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Know What I Mean? Reflections on Hip-Hop Hardcover – July 2, 2007
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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.
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.
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.
Dyson has a way with words... and he knows it. His arrogance comes out in the way he speaks down to his audience. He is educating us, so he should not be questioned. He speaks with the air that as long as he uses pretty language, it must be truth. The problem is that Dyson's "facts" are skewed. He takes the information he wants to take in order to support his premise. That premise seems to be that black people are disadvantaged, white people don't care, rap music is good because it's black (even if it falls short in any number of areas), white people who joke about race are innately bad, black people who spew hateful (not joking) comments about race are simply doing what they know to do... and on and on.
My issue with books like this is that people are reading these. Young college kids look up to Dyson as a mentor and believe that he is a contemporary voice of the black American society. In reality, he is creating issues that are less present than he would have us think. White women do not toss their hair because they are trying to flaunt their beauty and sex appeal. They are tossing their hair because it's in their way. And I don't appreciate the way he speaks about the comparison between black and white hair. Jill Scott and Esperanza Spalding and so many other gorgeous black women have stunning "natural" black hair that I could never achieve. THAT is what should be emphasized. What about the recent appreciation of beautiful black women? There are more mixed relationships now than ever, and more white, Hispanic and Asian men are realizing and appreciating the beauty of black women.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This should be used as a textbook for a racial and ethnic relations class. So much information. Shocking truths and confirmations.Published on February 17, 2013 by Piggy
Michael Eric Dyson reminds me of a modern day Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Marcus Garvey. He addresses issues that todays youth has lost touch in but in a manner that... Read morePublished on January 23, 2013 by Rudy
This book attempts to legitimize rap by having a scholarly racist (one who makes decisions based on nothing other than race) mumble his illegitimate arguments. Read morePublished on May 17, 2009 by E. Griswold
Dyson is a great writer. He tackles issues that most writers often shy away from. He does a great job at diving into a difficult subject and shows the importance of it to the... Read morePublished on October 13, 2008 by Debbie Strickland
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. Read morePublished on March 11, 2008 by Justin Russell
I truly enjoyed this cultural and generational work by Dr. Dyson. Similar to most of Dyson's books I found it hard to put down, always wanting to know more of his thoughts. Read morePublished on February 5, 2008 by Cory J. May
Dyson is certainly one of the most prolific cultural critics writing and speaking about matters relevant to race, identity, and equality. Read morePublished on October 31, 2007 by Bruce Smith
Michael Eric Dyson is one of the most important observers and critics of African American Culture for my generation of scholars, and in this book "BAM"!, he has done it again. Read morePublished on October 28, 2007 by Dr. EBPryor