Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement

S. Craig Watkins, Author . Beacon $24.95 (295p) ISBN 978-0-8070-0982-6

Beneath the glitz and glut of mainstream hip-hop, there's an underground movement of "conscious rap," political angst and an anticapitalist ethos that would make even Bill Gates throw his hands in the air. That conscious rap is what Watkins, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, champions in this solid book. It's an ambitious attempt to cover a culture that began in the late '70s and is now an almost universal influence on global youth. Watkins wisely chooses to focus on what has not been said—like that it was a 43-year-old woman who produced hip-hop's first hit, "Rapper's Delight," or that hip-hop lit is one of the fastest-growing markets in book publishing. He tells his version of hip-hop's history in lyrical prose, often mirroring the rhythms and wordplay of the music he's discussing. He doesn't assert an overt thesis, but it's clear he believes that the more conscious, political hip-hop (think Common instead of Fifty Cent) is what has the potential to revolutionize youth, and by extension, America. This is undoubtedly a book for fans, but it is also an intriguing look at how hip-hop has become part of a universal cultural conversation. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/16/2005
Release date: 08/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 305 pages - 978-0-8070-0991-8
Paperback - 295 pages - 978-0-8070-0986-4
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