Beneath the glitz and glut of mainstream hip-hop, there's an underground movement of "conscious rap," political angst and an anticapitalist ethos that would make even Bill Gates throw his hands in the air. That conscious rap is what Watkins, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, champions in this solid book. It's an ambitious attempt to cover a culture that began in the late '70s and is now an almost universal influence on global youth. Watkins wisely chooses to focus on what has not been said—like that it was a 43-year-old woman who produced hip-hop's first hit, "Rapper's Delight," or that hip-hop lit is one of the fastest-growing markets in book publishing. He tells his version of hip-hop's history in lyrical prose, often mirroring the rhythms and wordplay of the music he's discussing. He doesn't assert an overt thesis, but it's clear he believes that the more conscious, political hip-hop (think Common instead of Fifty Cent) is what has the potential to revolutionize youth, and by extension, America. This is undoubtedly a book for fans, but it is also an intriguing look at how hip-hop has become part of a universal cultural conversation. (Aug.)
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Watkins considers hip-hop a "vital source of creativity and industry for youth," one that has developed a "reputation as a spectacular cultural movement committed to defying the cultural and political mainstream" while representing "the voices and experiences of a generation of marginal youths." He assesses the social and political aspects of the movement and the music, duly noting the irony of how hip-hop's "livelihood . . . [depends] almost entirely on its ability to sell black death" and requires its performers to "immerse themselves into a world of urban villainy." In service of inquiry, he also surveys "the communities, constituencies, and currents that make up the movement"; introduces readers to Kwame Kilpatrick, the self-billed hip-hop mayor of Detroit; and draws extensively on a wide-ranging interview by Minister Louis Farrakhan of rapper Ja Rule that is concerned with Ja's contretemps with rival rapper 50 Cent and with the message their posturing and negativity sends. Quite an exposition of all things hip-hop. Mike Tribby
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again. another book i purchased for my daughter. college prof assigned it. she is also studying communications and hip-hop within the youth today. she liked it. and still has it. Read morePublished 16 months ago by sharon parker
An excellent primer on all aspects of hip hop, from the early history to social and political context of mid-2000s. A follow-up volume would be great to continue through to today. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Ellen Hampton