Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America / Edition 1

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From its beginnings in hip hop culture, the dense rhythms and aggressive lyrics of rap music have made it a provocative fixture on the American cultural landscape. In Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America, Tricia Rose, described by the New York Times as a "hip hop theorist," takes a comprehensive look at the lyrics, music, cultures, themes, and styles of this highly rhythmic, rhymed storytelling and grapples with the most salient issues and debates that surround it.

Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and History at New York University, Tricia Rose sorts through rap's multiple voices by exploring its underlying urban cultural politics, particularly the influential New York City rap scene, and discusses rap as a unique musical form in which traditional African-based oral traditions fuse with cutting-edge music technologies. Next she takes up rap's racial politics, its sharp criticisms of the police and the government, and the responses of those institutions. Finally, she explores the complex sexual politics of rap, including questions of misogyny, sexual domination, and female rappers' critiques of men.

But these debates do not overshadow rappers' own words and thoughts. Rose also closely examines the lyrics and videos for songs by artists such as Public Enemy, KRS-One, Salt N' Pepa, MC Lyte, and L. L. Cool J. and draws on candid interviews with Queen Latifah, music producer Eric "Vietnam" Sadler, dancer Crazy Legs, and others to paint the full range of rap's political and aesthetic spectrum. In the end, Rose observes, rap music remains a vibrant force with its own aesthetic, "a noisy and powerful element of contemporary American popular culture which continues to draw a great deal of attention to itself."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Necessary reading for pundits, professors, and politicians, but most of all, for those who love hip-hop's rhymes and reasons." —Michael Dyson, Village Voice Rock 'n' Roll Quarterly

"Exactly the kind of down-and-dirty research linking life and art that most pop culture study lacks . . . Too few journalists (never mind professors) have examined such issues as the impact of insurance costs at arena on the progress of hip hop performance. Rose's greatest strength is something that's still shockingly rare among academics: a firm grounding in reality."—Vibe

"Black Noise is a treasure trove of information on the early days of hip-hop in the South Bronx. Rap fans will marvel at the illustrations of 1979-vintage handbills for Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa's Zulu Nation."—Rolling Stone

"Rose presents in Black Noise a fiercely intelligent analysis of the most misunderstood and misrepresented cultural and artistic practice in America today . . . It has something to teach all students of popular culture; for readers fascinated or confounded by rap, Rose's arguments are pursuasive and eloquent."—San Francisco Review of Books

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rap music often blasts African American rage into mainstream American culture and with its call-and-response choruses and violent, no-holds-barred lyrics, questions societal tradition and authority. These assertions aren't hard to prove. The problem lies in explaining all this without forgetting that most of this music's impact depends on having a good beat and being danceable. Rose, an assistant professor of history and Africana studies at New York University, is generally successful in putting rap in the context of the urban noise, technology and socioeconomics that nurtures it and of the ``slave dances, blues lyrics, Mardi Gras parades, Jamaican patois, toasts and signifying'' that preceded it. Rose addresses sexism, both in the plight of women rappers and in rap lyrics, partially excusing the latter by saying, ``Rap's sexist lyrics are also part of a rampant and viciously normalized sexism that dominates the corporate culture of the music business.'' Supporting her thesis are direct interviews with rappers, personal remembrances and anecdotes, as well as deconstruction of lyrics and videos. Although her analyses are often fascinating, in sentences like ``Rappers are constantly taking dominant discursive fragments and throwing them into relief destabilizing hegemonic discourses and attempting to legitimate counter/hegemonic interpretations,'' Rose becomes unnecessarily obscurantist, forgetting to let the music speak for itself. Photos. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This ethnographic study is the first detailed exploration of rap music within its social, cultural, and artistic contexts. Rose (history/Africana studies, NYU) carefully analyzes each defining element of the genre. For example, her study of the cultural and technological implications of sampling-a pillar of rap-is both impressive and unprecedented. Further, Rose's hermeneutics extend beyond the music itself to such corollary expressions of hiphop style as rap music videos and breakdancing. Rose constructs a solid bridge between hiphop and academe: she explains the former in the language of the latter and does so splendidly. However, even the most powerful words cannot recreate music. Since academicians may be unfamiliar with the works discussed, an accompanying CD or cassette would have been helpful. While Brian Cross's less-rigorous It's Not About a Salary (LJ 2/15/94) remains a better choice for public libraries, Black Noise belongs on the shelves of almost every academic collection.-Bill Piekarski, Southwestern Coll. Lib., Chula Vista, Cal.
Library Journal
Although a decade of stylistic and technological evolution has transpired since 1994, this book remains undeniably influential. Drawing upon her own experience as a black American, Rose cogently relates the complex interrelationships among culture, history, politics, and economics in black America. Essential for all academic and most large public collections. (LJ 5/1/94) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819562753
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 4/24/1994
  • Series: Music Culture
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 257
  • Sales rank: 328,520
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

TRICIA ROSE is a professor of Africana Studies at Brown University and author of numerous articles on black culture, rap music, and contemporary popular culture.

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Table of Contents

Voices from the Margins: Rap Music and Contemporary Black Cultural Production
“All Aboard the Night Train”: Flow, Layering, and Rupture in Postindustrial New York
Soul Sonic Forces: Technology, Orality, and Black Cultural Practice in Rap Music
Prophets of Rage: Rap Music and the Politics of Black Cultural Expression
Bad Sistahs: Black Women Rappers and Sexual Politics in rap Music
Background Sources

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2001


    This book is clearly written and its for anyone who is interested in hip-culture and its inluences up to 1994, but can make all the connections that lead up to its influences today. There is so much informaton in each and every chapter that it'll suck you right in. Lots of info on female rappers also. For all of you hip-hop fans, read it and become more savvy!

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