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Beats Rhymes & Life: What We Love and Hate about Hip-Hopby Kenji Jasper
Synopses & Reviews
Our generation made hip-hop. But hip-hop also made us. Why are suburban kids referring to their subdivision as “block”? Why has the pimp become a figure of male power? Why has dodging the feds become an act of honor long after one has made millions as a legitimate artist? What happens when fantasy does more harm than reality?—From the Introduction
Hip-hop culture has been in the mainstream for years. Suburban teens take their fashion cues from Diddy and expect to have Three 6 Mafia play their sweet-sixteen parties. From the “Boogie Down Bronx” to the heartland, hip-hops influence is major. But has the movement taken a wrong turn? In Beats Rhymes and Life, hot journalists Kenji Jasper and Ytasha Womack have focused on what they consider to be the most prominent symbols of the genre: the fan, the turntable, the ice, the dance floor, the shell casing, the buzz, the tag, the whip, the ass, the stiletto, the (pimps) cane, the coffin, the cross, and the corner. Each is the focus of an essay by a journalist who skillfully dissects what their chosen symbol means to them and to the hip-hop community.The collection also features many original interviews with some of raps biggest stars talking candidly about how they connect to the culture and their fans. With a foreword by the renowned scholar Michael Eric Dyson, Beats Rhymes and Life is an innovative and daring look at the state of the hip-hop nation.
"Novelist Jasper (Seeking Salamanca Mitchell) and filmmaker Womack have both written about various aspects of hip-hop culture, and here they collect a fascinating group of essays by music writers on key ideas and images in the genre. The book is organized by what the editors consider the strongest images in what all the writers view as the 'cultural juggernaut' of hip-hop: the fan, the buzz (drugs), the love, the cane (pimps), the cross (religion), the coffin, the whip (cars), the ice (diamonds), the stilettos, the tag (graffiti), the turntable, the shell casing, the block, the floor (dancing) and the suit (business). Each writer clearly loves hip-hop music, and all are united by a sense, stated best by Lisa Pegram (in a powerful look at 'Romance vs. Promiscuity in Mainstream Hip-Hop') that the music is 'our blues, our jazz, our rock and roll, our generation's birthmark on the American experience.' In the end, many of these writers challenge current artists, producers and record industry executives to recognize that the musical possibilities that arose out of the multicultural hip-hop scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s are being reduced to what Faraji Whalen describes as 'the idea that black youth should conform to and emulate the worst possible racial stereotypes.' This is a fine collection for anyone invested in hip-hop and the pop culture landscape it transformed." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In this thoughtful exploration of hip-hop culture, editors Womack and Jasper have collected essays that focus on the most prominent symbols of the genre by journalists who skillfully dissect the evolution of the culture.
Hip-hop culture is now in the mainstream.Suburban teens take their fashion cues from Diddy and expect to have Three 6 Mafia play their sweet sixteen parties.From the Boogie Down Bronx to the heartland, hip-hop’s influence is greater than its pioneers could have imagined. But has the movement taken a wrong turn? How do those who have been there all along feel about the MTV-ization of their music?
In Beats Rhymes and Life, co-editors Kenji Jasper and Ytasha Womack have focused on the most prominent symbols of the genre: the fan, the turntable, the ice (diamonds), the dance floor, the shell casing, the buzz, the tag (graffiti), the whip (cars), the ass, the stiletto, the (pimp’s) cane, the coffin, the cross, and the corner. Each is the focus of an essay by a prominent journalist who skillfully dissects the evolution of the culture through the lens of that symbol.
Some of the contributors call for change, like Lisa Pegram, who believes that rap’s depictions of sex are destroying black intimacy; others ruminate on the more positive (and humorous) developments, like Robert Meadows, who admits a fondness for MC Hammer and old school dance moves.
The collection also features candid interviews with some of hip-hop’s biggest stars talking about their relationship to the culture. With a foreword by media darling Michael Eric Dyson, Beats Rhymes and Life is a thoughtful exploration of the hip-hop nation.
About the Author
KENJI JASPER is a commentator for NPR and has written for The Source, XXL, VIBE, and more. He lives in Brooklyn. YTASHA WOMACK is an editor-at-large for Upscale and has written for the Chicago Tribune, Essence, VIBE, and more. She lives in Chicago.
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