Black Noise

Tricia Rose, Author Wesleyan University Press $35 (257p) ISBN 978-0-8195-5271-6
Rap music often blasts African American rage into mainstream American culture and with its call-and-response choruses and violent, no-holds-barred lyrics, questions societal tradition and authority. These assertions aren't hard to prove. The problem lies in explaining all this without forgetting that most of this music's impact depends on having a good beat and being danceable. Rose, an assistant professor of history and Africana studies at New York University, is generally successful in putting rap in the context of the urban noise, technology and socioeconomics that nurtures it and of the ``slave dances, blues lyrics, Mardi Gras parades, Jamaican patois, toasts and signifying'' that preceded it. Rose addresses sexism, both in the plight of women rappers and in rap lyrics, partially excusing the latter by saying, ``Rap's sexist lyrics are also part of a rampant and viciously normalized sexism that dominates the corporate culture of the music business.'' Supporting her thesis are direct interviews with rappers, personal remembrances and anecdotes, as well as deconstruction of lyrics and videos. Although her analyses are often fascinating, in sentences like ``Rappers are constantly taking dominant discursive fragments and throwing them into relief destabilizing hegemonic discourses and attempting to legitimate counter/hegemonic interpretations,'' Rose becomes unnecessarily obscurantist, forgetting to let the music speak for itself. Photos. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/04/1994
Release date: 04/01/1994
Paperback - 257 pages - 978-0-8195-6275-3
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