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)
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