In this explosive book, Houston Baker takes stock of the current state of Black Studies in the university and outlines its responsibilities to the newest form of black urban expression—rap. A frank, polemical essay, Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy is an uninhibited defense of Black Studies and an extended commentary on the importance of rap. Written in the midst of the political correctness wars and in the aftermath of the Los Angeles riots, Baker's meditation on the academy and black urban expression has generated much controversy and comment from both ends of the political spectrum.
As Brazil grows in stature as a global power, more and more people are discovering the country’s fascinating culture, especially the striking exuberance and inventiveness of Brazilian popular music. In Brazilian Jive, David Treece uncovers the genius of Brazilian song, both as a sophisticated, articulate art form crafted out of the dialogue between music and language and as a powerfully eloquent expression of the country’s social and political history.
Focusing on the cultural struggles of making music in Brazil, Treece traces the rise of samba through the bossa nova revolution of the late 1950s to the emergence of rap in the 1990s. He describes how Brazilian music grew out of the pain and dispossession of slavery and, inspired by African traditions, how it celebrates new ways of moving freely in time and space. Redolent with the rhythms and tones of the modern, the Brazilian soundscape also expresses the country’s dissonances and contradictions, while the conversation between melody and word often signifies a larger dialogue between its artistic and political cultures. Looking below the surface of Brazilian culture, Brazilian Jive provides fresh insight into the music of this vibrant and colorful nation.
In Buena Vista in the Club, Geoffrey Baker traces the trajectory of the Havana hip hop scene from the late 1980s to the present and analyzes its partial eclipse by reggaetón. While Cuban officials initially rejected rap as “the music of the enemy,” leading figures in the hip hop scene soon convinced certain cultural institutions to accept and then promote rap as part of Cuba’s national culture. Culminating in the creation of the state-run Cuban Rap Agency, this process of “nationalization” drew on the shared ideological roots of hip hop and the Cuban nation and the historical connections between Cubans and African Americans. At the same time, young Havana rappers used hip hop, the music of urban inequality par excellence, to critique the rapid changes occurring in Havana since the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union fell, its subsidy of Cuba ceased, and a tourism-based economy emerged. Baker considers the explosion of reggaetón in the early 2000s as a reflection of the “new materialism” that accompanied the influx of foreign consumer goods and cultural priorities into “sociocapitalist” Havana. Exploring the transnational dimensions of Cuba’s urban music, he examines how foreigners supported and documented Havana’s growing hip hop scene starting in the late 1990s and represented it in print and on film and CD. He argues that the discursive framing of Cuban rap played a crucial part in its success.
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.
In this lively ethnography Ian Condry interprets Japan’s vibrant hip-hop scene, explaining how a music and culture that originated halfway around the world is appropriated and remade in Tokyo clubs and recording studios. Illuminating different aspects of Japanese hip-hop, Condry chronicles how self-described “yellow B-Boys” express their devotion to “black culture,” how they combine the figure of the samurai with American rapping techniques and gangsta imagery, and how underground artists compete with pop icons to define “real” Japanese hip-hop. He discusses how rappers manipulate the Japanese language to achieve rhyme and rhythmic flow and how Japan’s female rappers struggle to find a place in a male-dominated genre. Condry pays particular attention to the messages of emcees, considering how their raps take on subjects including Japan’s education system, its sex industry, teenage bullying victims turned schoolyard murderers, and even America’s handling of the war on terror.
Condry attended more than 120 hip-hop performances in clubs in and around Tokyo, sat in on dozens of studio recording sessions, and interviewed rappers, music company executives, music store owners, and journalists. Situating the voices of Japanese artists in the specific nightclubs where hip-hop is performed—what musicians and fans call the genba (actual site) of the scene—he draws attention to the collaborative, improvisatory character of cultural globalization. He contends that it was the pull of grassroots connections and individual performers rather than the push of big media corporations that initially energized and popularized hip-hop in Japan. Zeebra, DJ Krush, Crazy-A, Rhymester, and a host of other artists created Japanese rap, one performance at a time.
Reality first appeared in the late 1980s—in the sense not of real life but rather of the TV entertainment genre inaugurated by shows such as Cops and America’s Most Wanted; the daytime gabfests of Geraldo, Oprah, and Donahue; and the tabloid news of A Current Affair. In a bracing work of cultural criticism, Eric Harvey argues that reality TV emerged in dialog with another kind of entertainment that served as its foil while borrowing its techniques: gangsta rap. Or, as legendary performers Ice Cube and Ice-T called it, “reality rap.”
Reality rap and reality TV were components of a cultural revolution that redefined popular entertainment as a truth-telling medium. Reality entertainment borrowed journalistic tropes but was undiluted by the caveats and context that journalism demanded. While N.W.A.’s “Fuck tha Police” countered Cops’ vision of Black lives in America, the reality rappers who emerged in that group’s wake, such as Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tupac Shakur, embraced reality’s visceral tabloid sensationalism, using the media's obsession with Black criminality to collapse the distinction between image and truth. Reality TV and reality rap nurtured the world we live in now, where politics and basic facts don’t feel real until they have been translated into mass-mediated entertainment.