most spheres at that time would have been for upper-middle class white men, but has now extended far beyond that as time has passed. And i do agree that there is a much more positive view on hip-hop in today’s society. Much more i think due to it being used in films and music videos.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mishelletoms April 11, 2019 / 5:01 am

    Can I firstly just say how I love how you into Hip Hop into an educational purpose, for those who are not into hip hop will have learnt something about the culture that surrounds it. I am a person who listens too, learns from and lives by traditional hip hop and you’ve given me a new way to acknowledge and view it. I am no long surprised by the authentic ideas and thoughts you have created. This blog provides education and abit of fun. So thank you once again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • franktremain April 11, 2019 / 5:09 am

      Thanks for your feedback! If you’re into Hip-Hop you should check out my DA for BCM112, it’s The 2Thousand on insta. And also, – a link to my own Hip-Hop. I think it’s super influential to me and its impossible for me to not find a way to relate a topic to it Hahaha


  6. visual glitter bombs April 11, 2019 / 9:28 am

    The way you described a public sphere gives the reader a greater understanding of how it was perceived in a traditional society to a modern society. The example of music I would have never thought to use although it creates a strong viewpoint on how people are coming together to explore the same issues and topics. The way that you described the culture around hip hop also creates an educational perspective and outlook on its relation to public spheres. This has given me a new understanding of the term public spheres and helped me grasp the topic with a better understanding. The only advice I could give you is maybe next time add your own experience as well. This could strengthen the statement and show your relation to the topic and how it is deployed in your everyday life. Overall This is a very clear and strong view of the concept Public spheres with great examples!

    Liked by 1 person

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