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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jay Z book of essays...creative educational tool, April 23, 2011
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This review is from: Jay-Z: Essays on Hip Hop's Philosopher King (Paperback)
I first heard about this book on facebook (friend of a friend). Immediately wary about the author,Julius Bailey, attempting to offer some sort of first hand account of Jay-Z stories to somehow rival Decoded. Such a project I was totally uninterested in supporting. But I went to the website ([...]) which led me to the author's website [...]) and was pleasantly surprised to see a project that was far removed from commonplace.

As a professor in Community College, we are always challenged to motivate students toward learning so that they can possibly seek a 4 year degree upon completion of this 2 year associate's. Within 5 minutes of reading the introduction to my Literature class last week, I was floored to see how many students had questions. "Dr. Parker you like Jay-Z too", "Dr. Parker, does Jay-Z respond to Dr. Bailey in this book", "Dr. Parker, I think Jay-Z is better than the rappers my age"...Honestly, it had been 2 months since I had that level of enthusiasm in my classroom. Immediately I ordered 2 additional copies and I have the book being ciruculated around the classroom and the college.

Great Read, but a better resource for classroom interaction and critical discussions!! I will be ordering this for by College Writing class in the Fall.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why you should buy this book, April 19, 2011
This review is from: Jay-Z: Essays on Hip Hop's Philosopher King (Paperback)
Welcome to this phenomenal book of essays purposed to create and sustain: lively discussion, historical memory, theoretical frame-working, and an overall appreciation for cultural studies. The book is formatted in a manner consistent with excellent pedagogical practices. Julius Bailey's bio recognizes him as an award-winning teacher and this volume utilizes the best of teaching practices from assessment to classroom culture building, as a teacher/professor, I find this book extremely helpful. Each chapter ends with review questions, ideas for discussion, and resources for further review. This book is perfect for teachers of English Literature, History, African American Studies, Philosophy, Economic Theory and Communications and Sociology.

For the non-teacher but lover of ideas this book will situate you in the world of the popular culture icon, Jay-Z. Not only will you take a glimpse into the public personae of this hip hop giant, but you will pierce the minds of scholars, teachers, activists, and artists who are engaging in discussions of Jay-Z's impact to our world. You will learn about Jay-Z as a philanthropist, an activist, an artist, and a man while hopefully, appreciating his impact and investigating his complexity.

The Hip Hop studies aficionado will find some established names in the discipline (Toni Blackman, Davey D, Bakari Kitwana) while also being introduced to other academicians and authors who are organically linked to the tradition and who use hip hop as a mode of scholarship and a way of investigating the world. Additionally, you will be surprisingly grasped by its attention to situation Hip Hop within the traditional classroom structure. Unlike many hip hop books that service the ideas and history of the culture quite aptly, this book is a teaching resource within the established framework of traditional course material. This is a slightly different move and makes the text more accessible than in the growing, but still limited, Hip Hop studies classrooms across the world.

All in all Dr. Julius Bailey and Dr. Cornel West (his mentor) provides the reader with a fine collection of essays and kudos to all the contributors. It is being used this summer and the fall for my classes Cultural Studies.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read, thoroughly examined study, May 11, 2011
This review is from: Jay-Z: Essays on Hip Hop's Philosopher King (Paperback)
Inhabiting a world where anything and everything can become a commodity and therefore, in many a person's opinion, become corrupted, educational paradigms and educators themselves are unnaturally forced to look in unfamiliar arenas in an attempt to connect to the youth that desperately seeks understanding and escapism in any form other than formal education. As the bottomless knowledge pool grows deeper and deeper with each generation, nuanced research and analytic power is lost in each students craving to know more and more without focused study. The fact of the matter is that with all the unfiltered information at student's fingertips at any given time, the structure of formal education is breaking down; a student taught to behave politely and in proper fashion can Google the anarchist cookbook, a student instructed on long division can perform the operation with little effort on a touch screen music player -- students are teaching themselves more and more without the necessary guidance in order to understand what it is they are absorbing, much less how to effectively use it.
Recognizing this absurd world, Dr. Julius Bailey, a profound philosopher with long stretching wisdom on hip hop and youth culture, aims to connect to students through their lived experiences and engage them by, "giving credence to what they are exposed to [in their daily lives]". Bailey claims that students today adopt the views of the mainstream version of today's philosopher -- hip hop artists -- in part due to the powerful influence of language and the frequency with which music is played. Right before a student enters a class on sociology he or she is receiving a lecture on life in the hood, right before walking in on a speech about feminism a student nods his or her head to Lil Wayne's famous club song "Lollipop," a song exclusively about a woman providing oral pleasure. Simply put, when examining youth culture nothing is more prevalent than music and in current times that music is predominantly Hip Hop. So, how do these two worlds, education and hip hop, collide and can they possibly combine forces? Dr. Bailey thinks they can and to convince the rest of us, he has crafted a collection of essays from many prominent and competent scholars on arguably Hip Hop's current leader and entrepreneur, Shawn Corey Carter a.k.a. Jay-Z.
Dr. Bailey's book is multilayered in design, style, and effectiveness in a classroom environment. Much like the rap mogul himself, the book provides a "Blueprint" for engaging students in Hip Hop education that has uses far beyond the context of hip hop and education. The book is an editorial by Bailey, who rounded up a varied group of scholars and educators and had each of them contribute a piece to the 13-chapter book. Renowned philosopher Cornel West provides a touching and powerful foreword to the book followed by Bailey's introduction where, in well-formed detail, he describes the goals of the book. The introduction also serves as a crash course into Hip Hop philosophy and Jay-Z as well as providing explanations for the choice of Jay-Z and the need for a book like this in the current American education system. It is an ambitious project, one that will hopefully find support, and the potential for conversation is immense.
The book is broken up into three sections -- The Groundwork, The Challenges, and The Classroom Freestyles. This breakdown suits the book well as those who are unfamiliar with Hip Hop or Jay-Z are introduced to a world that many would deem unfit for scholarly work, Bailey of course sees this differently. Instead, this book becomes a way to validate student's everyday experiences and give them analytical tools for the life they live on a day-to-day basis. Once the groundwork and some analysis have been mapped out, the book moves into an in depth critique of Jay-Z, Hip Hop, and what it even means to be an African American in a globalized world. It should also be noted that despite being a philosophical look at Jay-Z and Hip Hop, this book covers an extraordinarily wide array of topics. There are moments of investigation on African American history and culture through the traditions of great Orators, referenced as being called, "Griots," as well as enough psychological and sociological investigation into the mind of both Jay-Z and inner city children to give the text ample weight in any history, sociology, psychology, philosophy, or communication courses. There are also notions of ideas of identity and how to market ones self in the technologically driven world of today alluding to possible application in a business or marketing course. Finally, the book closes with, "The Classroom Freestyles," where many of the chapters discuss real life situations and portrayals of educational systems prevalent in poverty stricken areas. The opening chapter to this section, Complicating Shawn Carter, shows the author, David Stovall, peering into the mythos, stigma, and stereotyping associated specifically with African American male youth as being destined for deviancy and "trouble". He ties in his own upbringing and constant labeling and points to Jay-Z as the anti-thesis to these preconceived notions. Masterfully he weaves this interplay with some of the systemic issues in the community and specifically how institutions deal with African American youth in the classroom. Through all of this he uses Jay-Z and hip hop as way to provide a definition for what an educator is and possible conclusions for the future of educational paradigms.
Complicating Shawn Carter also greatly demonstrates another strength of the book, interpreting Jay-Z through not only his lyrics but also his life. Stovall points to the "code," which he claims has roots in African American slavery, as a way to engage in conversation with Jay-Z. This is emblematic of one of the main goals of the book, which is to open conversation on something many think has no place in academia. At its core, this book challenges readers to open their minds to a form of poetic expression and an exponentially rising cultural force. Blackman addresses this in the first chapter of the book saying, "[America] is a place where we are socialized to believe that the do-gooder, the creative artist, and the money-maker cannot coexist within one human being". It is a powerful sentiment when one ponders the effect of the image of Jay-Z in its entirety; his personal life, his lyrics, his roles as a man, father, rapper, artist, businessman, and leader.
This is not to say the book is not without it flaws. While it accomplishes its goals exceedingly well, there is one fault worth mentioning -- due to the copyright laws, some of the lyrics dissected in the book are not physically present in the text. Many of these lyrics are present and if not the authors all make great use of grounding the reader by providing a historical context to many of the songs. However, there are a few instances where only a song title was presented and the lyrics were not able to be attained and therefore it can feel a little discomforting not being to visibly have the lyrics near a discussion on why a lyric in "`H to the Izzo' is important to recognizing the code". Fortunately, this lapse in content serves as a reinforcing demonstration to a theme of the book, that education and knowledge are often hindered by the marketplace and the systems that create institutions where learning is either second or far behind the pursuit of wealth.
Professor Julius Bailey's book, Jay-Z Essays on Hip Hop's Philosopher King, is truly a testament to the growing national concern over education and the high levels of apathy students seem to thrive in. Hip Hop's leaders are becoming more than just icons, they are presenting youth with an escape not only for the mind, but a possible escape, as Jay-Z has done, from a life of struggle. Where our educators and school systems are failing, these artists are creeping in, becoming role models when parents are too busy and teachers are frozen in time. It is then that the charge of the academy is to promote progress and systemic changes. As is discussed in detail in the book, these are the roots of Hip Hop, the formation of a counter-culture in order to dismantle problematic living systems that are outdated and damaging to a student's drive. As Stovall says, "[Educators] should create a critical counter-culture...that mounts a deliberate attack on any and all forms of low expectations and social, political, and economic exploitation, replacing them with a culture of excellence and justice," a charge mounted on the heels of one of Hip Hop's greatest visionaries. Dr. Bailey charges its readers with many difficult questions and charges its students and educators with even greater challenges, it opens a discussion few books open and it shares little in the way of bias towards one of rap's most successful artists. This is the blueprint for a higher learning institution, looking into popular culture as a form of engagement, applying a critical eye to it, and devising solutions to the problems of the world. Combined with the multiple areas of study and the diverse narrative lens each author bings, Jay-Z Essays on Hip Hop's Philosopher King is an enjoyable learning exercise and from the discussions I've been a part of, it is a fully realized way to engage youth culture that gets students passionate about the music they listen to as it carries them out the door and accompanies them as they move from classroom to home.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review on Essays of Hip Hops Philosopher King, May 11, 2011
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This review is from: Jay-Z: Essays on Hip Hop's Philosopher King (Paperback)
As a large component to the music industry, hip hop serves as "the most lucrative cultural force among young people in the world" (West, 1). Hip hop music serves as a relatable source of artistic expression, commonly demonstrating relevant social values through lyrics. In Essays on Hip Hop's Philosopher King, Jay-Z, edited by Julius Bailey, a collection of various intellectuals reflect on the social, economic and political influence hip-hop has had on America. By considering Jay-Z as an icon, the complex dynamics between race, in music, class and gender all demonstrate the social responsibility one has to be held accountable for current problems. Arguably one of the most talented artists, Jay-Z is considered to be a Philosopher King as his fourteen year music career enabled Jay-Z to become wealthy, respected and influential. The essays which are broken into three parts; The Groundwork, The Challenges and The Classroom Freestyles, each discuss a vital component in the relationship Jay-Z and hip-hop has with current society. These essays are vital to any reader with an interest in Music, Politics, Sociology, Philosophy, English, Women's Studies, or Education. The complexity of upholding the responsibility of an intellectual is displayed through one of the world's most successful, authentic hip hop artists, Jay-Z.
Historically, hip hop buffs witnessed an explosion of conscious rap in the 1980's through the 90's. This time period known as "The Golden Age" represented the influence hip hop had on society and political activism. This form of rap served as an art form where African Americans were able to discuss social problems such as project life, violence, and living in poverty. However, over time the dominate form of hip hop in the music industry began to change. In the late 90's, the values of making money, being successful, buying cars and drugs all became focal points of mainstream rap. This type of music which does not produce critical thought about social problems reflects on the interest of the consumer. Since hip-hop is "just as important as sermons and speeches when it comes to documenting the oral tradition from a contemporary perspective" (Blackman, 34), mainstream hip-hop perpetuates stereotypes, classism and sexism within America.
The question of Jay-Z's social responsibility emerges as he can be held accountable for social and political activism. Sean Carter's rag-to-riches story demonstrates his ability to be successful. Being known for his ability to freestyle and the ability to engage an audience, Jay-Z knew "how to age gracefully in the rap industry" (Blackman, 33). His ability to maintain a career through what's known as the division of hip-hop genres, demonstrates the authentic talent Sean Carter has. However, the question of social responsibility has resulted due to Jay-Z's successful business. After creating the name brand and performing, Jay-Z accumulated a total worth of 400 million dollars. His music, although culturally relevant, is critiqued as it has changed from conscious to mainstream rap. Jay-Z's famous complaint of having to "dumb down his lyrics for mainstream consumption" (Johnson, 88), displays the lack of consumer marker for conscious rap. Since Jay-Z was able to accommodate his music for consumption needs, his audience grew as he could now appeal to a large audience. His orator abilities cause some to hold Jay-Z responsible for speaking on political issues or social problems. However, others argue that as a member of a capitalist society, one has the ability to choose how they make their money and how they spend it. By having the ability to engage an audience like Jay-Z, political issues can be discussed and exposed, but instead Jay-Z produces songs that objectify women, and praise the benefits of having money. These issues are discussed in the second part of the book.
When the essays discuss the challenges iconic figures often face, it was easy to see how Jay-Z demonstrated these characteristics. Because Jay-Z has such a strong influence on youth, "it is not far-fetched to fathom that a rapper, an entertainer, a multimillionaire could become the ideal messenger for the shift in thinking necessary to advance the national conversation on race" (Kitwana, 100). Kitwana explains that the economic success of Jay-Z caused the change in his music. With a focus on materialistic gains from the benefits of becoming wealthy, Jay-Z's influence on class divisions becomes evident. With the lack of a black middle class, many young blacks relate to Jay-Z and his stories of the hood. However, as he glorifies the money, cars and clothes, the black community will begin to critique Jay-Z as a sell-out, while recognizing him as a traitor. By his engagement in capitalism, and working one's way into a new class, the black community may critique Jay-Z because he achieved these things by using the methods of the white man. The influence capitalism has on the music industry has become detrimental, as many artist like Jay-Z will produce mainstream music in order to sell. This caused many people to critique Jay-Z, and hold him accountable for producing music with the ability to positively change and enlighten the black community.
This leads to the third part of the book where an essay written by Sha'Dawn Battle, compares social responsibility theories of Socrates and Emmerson and apply it to Jay-Z's "Sell-out" critique. She relates the idea of Jay-Z being responsible for producing conscious rap in order to help the black community, in which he emerged from, to Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Plato suggested that if a person in the cave or darkness becomes enlightened and knowledgeable of the light, then it is their responsibility to return to the cave in order to help the others become enlightened. Jay-Z and his "unwillingness to return to the dark side" (Battle, 198), represents his failure to uphold social responsibility. By only donating money to fundraisers and not actually spent time to ensure his money's effectiveness, left Jay-Z feeling guilty. His engagement with political and social issues of the black community decreased as he engaged more heavily in consumerism. However, Battle argues that Jay-Z should not be held responsible for the current situations of the black community on the basis that he was successful. The Emersonian theory would "allow Jay-Z to roam freely on this new plateau, without being subjected to accusations of inauthentic representation, desertion, imitation" (Battle, 200), and encourages individual reliability. Battle would agree with Emerson on the idea that self-esteem is vital in being successful, and the individual should not conform to the needs of others. The individual would not be expected to return to the cave as in Plato's theory, but only leave instructions to the community on how to be successful or enlightened. Jay-Z's Blueprint serves as a guide towards achieving social and economic mobility. The social responsibility of an icon is challenged every day, and Jay-Z demonstrates the characteristics to be seen as an influential icon.
The third part to the book also reflects on the numerous ways to use hip-hop in a classroom setting. The argument that hip-hop music remains culturally relevant, it is easy for students to relate to. A.D. Carson explains how she uses hip hop music in the classroom setting. She explains the literary legitimacy in rap lyrics, while also comparing themes in songs to classic literature such as Shakespeare. By using material students can relate to, schoolwork becomes more tangible and manageable. The book of collective essays demonstrates the importance of studying hip-hop and hip-hop culture, as it influences racial dynamics in class, gender and economics.
The book demonstrates the influence of Jay-Z as a Philosopher King, as he demonstrates the authenticity, and challenges of an icon. He is currently being challenged with the question of social responsibility, as the complexity of racism, classism and sexism, are all affected by hip hop music. This book includes various other topics that were not yet discussed, such as the influence Jay-Z and hip hop have on gender issues, and more extensive class divisions. By reading these essays, the relevance and influence hip hop has on our culture is vividly depicted and analyzed. The critical analysis's of Jay-Z as an intellectual icon review the influence hip-hop has on our every day lives.
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Jay-Z: Essays on Hip Hop's Philosopher King
Jay-Z: Essays on Hip Hop's Philosopher King by Julius Bailey (Paperback - February 28, 2011)
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