Cover image for Where you're at : notes from the frontline of a hip-hop planet
Title:
Where you're at : notes from the frontline of a hip-hop planet
ISBN:
9781594480126
Edition:
1st Riverhead trade paperback ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, 2004.
Physical Description:
viii, 274 p. ; 21 cm.
General Note:
Originally published: U.K. : Bloomsbury Pub., 2003.
Holds:

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Summary

Summary

Spurred by his own deep love of the music and its central role in his life, but troubled by the current state of mainstream hip-hop culture, Patrick Neate sets off to discover if the music and culture that mean so much to him have retained true cultural vitality and significance anywhere in the world. Covering five continents and cities as diverse as New York, Rio, Tokyo, and Johannesburg, Neate discovers hip-hop reinventing itself internationally, locally, and individually. Spirited and idealistic, yet grittily insightful, Where You're Atis a global tour of a small planet, with hip-hop, in all its multifarious forms, as the main character.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

At first glance, one might not expect a British novelist to be a particularly insightful commentator on hip-hop, "the most elemental expression of contemporary America." But starting with a description of his first encounter with a rap record in the mid-1980s, Neate displays a sympathy and sensitivity to the musical genre many American critics would be hard-pressed to match. A trek to examine hip-hop's global influence begins with a visit to New York-and a willing acknowledgment that this city is only one facet of the complex American hip-hop scene. Neate's recognition of his own limitations increases his credibility as he drops in on the subcultures in Japan, South Africa and Brazil to see how fans are "keeping it real." He sees in hip-hop a powerful voice of protest against the status quo and is adamant about the need for its creators to wrest financial control of their music away from multinational media companies. His recommendation that American hip-hop artists start cultivating a deeper global political consciousness may come across as overly didactic, but it's the culmination of a consistent awareness of the ways in which non-Americans are already using the music to describe and define their lives. (Aug.) FYI: Neate won the Whitbread Award in 2002; his latest novel, The London Pigeon Wars, is currently out from FSG. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Guardian Review

If Patrick Neate's theory of hip-hop is correct, then the following is not so much funny coincidence as a matter of course: a day before starting Where You're At , I was trailing through the underwear department of Harrods when I noticed that "motherfucker" was being repeated quite loudly over the sound system. This is surprising, I thought. But none of the ladies appeared to notice, or if they did, to mind. If profanity from New York black rapper Ja Rule cannot turn a fragrant hair in Knightsbridge, who could argue when Neate writes: "Worldwide, the gap between rich and poor, powerful and powerless . . . is widening by the day, and hip-hop is one of the few cultural forms that successfully bridges that gap on a global stage." The trickier question is whether this makes hip-hop a vital, equalising force for good, or the audio equivalent of a Big Mac. Neate's interesting idea is that the answer is both. It is an ambitious thesis, and an ambitious book. Accompanied by his girlfriend, Neate embarks on a hip-hop pilgrimage, from New York to Tokyo, Cape Town to Rio, exploring the idea that hip-hop has changed not only his world, but the world itself, and can empower all those it reaches. The reader is led through a busy, sometimes bewildering musical cast, from US record label anoraks who think hip- hop's finished, to Japanese fans forming an orderly queue for the bar in a Tokyo club called Harlem, to a South African radio station and the delightfully named Gorgeous, who wants to tell the world: "I'm gonna be the first African rap superstar!" To confuse continents nicely, on cue Gorgeous adds, "Y'all, for real!" The problem Neate encounters is this: how does he square hip- hop's global colonisation with his idea that aspiring rappers in the favelas of Rio, say, are not just lumpen consumers of yet another corporate American brand, but masters of an authentic expression they make their own - who could, potentially, harness hip-hop's formidable force for their own protest and struggle. Those Neate meets can be maddeningly bad at suggesting answers, too often repeating back to him only the stock hip-hop cliches they've learnt from their heroes on MTV. But, undeterred, he pursues the possibilities of "glocalisation", the adaptation of worldwide products to indigenous needs, and finds encouraging evidence to support it. At other times he argues that the true point - and the genius - of hip-hop is that it can mean whatever anyone wants. In which case, the same cliche can, on separate continents, mean quite different things - both equally relevant and resonant. This is not an easy argument. But nor is it easy to sustain a coherent thesis, or even narrative, across such varying geographic terrain. A few years ago I wrote a book whose journey also led from the States to Asia to South Africa, charting a different musical trail. I applaud the dexterity of Neate's juggling act, which keeps all points on the map in the picture. And the hazardous balance which good travel writing must strike between self and subject is gracefully judged by the author, who resists what might have been an obvious temptation - to make himself, a white, thirtysomething, middle-class, literary, passionate hip-hop head, the proof of his theory. Neate acknowledges the obvious gulf between his roots and those of hip-hop, but doesn't allow it to get in the way of the story he is trying to tell. And though a gulf, it is not a credibility gap; his authority as a chronicler is never in doubt. This book won't convert the non-enthusiast into a fan. I don't think it really persuaded me that hip-hop's global ubiquity is compatible with survival as an organic voice of urban alienation. But Where You're At offers a spirited challenge to the lazy assumption that its superstars' bank statements are hip-hop's death certificate. And I hope it will be read as a dignified retort to the critics who complained of his earlier novel, Twelve Bar Blues , that it used black street language and, er, he wasn't black. Like, was he pretending to be black or something? I don't think he was. Not unless Harrods is pretending to be a Bronx shopping mall. Decca Aitkenhead's The Promised Land: Travels in Search of the Perfect E is published by Fourth Estate. To order Where You're At for pounds 9.99 with free p&p call Guardian book service on 0870 066 7979. Caption: article-neate.1 It is an ambitious thesis, and an ambitious book. Accompanied by his girlfriend, [Patrick Neate] embarks on a hip-hop pilgrimage, from New York to Tokyo, Cape Town to Rio, exploring the idea that hip-hop has changed not only his world, but the world itself, and can empower all those it reaches. The reader is led through a busy, sometimes bewildering musical cast, from US record label anoraks who think hip- hop's finished, to Japanese fans forming an orderly queue for the bar in a Tokyo club called Harlem, to a South African radio station and the delightfully named Gorgeous, who wants to tell the world: "I'm gonna be the first African rap superstar!" To confuse continents nicely, on cue Gorgeous adds, "Y'all, for real!" The problem Neate encounters is this: how does he square hip- hop's global colonisation with his idea that aspiring rappers in the favelas of Rio, say, are not just lumpen consumers of yet another corporate American brand, but masters of an authentic expression they make their own - who could, potentially, harness hip-hop's formidable force for their own protest and struggle. Those Neate meets can be maddeningly bad at suggesting answers, too often repeating back to him only the stock hip-hop cliches they've learnt from their heroes on MTV. - Decca Aitkenhead.


Booklist Review

Taking its title from an old Eric B and Rakim track called I Know You Got Soul, Neate's book is not so much an analysis of worldwide hip-hop as it is hip-hop's story of how it conquered the world and nobody noticed. Writing like an academic b-boy, Neate takes us on a journey: he visits one of his favorite independent record labels in New York; goes clubbing in Tokyo, where hip-hop may have more to do with style than substance ; and also drops in on the local scene in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Rio. From the violence of South Africa to the consumerist lunacy of Japan, Neate explores how the music created a different sort of globalism--that is, a process through which black America is assimilated by different cultures on many different continents. Neate, the author of the Whitbread-winning novel Twelve-Bar Blues (2002), is a compelling storyteller, and although he comes at his subject here as a fan, readers unfamiliar with the genre won't feel left out. A persuasive examination of the worldwide hip-hop phenomenon. --Carlos Orellana Copyright 2004 Booklist


Library Journal Review

British novelist Neate (The London Pigeon Wars) embarks on a series of planet-banding, gonzo-esque urban investigations to answer that truly Nietzschean question: is hip-hop dead? First stop: New York City, hip-hop's birthplace but now a dead zone owing to the presence of media conglomerates like Viacom. On to Tokyo, whose teenagers gleefully consume every ounce of commercial American hip-hop culture they are fed, then Rio de Janeiro, where the favelas (shantytowns) foster rock-infused rap that protests the government. In investigating these and other cultures, Neate reveals that each is so much simpler than ours in certain ways but eternally more sophisticated in others. This is education in the best sense, complete with humor and footnotes; Neate has the air of Michael Palin at his globe-trotting best. Only one complaint: the lack of an accompanying audio CD. Highly recommended for most academic, public, community center, correctional institution, and large church libraries; this makes a fine companion to the more scholarly Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA. [See "The Rap on Hip-Hop," p. 47.]-Bill Piekarski, Lackawanna, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.