This multilayered study of the representation of black masculinity in musical and cultural performance takes aim at the reduction of African American male culture to stereotypes of deviance, misogyny, and excess. Broadening the significance of hip-hop culture by linking it to other expressive forms within popular culture, Miles White examines how these representations have both encouraged the demonization of young black males in the United States and abroad and contributed to the construction of their identities.
From Jim Crow to Jay-Z traces black male representations to chattel slavery and American minstrelsy as early examples of fetishization and commodification of black male subjectivity.
Continuing with diverse discussions including black action films, heavyweight prizefighting, Elvis Presley's performance of blackness, and white rappers such as Vanilla Ice and Eminem, White establishes a sophisticated framework for interpreting and critiquing black masculinity in hip-hop music and culture. Arguing that black music has undeniably shaped American popular culture and that hip-hop tropes have exerted a defining influence on young male aspirations and behavior, White draws a critical link between the body, musical sound, and the construction of identity.