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.)
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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 TribbyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved