I’m reading again! When I was in school a month ago, it was difficult for me to read recreationally. But now that I’m out, it’s on! I’ve recently been reading several books about Hip-Hop. Since I love it so much, I figured I should know more about its history.
I started with Bakari Kitwana’s “The Hip Hop Generation”
It was a good read. Bakara Kitwana refers to the hip hop generation as those born between 1965 and 1984. It wasn’t much of a history of Hip Hop as I had hoped but in it, he makes clear arguments about what has affected Black youth over the last twenty years and offers up solutions. I had bought this book years ago (maybe in 2003 or so) intending to read it right away but never did. It felt good to finally finish it.
After reading that book, I decided I wanted to read a history of Hip Hop, so I started Jeff Chang’s “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop; A History of the Hip Hop Generation”.
I am really enjoying it so far. The author has a brilliant way with words and paints vivid pictures about Hip Hop’s humble beginnings leading up to today. It’s the kind of book you don’t want to put down because it is so riveting. I’m half way through it. I almost wish Kitwana had used the same language to write the “Hip Hop Generation” because I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more. But I guess the subject matter didn’t really lend to that.
Next, I read M. K. Asante’s “It’s Bigger than Hip Hop – The Rise of Post Hip Hop Generation”
I’d been reading all about the “Hip Hop Generation” and wanted to read about the “Post Hip Hop Generation” which follows as well. It was a decent book. The author is a young activist and is a professor at Morgan State. He “uses hip hop as a springboard for a larger discussion about the urgent social and political issues affecting the post-hip-hop generation, a new wave of youth searching for an understanding of itself outside the self-destructive, corporate hip-hop monopoly.” In it, he has an interview with Dead Prez. I’m supposing that he got the name of his book from their song. He also interviews Hip Hop itself. It was a well-written book and I’ll probably read it again.
And last but not least, I just finished John H McWhorter’s, “All About the Beat: Why Hip Hop Can’t Save Black America”
I happened to come across this book while browsing for other books about Hip Hop online. Written in 2008, McWhorter asserts in this book that Hip Hop doesn’t have the potential to foster a revolution of positive change in the lives of black people. I didn’t know how to feel when I read this, especially when I had held the belief that hip-hop was so great and powerful and such a strong, prevailing force in my life. McWhorter smashes the claims that hip-hop is politically valuable because it delivers the only “real” portrayal of black society. He points out that hip-hop is, at its core, simply music, and takes issue with those who celebrate hip-hop as the beginning of a new civil rights program and inflate the lyrics. While reading, I found myself jotting down notes and agreeing with quite a bit of what he wrote. Yes, sermonizing rather than working on the problems is not the answer. We really do need to “translate hipness into action and activism”. It was short, but sweet. And it was refreshing to read a book written by someone on the other side of the argument. McWhorter dislikes the term “Hip Hop Generation” and thinks history is not on the side of revolution now. Some key notes:
- “Snapping our necks to beats and rhymes will have no effect on what happens in the congressional chamber”
- “The seduction of rhythm is indeed much of why so many people entertain the prospect of a revolution based on rap music.”
- “Rhythm is deeply seductive. Even babies like it.”
-”Black people need to get beyond the idea that something is true because it is expressed in infectious rhythm.”
- “The idea that rhythm and inflection constitute coherent political insight worthy of extended attention is wrong.”
- “Words, sentences, logical connections, and constructive thought will be our salvation. Mysticism will not – even if it’s set to a great rhythm track.”
-”The beat is not truth”
-”In being art, especially popular art, hip-hop is automatically disqualified from being meaningfully political”
-”Anyone who says hip-hop is dead is being theatrical and seeking attention”
- “A revolution does not consist solely of howling grievances”
-”The fact that our ancestors were brought here as slaves and endured Jim Crow does not arouse people anymore.”
Now that I have a working knowledge of Hip Hop history, I think I’ll delve into Black history some more. There’s a book that I had to read for an African Studies class at Drexel called “Black Intellectuals” by William M Banks that I’ve always wanted to re-read. And there is one on the Civil Rights Movement called “Freedom Bound – A History of America’s Civil Rights Movement” by Robert Weisbrot that looks interesting as well. Following those, I will probably begin “We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century” by Rod Bush. Reading is dope.
I came across this video today. Since I’ve started listening to Stalley recently, I thought it would be fitting to post this.