Most helpful critical review
on August 30, 2014
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." Hip hop is certainly a pat of American culture, and its dimensions and implications are worth exploring, but these kinds of statements are just not credible or helpful in any way. I'm really not sure what world the author is living in, but it doesn't seem to be the one the rest of us are living in.