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Other People's Property: A Shadow History of Hip-Hop in White America [Hardcover]

by Jason Tanz
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 6, 2007 1596912731 978-1596912731 First Edition
Over the last quarter-century hip-hop has grown from an esoteric form of African-American expression to become the dominant form of American popular culture. Today, Snoop Dogg shills for Chrysler and white kids wear Fubu, the black-owned label whose name stands for "For Us, By Us." This is not the first time that black music has been appreciated, adopted, and adapted by white audiences--think jazz, blues, and rock--but Jason Tanz, a white boy who grew up in the suburban Northwest, says that hip-hop's journey through white America provides a unique window to examine the racial dissonance that has become a fact of our national life. In such culture-sharing Tanz sees white Americans struggling with their identity, and wrestling (often unsuccessfully) with the legacy of race.
To support his anecdotally driven history of hip-hop's cross-over to white America, Tanz conducts dozens of interviews with fans, artists, producers, and promoters, including some of hip-hop's most legendary figures--such as Public Enemy's Chuck D; white rapper MC Serch; and former Yo! MTV Raps host Fab 5 Freddy. He travels across the country, visiting "nerdcore" rappers in Seattle, who rhyme about Star Wars conventions; a group of would-be gangstas in a suburb so insulated it's called "the bubble"; a break-dancing class at the upper-crusty New Canaan Tap Academy; and many more. Drawing on the author's personal experience as a white fan as well as his in-depth knowledge of hip-hop's history, Other People's Property provides a hard-edged, thought-provoking, and humorous snapshot of the particularly American intersection of race, commerce, culture, and identity.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Suburban white kids' increasingly ubiquitous fascination with hip-hop culture is the subject of this thoughtful and often insightful work of long-form journalism. Tanz, a young white man himself and an editor at Fortune Small Business, is an apt chronicler of the racial and cultural obstacles that stand between the producers and consumers of rap. He has an obvious passion for the music at hand, and he demonstrates his connoisseurship through brilliant evocations of the power of the band N.W.A. and the often painful history of white rappers. Tanz is most successful when he lets himself get tangled up in the complicated tendons of mass culture: his chapter about hip-hop marketing and commercialization displays a keen understanding of the advertising forces at work without ever devolving into simplistic damnation. Other aspects of the book are less satisfying, most notably the framing devices for each chapter in which Tanz chooses seemingly arbitrary instances of white appropriations of hip-hop culture—such as a hipster dance party in Williamsburg—to illustrate larger points. Nevertheless, Tanz solidly displays his strong grasp of the broad cultural significance of the rise of hip-hop. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Hip-hop in the American pop-cultural mainstream is a matter of much more than the Beastie Boys, as Tanz's skewering history of middle-class white assimilation of black cultural motifs for fun and profit makes clear. To document the phenomenon, Tanz interviews notables, such as Public Enemy guiding light Chuck D., and relates case histories of aspiring white rappers who mostly fall far short in emulating Eminem. In the chapter "Great White Hopes: Wegroes Shed Their Skin," Tanz considers the career arc of Pumpsta, ne Jeremy Parker, who "remembers the day he wanted to be black." The middle-class Georgia suburbanite's epiphany arrived during one of Atlanta's notorious Freaknik street parties. Now he hosts events that he hopes will "help to kill the whiteness inside." Curiouser and curiouser. Tanz makes what sense can be made of such aspirations and affords an ironic, insightful look at how rap and hip-hop have permeated the media landscape even while large segments of society maintain a baffled disconnection from the music. Food for thought. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (February 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596912731
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596912731
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,122,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very impressed! February 7, 2007
I picked up this book because I like hip hop, but didn't really understand the incredibly interesting larger cultural and social context in which it arose and operates. Having read my fair share of books on jazz, I was concerned because I know authors can take great art forms and turn them into boring academic treastises. Thankfully, Jason Tanz has richly and engagingly captured an inner city art form and its often uncomfortable, yet strangely symbiotic, relationship with white middle America. Norman Mailer, Thoreau and Eminem all make an appearance as Tanz entertainingly traces the origins of hip-hop and the way it has influenced, but also been subverted by, the white audience and market.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Scemel
Hip-hop music, what some of us still think of as "rap," isn't easy to sort out these days. It seems to have invaded all aspects of life, even in the seemely far-removed and lilly-white suburbs.

So what counts today as "authentic" hip-hop? Is it necessarily black? If it's commercialized to identify with a product, say Sprite, does that make the rapper a "sellout?"

And if you're white, suburban and, say, over 35, what is hip-hop culture all about?

These, it turns out, are exceedingly complicated questions.

They cut deeply to the root of what was once a raw expression of black realism to a place where, even within hip-hop, debates rage. But Jason Tanz, a rap-loving white kids from suburban Tacoma, Wash., has some surprising and fascinating answers for you in this thoughtful book with a perfect title -- Other People's Property.

Tanz takes us on an illuminating journey from rap's emergence among graffiti artists and break dancers on the streets of the Bronx, through his own experience as a sometimes guilt-ridden rap music lover cocooned in safe, white suburia, to today's wildy diverse and commercially bankable hip-hop scene.

Tanz personal story will, in turns, make you cringe, laugh and cheer. But his look at rap's varied charecters is what will keep you turning the pages.

There's Grandmaster Flash's Rahiem, an icon of rap's roots on New York City's rough streets, now a "Legends of Hip-Hop" tour guide busing white fans through the Bronx for $75 a pop. There's Papa Rich, an authentic NYC street performer who teaches break dancing to the wealthy suburban children of Connecticut's soccer moms. There's Tha Pumpsta, an earnest white rap lover who misses entirely the irony when he DJ's "kill whitie" parties in the Virginia suburbs.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hard-hitting analysis April 7, 2007
OTHER PEOPLE'S PROPERTY; A SHADOW HISTORY OF HIP HOP IN WHITE AMERICA could also have appeared in our 'Social Issues' section but is reviewed here for its focus on the obstacles that stand between producers and consumers of rap music: a very different approach than your usual music book covering the history of rap and the evolution of rapsters. It blends a personal story of growing up in a racially divided America with cultural analysis and music insights: while this approach might defy easy categorization, it does make for a hard-hitting analysis which will reach not only college-level collections strong in social issues and music, but the general-interest public and libraries with holdings strong in ethnic issues debates.
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