In Feenin, Alexander Ghedi Weheliye traces R&B music's continuing centrality in Black life since the late 1970s. Focusing on various musical production and reproduction technologies such as auto-tune and the materiality of the BlackFem singing voice, Weheliye counteracts the widespread popular and scholarly narratives of the genre's decline and death. He shows how R&B remains a thriving venue for the expression of Black thought and life and a primary archive of the contemporary moment. Among other topics, Weheliye discusses the postdisco evolution of house music in Chicago and techno in Detroit, Prince and David Bowie in relation to appropriations of Blackness and Euro-whiteness in the 1980s, how the BlackFem voice functions as a repository of Black knowledge, the methods contemporary R&B musicians use to bring attention to Black Lives Matter, and the ways vocal distortion technologies such as the vocoder demonstrate Black music's relevance to discussions of humanism and posthumanism. Ultimately, Feenin represents Weheliye's capacious thinking about R&B as the site through which to consider questions of Blackness, technology, history, humanity, community, diaspora, and nationhood.
Publication Date: 
November 3, 2023