Reading the Notes for Hip-Hop, Popular Culture
Check It While I Wreck It: Black
Culture, and the Public Sphere
By Dr. Gwendolyn D. Pough
Northeastern University Press,
June 2004, 256 pages,
$50.00 cloth, ISBN 1555536085; $20.00 paper, ISBN 1555536077
In this book, Dr. Gwendolyn D. Pough explores the complex relationship between Black women, hip-hop and feminism. Examining a wide range of genres, including rap music, novels, spoken word poetry, hip-hop cinema and hip-hop soul music, she traces the rhetoric of Black women “bringing wreck.” Pough demonstrates how influential women rappers such as Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot, and Lil’ Kim are building on the legacy of earlier generations of women — from Sojourner Truth to women of the Black power and civil rights movements — to disrupt and break into the dominant patriarchal public sphere. She discusses the ways in which today’s young Black women struggle against the stereotypical language of the past, and shows how rap provides an avenue to tell their own life stories, to construct their identities, and to dismantle historical and contemporary negative representations of Black womanhood.
Dr. Gwendolyn D. Pough is an assistant professor of women’s studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
Young, Black, Rich and Famous: The Rise of the NBA, the Hip-Hop Invasion and the Transformation of American Culture
By Dr. Todd Boyd
Doubleday, October 2003, $22.95, hardcover, ISBN 0-7679-1277-2
In this controversial look at the impact of cutting-edge Black urban culture on contemporary America, Dr. Todd Boyd uses the intertwining worlds of basketball and hip-hop as a powerful metaphor for exploring the larger themes of race, class and identity. Boyd chronicles how basketball and hip-hop have gone from being reviled by the American mainstream to being embraced and imitated globally. For young Black men, he argues, they represent a new version of the American dream, one that embodies the hopes and desires of those excluded from the original version.
Dr. Todd Boyd is a professor of critical studies in the School of Cinema-Television at the University of Southern California.
Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music
By Dr. John McWhorter
Gotham Books, October 2003, 304 pp., $26.00 hardcover,
In this provocative new book, Dr. John McWhorter draws the line when it comes to how cultural change is turning the English language upside down in America today, and how public English is being overwhelmed by street English, with serious consequences for our writing, our music and our society. McWhorter explores the triumph of casual over formal speech — particularly since the dawn of 1960s counterculture — and its effect on Americans’ ability to write, read, critique, argue and imagine.
Dr. John McWhorter is an associate professor in the linguistics department at the University of California, Berkeley.
Songs in the Key of Black Life: A Nation of Rhythm and Blues
By Dr. Mark Anthony Neal
Routledge Press, June 2003, 214 pp., $19.95 paper,
Cultural critic Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, who has written extensively on popular music, now turns his attention to Rhythm and Blues. He argues that R&B — often dismissed as “just a bunch of love songs,” yet the second most popular genre in terms of sales — can tell us much about the dynamic joys, apprehensions, tensions and contradictions of contemporary Black life, if we listen closely. In the first part of the book, Neal demonstrates how music is a guidepost to the major concerns of contemporary Black life — issues such as gender, feminist politics, political activism, Black masculinity, celebrity, and the fluidity of racial and sexual identity. The second part of the book uses the improvisational rhythms of Black music as a metaphor to examine currents in Black life including the public dispute between Cornel West and Harvard President Lawrence Summers and the firing of BET’s talk-show host Tavis Smiley.
Dr. Mark Anthony Neal is an associate professor of American Studies at University of Texas at Austin.
Representing: Hip Hop Culture and the Production of Black Cinema
By Dr. S. Craig Watkins
University of Chicago Press,
Nov. 1999, 316 pp., $30.00 cloth,
ISBN 0-226-87488-5; $17.00 paper,
Here, Dr. S. Craig Watkins examines two of the most important developments in the recent history of Black cinema — the ascendancy of Spike Lee and the proliferation of “ghettocentric films.” Watkins explores a distinct contradiction in American society: at the same time that Black youth have become the targets of a fierce racial backlash, their popular expressive cultures have become highly visible and commercially viable.
Dr. S. Craig Watkins is an associate professor in the radio, television, and film department at the University of Texas at Austin.
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