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Why White Kids Love Hip Hop: Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabes, and the New Reality of Race in America Paperback – May 30, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Caucasian parents anxiously seeking explanations for either the descending waistlines of their children's trousers or the distressing contents of their iPods won't find them in Kitwana's repetitive, digressive and rather dated book, which is better at throwing out questions than following up on them. To the title question, former Source executive editor Kitwana (The Hip-Hop Generation) offers little more than variations on the stock answers of "alienation" and declining economic opportunity. The flip side—Kitwana's belief in hip-hop's liberatory potential (he sees it as "the last hope of America")—belongs more to the era of an engaged Fear of a Black Planet than the bling of The Game. But a bigger problem is that the book fails to spend much time discussing its putative subject; names are checked and scenes are discussed, but music and lyrics are rarely cited (a long chapter on Eminem quotes his lyrics exactly once). Similarly, the author has a way of invoking "opportunists," "the media" and "the few" with a maddening lack of specificity that blunts the book's already diffuse message. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Kitwana explores the appeal of hip-hop culture to young whites and their overall fascination with black youth culture. Part of the appeal of hip-hop to alienated white youths is its use as a means of expression for the voiceless in America. The integration of telecommunications and consumer culture has resulted in the broadening of acceptance of hip-hop among whites. Kitwana argues that this area of common ground for black and white youth provides a space of interracial interaction that challenges the old status quo that he designates "old racial politics." One example is the popularity of Eminem, the white rapper who has succeeded in a perceptively black medium. Yet Kitwana questions those who overvalue the appreciation of the white market for hip-hop at the cost of devaluing the essential black root to the culture. While Kitwana is clearly optimistic regarding hip-hop's potential impact on racial politics in America, he acknowledges that the hip-hop generation, and society in general, will continue to struggle with the reality of the old racial politics. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Civitas Books; Reprint edition (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046503747X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465037476
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #540,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By JCB Project on September 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
*sigh*... I'm always on the lookout for books about hip-hop (as a music form, culture, and generation) as it relates to American culture. More specifically, I'm interested in the social ramifications of the culture as a whole. Thus, when I was given this book by a friend, I was hoping for a good social science read. Unfortunately, I was highly dismayed, finding this particular selection to be a sloppily written manuscript with virtually no empirical evidence anywhere.

For much of this book, the author makes vague statements which are supposed to be evidence (I.E. - "First and foremost among the reasons white kids love hip-hop is the growing sense of alienation from mainstream American life they experienced in the 1980s") but then makes little or no effort to show proof of such theories. This is discouraging.

What makes matters worse is that the author later goes on to dismiss the limited evidence that does exist showing whites are the dominant purchasers of hip-hop albums, and instead of inserting evidence which shows otherwise, he launches into page upon page of bizarre hypothesis' for potential ways blacks might still be the majority purchasers (ironically mentioning bootleg CDs). Ultimately I grew tired of reading his writing which became increasingly less academic.

His "expert" sources are also questionable - while at times he does move towards legitmate figures in the hip-hop community - I felt he vastly stretched for some of the opinions gathered for this book. For instance, I seriously wonder whether it was wise to include a very long section on a 19 year-old white female for who "hip-hop has been mainstream culture" for her entire life.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Donald Earl Collins on September 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I think that the issue Kitwana attempts to explore in Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop is interesting. But his approach to taking on this topic was both sloppy and simplistic. It starts in the preface, where he says that the hip-hop generation (which in reality covers two generations) is the first one to grow up without experiencing de facto segregation. I'm sure that White suburbanites in Scarsdale and Orange County would be interested in knowing that there are phantom people of color floating around their communities.

Kitwana also overemphasizes the impact of hip-hop on the emergence of African Americans in popular culture and their impact on young Whites during the 1980s and 1990s. He concentrates so much on Michael Jordan and his first Nike ads with Spike Lee that he forgets about Dr. J, Mean Joe Green, and a host of others that paved the road for Jordan in the first place.

But Kitwana's biggest error is in glossing over the distance between Whites embracing hip-hop culture and Whites living anti-racist, social justice oriented lives. Like John Tuturro's character in Do the Right Thing, there are at least as many Whites who are hip-hop lovers but have as stereotypical an opinion of Blacks and other people of color as Whites who listen to honky-tonk. I don't that everything Kitwana says in Why White Kids Love Hip Hop is incorrect -- his book is just selectively incomplete.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By J. Aragon VINE VOICE on February 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book offers a non-academic analysis of hip hop and why white kids love all aspects of hip hop culture. The book also uses hip hop as a lens to examine race relations in the US.

This is not a dry, academic read, and it is well-researched without listing the litany of facts. The book is written for a lay audience. Parents might find this useful to get a "handle" on their kids' fascination w/ hip hop culture. The audience for this book is a wide lay audience. It's an engaging read and most will read it quickly.

The author's section on Wiggas/Wanstas was the most compelling to me. The author did a great job of exploring how people (whites) might feel powerless in their own lives based on issues of class or just being angry about their situation and how hip hop music might speak to them, might take them to a different place.

I appreciated the tone and the writing style. This a book worth reading.
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By nask on August 30, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book had a lot of potential, but ended up being very disappointing. There was an interesting look at the data on radio listeners and who the primary audience of hip hop music actually is, as well as a somewhat interesting look at the role of Eminem as a white rapper. But overall, the book seemed to just meander through a series of unconnected and insignificant discussions, including interviews with random individuals who have no position or influence in the music industry or any other industry and in-depth explorations of certain movies that the author happens to think are important for reasons that really aren't apparent (especially as most people have never even heard of some of them). The author also uses several undefined terms (like "old racial politics" and "new racial politics," as well as many others) and makes a number of unsupported assertions throughout the book (far too many to catalog here), demonstrating a real lack of intellectual rigor.

Perhaps most importantly, the author is so immersed in hip-hop culture, from esoteric conferences to limited-circulation topical literature, that he seems pretty disconnected from larger reality. He doesn't seem to have an accurate picture of the demography of America, and vastly overestimates the influence of hip hop in American culture and politics. As a result, he spends pages analyzing "hip hop voters," which is a voting bloc of questionable existence in the first place, and talks a lot about particular election organizing efforts that don't seem to have had any impact on elections -- or anything else, for that matter. Towards the end of the book, he makes a very dramatic and overwrought statement that epitomizes these shortcomings: "Hip-hop is the last hope for this generation and arguably the last hope for America.
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