Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Mary Garrett


The nature of American identity is highly contested in the twenty-first century. This dissertation seeks to understand how this state of uncertainty produces a rhetorical opening for new and unimagined rhetorical possibilities. As citizens lose faith in the narratives that have defined national identity, the populace becomes open to a new narrative and a new figure to represent American identity. I argue that the hip hop mogul, or what I label the Hustler, seizes this rhetorical opportunity to rewrite the narrative of the Self-Made Man, a narrative that has historically been figured as white and masculine. The Self-Made Man is important to understandings of American identity because this figure has come to represent the ideal citizen-subject. To accurately account for the rhetorical force of the Hustler, this dissertation proposes that the field of rhetoric consider a theory that accounts for improbable rhetorical texts and performances. I turn to the theories developed by Lawrence Grossberg to identify the conditions that give rise to the improbable rhetorical texts of the Hustler. Using Grossberg's approach of conjunctural analysis, and applying his theory of embedded/disembedded domains, I account for the Hustler's emergence and the rhetorical strategies he employs. I illustrate this exploration with a thematic analysis of Decoded, the autobiography of Jay-Z, an exemplar Hustler. I argue that the Hustler is a significant rhetorical figure, in that he produces and performs a new mode of black masculinity that is unlike seen previously in the popular American imagination. This mode of black masculinity disrupts and shifts long held governing logics that have ordered notions of race in America. By recasting the Self-Made Man, as black, and thereby also proposing a new view of the United States, the Hustler produces a new sensibility of achieving success in America. The traveling of this new Hustler sensibility to unintended and unimagined audiences illustrates, not only the impact of the Hustler on American identity, but also, points to why a theory that accounts for improbable rhetorics is needed by the field.