The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Rhetoric and Writing: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Sharon Cogdill

Second Advisor

Matt Barton

Third Advisor

Michael Dando

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Gramsci, hegemony, JAY-Z, language, culture, Marxism, rap music


Language was a pivotal element in the life of Italian Antonio Gramsci and his ability to harness its power made him one of the foremost cultural theorists and Marxist thinkers; likewise, American rapper JAY-Z also employed language to transcend childhood boundaries and become one of the most influential and wealthy entertainers of the twenty-first century. This study examines the lyrics of several albums that span the artistic career of JAY-Z and teases out the hegemonic clues that they contain. American hegemony is populated by one-percenters, an exclusive club that now counts JAY-Z as a member, but his membership was not always assured. The premise of this work is that JAY-Z, as documented in his studio albums, passes through three stages of hegemonic proximity: he recognizes his hegemonic exclusion, he struggles to find hegemonic inclusion, and in the end he manages to not only find inclusion, but also to rise to the top of that rarified group. Evidence that language has the power to effect actual change in the world, if wielded by a skillful enough practitioner, is abundant in the lives of Antonio Gramsci and JAY-Z and a portion of their stories are documented here.