Cover image for Hip hop matters : politics, pop culture, and the struggle for the soul of a movement
Hip hop matters : politics, pop culture, and the struggle for the soul of a movement
Publication Information:
Boston : Beacon Press, c2005.
Physical Description:
295 p. ; 23 cm.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 782.421649 WAT 1 1

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The author explores the evolution of hip hop and the backlash against it, from Detroit Mayer Kwame Killpatrick, the nation's first hip hop mayor, to the reception of the music on college campuses, where debates over its misogyny thrive.

Author Notes

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

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Beneath the glitz and glut of mainstream hip-hop, there's an underground movement of "conscious rap," political angst and an anticapitalist ethos that would make even Bill Gates throw his hands in the air. That conscious rap is what Watkins, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, champions in this solid book. It's an ambitious attempt to cover a culture that began in the late '70s and is now an almost universal influence on global youth. Watkins wisely chooses to focus on what has not been said-like that it was a 43-year-old woman who produced hip-hop's first hit, "Rapper's Delight," or that hip-hop lit is one of the fastest-growing markets in book publishing. He tells his version of hip-hop's history in lyrical prose, often mirroring the rhythms and wordplay of the music he's discussing. He doesn't assert an overt thesis, but it's clear he believes that the more conscious, political hip-hop (think Common instead of Fifty Cent) is what has the potential to revolutionize youth, and by extension, America. 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. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Watkins considers hip-hop a vital source of creativity and industry for youth, one that has developed a reputation as a spectacular cultural movement committed to defying the cultural and political mainstream while representing the voices and experiences of a generation of marginal youths. He assesses the social and political aspects of the movement and the music, duly noting the irony of how hip-hop's livelihood . . . depends almost entirely on its ability to sell black death and requires its performers to immerse themselves into a world of urban villainy. In service of inquiry, he also surveys the communities, constituencies, and currents that make up the movement ; introduces readers to Kwame Kilpatrick, the self-billed hip-hop mayor of Detroit; and draws extensively on a wide-ranging interview by Minister Louis Farrakhan of rapper Ja Rule that is concerned with Ja's contretemps with rival rapper 50 Cent and with the message their posturing and negativity sends. Quite an exposition of all things hip-hop. --Mike Tribby Copyright 2005 Booklist

Choice Review

An authority on hip-hop culture and contemporary black music in the US, Watkins (Univ. of Texas, Austin) presents a concise, clear history of the hip-hop movement in the US and uses it as a springboard for discussion of contemporary issues of politics, pop culture, and struggle. Exploring hip-hop from its roots to the present and demonstrating the relationship between the music and the issues, the author begins with Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and follows the movement through Afrika Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation to KRS-One, Eminem, and Diddy. Watkins illustrates hip-hop's triumphs and tribulations as seen by a member of its generation and narrated through specific examples set in a context that provides a glimpse of various watersheds in the genre's evolution. The book is well served by a good index and a substantial bibliography. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. D. V. Moskowitz University of South Dakota

Kirkus Review

Hip-hop music and culture is (again) at a crossroads, we're told: it can either redefine its legitimacy or continue to be a pawn in the corporate machine. Watkins (Radio-TV-Film/Sociology/African-American Studies/Univ. of Texas, Austin) considers himself part of the hip-hop generation that grew up with the art form. This represents an important milestone in the society's development, he believes, but his engaging shorthand guide to the issue never quite proves his point. There are any number of hip-hop histories, all going back to the fabled Bronx block parties of the late 1970s and the dueling raps over mixed-up and scratched records that created the genre. Fortunately, Watkins eschews the historical approach, instead favoring the novel technique of skipping about from one element of the genre's growth to the next. For instance, when telling the story of the first hip-hop record, "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugar Hill Gang, he does not let hip-hop's cult of "authenticity" keep him from pointing out that the record was the product of an experienced R&B producer who happened to get lucky. Later subjects range from the rise of clothing label FUBU, the endless feuds among rappers, Public Enemy's decision to distribute their music on the Internet, P. Diddy's "Vote or Die!" campaign and the advent of Eminem. Watkins aims to show that hip-hop is not just a massive moneymaking enterprise, but a vibrant, ever-changing culture that can't be dealt with simplistically. His point is well taken, but, unfortunately, his very dry delivery and static, this-then-that prose style gets in the way of his arguments. It's also no help that by the close, having dealt so much with the fight between pop rap and gangsta rap, those who want the money as opposed to those who don't want anything to do with the major music labels, he fails to present much of an alternative. Electrifying history told in a surprisingly unexciting fashion. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

Watkins (African American studies, Univ. of Texas, Austin) reveals the growing influence of hip-hop on American culture. After a brief description of the birth of commercial hip-hop on Sugarhill Records in 1979, he dives into the gangsta rap of the 1990s, convincingly demonstrating the corporate presence and pervasiveness of rap by 1998, with platinum record sales and clothing lines such as FUBU. He then focuses on the issues that have surfaced during the last decade, devoting chapters to the themes of race and rap, made most obvious by the popularity of white rapper Eminem, the impact of the Internet on the music of hip-hop pioneers like Chuck D. of Public Enemy, and the influence of hip-hop on local and presidential politics exemplified by the activity of Russell Simmons and Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The author ends with a section on the emerging intelligentsia of the genre with the hip-hop literature of Vickie Stringer and the street smarts of KRS-ONE. Offering a fast-moving and well-researched book, Watkins successfully unearths some of the disturbing and encouraging implications of hip-hop culture. Recommended for general readers and more sophisticated fans of cultural history and sociology.-Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Hip Hop Mattersp. 1
Introduction: Back in the Dayp. 9
Part 1 Pop Culture and the Struggle for Hip Hop
Chapter 1 Remixing American Popp. 33
Chapter 2 A Great Year in Hip Hopp. 55
Chapter 3 Fear of a White Planetp. 85
Chapter 4 The Digital Undergroundp. 111
Part 2 Politics and the Struggle for Hip Hop
Chapter 5 Move the Crowdp. 143
Chapter 6 Young Voices in the Hoodp. 163
Chapter 7 "Our Future...Right Here, Right Now!"p. 187
Chapter 8 "We Love Hip Hop, But Does Hip Hop Love Us?"p. 207
Chapter 9 Artificial Intelligence?p. 229
Epilogue: Bigger Than Hip Hopp. 249
Acknowledgmentsp. 257
Notesp. 261
Bibliographyp. 279
Indexp. 283