Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation
Natalie Hopkinson, Natalie Y. Moore, . . Cleis, $14.95 (246pp) ISBN 978-1-57344-257-2
In this series of 11 essays, journalists Hopkinson and Moore probe black male archetypes of the hip-hop generation, but the Howard University grads' superficial application of Jacques Derrida's "deconstruction theory" limits the impact of their effort. ("Tyrone," the everyman moniker in Erykah Badu's 1997 female anthem, is the authors' cultural catchall for these black men.) Written in cheeky, intellectual-yet-down vernacular, the strongest chapters deliver convention-bending twists on familiar types. They introduce Etan Thomas, an erudite basketball player with a taste for politics; hypermasculine showboat Kwame Kilpatrick, not pimping in a rap video but leaning back in Detroit's mayoral mansion; and a gay couple restoring their well-appointed Victorian home while the kids are away at camp. But too often, trendy cultural arguments and the minutiae of each subject's life eclipse deeper analysis. The essay on Kwame Kilpatrick is less about unveling meanings buried in media and public perceptions than evaluating his uneven mayoral record. Essays like "Babydaddy" and "Tyrones in Training" complicate boilerplate images of young, hip-hop–loving black men, but rely exclusively on the views of babymamas and teen girls. Hopkinson and Moore offer snap shots of alternative black masculinities, but don't really break new ground.
Reviewed on: 11/06/2006