All about the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can't Save Black America

All about the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can't Save Black America

by John McWhorter
     
 

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The bestselling commentator, hailed for his frank and fearless arguments on race, imparts a scathing look at the hypocrisy of hip-hop—and why its popularity proves that black America must overhaul its politics.One of the most outspoken voices in America’s cultural dialogues, John McWhorter can always be counted on to provide provocative viewpoints steeped… See more details below

Overview

The bestselling commentator, hailed for his frank and fearless arguments on race, imparts a scathing look at the hypocrisy of hip-hop—and why its popularity proves that black America must overhaul its politics.One of the most outspoken voices in America’s cultural dialogues, John McWhorter can always be counted on to provide provocative viewpoints steeped in scholarly savvy. Now he turns his formidable intellect to the topic of hip-hop music and culture, smashing the claims that hip-hop is politically valuable because it delivers the only “real” portrayal of black society.In this measured, impassioned work, McWhorter delves into the rhythms of hip-hop, analyzing its content and celebrating its artistry and craftsmanship. But at the same time he points out that hip-hop is, at its core, simply music, and takes issue with those who celebrate hip-hop as the beginning of a new civil rights program and inflate the lyrics with a kind of radical chic. In a power vacuum, this often offensive and destructive music has become a leading voice of black America, and McWhorter stridently calls for a renewed sense of purpose and pride in black communities.Joining the ranks of Russell Simmons and others who have called for a deeper investigation of hip-hop’s role in black culture, McWhorter’s All About the Beat is a spectacular polemic that takes the debate in a seismically new direction.

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Editorial Reviews

Wall Street Journal
Splendid. . . . McWhorter has a keen eye for the foibles of social scientists.
USA Today
A provocative challenge to conventional wisdom.
Publishers Weekly

In this uneven critique of mainstream and socially "conscious" rap and hip-hop, McWhorter (Losing the Race) pillories the genre for positioning itself as a political—even revolutionary—medium. In the author's analysis, hip-hop is typified by narcissism rather than altruism, a culture of complaint rather than creative solution and a willful blindness to the real problems affecting black communities; McWhorter demonstrates how frequently artists rail against police brutality and how few mention HIV/AIDS, the single biggest killer of African-Americans. The author's admiration for the genre generally keeps his criticisms from sounding shrill, but it cannot compensate for the book's flaws. While McWhorter lambastes rappers for failing to address "real" issues, he doesn't either: like the hip-hop artists he chides, the author romanticizes activism while appearing clueless about the nuts and bolts of grassroots work. Equally troubling are McWhorter's unsubstantiated theories, chief among them his claim that African-Americans are more inclined to judge a statement by how it sounds than what it communicates. More interested in skewering hip-hop than suggesting paths to substantive social change, this book ultimately frustrates more than it illuminates. (June)

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Kirkus Reviews
Bracing, though occasionally loosely argued, charge that the much-lauded political promise of hip-hop is at best a sham, and at worst a dangerous placebo that distracts people from enacting constructive change. From his ivory tower high atop the Manhattan Institute, McWhorter (Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America, 2005, etc.) has long been tossing Molotov cocktails into the country's perennially fraught dialogue on race, mostly in the form of conservative challenges to what he sees as the stifling effect of conventional liberalism. Here, warding off the impression that he's just another black scold trotted out by the right-wing white establishment, McWhorter makes it clear that, while no obsessed fan, he does actually listen to hip-hop, which gives his words the sting of an informed critic. The genre's devotees offer him a wealth of easy targets, from academics convulsing in delight when an African-American musician so much as name-drops W.E.B. Du Bois (a form of condescension the author particularly scorns) to writers hurling bucketfuls of praise over Public Enemy and The Roots for their supposed political awareness. Although McWhorter is usually respectful even of pop-academic blowhards like Michael Eric Dyson, he occasionally lets loose on the ludicrous idea that any music, not just hip-hop, could create a new civil-rights movement by itself: "We are infected with an idea that snapping our necks to black men chanting cynical potshots about the Powers That Be in surly voices over a beat is a form of political engagement." The contention that rappers are complaining about the wrong things enters into trickier territory, mostly because McWhorter doesn't give as muchattention to this end of the argument as he does to his main thesis. It's easy to prove that socially conscious lyrics on a hip-hop album won't do much for the problems of black people; it's a bit more difficult to elucidate what will solve those problems. A sharp pin with which to pop the bloviating balloon of self-important cultural mandarins. Agent: Katinka Matson/Brockman, Inc.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440629655
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/19/2008
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
1
Sales rank:
1,230,302
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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