Underground: Policing Race, Drugs, & Rap Music in Puerto Rico, A Public Lecture by Marisol LeBron

Marisol LeBrón is the 2015-2017 LSGS Postdoctoral Fellow. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of American Studies at Dickinson College. An interdisciplinary scholar working across American Studies and Latino/a Studies, LeBrón’s research and teaching focus on social inequality, policing, violence, and protest movements in Puerto Rico and U.S. communities of color.

Her public lecture, “Underground: Policing Race, Drugs, and Rap Music in Puerto Rico,” focused on how underground rap became an object of intense public scrutiny and police intervention during the mid-1990s as a result of its association with public housing and the presumed violent drug trade that existed there. Public concern over underground music eventually crescendoed with a series of police raids in record stores around the San Juan metropolitan area that resulted in the confiscation of hundreds of mixtapes on the grounds that underground rap was not only obscene but incited young people to promiscuity, violence, and drug use. Using the raids as a point of departure, LeBrón is interested in how the policing of underground music, practitioners, and fans indexed a range of anxieties about drugs, violence, public space, race, and Puerto Rican identity that resulted in the intense surveillance and policing of sectors of young people who looked like raperos, and in turn looked like they might have resided in public housing or been involved with the drug trade.