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Hip Hop America Paperback – April 26, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised edition (April 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143035150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143035152
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Although it's been part of the cultural soundscape for over 25 years, hip-hop has been the focus of very few books. And when those books do pop up, they tend to be either overtly scholarly, as if the writer in question has just landed on some alien planet, or a bit too much like a fanzine. If there's anyone qualified to write a solid, informative, and entertaining tome on the culture, politics, and business of hip-hop, it's Nelson George. A veteran journalist, George is one of the smartest and most observant chroniclers of African American pop culture. Much as he broke down and illuminated R&B with his acclaimed book The Death of Rhythm and Blues, George now tackles hip-hop with the clarity of a reporter and the enthusiasm of a fan--which is fitting, because George is both. A Brooklyn native, he began writing about rap back in the late 1970s, when the beats and the lifestyle were not only foreign to most white folks, they were still underground in the black communities. Hip Hop America is filled with George's memories of the scene's nascent years, and it tells the story of rap both as an art form and a cultural and economic force--from the old Bronx nightclub the Fever to the age of Puffy. Highlighting both the major players and some of the forces behind the scenes, George gives rap a historical perspective without coming off as too intellectual. All of which makes Hip Hop America a worthwhile addition to any fan's collection. --Amy Linden --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

George (The Death of Rhythm and Blues) calls this wide-ranging history of hip-hop a "book of memory" and compares his relationship with the music to a love affair. A portrait not just of the music but of the whole culture coalescing around beats and rhymes, from graffiti to break dancing and basketball, George's narrative sometimes jumps from topic to topic like the fragmentary soundscapes of his subject. Nonetheless, he does follow a loose, anecdotal trajectory from the "post-soul" era of the early 1980s through the Old School to the New School, through gangsta rap to the latest innovators. Often, detours seem to be taken solely because George couldn't bear to drop material, and the writing can seem hasty. One may disagree with certain assessments (he says of trendy vocalist and hip-hop impresario Puff Daddy, "Never in the history of postwar black pop has a single man done so much so well"), but quibbling aside, the author's knowledge and passion run deep. George conveys a continuing excitement and personal investment rather than pretending critical distance, still rethinking his own past positions. Most refreshingly, while an advocate, he is blunt and perceptive in areas where traditional hip-hop advocates can be blindly protective. The book is at its best when George is more commentator than chronicler; one wishes more space had been devoted to exploration of many provocative issues raised in passing: Is democracy good for art? Why no great women rappers? One such thought George offers is that art can be suffocated when "loved too well by the people [it was] intended to make uncomfortable"; the best audience for these memories may turn out to be those outsiders rather than hip-hop purists.-- intended to make uncomfortable"; the best audience for these memories may turn out to be those outsiders rather than hip-hop purists.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Nelson George is an author/filmmaker who specializes in documenting and celebrating African-American culture. As an author he's written several classic black music histories, including Where Did Our Love Go?: The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound, The Death of Rhythm & Blues and Hip Hop America. He also edited The James Brown Reader, an anthology of articles about the late Godfather of Soul. His current novel, The Plot Against Hip Hop, has a musical theme. He contributed major articles on the films The Help and Pariah to The New York Times Arts & Leisure section in 2011. As a filmmaker George has directed the HBO film Life Support, and has two documentaries debuting in 2012: Brooklyn Boheme on Showtime and The Announcement: Magic Johnson on ESPN. George's web site is www.nelsondgeorge.net.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By HipHopKosova on October 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
Of all the Hip Hop related works that I've read (and that's many), none can reach the insightful level of Nelson Georges's "Hip Hop America", which not only covers the history of the culture, but more importantly, delivers the sociological aspects of it, explaining not only "when", but also "how" and "why". It made me an instant fan of Nelson George. It's a very informative, sincere and to some extent analytical book, with plenty of facts and informations and first-hand experiences from the man "who has not only witnessed the evolution of hip-hop, but who. . . has had a hand in shaping it, as well." (The New York Times Book Review).
I could really write a long review for this great book, but I'll probably do that after my second reading, which starts NOW!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Clip326 on November 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this book for an African-American Studies class at UNC. At first I did not like it at all. I did not connect with George's choice of language, which seemed outdated and out of touch with current hip hop lingo.
But as I got into the book, I realized that this outdated language was not George's fault. After all, as George himself points out in a section about hip hop movies, trends and lingo in hip hop change too quickly for anyone to keep up without a very detailed scorecard. So if you can get past him using somewhat outdated language, this is a great book.
George manages to discuss a wide array of topics, from graffiti to break dancing to production and distribution of records to hip hop themed movies to hip hop lingo to the proliferation of hip hop around the world. Despite the very diverse topics, George manages to tie everything to a common theme, the impact of hip hop on American culture.
If I had to pick one aspect of the book that was especially good, I would have to choose his discussion of the roots of hip hop and its early days. As a native of New York during hip hop's formative years, George is very well informed on the topic and indeed was a witness to many key events in the early days of hip hop. He also has connections with many key figures, throughout the time period covered in the book, and he is able to recall these connections to tell unique stories you cannot find anywhere else.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of hip hop. It is a quick, enjoyable, and informative read.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By joby on November 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I read Hip Hop America. Not because I had ever heard of Nelson George or heard of his credits. Because I saw it, flipped a few pages and decided to read it. I loved it. I have been listening to hip hop music since the first time i spun Schooly D's PSK track. And Nelson George hits the nail on the head. he covers almost everything i could have wanted, although I would have liked more coverage on Tribe Called Quest and De La Sould as opposed to so much NWA material. What I liked best is how George is neither a critic or a fan (excluding PE of course). He's just an inside observer. He doesnt take many bias opinions, he just presents them. And the way he picks on not only hip hop culture, but things that affected hip hop and what hip hop has affected. Examples are Blaxploitation movies and Basketball in the 80's and 90's. If anyone is a smart hip hop fan then I recommend this book. I'm not talking about people who buy whatever is cool now (if you have a puff daddy album or a bel biv devoe album but dont listen to it anymore than i dont recommend this book), I'm talking straight up real hip hop fans. I also dont recommend this book for people who are trying to learn about hip hop. its gonna be like a foreign language. so give this book a try
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By KCZorroDeFuego on March 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Until I read this book, I was never much on hip-hop. Reason being: I didn't understand it. This book answered all those lingering questions that always kept me from either liking or, failing that, appreciating it as both a genre and a cultural force. From the origins of hip hop to the current state of events, this book covers it all. Would have given it 5, but the book sometimes seems to linger on certain aspects of the genre overmuch, throwing off the balance of the history being told. Nevertheless, this doesn't ruin the book, and it may just be I'm not one for lengthy asides on certain aspects of subject matter. In any event, worth your $, and a great eye-opener in the "what you always wanted to know, but had no idea who to ask" category.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Doug Mellow on April 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
One of America's foremost hip-hop journalists, this book is essential to understanding both the positives and negatives of hip-hop music in both its past and present forms. George displays an excellent knowledge of both street and music industry politics in discussing a musical genre all too commonly lacking enough intellectualism. Understandable for everyone from the button down white collar worker of Wall Street to the average street thug, this book is recommended reading for both those knowledgable with hip-hop and those who are not.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've listed to hip hop music for 16 years and Nelson George filled in all the blanks of things I wish I understood better. From the internal conflict at the Source magazine, to the story of several hip hop producers including Puff Daddy, Teddy Riley, and Dr. Dre as well as the record execs behind the scenes like Andre Harrell, etc...Nelson George covers it all. I loved this book. It does not describe hip hop as a dance or an artist or a song, but as the cultural phenomenon it has become.
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