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Know What I Mean? Reflections on Hip-Hop Hardcover – July 2, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

<div>Michael Eric Dyson, named by Ebony as one of the hundred most influential black Americans, is the author of sixteen books, including Holler if You Hear Me, Is Bill Cosby Right? and I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King Jr. He is currently University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University. He lives in Washington, D.C.</div>
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 171 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Civitas Books; 1st edition (July 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465017169
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465017164
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Lhea J. Love on July 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
After the remarks of Bill Cosby, many intellectuals and artists have been chiming in with regards to their distaste for hip hop. After Wynton Marsalis's reduction of hip hop to "ghetto minstrelsy" and John Whorter's attribution of retardation of success to Hip Hop, many have wondered what lies in store for the future of the genre. In Know What I Mean, Dyson gives evidence and background for academics to understand hip hop and offers tools for the hip hop generation to gain, as Jay-Z says, "respect and a better way to understand ourselves."

Many of the critiques stem from the expectation of hip hop to be a tangible expression of social commentary or political criticism. Fundamentally, hip hop is neither. Hip Hop is an art form containing "hyperbole, parody, kitsch, dramatic license, and double entedres." Dyson frequently argues that hip hop should be held to no higher standards towards sociological representation or politics than any other art form or institution that could also be a vehicle for social commentary or political criticism (i.e. the Church).

Dyson embarks upon a series of conversations structured within an "album concept". Two of the most frequented topics through out the five tracks are misogyny and the heterosexism of hip hop. While some of the ills of hip hop can be attributed or connected to cultural amnesia, male privilege and/or religious reflections, Dyson does not draw any parallels with the attempt to excuse or validate the presence of sexism or homophobia within rap music or hip hop culture.

Dyson has constructed his text, his speech and his career into a strong argument for hip hop and a lasting testament of the relevance and dignity of Black Culture and Urban Culture within our Global World.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Andrew from Miami on August 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I've always liked hearing Dyson's point of view on tv shows like Real Time and a few other specials I saw him on. This is the first time I've actually read his work and it was enjoyable. He always has an interesting take on hip-hop, backed up by a solid and logical argument (even on cases where I don't personally agree with him). There's frequent citing of artists' lyrics to illustrate his points and the way he frames the plight/excess/expression of MC's in a sociological context (comparing them to the Black Arts movements and linking them to Kant) makes for a good read.

Though there are a few points in the book that I flat out disagree with and believe his argument is weak/misguided, I enjoyed the vast majority of the book. A bit brisk, but insightful. I would recommend it to others and I will be reading some of Dyson's other work.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Priscilla Stilwell on April 23, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would have expected more from the renowned author of black empowerment literature. He has an agenda and will point the information to support it no matter what.

Dyson has a way with words... and he knows it. His arrogance comes out in the way he speaks down to his audience. He is educating us, so he should not be questioned. He speaks with the air that as long as he uses pretty language, it must be truth. The problem is that Dyson's "facts" are skewed. He takes the information he wants to take in order to support his premise. That premise seems to be that black people are disadvantaged, white people don't care, rap music is good because it's black (even if it falls short in any number of areas), white people who joke about race are innately bad, black people who spew hateful (not joking) comments about race are simply doing what they know to do... and on and on.

My issue with books like this is that people are reading these. Young college kids look up to Dyson as a mentor and believe that he is a contemporary voice of the black American society. In reality, he is creating issues that are less present than he would have us think. White women do not toss their hair because they are trying to flaunt their beauty and sex appeal. They are tossing their hair because it's in their way. And I don't appreciate the way he speaks about the comparison between black and white hair. Jill Scott and Esperanza Spalding and so many other gorgeous black women have stunning "natural" black hair that I could never achieve. THAT is what should be emphasized. What about the recent appreciation of beautiful black women? There are more mixed relationships now than ever, and more white, Hispanic and Asian men are realizing and appreciating the beauty of black women.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Finn on June 17, 2014
Format: Paperback
Admittedly, I tend to have a problem with how US centered hip hop literature is. Sure, I understand that you tend to write about the context you are most familiar with, and that hip hop was born in the US, but simply acknowledging the existence and arguments made elsewhere would help to bring more originality and insight. There is hip hop and research elsewhere in the world, too. I can't say I really learned much from this book, though there were some interesting views.

What bothers me the most is the incredible self-aggrandizement of the writer, and of some other US scholars for that matter. The intro by Jay-Z and outro by Nas are nothing but ridiculously over-the-top appraisals for the writer. Shouldn't the book and the author be able to speak for themselves?? Also, what's up with the "album-like" chapters, with "label", "samples" etc.? It's just awkward.
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