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At once the most lucrative, popular, and culturally oppositional musical force in the United States, hip hop demands the kind of interpretation Imani Perry provides here: criticism engaged with this vibrant musical form on its own terms. A scholar and a fan, Perry considers the art, politics, and culture of hip hop through an analysis of song lyrics, the words of the proph At once the most lucrative, popular, and culturally oppositional musical force in the United States, hip hop demands the kind of interpretation Imani Perry provides here: criticism engaged with this vibrant musical form on its own terms. A scholar and a fan, Perry considers the art, politics, and culture of hip hop through an analysis of song lyrics, the words of the prophets of the hood. Recognizing prevailing characterizations of hip hop as a transnational musical form, Perry advances a powerful argument that hip hop is first and foremost black American music. At the same time, she contends that many studies have shortchanged the aesthetic value of rap by attributing its form and content primarily to socioeconomic factors. Her innovative analysis revels in the artistry of hip hop, revealing it as an art of innovation, not deprivation.Perry offers detailed readings of the lyrics of many hip hop artists, including Ice Cube, Public Enemy, De La Soul, krs-One, OutKast, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Tupac Shakur, Lil’ Kim, Biggie Smalls, Nas, Method Man, and Lauryn Hill. She focuses on the cultural foundations of the music and on the form and narrative features of the songs—the call and response, the reliance on the break, the use of metaphor, and the recurring figures of the trickster and the outlaw. Perry also provides complex considerations of hip hop’s association with crime, violence, and misogyny. She shows that while its message may be disconcerting, rap often expresses brilliant insights about existence in a society mired in difficult racial and gender politics. Hip hop, she suggests, airs a much wider, more troubling range of black experience than was projected during the civil rights era. It provides a unique public space where the sacred and the profane impulses within African American culture unite.


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At once the most lucrative, popular, and culturally oppositional musical force in the United States, hip hop demands the kind of interpretation Imani Perry provides here: criticism engaged with this vibrant musical form on its own terms. A scholar and a fan, Perry considers the art, politics, and culture of hip hop through an analysis of song lyrics, the words of the proph At once the most lucrative, popular, and culturally oppositional musical force in the United States, hip hop demands the kind of interpretation Imani Perry provides here: criticism engaged with this vibrant musical form on its own terms. A scholar and a fan, Perry considers the art, politics, and culture of hip hop through an analysis of song lyrics, the words of the prophets of the hood. Recognizing prevailing characterizations of hip hop as a transnational musical form, Perry advances a powerful argument that hip hop is first and foremost black American music. At the same time, she contends that many studies have shortchanged the aesthetic value of rap by attributing its form and content primarily to socioeconomic factors. Her innovative analysis revels in the artistry of hip hop, revealing it as an art of innovation, not deprivation.Perry offers detailed readings of the lyrics of many hip hop artists, including Ice Cube, Public Enemy, De La Soul, krs-One, OutKast, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Tupac Shakur, Lil’ Kim, Biggie Smalls, Nas, Method Man, and Lauryn Hill. She focuses on the cultural foundations of the music and on the form and narrative features of the songs—the call and response, the reliance on the break, the use of metaphor, and the recurring figures of the trickster and the outlaw. Perry also provides complex considerations of hip hop’s association with crime, violence, and misogyny. She shows that while its message may be disconcerting, rap often expresses brilliant insights about existence in a society mired in difficult racial and gender politics. Hip hop, she suggests, airs a much wider, more troubling range of black experience than was projected during the civil rights era. It provides a unique public space where the sacred and the profane impulses within African American culture unite.

30 review for Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop

  1. 5 out of 5

    Natalie S.

    In Prophets of the Hood, Imani Perry discusses critiques of hip hop--the music, the artists, the culture. The project of the book is similar to Tricia Rose's The Hip Hop Wars, but I felt Imani Perry took a more nuanced approach by closely examining hip hop's history and composition. Both eventually reach the same conclusions: hip hop is not inherently problematic, but the current conditions of media consumption drive its violence/misogyny/racism. A few things make this book particularly excellent In Prophets of the Hood, Imani Perry discusses critiques of hip hop--the music, the artists, the culture. The project of the book is similar to Tricia Rose's The Hip Hop Wars, but I felt Imani Perry took a more nuanced approach by closely examining hip hop's history and composition. Both eventually reach the same conclusions: hip hop is not inherently problematic, but the current conditions of media consumption drive its violence/misogyny/racism. A few things make this book particularly excellent. First, Perry approaches hip hop as an art form that has been used as a social statement, not a social statement that happens to be an art form. This is important for hip hop studies, because both conceptions of hip hop place different obligations on the artists vs. the production companies and audiences. This approach could easily fall into the trap of failing to hold artists responsible for their message; instead (and the second reason this book is worth reading), Perry emphasizes the multiplicity of factors that work to shape an artist's message. An engaging discussion of signifyin'--saying something by saying something else--that is prevalent in hip hop sets this book apart from other works. Lastly, Perry writes well. Books about hip hop are often written by fans-turned-harsh-critics or race/gender scholars who never really loved hip hop (which is understandable: the genre has frequently been a mess). But Perry is a fan, a critic, and most importantly, an optimist. She refuses to shortchange rap, but she also refuses to ignore its problems. Probably the best text on hip hop I've read so far, and I would recommend it to just about anyone.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Belle

    The second half of the book was much better than the first, with interesting analysis of mainstream and underground hip-hop songs. I did enjoy the writing that focused on the ideological framework of hip-hop music and culture and its connection to race, class and gender. My issue with this book is that some of the lyrics were misquoted! If you are a hip-hop head, you will see what I'm talking about. Lastly, it really annoyed me that Perry spends 35 pages explaining why hip-hop is a "black Americ The second half of the book was much better than the first, with interesting analysis of mainstream and underground hip-hop songs. I did enjoy the writing that focused on the ideological framework of hip-hop music and culture and its connection to race, class and gender. My issue with this book is that some of the lyrics were misquoted! If you are a hip-hop head, you will see what I'm talking about. Lastly, it really annoyed me that Perry spends 35 pages explaining why hip-hop is a "black American" musical form, and literally disconnects it from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Seriously?! I thought that was a very "divide and conquer" mentality and antithetical to the true origins of hip-hop which is certainly tied to West Africa. Elements of Caribbean music and culture can also be found interspersed throughout hip-hop music. Yes, hip-hop was born in the US, but that does not take away from the contributions of those who are not "black Americans."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elliot

    my hs english teacher who Saw Something In Me gave this to me as a graduation present, and I only just now got around to reading it. thank you, ms halsey, for everything and, now, this book. this is an incredibly generous work, one that draws from the right sources and methods at the right time — some critical theory here, lived experience there, lyrics here, light historical materialism there. it all coalesces into a work at once nuanced and clear. this book is something that lots of academic wo my hs english teacher who Saw Something In Me gave this to me as a graduation present, and I only just now got around to reading it. thank you, ms halsey, for everything and, now, this book. this is an incredibly generous work, one that draws from the right sources and methods at the right time — some critical theory here, lived experience there, lyrics here, light historical materialism there. it all coalesces into a work at once nuanced and clear. this book is something that lots of academic work hopes to be: the best, most critical, most generous love letter to the subject the author could ever hope to write.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Matt Sautman

    Perry's work here is fascinating. Although this book was published in 2004, Perry's work feels incredibly fresh. Her interrogation of hip hop is largely oriented towards rhetoric and how that rhetoric relates to understandings of gender, metaphor, and the larger tradition of African American Vernacular, as well as how hip hop functions similarly to Bakhtin's concept of carnival (although Perry herself does not explicitly cite Bakhtin). This book is worthwhile for anyone interested in popular cul Perry's work here is fascinating. Although this book was published in 2004, Perry's work feels incredibly fresh. Her interrogation of hip hop is largely oriented towards rhetoric and how that rhetoric relates to understandings of gender, metaphor, and the larger tradition of African American Vernacular, as well as how hip hop functions similarly to Bakhtin's concept of carnival (although Perry herself does not explicitly cite Bakhtin). This book is worthwhile for anyone interested in popular culture, African American studies, or American rhetorical traditions.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adam Azeris

    Great piece of writing on the politics of Hip Hop. Dr. Perry has put together extraordinary insights on Hip Hop as it relates to originality, identity, narrative within the music. She covers song structure & composition, the nuances therein. She touches on feminism's place in Hip Hop, as well as the effects of co-optation and globalization of the muscial form. In the final chapter she states that many of her friends urged her to finish & publish this piece quickly, since they thought "Hip Hop wa Great piece of writing on the politics of Hip Hop. Dr. Perry has put together extraordinary insights on Hip Hop as it relates to originality, identity, narrative within the music. She covers song structure & composition, the nuances therein. She touches on feminism's place in Hip Hop, as well as the effects of co-optation and globalization of the muscial form. In the final chapter she states that many of her friends urged her to finish & publish this piece quickly, since they thought "Hip Hop was dying". From this I would glean that the publication of her writing would have a far reaching, and necessary impact to help resuscitate the art form. As a reader, throughout the course of this book, I consistenly wondered what her intended audience was. Dr Perrys insights were subtle, critical, and razor sharp. The language was academic which, at times made it difficult to penetrate. To be clear I dont want to discount any rewards after having done so but it raises questions as to the pieces aim of resuscitating a dying art form. She states, "But the popular space appealed to must remain the space from which Hip Hop production emerged - poor urban black & latino communities. Places where the arts of dance and deejaying are appreciated, where the underlying aesthetics of black music to which Hip Hop owes its roots are understood and appreciated. Rather than becoming cafe music, for Hip Hop to sustain itself, it must continue to reinvent itself as local music." Is academic language in this piece accessible to readers outside of academia? That being said, pick this book up.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Theon Hill

    Imani Perry powerfully unpacks the particulars of hip-hop music in a well-researched, yet accessible manner. She discusses issues such as capitalism, culture, gender, colonialism, and race as they relate to the emergence and evolution of hip-hop. While her work celebrates the achievements of hip-hop as a protest genre, she offers critical assessments of hypocritical aspects of the genre, including the hypersexualized images of women that frequently dominate contemporary music videos. Perhaps the Imani Perry powerfully unpacks the particulars of hip-hop music in a well-researched, yet accessible manner. She discusses issues such as capitalism, culture, gender, colonialism, and race as they relate to the emergence and evolution of hip-hop. While her work celebrates the achievements of hip-hop as a protest genre, she offers critical assessments of hypocritical aspects of the genre, including the hypersexualized images of women that frequently dominate contemporary music videos. Perhaps the most important take-away from this read is her description of hip-hop as "local music." She recognizes the role of the genre in poor black and Latino communities. Hip-hop, in her opinion, must continue to give voice to the suffering of these communities that American society refuses to acknowledge.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Craig Amason

    Imani Perry gives true academic treatment to a subject that many readers would not consider worthy, and she does so admirably with careful and thoughtful analysis. I do think there are moments when she gives a little too much credit to the deeper intentions of the creators of Rap and Hip Hop songs, and she tries just a bit too hard to convince us that there is some justifiable explanation for the prevailing misogyny and objectification of women in the lyrics of these genres. Her final chapter on Imani Perry gives true academic treatment to a subject that many readers would not consider worthy, and she does so admirably with careful and thoughtful analysis. I do think there are moments when she gives a little too much credit to the deeper intentions of the creators of Rap and Hip Hop songs, and she tries just a bit too hard to convince us that there is some justifiable explanation for the prevailing misogyny and objectification of women in the lyrics of these genres. Her final chapter on the popularization of the genres is especially interesting as it relates to other genres that have wrestled with the same transitions, such as the Grunge movement. I have to wonder how her observations would change if this book were written today.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa FM

    This was an okay book. It didn't really grab my attention and to be honest, I just skimmed the last pages (never a good sign). This was an okay book. It didn't really grab my attention and to be honest, I just skimmed the last pages (never a good sign).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    I heard the author speak at a conference at U Penn. She has a real pulse on the history and current state of hip hop.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mickey

    One of the best books on hip-hop I've read: tells you everything you need to know in order to understand the cipher. (music/urban studies; 250 pages) One of the best books on hip-hop I've read: tells you everything you need to know in order to understand the cipher. (music/urban studies; 250 pages)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Angelina

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Leonard

  13. 4 out of 5

    Josh Brown

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dorthy

  15. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  16. 5 out of 5

    Liliane

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mali

  18. 5 out of 5

    Zach

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mark Devenney

  20. 4 out of 5

    Honoree Jeffers

  21. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jasper

  23. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dadestroyer Al-Ghamdi

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alyx

  26. 4 out of 5

    Msia Clark

  27. 5 out of 5

    Noah Quinn

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kara

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  30. 5 out of 5

    EPI

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