cover image Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture

Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture

Michael Eric Dyson. Oxford University Press, USA, $27.5 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-19-509898-3

``[P]reacher and public intellectual'' Dyson (Making Malcolm) offers a lucid, mostly stimulating roundup of op-eds, reviews and articles about books, music, people and politics. An ordained Baptist minister, at 35 he has his finger on the pulse of the younger generation, so he can criticize the NAACP for losing touch with the grass roots and criticize gangsta rap for sexism and homophobia-but observe that attacks on it divert attention from more important threats to society as a whole. A few articles seem ephemeral, but most pieces on music-from Sam Cooke to Vanessa Williams to Public Enemy-reveal a fan's enthusiasm filtered through the screen of racial history. Dyson opens and closes the book with personal essays: a reflective letter to his incarcerated brother and an almost mawkish letter to his (third) wife in which he recounts his painful path to maturity in relationships. In Dyson's best essay, on the culture wars, he calls for the nation ``to own up to its rich and creolized practice''; thus he recalls his own sturdy education in Detroit, where wise mentors fed him black culture high and low and fueled his omnivorous intellectual appetite. (Dec.)