From Publishers Weekly
In this uneven critique of mainstream and socially conscious rap and hip-hop, McWhorter (Losing the Race
) pillories the genre for positioning itself as a political—even revolutionary—medium. In the author's analysis, hip-hop is typified by narcissism rather than altruism, a culture of complaint rather than creative solution and a willful blindness to the real problems affecting black communities; McWhorter demonstrates how frequently artists rail against police brutality and how few mention HIV/AIDS, the single biggest killer of African-Americans. The author's admiration for the genre generally keeps his criticisms from sounding shrill, but it cannot compensate for the book's flaws. While McWhorter lambastes rappers for failing to address real issues, he doesn't either: like the hip-hop artists he chides, the author romanticizes activism while appearing clueless about the nuts and bolts of grassroots work. Equally troubling are McWhorter's unsubstantiated theories, chief among them his claim that African-Americans are more inclined to judge a statement by how it sounds than what it communicates. More interested in skewering hip-hop than suggesting paths to substantive social change, this book ultimately frustrates more than it illuminates. (June)
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This is a remarkable book because, in its way, it celebrates hip-hop even as it argues against its political significance. McWhorter separates the powerful elements of the music itself from the often mindless political pretensions that surround it. He does what only the best cultural critics can do: he parses and clarifies to show the way beyond the dead-ends that art forms inevitably come to. He wants hip-hop to align with logic and reason. He wants it to grow.
Shelby Steele, author of The Content of Our Character
John McWhorter is one of the few of whom it can be said, He thinks for himself and goes his own way. In All About the Beat
he takes on all of the exaggerated claims for hip-hop as something more than a long-running and lucrative trend. With absolute clarity, he proves them not to be the claims of airheads but airholesempty openings in the wall of American popular culture. This book is a short but sharp and substantial rebuttal of the academic hustlers, lightweight rabble-rousers, and camp followers who do not know the difference between smoke and fire. For the good of us all, John McWhorter does.
Stanley Crouch, author of Considering Genius
and The Artificial White Man Praise for Winning the Race
Splendid. . . . McWhorter has a keen eye for the foibles of social scientists.
The Wall Street Journal
A provocative challenge to conventional wisdom.
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