So this is going to be long. And it’s going to be long because there are a number of people to whom I express and owe my most immense and immediate gratitude. It’s a gratitude that is not simply tied to the research and writing of this book. It’s more than that. The people named in this book also greatly shaped and informed my life. I deeply value the relationships I have with those named here because, whether they know it or not (and because I am a deeply reserved person, most probably do not), they came into my life (and are still present in my life) when I need(ed) them the most, professionally and personally. The people named here are thus folks who helped me think differently, write differently, and live differently.
When I was a student at the University of Chicago, I had an idea that there was something to be said about the sampling of South Asian music in U.S.-based hip-hop. I didn’t know at the time what exactly needed to be said, but I was lucky enough to be around and learn from people (faculty, graduate students, and staff) who facilitated my critical thinking about this idea, which would later (after a number of twists and turns) become this book. Maria Mendonça, you were the first person I remember talking to about this idea. You listened to me and encouraged me to write about it, and that encouragement has sustained me all these years. Philip Bohlman, I learned so much from you about how to analyze and consider South Asian music, and those approaches are very much central to this work. George Chauncey, you were the first person to see something queer about this music, and encouraged me to consider how sexuality operates in these sono-racial formations. Mae Ngai, you introduced me to Asian American and immigration studies, which led me to think more historically about the implications of this music. Wayne Marshall, your analyses of sampling and other forms of technomusicology are beyond reproach, and I’m fortunate that our paths crossed. Judy Wu, I learned about Afro-Asian studies, the chief field that this book engages, from you; without your class and your mentorship, I don’t know if I could write a book like this. To Sareeta Amrute and Elizabeth Todd-Breland, you both helped me to locate and embrace interdisciplinary research. Darryl Heller, our multiple conversations about the sociocultural implications of rap’s sampling of South Asian music helped me get to a point to consider the intersections of aesthetics and politics. Elise LaRose, you made sure that I had all the necessary resources to think about this idea and make it something that I could develop; thank you for doing that. To Jonathan Rosa, you’re a model for work–life balance and for what critical scholarship looks like. You saw value in this idea I had, and continue to see value in everything I do. No matter the day, time, or place, you were there to help me with anything and everything I needed. I hope one day I can be as good of a friend to you as you have been to me. Lastly, Travis Jackson . . . I could honestly write another book about what your mentorship and friendship has meant to me. Almost everything I do is modeled after you. You saw and continue to see things about my work that productively push it in the right direction. You’re an incredible scholar and teacher, and even a better person. I can’t thank you enough for being a constant presence and influence in my life and work.
Like most first academic books, much of the work here began as a doctoral dissertation, which I wrote as a graduate student in American studies at New York University. I was lucky to be around and learn from the faculty, graduate students, and staff while I was there. To Jack Tchen, I could not have asked for a better chair. You helped inform how I approach cultural objects and the questions that I ask. Gayatri Gopinath, you do the kind of queer work that I (and many others) can only attempt to do. You are central to how I think through issues of queerness and cultural production. And you kept me in grad school when I wanted to drop out; I’ll forever be grateful for that. Maureen Mahon, my dissertation and book would not be what they are without you. There are very few who have the kind of musical knowledge that you have, and I still pinch myself that I was able to learn from you. Nikhil Pal Singh, thank you for pushing me to think more about the historical and political implications of my work. To Travis, again, thank you. Other faculty as well as staff at NYU also deserve recognition for devoting time, no matter how brief, to talk with me about and by extension helped enrich my work: the late and great José Esteban Muñoz, Arlene Dávila, Cristina Beltrán, Lisa Duggan, Phillip Brian Harper, Jennifer Morgan, Crystal Parikh, Andrew Ross, María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, Julie Elman, Thuy Linh Tu, Michael Ralph, Andrew Sartori, Andrew Needham, Martin Daughtry, Jason King, Marty Correia, Noeva Wong, Candyce Golis, Raechel Bosch, Ramona Knepp, Alyssa Burke, and Madala Hilaire.
I was also fortunate to be in grad school at NYU at the same time as a number of brilliant students. To that end, I want to acknowledge the following people for their friendship and assistance in helping me navigate the institution: Eva Hageman, Elizabeth Mesok, Zenia Kish, Emma Kreyche, Emily Williamson, Leigh Dodson, andré carrington, Leticia Alvarado, Lezlie Frye, Lena Sze, Marlon Burgess, Liza Williams, Jan Padios, Dacia Mitchell, Rana Jaleel, Ronak Kapadia, Dawn Peterson, Khary Polk, Rich Blint, Frank Leon Roberts, Allison Janae Hamilton, Amaka Okechukwu, Stuart Schrader, Grace Helton, Lydia Brawner, Shannon Wearing, Josh Ye, Mosarrap Hossain Khan, Vanessa Casado-Pérez, Sarah Klevan, Mick Hattaway, Ruth Tucker, Philippa Robinson, Ruth Dear, Becca Howes-Mischel, Andy Cornell, Samuel Ng, Devin Murphy, Barrak Alzaid, Amalia Mallard, Vanessa Agard-Jones, Zach Schwartz-Weinstein, Johana Londoño, Claudia Sofía Garriga López, Ariana Ochoa Camacho, Manijeh Nasrabadi, Miabi Chatterji, Jennifer Kelly, Jessica Nydia Pabón-Colón, James Rodriguez, A. J. Bauer, Roy Pérez, and Joan Morgan. There are a few other people who were graduate students with me whom I especially want to thank. Vivek Bald, you gave and continue to give me confidence in my work. You do comparative scholarship in the way that it needs to be done, and I’m immensely honored that you’re someone I know. Shanté Paradigm Smalls, I can’t say enough how much it meant to know there was someone else doing queer hip-hop and queer Afro-Asian music. I value the times we get to spend with each other to share work and break bread. Marisol LeBrón, our constant conversations about all things music and pop culture have made it into this book in some way or another. Also, you’re just so dope—you really are. To Emily Hue, I look forward to every text and every message you send me. Your brilliance and love know no bounds; thank you for being a friend. MJ Grier, you’re one of the smartest and magnanimous people I know. At some point, I think we should publish some version of our hours-long conversations about race, sexuality, and Black popular music and culture. You’re one of the reasons why I came to NYU and one of the reasons why I remain in the academy. Lastly, Carmen L. Phillips, I don’t think there’s anyone I talk to more on a daily basis than you, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You think about pop culture in a way that most do not, and you write with the kind of care that I wish most would. You’re truly in a league of your own. And, whether you knew so before reading this book or not, you’re the reason that Beyoncé is discussed herein.
During my time as a graduate student, I also had the chance (through conferences, writing workshops, and other professional settings) to meet and learn from others outside of NYU who were also graduate students at the time. The conversations that we had then and those we have now continue to sustain me intellectually and personally. I’m grateful to the following: Anjali Nath, Meenasarani Linde Murugan, Sunny Yang, Fritz Schenker, Mark Padoongpatt, Lata Murti, Chris Eng, Douglas Ishii, Deborah Al-Najjar, Aymar Jean Christian, Mark Villegas, Laurence Ralph, Monica Muñoz Martinez, Reginald Wilburn, Chera Reid, Freda Fair, Darius Bost, Josen Masangkay Diaz, Meghan Drury, Hentyle Yapp, Sriya Shrestha, and Kwami Coleman. I want to especially acknowledge madison moore, R. Benedito Ferrão, and Jih-Fei Cheng, who were at the time and who continue to be integral to my intellectual and personal growth. madison, I’m a better writer and thinker of popular culture because of you. You’re pushing the boundaries of cultural studies, and I couldn’t be prouder of you for it. Bene, your critical eye on South Asian diasporic studies has immensely helped my thinking around key issues concerning my book, and your humor and wit have kept me in high spirits during dark times. Jih-Fei, I’m so deeply appreciative of your generosity and willingness to help me articulate my ideas when they’re just a string of thoughts.
After NYU, I spent two years at the University of Rochester as a Fellow in the Department of Music, the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies, and the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. My time there was critical in helping me reimagine my work, and I thank John Covach, Elaine Stroh, Beth Olivares, Cilas Kemedjio, Ghislaine Radegonde-Eison, Jeffrey Tucker, Eleana Kim, Jeffrey Runner, Sarah Seidman, Jennifer Kyker, and Douglas Flowe for such assistance. I also owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Ed Brockenbrough, Lauron Kehrer, and Tiffany E. Barber. Ed, I can’t thank you enough for your amazing feedback on my work and for helping me navigate Rochester as a queer Black man. Lauron, your critical work on queerness and hip-hop have greatly informed my own thinking, and I’m happy that we were able to work together through these issues of race, sexuality, and popular music. Tiffany, I’m so grateful that we were at Rochester at the same time. I always looked forward to (and continue to look forward to) our late-night bar talk. I’m so grateful for our friendship.
This book was written while I was assistant professor of American studies at the University of Minnesota. I’m so lucky to be in such a welcoming department and to be able to research, write, and conspire with so many amazing colleagues and friends. Jennifer Pierce and Bianet Castellanos have been the best mentors I could have ever imagined. You carefully read and gave invaluable feedback on my book and ensured that it was in the best possible shape. David Karjanen, thank you for being so generous with your work and helping to demystify the publishing process. Kale Fajardo and Brenda Child, I am grateful for your mentorship and for providing necessary resources to write this book. Elaine Tyler May, I still can’t believe I’m in the same department with someone of your stature and someone whose work I’ve admired since I was in college. You’ve been such a great colleague and model of rigorous scholarly work. Riv-Ellen Prell, your suggestion that I play with my narrative voice has informed the structure of this work, and I thank you for it. Martin Manalansan, although you’re a recent addition to the department, we’ve known each other for a while and your mentorship and feedback on my work is invaluable. Lorena Muñoz and Terrion Williamson, you both entered the department at the same time and, for me at least, at the right time. I can’t say enough about what a joy it’s been to be able to work with you all. I can’t imagine my time at Minnesota without y’all. Angela Boutch, Deja Just, Hongna Bystrom, Melanie Kelly, Colleen Hennen, Zach Rakke, Lauren Sietsema, Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, Christina Martinez, and Christine Powell have been staff in the Department of American Studies who greatly assisted in my writing and research of this book, and I am thankful for their work. While technically not in the American studies department, Kevin Murphy served as chair on two separate occasions while I was writing this book. Kevin, during and in between those stints, you have been pivotal to my development as a scholar. You have an incredibly big heart, and your willingness to take time to listen to my ramblings about my scholarship, provide detailed feedback on my work, and help make contacts with people who could and have facilitated the writing of this book have all truly meant a lot to me. I’m lucky to have you as a colleague, and even luckier to have you as a friend.
Outside the American studies department at the University of Minnesota, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by and work with amazing scholars who offered assistance with this book, namely Matt Rahaim, Michael Gallope, Sumanth Gopinath, Beth Hartman, Rachmi Diyah Larasati, Edén Torres, Jimmy Patiño, Gabriela Spears-Rico, Miranda Joseph, Erin Durban, Jenn Marshall, Karen Ho, Kat Hayes, Jeani O’Brien, Jennifer Gunn, Doug Hartmann, Charles Doss, Keith Mayes, Yuichiro Onishi, Maggie Hennefeld, Tracey Deutsch, David Chang, Sugi Ganeshananthan, J. B. Mayo-Moschkau, Ananya Chatterjea, David Pellow, Teresa Gowan, Susan Craddock, Richa Nagar, Kate Derickson, David Valentine, Vince Diaz, Sonali Pahwa, Zenzele Isoke, Diane Willow, Josephine Lee, and Catherine Squires. A special recognition goes to Jigna Desai for being such a fierce colleague and friend and for modeling how to do transformative work and mentoring. I also want to acknowledge the faculty and staff of the U’s Asian American Studies Program—Lisa Park, Teresa Swartz, Jigna Desai, Kale Fajardo, Karen Ho, Erika Lee, Vichet Chhuon, Josephine Lee, Mai Na Lee, Richard Lee, Bic Ngo, Yuichiro Onishi, Juliana Hu Pegues, Moin Syed, Martin Manalansan, and Saymoukda D. Vongsay—for being a significant source of support, community, and organizing.
Much of this book was written, rewritten, and (differently) imagined over the course of two writing groups and late-night dinner conversations with some amazing thinkers at the U. At the start of my time at Minnesota, I was a part of a writing group that comprised, at various points, Aren Aizura, Annie Hill, Siri Suh, Lena Palacios, Kari Smalkoski, and Lorena Muñoz. I learned so much from your feedback as well as reading your works-in-progress, and I am inspired by all the great writing that you all are putting out in the world. I was also fortunate to be a part of and share my work with the Bodies and Borders (aka B2) writing/working group that Sandy Soto and Cindy García organized during my fourth year at Minnesota. I am indebted to my fellow B2 members Cindy García, Sandy Soto, Aren Aizura, Kari Smalkoski, Juliana Hu Pegues, Sima Shakhsari, Jennifer Row, Sayan Bhattacharya, Naimah Petigny, Kevin Murphy, and Jose Meño Santillana. Lastly, there’s no doubt in my mind that this book couldn’t have been written without the dinner events that Siri Suh, Terrion Williamson, and I had over the past several years. Through the laughs, food, and OFs and Sprites, I was able to think through complex ideas about my work.
This book could also not have been written without the amazing graduate students at the U. Thanks go out to Robert Smith III, Amber Annis, Rudy Aguilar, Sarah Atwood-Hoffman, Christine Bachman-Sanders, Matthew Boynton, Michelle “Chip” Chang, Karla Padrón, Kidiocus Carroll, Agléška Cohen-Rencountre, Vanessa Guzmán, Michelle Lee, Amanda Lugo, K. Mohrman, Mia Fischer, Jessica Lopez Lyman, Hana Maruyama, Brendan McHugh, Soham Patel, Thomas Seweid-DeAngelis, René Esparza, Sasha Suarez, Angela Carter, Rose Miron, Nick-Brie Guarriello, Karisa Butler-Wall, Simi Kang, AK Wright, Alex Mendoza Covarrubias, Waleed Mahdi, Aaron Mallory, Tia Simone-Gardner, Shannon Flaherty, Matthew Tchepikova-Treon, Joe Whitson, Lei Zhang, Mario Obando Jr., and Mingwei Huang. I especially want to thank the graduate students in my “Queer Temporalities” and “Black Cultural Studies” seminars for helping me think through ideas and scholarship that were and are integral to this book: Christine Bachman-Sanders, Shannon Flaherty, Mario Obando Jr., AK Wright, Colin Wingate, Kidiocus Carroll, Noah Barth, Gabriel Schwartzman, Jonelle Walker, Julio Vega Cedeño, and Roy G. Guzmán. I acknowledge and thank the late Jesús Estrada-Pérez, who was the first graduate student I met when I arrived at Minnesota, whose office was across from mine, and whose dedication to justice still inspires.
I workshopped most of this book over a series of conference presentations, invited talks, and writing retreats hosted by the American Studies Association, the Association for Asian American Studies, the Society for Ethnomusicology, the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, the Ford Foundation (which supported my research for this book during my tenure as a Ford Postdoctoral Fellow), the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Career Enhancement Writing Retreat (which also supported my work during my time as a Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellow), and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Social Science Research Council (which provided resources and other forms of support for me as Mellon Mays Fellow). Through these events and programs I was able to get feedback on my work and build relationships with people who continue to inform my thinking and way of life. To that end, I thank Alex Weheliye, Cally Waite, Caryl McFarlane, Michelle Scott, Anita Mannur, Jordan Stein, Aaron Lecklider, Brian Halley, Kwame Holmes, Quincy Mills, Keith Miyake, Vijay Shah, Kareem Khubchandani, Duchess Harris, Shana Redmond, Deborah Wong, Nicole Fleetwood, Derrais Carter, Chandan Reddy, Marlon Bailey, Nicolas Pillai, Jayna Brown, Mejdulene Shomali, Sa’ed Atshan, Leila Ben-Nasr, Jina Kim, Pahole Sookkasikon, Cathy Schlund-Vials, Ashon Crawley, Eric Hung, Kim Park Nelson, Tom Sarmiento, Christina Hanhardt, Cathy Cohen, Robin D. G. Kelley, Roderick Ferguson, Jeffrey McCune, Cassius Adair, Timothy Stewart-Winter, Mpalive Msiska, Ekua Andrea Agha, Hoang Tan Nguyen, Eli Meyerhoff, Jecca Namakkal, Sheela Namakkal, Birgitta Johnson, Adam Radwan, Kadji Amin, Jarvis McInnis, Julius Fleming Jr., Gabriel Solis, Chad Shomura, Roshy Kheshti, Trung PQ Nguyen, Aimee Bahng, C. Riley Snorton, Imani Owens, Natasha P. Bissonauth, Dennis Tyler, Judith Casselberry, Nic John Ramos, Rashida Braggs, Koritha Mitchell, Amber Musser, Thea Quiray Tagle, Andreana Clay, Emily Lordi, Janaka Lewis, Imani Johnson, Jeffrey K. Coleman, Nigel Hatton, Nick Jones, Ryan Ku, A. Naomi Paik, Marcia Ochoa, Jennifer Devere Brody, Fareeda Griffith, Anthony Kwame Harrison, Ali Colleen Neff, Jennifer Stoever, Justin Burton, Griff Rollefson, Sarah Jane Cervenak, Jack Hamilton, Wendy Sung, Jang Wook Huh, Molly McGarry, Jules Gill-Peterson, Summer Kim Lee, John Paul Catungal, Lauren Michele Jackson, J. Lorenzo Perillo, Jenny James, Elizabeth Ault, Alexandra Vazquez, Ashvin Kini, Ernesto Martínez, Jodi Byrd, Kyla Wazana Tompkins, Chinua Thelwell, Jason Ruiz, Regina Kunzel, Treva Lindsey, Matthew Morrison, Karma Chávez, Hilarie Ashton, Teresa Gonzales, Dhiren Panikker, Eva Pensis, Huan He, Karen Jaime, Uri McMillan, Gayle Wald, Fredara Hadley, George Lewis, LaMonda Horton-Stallings, T. Carlis Roberts, and the inimitable Julio Capó Jr. I particularly want to acknowledge Octavio González, Alisha Lola Jones, Regina Bradley, Steven Thrasher, Fred Moten, and Sony Coráñez-Bolton for helping me make it to the finish line. Tavi, thank you for always being there when I need guidance on something or need to figure out an idea. Alisha, we’re two peas in a pod whenever we get together, and you seem to always know when to call and text—I appreciate you. Regina, you’re an inspiration, a model scholar and person, and I could not have done some things in this book without you. Steven, to quote Charmaine’s note to Blanche in the “Sisters and Other Strangers” episode of The Golden Girls, you have inspired me more than you’ll ever know. Fred, you gave me advice during my first year in grad school that I have held on to and used throughout my career. I thank you for sharing those words with me so many years ago, and I always look forward to reconnecting with you because I always leave a better scholar and person after we talk. Lastly, Sony, your brilliance is only matched by your generosity as a friend. I always marvel at, and am thankful for, both.
The University of Minnesota Press has been amazing to work with in publishing this book. Danielle M. Kasprzak, you understood and saw potential in this work even before I saw it. Thank you for your dedication to seeing this through. Jason Weidemann, you’ve been an incredibly supportive editor during this whole process. Zenyse Miller, thank you for your assistance and patience with me in putting all the pieces together. I also thank the anonymous two readers for their insightful, necessary, and generative feedback.
Outside the academy, a number of people have been key to keeping me afloat during the time I was working on this book. They are a reliable support network and, being an only child, I consider them family. I love them all, and I hope I can be the kind of rock for them that they have been for me. Jesse Dunbar and TJ Moore, thank you for making sure I have a life outside of writing and teaching, making sure I have fun beyond the page. Elliot James, even though you’re fully within the academy like me, what has meant the most to me in terms of our friendship is how little we talk about work. We’re invested in each other’s wellness in a way that is tied to but also separate from our professional lives; I thank you for making such a friendship possible. While working on the final stages of this book, I met Chris Stedman, and Chris, our frequent music musings have not only greatly informed my book, but they are parts of my day that I often look forward to the most. Roy G. Guzmán, we’ve been friends since college, and I am thankful for our enduring friendship; your frequent check-ins and words of support mean so much to me. John Orduña, you’ve always had your door open for me, and you’ve been there for me through everything: thank you. Aron William Christopher Cobbs, you’re a fantastic artist and even better friend, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. Ivan Anderson, I always look forward to our music debates not simply because you’re usually wrong (had to get that in there), but because you push me to think about what and how I hear. José Salas, thank you for your wit and humor. Angel Ochoa, you’re still my partner in crime, and can always bring a smile to my face. Scott Baillie-Hinojosa, I can always be at my most raw and vulnerable with you, and you’ve always listened and given me the necessary advice to make it through the day. Ashley Davis, you’re a true ride or die, and I’m always humbled by your support. Also, I can’t wait for our next trip to party! And lastly, to Tamilia D. Reed, my fellow Floridan, you have such a rare and beautiful gift, and I am honored that you share it with me. You bring joy with you wherever you go, and when I get an email, text, or phone call from you, I am always smiling because I know, whatever the message, it’s going to warm my heart. As you and I say, reciprocity is the key to every human relation in life, and so even though I don’t have your gift, I’ll continue to try my hardest to return the favor.
None of this would have been possible without the love and support from my parents, Patricia and Errol. Thank you for allowing me to be me. More important, thank you for reminding me to be me. I love you fiercely and I love you always.