The Vulgar Voice on the New Black Realist Soundtrack: Sounds of Resistance, Policing and Crime in Spike Lee's Clockers

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“Bam Bam,” “Ch-Ch,” “Woop Woop.” In mainstream narrative cinema the sounds of gunshots and police sirens usually occupy the peripheral levels of the film soundtrack, where they help simply to qualify the presence of the onscreen cinematic space. However, in African-American independent cinema of the 1990s, New Black Realism, these sounds crept into film’s central vocal track. Echoing Hip Hop music of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the vocalising of these otherwise fringe elements of the narrative soundtrack expose an attempt to engage with and resist the issues of crime, surveillance, and policing that these sounds represent. In that, these vocal sound effects become consequential to these cinematic narratives, announcing and verifying the exchange between the bodies of those that utter them and the environment in which those same bodies exist onscreen. With this in mind, this article will center on the role and purpose of these vocal sounds in the narrative cinematic soundtrack, focusing specifically on Spike Lee’s 1995 crime drama, Clockers, as the supposed final iteration in this collection of cinema. This article will analyse how and why these ‘vulgar’ sound effects have become fundamental to the vocal expressions of Hip Hop culture onscreen and explore some of the developed non-linear narratives that these sounds have contributed to in Lee’s work. In short, this article will explore the space for resistance that the vulgar voice has crafted on the New Black Realist soundtrack.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)23-43
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Hip Hop Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2017


  • hip hop
  • film sound and music
  • voice in cinema
  • cinema soundtrack
  • film soundscape
  • sound effects
  • rap
  • popular music
  • popular music studies


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