Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Author and ethnomusicologist Langston Wilkins delivers speech on ‘slab car culture’


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Photo and story by Anh Le / Contributing Writer

Langston Wilkins gave a speech about “slab car culture” in Houston, Texas, and his chapter in a new book, “Black Lives Matter and Music,” at Middle Tennessee State University on Monday, Oct. 29.

Wilkins is currently working at the Tennessee Arts Commission in Nashville. A native of Houston, Texas, he got his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at Indiana University. He also got Master of Arts degrees in African American studies and ethnomusicology. After his higher education, Wilkins came back to Houston, Texas, several years ago and spent a year to learn about rap music and slab culture.

Wilkins showed many pictures of slab models in his presentation. He described slab as an “art car.” Slab are old car models, but they are heavily customized. The cars are transformed in several months or years into a slab with candy paint, the fifth wheel and bumper kit attached to the trunk, elbows, trunk displays with communicative messages and a bass-heavy stereo in the trunk.

“The goal of the stereo system is to make the trunk battle, so others can see, feel (and) hear your present,” he explained.

He mentioned about the issue between the north-side and the south-side of Houston that was leading to the battle between local hip-hop musicians. He had talked about the background in rap music such as E.S.G., DJ Screw, Fat Pat, Slim Thug, Mike Jones, Paul Wall and so on.

Wilkins wrote a chapter, “Swangin’ N Bangin’: Hip-hop music, car culture, and identity in Houston, Texas,” to study about slab car culture and how it influenced Houston distinctive culture, African-American culture and rap music.

Amy Lin, an MTSU student studying biochemistry, came to the event for English class extra credit.

“I find slab culture and hip-hop interesting and love how they became a big part of the black community in Houston, Texas,” Lin said.

Jennifer Roberts, a community member, came to the event to learn more about slab culture in Houston Texas.

“I felt it was really good,” Roberts said, “he explained something I didn’t understand, so when they played the rap songs, I understood what they were saying.”

The book, “Black Lives Matters and Music: protest, intervention, reflection,”  was published by Indiana University Press last week. Each chapter is about a case study in African-American music. The book is also selling for $25 at the bookstore in the MTSU Student Union Building.

To contact News Editor Caleb Revill, email

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