The Hard Cashless Society: Millennial Economics and Street Hop in Johannesburg

The Hard Cashless Society: Millennial Economics and Street Hop in JohannesburgbyAbimbola Cole Kai-LewisDoctor of Philosophy in EthnomusicologyUniversity of California, Los Angeles, 2016Professor Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, Co-ChairProfessor Cheryl L. Keyes, Co-ChairThe concept of the cashless society emerged in the nineteenth century through the writings of author Edward Bellamy. In his work, Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888), Bellamy described the implementation of a card-based credit system that eventually replaced cash payments. Widely recognized as the first literary allusion to a cashless society, Bellamy presented a utopia where monetary exchanges were substituted with an established credit model. His socialist-activist writing suggested the possibilities of impending millennial economic transactions and proposed a time when every citizen would be apportioned credit to make purchases.Subsequent writings by anthropologists, economists, eschatologists, and futurists predicted the global implications of an imminent cashless society. However, there were additional interpretations of the cashless society generated by hip-hop artists. In 2003, South African hip-hop collective Cashless Society released their debut album, African Raw Material, Volume One. The group embraced the name of the financial principle as a means of representing monetary transitions from hard currency (coins and paper bills) to credit and electronic payments. Yet, Cashless Society also created the metaphor of The Hard Cashless Society, a world in which credit systems result in ever widening gaps between the wealthy and the unbanked poor who may not be able to survive within this financial framework. Thus, Cashless Society emphasized the polarizing duality of an increasingly credit driven world.This dissertation explores hip-hop collective Cashless Society’s lyrical accounts of The Hard Cashless Society. It draws upon fieldwork conducted in Botswana and South Africa between 2005 and 2008. The study incorporates Philip Feifan Xie, Halifu Osumare, and Awad Ibrahim’s hip-hop tourism methodology (2007) involving artist interviews, lyrical analyses, video analyses, virtual communication mediated through the Internet, as well as ethnographic accounts drawn from visits to sites that were integral in the development of the group Cashless Society. By these means, this dissertation seeks to highlight how hip-hop music and culture can be used to provide an unexamined perspective on the economics of a cashless society in the new millennium.