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Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture

Overview

A former welfare father from the ghetto of Detroit, Michael Eric Dyson is today a critic, scholar, and ordained Baptist minister who has forged a unique role: he is a compelling spokesman for the concerns of the black community, and also a leader who has a genuine rapport with that community, particularly with urban youth. In his essays, lectures, sermons, and books, he has emerged as one of the leading African-American voices of our day. There is a section of wonderful profiles Dyson calls "Testimonials" - ...
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Overview

A former welfare father from the ghetto of Detroit, Michael Eric Dyson is today a critic, scholar, and ordained Baptist minister who has forged a unique role: he is a compelling spokesman for the concerns of the black community, and also a leader who has a genuine rapport with that community, particularly with urban youth. In his essays, lectures, sermons, and books, he has emerged as one of the leading African-American voices of our day. There is a section of wonderful profiles Dyson calls "Testimonials" - studies of black men, from O. J. Simpson to Marion Barry, and from Baptist preacher Gardner Taylor to Michael Jordan and Sam Cooke. In "Obsessed with O. J.," Dyson offers an extremely personal and insightful series of reflections on the case. In "Lessons," Dyson takes up the subjects of politics and racial identity. Newt Gingrich and moral panic, Qubilah Shabazz, Carol Moseley Braun, the NAACP, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X all figure in these insightful and accessible pieces. And "Songs of Celebration" draws from Dyson's writings for the popular press such as Rolling Stone and Vibe, and explores the joys and pitfalls of black expression, from the black vernacular bible to gospel music, R & B, and hip-hop. Dyson concludes with an essay framed as a letter to his wife, which offers a positive counterbalance to the opening address to his brother. The letter serves as a tribute to the redemptive powers of love, the black family, spirit, and change. Arguing that the richness of black culture today can be found in the interstices - between god and gangsta rap - Dyson charts the progress and pain of African Americans over the past decade. As a compendium of his thinking about contemporary culture Between God and Gangsta Rap will find a wide audience among black and white readers.

Arguing that the richness of black culture today can be found in the interstices between God and gangsta' rap, Dyson charts the progress and pain of African Americans over the past decade, and brings together writings on music, religion, politics, and identity to offer a multi-faceted view of black life.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Between God and Gangsta Rap is a morally corrective and knowledgeable shout-out to the hip-hop generation, with terse analysis of the peccadilloes of politicians -- these are the contents of Dyson's latest collection. The collection reveals at least one coherent thematic tendency in its repeated declamation against the ethics, aesthetics, and economics of a black identity politics that stresses "racial purity." Dyson would substitute for such politics a resounding anthem of American multiculturalism. Dyson is most engaging in essays that muse on gospel music, hip-hop culture, and the intricacies and intimacies of his young life in Detroit.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``[P]reacher and public intellectual'' Dyson (Making Malcolm) offers a lucid, mostly stimulating roundup of op-eds, reviews and articles about books, music, people and politics. An ordained Baptist minister, at 35 he has his finger on the pulse of the younger generation, so he can criticize the NAACP for losing touch with the grass roots and criticize gangsta rap for sexism and homophobia-but observe that attacks on it divert attention from more important threats to society as a whole. A few articles seem ephemeral, but most pieces on music-from Sam Cooke to Vanessa Williams to Public Enemy-reveal a fan's enthusiasm filtered through the screen of racial history. Dyson opens and closes the book with personal essays: a reflective letter to his incarcerated brother and an almost mawkish letter to his (third) wife in which he recounts his painful path to maturity in relationships. In Dyson's best essay, on the culture wars, he calls for the nation ``to own up to its rich and creolized practice''; thus he recalls his own sturdy education in Detroit, where wise mentors fed him black culture high and low and fueled his omnivorous intellectual appetite. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Dyson (Making Malcolm, Oxford Univ., 1995), a Baptist minister and professor of communications at the University of North Carolina, has written a complex work on race and identity and what is needed to heal the country. The book comprises a series of essays following three themes: Testimonials, or lives of contemporary black men; Lessons, or the politics of black culture, from the Panthers to the current Congress; Songs of Celebration, which cross musical and cultural lines, from gospel to pop and gangsta rap. The book examines the impact of the O.J. Simpson case on the country, as well as the forces of politics and religion brought to bear on American blacks from the start of the Civil Rights movement to the present. This timely account is recommended for all academic and public libraries.-Kevin Whalen, Union P.L., N.J.
From the Publisher

"Michael Eric Dyson has given us a penetrating, thoughtful book on many of the issues confronting society today: families and raising children, crime and punishment, politics and poverty, racial tensions and the need to keep the lines of communication open. Insightful and challenging, Between God and Gangsta' Rap has an important message for all of us."--Marian Wright Edelman, President, The Children's Defense Fund

"These essays represent Dyson at his best, showing us his special affinity for black popular culture, his perspective as a minister, and his clear powers of analysis. He is the best of the new generation, and everyone interested in black culture--especially young people--will want to own this book."--Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

"Few books have spoken to me as powerfully and embracingly as this one by Michael Eric Dyson. It stirs the emotions, clarifies thought, moves the heart with its intimacies, incites the passions with its love of humanity, and animates the spirit with its breathtaking implicit conception of religion. Reading it was for me an intimate education in values and sensibility. I wish its many revelations of wisdom could reach those who lead our society and who need its compassionate insights and cautious, perceptive judgments."--Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, Soul Mates, and Meditations

"Michael Eric Dyson is one of those rare intellectuals who actually manages to keep in touch with the real world. In Between God and Gangsta' Rap, he demonstrates that he has his finger on the cultural pulse of this sick country of ours. In the wake of a conservative movement that is launching yet another assault on our humanity, we need serious black thinkers and warriors to counteract that madness. This brother is one of them--he's a street fighter in suit and tie."--Nathan McCall, author of Makes Me Wanna Holler

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195115697
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 841,845
  • Product dimensions: 7.88 (w) x 5.19 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Michael Eric Dyson is an ordained Baptist minister, Director of the Institute of African-American Research, and Professor of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of the widely acclaimed Reflecting Black: African-American Cultural Criticism (winner of the 1994 Gustavus Myers Center Award for the Ouststanding Book on Human Rights) and Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X (a New York Times and Philadephia Inquirer "Notable Book of 1994").

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