Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur

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Overview


With a new preface by the author. Ten years after his murder, Tupac Shakur is even more loved, contested, and celebrated than he was in life. His posthumously released albums, poetry, and motion pictures have catapulted him into the upper echelon of American cultural icons. In Holler If You Hear Me, “hip-hop intellectual” Michael Eric Dyson, acclaimed author of the bestselling Is Bill Cosby Right?, offers a wholly original way of looking at Tupac that will thrill those who already love the artist and enlighten ...
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Holler If You Hear Me (2006)

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Overview


With a new preface by the author. Ten years after his murder, Tupac Shakur is even more loved, contested, and celebrated than he was in life. His posthumously released albums, poetry, and motion pictures have catapulted him into the upper echelon of American cultural icons. In Holler If You Hear Me, “hip-hop intellectual” Michael Eric Dyson, acclaimed author of the bestselling Is Bill Cosby Right?, offers a wholly original way of looking at Tupac that will thrill those who already love the artist and enlighten those who want to understand him.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In this bound-to-be-controversial book, black scholar Michael Eric Dyson contends that the civil rights movement and the hip-hop generation have more in common than meets the ear. To prove his point, he traces the short (1971-1996), heaven-and-hell life of rapper Tupac Shakur. The son of radical activist parents, Shakur spent his last eight years battling critics, prosecutors, and bullet wounds. (After at least one other murder attempt, he died in a torrent of gunfire in September of 1996.) Though castigated as a shameless promoter of thug life, Tupac appealed to a large and surprisingly diverse audience. Dyson tells us why they listened and why this dead rapper still matters.
Publishers Weekly
A poor, urban, high school dropout and book-devouring autodidact who'd quote Shakespeare in conversation, Shakur would also sing along to Sarah McLachlan. Dyson (I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr.), a Baptist minister, reveals the complexity of Shakur and shows why even five years after his death his records, poetry and films continue to sell. "He was not hip-hop's most gifted emcee. Still, Shakur may be the most influential and compelling rapper of them all," writes Dyson. "He was more than the sum of his artistic parts." Complementing Dyson's articulate perspectives on the short life and extraordinary impact of the icon are his emotive interviews with writer Toni Morrison, actress Jada Pinkett Smith (Shakur proposed to her, but was turned down), rapper Mos Def and more than a dozen others. Most striking are the conversations about and with Shakur's beloved mother, a former Black Panther and ex-crack addict. Dyson uses themes in Shakur's raps to examine the larger ills of hip-hop culture such as misogyny and the new hostility between youths and elders without neglecting the rapper's positive acts and intentions. Shakur wanted to "combat the anti-intellectualism of hip-hop," Dyson persuasively writes. (Sept.) Forecast: This book will sell, for Shakur has a huge fan base that has only grown since his death. But more than a music bio, the book will draw the attention of socially conscious readers who are interested in how hip-hop affects society. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
Using hundreds of his own candid interviews and drawing on several treatises of black culture, Dyson tries to form a comprehensive picture of the late, arguably great, rapper Tupac Shakur. Dyson, who also has written about Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., discusses how Shakur's troubled relationship with his mother, a former Black Panther; his voracious reading habits despite his high school dropout status; and his longing to "keep it real" with his music all combined to turn him into this generation's "black Elvis." Older teenage fans of Shakur will find much to like in this lovingly crafted biography and hip hop social commentary. Of particular interest are Dyson's inclusion of some of the titles Tupac kept in his overflowing bookcase and several teenage dating mishaps. Younger fans, however, might get bogged down in Dyson's many tangential and occasionally tedious in-depth analyses of certain aspects of black culture, such as his prolonged discussion of the Black Panther movement, the origins and arguments that surround the notorious N-word, and the misogynistic messages that pervade rap music. Nevertheless those rap devotees who make it through Dyson's lengthy discourses no doubt will be rewarded with a fuller picture of the slain rapper. Libraries with large young adult sections or special African American history and culture collections will want to purchase this book. Index. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P S A/YA (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2001, Basic Books/Perseus, 240p,
— Jennifer Hubert
Library Journal
Ordained Baptist minister and DePaul University professor Dyson (Between God and Gangsta Rap, LJ 1/96) here analyzes the life of rapper/actor Tupac Amaru Shakur (1971-96) as a microcosm of black American life and culture. Placing gangsta rap in social and historical context, he thoroughly and thoughtfully considers its key elements as evidenced by Shakur's music and videos, exploring issues like machismo, the simultaneous contempt for and adoration of black women, and black-on-black violence. (Shakur himself was shot to death in a still-unsolved murder.) Dyson discusses these sensitive, controversial subjects with such noted cultural analysts as Khephra Burns and Stanley Crouch, creditably balancing the opinions of rap's supporters, rap's critics, and rappers themselves. Though marred by a few minor errors, this well-written, intelligent, and energetically investigative work will make a valuable addition to academic libraries. The extremely high level of writing renders it unsuitable for fan-oriented biography collections, for which Tupac Amaru Shakur, 1971-1996 (Three Rivers, 1998) is more appropriate. Bill Piekarski, formerly with Villa Maria Coll. of Buffalo, Cheektowaga, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Arguing that the late rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur "is perhaps the representative figure of his generation," Dyson (De Paul U.) analyzes Tupac's life and work and connects them to both the world of hip-hop and the wider world of black youth in America. Drawing on interviews with musicians, relatives, friends, politicians, activists, writers, and others who either knew or studied Tupac, Dyson looks at his early life as the son of a Black Panther revolutionary, his later entrance into the "thug life," his spiritual concerns in his music, his treatment of women, and his politics, all the while drawing connections to wider concerns. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Noted African-American scholar and Baptist minister Dyson (I May Not Get There With You, 2000, etc.), in keeping with the current reappraisal of hip-hop and rap, offers provocative insights into the life and milieu of the artist he calls a "ghetto saint." In a lengthy preface, Dyson details how his interview with rapper Big Tray Dee (the artist broke down in tears after talking about Tupac) became for him a metaphor of the "agony many have over the loss of Tupac's gift . . . that nevertheless continues to speak to millions around the globe." In four sections ("Childhood Chains," "Adolescent Aspiration," "Portraits of an Artist," and "Bodies and Beliefs"), Dyson attempts to understand, with the help of those who knew Tupac and also of critics like Stanley Crouch, the man who symbolized the best and worst of rap. To start, Dyson explores Tupac's troubled childhood: his mother was a former Black Panther as well as crack addict, which meant that, though he absorbed her revolutionary ideals, he saw the Black Panthers as a practical attempt to "answer racial oppression."her drug habit made for an impoverished and unstable childhood. In the second section he assesses Tupac's role as an artist, who not only read widely (Sartre, Walker, and Orwell) but, understanding the reality of inner-city life-its thug culture, its hopelessness-wrote stirring raps that changed people's' lives. The last section analyzes the crude sexist language of many raps, Tupac's own conflicted attitude toward women, and his spiritual beliefs-"an ongoing argument" with God as the performer both rejected and embraced suffering. Though critical of his treatment of women and of his drug-taking, Dyson notes approvinglyhow in death Tupac has become a posthumous icon as well as an urban legend, serving "the psychic and cultural needs of poor black youth." Perceptive, informative, and certainly timely, albeit a tad hagiographic.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465017287
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 9/28/2006
  • Edition description: Fifth Anniversary Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 150,545
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author


Michael Eric Dyson, named by Ebony as one of the hundred most influential black Americans, is the author of sixteen books, including Holler if You Hear Me, Is Bill Cosby Right? and I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King Jr. He is currently University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


"I Always
Wanted
to Make a
Book Out
of My Life"

In Search of Tupac


This past March I made my way to the warehouse district of Los Angeles on a warm Sunday afternoon in hopes of talking to Snoop Dogg about his late friend and sometime collaborator Tupac Shakur. The famed rapper and his cohorts Warren G and Nate Dogg were set to perform at a small, private promotional concert arranged by the recreational footwear company for whom he endorses shoes. I climbed the stairs of the converted warehouse that serves as the company's headquarters and found the third-floor makeshift "green room" where the artists and media would gather before the show. I mingled with the other writers and made small talk with the few celebrities and artists who streamed through, awaiting Snoop's arrival. I caught a few minutes with Big Boy, the L.A. radio personality who spent time with Tupac on the road when Big Boy was a bodyguard for the West Coast hip-hop group The Pharcyde.

    "You know, what I liked about the dude," Big Boy told me as we huddled in a corner as an intimate crowd of over fifty people milled about the room. "He loved everyone, but he always knew that he was a strong black man. And he wasn't afraid to say a lot of stuff that other people wouldn't say. Others would say, `I can't say that.' Not Pac. If I want to get everybody's attention, I can't just sit here and say,`Hey....'"

    Without warning, Big Boy finished his sentence by cupping his hands around his mouth and screaming at the top of his lungs, startling me and the other folk in the room.

    "You've got to say, `HEY!'"

    After I recovered from his unanticipated sonic blast, my brow furrowed and my eyes slightly bucked, he continued, laughing at my response and the way the crowd momentarily froze.

    "Sometimes you've got to scream. You've got to snatch their attention. And that's why his music lives on, that's why people care—because he made such an impact. It wasn't that Pac became a star after he passed. Pac was a star from my first handshake with him; he was a star from the get-go. He always commanded attention."

    Our impromptu session over, I scanned the room for other folk that might have known the rapper. I chanced upon Ray J, a star, with his sister Brandy, of the television series Moesha and a recording artist as well.

    "I just recorded a new song with Tupac," the young artist told me.

    Uh-oh, I thought to myself. Although he's talented, this is obviously a young brother who believes that Tupac is still alive. But then I remembered that Tupac's posthumous recordings are already legendary and that many artists have gone into the studio to supply music and vocals for the hundreds of tracks he laid down. I'm relieved.

    "It's called `Unborn Child,' and it's coming out on the second release of his double CD. Nobody has heard it before."

     Ray J was excited about recording with Tupac. I remembered as I spoke to him that the new technologies ensure that very few living artists even record together in the same place at the same time. So in a way the method of recording was nothing new. But his enthused expression made it apparent that the opportunity to partner with Tupac was still thrilling.

    "Tupac is one of the greatest poets out there right now," Ray J told me. I took note of his present tense, since Tupac's continually unfolding artistry, in books, in movies, and in compact discs, makes it difficult to speak of him in the past.

    "The brother just went into the studio and did songs that a lot of people can relate to and learn from before he went out. Like he said, he's just a thug who has a lot of money. But on the other hand, he's a thug that is giving positive messages to kids so they can be like him."

    Besides noting the persistent present tense in his speech, which was slightly jarring—done without irony and fully passionate to boot—I was curious about how a thug, even a poetic one, came off as positive to a young man noted for his clean lyrics and wholesome demeanor. So I asked him.

    "He taught us that we can make a living for ourselves and become rich and become entrepreneurs in the game."

    His press person whisked him away to his next appointment, and I was left to ponder just how many young people like Ray J were affected by Tupac's message and music, how many generations would continue to admire him and keep his memory alive. Just then I spotted the ferociously gifted actor Larenz Tate, known for his agile, adept, and brooding performances in the Hughes brothers' films Menace II Society and Dead Presidents. But it was clear that he was, as the hip-hop phrase states it, "on the down-low," very low-key and unassuming and hence unnoticeable, or at least he hoped. After we exchanged pleasantries and mutual admiration, he led me out of the room and down the hallway for maximum privacy—and to relieve other scribes of the hope of pressing him for his thoughts. He was studied, altogether genial and affable, and quietly reflective.

    "For most of his core fans and people who knew him, he was a prophet," Tate calmly expounded in a near whisper. "It's really weird how a person can predict things the way he did. When he passed away, everything he had talked about before he died actually happened."

    Tate gets a bit of a spark with his next comment, his intense eyes brightening as he states a parallel that's been made time and again but whose repetition is no hindrance to the truth it means to convey.

    "I think he is the hip-hop version of Elvis Presley," Tate declared. "People are claiming Tupac sightings everywhere." I couldn't help but think to myself, as he spoke of Tupac and Elvis, that it's about time. White folk are always spotting Elvis or JFK or Marilyn Monroe, which is a great thing if your icons and heroes were only apparently gone but in truth were hanging out on a deserted island, living beyond their legend in the solitude of old age. I've asked myself through the years why nobody has ever spotted, say, Sam Cooke or Otis Redding or Billie Holiday or even Donny Hathaway, cooling out in the shade of a palm tree, content that their tragic, storied pasts are a world away. Black mythologies and legends are hard to create, even harder to sustain.

    "He has definitely etched a mark in hip-hop culture." Tate's words brought me back from my momentary reverie. "But he was also able to transcend the hip-hop culture into the pop world, to film and television and all kinds of media. For him to still be just as big now as he was when he was alive is amazing." Since Tate is such a talented thespian, I asked him about Tupac's cinematic aura.

    "Your goal as a performer is to give something that's the truth or something that is real. In the context of real-life stories—and he was usually in films that reflected real street life—he was able to draw from his experience with the streets." The notion of truth, of authenticity, of the real, is a recurring theme in the narratives that swirl around Tupac and that he spun for himself. "Keeping it real," is the mantra that Tupac lived to its devastating, perhaps even lethal, limits. Tate reflected on his brief encounters with Tupac, the promise they held, and the promise they left unfulfilled.

    "I didn't spend as much time with Tupac as I wish I would have," Tate lamented. "A lot of people who knew Tupac and who knew me said it would be great if we really sat down and had a meeting of the minds, because he needed to hear more positive things. Unfortunately, that didn't happen." Unfortunate indeed, since too often the love and inspiration black men need to stay alive is only a brother away. The thought that Tate might have made a real difference in Tupac's life is a missed opportunity that bathes us in a moment of silent musing. We break by giving each other a black male hug—right hands entwined in a friendship clasp as our right arms clench and draw us forward to better grasp each other on the back with our left arms. Tupac is the bridge that brought us this close, but we don't need to acknowledge it with anything more than an implicit recognition we glimpse in each other's eyes.

    Just as we parted, I heard the long-awaited caravan of buses pulling up in front of the warehouse. They were only a couple of hours late, not bad in CP time—no, not colored people's time but chillin' posse's time. Since Snoop took his name from the canine, I suppose it was only right that we had all aged in dog years awaiting his arrival. As I emerged into the sunlight from the building's cavernous spaces, I was greeted by a gaggle of camera crews and reporters seeking to get a piece of Snoop as he made his way from the bus to the private room reserved for him—and it wasn't the green room in which many of us had waited. The shoe company executives were there, of course, as well as a slew of handlers and other personnel intent on escorting Snoop to his temporary digs. I grew more uncomfortable by the minute. I knew this was no way to get a serious interview with Snoop, even though I'd tried to reach him through more traditional—and less dicey—channels. But when all else failed, I embraced serendipity when a behind-the-scenes executive working with the concert recognized me in the hotel from television and my books and offered me a backstage and green-room pass when I told him about my desire to speak to Snoop for my book on Tupac. Hugging corners and waiting on celebrity entertainers while beating back crowds was not my métier. I simply wanted to grab some time with a man I thought would be helpful to my cause.

    Moreover, I had done enough reading and writing about hip-hop, enough attending concerts and shows and club promotions to know that nothing offends the machismo of the rapper more than male groupies. There is a distinct genre of the dis in hip-hop that pours venom and disdain on the heads of guys who outwardly display their love of hip-hop or its stars by showing up backstage to seek an autograph or give praise. In the misogynist lingo of the culture, that was the job of the "ho," or the "bitch," and I wasn't about to subject myself to the hateful stare or acerbic rebuff of youth no older than the students I teach at the university. That is, not until I realized that I would have little time to get to Snoop if I waited for the crush around him to collapse upstairs as he entered his secluded domain. So there I was, in the line of reporters and hangers-on who were granted fleeting access by the heavy security to the area where the bus had lodged to deposit the rap stars. I managed to perch right at the bus's door as it opened and a cloud of smoke greeted the small clutch of onlookers. I recognized the face of Warren G, like Snoop a southern-cadenced rapper whose melodies were often enhanced by the dulcet tones of gangsta crooner and preacher's kid Nate Dogg. I figured I had better press my case immediately, since the competition was almost as thick as the weed smoke that filled the air around us.

    "Brother Warren G, I'm writing a book on Tupac, and I'd love to get your opinion about him." I felt silly in saying it so quickly, so publicly, and, yes, so desperately. My pride was aching something awful, and my resentment at having to go this route was sweeping fast. I suppose I was the hip-hop equivalent of the anxious white liberal—I didn't mind giving all kinds of support to the culture, but when it came time to put my body and ego on the line, well, that was another matter. Plus, my self-aware status was rubbing against the unfolding drama: "I am a figure, an intellectual, a person who writes books and appears on television and has a following of people who think I'm important. This is no place for me to be, no way for me to behave. I should just leave." But since I'd come this far, I figured it might not hurt to stay a little longer. That's when Warren G opened his mouth.

    "Damn, you gon' hit me right here, huh?" he said in amusement, gently laughing and ambushed by a tape-recorder-wielding, geriatric (by hip-hop standards) scribe wanting to know about a fallen comrade. But he was a good sport, a far better one, I was soon to find out, than his speechifying peers.

    "Well, I've got to be ready, man," I shot back.

    "What do you want to know?" he asked.

    "I want to know why, five years after his death, Tupac is still a significant figure."

    Warren leaned back on the stairs and took hold of the door handles to steady himself as he spoke.

    "He laid down a real message that you can feel from the heart—you know what I'm saying?" he said. "I did a lot of work with him, but we never kicked it major on the personal side, but we kicked it enough to where we had major love for each other. When he did `Definition of a Thug,' that was one of the times when I was going through some stuff, and he was going through some stuff, so we chatted at each other and really got an understanding about each other." When I asked him to tell me something about Tupac that the world didn't know, he spoke of his work ethic.

    "In the studio he was amazing," Warren G said. "He handled his business. Once you shook hands and you talked for a minute, then he would go and he would grab that pad. Damn. Doing his stuff. And that's when it all came together."

    I thanked Warren G as he stepped out of the bus and slowly made his way to the warehouse. He was replaced in the doorway by Nate Dogg, the smooth-voiced crooner, gangsta rap's Frank Sinatra, who has made guest appearances on countless rap recordings. When I asked Nate about Tupac, he was more withdrawn and tight, insular in a self-protective fashion. It was obvious that I had struck a nerve, and he gently brushed me off by telling me he'd speak to me upstairs. "Let me speak to my people first, then I'll talk to you." But I knew the chances were slim to none.

    By the time Snoop emerged from the bus, black sunglasses on, hair plaited in two big braids that drooped to either side of his face, I knew it would be next to impossible to reach him. So I thought I would call it a day, when I spotted Big Tray Dee, the Eastsidaz rapper who had also appeared with Tupac on the soundtrack for Gridlock'd, a film directed by Vondie Curtis Hall. I decided to head upstairs and to mill around in the kitchen where food had been prepared for the artists and their guests. I sat at the table where Big Tray Dee had found a place. His beautiful little daughter sat next to him, her braided and barretted hair a stylish complement to the Gerri-curls that peeked out from Big Tray Dee's cap, a true West Coast player with a 1980s vibe. It was immediately apparent that Big Tray Dee had a warm spirit and that the hard reputation of the gangsta rapper found dramatic relief in the care he showed for his precious child. I asked Big Tray Dee about Tupac, and between licking from his fingers the tasty barbecue sauce that splashed the ribs he consumed, he opened his heart.

    "I knew he was a workaholic," he said, echoing Warren G's observation. "He would write three or four songs a day. If he was really into it, and his boys was ready, he might do six or seven songs in one day. He was phenomenal to watch." After he discussed Tupac's style, his method of working up a song, the themes of his work, and the response it evoked in Big Tray Dee, the rapper touched on Tupac's legacy.

    "Everybody knows he was taken from us too soon," Big Tray Dee said. "He didn't have a chance to reach his full potential, like Donald Trump or Howard Hughes or Michael Jackson, somebody who is going to live out their years to see all the fame. He's not going to enjoy seeing how the music he made is going to be remembered and the statues of him that will be made. Do you know what I'm saying? People feel for him; he was a great person. We feel his loss."

    I was moved as this freckle-faced soldier, whose ghetto war scars were invisible but palpable, recalled in touching terms the moments of creativity and brotherhood that he shared with Tupac. But what happened next was even more remarkable; it was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. As Big Tray Dee finished his comments and I thanked him for his time, he began to cry. Silently, without sobs, but steadily, for twenty minutes. The stream of tears that creased his cheeks reddened his eyes. His daughter held onto her father's right arm tightly, glowering at me as if I had harmed her daddy. I offered him several napkins, and he poured his wordless anguish into them without fear of hurting his reputation or losing his manhood. When I saw that he had finished, I thanked him and made my way out. But I will never forget his crying image as a powerful metaphor for the agony many have over the loss of Tupac's unspeakable gift—a gift that nevertheless continues to speak to millions around the globe.

    Although I didn't come away that day with what I had gone for—an interview with Snoop Dogg—I got so much more. I gained a richer appreciation for the complexity of Tupac's life, for the contending identities that defined him, for the competing passions that claimed his attention, and for the contradictory forces that shaped his art and career. Tupac is perhaps the representative figure of his generation. In his haunting voice can be heard the buoyant hopefulness and the desperate hopelessness that mark the outer perimeters of the hip-hop culture he eagerly embraced, as well as the lives of the millions of youth who admired and adored him. But as his legend grows, Tupac recedes further from historical view and is trapped in the ruthless play of images that outline his myth in the culture. All the themes that surfaced in the conversations I had when I went to the warehouse are important: his strong black masculinity, his willingness to speak up, his thirst for attention, his powerful poetry, his thug image, his entrepreneurial exploits, his prophetic stances, his role as a pop icon, his search for the authentic black experience, his heartfelt messages to the urban poor, his incredible work ethic, his unfulfilled potential, his ascension to Elvis-like status, and the grief that was provoked by his premature death. These themes, and many others, are the ones I explore in this book.

    In the first part of the book, "Childhood Chains, Adolescent Aspirations," I explore Tupac's childhood experiences and adolescent influences. His mother, Afeni, looms large in Tupacian lore; she was elevated in his beautiful "Dear Mama" but subject to public criticism by her son for her drug addiction and domestic instability before its release. Like her son, Afeni Shakur is a remarkable human being. As a black revolutionary, she fought for black liberation. As a mother, she raised two children without help from their fathers. And as a woman who descended into addiction, she risked her home to feed her habit. I explore the dual legacy Afeni gave to Tupac, as black revolutionary and as an addicted mother. I first tackle the effect Afeni's addiction had on Tupac, how it deprived him of a stable home in his adolescence, how it shaped his view of himself as a maturing teen, and how his art reflected the existential agonies he encountered as a result of her troubles.

    I also probe Tupac's postrevolutionary childhood, seeking to discover how a child who has been reared to combat white supremacy fares in a world where such lessons must be adapted because the times have changed. I look at the themes that Tupac learned as a second-generation Black Panther, and how he both absorbed and resisted the messages he received. Since so much of his appeal rested on the divide in his mind and soul between his revolutionary pedigree and his thug persona, this is a crucial dimension of Tupac's background. I am also interested in the intellectual influences that shaped the growing boy and budding rapper. Tupac was a remarkably bright and gifted child. His acting gifts were encouraged by his participation in an acting ensemble in Harlem and, later, at Baltimore's School for Performing Arts. He was as well a voracious reader who had an insatiable intellectual appetite for an impressive range of books. Although he dropped out of high school, he continued to read a huge amount of literature until the day he died. I examine Tupac's views of school and his conceptions of learning, while also tracking down the kinds of books he cherished.

    In the second part, "Portraits of an Artist," I take up Tupac's artistic vocation, since his first and lasting fame derives from his rap career. He was by no measure the greatest rapper of all time, but he is perhaps the genre's most influential star. I explore Tupac's role in rap, especially his lightning-rod status as rap's most renowned and controversial artist. Although his exploits away from the studio garnered huge headlines, Tupac's powerful, prophetic—and too often, self-destructive—work is the final basis of how we can judge his artistic achievements. But his preoccupation with being a "real nigga" looms over nearly everything he did. The question of black authenticity haunts the culture; within hip-hop it is especially vicious, with artists often adopting a stance as a thug or gangsta to prove their bona fides and their ability to represent the street. Perhaps more than any other rapper, Tupac tried to live the life he rapped about, which had spectacular results in the studio but disastrous results in the world. Tupac was in constant trouble with the law and in relentless conflict with peers, pretenders, and rivals, conflicts that sometimes spilled over into the recording studio. The infamous East Coast-West Coast beef owes its origins to Tupac's ingenious fury and outsized agonistic rantings.

    In the third part of the book, "Bodies and Beliefs," I look at how Tupac dealt with huge themes in his art—such as gender, death, religion, suffering, compassion—and the status of the black body in his craft and career. I tackle hip-hop's especially harsh and misogynistic beliefs, as well as Tupac's own complex gender views—particularly in light of the sexual abuse for which he was convicted, though few believe he was guilty—through the prism of what I term femiphobia, the cruel attack on women that grows in the ghetto and beyond. I explore how Tupac's relationship to his mother affected his views and how his early experiences with girls left an imprint on his gender philosophy. I look at the influence of cultural cues and social history on how females are viewed not only in the ghetto but also in the larger culture. I try to grasp hold of Tupac's religious views and spiritual beliefs as they developed over his youth and his young adulthood. Tupac had strong views on God, suffering, and compassion, which I probe. He seemed to recklessly embrace his own death, even as he meditated on the nature of death extensively in his work, a subject I briefly consider. Finally, I explore the ways that Tupac viewed his body as a text, as the ink of the tattoo artist bled all over his torso. I examine as well how Tupac viewed his own body, not only as a work of art but as an object of scorn and as a vehicle for addictive pleasures and, in the end, as a temple of contagiously gloomy self-destruction.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from HOLLER IF YOU HEAR ME by Michael Eric Dyson. Copyright © 2001 by Michael Eric Dyson. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


THE WAR AGAINST THE POOR
THE UNDERCLASS AND ANTIPOVERTY POLICY


By HERBERT J. GANS

BasicBooks

Copyright © 1995 Herbert J. Gans. All rights reserved.
TAILER

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface: "I Always Wanted 1
to Make a Book Out of My Life" In Search of Tupac
CHILDHOOD CHAINS, ADOLESCENT ASPIRATIONS
1 "Dear Mama" Motherhood and a Hood's Mother 21
2 "The Son of a Panther" A Postrevolutionary
Childhood 47
3 "No Malcolm X in My History Text" 69
School, Learning, and Tupac's Books
PORTRAITS OF AN ARTIST
4 "Give Me a Paper and a Pen" Tupac's Place
in Hip-Hop 105
5 "For All the Real Niggas Out There"
Authenticity Blues 141
BODIES AND BELIEFS
6 "Do We Hate Our Women?" Female Per Versions 175
7 "But Do the Lord Care?" 201
God, Suffering, Compassion, and Death in the Ghetto
8 "I Got Your Name Tatted on My Arm" 231
Reading the Black Body
Epilogue: "How Long Will They Mourn Me?" 247
Posthumous Presences of a Ghetto Saint
Notes 269
Bibliography 272
Index 286
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 29, 2010

    Awesome book!

    This book is about the search for Tupac Shakur and how people felt about him, before he died and after. It shows how people adored him, and his music. When Dyson interviewed "Big Tray Dee" another rap artist, he started crying.That really showed how much people loved tupac and how he effected a lot of peoples lives. I loved this book, it wasn't only about "searching for Tupac", but also was about his life and where he grew up. It talked about all his struggles in life and how close he was with his mom. I learned so much about Tupac from this book. I would definetely recommend this book to people who like to read about people because I now have a whole different perspective on him.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2002

    I Thought The Book Was Suppose To Be About 2PAC

    The book was very well written and informative but trails off when he gets into 2Pac's adult/performing life. Chapter's 1 through 4 went into 2Pac's character, his passions, and convictions. Then Dyson, in chapters 5 through 7 which take up more of the book then chapters 1 through 4, starts debating and analysing the Hip Hop culture, Black America, and Inner City life and goes into these theme's leaving the subject of 2PAC in the beginning of the chapter and coming back to him on the last page with some stupid line like 'And that's one of the elements that define 2PAC'. As if in justification for trailing off. I would only recommend this book to add to your 2Pac collection of books, music, and posters. As for me, I was very dissapointed by the book. I haven't even read the last chapter because I haven't gotten around to it. I will but being that I haven't read the last chapter and I've had the book for 8 months already tells you that I'm not compelled to finish it. He should've called the book '2Pac and the Structure of Hip Hop Culture', then people could know what the book is really about.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2002

    I was an English major and now an English Teacher

    Although I have not read the book, I am going to start this weekend. What I think the author is trying to do with this particular work is to put Tupac's genius in the category with a Shakespeare. He is trying to raise the rapper's level of social, political, and literary acceptance by analyzing what made him so popular and so complex. Good writers have the ability to take us on a very ambiguous journey that often leaves us floating without a raft. That is what makes Toni Morrision one of the greatest writers of all time. She makes us think! And that is what Tupac did with his lyrics--he made a young generation think about the world in which they live. He really was the Richard Wright of our time. He was filled with anger and rage, as was Richard--and both chose to vent their rage through writing. Yes, we know that Tupac had a rough life and often times, chose to vent that injustice upon the very people who loved him most. But it was not his fault that his mother could not provide for him and he had to leave the only school that he truly loved, The Baltimore School of the Arts. He admitted that leaving that school and moving to California was detrimental to his psychological and emotional health. I have lived in LA for ten years and I unfortunately had to raise my son there for the first 13 years of his life. I can tell you firsthand that LA is no place for young black people. There is no room for growth or opportunity for the young who do not have the proper family guidance. Tupac was victimized by his disadvantages.I do not believe in the victimization mentality, but it does give us some understanding into his mind and his perspective on life. If his mother had been a strong and committed black woman, then her son could have leaned on her and turned to her when the business of music got to be too vendictive. Sometimes, young men are angry at their mothers and they have a tendency to take it out on all women. Tupac did not grow up hating, it was through ugly and painful life experiences that he was socialized into this mentality. Any mother who brings a child in this world is to some extent accountable for how they turn out( not to leave out fathers either). That is when he made the mistake of falling into the hands of the devil, better known as Shug Knight. Tupac had a lot of envious enemies who did not want to see this young black man rise. But in spite of the evil that pemeated his life and to some degree he invited evil in, we cannot and should not dimiss his genius, and the words that touched us so.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2013

    Dyson is a racist,,,,don't buy racist material

    Dyson is a racist,,,,don't buy racist material

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2002

    Excellent

    I just got done reading this book. I am writing my summer reading project on it for school. I have so much to say about the book in the essay but, I can't put it all in there because you have to have certain things. Like the day that I got the book I started to read it later on that night I was on chapter four or five and I still didn't want to put it down cause I just wanted to see what came next. It has a lot of quotes from his friends and family. Almost everything in the book is positive about him. It just makes you want to know what always went on in his head and why he did some of the things he did but, was as I think one of the greatest singers in the world along with Selena. I think if them two had done a duet it would have been one of the greatest songs.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2001

    YOU HAVE TO BE A ENGLISH MAJOR

    THIS WAS A GREAT BOOK IF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THE TEXT. THE AUTHOR FORGOT ABOUT THE GENERATION THAT WOULD BE READING THIS BOOK. IT'S LANGUAGE IS VERY HARD TO UNDERSTAND UNLESS YOU ARE AN ENGLISH MAJOR.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2001

    Pac fan

    I have never read this book, but i would like to, so someone who has read it please write a review so i can see what its about! Thanks!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2001

    A lot of conjuncture

    I read the book and although it's well written and somewhat informative about the trouble life of Tupac Shakur, however Dyson's second hand treatment of Shakur's destructive tendencies, sexist and misogynist behavior towards women doesn't sound plausible. Dyson's symbolic defintion of Shakur's tattos seem far fetched. He is exploring a theodicy explanation for Shakur's incorrigble irresponsible behavior. Yes there were some social messages in Shakur's music but he mislead himself into embracing and perpetuating self-hatred. This must not be hiphop glamorized and dressed in intellectual rhetoric. Creativity doesn't not exempt one from morality. It is obvious to some degree Shakur was a product of his environment. He was a troubled young man with potentiality and filled with rage.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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