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Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement
Beacon Press | 2006-08-15 | ISBN: 0807009865 | 295 pages | PDF | 2 MB

Avoiding the easy definitions and caricatures that tend to celebrate or condemn the “hip hop generation,” Hip Hop Matters focuses on fierce and far-reaching battles being waged in politics, pop culture, and academe to assert control over the movement. At stake, Watkins argues, is the impact hip hop has on the lives of the young people who live and breathe the culture. He presents incisive analysis of the corporate takeover of hip hop and the rampant misogyny that undermines the movement’s progressive claims. Ultimately, we see how hip hop struggles reverberate in the larger world: global media consolidation; racial and demographic flux; generational cleavages; the reinvention of the pop music industry; and the ongoing struggle to enrich the lives of ordinary youth.

“Watkins wisely chooses to focus on what has not been said . . . [and] tells his version of hip-hop’s history in lyrical prose, often mirroring the rhythms and wordplay of the music he’s discussing. This is undoubtedly a book for fans, but it is also an intriguing look at how hip-hop has become part of a universal cultural conversation.” —Publishers Weekly

“Offering a fast-moving and well-researched book, Watkins successfully unearths some of the disturbing and encouraging implications of hip-hop culture.” —Library Journal

“Quite an exposition of all things hip-hop.” —Mike Tribby, Booklist

S. Craig Watkins is associate professor of radio-TV-film, sociology, and African American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Summary: Hip Hop, Indeed, Matters
Rating: 4

When comedian Michael "Kramer" Richards went on his infamous November 2006 `racial tirade'--spewing venomous racist epithets, notably the `n-word,' at two Black hecklers--an explosion of video downloading and heated debate ensued around the world. Within the Black community the `n-word' was once again put under our cultural microscope. Not only did we look to Black comedians and civic leaders like Rev. Jesse Jackson for guidance, we also looked to hip hop and our beloved rappers. Counsel was sought from various members of the hip-hop community, including the deceased where even Tupac's n-bomb-filled lyrics were scrutinized. If hip-hop's elite--the tastemakers and trendsetters known for perpetuating the use of the `n-word' in pop culture--could agree on the fate of the `n-word' the issue would be settled. Perhaps this assumption oversimplifies a complex debate, but it justifiably recognizes hip hop has a voice. Hip hop has power. Hip hop matters.

In his latest critical analysis of hip hop, Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement, author and associate professor S. Craig Watkins further advances this message of hip hop's importance and influence. Far from a dry chronology through the history of hip hop, Hip Hop Matters is a passionate study of hip hop's rise to power and what those within the movement and beyond have done (and in some cases, have not done) with that power. Watkins' well-executed mixture of hip-hop nostalgia and historical facts makes his text poised for recommended reading for both pop culture enthusiasts and hip-hop activists.

In Part One: Pop Culture and the Struggle for Hip Hop, Watkins illustrates how hip hop and its breakout star, rap music, went from underground obscurity in the late 70s to a dominant musical and cultural force by the late 90s. Rap quickly became an economic boon and hip hop was uprooted from the streets to corporate suites. Hip hop gained commercial success, but at what cost?

Part Two: Politics and the Struggle for Hip Hop unearths the more serious social responsibilities of hip hop and the inherent challenges of hip hop as a political movement. The hip hop movement includes people of all ages, races and economic standings--the very things that typically segregate people when it comes to politics. Hip hop does not have one voice, so ultimately, what causes does it speak for and on whose behalf? Hip hop continues to struggle with identity issues, including misogynistic lyrics and soft-core porn imagery that have become so customary of the genre.

Through it all, Watkins remains hopeful of hip hop's future. Hip hop is the music of the youth--influencing how they speak, dress, think and live. Watkins is confident that hip hop matters and will always matter because hip hop culture will continue to inspire youth to change their world.

Summary: Hip-Hop Lovers Must Read!
Rating: 5

This book is a cerebral discussion pertaining to a variety of issues within the world of hip-hop. The author gives the reader thorough insight into the history of hip-hop as well as pertinent information on things that are extremely important to the world of hip-hop and beyond.

Summary: The voice behind hip hop
Rating: 4

While this is a writer from the world of academia, the book does a good job at presenting hip hop as a socio-political movement that has been overshadowed by hype and controversy that did not generate from the core values of the movement. Sort of like judging Christianity by looking at Jim Jones and saying he represented Christian values.....

Summary: Important for Scholars of Hip Hop Culture
Rating: 5

An important discussion of the history and meaning of hip hop music and culture. Inspires academics to "get it right". Read this, watch documentaries "Style Wars" and "RIZE" and I promise you'll be throwing dance parties in your living room and writing operational definitions for "Bling".

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