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


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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: #1,213,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Customer Reviews

The insight provided in this book is informative and valid.
John Kilgore
I believe this book points a finger at the generational gap we have in the black community.
Cory J. May
Dyson brings up logical arguements that are in the defense of Hip Hop music.
Justin Russell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 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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9 of 9 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 2 people found the following review helpful By Justin Russell on March 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'll be the first to tell you that Hip Hop has changed dramatically over the years. With the influx of commericalization the art form seems to have lost its originality. Dyson's represents Hip Hop to the fullest. He embraces the art form and respects the artists as lyrical geniuses. Dyson gives a brief look back with DJ Kool Herc, but remains focused on the social aspects of the music. Dyson brings up logical arguements that are in the defense of Hip Hop music.
My favourite section was the chapter dealing with "Conscious Rap". This sub-genre of Hip Hop is never praised in the media since it approaches topics that are both social and political.
Dyson is extremely candid with his assessments of music and he has many accolades from numerous artists in the Hip Hop Industry.
Consider reading "Democracy Matters" by Cornel West --- he has a great section on Hip Hop music as well
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Smith on October 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Dyson is certainly one of the most prolific cultural critics writing and speaking about matters relevant to race, identity, and equality. His work is generally deep as he tries to complicate matters that are usually oversimplified by the dominant discourse and mainstream media.

Know What I Mean is a detailed and academically vigorous critique of the social construction and political power of hip hop. He attempts to place hip hop in its proper context, demystifying the ways hip hop reflects the social spaces occupied by hip hop artists and the larger society itself. Let's not forget, for example, that misogyny is not the sole property of hip hop.

Reading as hip hop performance itself, the text breaks many of the conventions that bind books, delving into space reserved for the album/music industry. On many levels, Know What I Mean is a risk-taking and ground-breaking work that attempts to reach many different audiences, from hip hop heads to academics in ivory towers.
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1 of 1 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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