Encyclopedia of Hip Hop Literature

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GREENWOOD PRESS Westport, Connecticut • London

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Encyclopedia of hip hop literature / edited by Tarshia L. Stanley. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978–0–313–34389–6 (alk. paper) 1. American literature—African American authors—Encyclopedias. 2. African Americans in literature—Encyclopedias. 3. African Americans—Intellectual life—Encyclopedias. 4. Inner cities in literature. 5. Literature—Black authors—Encyclopedias. I. Stanley, Tarshia L. PS153.N5E53 2009 810.9'896073003—dc22 2008033532 British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data is available. Copyright © 2009 by Tarshia L. Stanley All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, by any process or technique, without the express written consent of the publisher. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2008033532 ISBN: 978–0–313–34389–6 First published in 2009 Greenwood Press, 88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881 An imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. www.greenwood.com Printed in the United States of America

The paper used in this book complies with the Permanent Paper Standard issued by the National Information Standards Organization (Z39.48-1984). 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


List of Entries Guide to Related Topics Preface

THE ENCYCLOPEDIA Selected Bibliography About the Editor and Contributors Index

vii xiii xvii

1 269 271 285

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Addicted: The Novel (2001) RaShell R. Smith-Spears

Black Poetry Sharan Strange

Adolescent Literature or Hip Hop Primers Carey Applegate

Black Popular Culture Lauren Chambers

Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary (2005) Bridget A. Arnwine And It Don’t Stop!: The Best American Hip Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years (2004) Wandra C. Hunley Angry Blonde: The Official Book (2000) Georgia M. Roberts Baby Boy (Columbia Pictures, USA, 2001) Tarshia L. Stanley Baisden, Michael (1963–) Timothy Askew Banks, L. A. (1960–) Marlene D. Allen

Beat Street (Orion Pictures, USA, 1984) Trudy Mercadal-Sabbaugh Beatty, Paul (1962–) Alexander Hartwiger

Belly (Big Dog Films, USA, 1998) Tarshia L. Stanley Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture (1996) W.C. Baxter III Black Book Clubs Sandra L. West

Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (1994) Trudy Mercadal-Sabbaugh

Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism (2005) Courtney Young Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy (1995) Tarshia L. Stanley Blackgirl Magazine Tikenya S. Foster-Singletary Blaxploitation Films Mikel Koven Blogs Paul Farber

Boyz N The Hood (Columbia Pictures, USA, 1991) Aaron Winter Braxton, Charlie (1961–) Rochelle Spencer

Breakin’ (Canon Pictures, USA, 1984) Laura H. Marks Brothers Gonna Work It Out: Sexual Politics in the Golden Age of Rap Nationalism (2005) Karley K. Adney Brown, Claude (1937–2002) Mary Loving Blanchard Brown, Cupcake (1964?–) Michelle S. Hite Brown, Parry “Ebony Satin” A. (1952–) Piper G. Huguley-Riggins



Brown Sugar (20th Century Fox, USA, 2002) Thomas Haliburton Bulletproof Diva: Tales of Race, Sex, and Hair (1997) Terry Bozeman

Confessions of a Video Vixen (2005) Yolanda Williams Page Crystelle Mourning: A Novel (2006) RaShell R. Smith-Spears Daughter: A Novel (2003) Tarshia L. Stanley

Burn: A Novel (2006) Marcella Runell Hall

Davis, Anthony C. Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

Business of Hip Hop Publishing Ava Williams Bynoe, Yvonne (196?–) Kimberly R. Oden

Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation (2006) Terry Bozeman

Calderón, Jennifer “JLove” (1971–) Sofía Quintero

Detective/Mystery Fiction David Morris

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (2005) Timothy S. Jones

Dickey, Eric Jerome (1961–) Anita K. McDaniel

Chang, Jeff (1967–) Timothy S. Jones

Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere (2004) Tashia L. Stanley Cheekes, Shonda (1970–) Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

The Cheetah Girls (1999) Brenna Clarke Gray Chideya, Farai (1969–) RaShell R. Smith-Spears Chuck D (Carlton Douglas Ridenhour) (1960–) Delicia Dena Daniels Cinema Shane Gilley Cobb, William Jelani (1969–) Rochelle Spencer

The Coldest Winter Ever (1999) Chaunda A. McDavis College Courses in Hip Hop Literature (1998–2007) Ellesia A. Blaque Collins, Patricia Hill (1948–) Zandra L. Jordan Comics Anita K. McDaniel

Diggs, Anita Doreen (1960–) Ava Williams

Dopefiend: Story of a Black Junkie (1971) Mary Loving Blanchard The Dying Ground: A Hip-Hop Noir Novel (2001) Christin M. Taylor Dyson, Michael Eric (1958–) Antonio Maurice Daniels

E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX (2002) Delicia Daniels 8 Mile (Universal Pictures, USA, 2002) Aaron Winter Explicit Content (2004) Marcella Runell Hall Fabulosity: What It Is & How To Get It (2006) Tyeese Gaines Reid Fanzines Jennifer Ashley Flake, Sharon G. (1955–) Carey Applegate

Flyy Girl Piper G. Huguley-Riggins From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry across the Americas, 1900–2002 (2003) Yi-Hsuan Tso

LIST OF ENTRIES George, Nelson (1957–) Akil Houston Giovanni, Nikki (1943–) Candy A. Henry

Girls From Da Hood Eve Dunbar Goines, Donald (1937–1974) Kinohi Nishikawa

The Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop (2002) Brian Su-Jen Chung hooks, bell (Gloria Watkins) (1952–) Angelle Scott Hunt, La Jill (1972–) Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

Graphic Novels David B. Olsen

Hustle and Flow (Paramount Classics, USA, 2005) Nicholas Gaffney

Harris, E. Lynn (1957–) T. J. Geiger

I Make My Own Rules (1998) Chaunda A. McDavis

The Haunting of Hip Hop (2002) Nicole Staub

Iceberg Slim (1918–1992) Timothy Askew

Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes (Independent Lens, USA, 2006) Tarshia L. Stanley

Iceberg Slim: The Life as Art (2003) Kinohi Nishikawa

Hip Hop America (1998) Gil Cook

Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory (1990) Christin M. Taylor

Hip Hop; Hiphop; Hip-hop; hip hop; hip-hop Culture Akil Houston

Jackson, Curtis James (50 Cent) (1975–) Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

The Hip-Hop Education Guidebook: Volume I Carey Applegate

Jones, Lisa (1961–) E. Angelica Whitmal

The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture (2002) Peter Caster Hip-Hop, Inc.: Success Strategies of the Rap Moguls (2006) Paul Falzone Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement (2006) Tarshia L. Stanley Hoch, Danny (1970–) Robert Torre Holmes, Shannon Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology (2007) Tarshia L. Stanley Honey Magazine Nneka Nnolim

Jones, Sarah (1973–) Vanessa Floyd

Juice (Paramount Pictures, USA, 1992) Tarshia L. Stanley Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (Miramax, USA, 1993) Peter Caster Kelley, Robin D. G. (1962–) Christina L. Davis Kennedy, Erica (1970–) Kimberly R. Oden Kensington Publishing Corporation Tarshia L. Stanley

Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop (2007) David B. Olsen Krush Groove (Warner Bros, USA, 1985) Tarshia L. Stanley Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman (1999) Tarshia L. Stanley



LIST OF ENTRIES The Last Poets Samuel Frederick

Morgan, Joan (1965–) Tomika DePriest

Let That Be the Reason (2001) Ava Williams

Myers, Walter Dean (1937–) Ladrica Menson-Furr

Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny (2006) Chaunda A. McDavis

The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim: Robert Beck’s Real Story (1975) Rachel Robinson

Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, and God (2002) Beatrice Nibigira Kelley

Neal, Mark Anthony (1965–) Gregory Donald Brophy

Life Is Not a Fairy Tale (2005) Tolu O. Idowu

New Jack City (Jacmac Films, USA, 1991) Tarshia L. Stanley

Literary Fiction Tyechia L. Thompson

No Disrespect (1994) Sheri McCord

Love Don’t Live Here No More (2006) Beatrice Nibigira Kelley

Old School Books Publishing Kinohi Nishikawa

Low Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines (2004) Kinohi Nishikawa

Other Men’s Wives (2005) Beatrice Nibigira Kelley Perry, Imani (1972–) Judy L. Isaksen

Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America (1994) Gil Cook

Picture Me Rollin’ (2005) Marcella Runell Hall

Manchild in the Promised Land (1965) Timothy Askew

Pimp: The Story of My Life (1969) Carol Davis

Mayo, Kierna (1970–) Rochelle Spencer

Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women (2007) Tarshia L. Stanley

McDonald, Janet (1953–2007) Catherine Ross-Stroud Medina, Tony (1966–) Adrienne Carthon

Menace II Society (New Line Cinema, USA, 1993) Peter Caster Miranda, Elisha (1969–) Sofía Quintero

The Moments, the Minutes, the Hours: The Poetry of Jill Scott (2005) Wandra C. Hunley Moore, Jessica Care (1971–) Adrienne Carthon Moore, Natalie Y. Piper G. Huguley-Riggins Moore, Stephanie Perry (1969–) Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

Poetic Justice (Columbia Pictures, USA, 1993) Tarshia L. Stanley Postmodernism Antonio Maurice Daniels Powell, Kevin (1966–) Seretha D. Williams

The Prisoner’s Wife (1999) Courtney D. Marshall Push: A Novel (1996) Laura H. Marks Queen of the Scene (2006) Rosa Soto Queen Pen Almaz Tsz-ying Leung Quintero, Sofía (1969–) Marcella Runell Hall

LIST OF ENTRIES Raimist, Rachel (197?–) Tarshia L. Stanley

Spoken Word Movement Beth Lagarou

Reed, Ishmael (1938–) Sathyaraj Venkatesan

Steffans, Karrine (1978–) Yolanda Williams Page

Representing: Hip Hop Culture and the Production of Black Cinema (1999) Tarshia L. Stanley

Strebor Books Danielle R. Tyler

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” James Arthur Gentry Richardson, Elaine B. (1960–) Terry Bozeman

Style Wars (PBS, USA, 1983) Travis Vogan Taylor, Carol Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

Rivera, Raquel Z. (197?–) Nneka Nnolim

Tears for Water: Songbook of Poems and Lyrics (2004) Rebecca Housel

Rize (Lions Gate, USA, 2005) Travis Vogan

Teen Fiction Catherine Ross-Stroud

Roby, Kimberla Lawson (1965–) Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader (2004) Tarshia L. Stanley

Rose, Tricia (1963–) Christin M. Taylor Sanchez, Sonia (1934–) Carol Davis Sapphire (1950–) Martin Kich Scott-Heron, Gil (1949–) James Arthur Gentry Shakur, Tupac “2Pac” (1971–1996) Georgia M. Roberts Simmons, Russell (1957–) Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

Slam (Offline Entertainment Group, USA, 1998) Tarshia L. Stanley

Thomas, Brenda L. (1957–) Nneka Nnolim Triple Crown Publications Sandra L. West Turner, Nikki (1973–) Piper G. Huguley-Riggins Tyree, Omar (1969–) Piper G. Huguley Riggins Ulen, Eisa Nefertari (1968–) RaShell R. Smith-Spears Urban Fiction Danielle R. Tyler Vernacular Tradition Zandra L. Jordan

Solomon, Akiba (1974–) Rochelle Spencer

Vibe Magazine Tarshia L. Stanley

Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic Rosa Soto

Vibe Vixen Magazine Nneka Nnolim

Souljah, Sister (1964–) Chaunda A. McDavis

The Source Magazine Tarshia L. Stanley Spirituality and Religion in Hip Hop Literature and Culture Shanesha R. F. Brooks Tatum

Wallace, Michele Faith (1952–) Angela M. Nelson Weber, Carl (1967–) Piper G. Huguley Riggins

What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture (1998) Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum




When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks It Down (2002) Caryn Murphy

Williams, Saul (1972–) David Rando

Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp (1972) Karley K. Adney

Woods, Teri Mary Loving Blanchard

Who’s Gonna Take the Weight: Manhood, Race, and Power in America (2003) Jennie Lightweis-Goff Why White Kids Love Hip Hop: Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabes, and the New Reality of Race in America (2005) Patricia Ventura Williams, KaShamba Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

Williams, Wendy (1964–) Nneka Nnolim

X, Malcolm (Malcolm Little; El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) (1925–1965) Angelle Scott

XXL Magazine Apryl C. Price Zane (Kristina LaFerne Roberts) (1967–) Piper G. Huguley-Riggins


Activists Braxton, Charlie Bynoe, Yvonne Chang, Jeff Chideya, Farai Chuck D (Carlton Douglass Ridenhour) Medina, Tony Powell, Kevin Souljah, Sister Wallace, Michele Faith

Black Popular Culture Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy Bulletproof Diva: Tales of Race, Sex, and Hair Business of Hip Hop Publishing Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation Hip Hop America Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture, The Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop, The Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women

Representing: Hip Hop Culture and the Production of Black Cinema Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks It Down Who’s Gonna Take the Weight: Manhood, Race, and Power in America Why White Kids Love Hip Hop: Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabes, and the New Reality of Race in America

Concepts Black Book Clubs Cinema College Courses in Hip Hop Literature (1998–2007) Comics Detective/Mystery Fiction Fanzines Graphic Novels Literary Fiction Postmodernism Spirituality and Religion in Hip Hop Literature and Culture Spoken Word Movement Teen Fiction Urban Fiction Vernacular Tradition

Cultural Critics Chideya, Farai Cobb, William Jelani


GUIDE TO RELATED TOPICS Collins, Patricia Hill Dyson, Michael Eric George, Nelson hooks, bell Jones, Lisa Jones, Sarah Kelley, Robin D. G. Morgan, Joan Neal, Mark Anthony Perry, Imani Pough, Gwendolyn D. (See Home Girls Make Some Noise) Raimist, Rachel Reed, Ishmael Richardson, Elaine B. Rose, Tricia

Cultural Criticism Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture Brothers Gonna Work It Out: Sexual Politics in the Golden Age of Rap Nationalism

Fanzines Mayo, Kierna The Source Magazine Vibe Magazine Vibe Vixen Magazine XXL Magazine

Films Baby Boy Beat Street Belly Boyz N The Hood Breakin’ Brown Sugar 8 Mile Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes Hustle and Flow Juice Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. Krush Groove Menace II Society New Jack City Poetic Justice Rize

Slam Style Wars

Genres Adolescent Blogs Cinema Spoken Word Teen Fiction Urban Fiction

Journalists Braxton, Charlie Chang, Jeff Mayo, Kierna Morgan, Joan Powell, Kevin Rivera, Raquel Z. Solomon, Akiba

Magazines Blackgirl Magazine Honey Magazine

Memoirs Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary Angry Blonde: The Official Book Brown, Claude Confessions of a Video Vixen E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX Fabulosity: What It Is & How To Get It I Make My Own Rules Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, and God Manchild in the Promised Land No Disrespect Pimp: The Story of My Life The Prisoner’s Wife Steffans, Karrine Williams, Wendy X, Malcolm


Music Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America Brothers Gonna Work It Out: Sexual Politics in the Golden Age of Rap Nationalism Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation Hip-Hop, Inc.: Success Strategies of the Rap Moguls The Hood Comes First: Race, Space and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop Simmons, Russell What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture

Novelists/Playwrights Baisden, Michael Banks, L.A. Beatty, Paul Brown, Cupcake Brown, Parry “Ebony Satin” A. Calderón, Jennifer “JLove” Cheekes, Shonda Davis, Anthony C. Dickey, Eric Jerome Diggs, Anita Doreen Flake, Sharon G. Goines, Donald Harris, E. Lynn Hoch, Danny Holmes, Shannon Hunt, La Jill Iceberg Slim Kennedy, Erica McDonald, Janet Miranda, Elisha Moore, Natalie Moore, Stephanie Perry Myers, Walter Dean Queen Pen Quintero, Sofia Sanchez, Sonia Sapphire Souljah, Sister Taylor, Carol Thomas, Brenda L. Turner, Nikki

Tyree, Omar Ulen, Eisa Nefertari Williams, KaShamba Woods, Teri Zane

Novels A Piece of Cake (See Brown, Cupcake) Addicted: The Novel Burn: A Novel The Cheetah Girls The Coldest Winter Ever Crystelle Mourning: A Novel Daughter: A Novel Dopefiend: Story of a Black Junkie The Dying Ground: A Hip-Hop Noir Novel Explicit Content Flyy Girl Girls From Da Hood The Haunting of Hip Hop Let That Be the Reason Love Don’t Live Here No More Manchild in the Promised Land Other Men’s Wives Picture Me Rollin’ Push: A Novel Queen of the Scene Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp

Performers Beatty, Paul Chuck D (Carlton Douglas Ridenhour) Jackson, Curtis James (50 Cent) Jones, Lisa Moore, Jessica Care Queen Pen Shakur, Tupac “2Pac” Williams, Saul

Pioneers Chuck D (Carlton Douglas Ridenhour) Goines, Donald Iceberg Slim Iceberg Slim: The Life as Art Low Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines




Pimp: The Story of My Life Simmons, Russell

Poets/Poetry Beatty, Paul Black Poetry From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry across the Americas, 1900–2002 Giovanni, Nikki The Last Poets Medina, Tony Moore, Jessica Care “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” Sanchez, Sonia

Scott-Heron, Gil Spoken Word Tears for Water: Songbook of Poems and Lyrics Williams, Saul

Publishers/Self-Publishers Baisden, Michael Kensington Publishing Corporation Old School Books Strebor Books Triple Crown Publications Turner, Nikki Zane


Bakari Kitwana writes in his book The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture (2002) that the first Hip Hop Generation was born circa 1965 and the second in 1984. Thus late in the first decade of the twenty-first century we are witnessing the creative force of two generations of people reared on or in the age of hip hop. Written for students and general readers, the Encyclopedia of Hip Hop Literature defines some of the literature important to these generations. In defining hip hop literature the encyclopedia also expands the understanding of the term “hip hop literature” beyond the confines of “urban” or “street” literature categories. This encyclopedia provides more than 180 alphabetically arranged entries on fiction written by and for members of the Hip Hop Generation. Included are entries on individual writers, major works, publishing houses and magazines, genres, and a wide range of special topics. This burgeoning genre of fiction is extremely important because it typifies several of the mantras of the Hip Hop Generation, especially entrepreneurship and self-actualization. The entrepreneurial spirit of hip hop novelists infuses many of the works being self-published. From the very beginning hip hop music, fashion, and culture has been marked by the willingness and ability of its practitioners to create a market and a marketing strategy for themselves. In addition to fiction, the memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies of hip hop artists, activists, entertainers, and entrepreneurs are covered, as well as the prolific body of critical texts aimed at analyzing the generation and the issues important to them. I did not think the encyclopedia would be complete without a discussion of seminal films and documentaries because they are important visual texts that help to define and extend an understanding of the written texts produced by and for the Hip Hop Generations. Each entry is written by an expert contributor and begins with a brief identification of the topic and a summary of its significance. Entries close with cross-references and cite works for further reading, and the encyclopedia ends with a selected, general bibliography of print and electronic resources suitable for student research. An alphabetical list of entries conveniently surveys the scope of the encyclopedia, and a guide to related topics groups related entries in topical categories for ease of identification. This encyclopedia is by no means complete—the literature of hip hop is expanding exponentially due in part to the interest in the subject and the numerous independent publishing houses and imprints that have arisen to satisfy the demand. It is important to note that this encyclopedia does not contain numerous entries pertaining to the music of the Hip Hop Generation. Yvonne Bynoe has done that in the Encyclopedia of Rap and Hip Hop Culture (2006) by Greenwood Press.



The contributors to the Encyclopedia of Hip Hop Literature come to the volume from a diversity of backgrounds and understandings of hip hop literature. There are numerous spellings of Hip Hop: hip hop, Hip-Hop, Hip-hop, and so on. I have not changed the rendering of Hip Hop to a monolithic spelling as the variation is further evidence of the fluidity and continual evolution of the culture and therefore the literature.

A ADDICTED: THE NOVEL (2001). This novel is often identified in the genre of urban fiction and reinvigorates the tradition of African American pulp fiction because of its subject matter, audience, and self-published status. Although Addicted is now a part of a cadre of best-selling erotica novels and anthologies by writer Zane, when it was first debuted in 2001 it gained popularity mostly through word of mouth. Addicted is the story of Zoe Reynard, an African American woman who seems to have the perfect life. She is successful as an African American arts dealer; she is married to Jason, her childhood sweetheart, who is completely devoted to her; she has three beautiful children; and she has a large, custom-built home. She seems to be living the American dream; however, Zoe’s life is threatened by her secret sexual addiction, which causes her to have three extramarital affairs. After consulting a therapist, Zoe learns of several childhood secrets that are ultimately responsible for her addiction. The novel is largely structured around Zoe’s therapy sessions. This structure emphasizes one of the novel’s major themes, self-reflection. As Zoe recounts her life story, she, along with readers and her therapist, is able to draw connections between the events in her life. Through reflection and telling her story, Zoe is able to have a cathartic experience. It is when she is forced to reflect on events that she has kept buried in her memory that she is finally able to heal. Zoe’s need to heal points to yet another theme of the novel, sexual health. As a part of the erotica genre, the focus on sexuality is an obvious one. However, Zane does not merely titillate the reader’s sexual appetite; she attempts to show the connection between one’s psychological health and sexual behavior. Although Zoe is truly in love with her husband, she cannot have a satisfying sexual relationship with him until she resolves her own psychological trauma. Ironically, it is her love for Jason that helps her face her trauma. Thus, love is the third prominent theme of the novel. Addicted is among other things a celebration of the power of love and its ability to endure many challenges—even those brought on by the lovers themselves. As Jason tells Zoe in a constant refrain, “I love you and this is forever! Always has been! Always will be!” These words serve as a reminder to the couple that their relationship is destined, and that their love is sustainable. Zane’s use of colloquial language and intriguing storylines not only appeals to a wide range of readers, but it also ensures that audiences will consider other less prominent yet still important themes such as the consequences of secrets, female empowerment, family relationships, and domestic abuse. As a testament to the popularity and impact of Addicted, Lionsgate has acquired the film rights to the novel. With Zane as the screenwriter, the movie version will surely entertain the many fans of Zoe and Jason’s story.


ADOLESCENT LITERATURE OR HIP HOP PRIMERS FURTHER READING Campbell, Dwayne. “Already a Hot Name in Erotica, Zane Blooms into Fuller Flower.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 5 Nov. 2006, M01. Johnson, Kalyn. “Zane, Inc.” Black Issues Book Review, Vol. 6, Issue 5 (2004): 17–20. Jones, Vanessa. “Zane uncovered.” The Boston Globe, 19 Aug. 2008.

RaShell R. Smith-Spears

ADOLESCENT LITERATURE OR HIP HOP PRIMERS. Children’s books with hip hop themes, characters, and language or rhythms. Generally, hip hop primers are categorized as such by the author’s role within the hip hop community, the subject matter of fictional books as related to hip hop culture, or a nonfiction profile of a hip hop artist or an element of hip hop culture. Picture books that fall into this category and are written by hip hop artists often include a CD with the story as read by the author. These CDs work with the pictures and the text to celebrate the rhythm and flow of the language used by the author. Common themes generally include individual empowerment, family and community connections, thinking outside the box, and success through hard work and confidence. FURTHER READING Allen, Debbie. Brothers of the Knight. New York: Puffin, 2001. Bellar, Jasmine. Hip-Hop Kidz. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 2006. Fresh, Doug E. Think Again. New York: Scholastic, 2002. Gregory, Deborah. The Cheetah Girls. New York: Jump at the Sun, 1999. Grimes, Nikki. Bronx Masquerade. New York: Penguin, 2002. Harrison, Blake and Alexander Rappaport. Flocabulary: The Hip-Hop Approach to U.S. History. Kennebunkport, ME: Cider Mill Press, 2006. LL Cool J. And the Winner Is . . . New York: Cartwheel, 2002. Queen Latifah. Queen of the Scene. New York: Laura Geringer, 2006. Smith, Will. Just the Two of Us. New York: Scholastic Paperbacks, 2005.

Carey Applegate

AFENI SHAKUR: EVOLUTION OF A REVOLUTIONARY (2005). Written by actress Jasmine Guy (A Different World, School Daze, Dead Like Me), Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary is a biography about the life of Afeni Shakur, activist and mother to slain hip hop legend Tupac Shakur. Guy, who befriended Tupac during her tenure on A Different World, first came to know Afeni Shakur in 1994 during Tupac’s infamous sexual abuse trial. The two women forged a bond that led to their partnership on Shakur’s life story. Part personal account and part conversation between friends, Shakur was candid in sharing intimate details about her life with Guy. From meager beginnings in rural North Carolina to political activism and Black Nationalism, from motherhood to crack addiction, grief, recovery, and self-actualization, Shakur’s life has been anything but easy. Born Alice Faye Williams in Lumberton, North Carolina, Shakur and her family also lived in Norfolk, Virginia, before her mother relocated to the Bronx, New York, with young


Alice and her sister Gloria. She admits that for much of her youth she was angry with her father for the emotional and physical abuse he inflicted upon her mother and angry with her mother for being “weak” and enduring the abuse. As a result, young Alice was hard to control. That all changed when Alice became Afeni (which means “lover of people” in Arabic) and found a new outlet for her anger as a member of the Black Panther Party, New York chapter (also known as the Panther 21). The theme of comradery that Shakur described as part of her Panther experience is a common theme that appears in hip hop literature, and Shakur was a faithful disciple. However, the fate of the Panther 21 changed when they became targets of the police, and eventually the group imploded. Shakur struggled to fit into society without the protection and stability the unit afforded. After the Panthers, Shakur moved to Baltimore, Maryland and tried to provide a life for her children Tupac and Sekyiwa. She withdrew from her children during a pivotal time in their development, choosing instead to hide from her failures through an addiction to crack cocaine. The drug addiction rekindled feelings of anger, this time in her children, as they grappled with their mother’s weakness. Five-and-a-half years after getting sober and restoring her family, Shakur’s beloved son Tupac was murdered during the peak of his career; she relied on the love of family and friends such as Guy as a source of strength for moving forward. Shakur’s resilience, as exposed in the pages of her story, reflects the evolution referenced in the book’s title. More than a story of survival, Evolution illustrates that in real life there are consequences to the abuse and gangsterism that is sometimes valued in hip hop literature. It is also a testament to the possibilities that can be found in choosing a different path. FURTHER READING Kempton, Murray. The Briar Patch: The Trial of the Panther 21. New York: Da Capo Press, 1997.

Bridget A. Arnwine

AND IT DON’T STOP!: THE BEST AMERICAN HIP HOP JOURNALISM OF THE LAST 25 YEARS (2004). And It Don’t Stop!: The Best American Hip Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years is an anthology edited by journalist Raquel Cepeda, with a foreword written by Nelson George. Representing twenty-five years of journalism, the collection traces the emergence of mainstream critical attention toward the genre. The articles in the collection are culled from magazines such as The Source and XXL, which cater to a reading constituency well versed in the world of hip hop, as well as mainstream publications such as The New York Times and GQ. The collection not only sheds light on the development of hip hop as a subject for journalistic attention, but it also documents the voices considered credible reporters of it. Included in the collection are some of the most noted writers on hip hop music and culture such as Bill Adler, Nelson George, Joan Morgan, and Bakari Kitwana. In her introduction, Cepeda calls the articles in the collection “a matter of passion versus, if you will, access” (xix). Before hip hop was considered more than just a passing fad or subculture, writers who were intimately connected to the form sought to capture its spirit and significance. The writers looked to describe and define a cultural movement that had begun to spread beyond its humble New York beginnings. The writers followed the rappers and the other devotees of hip hop culture or B-boys where they went, whether it was a Paris stage or a boardroom




in Manhattan. Nelson George, in a 1985 article titled The Village Voice, expressed the frustration of many who were participants as well as chroniclers of the bourgeoning form. While detailing the daily struggle of a pre-Phat Farm, mogul-in-the-making Russell Simmons, George also exposes how most major labels mishandled hip hop records. He characterizes the lack of attention that most hip hop releases received as “corporate malnutrition” (48). This connection to and appreciation of the art form and culture runs throughout And It Don’t Stop! As the mainstream and commercial popularity of hip hop grew, writers began to take a more critical view of those in front of the microphone. Not only were artists and the music being held accountable, but also the culture that engendered the rise in materialism, misogyny, gender relations, and other sociopolitical issues was being held accountable. As the anthology closes, it becomes clear that “hip hop journalism” remains a loaded term and a challenging endeavor. The collection of articles ends at the beginning of the new millennium and points toward the continued relevance of hip hop as it posits the way the form will be covered in the future. FURTHER READING Bynoe, Yvonne. Encyclopedia of Rap and Hip-Hop Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006. Perkins, William Eric. “The Rap Attack: An Introduction.” In Droppin’ Science: Critical Essays on Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1996, 1–45. Small, Michael. Break It Down: The Inside Story from the New Leaders of Rap. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1992.

Wandra C. Hunley

ANGRY BLONDE: THE OFFICIAL BOOK (2000). A book explaining the lyrics of Eminem’s early albums. By the time Eminem released Angry Blonde (2000), the official book of lyrics from his first two studio albums, he had already established himself as one of the most controversial rappers to emerge in recent cultural memory. Both critically acclaimed and widely criticized, Eminem’s 1999 debut album, The Slim Shady LP, launched him into stratospheric success. Not since Tupac Shakur has an emcee elicited such simultaneous disdain and adoration. His lyrics chronicled everything from the pain of his childhood to elaborate fantasies of killing his wife, and in the year following the release of the rapper’s sophomore effort, The Marshall Mathers LP (2000), he had managed to alienate just about everyone from gay rights advocates to conservative politicians. Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne Cheney, was quoted as saying that Eminem’s music was “the most extreme example of rock lyrics used to demean women, advocate violence against women, violence against gay people.” The year culminated with a penultimate performance at the 2001 Grammy Awards with longtime gay rights activist and pop musician Elton John, who joined the rapper onstage for a duet of his hit song “Stan.” It is not surprising that Eminem felt the need to explain these first two albums. Framed as a rare glimpse into his writing process and aimed specifically at “those people who read too much” into his lyrics, Angry Blonde clearly serves as Eminem’s response to public perception. As he quips in the introduction, “The book is made by Slim Shady, from the mind of Marshall Mathers as seen from Eminem’s point of view. Got it? This is for those people who read too much into what I say, when at the end of the day . . . it’s all a joke” (3).


Aside from a few interesting tidbits about studio production and his collaborative relationship with Dr. Dre, the real gem of the book is that by providing lyrics (including several freestyles) the reader comes away with a tangible sense of Eminem’s artistic approach to writing. One of the more controversial songs in Eminem’s oeuvre, “97 Bonnie and Clyde,” depicts a macabre outing to the beach with his young daughter. In the long paragraph introducing the lyrics, Eminem says when he penned the song he felt as though his ex-wife was using their daughter as a “weapon” against him. The song samples Bill Withers’s “Just the Two of Us,” and, in classic Slim Shady style, riffs on the themes of several other songs, including Will Smith’s 1998 hit about his relationship with his son and Makaveli’s (aka Tupac’s) 1996 track “Me and My Girlfriend,” a loving homage to a gun. Somewhere between loving father and cold-blooded killer, we find Slim Shady, the unreliable narrator, and Marshall Mathers, the imaginative storyteller. Indeed all of Eminem’s various personas emerge in the pages of Angry Blonde as much more than the headlines that follow him. FURTHER READING Mathers, Marshall. Angry Blonde: The Official Book. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.

Georgia M. Roberts


B BABY BOY (COLUMBIA PICTURES, USA, 2001). Directed by John Singleton, Baby Boy is the story of a young black man in South Central Los Angeles struggling to define himself. John Singleton has forged a placed for himself in the canon of black urban film with the release of his 1990 film Boyz N The Hood. Set amid the backdrop of drug infested, gangbanging South Central Los Angeles Boyz brought some much needed attention to the implosion of many young black people trapped in jobless, hopeless, violent inner cities in the aftermath of trickle down economics and globalization. Singleton returns to this theme in yet another bildungsroman, Baby Boy. Jody (Tyrese Gibson) lives with a mother (A. J. Johnson) barely 15 years his senior and is the father of two children by two different women. Even though his son’s mother, Yvette (Taraji P. Henson), implores Jody to grow up and take responsibility for his family, he resists and prefers to remain at home with his mother, hustling stolen clothes, eating candy, and when Yvette refuses him the keys to her car, riding his bicycle. On the surface the plot is rife with lessons about manhood, familial responsibility, and gainful employment. Underneath there are messages about depression, violence, and codependency. Known for his heavy-handed inner-city fables, Singleton’s film is one of a few that actually deal with the obstacles facing young black men in America. Jody has been handicapped by a mother whose loneliness prevents her giving her “baby” the tools necessary to become a functioning adult. She does not require her sons to move out on their own and assume responsibility for their lives until her love interests enter the scene. Jody is terrified of living on his own because his older brother was killed after being forced to leave the nest by his mother’s boyfriend. Jody is increasingly anxious as his mother’s new beau, Mel (Ving Rhames), assumes the position of man-of-the-house, leaving Jody to wonder where his destiny lies. The film fully integrates rap and hip hop culture with a soundtrack featuring music by Tha Eastsidaz, Snoop Dogg, and Three 6 Mafia. Snoop Dogg himself has a prominent role as Rodney, Yvette’s ex-boyfriend. Rodney takes up residence at Yvette’s home without an invitation. When she is unable to persuade him to leave, Jody and his friend Sweetpea (Omar Gooding) come to her rescue. One of the problematic ideas of the film is that Jody and Sweetpea must kill Rodney in order to prove that they are men. Like Jody, Sweetpea lives with and is supported by women. Also like Jody, Sweetpea tries to assume control of this female-supported household with violence. As the director and writer, Singleton fails to answer important questions about the traditional definitions of manhood and whether these conventional ideas are possible or even preferable for young black men in America. In the end, black boys prove they are men with


brutality and aggression, and Jody finally bonds with his new “father,” Mel, as Mel removes the gun from his hand and assures him all will be well. Although the film begins with Jody waiting outside of an abortion clinic for Yvette, it ends with a very pregnant Yvette and Jody picnicking in the park. It is intimated that Jody has accepted his role of father and husband and is no longer a “baby.” Although the film attempts to wrestle with the phantom of black manhood in America, it does not challenge the very obstacles that make the role so daunting. FURTHER READING Gleiberman, Owen. “Man Child.” Entertainment Weekly 604 (13 July 2001): 56. Pryce, Vinette K. “‘Baby Boy’ Teaches Mamas a Few Lessons.” New York Amsterdam News, Vol. 92 no. 26 (28 June 2001): 23. Sterritt, David. “‘Boyz’ Director Revisits the ’hood in ‘Baby Boy.’” Christian Science Monitor, Vol. 93 no. 151 (29 June 2001): 17.

Tarshia L. Stanley

BAISDEN, MICHAEL (1963–). African American author and radio talk show host commenting on many of the issues that affect the Hip Hop Generation. Formerly a route driver for the Chicago Transit Authority, Michael Baisden or “Bad Boy” as he is also known, has electrified readers and listeners since the mid-1990s. His first book, which was initially self-published, is titled Never Satisfied: How and Why Men Cheat (1995). It is a collection of short stories about men who are unfaithful to women and the women who support these men. This collection of short stories and interviews was inspired by stories and accounts from friends who spoke about the difficulties of their own romantic relationships. Despite rejection from several publishing companies, he borrowed money from friends and family and sold his car to publish his book. Because of the initial difficulty in publishing his book, Baisden founded Legacy Publishing. Never Satisfied explores the common perception that many men have problems with commitment in relationships with women. In this book, Baisden discusses the issue of men creating a world of lies that eventually leads to infidelity. Baisden states in the book’s introduction, “What I am attempting to do . . . is to expose the games that are quite seriously destroying our relationships with our women . . . [and] affecting our ability to maintain healthy relationships which could be beneficial to both ourselves and the children that are unsuspecting players in too many of those very games.” Within eight months of the book’s publication, he sold more than 50,000 copies and was on the best-seller lists of both Essence and Emerge magazines. He toured with black expos and sold books in night clubs, at book fairs, and even in hair salons. As his popularity grew, so did the demand for his writing. After using the profits from the sales of Never Satisfied to pay back all that he had borrowed, he wrote his first novel, Men Cry in the Dark, which was released in July 1997. Men Cry in the Dark, which was his second book, sold more than 30,000 copies in hardcover editions alone and later became a national stage play. In this novel, Baisden created characters whose social and economic circumstances resonated particularly well with urban, affluent African Americans in the 1990s. According to Publishers Weekly writer Carol Taylor, Baisden’s success as a writer is attributed to the fact that “black readers, like all readers, want recognizable and realistic images of themselves and their lives, not




stereotypes.” Baisden is often compared to other notable contemporary African American male fiction writers, such as Eric Jerome Dickey and Omar Tyree. In 2000 Michael Baisden again achieved literary and commercial success when he published Maintenance Man, the story of a gigolo who falls in love with one of his sexual conquests. In 2003 Baisden wrote God’s Gift to Women, which, like Maintenance Man, was optioned for a movie deal. Much like the movie Fatal Attraction, God’s Gift to Women explores the perilous consequences of a one-night stand. Michael Baisden has not only found success as a writer but also as a radio show host. In 2003 Baisden’s radio career began when KISS FM 98.7 in New York City offered him a job as the afternoon host of its radio program. Although he was not initially paid for his work, the ratings of his show climbed within six months from number 9 to number l. After several months of consistently high ratings, Baisden wanted to take his show to the national level, but he was met with reluctance by management. Threatening to leave the station, he reached a deal with the radio station management and has had a very successful run. One of Baisden’s greatest achievements was organizing the Jena 6 March, which occurred on September 20, 2007, and was a national response to racist treatment of six African American high school students at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana. Because of Baisden’s leadership, thousands of American citizens poured into the town to support the students. Also in 2007 Baisden realized another dream of hosting a late night television talk show. He partnered with FarCor Productions and TVONE to host “Baisden after Dark,” which has become a success. FURTHER READING Baisden, Michael. God’s Gift to Women. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. ———. The Maintenance Man. Chicago, IL: Legacy, l997. ———. Men Cry in the Dark. Chicago, IL: Legacy, l997. ———. Never Satisfied: How and Why Men Cheat. Chicago, IL: Legacy, l995. Hayden, Lorraine. “Michael Baisden Provides National Support for the Jena 6.” 4 Sept. 2007.

Taylor, Carol. “Michael Baisden.” Publishers Weekly (13 Dec. 1997): 37.

Timothy Askew

BANKS, L. A. (1960–). L. A. Banks is the author of the popular Vampire Huntress series featuring the character Damali Richards, a hip hop/spoken word artist who is also a vampire slayer. Banks also publishes books under the names Leslie Esdaile, Leslie Esdaile Banks, and Leslie E. Banks. The Vampire Huntress series follows the story of Damali Richards, who, in addition to being a spoken word artist, is also a Neteru, or vampire hunter. Neterus, who only appear once in a millennium, are humans endowed with special powers, such as superstrength and superhearing, that aid them in fighting vampires and other supernatural creatures. In Minion (2004), the first novel in the series, Damali is at the cusp of “awakening” to her powers as a Neteru as she approaches her twenty-first birthday. As part of this process, her physical and spiritual connection with Carlos Rivera, her childhood protector (later her lover and husband), becomes stronger. However, at the end of Minion, Carlos, a Hollywood club owner and drug dealer, is turned into a “master vampire” by Damali’s nemesis, Fallon Nuit.


A major subplot of the novels, then, is the fight to save Carlos’s soul from the dark side. Because he died with a prayer on his lips at the moment of his turning, Carlos’s soul does not go to hell but instead is in a state of purgatory, which allows him the opportunity to redeem himself by joining in the fight against evil with Damali and her seven musician guardians: Marlene, José, Rider, J. L., Big Mike, Shabazz, and Dan. United with them in their fight against evil is the Covenant, which is a group of holy men representing the world’s major religions. Several major themes and metaphors emerge in the Vampire Huntress series. The overarching theme is the epic struggle between good and evil. For example, the battle between the Covenant and the Vampire Council, who rule the underworld, for possession of both Damali and Carlos is a metaphor for the conflicts between good and evil in their lives. Raised in a loving, religious family, Carlos is a good person who does evil deeds. Damali continually struggles between her love for him and her despair at how evil has taken control of his soul. Another important theme in the novels is the power of art to redeem the soul. As a hip hop/spoken word artist for Warriors of Light Records, Damali uses her words to literally save souls, giving her listeners hope that saves them from the vampires around them. Additionally, the novels illustrate how art can be destructive if used for nefarious purposes; Fallon Nuit uses his record label Blood Music as a cover for his evil work. Also important in the series is the idea that faith and unity are powerful forces in the fight against evil, as symbolized by both Damali’s multicultural and multiethnic guardians and the Covenant. FURTHER READING Banks, L.A. The Awakening. New York: St. Martin’s, 2004. ———. The Bitten. New York: St. Martin’s, 2005. ———. The Cursed. New York: St. Martin’s, 2007. ———. The Damned. New York: St. Martin’s, 2007. ———. The Forbidden. New York: St. Martin’s, 2005. ———. The Forsaken. New York: St. Martin’s, 2007. ———. The Hunted. New York: St. Martin’s, 2005. ———. Minion. New York: St. Martin’s, 2003. ———. The Wicked. New York: St. Martin’s, 2008. Jackson, Monia. Creepin’. New York: Harlequin, 2007.

Marlene D. Allen

BEAT STREET (ORION PICTURES, USA, 1984). Financed and coproduced by Harry Belafonte and directed by Stan Latham, Beat Street was released in 1984 and joined Wild Style (1982), Style Wars (1983), and Breakin’ (1984) as some of the first films to map the cultural terrain of hip hop. A movie that stresses a positive image of hip hop, Beat Street won the NAACP Image Award in 1984. The main characters in the film are two young black brothers, Kenny (Guy Davis), whose ambition is to find success as a rap music DJ, and Lee (Robert Taylor), who spends his after school hours break dancing, a nascent gymnastic dance form born in the black and Latino neighborhoods of New York. The third protagonist in the film is Ramon (Ron Chardiet), one of Kenny and Lee’s closest friends. Ramon, a dreamer, neglects his responsibilities and lives to paint graffiti on the subway cars that crisscross New York City.




The young men are represented as ambitious but unemployed, and each one is obsessed with his art form of choice. Eventually Kenny meets a young college music professor, Tracy (Rae Dawn Chong), who provides him with connections that may help him achieve success. Ramon, however, will pay a high price for his single-minded artistic vision. Although in Beat Street rap music takes a backseat to break dancing and graffiti, taken together, the three young men embody the art forms defined by hip hop scholar Tricia Rose (1994) as the major expressions of hip hop culture: rap music, break dancing, and graffiti. Hip hop, the film’s overall theme, originated in the neighborhoods of black and Latino youth, and the movie takes place in a bleak world; a visual landscape of the South Bronx’s subway tracks and deteriorating neighborhoods is a background for the story. The film, however, is far from depressing because it provides a hopeful message whereby it is possible for underprivileged minority youth to break through the oppressive strictures of poverty by pursuing their artistic dreams. Colorful graffiti art enlivens the cold and dreary landscape and provides, as well, the space for a resistant political stance because the graffiti artist, Ramon, openly rejects a capitalist work ethic to embrace the oppositional values of hip hop. In the words of critic Albert Johnson, “According to the cinematic gospel of street life, graffiti is the emblem of a new artistic modernism: these secret, nocturnal painters, the scourge of the New York Transit Authority, are ‘Les Fauves’ of the lower classes” (1990, 25). Johnson explains the underclass and oppositional origins of hip hop as represented in Beat Street by arguing that “Behind the carefree lyricism of the dances are the drowned-out cries of poverty and hunger” (1990, 25). Although the film’s storyline suggests the exploitative ways in which some individuals, such as entertainment executives and producers, might interconnect with hip hop artists in order to co-opt them and make a profit, and other institutions, such as police agencies, seek to control and constrain urban youth, the film is recognized by most critics as optimistic and affirmative. Beat Street featured artist Afrika Bambaataa, recognized as one of the founding fathers of rap, and his Zulu Nation Crew. Bambaataa is known, as well, for his strong support of hip hop artists and his promotion of Rock Steady Crew, whose break dancers were featured in Beat Street and Flashdance (1983), another musical film that provides one of the first filmic examples of the evolving form of break dance. Beat Street provides plentiful takes of break dance choreography, including a break dance battle between Rock Steady Crew and the New York City Breakers, showcasing the talents of urban youth as well as the multicultural strands of the hip hop terrain. Other early rap stars featured in the film are Kool Moe Dee, Kool DJ Herc, Melle Mellas, and Doug E. Fresh, as well as Puerto Rican MC Brenda K. Starr and rappers Lisa Lee, Sha-Rock, and Debbie Dee, who created one of the first all-women rap groups, the Us Girls. The movie Beat Street, now a hip hop classic, is a cultural time capsule that traces and showcases the contributions of young men and women of color to the evolution of hip hop in America. FURTHER READING Johnson, Albert. “Moods Indigo.” Film Quarterly, Vol. 2 (1990): 13–27. Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.

Trudy Mercadal-Sabbaugh


BEATTY, PAUL (1962–). Contemporary spoken word artist, poet, and novelist. Born in Los Angeles in 1962, Paul Beatty first garnered attention in the early 1990s at the Slam Poetry clubs of New York. Beatty honed his poetry skills and acerbic wit at the legendary Nuyorican Poets Café. During this time, he released two books of poetry, Big Bank Take Little Bank (1991) and Joker, Joker, Deuce (1994). Both collections reveal Beatty’s biting satire and focus on social and race-related issues. In 1996, Beatty made a seamless transition from poet to novelist with the critically acclaimed The White Boy Shuffle. Maintaining his attention to wordplay and humor, The White Boy Shuffle shows Beatty’s growth from quick-witted quips to sustained social commentary, leading New York Times book reviewer Richard Bernstein to conclude that “this first novel by the poet Paul Beatty is a blast of satirical heat from the talented heart of black American life, a kind of literary-parodic counterpart to hip-hop and stand-up comedy.” Fashioned as a semiautobiographical bildungsroman, The White Boy Shuffle places Beatty in a long tradition of African American coming-of-age stories. In the novel, Beatty critiques the ineffectual multiculturalism of the 1990s and incorporates provocative scenes, including the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict. The White Boy Shuffle cemented Beatty’s reputation as an up-and-coming writer. Tuff (2000), Beatty’s second novel, addressed similar issues to The White Boy Shuffle, such as racial pigeonholing, but without the poignancy and delicacy of his debut novel. Tuff received mixed reviews from critics. Once again, it is Beatty’s command of language that stands out. Beatty’s continued incorporation of rap lyrics and poetry interspersed in his fiction fully established him as a hip hop writer, a moniker he resists. For Beatty, the hip hop label discounts the plurality his work embraces, ignoring the myriad of other sources from which he draws. In 2006 Beatty compiled a collection of African American humor in Hokum: An Anthology of African American Humor. This well-selected sample of some familiar texts and a few lesser-known ones serves as homage to his predecessors and asks for a reexamination of African American literature through the context of humor. This anthology has stirred up controversy, especially the cover art. The picture of a watermelon rind fashioned as a grin has led some black leaders to condemn the cover of Hokum as inappropriate and insensitive. Although humor is the most striking characteristic of Paul Beatty’s writing, a cosmopolitan sensibility underlies much of his work, giving it depth and weight. His characters resist rigid classification, finding acceptance and belonging in the most unlikely places. The spirit of individuality imbued in Beatty’s characters is also represented in his writing, which draws as freely from hip hop as it does from classical literature. FURTHER READING Bernstein, Richard. “Books of the Times; Black Poet’s First Novel Aims the Jokes Both Ways.” The New York Times. 31 May 1996, C25.

Alexander Hartwiger

BELLY (BIG DOG FILMS, USA, 1998). This is the debut film of famed rap music video director Hype Williams. Written by Hype Williams in collaboration with Nas and Anthony Bodden, Belly is a story about the quintessential urban gangster. A murky plot gets lost in fantastic visuals as




Williams brings his video directing style to the silver screen. He even brings many of the rap stars whose videos he directed with him. The film tells the story of Tommy (DMX) and Sincere (Nas) as they part ways. Sincere is just that in his effort to give up the drug game and pursue a legitimate life for himself and his family. Encouraged by his wife Tionne (Tionne T’Boz Watkins), Sincere seeks a connection to something much deeper than the streets and bloody money he and Tommy have accumulated. Meanwhile, Tommy is too enamored with the “big score” to leave the lifestyle. As the two men’s lives diverge so does the real sense of the plot. Williams seems to be rewriting history as he invokes the likes of Minister Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X in the character of Reverend Savior (Benjamin Davis). In a plot twist, Tommy is forced by federal agents to become a part of the Reverend’s organization so that he can execute the Reverend. As Tommy sits with the Reverend on New Year’s Eve 1999, Reverend Savior asks him to make a choice and tells him to choose light rather than darkness. Simultaneously, Sincere is packing up his family and moving to Africa. The plot disintegrates into a mélange of wishful thinking about the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. In the end, the film is one long music video. Its aesthetic prowess marks it as part of the inner city, black male, drug-and-gang-violence era of films. Its cast of rap and hip hop stars cements its position in hip hop cinema. FURTHER READING Frazier, C. D. “Hip-hop World Goes ‘Belly’ Up On Gangsta-ism.” New York Amsterdam News, Vol. 89 Issue 47 (19 Nov. 1998): 23. Grant, Natasha. “Hype Williams’ ‘Belly’ Holds Up Well.” New York Amsterdam News, Vol. 95 Issue 4 (22 Jan. 2004): 17–17.

Tarshia L. Stanley

BETWEEN GOD AND GANGSTA RAP: BEARING WITNESS TO BLACK CULTURE (1996). One of scholar and popular culture critic Michael Eric Dyson’s early books on hip hop culture. Scholar, educator, and preacher, Michael Eric Dyson renders a unique collection of critical analyses of culture, in particular black culture, through this intriguing work on race and identity. Key to understanding Dyson’s approach is that he is literally bearing witness to black culture. The fact that he is able to bear witness speaks to his unmistakable proximity to black life and existence in America. Throughout hip-hop literature the term proximity is thrown around often as a tool to verify authenticity and validity. Dyson’s composition of diverse writings seems to emanate from someone close to if not within the rap community and culture. Dyson commences and culminates his work with epistles or letters, the former a letter to his brother who is incarcerated, and the latter a letter to his third wife, in which he relates his growing pains on his journey toward maturity in his approach to relationships. His letter to his brother sets the tone for the harsh realities that will be excavated through his thematic discussions of the multifaceted nature of black life. Dyson discusses hostility within the black body and soul and the redemptive power of hope through education, spirituality (namely, the church), and family. He also discusses sexuality and hypersexuality as foundations of both pain and joy, while keeping at the forefront the struggle with intense yet masked white racism. These themes permeate Dyson’s work, which begins


with “Testimonials” chronicling the experiences of black men such as O.J. Simpson, Rev. Dr. Gardner Calvin Taylor, Michael Jordan, Sam Cooke, and Marion Barry. The following section, “Lessons,” digs deeply into politics and racial identity. Through discussion of Newt Gingrich, Quabiliah Shabazz, the NAACP, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Carol Moseley Braun, Dyson adds insight to a seemingly tumultuous rift between politics and racial identity. His third and final section, “Songs of Celebration,” stems mainly from Dyson’s writings as a hip-hop journalist for magazines such as Vibe and Rolling Stone. He explores the highs and lows of black artistic expression ranging from the black vernacular bible all the way to gospel music, R & B, and of course, hip-hop, bringing about a trite advancement into his benediction, which allows for the formulation of a tightly and uniquely ordered sermon for the modern socially conscientious reader. Dyson posits that the essence of black culture today lies in the cross sections of society, spirituality, and politics. Cultural expression that brings voice to the diversity of America is found somewhere “between God and gangsta rap.” The schism that has been apparently widened due to gangsta rap, which supposedly is the cause of America’s moral decay, is merely a convenient method for a complacent, elitist society to avoid dealing with the larger issues of race, class, and gender. Dyson masterfully takes postmodern theory and applies it sympathetically to black culture, allowing for a critique that bears witness to the fact that American culture is nonextant without black life. Dyson’s proximity to the culture allows the reader to appreciate his critique of the culture. See also Dyson, Michael Eric FURTHER READING Dyson, Michael Eric. Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina & the Color of Disaster. Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 2007. ———. Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop. New York: Basic Civitas, 2007.

W.C. Baxter III

BLACK BOOK CLUBS. Reading groups for people predomninantly of African descent organized around reading material concerned with the culture, politics, or history of black people. Black book clubs have experienced a dramatic increase in the last decade as urban/street literature and a renewed interest in self-publishing by people of color has grown exponentially. Rather than a new phenomenon, black book clubs have a long history in our society. After emancipation (1863) formerly enslaved African Americans organized literary societies, known in contemporary times as “the book club.” Freed blacks first formed literary societies as a social outlet and as a platform to support antislavery organizations. These societies provided a place where blacks could read the Bible and recite their own poetry or autobiographical narratives, speak out freely against slavery, and discuss community issues, such as how to build a school or fund a newspaper. In Boston around 1830 the African American Female Intelligence Society was founded for “the diffusion of knowledge, the suppression of vice and immorality, and for cherishing such virtues as will render us happy and useful to society.” On September 20, 1831 a Female Literary Association of Philadelphia held its first conclave. . . . By 1834 New York had a



BLACK BOOK CLUBS Colored Ladies’ Literary Society, and Philadelphia the Minerva Literary Association. By 1833 Pennsylvania had its Young Men’s Literary, Moral Reform Society and the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons. (West 2000, 51)

Ida B. Wells Barnett (1862–1931) and W. E. B. DuBois (1868–1963) were society advocates. Journalist Barnett and her group, Lyceum, read risqué newspapers when they gathered every Friday evening at LeMoyne Normal Institute in Tennessee. Wells wrote the following: “The literary exercises consisted of recitations, essays, and debates interspersed with music. The exercises always closed with a reading of the Evening Star—a spicy journal” (DeCosta-Willis 1995, 33). Crisis editor DuBois and his male group, “Sons of Freedom,” read and discussed United States history. He wrote that the literary society was “the best thing that could be done for the colored people” (Rampersad 1990, 10–11). Toni Morrison (Beloved) stated, “Novels are for talking about and quarreling about and engaging in some powerful way. However that happens, at a reading group, a study group, a classroom or just some friends getting together, it’s a delightful, desirable thing to do” (Farr 2004, 1). And, reading is a new passion for a book club at Thurgood Marshall High School in Baltimore where 30 black boys read hip hop literature instead of classics. They also devoured Display of Power: How FUBU Changed a World of Fashion Branding and Lifestyle by Daymond John, founder of the FUBU black fashion line (Jones 2007, 1B). During the Barnett/DuBois era, there were virtually no established black writers. However, black people read during the 1890 literary renaissance when Frances E. W. Harper (Iola Leroy) reigned, through the Harlem Renaissance (1920–1930) when Langston Hughes poetized (The Weary Blues), and during the Black Arts Movement (1960–1970) led by Amiri Baraka (Blues People). By the 1970s to mid-1990s, a new wave of books emerged. Thousands of readers across the nation committed themselves to books written by black authors. In 1992 the Academia Literary Society of Montclair, New Jersey, read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Paula Giddings’ classic When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. In Atlanta Black Women United in Literary Development (BUILD) read Disappearing Acts by Terry McMillan and the Renaissance classic, The Blacker the Berry by Wallace Thurman (West 1992, 51–52). Treble Clef & Book Lovers Club originated in 1908 at Virginia Union University and read The Color Purple in the late 1990s. The same-aged Inquirers in Atlanta read Our Kind of People: Inside Black America’s Upper Class by Lawrence Otis Graham during the late 1990s (West 2002, 42). As Charles Johnson (Middle Passage) wrote in Callaloo (1984) about new fiction writers, “We must celebrate the hard-won advances of black fiction in the last decade, for they are crucial steps in the evolution of our literature and consciousness, but the danger in being too easily satisfied, as Donald Hall points out in his magnificent essay, ‘Poetry and Ambition’ (Kenyon Review, Fall 1983), is that great models of literature become forgotten, anything goes after a time, and the high-wire of performance may be lowered more than we like” (Johnson 1984, 1). The televised Oprah’s Book Club helped to change the way America read, even though most of the books Oprah offered were not by black authors. Nevertheless, reading hit a revolutionary stride in the black neighborhood. In the late 1990s clubbers happily read literary fiction and books of intense social significance, and then came change. Terry McMillan claimed the stage with Mama, and Sister Souljah claimed the stage with The Coldest Winter Ever. In the company of literary suc-


cesses from Alice Walker (The Color Purple) and Toni Morrison, works by McMillan, Souljah, and similar authors encouraged publishers to do a double take amid changing popular music standards. The new kid on the block was hip-hop. What does hip-hop literature look like? The stories are urban, focus on drug lords, employ profanity, wallow in materialism, utilize misogynist dialogue, glory in immoral sex, and use the N-word (Ebony Apr. 2007, 34). Nikki Turner (A Hustler’s Wife) defends the word “nigger.” “I try not to use that word in narration, but my characters may use it in dialogue and in their internal thoughts. My readers depend on me to give them true-to-life stories and until society stops using it, you’ll find it in my novels. Personally, it’s not a word that I use in conversation” (Holloway 2007, 38). Among the 2006–2007 major hip hop books are Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting (Ebony Mar. 2007, 33), The Best-Kept Secret by Kimberla Lawson Roby, Dutch II: Angel’s Revenge by Teri Woods, and Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans. However, The Mis-Education of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson’s 1933 classic, continues to hold its own (Essence 2006, 86). According to “Flying off the Shelves,” published in the January/February 2007 Black Issues Book Review (BIBR), number one titles included Red River by Lalita Tademy; It’s No Secret: From Nas to Jay-Z, From Seduction to Scandal, a Hip-Hop Helen of Troy Tells All by Carmen Bryan; as well as The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama and The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner. In 2006 two very different books topped the New York Times best seller list. On Sunday, April 23, it was The Covenant With Black America, written by National Public Radio talk show host Tavis Smiley and published by Third World Press (Smikle 2006, 20). One week later Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea’s Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life by Tyler Perry was at the top of the New York Times best seller list. Reading material has changed. Yet, how is the book club, as an important cultural institution, faring? As previously noted, the Baltimore club reads hip hop exclusively. On the flip side Linda Caldwell Epps of the Bethany Book Club at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, reports that her club “has not entertained reading hip hop literature” (Personal Interview 2007). However, Bethany recently read the classic Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown and the controversial On The Down Low: A Journal Into the Lives of “Straight” Black Men Who Sleep With Men by J.L. King. In BIBR July/August 2006 the books&clubs column focused on the National Book Club Conference in Atlanta. The conference feted 500 attendees from 70 book clubs, plus 50 authors, including Mosely (Fortunate Son) and J. California Cooper (Some Soul to Keep), who, although they are not creators of street literature, are extremely popular with black readers. The main thrust of this gathering is to bring black readers of literature together (John-Hall 2006, 10–11). There is also The Pittsburgh Cadre, an all-male group. Not one hip hop title is on their list, though they did read Standing at the Scratch Line (2001) by Guy Johnson. They have read African Holistic Health (2004) by Dr. Llaila O. Africa in addition to Pawned Sovereignty: Sharpened Black Perspectives on Americanization, Africa, War and Reparations (2003) by Ezrah Aharone (Houser 2006, 12). It is fact that hip hop is driving classics off shelves at chain and independent stores and that literary and hip hop writers growl at each other about who is more authentic and relevant (Dodson 2006, 6). In the middle of this battle royale are million dollar profits. Bling bling sells, hip hop literature is dynamic, throngs of urbanites can relate to the rush




the adventure brings, and young readers—and some oldsters too—are much more interested in A Hustler’s Wife than The Bishop’s Wife. (A Hustler’s Wife was written in 2003, with a sequel in 2007. The Bishop’s Wife is a prim 1940s film starring Loretta Young that in revival 40+ years later as The Preacher’s Wife starred popular black actors Courtney Vance, Denzel Washington, and a gospel singing Whitney Houston.) Black folks are fervent readers and one mission of contemporary society—to read works by African American authors—is unchanged. These truths co-exist with the business management reality that stores stock what is hot—and hip-hop is hot; it is a genre not embraced 100% by black book clubs but one that is accepted, with much excitement, by the general population and audience of new and previously hesitant readers. FURTHER READING DeCosta-Willis, Miriam, ed. The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells: An Intimate Portrait of the Activist as a Young Woman. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1995. Dodson, Angela P. “Between The Lines: The Inside Scoop on What’s Happening in the Publishing Industry.” Black Issues Book Review (July/August 2006). “Ebony Bookshelf, April Top Picks.” Ebony (April 2007). “Ebony Bookshelf. Top Picks for Women.” Ebony (March 2007). Epps, Linda Caldwell. Personal Interview, 16 March 2007. “Essence Best Sellers.” Essence (January 2006). Farr, Cecilia Konchar. Reading Oprah: How Oprah’s Book Club Changed the Way America Reads. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004. “Flying Off the Shelves.” Black Issues Book Review (January/February 2007): 46. Holloway, Lynette R. “5 Questions For: Nikki Turner.” Ebony, Vol. LXII no. 6 (April 2007): 38. Houser, Pat. “Warning: Black Men Thinking: Pittsburgh Group Uses Books to Foster Discussion on Crucial Issues.” Black Issues Book Review (July/August 2006). John-Hall, Annette. “Just 500 or So of Our Best Friends: National Book Club Conference Will Limit Size to Keep the Literary Ambience.” Black Issues Book Review (July/August 2006). Johnson, Charles. “Whole Sight: Notes on New Black Fiction.” Callaloo Fiction: A Special Issue, No. 22 (autumn 1984): 1–6. Jones, Brent. “At Thurgood Marshall High, Reading Is a New Passion for One Group of Students; ‘Books’ Is Password for Males-Only Club.” Baltimore Sun. 4 April 2007, 1B. Rampersad, Arnold. The Art & Imagination of W.E.B. DuBois. New York: Schocken Books, 1990. Smiley, Tavis. The Covenant With Black America. Chicago, IL: Third World Press, 2006. West, Sandra L. “Entrusted to Our Keeping: A Legacy of African-American Literary Societies.” African Voices (Winter 2000). West, Sandra L. “A Small Circle of Friends: The Joy and Tradition of Shared Reading.” Emerge (April 1992).

Sandra L. West

BLACK NOISE: RAP MUSIC AND BLACK CULTURE IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICA (1994). Black Noise, written by hip hop scholar Tricia Rose, was the first book-length study of rap in the history of hip hop culture. In Black Noise Rose brings together a wide array of research methods and theories to recount the history of rap and hip hop culture, tracing its evolution from its inner-city origins in 1970s New York to its increasing dependence on in-studio production and technologies in the 1990s. Rose describes rap as an oppositional cultural practice and examines its relationship with black culture in American society. She brings together a


wide variety of voices and illuminates the many genres and audiences of rap, challenging the popular media’s linking of violence, inner city youth, and rap, and the notion, much disseminated by media coverage, that rap is always violent and sexist. Written at least partially as a response to such negative representations of rap, Rose’s book is divided into five chapters that deal with four major areas: 1) the history of rap and hip hop, 2) the relationships between technology, commerce, and music, 3) the political discourse between controlling and oppositional forces, and 4) gender relationships within rap and the female point of view. Instead of a rigidly linear history of its evolution, Rose explains the “day to day cultural forces” that shape rap, a musical form developed by urban black and Hispanic youth, and claims that “much of rap’s critical force grows out of the cultural potency that racially segregated conditions foster” (2008, xiii). Black Noise provides an overview of the social conditions that fueled the development of rap from its informal inner city origins to its place as a major profit maker for media corporations. In subsequent chapters, Rose brings together the post-industrial conditions of New York City, that is, the socio-economic circumstances that affect many of its residents—such as poverty, unemployment, and substandard housing—and their effects on rap music and the two other major aspects of hip hop culture: break dance and graffiti. In other words, rap and hip hop are the means by which impoverished youth of New York cope creatively, and often politically, with poverty and its effects. Rose also analyzes how pervasive stereotypes ascribed to rap, urban youth, and violence affect the corporate institutions that produce rap music and how these institutions take on disciplining and policing roles when dealing with black rappers and their audiences. In her chapter on technology, orality, and black cultural practices in rap music, Rose provides an overview of the syncretism of technology and black cultural practices, explaining, for example, how rap traits such as repetition and sampling are grounded in oral traditions in black culture, such as poetry, word-play, and storytelling. Dissecting the intersections of Afro-diasporic cultural traditions and the sounds created by rap artists, Rose explains that in rap “technology is made to articulate sounds and images and practices associated with orally based forms” (2008, 86). Equipment typically used in rap music, such as samplers and mixing boards, was recreated and reengineered by urban youth, and Rose explores the meanings given by audiences to those musical properties in rap that are dependent on technology, such as beats, bass, loops, and volume. The ways in which rap audiences ascribe meaning often differ across borderlines of race, gender, and culture. Rose quotes activist scholars, such as Angela Davis and Michele Wallace, and rappers, such as TLC, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, and Salt ‘N’ Pepa, to address racism, sexism, and female sexual power in rap music. Although some critics have found Rose’s analysis of feminism and female rappers problematic, suggesting it is inconsistent, Rose was one of the first to argue that female rappers can be powerful oppositional voices, and her analysis was a spearhead for a feminist discussion of rap. Other critics find that because it concentrates solely on rap’s New York origins, Black Noise’s coverage is somewhat circumscribed. Despite the criticism, Black Noise is widely considered a cornerstone in the history of rap music. It was the first book to deal not only with an in-depth analysis of the socioeconomic and cultural dynamics that gave rise to rap and hip hop but also with the intersections of technology and rap music, media institutions and their relationship with rappers, and feminism and rap. It remains, to this day, a core resource of rap music and hip hop culture for rap fans and scholars alike.



BLACK POETRY FURTHER READING Ross, Andrew, and Tricia Rose. Microphone Friends: Youth Music and Youth Culture. New York: Routledge, 1994. Rose, Tricia. The Hip-Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip-Hop and Why It Matters. Basic Civitas: New York, 2008.

Trudy Mercadal-Sabbaugh

BLACK POETRY. The black poetic tradition in the United States has its roots in the folklore and secular and religious music created by enslaved blacks in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This vernacular culture, steeped in the oral tradition and musical practices of their native Africa, featured characteristic elements and modes of call and response, improvisation, storytelling, irony, hyperbole, rhyme, praise, ridicule, and so on. The earliest forms of African American expression were work songs, field cries and hollers, shouts, proverbs, folktales, ballads, sermons, and spirituals. These often employed verbal techniques of signifying, rapping, lying, boasting, and toasting. These seminal forms of African American culture reflected the slaves’ retention of their African beliefs and heritage, even as they adapted to a new language and culture in America. As they struggled to endure the brutal conditions and cruelties of subjugation, they fashioned an ethos of faith, hope, and survival in a society that denied them the basic rights of citizenship and the status of full human beings. Thus the slaves and their descendants found themselves in a complex relationship with the American nation. W. E. B. Du Bois, writing at the turn of the twentieth century, described it as “a peculiar sensation, a double-consciousness, [the] sense of looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity” (Gates 1997, 615). This double consciousness, contends scholar Sandra Adell, is the “founding metaphor” of the African American literary tradition. Thus, whether consciously or unconsciously, the black writer in the United States faces a psychic dilemma. Consequently, Du Bois and other theorists and artists who came after him declared that black art must confront this fundamental crisis of African American identity. And, if it is to be relevant, it must address the oppressive social conditions stemming from white supremacy. They call for socially responsive art that draws upon folklore and music in order to achieve authentic black expression. Black poetry’s evolution has thus been shaped by its attention to these concerns as poets endeavor to convey the black experience and re-imagine its possibilities. The earliest published black poetry by enslaved poets Jupiter Hammon, Phillis Wheatley, and George Moses Horton, and free blacks James Whitfield and Frances E. W. Harper displayed the heavy influence of the Bible and neoclassical European poetry. Yet these literary poets addressed many of the same themes as their folk counterparts—yearning for freedom, social injustice, the indignities of being deemed inferior to whites, and religious salvation. And like the folk secular and spiritual music, they often contained coded messages of protest or thinly veiled metaphors indicting the slave masters for their hypocrisy and moral failings. Wheatley was the first black American poet to publish a full poetry collection, with Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773). It was first issued in London, however, because no Boston publisher was convinced that she had written it, even though some of the city’s most respected citizens had confirmed her authorship. June Jordan and others


have commented on the inherently subversive nature of a black woman slave writing poetry in eighteenth century, white male-dominated America. By the very act of writing, Wheatley and these other pioneers of the African American literary tradition refuted the justifications for slavery. Horton became the first black southern poet to publish a collection, with The Hope of Liberty (1829). Whitfield and Harper were activists and abolitionist poets admired for their oratorical skills. Whitfield, who campaigned for black liberation through separatism, published America and Other Poems (1853), which contained bitter works of social protest. Harper was a vigorous proponent of blacks’ and women’s rights and a leader in both of those movements in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854) contains some of her best-known protest poetry. In the aftermath of Emancipation, dialect poetry became popular as a means to celebrate the speech and exploits of common folk. James Weldon Johnson and Paul Laurence Dunbar were two of the most accomplished poets in that regard. They also wrote traditional literary poems that, among their various themes, extolled the genius of folk culture (“O Black and Unknown Bards”) and the heroism of slaves who joined the Union cause in the Civil War (“The Unsung Heroes”). Dunbar’s skillful use of dialect inspired other poets (including Johnson, who later disparaged its use). But some criticized it as minstrelsy, a parody of black colloquial speech that reinforced white stereotypes of southern blacks as childlike, colorful, and contented. Yet scholars have also noted the subversive subtext of “An Ante-Bellum Sermon” and the subtle protest of his often-anthologized lyric poems “Sympathy” and “We Wear the Mask.” His dialect poems, found in volumes such as Lyrics of Lowly Life (1896), were extremely popular among white audiences, but his works employing European lyric forms were largely ignored, a situation he lamented in “The Poet.” Other notable writers during this period included Alice Dunbar-Nelson, William Stanley Braithwaite, and Fenton Johnson. The vibrancy of black cultural and political life in 1920s New York, especially Harlem, helped to spark a period of intense artistic activity and a high point in black creative expression. It marked the Harlem Renaissance as an important historical moment, as black artists and writers achieved unprecedented recognition and publication. The most well known of the poets were Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Jean Toomer, Arna Bontemps, Gwendolyn Bennett, Helene Johnson, Anne Spencer, and Angelina Weld Grimké. They constituted a coterie of poets who were lauded by white critics and patrons and dubbed exemplars of a “New Negro Aesthetic” by scholar Alain Locke. Hughes eventually became the most celebrated of the Harlem Renaissance writers, achieving iconic status within the American literary canon. His prolific outpouring of poetry, prose, and drama incorporated black vernacular speech forms and music. He distinguished himself from his peers with his innovative use of rhythmic structures borrowed from blues and jazz, particularly in his first two books and later in the suite of bebop influenced poems, Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951) and Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz (1961). Hughes addressed the wide range of urban black experience, yet he also wrote poems dealing with southern rural themes. His focus on poverty, class struggle, and promoting international solidarity among the poor and working classes was prompted by his travels to the Soviet Union in the 1930s. He never ceased his advocacy of a truly racial art though. In “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” (1926), Hughes decried the artist who would rather be “a poet—not a Negro poet.” For another forty years, Hughes continued to produce poems and other works that honored uniquely black expressive forms.




Sterling Brown’s first book, Southern Road (1932), appeared as the Harlem Renaissance was coming to a close, but it signaled a vital new phase in black poetry. As Joanne V. Gabbin, Eugenia Collier, Mark Sanders, and others have noted, Brown also drew on folk forms in his masterful use of dialect and his invention of the blues ballad form, exemplified in “Ma Rainey.” His poems featuring archetypal heroes—Crispus Attucks McKoy, Old Lem, Big Boy, Joe Meeks, Wild Bill, and the trickster Slim Greer—satirized racism. Brown, in the critics’ estimation, had brilliantly fused folk and modernist sensibilities to create black expression of the highest order. In the intervening period of the 1930s to the 1960s, Melvin Tolson, Frank Marshall Davis, Robert Hayden, Margaret Danner, Margaret Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lance Jeffers, Owen Dodson, and Bob Kaufman, among others, gained prominence. Hayden, Tolson, and Walker were clearly influenced by folk forms; their works are steeped in history and honor political heroes and the determined spirit of ordinary folk. Hayden’s superbly executed, often elegiac, poems were among the most powerful works of his generation. Marshall’s ironic poems about the thwarting of middle class dreams foreshadowed themes of Black Arts poets such as Baraka and Madhubuti. Danner, whose absorbing modernist style remains fresh, celebrated African heritage. Kaufman, associated with the northern California Beat scene, addressed the alienation of the visionary artist in vivid, freely associative imagery and jazz-inspired rhythms. Brooks, the dominant poet of the period, created portraits of urban “heroes”—ordinary black women and men leading lives of struggle, particularly in her native South Side Chicago. Brooks’s work rendered, arguably, the most fully realized expression in poetry to date of the interior lives of black Americans. Her treatment of black women’s self-concept and emotional concerns deepened the articulation of the complexities of race and gender. In 1950, she became the first black poet to win the Pulitzer Prize for Annie Allen (1949) whose title character’s coming-of-age is chronicled in the technically virtuosic long lyric “The Anniad.” Her encounter in 1967 at Fisk University with the fiery younger writers of the new black consciousness movement marked the beginning of an important transition for Brooks. In the Mecca (1968) exhibited a shift in her aesthetic, surrendering what Cheryl Clarke calls the “lyric space” and turning toward a more communal ethos and collective voice in her poems. Embracing the new black aesthetic of the period, which called for art that spoke of and to the black masses and rejected the influence of “white” literary values and practices, she worked only with black independent publishers from 1969 onward. As Brooks herself noted, her work was no more political in its themes than it had always been. What changed, however, as Gabbin points out, was Brooks’s awareness that she was speaking to a black audience who was listening and who might be sparked to some new self-discovery by her words. In the mid-1960s, with the advent of the Black Power movement and a new spirit of black pride sweeping the country, a generation of poets threw off the “shackles” of a Eurocentric literary tradition in favor of a “black aesthetic.” They adopted a set of values, attitudes, practices, and actions aimed at, in Amiri Baraka’s words, “reshap[ing] the minds of the people” and “mov[ing] them to revolutionary positions” (1999, 503). These values included selflove and black unity, and through their art these poets hoped to transform the lives of the masses of lower and working class blacks. They thus helped to launch the Black Arts Movement (BAM), whose goals were to create positive images of blackness and build a unified “nation within a nation” that would resist racist oppression. Baraka—poet, playwright, educator, organizer, and political activist—was its acknowledged leading figure. He and other


important Black Arts figures, including Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Larry Neal, Askia Touré, A. B. Spellman, and The Last Poets were concentrated on the East Coast. Others in the forefront of the movement were found in all regions of the country. They included Mari Evans, Etheridge Knight, Haki Madhubuti, Carolyn Rodgers, and Eugene Redmond in the Midwest; Quincy Troupe and Jayne Cortez on the West Coast; and Kalamuya Salaam and Tom Dent in the South. As the “aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept,” according to Neal, Black Arts involved the awareness and responsiveness of the poet to the needs and concerns of the masses of black people. It aimed as well to set the criteria by which “true black art” could be judged. The poet, rooted in the community, was expected to speak to the people in forms that drew their authenticity from black vernacular speech and music and themes based in an astute understanding of black history and contemporary sociopolitical realities. Many of these poets, like Baraka, wedded their art to radical political activity aimed at creating social revolution. For others, poetry was analogous to political action, especially in terms of raising awareness of—and explicitly or implicitly offering solutions to—the multiple problems of drugs, violence, poverty, family dysfunction, police repression, joblessness, and so on, plaguing black communities. The Black Arts, the most significant evolutionary moment in twentieth century black poetry, issued a call for fundamental social change. Straightforward language was considered essential for reaching the poets’ intended audience, but so too was the aspect of performance. Poems were crafted and read to emphasize their oral and aural elements. Poets took their cue from the performers in their midst—musicians, singers, preachers, street corner orators, and hawkers of all kinds. Often the poem employed the informal, conversational voice of a familiar—or, it carried the seductive tones of an intimate, the bluesy crooning of a singer, or the commanding cadences of a warrior-general. Delivery of these effects was a vital component of the poem’s meaning. It was also considered “correct” to take the poetry to the people. Rather than staging poetry readings in the traditional venues of the university or bookstore, poets performed in bars, coffeehouses, churches, clubs, or even on the street, wherever the everyday folk might gather. More so than previous generations, BAM linked poetry to performance. It would become as important again in the 1990s and 2000s with the popularity of spoken word, a performance-oriented style of poetry. Often the poets’ themes and techniques overlapped. Virtually all of them dealt with music in their work in some way, paying homage to musical artists such as John Coltrane and Aretha Franklin, or incorporating jazzy verbal riffs, tonal effects, songlike refrains, and lyric samples of R&B songs. Some performed to jazz music, such as Jayne Cortez and The Last Poets, or with gospel choirs, such as Nikki Giovanni. Baraka’s early poems employed surrealistic imagery that betrayed his association with the bohemian avant-garde in 1950s Greenwich Village. His work grew more strident throughout the 1960s, often with provocative images drawn from history and contemporary politics, percussive rhythms, and profane diction that gave it force and immediacy. Madhubuti delivered pointed irony and caustic wit in poems that often dealt with political awakening and transformation. He and Sanchez both addressed black male-female relationships, and the need for love, unity, and collective building. Sanchez’s incantatory rhythms also addressed community problems, especially drugs, and personal strength and perseverance. Giovanni’s early works were militant calls for revolution by any means necessary. Her themes later shifted to more personal matters of love, relationship, and motherhood. In general, BAM poets were also attentive to colonial struggles in Africa and the rest of the Third World, recognizing their common oppression by white




supremacy. Their works conveyed their support for African independence movements of the 1950s–1960s and embraced their African heritage as a source of spiritual sustenance. The Black Arts left a rich legacy of activism and artistic achievement for poets of succeeding generations. The recent crop of hip hop writers, musicians, filmmakers, and spoken word poets have noted the influence of these forerunners—in particular, Baraka, Sanchez, Madhubuti, and Giovanni. In turn, these elder poets have forged bonds and mentoring relationships with the younger artists. For example, Baraka’s son, Ras, is an activist and poet in his own right, and Saul Williams has acknowledged the elder poet’s influence. Sanchez, as a creative writing professor and activist-poet, has nurtured numerous poets and hip hop artists in Philadelphia—notably Ursula Rucker and The Roots. Giovanni’s memorial tattoo and poems for Tupac Shakur have been widely publicized. And Madhubuti’s literary entrepreneurship continues with new publishers, such as Jessica Care Moore-Poole’s Moore Black Press in Atlanta. By the mid 1970s the prominence of Black Nationalist poetry had waned. Important poets emerged during the declining years of the Black Arts era whose work was less closely associated with the black aesthetic. They included Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Lucille Clifton, Clarence Major, Michael S. Harper, Alice Walker, Naomi Long Madgett, Maya Angelou, Colleen McElroy, Jay Wright, Al Young, and Ntozake Shange. Although the Black Arts influence was evident in many of their works, these poets did not all adhere to a particular ideology of black art. They favored instead a wider treatment of themes concerning identity, sexuality, gender, and international politics. Their works assumed, for instance, a broad array of black identities or took feminist stances regarding gender relationships and other social and political issues. Audre Lorde and June Jordan in particular dealt with the politics of sexuality, a topic only narrowly treated by their BAM peers. Lorde, self-described black lesbian feminist mother-warrior-poet, urged women to overcome silence and celebrated women’s love, mutual support, and collaboration across cultures in their struggles. She also wrote of the power and responsibilities of the mother and her lineage with African warrior-women. Jordan advocated in more militant tones awareness of and action against various and interlocking forms of oppression. She wrote poems supporting Palestinian rights and condemning Latin American repression and South African apartheid in the 1980s. She also explored personal themes, such as romantic love, opening a space, as did Lorde, to celebrate gay and lesbian and bisexual relationships. Shange’s poetry most clearly exhibited the stylistic hallmarks of BAM with its use of vernacular diction and unconventional grammar. But she built upon its themes with an intense examination of women’s lives. Her pioneering “choreopoem” for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf opened on Broadway in 1975. A communal drama developed in collaboration with women’s performance groups in the Bay Area, it detailed aspects of the journey to womanhood in seven women’s voices, music, and dance. It was also controversial, and it was criticized for its negative portrayals of black men. In subsequent collections of poems Shange continued to explore the black woman’s voice, love, and empowerment, as well as African diaspora culture and political issues. Angelou, who has achieved iconic status in black America, became the first black poet and woman to read at a president’s inauguration in 1993. Her poetry and autobiographies are filled with humor, pathos, and sardonic wit as they chart her own and the collective black experience in the United States. Lucille Clifton’s spare, elegant poems deal with women’s resilience, family, and lineage, among other subjects. Wright’s work explores culture within and outside U.S. boundaries. His poems are deeply concerned with history as a synthesis of


languages and cultures. Harper’s work, like Hayden’s, investigates African American history and honors heroes, past and present. His work is also engaged with music, jazz especially, as a model for his improvisational approach to sound and harmony in poetry. Major’s poems, like his self-reflective fiction, often deconstruct conventions of poetic structure and voice. His sharp observations and precise images reflect, as well, his painter’s sensibility. Collectively, these poets represented a departure from the prescriptive program of cultural nationalism and presaged the expansiveness of black poetry in coming years. During the late 1970s through the 1980s, poets explored a multiplicity of concerns, yet place, history and identity (individual, cultural, national), myth, music, community, memory, ancestry, and childhood were recurring subjects. Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Ai, Nathaniel Mackey, Marilyn Nelson, Thylias Moss, Wanda Coleman, Pat Parker, Sherley Ann Williams, Lorenzo Thomas, Toi Derricotte, Cornelius Eady, Afaa Michael Weaver, Brenda Marie Osbey, Calvin Forbes, E. Ethelbert Miller, and transplanted Caribbean poets Kamau Brathwaite and Derek Walcott, among others, emerged as important voices. Dove’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection Thomas and Beulah (1986) deftly melds personal narrative and the history of Depression and World War II-era Akron, Ohio. In Mother Love (1995) she explores the Demeter-Persephone relationship in exacting lyric forms. Komunyakaa ranges over a broad terrain in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Neon Vernacular (1993), which contains selections from several of his books. It includes piercing poems chronicling his Vietnam War experience and complex portraits of his native Bogalusa, Louisiana. Mackey’s eclectic influences include myth, spirituality, jazz, African belief systems, and avant-garde poetics. His poems are dense landscapes of sound and imagery. Osbey mines the rich cultural heritage of her native New Orleans in poems that honor the rituals of daily life and the ever-present ancestors. Marilyn Nelson’s work offers sensitive portraits of family and historic figures and poignant treatment of American slavery. Ai’s provocative persona poems are satirical commentaries on political and pop culture figures. Moss’s encyclopedic oeuvre is dense with explorations of history, science, religion, art, politics, and contemporary life and culture. Both Brathwaite and the Nobel Laureate Walcott address cultural memory and pride, as well as identity and language complicated by the colonial past of their native West Indies. Brathwaite’s poetry is infused with the idioms of the common people, which he calls “nation language.” Walcott also explores themes of history, nostalgia, and home in classical lyric forms, masterfully displayed, for example, in Omeros (1990), his revisioning of Homer’s epic The Odyssey. The 1980s and 1990s saw the growth of writing collectives and workshops organized and supported by established and emerging writers around the country. From Boston’s Dark Room Collective to Berkeley’s Poetry for the People, and numerous sites in between, new voices that emerged in the next decade were nurtured. The founding in 1996 of Cave Canem, a workshop retreat for black poets, and the institution of its Cave Canem First Book Prize also tremendously invigorated black poetry into the twenty-first century. And the increasing popularity of hip hop and the phenomenon of the poetry slam would contribute to the abundance and variety of poetic production. Spoken word and slams have come to define poetry for many among the Hip Hop Generation. Spoken word poets have drawn their inspiration and models from Black Arts poets and rap. Rap’s forerunners were Gil Scott-Heron and The Last Poets, who popularized a style of chanting lyrics to music in the early 1970s. These artists were overtly political in their messages, as were many early rap artists. Although rap owes its form to the music and performance aesthetic of the Black Arts movement, it can trace its roots to the boasts and toasts of the folk tradition. Poetry slams, timed “bouts” between individual poets or




teams of poets, originated in the mid-1980s in a Chicago tavern. Each performance of a poem would be scored “Olympics style” by judges recruited from the audience. The poetry slam quickly became a highly popular, and populist, form of poetry presentation, and the competitions soon led to regional and national championships. Patricia Smith, for example, who has published several collections of poems, first gained wide recognition as a national slam champion. Although poets adhere to certain slam rules, winning audience approval is paramount to success. In order for the poet to command attention, delivery became all-important, although the poetry often suffered in quality as a result. The best slam poets, however, could tout well-crafted as well as dramatically delivered poems. Poetry slams thus became a natural venue for the resurrected style known as spoken word. Spoken word exults in poetry’s foundation in an oral tradition. Inspired by rap’s rhymes and beats, it features heightened wordplay, rhythmic and sonic effects, hyperbolic imagery, and, often, narrative elements. Most often it is performed in slams, open microphones, concerts, and theater performances. But because spoken word’s popularity exists largely outside of academia, it has sparked debate over a divide between academic, or literary poetry “for the page” and performance-driven “for the stage” poetry. Yet for many poets it is a superficial divide because they may produce both literary and performanceoriented poems. More important, moreover, is that spoken word, despite its immediacy and dramatic force, is ultimately judged by how effectively it uses the fundamental conventions of poetry—line, image, diction, rhythm, form, and so on. And literary poetry, despite its serious reputation, must be orally evocative in order to engage its audience. Contemporary black poetry thrives in both modes. Of the numerous spoken word poets to emerge since the early 1990s, Saul Williams, Jessica Care Moore-Poole, Tracie Morris, Tony Medina, Willie Perdomo, Asha Bandele, Paul Beatty, Reg E. Gaines, Tish Benson, Dana Bryant, Roger Bonair-Agard, Carl Hancock Rux, Sarah Jones, and Ursula Rucker were early standouts. Many of them participated in slams at the legendary Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City. They also appeared in films such as Slam (1998), Slam Nation (1998), and The United States of Poetry (1996). Spoken word has been promoted more recently via Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry Jam on HBO and on Broadway, featuring poets Georgia Me, Black Ice, Staceyann Chin, and others. Seminal spoken word anthologies include Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café (1994); Listen Up! (1999); Bum Rush the Page (2001); and Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees (2006). Because of the emphasis on orality, some poets, such as Perdomo, have published their work simultaneously in book and CD formats; others have abandoned the page altogether, in favor of digital formats. Poetry by Rucker, Aya de León, and Amir Sulaiman, for example, may be more easily found on CDs and video than in print. The current popularity of poetry has also led to the “crossover” of rappers and neo-soul artists, such as Tupac Shakur, Jill Scott, and Alicia Keys, with published poetry collections. Spoken word phenom Saul Williams has authored four books and recorded as many music CDs. Spoken word, nurtured by hip hop culture, seems to be stimulating a new level of cross-fertilization between the genres. From the 1990s into the 2000s a plethora of new voices have established their significance. Among them are Harryette Mullen, Elizabeth Alexander, Carl Phillips, Essex Hemphill, Kwame Dawes, Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Kevin Young, Allison Joseph, Claudia Rankine, Nikky Finney, Ruth Forman, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Tracy K. Smith, Major Jackson, Forrest Hamer, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, John R. Keene, A. Van Jordan, and Terrance Hayes. These poets defy easy categorization because they exhibit a


general ethos of conveying the multifaceted aspects of black experiences and ideas. Influenced perhaps by the neo-formalism of the 1980s, many of them show a commitment to traditional forms in their work. Alexander’s work engages the richness, complexities, and nuances of black culture. Phillips’s urbane poems chart desire, longing, and memory. Tracy K. Smith’s evocative poems range from the realm of the deeply personal to the starkly political with luminous lyricism. Trethewey has garnered a Pulitzer Prize with work that explores loss and complexities of race and class in the historic and contemporary South. Finney affirms her southern roots and a strong family tradition but also speaks of black women’s lives imperiled by racism and exploitation. Hemphill, who died in 1995, was outspoken in confronting homophobia, misogyny, and racism. His poems also celebrate black gay relationships and activism. This generation also indulges the perennial impulse to “make it new.” Mullen’s experimental approach aligns her with contemporary language poetry, as she foregrounds language itself. She highlights, among other themes, women, consumer culture, and black vernacular. Rankine creates hybrid forms, incorporating prose, graphics, and images from television and advertising in work that examines American society. Jordan and Young have used, respectively, conventions of the screenplay and dictionary, and of film noir and pulp fiction, in their poetry. Ellis exploits the idioms of funk and D.C. go-go music in his poems’ percussive exhortations. And Hayes plays with new forms based on alphabetic, syllabic, and linear schemes. Along with emerging poets Lyrae van Clief-Stefanon, Tyehimba Jess, Kyle Dargan, Dawn Lundy Martin, Sean Hill, Ross Gay, Aracelis Girmay, and many others, they confirm the continuing vitality of the tradition. As the first decade of the twenty-first century nears its end, black poetry continues, in what Sonia Sanchez calls its “third renaissance;” influenced as always by changing modes of black speech and music, it continues to generate new forms and styles. FURTHER READING Baraka, Amiri, and William J. Harris, eds. The Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader. 2nd Edition. New York: Thunders Mouth, 1999. Brown, Fahamisha Patricia. Performing the Word: African American Poetry as Vernacular Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1999. Gabbin, Joanne V., ed. The Furious Flowering of African American Poetry. Charlottesville, VA: Virginia University Press, 1999. Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., and Nellie Y. McKay, eds. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997. Gladney, Marvin. “The Black Arts Movement and Hip Hop.” African American Review, Vol. 29 Issue 2 (1995): 291–301. Lansana, Quraysh Ali. “Sibling Rivalries: Literary Poetry Versus Spoken Word: Why Does the Divide Exist and What Does It Mean?” Black Issues Book Review, Vol. 6 Issue 2 (2004): 14–18.

Sharan Strange

BLACK POPULAR CULTURE. Black Popular Culture refers to mainstream representations of African American life and culture. It relies on the media, music, art, and literature to disseminate and showcase the multifaceted experiences of African American life in the United States. The visibility of Black Popular Culture has grown tremendously since the 1970s through print and visual media. However, attempts to portray systematic oppressions of




race, class, gender, and sexual orientation are slow to emerge in mainstream programming. Although no single representative category can adequately speak for all experiences, distinctive characteristics of dress, behavior, and language inform the popular imagination surrounding Black Popular Culture. With influences from clothing to art, the explosion of hip hop literature is the most noticeable addition to black popular culture. This genre ushered in a new era of writers who sought to capture the reality of their lives as Americans silenced by the larger society. Hip hop literature gained its notoriety and fan base by speaking into the silences that permeate urban life. The explosion of hip hop literature gained popularity in the early 1990s by focusing on urban city landscapes to explore themes of crime, violence, drugs, and sexuality. Monikers like “Ghetto Lit,” “Street Lit,” “Urban Lit,” and the use of Black English attract a wide variety of readers. Although contemporary writers of hip hop literature share shelf space with the likes of James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, and Alice Walker, this genre speaks to an audience of teenagers and young adults who identify with the urban environment, specifically the flashy book covers that portray noticeable realities of urban life. Hip hop literature lends authenticity to its works by exploring recognizable themes of poverty, drug use, and violence. Although many of these themes speak to the realities of life across America, hip hop literature delves deeper into the underworld of urban life to capture marginalized worlds of existence, where individuals struggle for survival and redemption. Many consider Donald Goines as the early progenitor of hip hop literature since his 1971 publication of Dopefiend: Story of a Black Junkie. Written during his time in prison, Dopefiend offered scathing accounts of Detroit street life as Goines sought to create a face for an unknown world. Despite his involvement in the crime world, or perhaps because of it, his novels portray the realities of poverty-stricken areas that often seem immune to police enforcement. Similarly, Sister Souljah’s 1999 classic, The Coldest Winter Ever, marked the emergence of women in hip hop literature. Souljah’s first novel chronicles the life of a young Brooklyn girl whose familial ties to the drug world lead to a life of repeated mistakes and misadventures. Relying on tales of violence, materialism, and drug use, the novel exposes the insurmountable odds stacked against inner city communities. Although Goines and Souljah laid the foundation for this genre, contemporary writers of hip hop literature continue to expand the conventions by delving deeper into everyday complexities of urban life. Hip hop literature has evolved since its early days and contemporary authors continue to appear on bestseller lists. From the work of Erica Kennedy to Shannon Holmes, hip hop literature exposes the gritty lifestyles of the urban environment that mainstream American society overlooks. Through poetry, artists such as Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, and Tupac Shakur have expanded the boundaries of hip hop literature to include a more personalized reflection of African American life. These poems are filled with explosive images and ideas that ask readers to question everyday realities, dreams, failures, and joys that motivate and inform the present world. Although hip hop literature continues to offer a wide assortment of perspectives that continue to articulate the realities of urban life, some critics charge that such literary endeavors provide few viable solutions to issues plaguing the inner city. Although hip hop writers deviate from the dynamic and challenging prose found in canonical works of literature, readers will be find voices of struggle and resistance emerging from the pages of this genre. Ultimately, these works take readers on a journey into familiar and unfamiliar waters as they attempt to account for the motivations that fuel the available choices of the urban landscape. In the realm of black popular culture, hip hop literature leads the next generation of writers.

BLACK SEXUAL POLITICS: AFRICAN AMERICANS, GENDER, AND THE NEW RACISM FURTHER READING Bracey, Earnest N. On Racism: Essays on Black Popular Culture, African American Politics, and the New Black Aesthetics. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2003. Dent, Gina. Black Popular Culture: Discussions in Contemporary Culture. New York: New Press, 1998. Goines, Donald. Dopefiend: Story of a Black Junkie. 1971. Los Angeles: Holloway House Publishing Company, 2007. Neal, Mark Anthony. Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic. New York: Routledge, 2002. Scott, Jill. The Moments, the Minutes, the Hours: The Poetry of Jill Scott. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005. Souljah, Sister. The Coldest Winter Ever. New York: Pocket Books, 1999.

Lauren Chambers

BLACK SEXUAL POLITICS: AFRICAN AMERICANS, GENDER, AND THE NEW RACISM (2005). Patricia Hill Collins’s Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism is a comprehensive text that illuminates how race, sexuality, and gender inform both the interactions between African American men and women and how they, in turn, are perceived by the world at large. On the heels of her seminal text Black Feminist Thought, Black Sexual Politics is an informative work that positions discussions of sexuality and gender in equal significance to race when envisioning ideologies and paradigms for equality and social justice. Furthermore, Collins integrates within the text that notions of Black sexual politics must be analyzed outside of a monotheistic ideal of African Americans, employing the diversity and complexity of African Americans and African American culture. Organizationally, the book is divided into three sections, each of which illuminates three overarching arguments that are the groundwork for the text. The first third embarks on an analysis of what Collins refers to as a “new racism,” a racism grounded in the history of African Americans in chattel slavery while appropriating contemporary praxes of transnationalism, globalization, and the hegemonic influence of mass media. The young Hip Hop Generation is uniquely affected by new racism because Collins suggests that, “The emergence of a new Black youth culture in the United States that simultaneously empowers and undermines African American progress signals a new phase in the contours of racism itself as well as antiracist initiatives that will be needed to counter it” (2006, 54). The commodification of Black bodies is a specific outgrowth of the political economies of chattel slavery, creating a series of controlling images to serve as prototypes for Black behavior. Through this institution, the bodies of black men and women held significant sexual, economic, and political connotations. Black male bodies were objectified as strong, sexually potent, violent, and stupid, which birthed the controlling images of the Black Buck, Uncle Tom, and Coon caricatures. Black female bodies were sexualized in a different way in that their reproductive capacity was exploited, in turn fostering notions of black women as being sexually rapacious and immoral. These notions gave rise to the controlling images of the Jezebel and Mammy figures. These ideologies of black men and women survived over time, morphing according to social mores, solidifying a significant role in black sexual politics and the new racism. The second part of the book places black sexual politics and new racism within the nexus of popular culture. The 1990s marked a significant decade in the mass packaging, marketing and commodification of Black Popular Culture to all parts of the globe. Black




femininity and masculinity thus became contested sites for the reconfiguration of black sexual politics. Complicated further by class implications, notions of black authenticity as being decidedly poor and working class and black respectability as being best manifested through the black middle class took shape through a redefinition of Black gender ideology for the consumption of the masses. Collins’s use of popular Black athletes, actors, and musicians serves to further the discussion of how African Americans, under the dictates of new racism, both subvert and uphold notions of black sexual ideologies. Furthermore, Collins calls for a progressive black sexual politics that challenges the limits and marginalization of controlling images. More specifically, a new progressive black sexual ideology is one that seeks out broader definitions of manhood and womanhood that don’t require the exploitation and subjugation of one to achieve the other. Rather, she states that it is necessary to move outside these confines and navigate a more meaningful, complex, and enlightened black sexual political structure. In the last section of the book, Collins moves outside of popular culture to think more broadly about ways in which black sexual politics can be redefined and the implications of no attempts to challenge or redefine black sexual politics. Collins provides the framework for discussing the ways in which violence has historically been perpetrated against black bodies. In present day terms, black bodies are being consistently raped and lynched by institutions, which exert a particular type of social control apropos to the post-civil rights, Hip Hop Generation. Furthermore, this institutionalized violence coupled with the dictates of new racism complicates the way in which black men and women view each other, especially with respect to intimate relationships. With the proliferation of HIV/AIDS in black communities, a progressive black sexual politics is paramount in order to dismantle oppressive hierarchies of social control while pushing forward a decidedly anti-racist, antiheterosexist, anti-sexist agenda. FURTHER READING Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge, 1991. ———. Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1998. ———. From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2006.

Courtney Young

BLACK STUDIES, RAP, AND THE ACADEMY (1995). Houston A. Baker’s controversial foray into rap music criticism was met with mixed reviews. Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy, published in 1995, is one of the early treatises on rap music that advocated for serious academic treatment of the subject. The work begins by looking at the complexity and heterogeneity of black studies. Black studies (now known as African American studies in most places) was criticized in its early days because the discipline itself necessarily lay outside of traditional academic studies. Covering a wide range of topics from the LA Riots of 1992, which were sparked by the Rodney King verdict, to the indecency trial of rap group 2 Live Crew, Baker attempts to create a theoretical framework for the place rap could occupy in serious study of black culture and cultural productions.


One of the main premises of the book is that rap music, like black studies, links scholarly thought to the real lives of the black people. According to Baker, to have a black intelligentsia who is out of touch with the people is useless; for him rap as a contemporary expression of culture, economics, and politics is an invaluable critical tool for studying and advancing black life. Yet, Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy is accused of not being as thoughtful a contribution to rap studies as it should have been. Baker’s repeated misquoting of rap lyrics and his uneven reading of the genre’s penchant for the commercial reads as if he only assumes certain things about the genre or, worse, does not take it very seriously himself. The book is also known as a culminating event in Baker’s criticism of Henry Louis Gates (the well known Harvard University professor of African American Studies). In 1990 Professor Gates appeared as an expert defense witness for 2 Live Crew as they faced obscenity charges. Baker takes Gates to task for Gate’s irresponsibility and shortsightedness (Pavlic, 2008). Many of the criticisms surrounding the text mark Baker as out of touch with the rap scene of the 1990s. Although Baker may have been beyond his area of expertise, he should certainly be credited with broaching the subject of rap in the academy at the end of the twentieth century. Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy, though dated, documents the controversial place rap occupied and continues to occupy in the American academy. FURTHER READING Marlowe, Ann. “Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy.” ArtForum (Dec. 1993). Pavlic, Edward. “Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy.” African American Review (Summer 1997).

Tarshia L. Stanley

BLACKGIRL MAGAZINE. A quarterly magazine founded and edited by Kenya Jordana James to entertain and inform African American adolescents. Blackgirl Magazine was founded in 2001 by eleven-year-old Kenya Jordana James. Its purpose is to entertain and inform as well as to promote positive messages. The magazine has featured interviews with a number of well-known athletes, celebrities, and artists, including Lauren Hill, Forrest Whitaker, Kyla Pratt, and Venus and Serena Williams; James’s first boon was an interview with Atlanta hip hop duo Outkast. The magazine now has a circulation of approximately 5,000 subscribers and is sold in a number of metropolitan Atlanta venues, such as African American bookstores and the like. Although clearly intended to entertain its young readership, Blackgirl also bears the mark of James’s perspective, which departs somewhat from other popular periodicals aimed at this second generation of hip hop. As founder and editor, Kenya James has been highly lauded for her accomplishments at such a young age. In 2001 she invested $1,200 of profits from her cake business to compose the first issue of Blackgirl; that issue sold out. Kenyajordana Cakes, the baking venture that facilitated her start-up capital, followed an earlier jewelry business that she began in third grade. James has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight. In 2004, she earned a second place Student Entrepreneur award through the Guardian’s Girls Going Places competition from Guardian Life Insurance Company; it came with a $5,000 scholarship. James has already made a significant showing for herself




and her magazine, and those efforts have been acknowledged on both small and large scales. One of the most distinguishing elements of Blackgirl has been James’s ability to garner high-profile interviews. She has interviewed quite an impressive list of celebrities, representing the Hip Hop Generation and beyond. She asks questions that probe her subjects for their connections to the magazine’s young readers and that address relevant social issues. There are the usual questions about an actor’s work or an athlete’s work ethic. Perhaps what defines James and Blackgirl, however, is her effort to ask more thoughtful, culturally specific questions, though at an adolescent level. The magazine also beefs up its content by addressing real life and real girls, not only celebrity life. Similarly, the magazine’s website follows its mission by offering a “First Fruits” section that presents the wisdom of elders, such as Georgia State University professor Asa Hilliard, and a “Reader’s Write” section that allows readers to publish their own work. Likewise, James also offers an “Inspiring Teens” section that informs teens about motivational events such as workshops and lectures. James and Blackgirl are part of an emerging group of periodical literature grounded in hip hop and its culture. Her choices for interview subjects reflect that in their inclusion of Talib Kwali and Little Bow Wow. However, she also seems to be going beyond the status quo with an Afro-Centric take on the culture. In accordance with her tendency to turn one endeavor into another, James has recently moved into both the skin care and the clothing design industries. Her skin care line, the Kenyajordana Collection, expresses her commitment to an Afrocentric perspective. The products are marketed as “natural” and “healthy”; therefore, they are composed of materials such as shea butter and avoid synthetic and artificial ingredients. Like the magazine itself, the collection has received national publicity. Magazines such as Honey, Vibe, Sister 2 Sister, and Heart and Soul have featured positive reporting on the skin care line. The budding clothing line, Modest Apparel, will display African themes and reflect the magazine’s concern with images for African American girls. Overall, Kenya Jordana James has been able to fill a void in the culture of periodical literature. She consciously links her magazine with the generation that she represents and purposely chooses to speak directly to the demographic of African American girls in hip hop’s second generation. Moreover, her entrepreneurial spirit reflects something of a trend in hip hop’s younger generation. Her work presents a promising display of awareness and commitment for the culture of the day.

Tikenya S. Foster-Singletary

BLAXPLOITATION FILMS. Films from the 1970s that featured black casts and thematic material that have their roots in urban literature and that continue to influence contemporary characters and storylines in urban literature and film. Blaxploitation films refer to a period of low-budget, independent American cinema from the early 1970s (approximately 1970–1975) that featured dominant African American characters in lead roles. Although exclusively genre pictures (action, thriller, and horror), Blaxploitation challenged many of the subservient stereotypes of African Americans in American cinema, while also reflecting and perpetuating a whole new cache of stereotypes, many of which persist to the present.


The term Blaxploitation today is fairly well known, but as a semantic construction it remains a highly problematic term. Obviously, Blaxploitation is a contraction of “black” and “exploitation,” but here “exploitation” refers more to a context of film production, exhibition, and marketing than it does to the material exploitation of an African American workforce. Although clearly material exploitation occurred (Fred Williamson has commented that he’d be considerably more financially successful had he been white and made these films), the “exploitation” in Blaxploitation refers to the kind of low-budget, B-movies that would often only play the urban grindhouse or drive-in circuits. So the “exploitation” in Blaxploitation refers, in the first instance, to a specific and time-specific period of genre film production in the early 1970s. Cinema folklore has it that the term Blaxploitation was coined by (a presumably white) reviewer in Variety in reference to Ossie Davis’s Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) (based on the novel by Chester Himes), thereby making it, alongside Melvin Van Peebles’s landmark film Sweet Sweetback’s Badassss Song (1971), the first Blaxploitation film. These two movies’ successes at the box office established the financial viability of a cinema that featured African American casts and was a market that Hollywood, up until that time, had largely ignored. Prior to these films, Hollywood “wisdom” was that the Black audiences were not interested in seeing black actors on-screen (based primarily on poor box office statistics of Sidney Portier films in primarily African American neighborhoods). But it was the release in 1971 of Shaft that really heralds Blaxploitation properly. Not only was the “black private dick who’s a sex machine with all the chicks,” as Isaac Hayes’s Oscar winning theme song described Richard Roundtree’s character, the first proper Blaxploitation hero, John Shaft ushered in a whole posse of African American movie heroes, played by such black actors as Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Jim Kelly, and Ron O’Neal. These male heroes often found themselves as lone heroes of color fighting against an almost all-white criminal element. In films such as Slaughter (1972), Superfly (1972), and Black Caesar (1973), black men were shown “stickin’ it to the Man,” “the Man” standing for white hegemony. Whether uncovering a Mafia plot to artificially start a race-war in Harlem (Shaft) or taking over the Harlem underworld itself (Black Caesar—a self-conscious echo of Mervyn Le Roy’s Little Caesar (1931)), these “new” heroes were occupying a cinematic narrative space that had previously been the exclusive domain of white actors. Directors of color were also coming to the fore, paving the way for later filmmakers such as John Singleton, Ernest Dickerson, and of course, Spike Lee. Shaft and Shaft’s Big Score (1972) were directed by Life Magazine photographer Gordon Parks. His son, Gordon Parks Jr., directed the superior Superfly, Three the Hard Way (1974), Thomasine & Bushrod (1974), and Aaron Loves Angela (1975), but unfortunately he died in a plane crash in Africa in 1979; given the strength of the short filmography Parks Jr. left, a very promising filmmaker was taken from American cinema way too soon. Aside from the contributions of directors such as Parks and Parks Jr., or stars like Roundtree, O’Neal, Williamson, and Brown, there are dozens of unsung African American film pioneers who worked in all aspects of film production in this period. Directors and stars get all the glory, but, as the DVD extras on the Shaft films seem to demonstrate, most of the crew on these films was black, too. There is a history of black filmmaking in America that needs to be written that includes the roles beyond the privileged place of the director. While not considered a Blaxploitation film, the Bruce Lee classic, Enter the Dragon (1974), introduced exploitation audiences to karate champion Jim Kelly. Kelly, although never as prolific as Williamson or Brown, is particularly noteworthy for Black




Belt Jones (1974), directed by Dragon’s helmer, Robert Clouse. Jones is, in many respects, a quintessential Blaxploitation film because it includes a number of central tropes in this genre/movement. The first trope occurs early in the film: Pinky’s Pool Hall is also an underground drug den and is “visited” by the local black militia led by Ted Lange (later to play Isaac on The Love Boat). The militia is not too keen on Pinky selling drugs to their own in the neighborhood. Its inclusion, although a frequent trope of the Blaxploitation Film, echoes the social realities of contemporary African American urban life—there is tension between black militants trying to clean up their streets and African American profiteers, who, although not controlling the local drug traffic (white criminals are often revealed to be the puppet masters in these films), are certainly key points in its circulation. Although this representation is neither positive nor subtle, the role of Jones occupies a central fulcrum, with the urban drug dealers and black militants as opposite polarities. This simplistic model is the standard structural trope in most of these films. More significantly, Black Belt Jones also demonstrates the importance of karate within African American popular culture. More than just an alternative to street violence, karate is shown to give black youth a number of opportunities, including Pop Byrd’s dojo, a safe place to hang out (at least until Pinky’s boys try to muscle in), physical exercise, mental and physical discipline, and self-respect. This is why the good guys are so willing to defend the dojo—they know what it means to the community. The dojo and Pinky’s pool hall stand as opposite opportunities for kids within South Central LA; the former a positive influence, the latter a negative influence. Women were also “stickin’ it to the Man” in Blaxploitation cinema, and although these films would be unlikely to appease the emerging feminist scholars of the day, in films such as Coffy (1973), Foxy Brown (1974), and Friday Foster (1975), Pam Grier broke many of the stereotypical roles open to women, let alone women of color, at the time. Women were now ascending to the ranks of action heroes, previously dominated by men. Tamara Dobson was the superspy/action hero Cleopatra Jones in two films (1973 and 1975), and Jeannie Bell was “taking out the trash” in TNT Jackson (1975). TNT Jackson’s director, Cirio Santiago, is an example that not all Blaxploitation films were American; a good number of the really low-rent Blaxploitation films actually were made in the Philippines. To make exploitation movies as cheaply as possible, a number of movies were made in Asia—including the early Pam Grier classics Women in Cages (1971) and Black Mama, White Mama (1972). But Santiago also produced the Jack Hill films The Big Bird Cage (1972) and The Big Doll House (1971) (which also starred Grier) and directed the explicitly Marxist Blaxploitation film Savage! (1973), in which a Pilipino government mercenary is captured by Marxist rebels and converted to their cause. With the exception perhaps of John Shaft walking the streets of Manhattan to Isaac Hayes’s soundtrack, the quintessential figure of Blaxploitation cinema is the pimp. The pimp, the man in the wild clothes and enormous hat who lives off the women who sell their bodies on the street, seems like an odd choice for a hero. But as Darius James notes in his book on Blaxploitation attitude, “Just as the oils and pastels of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec had celebrated the prostitute, the Blaxploitation Film was a class of art with the pimp as subject. These films drew on and elevated the black underground’s oral tradition of the trickster’s tale and the hustler’s toast” (1995). James draws a connection between the pimp and the oral tradition’s use of trickster figures—folkloristic characters that move between two worlds, neither gods nor men, good nor evil, black nor white, like Brer Rabbit in the Uncle Remus stories. They are neither heroes nor villains, but represent the permeability of life and of the processes of change. James notes that in the early 1970s, black kids wanted to


emulate these trickster figures—sticking it to the man, having lots of money in their pockets while never seeming to do a “normal” job, and having gorgeous women at their beck and call. For many theorists of the post-civil rights black youth culture, the pimp was the emblem for emulation. The central figure of the pimp is probably best represented in Michael Campus’s 1973 film The Mack. The Mack, in many respects, echoes the contemporary literature of Iceberg Slim, the pimp turned novelist whose books, such as Pimp—The Story Of My Life, are now seen as major contributions in the field of African American literature. As such, the film gives exceptional insight and detail on the pimp business. The film goes beyond the business end of the trade and explores the subaltern community within the world of prostitution. For example, we see “The Players’ Picnic,” a Sunday social outing where the local Los Angeles procurers gather in a park, play baseball, eat barbecue, and have fun with one another. The sequence is a tad surreal, with children playing and couples arguing—the whole scene feels like the height of normalcy and yet, these are pimps and prostitutes. But that is the point. These “underworld” figures, so parodied in other Blaxploitation films such as those noted above, are still just regular folk who have families and enjoy going to company picnics. This sequence has an overriding sense of community to it, a sense of family and security. The people who work in the sex industry are not presented as deviant or pathetic—quite the contrary. They are presented as real people who have real lives. The movie is dedicated to “the players who helped make this film and who appeared in it,” that is, the sex industry workers (pimps predominantly) who advised and appeared in the film, which gives the movie a further sense of authenticity and respect. As in Black Belt Jones, the influences on Goldie in The Mack demonstrate similar polarities. His brother wants him to be a militant, his mother wants him to be a good Christian, his friends want him to be a Mack, the cops want him to be a criminal, and the mob wants him to be a junky again so they can control him. The roles that Goldie has available to him—militant, Christian, pimp, criminal, junky—are, in many respects, the only options black men felt were open to them in the early 1970s. These are differing and often conflicting signals as to what a man is to do with his life, and Goldie is likewise caught up in those dilemmas. It is not surprising that many black men, and probably a number of non-black men too, identified with Goldie in this film. Another theme the film plays with is that of brothers. Goldie is placed in opposition with his own brother—where Goldie wants to rule the streets, his brother wants to clean them up. But this kind of polarity also has a further symbolic dimension, whereby brothers are not just brothers (i.e., blood kin), but also “brothers” (i.e., all black men). By the end of the movie Goldie and his (blood) brother come to a tacit understanding. This idea can be extended to suggest that the movie is asking that all “brothers” need to get together and come to an understanding with one another. There is even an attempt to understand racism in this film—when the two corrupt and racist cops confront Goldie, they point out that their hatred of him is based on envy. They envy him his money, his women, his cool, his attitude, and his freedom. Granted, this is a pretty simplistic attempt at the sociology of racism, but bear in mind that The Mack is one of the few Blaxploitation films that even attempted to explain racism. Finally, what stands out most about The Mack are the details we get about the pimp business. As we follow Goldie in his quest to be the best pimp on the Sunset Strip, we also learn how the industry operates. Goldie’s professionalism and his refusal to exploit his “stable” (beyond the living off the avails of prostitution) show us the virtues in a good pimp—honesty, stability, no drugs, no abuse, and so on. Even though this may be more




fantasy than reality (and The Mack does glamorize the sex industry), we still see more gritty detail about these characters’ lives than in any of the films already discussed. Despite the work of such organizations as the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Urban League, who joined forces to form the short-lived Coalition Against Blaxploitation (CAB) and whose mandate was to try to get Blaxploitation off American screens because it was seen as reifying negative stereotypes of African American culture, the cause of Blaxploitation’s decline and ultimate disappearance is probably more banal. I would argue that the decline of Blaxploitation’s popularity was in part due to the decline in soul music’s popularity. The classic Blaxploitation films featured gritty and energetic music by Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield (Superfly), James Brown (Black Caesar), and Bobby Womack (Across 110th Street (1972)), and as soul music became increasingly dominated by white crossover musical acts under disco, so too did “soul cinema” become increasingly “discoed” as white dominated black-oriented films became more dominant. A case in point is the third Shaft film, Shaft in Africa (1973); at the peak of Blaxploitation’s popularity, MGM decided the property was too successful to leave in African American hands. Gordon Parks was replaced by English director John Guillerman, who was lined up to direct the anticipated blockbuster The Towering Inferno (1974), and the new script was by Hollywood stalwart Stirling Silliphant (who later wrote The Swarm (1978)), whereas the content of the film increased the social consciousness of the series (contemporary African slave traders). The disco craze dominated black-oriented cinema in the late 1970s, as evidenced by films such as Car Wash (1976, directed by Michael Schultz with a script by Joel Schumacher) and The Wiz (1978, directed by Sidney Lumet with another script by Schumacher). The legacy of Blaxploitation is still felt today. With the exception of John Singleton’s remake/rethinking of Shaft (2000), contemporary African American filmmakers such as Singleton, Dickerson, and Lee are not Blaxploitation filmmakers, but they have inherited the mantel from directors such as Parks. Keenan Ivory Wayan’s 1988 parody of Blaxploitation, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka seemed to be the final nail in the coffin of the movement, but the casting of Grier in Jackie Brown (1997) (while not strictly a neoBlaxploitation film), gives Tarantino’s movie a certain soul cinema aesthetic. In 1996, Black Caesar’s director, Larry Cohen, reunited many of the Blaxploitation stars (Roundtree, Brown, Kelly, Williamson, O’Neal, and Grier) for Original Gangstas, a neoBlaxploitation response to the current spate of “’Hood” films, such as Menace II Society (1993) and Boyz N The Hood (1991). Blaxploitation has also crossed ethnic lines, with Jonathan Kesselman’s first “Jewsploitation” film, The Hebrew Hammer (2003). FURTHER READING James, Darius. That’s Blaxploitation!: Roots of the Baadasssss ‘Tude (Rated X by an All-Whyte Jury). New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

Mikel Koven

BLOGS. A blog (adapted from the term “Web log”) is an interactive Web site that combines journal writing, original reporting, and message board media with images and embedded hyperlinks. Its author, better known as a blogger, posts entries in sequential order often with “tags” to classify subject matter, “permalinks” to facilitate direct or archival access, and a forum for public commentary.


The practice of blogging preceded the naming of the phenomenon, with many of its attributes being used in other Web-based communication tools, such as Usenet newsgroups and personal homepages popularized in the mid-1980s and 1990s. Early bloggers began authoring sites that offered personal reflections or pages of collected hyperlinks to a variety of their favorite Internet portals. With the creation of template sites, such as Open Diary in 1998 and LiveJournal and Blogger in 1999, users were able to maintain their own blogs regardless of Web programming expertise. Initially, most blogs were maintained and consumed by a small techno-literate population. By 2004, over 4 million blogs had been created and the word became Merriam Webster’s most looked-up term for that year. As of 2007, Blog-watch site Technorati tracked 97.7 million blogs worldwide, collectively referred to as the “blogosphere”—a comprehensive and interlinking system of blog pages and the bloggers behind them. According to Rebecca Blood Weblogs are the place for daily stories, impassioned reactions, mundane details, and miscellanea. They are as varied as their maintainers, and they are creating a generation of involved, impassioned citizens, and articulate, observant human beings. (Blood 2002, xii)

The first hip hop-inspired blogs, which appeared between 2001 and 2003, wove together discussions about hip hop culture with other pertinent political and social issues. Early bloggers, such as Lynne D. Johnson (Lynnedjohnson.com), Hashim Warren (Hiphopblogs.com), and Jay Smooth (Hiphopmusic.com), established the platform as a discursive space that published information absent from both traditional media coverage and hip hop radio and print outlets. Such bloggers built trust with the readers of their sites through candid reflections about the culture and at times their personal lives, as well as by engaging in conversation with page visitors through their comment pages. This established a hip hopinspired online community through an Internet-based call and response. Synergy and community building among the early bloggers was an essential tool. Digital relationships were fostered with black political bloggers such as Chris Rabb (Afronetizen), Keith Boykin (Keithboykin.com), and others with subject matter that was not entirely hip hop specific. For bloggers posting about a culture heavily controlled and decontextualized from its origins by corporate interests, hip hop blogging became a means to re-politicize the movement. The early bloggers’ content reflected a need to address issues of media representation of black communities, especially as it pertained to the burgeoning digital realm. Debates about authenticity and commercialization raged online between bloggers about their own sites, echoing similarly contested tropes in hip hop musical and intellectual circles. Blogging offered the opportunity to publish on a broad variety of issues without being bound to the regulations of traditional media, regardless of one’s geographic locale or professional standing, and thus reordered the membership of the technocracy. As blogs became more prevalent in the broader culture between 2004 and 2007, the number and influence of hip hop blogs increased as well. Bloggers were able to enhance the content available on their sites and spike readership with the use of integrated mixed media—music and video in particular. Shadow sites such as YouTube and sendspace offered users a chance to upload large audio and video files onto shared communal servers for free, facilitating the spread of new and unreleased material, as well as the reintroduction of invaluable archival footage once relegated to analog audio and videotapes back into public space. The increased presence of wireless Internet, digital cameras, and updated cellular technology facilitated such advancements as live blogging, mobile blogging (“mobloging”), and video blogging (“vlogging”).




Such access created a power shift in the industry, as bloggers moved away from being reactive critics to being gatekeepers of exclusive content. Leaked unreleased music once valuable to bootleggers and DJs was instead posted on audio blogs, sometimes shared by the artists or the labels themselves to garner publicity or gauge interest from fans. New York DJ and former radio host Stretch Armstrong digitized cassette recordings of rare Nas and Redman recordings on his Konstant Kontact page from his own collection. Images of artists and gossip about their personal lives became desired fodder for such sites, and artist Kanye West regularly spoke about blogs in interviews and his music. Blogs continued to serve as alternative spaces for commentary and critique alongside major media outlets, and some bloggers were also viewed as respected spokespeople for the culture. In 2005, blogger Karsh created the Black Weblog Awards, which has turned into an annual voter-based honor. Most mainstream music and entertainment titles not only developed in-house blogging outlets but also hired outside bloggers to post exclusive content to their sites. Ahsmi “Eskay” Rawlins (Nahright) was hired as an editor of XXL’s online site, whereas Shereka “Fresh” Roberts (Crunk and Disorderly) was honored by Vibe as a member of the New Power Generation on their 2007 Juice List (she maintained a column on XXL’s site as well). Others who were members of mainstream publications also used the medium to voice dissension or release privileged information. The most infamous example was the site bittervibes, a blog that was written by a disgruntled employee of Vibe who detailed interoffice politics prior to a major reordering of the staff in 2005. In the era of blog expansion, many hip hop blogs still devote short posts or hyperlinks to political ideas and projects, but those that attract the largest number of visitors and attention often focus on hip hop’s place in the music and entertainment industries. Other sites led by hip hop intellectuals and activists such as Mark Anthony Neal, Marc Lamont Hill, Tiffany Brown, and the bloggers of Blackprof.com use postings about music as a means to also address social and political issues affecting diasporic digital communities. FURTHER READING Blood, Rebecca. “Introduction.” We’ve Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing the Culture. John Rodzvilla, ed. Cambridge: Perseus, 2002.

Paul Farber

BOYZ N THE HOOD (COLUMBIA PICTURES, USA, 1991). One of the seminal films in the canon of hip hop cinema. Boyz N The Hood was written and directed by John Singleton and starred Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence (Larry) Fishburne, Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson), Angela Bassett, Morris Chestnut, and Nia Long. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. It was the first film written and directed by Singleton and the acting debuts of Gooding Jr. and rapper and NWA founder Ice Cube, who also contributed the song “How to Survive in South Central” to the soundtrack. In addition to this, NWA’s song “Boyz n the Hood” provided the film’s title. The film, the tagline of which is “Increase the Peace,” opens with the statistics that “one in twenty-one African-American males will die of murder” and “most will be killed by another African-American,” which is followed by a close-up of a stop sign, a message central to both the dramatic narrative and political function of the film.


The film takes place in 1980s Los Angeles and tells the story of ten-year old Tre Styles (as a child, Desi Arnez Hines II, and as a young adult, Gooding Jr.) who, because of behavior problems in school and his mother’s (Bassett) educational and career responsibilities, is sent to live with his father, Jason “Furious” Styles (Fishburne) in Crenshaw, South Central LA, in order to benefit from male guidance and discipline. Upon his arrival, Tre is greeted with domestic duties designed to make him a responsible man, unlike his friend, Darin “Doughboy” Baker (Baha Jackson/Ice Cube), and his brother, Ricky Baker (Donovan McCrary/Chestnut), who are raised by their single mothers Brenda (Tyra Ferrell) and Chris (Kenneth Brown/Redge Green). Tre’s situation and relationship with his father is clearly juxtaposed to that of his friends, who are all being raised by single mothers, their fathers having died or abandoned them, and who all become involved in teenage parenthood, gangs, drugs, or violence. As the film progresses, each scene presents political and moral dilemmas, catalysts, and lessons for Tre and the audience. On Tre’s first night at his father’s, a burglar attempts to break into their home only to be met with an armed Furious. In spite of being victims of a crime, they are forced to wait a long time for police to arrive and are treated disrespectfully by an African American officer. In another scene, Tre and his friends find the body of a dead young man and are later harassed by a gang of teenagers who steal their football and beat up Doughboy, both references to the theme of black-on-black violence, which runs throughout the film. Although most of the scenes take place in Crenshaw, in one early scene, Furious takes Tre fishing as a form of bonding and to lecture him on safe sex and the problem of teenage pregnancy in the African American community. Upon their return, Furious and Tre see Doughboy and Chris being arrested, confirmation of Furious’s warnings. At this point, the film moves seven years into the future, where the viewer finds Tre with a job and morally upstanding Catholic girlfriend Brandi (Long), Ricky with a girlfriend and child, as well as a chance to go to a university on a football scholarship, Doughboy on parole, and Chris in a wheelchair. As the film progresses, Tre experiences police harassment (by the same African American officer whom he encounters as a child), Tre and Brandi lose their virginity, and Tre and Ricky are targeted by a gang, resulting in Ricky’s death and leaving his child fatherless. In response, Doughboy leads the friends in search of the killers. Tre abandons the search before Doughboy finds and kills the perpetrators and, in the final scene, they discuss their different perspectives and paths. As the film ends, the audience is told that Doughboy would be killed two weeks after his brother’s funeral and Tre and Brandi would go off to college, as further and final confirmation of the film’s thesis. The discourse of the breakdown of the African American family, although important, is highly ideological and problematic as an explanation of social problems, such as drugs, crime, gang violence, and poverty itself. By viewing such problems as the result of failed gender and family roles, the film depends on a conservative family-values morality, the application of an ethic of individual responsibility onto the entire African American community, and traditional gender constructions, the reassertion of which would correct the problem, as Furious illustrates. What is more, this conservative interpretation replaces any substantial critique or analysis of racism, power, politics, or economics as causes of or influences on social problems, except in specific scenes, the most notable of which was when Furious, a financial advisor, explains to Tre about real estate, white investment, and gentrification, as the local community listens, and another scene when Furious lectures Tre and Ricky on the cultural bias of the SATs. The rest of the political commentary is limited to statements on billboards, which appear throughout the film.




In spite (or because) of its limitations and problems, Boyz N The Hood is an important film that should be seen as a document of a particular set of problems as represented in popular culture and as a socially conservative thesis on the African American condition and race relations in post-civil rights America. FURTHER READING “Boyz N The Hood.” Internet Movie Database. . Diawara, Manthia. “Black American Cinema: The New Realism.” In Black American Cinema. Manthia Diawara, ed. New York: Routledge, 1993, 3–25. Dyson, Michael Eric. “Between Apocalypse and Redemption: John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood.” Cultural Critique, Vol. 21 (Spring 1992): 121–142. ———. Reflecting Black: African-American Cultural Criticism. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. Watkins, S. Craig. Representing: Hip Hop Culture and the Production of Black Cinema. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Aaron Winter

BRAXTON, CHARLIE (1961–). Hip hop journalist, poet, social activist, playwright, and filmmaker. Mississippian Charlie Braxton has been called the “Godfather of southern hip hop” by fellow hip hop journalist Anthony Colom, and journalists from powerful hip hop magazines both past (The Source) and present (Ozone) cite his influence. Southern hip hop has been denounced by some critics for being less intellectual and more sexually explicit than the genre in other regions, and one of Braxton’s most important contributions to hip hop is that he saw the merits of southern artists before many in the hip hop community did— and he was unafraid to write about these artists. In several stories and interviews, Braxton points out the ways that southern hip hop artists such as Killer Mike and Tela are as lyrically skilled as their northern counterparts, and he argues—quite convincingly—that southern duo Outkast is the greatest group in the history of hip hop. Braxton has also written about GRITS, a Christian rap duo, and by doing so became one of the few mainstream hip hop journalists to write seriously about gospel rap. Whether he is asking questions for an interview or writing a review, part of Braxton’s appeal comes from a poetic, dreamlike writing style that consistently emphasizes the black southern culture of his subjects. In the story, “Amen, Smoke,” for instance, Braxton describes rapper Smoke D’s music in a way that recalls the fiery revelations of a black southern church: blazing lyrics filled with a burning truth that ignites your soul like a serpentine fire, giving you the kind of tingling sensation that you get in your spine when someone confronts you with a verity so profound that you can’t help but shake your head and say “amen.”

Braxton’s descriptive style comes in part because he is a poet; his work has appeared in respected journals, such as the African American Review, and in anthologies, such as In the Tradition (1992) and Troubled Waters (1997). Braxton has a strong sense of community that resonates in his writing. Braxton is both an activist (Braxton has organized protests against domestic violence and served as a mentor to many hip hop artists) and a proud southerner, and because of those identities, Braxton has


been able to offer a subtle critique of the music when it becomes destructive or alienating. Braxton, for instance, has praised the southern rap group Nappy Roots for their complex discussion of race and class issues, but he has also remained critical of their lyrics’ misogyny. Ultimately, Braxton’s communal spirit shines through in many of his projects: participating in Dirty States of America, a documentary about southern hip hop; writing the Afrocentric liner notes for a Best of Pete Rock and CL Smooth CD; and serving as a panelist in several public forums about race, class, and gender politics. FURTHER READING Braxton, Charlie. “Amen, Smoke.” Jackson Free Press. (Feb. 2004). 15 July 2007. . Powell, Kevin, and Charlie Braxton. “Conversations with Hip Hop Journalists Kevin Powell and Charlie Braxton.” Davy D’s Hip Hop Corner (March 2002). 15 July 2007. .

Rochelle Spencer

BREAKIN’ (CANON PICTURES, USA, 1984). Also known as Breakdance: The Movie, this tale of two West Coast break dancers joining forces with a white, classically trained dancer represents the gradual mainstreaming of contemporary hip hop culture that began in the early 1980s. Directed by Palestinian Joel Silberg, Breakin’ tells the story of Ozone (Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones) and Turbo (Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers), two street dancers from Venice Beach, California, who meet and team up with Kelly (Lucinda Dickey), a white ballet and jazz dancer. After struggling to have their dance fusion taken seriously on the streets and in classical dancing circles, the team sticks together and begins to win dance battles, ultimately finding success and affirmation in a classical dance competition. Breakin’ was released at the height of the break dancing craze, but during a time when break dancing culture was still predominantly a street culture. Along with several other films that focused on aspects of hip hop culture of the time, most notably Beat Street and Wild Style, Breakin’ cashed in on the public interest in these cultures. Released during the same year as the less mainstream Beat Street, which was set in New York, Breakin’ is often regarded as its West Coast companion. In contrast to the ground work of East Coast break dancing, the West Coast style involves more upright dancing known as “body popping” and “pop and lock.” Breakin’ was originally inspired by a German documentary entitled Breakin’ and Enterin’ that focused on the Los Angeles club Radiotron. Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers went from dancing in the documentary to starring in Breakin’, and Radiotron’s MC, Ice-T, also went on to cameo in Breakin’. Moving on from its low-budget documentary roots, Breakin’ was a relatively big budget, major studio production that offered a suggestion of bringing hip hop culture into the white mainstream, and vice versa. The film’s plot suggests this transition also: the dancers’ efforts to be accepted by the white, classical dance circles mirror a desire for white audiences to embrace hip hop culture. These elements render the film less credible for some audiences who lament the way in which hip hop culture has become diluted through mass marketing, in particular to white, middle-class audiences. Breakin’ is, for some, an embarrassment and a dire warning of things to come; for others it is a pop culture favorite that, although not exactly underground, should be valued




for publicizing break dancing, and hip hop culture in general, as a cultural development to be taken seriously. A sequel, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, displaying a further diluted brand of hip hop culture, was released the same year.

Laura H. Marks

BROTHERS GONNA WORK IT OUT: SEXUAL POLITICS IN THE GOLDEN AGE OF RAP NATIONALISM (2005). Written by Charise L. Cheney, this work is a collection of critical essays published by New York University Press in 2005. The significance of this work lies in the fundamental questions Cheney raises about rap music, Black culture, and the politics of hip hop. The first essay, “From the Revolutionary War to the ‘Revolutionary Generation’: Some Introductory Thoughts on Rap Music, Black Nationalism, and the Golden Age of Rap Nationalism,” includes comments on “raptivists” (a term denoting members of the hip hop community who are both lyricists and activists), and their place in black popular culture and American political culture. Cheney argues that hip hop deserves serious attention and reveals important social undercurrents in black culture. She addresses the subgenre of “gangsta rap” and how many scholars and listeners unfairly assume this genre (due to its overwhelming popularity) represents hip hop in general. Cheney provides a survey of the possible origins of and new definitions for hip hop culture and the concept of Black Nationalism. In “‘We Men Ain’t We?’ Mas(k)ulinity and the Gendered Politics of Black Nationalism,” Cheney examines the sexual politics of classical and modern black autonomy, and the shifting state of manhood and identity for black men. The role of violence, sex, and gendered language is examined in context of the progression of Black Nationalism, with emphasis on incidents involving the Black Panthers, hero-worshipped as innovators by raptivists in following years. “Brothers Gonna Work It Out: The Popular/Political Culture of Rap Music,” forms the core of the work. Cheney notes the pivotal development of rap in 1988 with Public Enemy’s release of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back as not only a cultural statement but a political one. The sudden shift in the genre is partly in response to the unmet needs of black Americans and the simultaneous “crisis in black leadership” in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A new sense of nationalism, heavily present in hip hop music, formed as a response to the turmoil of the twenty preceding years. In the early 1990s, when rap music came under great scrutiny, critics focused only on “gangsta” rap, which Cheney describes as “the most controversial and sensational of rap genres.” Many who had worked tirelessly for black civil rights in earlier decades were disgusted by the sexist and violent images perpetuated by hip hop (mainly “gangsta” rap) artists. Contemporary activists, however, challenged what older generations considered progress. As such, rap music became an invaluable medium in which Black Nationalism could be discussed and developed. Cheney discusses Public Enemy’s influence and role in using rap as a forum for political discussion and racial awareness. “Ladies First? Defining Manhood in the Golden Age of Rap Nationalism” begins by exploring the ways in which black artists must re-assert their maleness, thus appearing misogynist and vulgar. Cheney does not excuse this image but contextualizes it: with many black men dying young in violent acts, living in homes headed by women, or going to


prison, raptivists sought to reclaim masculinity and power. In response to this hypermasculinization, Cheney explores female raptivists including Sister Souljah and Queen Latifah, negotiating the complex dynamics of women who choose to participate in a tradition known for suppressing women. The representation of and response to homosexuality is also detailed, contextualizing negative reactions propagated by the Black Power movement of the 1970s. Cheney examines religious reflections in rap in “Representin’ God: Masculinity and the Use of the Bible in Rap Nationalism,” asserting raptivists use the Bible to gain authority through divine providence. Consequently, the Bible as a tool for establishing black suppression in American history is explored, as well as divine providence and visions of the apocalypse in Black Nationalism. The essay collection concludes with “Be True to the Game: Final Reflections on the Politics and Practices of the Hip-Hop Nation.” Cheney discusses the mainstreaming of rap music, highlighting the differences between rap artists and activists and their corresponding roles in creating social awareness about black issues. Special attention is given to the rising power of hip hop and representative organizations. Lastly, Cheney reflects on liberation, stating “[African Americans’] power lies not in the subordination of others but in a collective and democratic struggle” (2005, 173). From this struggle can come peaceful revolution and liberation. FURTHER READING Niesel, Jeff. “Hip-Hop Matters: Rewriting the Sexual Politics of Rap Music.” In Third Wave Agenda: Being Feminist, Doing Feminism. Leslie Heywood and Jennifer Drake, eds. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1997, 239–253.

Karley K. Adney

BROWN, CLAUDE (1937–2002). Author of Manchild in the Promised Land—one of the seminal memoirs detailing growing up in urban black America. During his youth, Brown spent years in and out of juvenile detention centers; however, he graduated from shoplifting, fighting, and skipping school to study at Howard University under the tutelage of novelist Toni Morrison. At Howard, Brown pursued a liberal arts degree, worked part-time, and wrote short stories. Brown began writing Manchild in the Promised Land, a memoir about his youth in Harlem, during his first year at Howard after an article he wrote caught the attention of a publisher who encouraged him to write about his life. Brown’s first and best-known novel, Manchild in the Promised Land, was published in 1965, and in addition to detailing Brown’s transformation from a hardened, streetwise youth into a successful, self-made man, the novel also captures the angst of the period. During the same year, Lyndon B. Johnson gave his “Great Society” speech and was sworn in for his first full term as president of the United States, the unmanned spacecraft Gemini II was launched, Malcolm X was assassinated, Alabama State Troopers attacked civil rights demonstrators, the United States began bombing North Vietnam, Martin Luther King Jr. led civil rights activists on a third march from Selma, Alabama, to the capitol in Montgomery, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) organized the first of several demonstrations against United States involvement in Vietnam, and Slick Rick, a BritishAmerican rapper, was born.




Manchild has been in print for more than forty years and has been praised for its portrayal of a lost generation of African Americans. In describing the experiences of a generation of blacks who migrated from the rural south to the industrial north, Brown’s work captures an historical moment in the lives of working-poor African Americans. His unsentimental look at life in the inner city expands upon other stories about the working-poor, such as John Steinbeck’s 1939 The Grapes of Wrath, a tale about migrant farm workers in Oklahoma. Brown’s work is no less an example of a black experience than that related by James Baldwin in his coming-of-age novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), or by Jacob Lawrence in his 1941 series, Migration of the Negro. Since its release in 1965, Manchild has been a top seller, and it continues to hold its own in a rapidly changing, often fickle, marketplace. Brown had no way of knowing the impact his coming-of-age tale would have on its readers. Soon after the release of Manchild, Brown received letters from young black men stationed in Vietnam, many of them thanking Brown for penning “our” story. Manchild is no less relevant today as another generation of young black men learn to negotiate life in America’s inner cities. FURTHER READING Baker, Houston A., Jr. “The Environment as Enemy in a Black Autobiography: Manchild in the Promised Land.” Phylon, Vol. 32 Issue 1 (1971): 53–59. Boyd, Herb, and Robert L. Allen, eds. Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995. Rosenblatt, Roger. Black Fiction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974.

Mary Loving Blanchard

BROWN, CUPCAKE (1964?–). Author whose memoir A Piece of Cake: A Memoir (2006) chronicles her rise from sexual abuse, drug addiction, and gang violence to her career as an attorney. Cupcake Brown lived in San Diego, California, with her mother until an epileptic seizure took her mother’s life in 1976 when Brown was eleven years old. This catastrophe led to further unsettling of Brown’s once stable home life because she learned that her father, Tim Long, was not her biological father. As a result, Brown and her brother Larry were not permitted to reside with Long. Mr. Burns, Brown’s biological father, placed her and Larry in the care of a sadistic foster mother who lived in Lancaster, California. Brown’s foster mother’s nephew sexually molested Brown within hours of her inhabiting this new residence. Though she ran away, this only shifted the sexual, physical, and psychological violence from the foster home to the street, where Brown suffered through prostitution accented by alcohol and narcotics. Brown did have an uncle who remained a lifeline that she consistently reached out to as she suffered abuse from her various foster parents. He eventually arranged for Brown to live with her great aunt Becky in South Central Los Angeles where Becky also cared for her three grandsons whose mother tragically died in an automobile accident. Through the influence of her older cousin, Brown was initiated into a gang, the Eight Tray Crips, when she was fourteen. During a party celebrating her 15th birthday she was shot in the back during a drive-by. After making a full recovery, Brown left the gang. Brown returned to San Diego, where she became fully emancipated at age sixteen. Though Brown worked at a small security company until the time that her emancipation


was granted, she soon quit this job and started selling drugs. Brown continued nursing an alcohol and drug addiction while supporting herself through shoplifting scams and narcotics dealing. While continuing to feed these vices, Brown attended a vocational school, where she learned skills necessary to being a legal secretary. In 1987, Brown earned her first job as a legal secretary with the Littler Mendelson law firm in San Diego. She worked full time but continued feeding her drug addiction. In 1989 Brown entered a recovery program at Mesa Vista Hospital. She followed recovery with enrollment at San Diego City Community College. After earning an associates degree, she was accepted to San Diego State University. Brown worked full time, funded one hundred percent of her education, and graduated magna cum laude. In 1998, she attended the University of San Francisco School of Law and graduated, having been awarded the “Judge Harold J. Haley Award for Exceptional Distinction in Scholarship, Character, and Activities.” Brown is an attorney at Bingham McCutchen, one of the twenty-five largest law firms in the nation. FURTHER READING Brown, Cupcake. A Piece of Cake: A Memoir. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2006.

Michelle S. Hite

BROWN, PARRY “EBONY SATIN” A. (1952–). In addition to her other multi-media venues, since 2001, Brown has written several popular novels that extend her outreach and qualify her as someone who is important to the second wave of hip hop literature. Hailing from nature-rich California, Parry Brown is obviously a force of nature herself. She followed the trail of others in the hip hop literary world and self-published her own first book, a self-help book for the woman of size called, Sexy Doesn’t Have a Dress Size: Lessons in Love. Without counseling experience or training as a psychologist, Brown sought to bolster the self-esteem of the women who she saw as her audience. In addition to her publishing efforts, and as the director of publicity for the output of that publishing company, Brown is a board member for several companies as well as a radio talk show host. She developed her pen name, “Ebony Satin,” from her devotion to the Internet. A divorcee who was newly remarried in 2006, Brown wants to pass along her gospel of strength and self-esteem to other black women. Brown attracted attention from her self-publishing efforts, and she wrote The Shirt Off His Back, which highlighted the efforts of a single black father, Terry Winston, to find love an a woman worthy enough to help him raise his twin daughters. What Goes Around: A Novel is a sequel that follows the lives of Terry and his new wife in raising the girls when their birthmother wants back into their lives because she needs a kidney transplant. Sittin’ in the Front Pew traces the unraveling of Edward Zachary Naylor by his four daughters after his death and their subsequent discovery of a new sister. The story follows how these sisters pull together to sustain one another and to celebrate their father’s life without judging him. After she attended a firefighting conference, Brown was inspired to write Fannin’ the Flames, a novel that focuses on the lives of several minority firefighters. As with her other works, Brown was determined to showcase examples of positive black male role




models. The main protagonist, Jerome White, is so real to many of Brown’s readers that they feel moved to write to her of their love of him—a fictitious character. Brown’s willingness to take up real-life issues and to “come real” about strong black males in her novels has made her successful and respected among her readership. Brown has also contributed to two fiction anthologies, Proverbs for the People and Love is Blind, both published by Kensington Publishers. A mother and a grandmother, Brown’s determination to tell positive stories in her novels and to live a positive life is a necessary example for many readers. FURTHER READING Brown, Parry A. Destiny’s Daughters. New York: Kensington Publishing, 2006. ———. Fannin’ the Flames. New York: One World/Ballentine Books, 2005. ———. Sexy Doesn’t Have a Dress Size: Lessons in Love. San Pedro: ShanKrys, 2000. ———. Shirt Off His Back. New York: Strivers Row, 2001. ———. Sittin’ in the Front Pew. New York: Strivers Row, 2002. ———. What Goes Around: A Novel. New York: One World/Ballentine Books, 2006.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

BROWN SUGAR (20TH CENTURY FOX, USA, 2002). Director Rick Famuyima’s tale of hip hop and love. Written by Michael Elliot and directed by Rick Famuyiwa, Brown Sugar is a romantic comedy about childhood friends Andre “Dre” Ellis (Taye Diggs) and Sidney “Sid” Shaw (Sanaa Lathan), who, after a failed marriage and broken engagement, respectively, realize that they have been in love with each other all along. Hip hop, the literal and figurative soundtrack of their lives, ties not only Syd and Dre together, but also the movie’s plot. Drawing influence from the song “I Used to Love H.E.R.” by Common Sense (Resurrection, 1994), the movie reverses the allegory. Although Common speaks of his love for hip hop, personified as a young woman, for Dre and Syd in Brown Sugar, hip hop also stands as a metaphor for their love. Syd, a successful editor of XXL magazine, is in fact authoring a book titled “I Used to Love Him.” The narration that she provides throughout the movie is meant to be excerpts from that book, and the first line of the film narration/book is “I’ve started every interview I’ve ever given the same way for over ten years: ‘So, when did you fall in love with hip hop?’” This question hints at the nostalgic tone that dominates the film. A series of cameos follow—from Russell Simmons to Talib Kweli—in answer to the question, and their replies speak of street parties, two turn tables, emceeing, and b-boying—“old school” hip hop. The split between “old school” hip hop and “new school” rap is a major theme throughout the film. The introductory scene of Dre and Syd as kids in a park listening to a freestyle cipher featuring Dana Dane, Doogie Fresh, and Slick Rick is contrasted by the present day scene: Syd working as an editor and Dre in a boardroom at a major record label. Syd narrates this shift, “Hip hop was as young, naïve, confused, sometimes innocent, and sometimes as mischievous as I was,” and later, “Ever thought you’d see the day hip hop grew up? From red Kool-Aid block parties in the Bronx, to champagne toasts in Soho.” With this “growth” has also come commercialization—which suggestively runs parallel to the “new school” rap at times. This is represented in Brown Sugar


by Dre’s boss at Millennium Records and the label’s new group Ren and Ten, “The Hip Hop Dalmatians” (their gimmick is that one of them is black, the other white). Contrasted with them is Cav—Chris Anton Vichon (Mos Def)—who represents what Dre describes as “real hip hop.” Unable to answer “Why did it all get so complicated?”, Dre struggles with his conscience and leaves Millennium to start Brown Sugar Records with Cav as his first artist. His old boss criticized Dre for wanting to “keep it real.” He says, “We keep it profitable. It’s too hard to do both of them.” This, however, is what “Brown Sugar” represents for Dre: the woman (hip hop) who is classy and sexy—the best of both worlds. Can hip hop stay true to its origins while still enjoying its mainstream success? Can Dre and Syd be both best friends and lovers? The conclusion of Brown Sugar is a resounding “yes” to both of these questions. The movie ends with Dre and Syd (by this time both single again) proclaiming their love to one another on Hot 97 radio followed by the station debuting Cav’s new single, appropriately titled “Brown Sugar.”

Thomas Haliburton

BULLETPROOF DIVA: TALES OF RACE, SEX, AND HAIR (1997). A collection of Lisa Jones’s essays from The Village Voice. The “bulletproof diva” is a term that author Lisa Jones uses to characterize the resiliency of African American women who some consider to be a part of the Third Wave Feminist movement representing Generation X. Jones stresses that these black women are not the stereotypical “emasculating black bitch too hard for love or piety.” In fact, the bulletproof diva, according to Jones, is “whoever you make her—corporate girl, teen mom, or the combination—as long as she has the lip and nerve, and as long as she uses that lip and nerve to raise up herself and the world. Bulletproof Diva is part of the larger “third wave” movement of black feminism that writes both despite and because of black women’s exclusion via the term and yet through the inclusive nature of the term. The collection of forty-four separate essays stitched together from her column “Skin Trade” written in “The Village Voice” during the early 1990s, avoids the direct line to the end of the text, instead taking its readers on a veritable journey through American identity politics. The entries range from the ever-important notion of self-naming as a means of agency in the article “My Slave Name” to the scathing attack of Black malefemale relationships in the essay “Genitalia and the Paycheck.” Through this pastiche of her own work, Jones stitches, via pen and paper, a mosaic quilt showcasing black feminist identity politics and the great American dilemma of finding a voice within the collective “we” that is America, more specifically as a black women in post-feminist hip hop America. Although not the author’s intent and surely not her singular claim to fame, Jones, the daughter of Hettie Jones and LeRoi Jones (aka Amiri Baraka), aggressively and without apology writes from both the personal and the political. Each of the five chapters: “How I Invented Multiculturalism,” “Bring the Heroines,” The Blackest Market,” “Genitalia and the Paycheck,” and “The Hair Trade” responds in some way to the problematization of American identity. Viewed as one of the paragons of the literary movement within hip hop culture, Bulletproof Diva is a critique of certain aspects of the movement itself. The text resists




being anti anything or anyone. Rather, it examines the fusions of racial and sexual identities and the aesthetics of black hair. As the subtitle suggests, hair is ever important in the discussion of a diva’s life within hip hop culture. The “currency” of hair is paramount in conversations about a Black woman’s agency and sense of self. The viability of the importance of this single topic—black women’s hair—is such that the final chapter of the book is solely dedicated to dissecting the contemporary debates of black female hair. FURTHER READINGS Springer, Kimberly. “Third Wave Black Feminism?” Signs, Vol. 27 Issue 4 (2002): 1059–1082. Thompson, Deborah. “Keeping Up With the Joneses: The Naming of Racial Identities in the Autobiographical Writings of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Hettie Jones, and Lisa Jones.” College Literature, Vol. 29 Issue 1 (2002).

Terry Bozeman

BURN: A NOVEL (2006). In her hip hop novel Burn, Sofía Quintero writing as Black Artemis explores a seminal element of hip hop culture known as graffiti or aerosol art. Despite being Black Artemis’s third novel, it is her “oldest” story. In the discussion guide contained in the novel, the author states that Burn had been “incubating” for over a decade and was the most closely based on her own work/life experiences in comparison to her first two novels, Explicit Content and Picture Me Rollin’ (2006, 320). Under the pen name Black Artemis, Quintero writes revolutionary hip hop fiction and was once named one of the “New School Activists Most Likely to Change New York” by City Limits Magazine. Before becoming a novelist, she worked in a variety of paid and volunteer positions geared toward promoting the public good and effecting social change. For example, she once worked as the deputy director of two alternative incarceration programs for the Vera Institute of Justice. One of these programs was a nonprofit bail bond agency. Several years later, Quintero did advocacy work for the Hispanic AIDS Forum and once organized a focus group of transgender Latinas in order to better serve that constituency. Through these and other work experiences, she developed the philosophy that pressing social issues required innovative and maybe even radical “outside the box” solutions. This real life experience is evidenced in the nuanced, compelling, and self-actualized characters revealed in Burn. It is obvious by her third novel that Black Artemis has several trademark qualities in creating her hip hop noir. First, hip hop culture is always a supporting character in all of her work—providing education around the sociopolitical history of hip hop. Second, women serve as protagonists on their own terms, replete with contradictions and compelling humanity. And third, Black Artemis writes in an entertaining way, especially as it relates to the crime-drama elements of her stories. Her plot twists are more riveting and multi-dimensional than most suspense-genre fiction on the New York Times best seller list. Burn is no exception to these “rules” (2006, 321). Told from the perspective of a complicated yet endearing heroine named Jasmine Reyes, Burn is a novel about the risk and consequences of pursuing alternatives when the path validated by society is either inaccessible or fails. Abandoned at a young age by her parents, Jasmine has been a “hustler” all her life. She and twin brother Jason learned to survive by any means necessary. Jason becomes entangled with the criminal justice system and later commits suicide while incarcerated on Riker’s Island.


Jasmine is determined to go legitimate and eventually starts her own business, capitalizing upon her own inherent street savvy by becoming a bail bonds agent. Through her work she meets a client who reminds her of her beloved brother. The client, Macho Booker, is also a brilliant graffiti artist. Jasmine posts bail for Macho, and after nearly a year of stability, he disappears without a trace. Determined to find him, and prove to herself that he was worth the benefit of the doubt, Jasmine begins an investigation that crosses many boundaries—literally and figuratively—where life and death hang in the balance, including her own. All the while, true to form, Black Artemis delivers timely commentary on issues such as gender identity, healthcare inequities, immigration reform, sexual orientation, and identity politics. FURTHER READING Quintero, Sofia. Black Artemis. 12 Dec. 2007. . ———. Burn: A Novel. New York: New American Library/Penguin, 2006.

Marcella Runell Hall

BUSINESS OF HIP HOP PUBLISHING. The publication of hip hop, street, and urban literature has grown exponentially in the last decade. In the 1960s, Robert Beck, also know as Iceberg Slim, wrote about his experiences as a pimp and the prostitution culture. His first book, Pimp: The Story of My Life, depicts his experiences on the streets as a promoter of prostitution. Since the first printing in 1969, the work has sold millions of copies. The success of Slim’s work paved the way for 1970s author Donald Goines. Goines, an ex-con, drug addict, and pimp, commenced his writing career in prison. He wrote over twenty books about the street game. Since the emergence of the works of Slim and Goines, fiction geared toward reflecting the gritty details of street life has mostly remained stagnant. The success of this genre of literature quickly faded away. From the late 1970s to the present day, rap music, which is the epitome of the term hip hop, has created a worldwide trend in clothing, music, lifestyle, and culture. A generation of people born in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s not only want to listen to rappers rap about being in gangs, police brutality, their dealings with women or men, hustling drugs, or the harsh realities of the inner city but they also want to read about these experiences as well. They are now rushing to bookstores and street vendors to buy books that have a direct linkage to the hip hop culture. As a result of this, the business of publishing hip hop literature has been quite a successful venture. It has flourished in a short time span of about ten years. Several pioneers and key elements making up the business of hip hop publishing are Vickie M. Stringer, who is an author and founder of Triple Crown Publications, nonmainstream and mainstream publishers; the rapper 50 Cents; and the writer Zane. Vickie M. Stringer grew up in a middle class neighborhood. Her mother was a school teacher and her father was an electrical engineer. While a freshman at Western Michigan University, she fell in love with a drug dealer and the street life. She dropped out of college, had a son, and became a professional criminal and madam. She was incarcerated for seven years for money laundering and drug trafficking. Stringer read more than her eyes could stand in prison. While incarcerated, she started writing her novel Let That Be The Reason. She had a strong desire to tell her story, but most




importantly she wrote to steer others away from choosing crime as an option for survival. This was Stringer’s intention and purpose for her novel. After being freed from jail, Stringer finished her novel in about six weeks and sent her unsolicited manuscript to twenty-six publishing houses but was rejected by all. As a result of this, Stringer decided to self-publish her first novel, Let That Be The Reason, with $100 donations from family and friends. In 2001, 1,500 copies were published by Stringer and sold for $10 each. Stringer sold her novel at the car wash, to beauty salons, and from the trunk of her car. She even solicited potential buyers on the street and went door-to-door selling her work. Stemming from a desperate need to have her voice heard, her selling techniques were similar to the tactics of guerilla marketing strategies and grass roots efforts used by the pioneers of rap to sell their music. In 2002, Stringer was offered $50,000 by UpStream Publications to publish Let That Be The Reason. It has since sold over 100,000 copies, and was listed on Essence magazine’s bestsellers list. Stringer’s success paved the way for Triple Crown Publications, which is a leading hip hop publishing house founded by Stringer. Stringer’s Triple Crown Publications made major contributions to the hip hop literary genre by publishing A Hustler’s Wife by Nikki Turner and Gangsta by K’wan. Triple Crown Publications has published over 16 authors and has also helped writers, such as T. N. Baker, to move from Triple Crown Publications to major publishing houses. Several writers represented by Triple Crown Publications have received deals from big publishing companies worth over a million dollars. In addition, 10 titles represented by Triple Crown Publications have been purchased by a Japanese publishing house and are available in Japan. In the future, Stringer plans to branch out and create a production company that will transform her titles to DVD films. In addition to Triple Crown Publications, several other nonmainstream publishing houses have emerged. For example, Terri Woods Publishing was founded by the hip hip literature author Terri Woods. She wrote and self-published True to the Game. Woods sold this book on the streets of New York City and out of the trunk of her car. It has sold over 200,000 copies. Under Meow Meow Productions, an imprint of Terri Woods Publishing, B-More Careful by hip hop literary author Shannon Holmes was published. In addition, Atria Books has also offered Holmes a six figure book deal. Other noteworthy nonmainstream publishing houses include Urban Books, Macavelli Press, Black Print Publishing, Melodrama Publishing, Q-Boro Books, and Ghetto Heat. All have produced titles that have made a major impact on the business of hip hop literature. Major publishing houses have also contributed greatly to the hip hop publishing business as well. Many works that are in this literary genre were initially published by the author because they were rejected by major publishers. When these major companies saw the self-published works sell thousands of copies without their backings, they decided to support hip hop literature. After the success of Stringer’s self-published Let That Be The Reason, Stringer received a six figure deal from Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books to write Imagine This and Dirty Red. Erica Kennedy’s Bling, a novel about a woman who comes to New York to work for a hip hop mogul similar to the perceived personalities of P. Diddy or Russell Simmons, received a seven figure deal for the movie and book rights. The rapper 50 Cent has also had an opportunity to contribute to the publishing game. Simon & Schuster’s MTV Pocket Books linked up with the hip hop star to form a new venture in fiction called G-Unit Books. 50 Cent’s imprint will publish books about G-Unit


rappers such as Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, Young Buck, and Olivia. Other authors will be contributing to G-Unit Books as well. The first title under G-Unit Books will be written by author Nikki Turner. Another major contributor to the business is the queen of black erotica fiction, Zane. Her steamy and racy novels, such as The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth and The Heat Seekers, are not necessarily based on the hip hop culture, but they are read by the Hip Hop Generation. Housewives, businesswomen, and college students also enjoy Zane’s work. Zane, a former sales executive for a paper company, has a degree in chemical engineering from Howard University. She is also a wife and a mother of four children. In 2000, she self-published Addicted: A Novel under the pseudonym Zane and under her own imprint Strebor Books. Her first book was a huge success, sold at major bookstores, and made numerous bestseller lists. A few years after Addicted was published, Zane acquired a distribution deal with Simon & Schuster to publish other authors. In 2004, Zane opened her own bookstore in Baltimore, Maryland, called Endeavors. She is also trying to start her own film production company, which would produce her books. The business of hip hop publishing emerged from the desire and efforts of writers who were very persistent and were not given the opportunity to be represented by top-notch publishers. Because of their need to tell their story, they picked nontraditional ways to hustle their work to the masses and relied on guerilla marketing techniques to publish their works. Surprisingly, their tactics were extremely successful. They were able to grab the attention of mainstream publishing houses, such as Simon & Schuster, and opened the doors for financial growth in the area of hip hop literature. FURTHER READING Deahl, Rachel. “Hip-Hop Loses Bad Rap with Publishers.” Publishers Weekly (19 Dec. 2005): 10–11. El-Amin, Zakiyyah. “Queen of Hip-Hop Literature.” Black Enterprise (Jan. 2006): 49. George, Lianne. “Bringing the Bling to the Book Biz” Maclean’s (12 July 2004): 53. Johnson, Kalyn. “Zane, Inc: She Has More on Her Mind than Black Erotica.” Black Issues Book Review (Sept.–Oct. 2004): 17–20. Murray, Victoria Christopher. “Triple Crown Winner.” Black Issues Book Review (May–June 2004): 28. Osborne, Gwendolyn. “Old School Masters of Blaxploitation Lit: The Lives and Works of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines.” Black Issues Book Review (Sept.–Oct. 2001): 54–55. Patrick, Diane. “Urban Fiction.” Publishers Weekly (19 May 2003): 31. Sauer, Patrick J. “Redemption Doesn’t Come Easy: How I Did It.” INC. Magazine (May 2006): 107–108. Smith, Dinitia. “Unorthodox Publisher Animates Hip-Hop Lit.” The New York Times, 9 Sept. 2004: E6. Springen, Karen and Peg Tyre. “It’s Gangsta Lit.” Newsweek (14 June 2004): 54. Wyatt, Edward. “50 Cent and Posse: The Books.” The New York Times, 16 Nov. 2005: E2.

Ava Williams

BYNOE, YVONNE (196?–). Yvonne Bynoe has been heralded as one of the most important voices of the Hip Hop Generation. A writer and lecturer, Bynoe combines hip hop culture, politics, and other relevant issues in her writings. She has the unique distinction of having garnered praise from the




world of academia as well as respect from the hip hop community. Duke University professor Mark Anthony Neal has declared Bynoe as a leading member of the “hip hop intelligentsia.” Bynoe received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. As a law student at Fordham University, Bynoe published a newsletter entitled “Full Disclosure: The Business of Hip Hop.” It was intended to give aspiring hip hop artists and entrepreneurs valuable business and legal information. Bynoe is an outspoken advocate for the need for activism in the Hip Hop Generation. She educates through her various speaking engagements at colleges, universities, and conferences. Bynoe emphasizes the need for self-evaluation in the hip hop culture. She was a panelist and speaker at the first Feminism and Hip Hop Conference at the University of Chicago. Bynoe asserts that women must take an active role in changing the images of women in hip hop. Bynoe is vocal about the need to correct the misogyny and degradation that occurs against women in hip hop music. Bynoe believes that the erasure of sexism in the hip hop community must first start with female self-healing. According to Bynoe, only then can they effectively combat the negative images of women in hip hop. Bynoe is the author of Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership, and Hip Hop. Published in 2004, the book calls the Hip Hop Generation to action. Bynoe challenges the Hip Hop Generation to take a more active role in the political processes of society. She illustrates the link between politics and popular culture and the power of the people to impact the community. In the book, Bynoe maintains that it is the activists in the community and not the artists that have the true power to promote and initiate lasting change in the hip hop community. Bynoe’s second book, The Encyclopedia of Rap and Hip Hop Culture was published in December of 2005. The work is the first comprehensive guide to the history and evolution of hip hop culture. According to Bynoe there are four manifestations of hip hop culture: MC’ing, B-boying, Deejaying, and Graffiti. MC’ing represents the lyrical element of hip hop, including rapping and spoken word. B-boying includes the physical aspects, primarily break dancing. Deejaying is the musical element, which includes scratching, mixing, and sampling. Lastly, graffiti is the visual aspect of hip hop, which includes tagging. In the introduction, Bynoe gives an overview of the first 30 years of rap and hip hop culture. The encyclopedia covers all four manifestations in over 500 entries that range from rap artist “A+” to the hip hop organization “Zulu Nation.” Artists who have made both critical and commercial contributions to hip hop are featured in the encyclopedia. Bynoe also includes selected discographies and bibliographies related to various entries. She also appends The Hip Hop Declaration of Peace that was revealed by KRS-One in May of 2002, as well as the proclamation recognizing November as Hip Hop History month and the resolution establishing Hip Hop Appreciation Week. Bynoe is a prolific writer whose works have appeared in several online publications, including AlterNet.org, PoliticallyBlack.com, and PopandPolitics.com. She has also written for The Georgetown Journal of International Affairs and Colorlines. Bynoe has contributed to several anthologies, including Rhythm and Business: The Political Economy of Black Music, Race and Resistance: African Americans in the 21st Century, and Writing Arguments. Additionally, Bynoe has provided political and cultural commentary for National Public Radio (NPR) on News & Notes with Ed Gordon. Bynoe is cofounder of the Urban Think Tank Institute, a nonprofit organization founded to educate and engage young adults about political leadership and policy issues. Bynoe


also served as president of the organization. In 2005 she created the Stand & Deliver: Agent of Change grant to aid community activists in their pursuits to positively impact their communities. Bynoe is also an advisory committee member of Black Youth Vote! and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. Bynoe has stated that “I consider myself someone who provides information and analysis that helps people to make decisions for their own lives.” Bynoe’s contribution to the world of hip hop culture has enabled and inspired a generation of hip hop activists. FURTHER READING Bynoe, Yvonne. The Encyclopedia of Rap and Hip Hop Culture. New York: Greenwood, 2005. ———. Stand & Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership and Hip Hop Culture. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2004.

Kimberly R. Oden


C CALDERÓN, JENNIFER “JLOVE” (1971–). Born Jennifer McLaughlin in Denver, Colorado, “JLove” Calderón is an activist, educator, and author of That White Girl (2007). Calderón graduated from San Diego State University in 1993 with a B.A. in Africana Studies and then earned a master’s degree in Education from Long Island University. After writing commentaries for various print and online magazines, such as rapstation.com, RedEye, and others, Calderón went on to author several books. Regardless of platform or genre, she frequently raises issues of race, gender, and culture, especially as they relate to hip hop. For example, in 2002 Calderón wrote an editorial for RedEye entitled White Like Me in which she outlined a ten-point code of ethics for white people involved in hip hop culture. In her introduction she states, “[W]e must challenge each other to go on a journey of selfdiscovery, in order to understand the true desires and motivations behind our involvement in the Hip-Hop community.” With strident charges as “Be conscious of your unearned privilege” and “Don’t think you are the exception to the rule,” Calderón withstood a backlash from other whites in hip hop who balked at her insistence that their participation in a culture originated by people of African descent engendered any special responsibility. In 2003 Calderón cofounded the nonprofit organization called We Got Issues with longtime friend, fellow activist and hip hop artist Rha Goddess. Together they co-edited We Got Issues! A Young Women’s Guide to Bold, Courageous, and Empowered Life in 2006. They collected and published “rants” from young women across the United States on what they believe to be the ten most pressing issues they face today. We Got Issues! has evolved into a multimedia production, in which the “rants” are performed throughout the country in a show that can be described as “The Vagina Monologues” with a hip hop sensibility. Calderón’s first novel That White Girl was published by Atria/Simon & Schuster in 2007. That White Girl is a fictionalized account of Calderón’s own coming-of-age as a middle class Irish American girl in multiracial Denver during the 1980s and under the influence of early hip hop. Fascinated with all things hip hop, the teen protagonist Amber becomes a graffiti artist under the tutelage of one of Denver’s finest writers and ultimately joins the Rollin’ 30s, the local chapter of the Crips gang. Throughout the novel, Amber grapples with racism and white privilege and discovers a new passion for hip hop as a tool for promoting social justice. In a review for AllHipHop.com, Kathy Iandoli writes, “While That White Girl may appear to be a (F)eminem saga at face value, it actually succeeds in telling the tale of both gang life and Hip-Hop through a brand new pair of eyes. . . . The remarkable (and respectable) aspect of Amber’s life and JLove’s writing is that she hardly mixes discussions on her gang activity with her affiliation to the Hip-Hop culture. Kudos to JLove for not perpetuating the stereotype that gangbangers love rap and vice versa.”


Presently, Calderón is editing another nonfiction book called Till the White Day is Done, an anthology that explores the question, “What does it mean to be White in America?” Various writers and artists will contribute essays and art, ranging from poetry to comic strips, to the anthology. FURTHER READING Calderón, Jennifer, and Rha Goddess. That White Girl. New York: Simon & Schuster/Atria, 2007. ———. We Got Issues!: A Young Women’s Guide to a Bold, Courageous and Empowered Life. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2006.

Sofía Quintero

CAN’T STOP WON’T STOP: A HISTORY OF THE HIP-HOP GENERATION (2005). Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop is one of the most critically acclaimed and publicly known works of the recent wave of hip hop scholarship. Consistently praised for its depth, ambition, and passion, the text is an incisive treatment of the identity politics of the Hip Hop Generation, and the sociocultural tensions that shape them. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop explicity follows in the footsteps of Bakari Kitwana’s The Hip Hop Generation Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture in defining hip hop as a foundational force in contemporary culture. Rather than simply using discographies to frame its hip hop history, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop treats hip hop as a method or a framework for a youth generation to engage with its political and social world. A disguisedly activist text, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop traces its hip hop history through a series of pressure drops—flashpoint moments where mainstream America’s “politics of abandonment” and “politics of containment” bring the Hip Hop Generation’s tensions and unrests to a critical mass. Riots in Jamaica, the Bronx, and Los Angeles provide the historical and rhetorical bulkheads to which Chang anchors his narrative; fires and raised fists are his two consistent images. Chang’s passions for hip hop music and culture—exemplified by his cofounding of the wildly influential Solesides/ Quannum label out of California—shine through in his work, providing it with a narrative coherence not always apparent in the book’s chronology. The book distinguishes itself before its first chapter with a passionate and credible introduction by DJ Kool Herc and some prefatory remarks by Chang urging readers to consider his history as only one of many potential narratives of hip hop’s development. (This is his defense against the criticism, most pointedly argued by KRS-One, that Can’t Stop Won’t Stop avoids any claims to hip hop origins outside of the Bronx, neglecting to interview Grandmaster Kaz, Pee Wee Dance, and KRS himself.) However, Chang’s opening chapter seems like a radical divergence from the hip hop-focused prologues, outlining New York Yankee Reggie Jackson’s struggles to rationalize his simultaneous mass celebrity status with the racial discrimination he experiences. At the top of the ladder, even Reggie Jackson can’t catch a break; on the streets, the fire-scarred South Bronx is a “wasteland,” a “spectacular set of ruins.” This landscape—and this simultaneous public celebration and delegitimization of America’s most successful Black figures—is, according to Chang, the fertile earth from which hip hop springs and also one of its biggest problems. Chang follows these themes and tensions through a long, complex, and lyrical ode to hip hop, never falling into “hip hop is dead” doomsaying but acutely aware of the internal issues that keep the Hip Hop Generation from achieving its revolutionary potential.



CHANG, JEFF FURTHER READING Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: Picador, 2005.

Timothy S. Jones

CHANG, JEFF (1967–). As a journalist, radio DJ, label head, author, activist, and intellectual, Jeff Chang can be considered one of the foremost and best-respected voices in contemporary hip hop culture. Chang has described himself in the San Fransisco Bay Guardian as an “over-educated hip-hop-gen AZN cult-crit.” Born in Hawai’i in 1967, and a Sugarhill Gang fan at age twelve, Chang moved to California in the early 1980s to attend Berkeley University. He earned an undergraduate degree in economics and a subsequent master’s degree in Asian American studies from UCLA. At university, Chang hosted a six-hour hip hop radio show on CKVS under the name DJ Zen. Through his show, he met Tom Shimura, Xavier Moseley, and Josh Davis in 1993, and the group founded the wildly influential label SoleSides, featuring Shimura’s project Latryx, Moseley’s Blackalicious (with T. J. Parker, a.k.a. The Gift Of Gab), and Davis as DJ Shadow. The Solesides crew’s work showed intelligence, inventiveness, and wit, coupled with an aesthetic rooted in old soul: aspects all highly visible in Chang’s writing. In addition to heading SoleSides, Chang’s university experiences led him to a short career as a community, labor, and student organizer for the students of the California State University system. An outspoken and overt leftist, Chang’s experiences in grassroots community organizing and social justice work have strongly impacted the journalism and print work he has produced. Chang remains committed to grassroots activism; he recently organized the first National Hip-Hop Political Convention in 2004 and published a monograph called “Constant Elevation: The Rise of Bay Area Hip Hop Activism” directed at local Bay Area funding agencies. As a writer, Chang has been highly prolific. A founding editor of Colorlines magazine and a senior editor of Russell Simmons’s 360HipHop.com, Chang has also written for (and occasionally criticized) the Village Voice, as well as The Nation, Vibe, Mother Jones, URB, and The Bomb magazines. He regularly updates and maintains a blog called Zentronix. However, Chang’s most successful publication is 2005’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. In an interview, Chang said, “my politics have always shaped my aesthetics, probably to a fault.” This sentiment is clear in texts such as Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. A winner of the American Book Award, the lengthy book considers the history of hip hop as a series of grassroots, communitarian aesthetic and political practices, evolving in dialogue with the political and social environment from which the music and the culture arises. To use Chang’s words from an interview with Oliver Wang in Vibe Magazine, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop looks at the social and cultural tensions of the period from 1968–2001 “from the street corner up”—through the lens of grassroots hip hop music, its producers, and its followers. Robert Christgau, one of 20th Century music’s most influential critics and Chang’s Village Voice contemporary, called Can’t Stop Won’t Stop “Nothing less than the finest rap history extant.” More than a rap history, however, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop is significant as a call-to-arms to the population group that Bakari Kitwana calls the Hip Hop Generation. A defiantly activist text, Chang highlights flashpoints and moments of racial and political solidarity in hip hop communities and, in ending the book with a photograph of a raised black fist at the 2000 DNC, sounds a clear call for more.


In 2007, Chang curated and edited Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip Hop. Whereas Can’t Stop Won’t Stop assessed the history and politics of hip hop, Total Chaos addresses its aesthetics and its practice, elucidating Chang’s argument that hip hop is the “big idea of our time” (Berkowitz). Rather than providing a cultural history, Total Chaos treats hip hop as an aesthetic approach—in the introduction, Chang considers it a coherent, confrontational aesthetic approach comparable to the Black Arts Movement (and even Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty). The inclusion of powerhouse hip hop authors such as Greg Tate, Harry Allen, Oliver Wang, and DJ Spooky, alongside Native American, gay, Maori, and African voices is highly significant and befits Chang’s commitment to polyvocality and inclusivity in his scholarship. The release of Total Chaos was accompanied by a speaking tour; in addition, Chang is an active and prolific speaker on both the campus and academic conference circuits. FURTHER READING Berkowitz, Elana. “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: An Interview with Hip-Hop Scholar Jeff Chang.” . Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: Picador, 2005. ———. “Constant Elevation: The Rise of Bay Area Hip Hop Activism.” 15 June 2007. . ———. “Introductory Essay,” Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip Hop. Jeff Chang, ed. New York: Picador, 2007. ———. “Self.” 15 June 2007. . Wang, Oliver. “Book Talk: Jeff Chang—Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.” .

Timothy S. Jones

CHECK IT WHILE I WRECK IT: BLACK WOMANHOOD, HIP-HOP CULTURE, AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE (2004). Gwendolyn D. Pough’s first book, which examines the ways in which female rappers appropriate male spaces and rhetoric to create their own identities. A noted expert on hip hop culture and feminism, Gwendolyn D. Pough traces the roots of activism and expression inherent in early hip hop culture. She begins the text by renegotiating the black public sphere to celebrate the participation of black women. By doing such she is able to theorize the activism of women such as Ida B. Wells Barnett, Alice Walker, and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper alongside artists such as Queen Latifah, MC Lite, Lil’ Kim, and Lauryn Hill. One of the most innovative ideas in Pough’s book comes when she introduces the concept of “bringing wreck.” She writes the following: I am concerned with the ways the rhetorical practices of Black women participants in Hip-Hop culture bring wreck—that is moments when Black women’s discourses disrupt dominant masculine discourses, break into the public sphere, and in some way impact or influence the U.S. imaginary, even if that impact is fleeting. (2007, 76)

Pough’s notion of bringing wreck reinforces the idea that black women have always participated in the politics of black culture and continue to do so in the often male-centered arena of hip hop culture.




The author takes to task the relegation of hip hop culture and rap music to purely misogynistic ends and requires that feminist theorists look more deeply at the way that women can use hip hop as a device to engage patriarchy. Pough further critiques the prevailing criticism that hip hop imagery and lyrics should present women in a more positive light as opposed to falling back to binaries perpetuated by white, male, capitalistic patriarchy. See also Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology FURTHER READING Morgan, Joan. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks it Down. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2000. Pough, G., R. Raimist, E. Richardson, and A. Durham, eds. Home Girls Make Some Noise: A Hip Hop Feminism Reader. Los Angeles, CA: Parker Publishing, 2007. Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.

Tarshia L. Stanley

CHEEKES, SHONDA (1970–). Author of contemporary literature with urban themes for hip hop audiences. Shonda Cheekes is a popular contemporary writer who lives in Pembroke Pines, Florida. She has only written two novels, but they have been very well received by her devoted fans who love her. Another Man’s Wife, published in 2003, is a story that engages issues and deals with what a woman does when her husband, Jarrin in this case, of many years walks out on her and how she has to readjust to his disappearance. She does not know that for the five years of his disappearance Jarrin has started another family. When Yani does find out, the information is devastating. Yani, the heroine of the book, relates her story in the first person perspective. She meets another man, a businessman named Alex, who also relates his perspective in the first person, and it is inevitable that these two will be together. Jarrin shows up to create havoc in Yani’s life. The use of the first person increases the connection that the reader is bound to feel with these well-drawn characters. The way that Cheekes allows her heroine to articulate her struggles with her husband has garnered her writing a lot of respect from prominent publications such as Publisher’s Weekly, which is no small accomplishment for a beginning writer. With heavy reader demand, Cheeks wrote a sequel to Another Man’s Wife. In the Midst of It All, published in 2006, follows the story of Yani and Alex, who are now married, and how they deal with their lives in the aftermath of September 11th in New York City. Jarrin’s second family turns up to make life complicated for her. The plot of the sequel also takes up the concerns of Yani’s sister, Asia, who returns from the first book. Asia’s heart had been hurt by a former fiancé and she has to learn to find love again from Detective Johnny Johnson. In her willingness to deal with real life issues and difficulties, Cheekes lifts her work from well-tread romantic fiction territory to hip hop literature with a heart. She was praised again from many prominent book critics and got another review from Publisher’s Weekly, more acknowledgment of her growing following. Her novels garnered so much popularity that Cheekes was able to contribute to a short story/novella anthology called Blackgentlemen.com. All of the stories are tied together with


the common theme of women finding their true love in an on-line circumstance. Published by the legendary Zane, the anthology represents the fact that Cheekes is a well-respected writer. Readers will be happy to know that Cheekes’s third novel, Decoys, Inc. will be published in October 2008. Her contribution to the collection via “Lessons Learned” also added to her reputation as a writer who is a growing force in hip hop literature who will be around for some time to come. FURTHER READING Cheekes, Shonda. Another Man’s Wife. Largo, FL: Strebor Books, 2003. ———. Decoys Inc. Largo, FL: Strebor Books, 2008. ———. In the Midst of It All. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. ———. “Lessons Learned.” Blackgentlemen.com. Largo, FL: Strebor Books, 2007.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

THE CHEETAH GIRLS (1999). At first a book series and then a Disney television movie (followed by a sequel) targeted at young teenage girls of color. The Cheetah Girls is a series of young adult novels by Deborah Gregory that tells the story of five ethnically diverse high school students in New York City. There are sixteen books in the series, which debuted in 1999. The concept for the books was born when Gregory, a contributing writer at Essence and Vibe magazines, was approached by Disney Publishing to create a series of novels that would appeal to young women of color, which was a market that had previously been ignored by marketers of mass youth culture. In 2003 the books were made into a made-for-television movie, which was watched by 8.5 million viewers. A sequel to the film soon followed. The girls in the novels are singers and dancers focused on becoming the next big girl group, and regularly contrast themselves with representations of real-life bands that are significantly less racially diverse. There are five Cheetah Girls, and all come from significantly different backgrounds, both ethnically and socio-economically. The main character of the novels is Galleria Garibaldi. Her mother is an African American designer of plus-sized fashion for women and is a former model; her father is an Italian immigrant. Galleria is spoiled by her wealthy family, as is her best friend Chanel Simmons. Chanel’s mother is a single parent of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent and was a model with Galleria’s mother; her father is an immigrant from Cuba and a businessman, but he is not particularly involved in Chanel’s life. In contrast to the wealth of Galleria and Chanel, the third band member, Dorinda Rogers, is a foster child living in the housing projects of Harlem. A Latina girl, Dorinda is, at age twelve, already working and a freshman in high school. (To write about the foster child experience, Gregory drew on her own time in the system.) Finally, twins, Aquanette and Anginette Walker, round out the group; they are African American and are recent transplants from Houston to New York. The twins are very religious, are inspired by Christian music, and occasionally have trouble dealing with the diversity of New York. They are raised by their middle-class single father because it was determined that their mother was an unsuitable guardian. Clearly, an important facet of The Cheetah Girls is diversity, not only ethnically but also with regards to financial circumstances and family make-up. Furthermore, each of the girls has a different body type and deals with understanding beauty in all its forms.




Thematically, the texts are held together by the “Cheetah Girls Credo,” which outlines the ways the girls in the band are expected to act and by default models appropriate behavior for Gregory’s readers. The credo guides the girls to treat others with compassion, accept differences in other people, act responsibly at school and in the band, rely on their inner selves and not their bodies to achieve their goals, be brave, seek support, admit their mistakes, respect others, pick good friends, and follow no one’s dreams but their own. These rules, outlined at the opening of each Cheetah Girls book, are reinforced by the different plots of each novel, which generally challenge one or more of the girls on an issue from this credo. For example, in the first book of the series, Galleria is called a “chocolate-covered cannoli” (2003, 96), a reference to Galleria’s mixed Italian and African American heritage. That this insult comes from a fellow Cheetah Girl forces the girls in the group to discuss being respectful, admitting their mistakes, and accepting the different and unique cultural background that each girl brings to the group. These messages are not delivered in a moralizing way but instead are sorted out amongst the girls. Adults rarely intervene in these dilemmas, as individual responsibility and collective problem-solving is championed. In the credo, Gregory suggests that there are Cheetah Girls all over the world waiting to be discovered. The Cheetah Girls books create a safe space for young women of color to explore their own identities. Gregory enforces this idea of a safe, private space by having the characters, especially Galleria, create their own language to use with one another. Each book has a glossary of terms in the back that defines any invented words from that text. As a result, the effect is not one of exclusion but rather inclusion, because each reader has access to the meanings of the words and because it bonds together a community of readers with secret knowledge that only they remain privy to. Interestingly, Gregory also uses this glossary to define words used in the text that readers might not be familiar with, such as monologue. In this way, the texts provide a space safe not only for the exploration of identity but also for learning. Finally, of interest is the feminist message in the novels. The adult women who are present in the books are dynamic, powerful, and wise. There are few men in the texts, and dominating women of color overshadow them. Galleria and Chanel refer to their mothers as divas, and the girls in the group look up to these strong women; Galleria’s mother even goes on to manage the band and encourages the girls to perform their own songs. Her importance in the texts, however, is primarily her pride in her own racial identity and those of each of the girls. She reinforces the overall project of the novels, which is to show girls of color the power and strength possible for minority women. See also Teen Fiction FURTHER READING Gregory, Deborah. The Cheetah Girls: Growl Power Forever, Books 9–12. New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2004. ———. The Cheetah Girls: Livin’ Large, Books 1–4. New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2003. ———. The Cheetah Girls: Off the Hook, Books 13–16. New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2005. ———. The Cheetah Girls: Supa-Dupa Sparkle, Books 5–8. New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2003.

Brenna Clarke Gray


CHIDEYA, FARAI (1969–). Author, journalist, essayist, and news commentator who has been connecting the world of hip hop to the political arena since she was sixteen years old. Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Chideya attended Harvard University and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in 1990. Beginning her career in earnest as a researcher and reporter for Newsweek Magazine, she has since worked on television, radio, online, and in print. A host for National Public Radio’s Notes and News, she has also hosted Your Call, a call-in news radio show. Chideya has become a familiar media face, anchoring Pure Oxygen, a show on the Oxygen television network and contributing political commentaries to the CNN, ABC, MSNBC, BET, and MTV networks. Demonstrating her passion for truth in politics, she has written three books. The first book, published in 1995, Don’t Believe the Hype: Fighting Cultural Misinformation About African Americans, examines the cultural myths perpetuated in the media. Her second book, The Color of Our Future (William Morrow, 1999), details her cross-country journey to investigate the new parameters of race in a multicultural America. Lastly, her third book, Trust: Reaching the 100 Million Missing Voters (Soft Skull, 2004), interrogates the complexities of America’s political scene, especially highlighted by the issues of the 2000 presidential election. In addition to her books, Chideya’s articles and commentaries have appeared in several prominent periodicals, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Time Magazine, Vibe, Spin, O, and Essence, to name a few. Not limiting herself to traditional print media, Chideya began her own online journal in 1996, PopandPolitics.com, which focuses on cultural and political issues of the day, yet is geared toward a younger audience. Many of the essays published in Trust were first published on the online journal’s Web site. Chideya has worked tirelessly and courageously to present the voice of the hip hop generation to the world, demonstrating that this generation can be just as politically aware and astute as traditional generations are and have been. This commitment was rewarded in 2003 when she was chosen to moderate the Democratic presidential election. She has also been honored with several awards for her writing and journalism. She received the GLAAD Award for an article that appeared in Spin magazine, a National Education Reporting Award, and, in 2004, the “Young Lion” award from the Black Entertainment & Telecommunications Association (BETA). FURTHER READING Chideya, Farai. The Color of Our Future. New York: Harper Collins, 1999. ———. Don’t Believe the Hype: Fighting Cultural Misinformation About African Americans. New York: Plume, 1995.

RaShell R. Smith-Spears

CHUCK D (CARLTON DOUGLAS RIDENHOUR) (1960–). Activist, author, composer, and lyricist. Carlton Ridenhour, better known as Chuck D, was one of the first artists to confidently challenge the politics of an ever-changing society through a series of chart topping albums. Born on August 1, 1960, in Roosevelt, Long Island, New York, Ridenhour is a breeze of fresh fire. Upon graduating from Adelphi University in Long Island, he pursued his passion for rhyme and reason by examining the crevices of hard beats and backbiting lyrics




in the form of a new age hip hop song with a title to equal its intensity, Public Enemy Number No. 1. In 1987 Ridenhour, along with his stage partner, William Drayton (Flavor Flav), and DJ, Professor Griff, founded Public Enemy, a political powerhouse. Not long after the release of Public Enemy No. 1, music producer Rick Ruben signed the group to wellknown music label Def Jam. Public Enemy has produced hits exploring themes that deconstruct slavery in the twenty-first century, male and female sexism, the promotion of unwavering religions/leaders in the United States, and issues of relevancy/candidacy in the White House. Influential albums include It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (released in 1988), Fear of a Black Planet (released in 1990), and Apocalypse ’91 The Enemy Strikes Back. Ridenhour’s intellect for the spoken word perceptively presented itself in 1996 through the release of his first solo album titled The Autobiography of Mistachuck. A companion piece for this album was released in 1997 in a novel of the same title. To further his quest for truth and revision, he co-wrote Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality with fellow author Yusuf Jah. His latest release with Jah is titled Lyrics of a Rap Revolutionary, a collection of anecdotal works explaining the motivation behind his most popular songs. Ridenhour emphasizes education on every academic level. He travels to numerous universities, colleges, and public schools to lecture on issues ranging from fine arts to firearms. With the 2005 distribution of New Whirl Odor, Ridenhour brilliantly targets a new generation with hasher comments and louder questions. The introduction to New Whirl Odor, titled “. . . AND NO ONE BROADCASETED LOUDER THAN . . . ,” voices an excerpt from the Rev. Al Sharpton that states, “Chuck D said that Rap was the CNN of the black community and no one broadcasts louder than Public Enemy.” This essential statement surmises the realm of tremendous support he receives, as well as the endless beneficial and bold content presented throughout the album. Ridenhour has also been a spokesman for two consistent irregularities in the African American community, voter registration and music file sharing online. Despite the negative criticism constantly circulated around Public Enemy’s lyrics, Ridenhour continues to serve as a literary critic and commentator for national writers’ conferences, music documentaries, and television specials. Carlton Ridenhour is a true catalyst for firm speech. FURTHER READING Chuck D. Lyrics of A Rap Revolutionary. Vol 1. Yusef Jah, ed. New York: Offda Books, 2007. Gates Jr., Henry Louis, ed. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. 2nd Ed. New York: Norton, 2004. Ridenhour, Carlton and Jah Yusef. Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality. New York: Dell, 1997. Walser, Robert. “Rhythm, Rhyme, and Reason in the Music of Public Enemy.” Ethnomusicology, Vol. 39 (1995): 193–217.

Delicia Daniels

CINEMA. Hip hop culture has been documented and explicated through film. From its inception forward, hip hop has been infused with a degree of the cinematic. The first rap song to appear on the pop charts, “Rapper’s Delight,” featured rhymes about the contemporary blockbuster Superman. Kool Moe Dee’s hit “Wild Wild West” relied on


motifs and themes found in Western pictures as an extended metaphor for inner city violence. The Geto Boys’ self-titled album featured multiple references to and samples from Brian DePalma’s Scarface (1983). In addition to borrowing samples and imagery from the cinema, New York’s Wu-Tang Clan took both their group’s name and individual stage names from the kung fu films they watched as children in Times Square. After several successful albums, the group formed a distribution company to re-release the films that influenced them onto DVD. Simultaneous to this borrowing, the film industry likewise borrowed from hip hop and in the process created a unique cinematic genre. Almost as old as the cultural movement itself, hip hop film reflected (and continues to do so) the many facets of the subculture. Although the films consistently appeared in theaters as hip hop grew into a worldwide phenomenon, early on they rarely received respect or critical attention. By the early 1990s Hollywood and the public alike finally came to embrace hip hop cinema because it crossed traditional generic boundaries and reconfigured previously held notions of cinematic convention. Due to the confluence of cable television, especially MTV and BET, home video distribution, and increasingly inexpensive recording devices, hip hop’s influence on popular culture surpassed any other subculture before it. Whereas rock and roll made similar forays into mass media, including films such as the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, Elvis Presley’s films, and lesser-known works such as the Chubby Checker “Twist” movies, the massive output of hip hop artists today saturates commercial industries at a rate heretofore unheard of. Its influence on media includes but is not limited to magazines, fashion, and film. Due to the ease of film production and distribution, B-level documentaries and gangster dramas now sit on the shelf next to big-budget Academy Award winning hip hop films at the local rental chain. Hip hop film cannot be easily categorized. Whereas a film might feature a rapper acting in a role (like Ice Cube in xXx: State of the Union (2005), for example), it may not necessarily be considered a hip hop film. Likewise, a film with no identifiable hip hop artist may be considered a member of the genre (such as the 1995 French film La Haine). Therefore we must consider a number of criteria that holistically inhabit the film to make a judgment about the generic conventions that constitute hip hop film. The film may focus on one of the “elements” of hip hop (b-boying, graffiti, mc-ing, dj-ing) as in Wild Style (1983), 8 Mile (2002), or Style Wars (1983). It may feature a diegetic or nondiegetic hip hop soundtrack, an urban setting, or slang common to rap music to underscore the hip hop aesthetic. Examples of films featuring these elements include Juice (1992), Friday (1995), Menace II Society (1993), and Do the Right Thing (1985). The films may also include an examination of contemporary race and the “ownership” of hip hop as a cultural force, especially the appropriation of rap by politicians and corporate interests. Films featuring this sort of ideological investigation include Bulworth (1998) and Malibu’s Most Wanted (2003). Although the films often cross-pollinate with traditional Hollywood genres, hip hop cinema’s distinctiveness calls for a consideration of it as a genre unto itself. Three categories of film exist within the genre of hip hop cinema: the documentary, the fiction film, and the biopic. Although a single category may contain characteristics of the others, these categories serve as a schematic to differentiate aesthetic and narrative styles within the genre. Each possesses a specific goal and ideology specific to its type and has a unique place in the genre. The documentary essentially examines one or more characteristics of hip hop. It may include interviews with figures inside the culture or reactions from people outside. Often the documentary offers insight into forgotten or overlooked areas within hip hop. This may include the other elements not as financially lucrative as rapping (graffiti, b-boying,




and dj-ing) or the origins of hip hop. Ultimately, this film form preserves the past and focuses upon authenticity and ontology of the genre. Hip hop’s earliest films do not deal with the subculture per se, but feature environs and people related to its genesis. Two films in particular are important in this pre–hip hop era. The first is Flyin’ Cut Sleeves (1993). The title is a reference to the zig-zag pattern cut into the sleeves worn by various Latin and Black gangs of 1970s New York City. This film, culled from interviews in 1971 of gang members, was shot with a Super 8 camera by teacher and gang organizer Manny Dominguez’s wife, Rita Fecher. Fecher and Henry Chalfant later edited the home movies and released the final product as a documentary film decades later (Chang 2005, 52–53). The film 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s features New York City gangs as well. The film captures members of a community poised for a positive, creative change through the emerging artistic revolution of hip hop. People such as Afrika Bambattaa, former Black Spades gang leader and founder of the Zulu Nation, went on to become leaders in the burgeoning hip hop world. Due to the limited release of both films, they are highly prized by collectors and difficult to find. As of 2007, DVD transfers for either film are commercially unavailable and VHS copies remain out of print. The first documentary featuring New York hip hop in its infancy is Don Letts’ The Clash on Broadway (1981, 2002). The film follows UK punk band the Clash around New York and features performances from their June 1981 shows at the Bonds Casino in Times Square. In it, the band reveals a banner and t-shirts designed by legendary graffiti artist Futura 2000. One section of the film documents the Clash viewing a group of kids rapping and performing choreographed dance moves on the sidewalk for passersby. Another features graffiti artists Futura, Haze, and Zephyr painting a mural. Various versions of this film circulated between fans for years before it was commercially released in 2002 as a special feature to the Clash documentary Westway to the World (2002). Another imminently important documentary is Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant’s Style Wars (1983). Initially released on public television, Style Wars attempts to document the four elements of hip hop, but quickly takes graffiti artists as its main focus. According to Jeff Chang, the film originally began as a short film about breakers, but due to the ensuing popularity and increased travel of their subjects, The Rock Steady Crew (New York’s preeminent b-boy crew), the focus of the film changed (2005, 161). Reacting to the increased popularity and ubiquity of graffiti, Mayor Ed Koch and city officials began a war against graffiti on subway cars. The drama between young artists and the existing hegemonic order seemed a more exciting story to Silver. In mid-production, he altered the focus of the film in order to cover the ongoing war between the new artistic expression and attempts to foil the artists by those who saw the paintings as vandalism. Today, the hip hop documentary finds itself divided. On one side the artistic and anthropological trail blazed by hip hop’s early documentaries is rigorously followed. Directors such as Kevin Fitzgerald (Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme (2000)), Paul Kell (5 Sides of a Coin (2004)), Doug Pray (Scratch (2001) and Scratch: All the Way Live (2005)), Lauren Lazin (Tupac: Resurrection (2003)), and Nick Broomfield (Biggie and Tupac (2002)) continue to document hip hop culture past and present. Their insightful and intelligent works garnered awards from film festivals and raves from critics. To date, the most critically acclaimed and widely distributed contemporary hip hop documentary is director Michel Gondry’s concert film, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2005). The other half of the hip hop documentary sunk to the level of shock and exploitation. The makers of “hood videos” distribute them straight to video and often feature shaky home-video clips of graphic violence, misogyny, and drug use. Although marketed in hip


hop magazines and possessing hip hop musical underscoring, in actuality these videos have little, if nothing, to do with hip hop as an artistic expression. Instead, they focus on the most sensational and negative aspects of inner city life without acknowledging artists and activists working for a positive change. After the documentary, the biopic (biographical or semi-biographical film) appeared in the genre to offer viewers an intimate, yet less rough and unscripted, look into the hip hop subculture. This subgenre served as a bridge between the traditional documentary and the classical Hollywood narrative within hip hop cinema and has become the most prosperous of the three subgenres thanks to rappers acting in their own thinly veiled life stories. The first example of the biopic in hip hop cinema is Charlie Ahearn’s graffiti film Wild Style (1983). Almost documentary in its direction, the film features Zoro’s (graffiti artist Lee Quinones) romantic trials with Rose (graffiti artist Lady Pink), as well as slice-of-life segments in Zoro’s day-to-day life. The film may be the best documentation of the entire early hip hop scene, featuring performances by DJs and rappers including Grandmaster Flash, The Cold Crush Brothers, Busy Bee, and Grand Mixer DXT, breakers the Rock Steady Crew and Mister Wiggles, and graffiti artists Dondi White, Zephyr, Rammellzee, Fab Five Freddy, as well as the lead actors. In addition it includes members of the downtown art scene Patti Astor and Glenn O’Brien, both important figures in exposing hip hop artists to a larger group of artists and musicians outside the Bronx. Other biopics followed including Krush Groove (1985), a barely fictionalized story of Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin’s partnership and founding of Def Jam Records. Many Def Jam artists including the Beastie Boys, Run DMC (whose success merited their own film Tougher than Leather (1988)), LL Cool Jay (currently acting in Hollywood films), The Fat Boys (who starred in The Disorderlies (1987)) and Kurtis Blow. Although panned by critics, Krush Groove became a cult classic and a document of hip hop’s ascension from street art to legitimate money-making industry giant. Following in the footsteps of Krush Groove, the popular 8 Mile (2002) and Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2005) portray the rise of rappers Rabbit (Marshall “Eminem” Mathers) and Marcus (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), respectively. Despite the fictionalized names, the films are thinly veiled biographies of each film’s lead actor. Each film also heralded a new progression in the production of hip hop film by featuring respected directors not associated with the world of hip hop. 8 Mile was directed by Oscar winner Curtis Hanson; Get Rich boasted the lauded Irish director Jim Sheridan. Although only 8 Mile was hailed by critics, both films proved that hip hop was still a strong draw at the box office and a favorite genre among cinephiles and hip hop fans alike. As hip hop culture became more popular in the mid-1980s Hollywood began to produce films with hip hop themes. Although not uniformly the case, many of these films exploited hip hop as a fad to cash in on before moving to the next big thing. The first classical Hollywood narrative released was the Harry Belafonte produced, Stan Lathan directed Beat Street (1984). Easily the best of the early films and an earnest attempt to expose hip hop’s artistry to a larger audience, Beat Street features a who’s who of early hip hop pioneers, including Afrika Bambaataa, Jazzy Jay, and Doug E. Fresh (Chang 2005, 192). The film, probably based on Style Wars, follows a young graffiti artist, Ramon (Jon Chardiet), attempting to “get up” on a newly painted subway car while battling rival tagger “Spit” and Kenny (Guy Davis), a young DJ working to perfect his turntable craft while navigating the “serious” world of music and dance. In an attempt to cash in on the success of Beat Street, Hollywood producers flooded cinemas with similar films, most with little success.




The most important and influential films released in the wake of the initial flood of classical Hollywood narrative hip hop films is Breakin’ (1984) and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984). Despite possessing none of the gritty realism and lacking the all-star hip hop cast of Beat Street (save for a young pre-gangsta rap Ice-T rapping in a club over an electro beat), the two Breakin’ films asserted a life for hip hop outside the boroughs of New York City. Unlike Beat Street the Breakin’ films focus solely on the phenomenon of b-boying, known after the films as “break dancing” (a term still derided by b-boys). Whereas the first of the series possesses a watchable story about Ozone (Adolfo Quinones) and Turbo’s (Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers) frustration with the upper class world of dance, its sequel Electric Boogaloo is painful to watch. Any semblance of the “authenticity” of hip hop and actual b-boying is shunned in the sequel for a syrupy Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland style melodrama and choreographed Broadway musical dance moves. After the initial wave of exploitative films, artists in the industry and hip hop aficionados began making their own narrative films. Films such as Disorderlies (1987), Who’s the Man? (1993), CB4 (1993), and Friday (1995) focused on the lighter side of hip hop. Kid and Play’s House Party (1990) and the series of films following it, although largely written off during the gangsta era as too “soft,” proved to be one of hip hop film’s most successful franchises and enjoyed a large distribution and strong box office receipts. Furthermore, director Reginald Hudlin won both the Cinematography Award and the Filmmaker’s Trophy and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for his work on the film. Despite the auspicious beginning, the two sequels failed to live up to the high standards set by Hudlin. Strangely enough, however, the popularity of the three R-rated films spawned a short-lived Saturday morning children’s cartoon series. Dramas such as Do the Right Thing (1989), Juice (1992), New Jack City (1991), Menace II Society (1993), and Boyz N The Hood (1991) injected gravitas into the genre and helped set the tone for hip hop overall in the 1990s. These films possess, at times, a documentary feel reminiscent of the early hip hop films. The films also feature rappers as more serious, dramatic actors. In just a few years these films proved that rappers Ice Cube, Ice T, and Tupac Shakur were not only among the best MCs in their field but also first-class actors able to hold their own with seasoned professionals. The films also introduced powerful new directorial talent to cinema. Spike Lee garnered multiple nominations for Golden Globes, Oscars, and the Palm D’or at the Cannes Film Festival for Do the Right Thing. In 1991 John Singleton garnered nominations for Academy Awards in directing and best screenplay for Boyz N The Hood, as well as won the Best New Director award from the New York Film Critics Circle. For their work on Menace II Society, twin brothers Albert and Allen Hughes were nominated for the Best First Feature Independent Spirit Award. Once a commercial for an artist’s album, the music video now acts as a calling card for young filmmakers looking to break into the Hollywood system. The two most successful directors to make this transition were F. Gary Gray and Hype Williams. Gray began his career directing videos for artists Outkast, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre. His first feature-length film Friday (1995) became a cult classic and helped launch the acting careers of Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. Gray currently works on big-budget mainstream films and directed the box office hits The Negotiator (1998), The Italian Job (2003), and Be Cool (2005). Hype Williams may be the most prolific music video director in the art form’s history, directing upwards of 100 videos since 1992. His signature style of bold colors and experimental camera techniques (as well as his nom de plume) stem from his youthful experiences as a graffiti artist. Videos such as Missy Elliot’s “The Rain,” Tupac Shakur’s “California Love,” and Busta Rhymes “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” changed the way videos were


made and what was expected from their creator. In Williams’s hands videos became a work of postmodern art, borrowing from Hollywood for ideas while simultaneously influencing how Hollywood makes films. His feature film, Belly (1998), features rappers Nas, DMX, and Method Man. Despite only having one feature film released to date, his videos and commercials all possess a cinematic quality lacking in most of the fare on television. Unlike their country and rock counterparts, rappers turned actors often make very successful transitions to cinema. Chris “Ludacris” Bridges’ roles in two academy award winning films established him as the most distinguished rapper turned actor in an increasingly crowded field. He played a car thief in search of redemption in Crash (2004) and a sleazy rapper in Hustle and Flow (2006). O’Shea “IceCube” Jackson’s films are easily the most successful of any rapper turned actor. In addition to his successes with the series of Friday and Barber Shop films, he found fertile ground as an action star in Three Kings (1999), All About the Benjamins (2002), and xXx: State of the Union (2005) as well as starring in the lucrative family films Are We There Yet? (2005) and Are We Done Yet? (2007). Before his untimely death in 1996, Tupac Shakur had already received critical acclaim for his roles in Juice, Poetic Justice (1993), Above the Rim (1994), and Gridlock’d (1997). Now an established genre, hip hop films play at festivals internationally and boast critically acclaimed and financially successful works throughout the world. Recently foreign films have adopted hip hop, cementing its global importance as an artistic movement. Likely the first foreign hip hop film is the French La Haine (1995), which tells the story of three young men in the suburban ghettos outside Paris. The late Dutch filmmaker Theo VanGogh released a hip hop film documenting the Dutch underclass, Cool!, in 2004. Documentaries focusing on Spanish-speaking countries’ embrace of hip hop appear in the critically lauded East of Havana (2006) and Favela Rising (2005). Despite the assertion by rapper Nas in 2007 that “hip hop is dead,” it is alive and kicking in the cinemas and video stores around the world. See also Breakin’; Krush Groove; Style Wars FURTHER READING Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005. ———, ed. Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2006. Forman, Murray, and Mark Anthony Neal, eds. That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004. Watkins, S. Craig. Representing: Hip Hop Culture and the Production of Black Cinema. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Shane Gilley

COBB, WILLIAM JELANI (1969–). Author of several books on black culture, including the hip hop anthology To the Break of Dawn and The Devil and Dave Chappelle: And Other Essays. Does hip hop make people more violent, more sexist, or more materialistic? Is hip hop a destructive, rage-infused force, or is it, like the rock and roll that came before it, one of the most satisfying—and ultimately—safest forms of rebellion?




To the Break of Dawn, Dr. William Jelani Cobb’s insightful hip hop anthology, does not answer the previous questions, nor does it attempt to. Instead, Dr. Cobb points out—in breathless, joyful detail—the elements that make hip hop an important literary and musical art form. Born in 1969, Cobb is part of the “hip hop generation,” and indeed, in To the Break of Dawn’s introduction, Cobb lovingly discusses how greatly hip hop influenced his life (Cobb himself rapped and he was acquainted with legendary rapper LL Cool J) and the myriad ways that MCs differ from rappers. The rapper is judged by his ability to move units; the measure of the MC is the ability to move crowds. The MC gets down to his task with only the barest elements of hip hop instrumentalization: two turntables and a microphone . . . The MC writes his own material. The MC would still be writing his own material even if he didn’t have a record deal. A rapper without a record deal is a commercial without a time slot. (2007, 9)

Cobb’s deep-rooted appreciation for hip hop’s lyrics—and for those persons who write their “own material”—is perhaps the most wondrous aspect of the anthology. Lyrics are hip hop’s heart and soul, yet today, surprisingly few discussions analyze hip hop’s merits as literature. However, from the first page, Cobb does just that; he employs a variety of techniques that establish the idea that hip hop is both poetry (he compares hip hop to the work of Gwendolyn Brooks and The Last Poets) and prose (he cites novelists such as Ralph Ellison and Donald Goines). Cobb’s opening chapters delve into the idea that many black writers—whether their medium is poetry, the novel, or hip hop—share the same obsessions. Cobb argues that writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and James Baldwin admired the black preacher and allowed the language of the black preacher to shape and define their art. Furthermore, Cobb sees in the call-and-response and sermonlike styles of many modern rappers that same kind of reverence for spirituality and the black preacher figure. Cobb goes on to discuss how, traditionally, black writers have favored the autobiography as a literary form that asserts their humanity (“if one has a story, then they must, in fact, exist”), that bears witness to their pain (2007, 128). Ultimately, Cobb believes that many rappers owe much to Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X in their celebration of that near-mythical individual who is both “hustler” and “wise man.” If Cobb concentrates less on political and social movements that grew out of hip hop, as a historian, he does offer a detailed assessment of the ways in which hip hop has been influenced by earlier musical genres, such as the blues and jazz. Cobb argues that free-style is similar to jazz improvisation, and that hip hop’s frank discussion of sexuality can be tied to the blues. Also, Cobb compares flow (the speed and rhythm rappers use to deliver their lyrics) to jazz’s swing and demonstrates how hip hop transformed and re-invigorated R&B (Cobb cites Jody Watley’s Friends as an example). Finally, in one of the most exciting chapters of the book, Cobb explores seven individual rappers the way that a professor might discuss novelists in an upper-level college seminar. Cobb’s “Seven MCs”—Rakim, Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, Big Pun, Common, Eminem, and the Notorious BIG—are case studies in hip hop’s Afrocentric intellectualism, nihilism, and race and gender politics. In contrast to Til the Break of Dawn, Cobb’s collection The Devil and Dave Chappelle: And Other Essays offers intensive social commentary. Here, Cobb concentrates on several issues that directly affect hip hop, including hip hop’s incessant misogyny and


commercialization (“The Hoodrat Theory,” “Pimping Three 6 Mafia”). He also discusses topics that, indirectly, have affected hip hop culture: Hurricane Katrina, The Million Man March and, of course, Dave Chapelle. FURTHER READING Cobb, William Jelani. To the Break of Dawn. New York: New York University Press, 2007. ———. The Devil and Dave Chappelle: And Other Essays. New York: Avalon, 2007.

Rochelle Spencer

THE COLDEST WINTER EVER (1999). Sister Souljah’s novel The Coldest Winter Ever is credited with igniting the explosion of urban fiction that sent shock waves through the publishing industry in the late 1990s. Although Souljah’s debut as a novelist is heralded by many as the birth of a new literary genre, it is often overlooked that the novel sparked the renaissance of a literary genre that made its appearance in the publishing market as early as the 1960s and 1970s. Published in 1999, The Coldest Winter Ever joined the tradition of urban fiction texts, such as Robert Beck’s (born Robert Lee Maupin) a.k.a. Iceberg Slim’s Pimp: The Story of My Life (1967), Trick Baby (1967), Donald Goines’s Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp (1972), and Chester Himes’s Blind Man with a Pistol (1989). Noted for its depiction of the urban experience, urban fiction is primarily produced by writers who use their own firsthand accounts of ghetto life to create thrilling tales of sex, drugs, prostitution, prison time, and violence. Traditionally told through the voice of the black male anti-hero, these cautionary tales focus on the black male’s struggle with the dominant power structure, crime, and the implications of gang life. As the foremother of twenty-first century urban fiction, Souljah sets her cautionary tale apart from its predecessors by offering a cautionary coming-of-age story told from the black female perspective. Explicit in its representation of urban tragedy, the novel’s raw urban realism forces readers to critically analyze the impact of violence, sex, and drugs on young African American women within the confines of the ghetto. Set in Brooklyn, New York, The Coldest Winter Ever tells the story of a street savvy teenaged girl named Winter Santiaga, whose jaded sense of respect and power complicates her ability to “survive” in the real world. Born to Ricky Santiaga and his wife, Winter enters the world during one of the worst snowstorms in New York’s history. As the daughter of a successful drug lord, Winter is wellaccustomed to being showered with name brand items that are unattainable luxuries for many who live in their Brooklyn ghetto. By age sixteen Winter develops a strong disdain for the poverty that surrounds her and is determined to subvert it at all costs. A staunch ghetto princess, Winter is aware of poverty’s impact on the black community but fails to realize that materialism and “catch me if you can” street smarts will ultimately lead to her own destruction. Vowing never to fall from the prestige of fine designer clothing and preferential treatment, Winter receives an abrupt reality check when her father’s reign as a topnotch drug dealer is ended and she is forced to adjust to life without her father’s protection. After Winter’s father relocates the family to an upscale Long Island community his unquestioned power eventually comes to an end. Shortly after the Santiagas’ move to Long Island the father is sent to prison and the mother is shot with a bullet meant for her husband. Winter’s distress is heightened when all of her family’s possessions are seized by the government, and her younger sisters, Mercedes, Lexus, and Porche, are placed in foster




homes. The once self-assured daughter of a prominent drug dealer is shaken by the challenge to survive in an affluent neighborhood where her father is not feared by others. For the first time in her life Winter understands that her father’s influence has little significance outside of Brooklyn and that he is no match for their conservative Long Island neighbors. Winter’s attempt to navigate her way through shifting power relations and her new role as the family’s protector reveals that she is ill prepared to deal effectively with life and the law. Staying true to her father’s example, Winter continues down the road of self-destruction when she sets out to redeem him. Winter’s downward spiral is complete when she is sentenced to fifteen years in prison for transporting drugs in her boyfriend’s vehicle. The reality that brings Winter’s journey full circle is the realization that her younger sister, Porche, is traveling down the same treacherous path. Unwilling to express disapproval of Porche’s choices, Winter simply excuses herself from any advisory role, leaving her sister’s outcome to the streets. Read in its entirety, the novel’s primary goal of illustrating ghetto culture in Brooklyn, New York, is achieved. Moreover, Souljah’s vivid tale of a young black woman’s struggle to survive resonates with readers as a warning against the glorification of street life. Although filled with a series of tragic events, The Coldest Winter Ever intertwines urban realism with moral uplift in an effort to present the possibility of redemption to young audiences. Souljah incorporates herself into the novel as a character who reaches out to young black women encouraging them to make healthier life choices. Winter’s initial rejection of Souljah’s message is reactionary, but after a series of life-altering events she reflects on the importance of those shared words of wisdom. With the significance of Souljah’s novel in continual debate, it is unmistakably clear that The Coldest Winter Ever is regarded as a classic text among both writers and publishers in the urban fiction market. As a seminal text of second wave urban fiction, the novel appeals to a target audience that was viewed as a dead market by the American publishing industry until the late 1990s. Souljah acknowledges the contestation over her novel and others like it when urban fiction is compared to more highly regarded texts in the African American literary tradition. As the author, Souljah remains adamant about the novel’s importance, stating “I wanted to challenge young women to step back and take a long look at how we treat each other. I believe that most of us treat women the way we’ve been taught to treat one another. These women’s issues are the central theme of my book because I believe there needs to be a radical transformation or a huge change in women and the way we think, act and plan.” Less than ten years after the novel’s publication, the high demand for this urban fiction classic speaks to the legitimacy of Souljah’s vision. In 2004 the novel’s status as “classic” was reinforced when Atria Books re-released The Coldest Winter Ever in a Special Collectors Edition featuring Souljah’s comments regarding the novel’s development. Regardless of the ongoing conversation over the legitimacy of urban fiction novels such as Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever, Teri Woods’s True to the Game (1999), and Omar Tyree’s Flyy Girl (1993), the potential of this genre has surpassed the expectations of countless writers, publishers, and vendors in the publishing industry. Since the publication of Souljah’s first novel, the urban fiction genre has experienced considerable expansion within major publishing houses. Urban fiction novels that have emerged since the publication of the three 1999 classics include Shannon Holmes’s B-More Careful (2001), K’wan Foye’s Gansta: An Urban Tragedy (2002), Solomon Jones’s The Bridge (2003), C. Rene West’s Caught in the Struggle (2004), and Relentless Aaron’s The Last Kingpin (2004). In addition to creating the momentum that pushed the urban fiction renaissance, Souljah’s novel has inspired a series of women writers


who are trailblazers in the corporatization of the role African Americans play in the urban fiction publishing market. As the urban fiction genre began to evolve, some women writers became concerned that major publishers were only semi-informed about the genre’s target audiences, therefore making it quite difficult for up-and-coming writers. Experiencing rejection from major publishers in the industry led second wave urban fiction writers to own their own publishing companies, thus claiming a larger stake of the corporate side of the industry. Popular writers such as Vickie M. Stringer, Nikki Turner, and Teri Woods helped to change the face of the urban fiction publishing industry. Having studied the publishing market carefully and possessing a strong understanding of their target audiences, these African American women writers-turned-publishers have taken the publishing industry by storm. Stringer, one of the first women writers of hip hop fiction to pursue self-publication, founded Triple Crown Publications when she self-published her first novel Let That Be The Reason in 2001. Inspired by the writer Teri Woods, who entered the publishing arena when she self-published True to the Game, Stringer went on to assist in building the writing careers of other urban fiction writers, such as Nikki Turner. Turner’s writing career soared while publishing under Triple Crown Publications with the release of A Hustler’s Wife (2003) and A Project Chick (2003). As a result of her success with Triple Crown Publications, Turner has since branched out to obtain her own book deal with One World/Ballantine. After signing a lucrative two-book deal with One World/Ballantine in 2004, Turner penned The Glamorous Life (2005) and Riding Dirty on I-95 (2006). In addition to acquiring a publishing contract with One World/Ballantine called Nikki Turner Presents, Turner has joined the ranks of authors such as Zane and Carl Weber as African American writers who have signed on to have their book series marketed by a major publishing house. See also No Disrespect FURTHER READING Davis, Anthony C. “The New Sons of Iceberg Slim-Syndicated Media Group.” Black Issues Book Review, Vol. 3 Issue 5 (2001): 56–57. Lawrence, Arin M. “After a Season: The Book Credited with Igniting the Urban Genre, Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever, Is Back in a Collector’s Edition.” Black Issues Book Review, Vol. 7 Issue 2 (2005): 46. Osborne, Gwendolyn. “The Legacy of Ghetto Pulp Fiction.” Black Issues Book Review, Vol. 3 Issue 5 (2001): 50–52. Young, Earni. “Urban Lit Goes Legit.” Black Issues Book Review, Vol. 8 Issue 5 (2006): 20–23.

Chaunda A. McDavis

COLLEGE COURSES IN HIP HOP LITERATURE (1998–2007). Courses that focus on, evaluate, critique, and study hip hop culture, its literature and language, which includes rap lyrics, journalism (The Source, XXL, Vibe, and other magazines), dance, and rap artists, such as Tupac Shakur, Christopher Wallace (Biggie Smalls), and Lil’ Kim. Despite Heather Mac Donald’s 1998 article, “An F for Hip Hop 101,” featured in New York’s City Journal, which argues that a course in hip hop culture taught by Edgar Miranda at El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice was “as needed as Viagra” and that




such courses are nothing more than “progressive idiocy,” hip hop is not only recognized as a legitimate musical genre and intellectual discourse, it is also being widely taught at colleges and universities around the globe. Although the fanfare appears to be reserved for Ivy League professors, such as Michael Eric Dyson, who recently left the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) to join the faculty of Georgetown University; Anthony Ratcliff, who left Mount Holyoke for the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; and the tag team of Timothy McCarthy and John Stauffer, who teach at Harvard University, professors at state and community colleges are teaching similar courses without the same level of recognition or the same amount of political pressure from university curriculum committees. The movement to make hip hop and rap music inclusive in English, Sociology, Political Science, and Music courses may have been encouraged by publishers, who do not appear to have agreed with Mac Donald and began to canonize rap lyrics. More specifically, in the same year that Mac Donald disparaged hip hop curriculum, publisher Houghton Mifflin released Call and Response: The Riverside Anthology of the African American Literary Tradition, which contains in its pages a wide range of texts, including lyrics by Public Enemy. Primarily used as an undergraduate African American literature textbook, Call and Response not only encouraged the inclusion of rap lyrics into the African American literary canon but also contributed to changing the perceived condition of hip hop culture from one that was marginalized, and therefore, abject, to one of normalcy, albeit within the “African American literary tradition,” a new condition that is open to debate because rap music is produced across the globe within cultures that are often thought to have no connection to the black experience in America. However, the text received widespread support from students, faculty, and authors alike, and in the decade since its original publication, Call and Response has come to be known as an affirmation of the relevance of hip hop in a variety of courses ranging from American Popular Culture, American Literature, and African American Literature, to Sociology, Composition, American History, and Music History and Theory. Hip hop courses are not only relevant but they are also becoming specialized. For example, in the Fall 2007 semester, the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign’s Latina/Latino Studies offered LLS 435, a 3–4 credit course that cross-listed with Africana Studies and Gender/Women’s studies. Titled “Commodifying Difference,” the course’s approach is described as “An interdisciplinary examination of how racial, ethnic and gender difference is negotiated through media and popular culture, and how racial, ethnic and gendered communities use cultural forms to express identity and difference” (University of Illinois 2007). During the same semester at the Eissey location of Palm Beach Community College, three sections of English (ENC1101) were taught using hip hop culture and conscious rap lyrics to discuss “resolutions (or revolutions) addressing America’s social problems . . . [by] examining identity through historical, literary, and vernacular lenses . . . further develop [students’] reading, writing and composition skills through selfreflexivity and their (re)evaluation of identity” (Blaque.com 2007). In the Spring of 2008, George Mason University offered an Art and Visual Technology course (2007, 372) on hip hop described as one that “[s]urveys and assesses varieties of artistic expression emerging from hip hop” while taking a “comprehensive look at the multilayered social, political, and aesthetic aspects of hip hop” (George Mason 2007). The variety of courses offered in multiple disciplines emphasizes the point that hip hop culture is a discourse with which educators must reconcile in their understanding of the elements that make up the culture, namely, rap music, specific style of dance, such as


krumping and breaking, and visual art forms, such as graffiti. Although teaching hip hop as a legitimate course across the university and college curricula has, since the 1980s, suffered heavy criticism from both the academic and secular communities, some of the schools that once embraced the courses have only done so as long as the professors and graduate students facilitating the courses remained. Because the courses were not added to the permanent curriculum, once those instructors moved on to other colleges, course offerings in hip hop were allowed to lapse, or simply disappeared altogether. For example, Eric Dyson was hired as an Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at UPenn from DePaul University in Chicago in the fall of 2002. Eric Dyson is known for hip hop vernacular in his speech and rhetorical instruction. He described one of his courses, Religious Studies 113, as one that would “look at Tupac Shakur as a cultural figure of enormous importance and to probe the ethical, moral, social, and political consequences—and especially the religious dimensions—of his thought” (Frith 2007). In the few short years that Eric Dyson taught at UPenn his continued inclusion of hip hop was disdained by students and scholars alike. He is now at Georgetown University, and UPenn’s RELS113 remains listed, but without a course description. However, historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) have committed to offering hip hop courses to their students, not only as special topics offered intermittently but also as permanent fixtures in the curriculum. For example, in 2006 A&T State University added its first hip hop course, although it was not listed in the course catalog (Capers 2005). Internet, or hard copy, for the 2007–2008 academic year, the university added two courses on hip hop to the school’s permanent hard copy course catalog. There Professor Bryan Turman offers courses titled “Hip Hop Discourse” (ENGL316) and “History, Literacy, Connections, and Social Relevance of Hip Hop” (ENGL209), both of which are taught as writing intensive courses to a student body clamoring for entrance into his always-filledquickly classes. Howard University offers an Afro-American Studies (2007, 121) course on hip hop as a special topics class, but they have also made a commitment to create and permanently add such courses to their curriculum, a result of the 2006 Graduate School Hip Hop and Higher Education Symposium, an effort geared “to offer a body of courses and a minor in hip-hop from multi- and interdisciplinary perspectives including an analysis of problems and solutions among youth” (Howard University 2007). Hip hop culture has always been relevant to the African American community and is rooted in African culture and music and the black response to American oppression. Although it took thirty years of commercializing the culture to for the culture to be granted permission to cross the collegiate threshold, rap music, rappers, and rap music fans, as well as breakers, krumpers, and hip hop scholars have been educated at most universities and colleges because of the widespread popularity of hip hop. In the 1980s, hip hop culture was on the margins of American society and its institutions of higher learning. However, as hip hoppers have acquired education, many question why hip hop struggles to be legitimized as an intellectual discourse, and it is that group of scholars, many now in their mid-forties, that are doing something to change not only the way hip hop is treated by society at large but also the relevance it has on the college campus. African Americans who are professors of sociology, history, and most especially African American Studies and English courses appear to be determined to change the tides as they sit on curriculum committees, hiring committees, and education boards. As students become aware of the results of the professors’ efforts to make the college curriculum inclusive of hip hop and all that the culture entails, specifically, with course offerings in hip hop that are consistently available and advertised to the student body, they are filling up classes quickly, attending such courses




regularly, and learning “more about history in a hip hop class than in all the American history classes [taken] in high school.” Thus, rap music, graffiti artwork, and hip hop dancing have become a part of the American cultural fabric and, as such, are also becoming an integral part of American college life and learning. FURTHER READING Blaque.com. 12 July 2007. Capers, Josh. “New Class Will Examine Music’s History and Influence.” The A&T Register, 30 Nov. 2005. . Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005. Forman, Murray, and Mark Anthony Neal, eds. That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004. Frith, Susan. “Make it Plain!” The Pennsylvania Gazette, March/April 2003. George Mason University. 12 July 2007. . George, Nelson. Hip Hop America. New York: Viking, 1998. Hill, Patricia Liggins, and Patricia Hill Collins, eds. Call and Response: The Riverside Anthology of the African American Literary Tradition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. Hine, Darlene Clark, William C. Hine, and Stanley Harrold. The African-American Odyssey. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999. Houston, Baker. Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Howard University. 12 July 2007. . Jones, Leroi. (Amiri Baraka). Black Music. 1st Ed. New York: Da Capo Press, 1998. McKay, Nellie, and Henry Louis Gates. The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003. Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994. University of Illinois. 12 July 2007. . Watkins, S. Craig. Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2006.

Ellesia A. Blaque

COLLINS, PATRICIA HILL (1948–). Leading social theorist whose critical development of a Black feminist standpoint intersecting race, class, gender, and nation revolutionized understandings of Black women’s intellectual traditions. Wilson Elkins Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland and Charles Phelps Taft Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Cincinnati, Patricia Hill Collins is a renowned social theorist with six books and over sixty articles, essays, book and film reviews, and print media to her credit. Collins earned a B.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from Brandeis University in 1969 and 1984, respectively and an M.A.T. in Social Science Education from Harvard University in 1970. In 1993 she received the prestigious American Sociological Association’s Jessie Bernard Award for distinguished scholarship on gender. Collins first gained national prominence for her 1990 book Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, which was reprised in 2000.


Noting the economic, political, and ideological systems that historically oppressed and currently suppress U.S. black women, Collins theorizes a black feminist standpoint. She argues that black women have their own self-defined intellectual tradition stemming from an outsider-within positionality. Black women’s oppression has included exploitation in the U.S. labor market, exclusion from political processes, and normalization of racist and sexist ideologies through popular culture and media images. Black feminist thought as a critical social theory aims to empower U.S. black women and others similarly oppressed by identifying and resisting the power structures that constrain them, as well as illuminating black women’s intellectual traditions. Collins’ most recent publication From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism traces intersecting patterns of racism, nationalism, and feminism from the end of the Black Power movement to the rise of hip hop. Through her critique of race, nation, and gender, Collins theorizes the intersectionality of systems of power across public policy and social changes. The overt racism of the segregation era, Collins purports, has been replaced by a new racism that is colorblind and equally as oppressive. The enduring legacy of racism has particular relevance for African Americans, especially Black youth of the Hip Hop Generation born between 1965 and 1984. These youth grew up during the public policy changes that ushered in a shift from color-conscious racism enforced by rigid segregation to colorblind racism maintained by promised but unrealized opportunities for social mobility. As a result, black youth of the Hip Hop Generation have benefited from the Civil Rights Movement, union movements, Black Nationalist-influenced social movements, the women’s movement, and sexual liberation movements but as a group have been denied equal and adequate social, political and economic agency. Therefore, although these youth share core American values, such as individualism, freedom of expression, and material wealth, they live the harsh realities of high unemployment rates, disproportionate incarceration rates, unsatisfactory schools and low educational achievement, substandard living, drug infested neighborhoods, and broken family structures—social inequalities that result not only from individual actions but also from group-based racial discrimination. Collins asks how a critical social theory intersecting race, gender, and nation can help African Americans, including Black youth of the Hip Hop Generation, respond effectively to the new colorblind racism. In the first section of From Black Power to Hip Hop, Collins explores the relationship between peoples’ ideologies of American national identity and citizenship and a family rhetoric embodied by the new racism and discriminatory nation-state policies that position African American working class women as “unfit” mothers. The second section analyzes Black solidarity, a core theme of Black Nationalist politics, in light of its contradictory intersections with race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class. The final section examines contrary perspectives of black women’s political activism, offers global feminism as a new framework for understanding black women’s community engagement, and concludes with a critique of feminist politics among African American women of the Hip Hop Generation. See also Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism FURTHER READING Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge, 2000. ———. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2004.



COMICS ———. Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998. Collins, Patricia Hill, and Margaret Andersen, eds. Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology, 6th edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 2007. The University of Maryland. Department of Sociology. Patricia Hill Collins. Curriculum Vitae. 3 Jan. 2008. .

Zandra L. Jordan

COMICS. Comics are images and narratives presented in a sequential format. They are most recognizably manifested as comic strips and comic books. Although there are many genres of comic strips and comic books, the hip hop philosophy of love, peace, unity, and having fun safely enters the public sphere through political strips and superhero books. Political comic strips comment on the political, social, and/or cultural issues in a society. However, some strips are more specific than others in their social/cultural commentary. For example, DILBERT and CATHY comment on organizational life and single womanhood, whereas DOONESBURY and PEANUTS comment on broader social concerns. Comic strips differ from comic books in that strips make better use of humor and satire in their plot lines than comic books. Comic books, on the other hand, comment on social and cultural issues through their superhero archetypes. Since the late 1950s, the comic book industry has been associated with the rise and evolution of the superhero genre. It was during this time that comic book pulp fiction was replaced with the heroic exploits of super powered men and women in masks and brightly colored spandex uniforms. DC Comics led the way with superhero icons such as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman until Marvel Comics emerged with its version of super humans such as the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Spiderman. Milestone Comics, a black owned, comic book publishing company inspired by the spirit of street “entrepreneurialism,” followed suit by creating black superheros such as Hardware and Icon. Literary critics view comics in terms of what they do to audiences, however, communication scholars, like McLuhan, view these texts in terms of what people do with comics. From the latter point of view, comics rhetorically create a discursive environment in which some messages grow and flourish and other messages wither and die. Thus, hip hop comics use the conventions of political strips and superhero books to promote positive action and challenge mainstream perceptions of and assumptions about race, gender, class, and inner city “family values.” In the end, audiences do not just read hip hop comic strips and books, audiences use them to help make sense out of their world. THE BOONDOCKS is an example of a political strip that puts hip hop and street knowledge in the public sphere. The strip is about the adventures of two African American kids from inner city Chicago adjusting to life with their grandfather in a predominantly white suburb. The central characters are Huey, Riley, and Robert “Granddad” Freeman. Huey is an intelligent and informed ten-year-old radical—a real hip hop “teacha.” Riley, on the other hand, is an eight year old hustler—a true believer in the thug life. The tension between the brothers and their interactions with their new environment provide a humorous context for discussions about political and societal hypocrisy, censorship, United States foreign and domestic policy, and media lunacy. The Raleigh, North Carolina, News & Observer defends the satirical feature in the following way, “Granted, this humor is


sometimes lost on those of us who aren’t African American or plugged into the hip hop culture. But it doesn’t hurt us, and I would suggest that there is consciousness-raising value if we pay close enough attention.” (Vaden 2005). The strip’s “in your face” approach forces readers to think, pick a side, and defend a world view. Sometimes its method of critique results in the strip being canceled for a period of time or dropped from a newspaper’s comics page altogether. For example, the News & Observer received complaints when the “Black Santa/Uncle Ruckus” storyline appeared even though it gave audiences an opportunity to talk openly about uncomfortable ideas regarding American culture and stereotypes about African Americans. THE BOONDOCKS raises questions such as, is natural, black hair beautiful? Does all information worth knowing appear in a textbook? Do young people sufficiently value the home-spun wisdom of their elders? Right or wrong, the purpose of a hip hop comic strip is to provide audiences with an alternative, sometimes controversial, approach to interpreting their world. STATIC is an example of a superhero book for the hip hop masses. The book is about a fifteen-year-old African American kid named Virgil Hawkins who lives in a poor, crimeinfested, fictional town called Dakota City. His world consisted of eating junk food, thinking about sex, avoiding gang violence, and trying not to get beaten up at school everyday. As a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Virgil was exposed to a deadly radioactive gas thereby granting him command of the electromagnetic spectrum. As the superhero Static, he battles super villains such as Joyride, Holocaust, and Virus, but he does so with a flintiness that is upbeat and positive. Virgil is not the stereotypic, angry black superhero, nor is he like the rich white vigilantes determined to right a wrong. Static also confronts social issues such as gun violence in schools, gay bashing, and drug dealing, but it rarely deters his optimism. Hip hop audiences do not see Static as a victim of his circumstances because his world as Virgil has remained the same; they see him as an inner city kid trying to do the right thing despite difficult circumstances. FURTHER READING McDuffie, Dwayne, Robert L. Washington, John Paul Leon, and Shawn Martinbrough. Static Shock: Trial by Fire. New York: DC Comics, 2000. McGruder, Aaron. Public Enemy, Volume 2. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2005. McLuhan, Marshall. “From The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man.” Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium. Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester, eds. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004, 102–106. Vaden, Ted. “Hip-hop Comic Strip Shakes Up Readers.” The News and Observer. .

Anita K. McDaniel

CONFESSIONS OF A VIDEO VIXEN (2005). The memoir of former video dancer Karrine Steffans. Considered the first major hip hop confessional, Confessions debuted at number seven on the New York Times best seller list and remained on the list for twenty-two weeks after peaking at number five. As a result of the book’s popularity, Warner/Hachette signed Steffans to a lucrative two-book publishing contract.




Dubbed as part tell-all, part cautionary tale, Confessions of a Video Vixen recounts the first twenty-five years of Steffans’s life, which include humble beginnings on the twentyeight-square-mile island of St. Thomas, a rise to the top as a video girl, a near drug overdose, and redemption. In the book’s introduction, Steffans explains that it is a warning to young women who are trying to get into the music game. As Steffans recounts her encounters and relationships with some of the biggest names in the music and professional sports industries, she describes a world filled with sex, alcohol, and drugs. Competition, physical and emotional abuse, and disconnection are recurring themes throughout the text. From early on in her life, Karrine found herself in competition with other women. She candidly states that it starts with her mother and continues throughout her adult life (2005, 127). Karrine’s, mother, Josephine, was the center of attention and admiration in St. Thomas. Karrine bore a keen resemblance to her mother. As she grew up, she began to usurp the praise and admiration to which her mother had become accustomed. Her mother began to despise Karrine and the attention she received. As a result, she constantly berated and ridiculed young Karrine. Steffans states that whenever someone would compliment her, her mother would follow it with a snide comment or remark that eclipsed the comment. Steffans discloses that she experienced a similar competitive environment on video sets. She describes the profession as extremely competitive and girls would go to great lengths to eliminate those they perceived as a threat. She describes one particular instance when another video girl tried to have her removed from a video set. After performing a sexual favor for the video director, she in turn, had the young lady removed from the set and got the lead role in the video. In Confessions Steffans describes a life that is rife with emotional and physical abuse. She first experienced abuse at the hands of her mother, whom she describes as quite brutal. She says that her mother would beat her unmercifully for any act she perceived as disobedient. She recounts how her mother once beat her until her body was swollen and bloody because Karrine misplaced her sewing scissors. Her mother was equally emotionally abusive. One Christmas, according to Karrine, her mother purchased forty-five presents for her sisters and nothing for her. Karrine’s mother continued to abuse her until she ran away from home. Several years after she escaped her abusive mother, Karrine found herself in another abusive relationship. Although she initially perceived her son’s father, Kool G. Rap, as a protector, she soon discovered his dark, abusive side. Very soon into their relationship he began to verbally and physically abuse her. In Confessions she describes several instances in which he belittled her in front of his other women and hit her. She even recounts several instances in which he beat her while she was pregnant. From all of the relationships Steffans describes in Confessions, one gets the impression that none of them provided her with what she was in search of: a sense of connection. When her mother moved her siblings and her to Tampa, she said that her mother purposefully disconnected her from her roots (2005, 37). She never felt the connection that she has with her grandmother with anyone else (other than maybe her son). Because of her contentious relationship with her mother, she admits that she has always felt disconnected from other women, and as a result has never had many friends of her gender. Although she had sexual encounters with many men, she never felt a connection to them. Her relationships, she admits, were the result of convenience and opportunity for them both.


Critical reception of Confessions has been mixed. Although some Internet sources describe it as well written and laud it for providing a frank look into the life of the hip hop world, others dismiss it as a tell all in which Steffans portrays herself as a delusional opportunist who romanticizes the relationships she describes. Of particular interest is Tayari Jones’s comparison of Confessions to Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. In her blog Jones states that in both texts the author adopts a tone of pleading for tolerance, and both women attempt to convince their audience that they are victims of their circumstances. See also Steffans, Karrine FURTHER READING Steffans, Karrine. Confessions of a Video Vixen. New York: Harper Collins/Amistad, 2005 ———. The Vixen Diaries. New York: Warner Books/Hachette, 2007.

Yolanda Williams Page

CRYSTELLE MOURNING: A NOVEL (2006). Eisa Nefertari Ulen’s first hip hop inspired novel. Crystelle Mourning is the story of Crystelle Brown, a young black professional from West Philly who seems to have a bright future. However, that future is threatened because Crystelle has yet to move beyond mourning the death of her high school sweetheart, Jimmie Johnson, whom she watched die before either of them even graduated from high school. In going back to her old neighborhood, Crystelle is faced with the ghosts of her past, both literal and figurative, and the challenge of deciding how she is going to live the rest of her life. Ulen’s novel is a significant cultural work because it presents themes of death and life, remembrance, and rhythm, issues contemporary to hip hop audiences while simultaneously connecting those same issues to an historical yet timeless African American past. The theme of death and life is perhaps the most prevalent in the book. At one point, Crystelle’s grandfather tells her that she is walking heavy. He is unknowingly referring to the weight of Crystelle’s grief, the grief she feels at the death of Jimmie. She is also carrying Jimmie’s spirit because she is unable to let him go. Death enslaves her because she will not forget. Although Crystelle is unable to forget Jimmie, she is also called upon to remember her childhood in West Philly and realize the impact that it had on her person. In a similar manner, readers are asked to remember the lives and traditions of early African Americans as they struggled for survival in the United States. For both Crystelle and the black race, these acts of remembrance are key to maintaining balance in an unsteady world that can strip you of your love, your life, and your freedom. Remembrance is also necessary to help maintain the rhythm of life. Ulen is most creative in illustrating that life is about its rhythm. There is a rhythm in the way Black people live and love and a rhythm in Black men’s swagger; there is even a rhythm in the way young Crystelle’s beads move when she wears braids. Crystelle’s grandfather tells her boyfriend, “Ain’t nothing’ new, man. The old sounds just layer the new.” This wisdom points to the evolution of hip hop music from jazz and blues rhythms. Moreover, it points




to the steady beat of history’s march into the present. Crystelle’s childhood experiences are highly influential in the way she lives her life as a grown woman. Similarly, the manner in which African Americans live their present lives is due in large part to the experiences, good and bad, that they had during the past of enslavement. Although Ulen calls for audiences to remember the past and recognize the rhythms of life, she is also calling for forward movement. Crystelle should not forget Jimmie, but she—along with the black race—will only be able to stop mourning and move toward the future if she is able to release the past. See also Ulen, Eisa Nefertari

RaShell R. Smith-Spears

D DAUGHTER: A NOVEL (2003). Asha Bandele’s first novel detailing the devastation of police brutality on ordinary people is important to a critique of the Hip Hop Generation, for many of whom identity is irrevocably marked by violence. Asha Bandele is a former editor for Essence magazine whose riveting memoir The Prisoner’s Wife further propelled the issue of American’s incarceration system to the forefront. In Daughter, Bandele returns yet again to the subject of violence in the form of brutalization both physical and emotional. Miriam Rivers is the stoic and often frigid mother of young Aya. In a series of flashbacks, Bandele tells of Miriam’s heartbreak at having to choose the love of her life over her parents and then the further anguish of losing her Bird to police brutality. As a result Miriam raises the daughter she and Bird shared with rules and guidelines instead of love and affection. The mother Aya has known is matter-of-fact and uses order and control to shield herself from the pain of really expressing her love for her daughter. Frightened and still in grief at the loss of Aya’s father, Miriam is unable to give her daughter the closeness the girl desires. Still Aya is able to see that her mother does love her and the two work out an uneasy way of living together. The book opens with Aya’s memories of a year in juvenile detention. Aya avoids a near rape by stabbing her assailant in self-defense, but the judge sees this as a crime and she is remanded to juvenile detention. The method Aya finds for surviving her imprisonment is running, and she returns to her mother and her neighborhood with this one outlet for her frustration and desire. As is much too often the case in lives like Aya’s, she is shot by police who see a black girl running and assume certain things. As Aya lies dying in the hospital the reader is privy to the cracking and softening of her mother’s veneer as yet another of her loved ones—the only one she has left—is taken from her at the hands of ineptitude, prejudice, or fate. Miriam deals with the loss in the only way left to her as she has been consumed by the violence surrounding her. Bandele’s novel is an important one to studies of hip hop culture. Although the novel does not expressly deal with the foundation elements of hip hop, it does provide a set of faces to the violence that surrounds the children who have been created and bred by hip hop. As in The Prisoner’s Wife Bandele shows us the lives of the black and brown bodies incarcerated in America, bringing them from merely caricature to humanity. Not only is her critique of psychic and social pain, which often leads people to actions that kill or imprison them, but it is also of a system that sees a brown girl running down a street and assumes she is fleeing a crime scene and not out for exercise. Additionally, Bandele speaks through the character of Bird about the war and the way in which it can claim even those who make it back from the battle front. Overall it is a change of pace from the riveting critics of the generation because it slowly and wistfully further develops their stories.


DAVIS, ANTHONY C. FURTHER READING Bader, Eleanor J. “Daughter.” Library Journal, Vol. 128 Issue 13 (15 Aug. 2003): 127. Rochman, Hazel. “Daughter.” Booklist, Vol. 100 Issue 1 (1 Sept. 2003): 52.

Tarshia L. Stanley

DAVIS, ANTHONY C. Author of the “Yo Little Brother” Series. Anthony C. Davis obviously has a mission to provide comfort and guidance to young people who don’t have anyone in their lives to inspire them. His titles, I Ain’t Lying and “Yo Little Brother . . .” Basic Rules of Survival for Young African American Males and its subsequent updated sequel co-written with Jeffrey Jackson all serve to give the second Hip Hop Generation a source of purpose, strength and belief in their identity. The “Yo Little Brother” books, as advice and conduct books for a new age, have some popularity even across racial lines. In his work as a teacher in the Philadelphia public schools for twenty years, Davis witnessed the hunger that young people felt for guidance and teamed with Jackson to self-publish these advice and conduct books. The first book, published in 1998, did so well that a publisher picked it up and published the second volume of “Yo Little Brother” in 2007. The success of these advice books has started a trickle of other likeminded books, such as Hill Harper’s Letters to A Young Brother, and have motivated young men to a higher standard. The success of his nonfiction books, the “Yo Little Brother” series, lead Davis to expand his reach into the fiction arena. I Ain’t Lying: Stories from West Philly to West Africa is a book of short stories centered in Philadelphia. Davis draws on his experience as a special education teacher in the Philadelphia School District, and he describes his short stories as “battle tested”: Forget about everything else you have read, and just check out these short stories. All of the stories are true. They have been compiled into a collection called I Ain’t Lying: Stories from West Philly to West Africa. These stories have been shared with many students and teachers in the Philadelphia School District, and they are always well received. These stories have been battle tested on friends, neighbors, strangers, and the editors of a couple of book-review magazines. They all wanted to hear more, but I told them they would have to wait until the book comes out. If these teachers, writers, educators and students can find something that they actually want to read, then I say let’s give it to them. Chester Himes, John A. Williams, and Langston Hughes, look out! There’s a new short-story writer on the block.

By aligning himself with other famous African American male short story writers such as Himes, Hughes and Williams, Davis was motivated and justified in writing short stories with a grittier street feel. Hopefully, readers will respond to Davis’s clarion call for more people of this second wave in hip hop to read his material. FURTHER READING Davis, Anthony C. I Ain’t Lying: Stories from West Africa to West Philly. New York: PublishAmerica, 1998. Davis, Anthony, and Jeffrey Jackson. “Yo Little Brother . . .” Basic Rules of Survival for Young African American Males. Philadelphia: African American Images, 1998. ———. “Yo Little Brother . . .” Volume II: Basic Rules of Survival for Young African American Males. Philadelphia, PA: African American Images, 2007.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins


DECONSTRUCTING TYRONE: A NEW LOOK AT BLACK MASCULINITY IN THE HIP-HOP GENERATION (2006). Natalie Hopkinson’s and Natalie Y. Moore’s treatise on black masculinity as defined by hip hop. There is no conversation about hip-hop that will not very quickly evolve into a conversation about the conceptualizations of black masculinity, its constructions, and its consequences. Within these conversations, the ever present and infamous characterizations of black men are so prevalent that they often become mere cliché. Yet Hopkinson and Moore explore the endless manifestations of the same narrow cast of characters to focus on a character type within the culture of hip hop who is invisible because he is so visible within the culture of hip hop itself. They ask who Tyrone is and why he is such an integral aspect of hip-hop culture. Deconstructing Tyrone deals with more than uncovering that silent ever-present homeboy in hip hop. As the authors point out, to get a true sense of Tyrone, one needs to carefully interrogate how Tyrone is introduced in the culture. In looking at Tyrone as a character type, one must juxtapose the picture painted by Erika Badu’s 1997 hit single “Tyrone” with that depicted by comedian Dave Chappelle in his skits that feature “Tyrone Biggums.” As the eleven chapters in the text show, deconstructing Tyrone is more about knowing who is there to pick up the pieces when constructions of black masculinity co-opted within a maligned cultural and commercial script. Tyrone is the friend who has access to the thug life and can, if pressed, exhibit gangsta tendencies. However, his primary role in the culture is the best friend that unquestionably helps in a time of need. However, as the song and Hopkinson and Moore point out, Tyrone can also be a scrub type guy who enjoys the perks of being associated with his friend of a higher social status. And even though Tyrone may not be the most visible of character types, he does represent the complicated nature of being a black man in a culture dominated by a certain aesthetic and a way to function in the larger mainstream community. Yet Tyrone is also the societal scapegoat for all problems associated with the fallen black male. Importantly, as the text shows, these dichotomies can be as wide as that exemplified between “Hip Hop Mayor” Kwame Kilpatrick in Chapter One’s “Boy Born on Saturday” and Kofi “Debo” Ajabu, the focus of Chapter Nine’s “Boy Born on Friday.” The two men represent the extremes of “tyroninity,” which is a major accomplishment of Deconstructing Tyrone—the proof that Tyrone is a potential part of all black male experiences. In the end, the text’s overall objective is to explore the ways hip hop culture is prevalent in the various representations of black masculinity, whether positive or negative. FURTHER READING Jackson, Ronald L. II. Scripting the Black Masculine Body: Identity, Discourse, and Racial Politics in Popular Media. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2006. Quinn, Eithne. Nuthin’ But a “G” Thang: The Culture and Commerce of Gangsta Rap. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

Terry Bozeman

DETECTIVE/MYSTERY FICTION. Hip hop detective fiction is a form of hardboiled detective fiction which has both shaped and reflected hip hop culture. Hard-boiled detective fiction is most often characterized by the “tough” attitude of its protagonists, profuse depictions of violence, and the use of colloquial, sometimes obscene,




language. Most of the detectives or private eyes in these books solve crimes by personally confronting threatening situations, in contrast to “whodunit” stories, such as those of Edgar Alan Poe or Agatha Christie, in which logic and available evidence are used to solve a crime. Hip hop detective fiction is distinct from other hard-boiled works in several ways. It focuses on the urban black underclass and uses their language; it is often centered around profit-motivated organized crime, rather than personally motivated acts; and the moral ambiguity of its world is even more pronounced than that of other hard-boiled works. Traditional law enforcement is often depicted as corrupt, abusive, racist, and ineffective, and the protagonists are either not themselves officers, or they are dealing with internal police racism. The line between hero and villain is often intentionally blurred. Hip hop detective fiction is characterized by a sense of momentum, aggression, and chaos. The first detective fiction specifically presaging hip hop culture was 1957’s A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes, the first of a series featuring detectives Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones. These books are heavily influenced by the style of Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler, as well as by Himes’s own deep cynicism about both American and African American culture. These influences meet in the often surreal and near-constant violence in Himes’s work, perpetrated by both criminals and the two heroes. In the later books of the series, Himes began to provide less and less resolution to the crimes he depicted, until, with “Blind Man With a Pistol,” the central mystery remains completely unsolved: as Himes later explained, he couldn’t “name the white man who was guity . . . they were all guilty” (McCann 2000, 103). Two films based on Himes’s work, Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) and Come Back, Charleston Blue (1972), were foundational for the emerging blaxploitation/soul cinema genre of the 1970s, which in turn came to influence gangsta rappers. Better known within contemporary hip hop is Donald Goines, who, though a less accomplished writer than Himes, was equally influenced by hard-boiled detective fiction. Goines and his characters are frequently mentioned by name in the music of rappers such as Nas, and his books have been turned into two films, including 2004’s Never Die Alone, starring rapper DMX. Goines’s Crime Partners (1974) introduced both a pair of traditional detectives seeking to solve an individual crime and a black militant, Kenyatta, who commits violent crimes in an attempt to rid his neighborhood of both drug dealers and police officers. As in Himes’s books, cops and criminals are on nearly equal (and equally dismal) moral footing, and individual crimes recede in importance before the subtler crimes that structure the social system itself. Though not a detective story per se, Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Say By the Door (1969) shows, in its protagonist’s passage from CIA agent to Black Nationalist militant, a similar ambivalence about the supposed forces of justice. Many of the “street lit” authors directly inspired by Goines have shared his preoccupation with crime and punishment. These include Relentless Aaron, whose Platinum Dolls (2004) is a murder mystery centered on the adult entertainment industry, and Quentin Carter, whose Hoodwinked (2005) and In Cahootz (2006) address police corruption and complicity. More mainstream black mystery authors—such as Walter Mosely, Barbara Neely, and Valerie Wilson Wesley—tend to be focused on the Civil Rights era, rural or suburban settings, and family life, placing them apart from hip hop culture. Two exceptions are Paula Woods (Inner City Blues, 2002) and Gary Phillips (Bangers, 2007), whose serials are notable for coverage of gang violence and hip hop culture, as well as unflinching depictions of racism and corruption within police forces. Cultural critic Nelson George has


contributed his own series of books, featuring private security consultant D. Hunter, which examine crime within the hip hop industry. These authors manage to maintain a hardboiled edge while distinguishing themselves from Goines and his followers with their higher literary quality and greater focus on character development. FURTHER READING McCann, Sean. Gumshoe America: Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction and the Rise and Fall of New Deal Liberalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000. Woods, Paula E., ed. Spooks, Spies, and Private Eyes: Black Mystery, Crime, and Suspense Fiction of the 20th Century. New York: Doubleday, 1995.

David Morris

DICKEY, ERIC JEROME (1961–). Novelist in the tradition of urban or hip hop literature. “Hiphoppas” a.k.a “hustlers,” “pioneers,” “sisters,” “brothers,” “teachas”—Eric Jerome Dickey draws inspiration from many sources to create characters for his best-selling novels and short stories about African American romantic relationships and culture. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, and currently residing in Los Angeles, Dickey is the author of 16 novels (among them, Friends and Lovers, Drive Me Crazy, Naughty or Nice, Thieves’ Paradise, Genevieve, Sleeping With Strangers, and Waking With Enemies), several short stories and poems (such as “Thirteen” and “Days Gone By”), and a number of other projects that include the graphic novel Storm, the screenplay Cappuccino, and edited anthologies (i.e., Mothers and Sons and Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writing). Prior to his writing career, Dickey was a computer programmer, middle school teacher, stand-up comedian, and an actor. He traveled the local and national comedy circuit from Seattle, Washington, to San Antonio, Texas, and acted in nonunion projects and community theater, off Hollywood Boulevard theater, and in local cable public access sitcoms and soap operas. His acting credits include small parts in the movies Night Dreams (1990) and Murder at Midnight (1994), and a recurring role on the TV show “Almost There!” (1989–1992). On “Almost There!,” Dickey played Brother Akhim in fourteen episodes as well as the choreographer and assistant director for a few episodes in 1988. He believes that his experiences acting and doing comedy greatly contributed to his success as an author. In a BookPage.com interview, Dickey says, “In comedy you learn to write with flow—segue, set-up, and punch line—but in a way that people won’t see or notice. And in theater you learn about character. . . . the understanding of the character you get from doing your homework.” The author does his literary homework by “keeping it real”—by infusing his plot lines and characters with street “kulture” (i.e., street fashion, language, and knowledge). That is, his writings embrace that which reflects and is a product of the inner city—that which validates the experiences of those who exist outside of mainstream culture. For example, in Cheaters, Dickey celebrates the beauty of black women when he accentuates the ethnic hairstyles and clothing they wear to the trendiest night spots in Los Angeles. He peppers the dialogue of characters such as Inda from Sister, Sister with urban slang that is flip but on point. And, he uses the drama in Milk In My Coffee (a novel about an interracial relationship) as a forum for the sometimes politically incorrect perspectives of those involved and their family and friends rather than as a treatise on racial harmony. When BookPage.com




asked about his writing style, Dickey said, “Someone e-mailed me that she would read mainstream writers who are either too politically correct or who just don’t write with that edge that you get when you’re being honest. Not that my stories are gritty or filthy, but they just seem more real to these readers. I’m trying to be honest and real.” Dickey’s ability to connect with romance readers has led to nine best-selling novels on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Six books ranked in the top ten—Genevieve (#9), Between Lovers (#10), The Other Woman (#10), Sleeping With Strangers (#9), Chasing Destiny (#6), and Liar’s Game (#10). His works have been favorably reviewed by Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Mosaic, Essence, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and numerous other newspapers nationwide. The hip hop philosophy of peace, love, unity, and having fun safely is evident in a review by the Sun Sentinel about Friends and Lovers—“The language sings . . . it flows . . . fluid as a rap song. Dickey can stand alone among modern novelists in capturing the flavor, rhythm and pace of AfricaAmerica-speak.” Dickey is the recipient of various literary honors and awards, including 2007 Glyph Comics Award for Storm, 2002 Blackboard Book of the Year award for Cheaters, and 2004 “Author of the Year” by African American Literary Award Show. FURTHER READING Dickey, Eric Jerome. 15 June 2007. .

Anita K. McDaniel

DIGGS, ANITA DOREEN (1960–). Author and editor of hip hop literature. Anita Diggs is a native New Yorker, and now lives in Harlem. She began her editorial career in book publishing. In 1989, she first worked at the New American Library as a secretary for the CEO of the company. Following that, she worked for three years as a Publicist at Dutton Books, which is an imprint of the Penguin Group. She is also the former Senior Editor at Random House’s African American imprint One World/Ballantine, Editor for the Time Warner Book Group, and a Senior Editor at Thunder Mouth Press. In addition, she has served as a literary agent for the Literary Group and is the author of several books. As a top-performing editor and writer, Diggs has made a major contribution to the world of hip-hop literature. While at Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, she assisted with the development and editing of Back in The Day: My Life and Times with Tupac Shakur. This work of nonfiction was written by Darrin Bastfield, friend and high school classmate of Shakur. In the work, Bastfield writes of his experiences with Shakur during their senior year of high school at the Baltimore School of Performing Arts. The work depicts Shakur’s life before he was murdered and became one of the most prolific and controversial rappers to ever pick up a microphone. While at Ballantine, Diggs also acquired and assisted with The Lil’ Bow Wow Scrapbook, which is a book of photos of the child rap star, and Growing Up X by Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X. At Thunder Mouth Press, some of Diggs’s hiphop works of literature include Dr. Dre by Ronin Ro and When Rap Had a Conscience: The Golden Age of Hip Hop 1987–1996 by Tayannah Lee McQuillar. As an author, Diggs’s noteworthy works include The Other Side of the Game, Denzel’s Lips, and A Meeting in the Ladies Room. Diggs is also the author of A Mighty Love, which was on the Essence magazine’s best sellers list. A Meeting in the Ladies Room and A Mighty Love were also chosen for the Black Expressions Book Club.


As an editor, author, and agent, Diggs has set the standard for publishing hip-hop literature. Hopefully, the seeds that Diggs has planted will help this genre to continue to grow. FURTHER READING Diggs, Anita Doreen. Barrier-Breaking Resumes and Interviews: Jumping the Hurdle of Unemployment and Getting a Job. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 1999. ———. Denzel’s Lips. New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2007. ———. A Meeting in the Ladies Room. New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2005. ———. A Mighty Love. New York: Thorndike Press, 2003. ———. The Other Side of the Game. New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2005. ———. Success at work: A Guide for African Americans. New Jersey: Barricade Books, 1993. Diggs, Anita Doreen and Vera S. Paster. Staying Married: A Guide for African American Couples. New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 1998. Reid, Calvin. “Diggs Building at Thunder’s Mouth.” Publishers Weekly (12 Feb. 2007): 16.

Ava Williams

DOPEFIEND: STORY OF A BLACK JUNKIE (1971). The second of 16 novels written by “street literature” author Donald Goines (1937–1974). Born into a middle class family, Donald Goines became addicted to heroin while stationed in Japan during the Korean War. After being discharged from service in the armed forces, Goines returned to his hometown, Detroit, and supported his heroin habit by engaging in several of the activities he vividly describes in his novels. His efforts to support his addiction to heroin caused Goines to spend time in prison; in fact, biographers report that Goines was heroin-free only while he was incarcerated. Although Goines initially tried his hand at writing westerns, in 1965 while incarcerated in Jackson State Prison, located in Michigan, he was introduced to the work of Robert Beck and subsequently began to produce novels in the black experience genre. Dopefiend, conceptualized and written during one of Goines’s stays at Jackson State Prison, was one of the more successful of those novels; its publisher, Holloway House, posits the text as a realistic portrayal of the black experience. Although his first seven novels were written under his name, the nine remaining novels penned by Goines were written under the pseudonym, Al C. Clark. And although his first novel, Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp, is generally recognized as an autobiographical work, the semiautobiographical Dopefiend may well be identified as bildungsroman, a novelistic form in which the life of the protagonist is traced and in which loss, discontent, and alienation are major themes. However, Dopefiend swerves from the novelistic form in its conclusion: unlike the protagonist in the bildungsroman, the characters in this novel do not resolve the major conflicts that have resulted in clashes between them and the society of which they are part. In Dopefiend, Goines explores the dysfunctional relationships between the drug dealer, his clientele, and the local community. Heroin drives the economy of the community; however, only the sadistic character Porky financially benefits from the wealth generated by his drug sales. Porky commands respect, and he takes what he wants. Neither women nor men who seek his product are exempt from the drug dealer’s sadism: he gleefully taunts the junkie who pleads for credit; he fastidiously and cruelly manages the shooting gallery, a dilapidated, vermin-infested building where customers inject his product. Once their money is gone, the junkies are forced to give up their space, to move on, most of them to




commit crimes in the community and to bring the money gained from their efforts to Porky, repeating the stages of the vicious cycle in which they are trapped. Goines’s work humanizes the heroin addict in part by depicting the drug dealer who sets up shop in urban neighborhoods as a coward who preys on not only the junkie but on the community as well. However, although readers of Dopefiend may feel sympathetic toward the heroin addict whose tale is the subject of the novel, they will miss the point of Goines’s narrative should they interpret the novel as the author’s justification of drug addiction by a disenfranchised populace as the only means of dealing with life in the ghetto. For Goines goes to great lengths to demonstrate the repulsiveness of drug addiction; he clearly depicts such addiction as the last bastion of the damned and successfully avoids glamorizing the life of either addict or dealer. And in that regard, it may be that the one strength of Dopefiend lies in its value as a cautionary tale for urban youth who may become enamored of the fast life and its promise of fame and fortune at the expense of others. See also Goines, Donald; Low Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines FURTHER READING Allen, Eddie B., Jr. Low Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004. Klein, Kathleen Gregory, Jay P. Pederson, and Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf, eds. Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers. 4th ed. Farmington Hill, MI: St. James Press, 1996. Leseur, Geta J. Ten is the Age of Darkness: The Black Bildungsroman. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1995. Stone, Eddie. Donald Writes No More: A Biography of Donald Goines. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1988.

Mary Loving Blanchard

THE DYING GROUND: A HIP-HOP NOIR NOVEL (2001). A socially important hip hop novel that recalls the violence and drugs plaguing the Bay area in California during the 1980s. Nichelle D. Tramble’s debut novel, The Dying Ground, centers on the life choices of former college athlete, Maceo Redfield. Although The Dying Ground is certainly a comingof-age story about Maceo, this novel also reveals the coming of an age—the rise of the illegal narcotics trade and heightened urban violence in Oakland, California, during the early to mid 1980s. Maceo is plagued by chronic grief over great loss and his dreams are haunted by heavy unanswered questions. We find that these haunting losses include the death of his mother at the hands of his father, the loss of the love of his life, Felicia, to another man, and the murder of that man, Billy, who was also Maceo’s dear childhood friend. Equally important, Maceo constantly struggles with the loss of self-respect. In order to reclaim a sense of self-respect and in order to alleviate his grief, Maceo teams up with surrogate brother Holly in order to uncover the mysteries behind Billy’s murder and the simultaneous disappearance of his love, Felicia. In the end, Maceo’s vigilante decisions come at an insurmountable cost and bring further loss, yet there is no turning back. African American history and culture are infused in this keen portrayal of Oakland, California, which includes linkages to the Great Migration, Louisiana, Blues, Huey P.


Newton, and even hip hop music and culture as Tramble subtly weaves multivalent social commentary into the text. In so doing, The Dying Ground may be understood as much more than simply a popular “urban” fiction. In keeping with African American literary and oral traditions, Tramble tells a socially important story in this work, a story that must pass on to present and future generations. For several reasons The Dying Ground will undoubtedly pass on because it carries its own significant publication history in that it was the launch title for Random House’s Striver’s Row publication division, which focuses on the proliferation of African American literature. Further, The Dying Ground effectively resonates with a wide and diverse readership and functions in multiple academic environments that range from high schools to colleges. As such the text offers potential for meaningful conversations about and ways to rethink social dynamics of the 1980s on the West Coast. In The Dying Ground Tramble counters popular public misconceptions about how and why African American youth become involved in illicit, destructive behaviors sometimes associated with “underground” street culture while maintaining a sophisticated and objective tone throughout this work. The text also challenges ways in which justice is understood and served. In the midst of all the gritty and painful truth captured in this work of fiction, Tramble reveals the beauty of Oakland, California, as well as the heart and soul of the African American people who live there. FURTHER READING Tramble, Nichelle. The Last King: A Maceo Redfield Novel. New York: Random House, 2004.

Christin M. Taylor

DYSON, MICHAEL ERIC (1958–). One of the foremost hip-hop intellectuals and cultural critics. Michael Eric Dyson is Professor of African American Studies, English, and Theology at Georgetown University. He received his doctoral degree in Religion from Princeton University in 1993. He engages actively in courses that afford students the opportunity to ascertain the importance of hip-hop culture to American culture. In his scholarly writings, Dyson makes a salient effort to elucidate the complexity and beauty of hip-hop culture. His oeuvre dedicates a tremendous focus on one of the most vital and conspicuous elements of hip-hop culture: rap music. Dr. Dyson has written three books that strive to demonstrate the contributions of rap music and hip-hop artists to American culture: Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur (2001), Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture (1996), and Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop (2007). In Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur, Dyson seeks to evince how the lyrics and public persona of Tupac Shakur have contributed significantly to elevating the scholarly discourse on such issues as religion, race, class, violence, and family in America. Through investigating the aforementioned issues, Dr. Dyson demonstrates how Tupac was able to offer salient social, economic, political, and cultural critiques that not only resonate with and benefit African American culture but American culture as well. In Dyson’s narrative, he also reveals that Tupac sought to expose the dominant culture’s hypocrisy in attacking rap artists’ music for being responsible for much of the unbridled violence in America by elucidating that the epistemological provenance of gangster ideas do not originate with rap artists but have their epistemological genesis in classic films starring famous violent




white male stars. He illuminates that Tupac was able to resonate tremendously with many young African Americans because his lyrics and life experiences were able to imbue their psyches with such a spirit of hope about the future possibilities of life in America; this spirit of hope enabled them to combat the oppressive dimensions of their social realities. Furthermore, in Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture, Dyson explores the significance of rap music to American culture, particularly gangsta rap music. In this work, although Dyson is willing to agree with some of the negative criticisms that specific dimensions of gangsta rap have elicited from many diverse public figures, he finds it immensely problematic that many critics are using gangsta rap artists as “scapegoats” (1996, 176) for problems that have permeated American culture long before gangsta rap emerged and achieved widespread prominence. He contends that gangsta rap has played a momentous role in exposing economic and social inequities—possibly more so than “countless sermons or political speeches” (1996, 186). Dyson does not endorse some hip-hop artists’ “glamorization of violence” (1996, 179), but he posits that hip-hop music should not be simply reduced to its negative components. In Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop, Michael Dyson responds to the fundamental question of whether or not listening to rap music has a negative impact on the individuals who listen to it. Although Dyson is willing to admit that he does not champion the homophobic, misogynistic, nihilistic, and materialistic themes in rap music lyrics, he argues that these themes that are ostensible in the lyrics of rap artists are difficult to avoid, considering that the capitalist motivations and pressures of the major corporations that own the record labels that produce rap artists’ music continue to insist that they employ these themes in their art. Dr. Dyson’s work engages in a careful examination of how specifically the homophobic, misogynistic, nihilistic, and materialistic themes in hip-hop lyrics have a negative impact on African American people. He argues that the way in which rap music employs misogynistic language places women in a nuanced dilemma of whether to enjoy this great art form, or allow unresistingly this art form to characterize them in demeaning ways. Dyson also argues that rap music has a history analogous to jazz music. Dyson contends that during the early beginnings of jazz music, jazz music was scurrilously demonized in a similar manner to the way rap music is demonized. See also Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture; Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop FURTHER READING Dyson, Michael E. Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. ———. Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2001. ———. Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2007. ———. The Michael Eric Dyson Reader. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

E E.A.R.L.: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF DMX (2002). Autobiography of rapper DMX. E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX, as told to Smokey D. Fontane, chronicles the entertainer’s life as a burgeoning poet, thief, and rapper. Earl Simmons was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on December 18, 1970, but grew up in the projects in Yonkers, New York. The book is Simmons’s account of the way poetry helped him cope with the turbulent life of the streets. Included in the tale is how he polished his skills as a beatbox artist and took the name of the classic drum machine, Oberheim DMX, originally used by the trailblazers of hip hop, such as Run DMC, as an alias. In order to jump-start his career Simmons frequented local night clubs, performing at live shows around Yonkers until Columbia records took notice and extended him his first contract in 1992. However, soon after the release of his first single, “Get at me Dog,” which went gold, Columbia released him. Simmons’s second contract was a deal with Def Jam in 1997. Upon the release of his second album in 1998, Simmons became the first artist to debut two albums at number one. Much of the book details Simmons’s violent upbringing and frequent brushes with the law. In the end it follows the course of most coming-of-age novels in that the audience is at last privy to Simmons’s demons as he navigates his way to manhood amidst trying circumstances. The voice of Earl Simmons comes through in the text as strong and insightful, yet his struggle with grief and depression are also apparent. From being diagnosed with biopolar disorder to losing friends he still maintains the support and admiration of his family, and E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX takes its place among the literary memoirs detailing the difficulty of overcoming street life. In addition to numerous disks and his book, Simmons has complemented his music career with a number of film roles. These films include Romeo Must Die (2000), Exit Wounds (2001), and Never Die Alone (2004). In 2006 he was the subject of a reality show on Black Entertainment Television called DMX: Soul of a Man. His anticipated forthcoming album The Resurrection of Hip Hop will, among other things, address the fate of the genre.

Delicia Daniels

8 MILE (UNIVERSAL PICTURES, USA, 2002). This film is important to the Hip Hop Generation because of its function as a docu-drama and its subject matter. This semi-autobiographical narrative is evidence of rapper Eminem’s status as a working class urbanite who has a legitimate link to and love for the genre of hip hop. The film 8 Mile, directed by Curtis Hansen, stars rapper Eminem (Marshall Mathers) in his acting debut. In addition to playing the main character, Jimmy “Rabbit” Smith Jr., a white



working-class rapper and factory worker, Eminem also provided the song “Lose Yourself,” which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and the inspiration for the storyline of the movie, which was loosely based on his own life. Alongside Eminem, rappers Proof, Obie Trice, and Xzibit have cameos. The film takes place in Detroit, Michigan, in 1995 and follows Rabbit’s attempts to use his talent as a rapper to escape his life pressing car bumpers at New Detroit Stamping and living with his mother (Kim Basinger), her boyfriend (Michael Shannon), and his sister (Cloe Greenfield) in a trailer park. Circumstances force Rabbit to return to his family after breaking up with his girlfriend Janeane (Taryn Manning). The title of 8 Mile refers to the dilapidated area of downtown Detroit that went into decline, along with the auto industry, during the Reagan era, leaving behind abandoned buildings, unemployment, and few opportunities. The film focuses less on race and racism and more on class and economic alienation, shared by both African Americans and working-class whites in Detroit. Rabbit is a symbol of this shared condition, economically and geographically as well as socially and culturally. Thus, he crosses over racial boundaries as a white rapper and a member of a multiracial group of friends, the 3–1–3 Posse, including David “Future” Porter, a fictionalized version of rapper Proof (Mekhi Pfiffer), “Cheddar” Bob (Evan Jones), Sol George (Omar Benson Miller), and DJ Iz (De’Angelo Wilson). The film opens in the restroom of The Shelter, a hip hop club on the 8 Mile, where Rabbit is preparing for a battle with other rappers. On stage against Papa Doc (Anthony Mackie) of the Leaders of the Free Word (LFW), Rabbit freezes. Despite his fit of nerves, Rabbit finds both Future and Wink (Eugene Byrd), manager of LFW, championing his career. However, he is torn between his need to keep his job at the factory and his career as a rapper. As the film progresses, Rabbit gets a new girlfriend, Alex (Brittany Murphy), focuses on his job, and seems, in general, to progress. This moment is soon followed by estrangement from his mother and members of the 3–1–3 Posse and Alex’s betrayal. In the final scene, Rabbit faces Papa Doc again and defeats him by revealing Papa Doc’s middle-class status during their rap battle. This time it is Papa Doc who is speechless, and consequently the film comes full circle. Although Rabbit’s racial subject position is displaced onto a shared class and cultural position with African Americans, his success as a rapper beating all the African Americans he encounters suggests a hip hop version of Rocky or The Great White Hope. Despite his success, in the final scene Rabbit chooses to return to his shift at work, rendering his success at The Shelter a personal as opposed to a racial or class redemption, or a way out of his life on the 8 Mile. FURTHER READING “8 Mile.” Internet Movie Database. 15 June 2007. . Als, Hilton, and Darryl Turner, eds. White Noise: The Eminem Collection. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2003. Kitwana, Bakari. Why White Kids Love Hip Hop: Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabes, and the New Reality of Race in America. New York: Perseus Books, 2006. Toure. “The Family Man.” In Never Drank the Kool-Aid. New York: Picador, 2006: 21–33.

Aaron Winter

EXPLICIT CONTENT (2004). Debut novel of hip hop literature novelist Black Artemis. Determined to write entertaining yet clever novels for “women who love hip-hop even when hip-hop doesn’t always love them in return,” Sofia Quintero wrote her debut novel


Explicit Content (2004). It is the first work of fiction featuring a female MC as the protagonist in the genre and was published by the New American Library/Penguin Press. The pen name Black Artemis has several meanings. Quintero wanted to write novels under an alias (many hip-hop artists use aliases), she liked the Greek goddess Artemis’s legacy for defending women, and she also wanted to make it clear that she identifies as a black woman; thus “Black Artemis” was born. A well-known writer, activist, educator, producer, speaker, and entrepreneur, she was born into a working-class Puerto Rican-Dominican family in the Bronx, where she still resides. The self-proclaimed “Ivy League homegirl” has contributed immensely to hip hop culture as a pioneer in the field of hip hop literature. Explicit Content follows the story of two young women, one African American (Cassandra) and one Latina (Leila), in present-day New York City. The story chronicles their ups and downs as they navigate a male-dominated hip-hop scene that is anything but welcoming to them as they pursue their dream, which is to make it as MCs. Cassandra Rivers and Leila Aponte are seemingly opposites. But from their first fateful meeting they discover they are actually more similar than different, connected by their love for hip-hop music and culture and their dream of becoming successful MCs. Yet the two have different priorities in the music game. Leila seemingly wants the freedom to be sexually liberated in her MC persona, arguing in favor of Lil’ Kim in the great hip-hop feminist debate over the impact of sexually explicit women artists on the music industry; whereas Cassandra values her creative expression and lyrical skills. However, the pair of “Fatal Beauty” and “Sabrina Steelo” makes a commitment to produce their own demo and show the world what they are all about. That is, until rap impresario Gregory “G Double D” Downs comes along and splits them apart by coercing Leila into leaving Cassandra and joining his label Explicit Content. Crushed by the infidelity of her best friend, Cassandra struggles to persevere as a solo artist. However, as fickle as the music industry can be, Leila’s career soon begins to cool down fast, and music mogul G Double D coerces Cassandra to join his dysfunctional dynasty. Reminiscent of a Murder Inc. case study, rumors begin to circulate that Explicit Content is in dire need of a leadership change; dubious and unscrupulous business maneuvers are becoming commonplace. Cassandra finds herself enticed into an offer with Explicit Content that seems too good to be true. As Cassandra is attempting to reconcile her values with her desire to become successful and not forget who she is and where she comes from, she begins to see behind the smoke and mirrors of the Explicit Content operation and realizes there are life and death choices to be made and she is in the unique position to do something about it. Reviews of the debut novel are stellar. The New York Daily News wrote, “An excellent look at hip-hop history and culture without the weight of academic draping, Explicit Content combines multi-racial and cultural roots, witty language, absorbing plot and exciting characters gives this book its depth while providing a quick read and lots of entertaining moments.” See also Burn: A Novel; Quintero, Sofia FURTHER READING Artemis, Black. 1 December 2007. . ———. Explicit Content. New York: New American Library/Penguin, 2004.

Marcella Runell Hall


F FABULOSITY: WHAT IT IS & HOW TO GET IT (2006). A colloquialism and the title of the step-by-step guide written by Kimora Lee Simmons meant to show young women how to embody power, independence, confidence, positivism, physical aesthetics, and a fulfilling lifestyle. Fabulosity: What It Is & How To Get It is the first book from author Kimora Lee Simmons, president and creative director of Baby Phat and the KLS makeup line. Packaged in glittering gold and featuring Simmons as the cover model dressed in shiny gold herself, the step-by-step guide is meant to show all women how to embody power, independence, confidence, a positive outlook, physical aesthetics, and a fulfilling lifestyle. Like many other trendsetters, Fabulosity is Simmons’s attempt to coin her own addition to the urban dictionary. In an interview with the New York Post, Simmons described the term as a summation of her desires for “all women to feel fabulous,” with her own spin of being over the top, loud, and fashion forward. The -osity addition is her attempt to emphasize the magnitude of the term. “It’s a lot of fabulousness,” says Simmons in that same interview. The official definition on the back cover of the book defines fabulosity as “a state of everything that is fabulous [and] a quality ascribed to that which expresses glamour, style charisma, power, and heart.” Many consider Simmons’s fabulosity contagious. A recent New York Post article called Fabulosity a diva cult, exemplifying the influence Simmons has on her fans. Fabulosity, pegged as a self-help book, is sprinkled with tons of autobiographical information about Simmons, she even uses herself as an example of obstacles and success. Fabulosity takes the reader through the awkwardness of Simmons’s childhood, growing up in Saint Louis with her rare facial features and mixed ethnicity, and ultimately how she used her uniqueness to get to the top of the modeling world, eventually becoming the muse for Karl Lagerfeld at age 13. Simmons also uses herself as an example in almost every chapter, showing how her over-the-top demeanor often helped propel her to varying levels of success. In each chapter, she includes tips for the aspiring model as well as personal action items that the reader can begin trying right away. Simmons kicks off the book with the concepts of creative visualization and aspiration for more out of life in the first section, Self-Belief & Confidence. In the remaining sections—Work & Power, Independence, Image & Body, Romance & Lifestyle, and Positivity & Sustainability—Simmons continues to outline her 16 laws of success for all women. The overarching theme is that women don’t have to follow the traditional, stereotypical path in order to make it to the top. Simmons has no additional works, although her husband and business partner, Russell Simmons, authored his own inspirational book entitled, Do You!: 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success, released in April 2007.

FANZINES FURTHER READING Garza, Xazmin. “Fabulosity.” Las Vegas Review-Journal (23 Feb. 2007): 8CC. Mirchandani, Raakhee. “Fans Crave Mora Kimora—Pushing Her Diva Cult of ‘Fabulosity.’” The New York Post (5 Dec. 2006): 43.

Tyeese Gaines Reid

FANZINES. With the creation and rising popularity of R&B and hip hop in the United States, publishers of “teenybopper” magazines found a new audience. Following in the tradition of fanzines such as Tiger Beat and Bop, which had, since the 1960s, been aimed at a white, middle-class audience of pre-teen and teenaged girls who idolized popular music, movie, and television stars, in 1970 Laufer Publishing Co. debuted a new title, Right On! (currently published by Dorchester Media, LLC) . This was eventually followed by a handful of similar titles from different publishers, including Word Up! (1987) and Black Beat (currently published by Enoble Media/Magna Publishing Group) and the now-defunct Fresh! (1985) and Yo! (1987; both previously published by Ashley Communications, Inc.). Throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s, fanzines were a dominant presence among the small but growing body of literature that was being produced around and within the hip-hop community. Prior to the days of widespread Internet access, these fanzines provided adolescent fans with photos, information, gossip, and interviews with their favorite celebrities. Although there was substantial crossover of people involved in the production of both genres of fanzine, in contrast to their “white” bubblegum counterparts, which typically gushed about the cuteness of male celebrities, hip-hop fanzines tended to be far less gender specific and appealed to a broader age range of readers. Taking their titles from big-city street slang of the day, fanzines were created purely as light, entertaining reading, but they also provided a semi-interactive social platform for their readers. The easy-to-read, brief, and generally upbeat articles that characterized their writing style helped make them accessible to a young, urban, and sometimes low-income audience. This format also makes such magazines quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive to produce by a small team of people—one editor might do all the writing and one graphic artist all the layout. Any fanzine’s key selling point, however, was the number and appeal of its color pin-ups—full-page color photos of celebrities, whose production requires little beyond selection and purchasing of rights to a photograph. The more of these pin-ups, the better, and they were generally promoted on the cover as one of many blurbs within a busy and garish layout. The demand for pin-ups also paved the way for a newer, even more quickly produced format, the “posterbook”—a set of four or five reversible four-page posters folded up and bound inside a magazine-sized cover. They featured minimal (if any) writing but could be sold at the same price as their fanzine counterparts. The majority of these magazines featured very few or no advertisements and were thus sustained by their reader base—subscribers and customers who purchased titles from newsstands or convenience stores or directly from the publisher as back issues. This also meant a feeling of intimacy (as much as a nationally distributed magazine would allow) among readers and between readers and the magazine staff. Fanzines regularly run contests that allow readers to enter to win promotional trinkets from their favorite celebrities, such as tapes/CDs, T-shirts, buttons, and so on, or even more spectacular prizes, such as photos autographed by celebrities or clothing worn by the stars themselves. Additionally,




they also ran reader surveys, ran advice and gossip columns, and published pen pal listings, creating a platform by which readers of similar interests across the country could develop pen pal relationships with one another—a relatively rare opportunity during the heyday of fanzines, prior to the Internet era. This interactive aspect meant that editors and writers played the role of columnists dispensing celebrity gossip, advice, or simply the friendly editor who readers could relate to and hear from every month. However, these assumed personas did not always coincide with reality in terms of stated race, age, implied social class, or even gender, for example, an advice column allegedly written by a young black woman very well could have actually been written by a middle-aged white man who did not face the same experiences or concerns as the readers he was advising. Representation of the black community in the historically white-owned publishing industry, where large conglomerates own the bulk of titles, has been disproportionately low. Due to fanzines’ reliance on celebrities’ waxing and waning popularity, many of these types of magazines had relatively short life spans; and none has solidly established itself as a mainstream, household name. Likely the most significant reference to any of these magazines is in the Notorious B.I.G.’s 1994 single “Juicy,” in which the rapper pays homage to Word Up! magazine. And although these magazines were marketed and, to this day, described with terms such as “urban” and “hip hop,” sales were driven as much, if not more so, by “heartthrob” bands and singers—originally with the Jackson 5 in the 1970s, Michael Jackson in the early 1980s, Bobbi Brown and L.L. Cool J in the latter half of the decade, and teens Immature, Brandy, Monica, and Aaliyah in the early 1990s—as they were by their more hard-edged contemporaries in rap. But with such fanzines having paved the way, and rap and hip-hop music’s rise in popularity, a new crop of magazines—The Source, Vibe, and Rap Sheet—sprang up and throughout the 1990s went on to establish themselves in the mainstream magazine market as more intellectual, “serious” publications. Today, with a good percentage of hip-hop artists leading music sales and radio airplay, traditionally rockoriented magazines, such as Rolling Stone and Spin, regularly feature hip-hop artists. In more recent years, with increasing availability of Internet access in homes, schools, and public libraries, most publishers worried that print media would suffer. But even after the turn of the millennium, the Web sites for the two major, active titles in the genre, Right On! and Word Up!, are relatively bare bones, offering little beyond an online subscription form. Furthermore, references to any of these titles online are still sparse, indicating that even as late as 2007, there still existed a large stratum between those with Internet access and those without.

Jennifer Ashley

FLAKE, SHARON G. (1955–). Author of urban adolescent literature with a focus on African American life and experiences. Born in inner-city Philadelphia and a long-time resident of Pittsburgh, Sharon Flake acknowledges that writing has not always come easily for her. While she was in college, she received significant criticism from some of her professors because her writing style did not align itself with their expectations of what “good writing” was. She persevered, however, because she felt that she had been called to be a writer by a higher power. Although she held several day jobs throughout her career, she began developing her writing career by freelancing for local and national magazines.


Flake’s first and most well-known book, The Skin I’m In, was completed over the course of two years and was written to give voice to dark-skinned girls, such as her then sevenyear-old daughter. The Skin I’m In tells the story of Maleeka Madison, a young girl who struggles against teasing from classmates about her dark skin and ragged clothing, ultimately finding refuge in her own writing and through the encouragement of her new teacher, Miss Saunders. Money Hungry and Begging for Change tell the story of Raspberry Hill as she and her mother try to make a better life for themselves. When her mother is hospitalized after being attacked by a neighbor, Raspberry steals from one of her best friends and begins to question just how different she is—or is not—from her drug-abusing, stealing father. These and subsequent books have centered on several key themes, including valuing oneself and validating the experiences of inner-city African American youths. Many of her pre-teen characters struggle with self-acceptance, and their growth process usually involves coming to terms with their own role within their communities. According to Flake in her biography at Hyperion Books for Children, this is an intentional move; she writes for pre-teens because “when you hit middle school, you internalize everything and your emotions seem far too intense. You judge yourself far too harshly and too often.” Her drive to produce texts that represent the authentic lives of this population has led to wide recognition from critics, teachers, and young readers alike. Flake’s first six books were published by Hyperion’s Jump at the Sun imprint. Since that time, she has been given numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King Honor Award, the YALSA Best Books for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, and Booklist Editor’s Choice Award, among others. FURTHER READING Flake, Sharon. Bang! New York: Jump at the Sun, 2005. ———. Begging for Change. New York: Jump at the Sun, 2003. ———. The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street. New York: Jump at the Sun, 2007 ———. Money Hungry. New York: Jump at the Sun, 2001. ———. “Sharon Flake.” Hyperion Books for Children. . ———. The Skin I’m In. New York: Jump at the Sun, 2000. ———. Who Am I without Him?: Short Stories about Girls and the Boys in Their Lives. New York: Jump at the Sun, 2004.

Carey Applegate

FLYY GIRL. Flyy Girl, by Omar Tyree, is one of the novels that is credited with the emergence of the most recent wave of hip hop literature. Flyy Girl was self-published by Tyree in 1993 but achieved such widespread popularity that Simon and Schuster picked it up for publication again in 1996, and it has not been out of print since. Flyy Girl’s main protagonist, Tracy Ellison, embodies the idea of “sass” as constructed by Joanne Braxton. Her quick quips and comebacks are a survival mechanism as she navigates her world. The novel covers Tracy’s life from six to seventeen and can be seen as Tyree’s reimagining of how the concept of a bildungsroman, or coming-of-age novel, works in the life of an African American girl. Tracy’s middle-class origins form an




important part of her character. As the product of a dark-skinned man and a light-skinned woman, Tracy is caught in the crosshairs of the tension of her parents’ relationship as they make their way toward a divorce. Their constant wavering in their relationship contributes to her need to find love elsewhere. Even though her parents eventually work things out, by that point, Tracy has turned to the street to find approval. As is typical of a bildungsroman, Tracy’s process of education takes several interesting twists. As an African American young woman, her education cannot be considered complete just in the classroom. She receives another kind of education in the streets with sex, violence, and encounters with drug dealers. These interfaces with danger and her love affair with a drug dealer that ends with his incarceration convince her to take a more conventional path toward education and she does enroll in college eventually, reflective of her intelligence and capability. Flyy Girl includes other engaging subplots with her friends, such as Raheema and Mercedes, who must also find their way in the world. Critics have thought of Tracy as the character who was less mature and more stubborn about coming to an understanding about her life, but if Tyree did not construct the novel in this way, Tracy might not have had so many adventures. Several people have admired Flyy Girl’s use of real dialogue, language, and descriptions of the early 1980s, which give the novel a harder edge in its depiction of street life. Tyree’s reputation rests on Flyy Girl. He has recognized this with the crafting of two sequels. For the Love of Money, which features Tracy as a married, successful author of the book Flyy Girl, who is coping with her success and grappling with the conflict that she feels between her current life and her former street life. She has encounters with her former jailed boyfriend, Victor, and her other girlfriends to show how far she’s come in life. Boss Lady: A Novel features Tracy as a mentor to the protagonist, her cousin Vanessa, who she brings out to California as her personal assistant as they both navigate the thorny process of turning Tracy’s successful novel into a movie. Both sequels have been roundly critiqued as less successful than Flyy Girl, but that is to be expected. It is clear that Flyy Girl has inspired a number of authors, including Vickie Stringer and Carl Weber, to write their own versions of life on the streets, which, in turn, has influenced many more people to read and purchase more books.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

FROM TOTEMS TO HIP-HOP: A MULTICULTURAL ANTHOLOGY OF POETRY ACROSS THE AMERICAS, 1900–2002 (2003). Ishmael Reed’s text denoting the progression of poetry from some little beginnings to current manifestations in hip hop. From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas, 1900–2002 (2003), edited by Ishmael Reed, foregrounds the historicity and multicultural amalgamation of American poetry by tracing its manifold origins back to as early as the totem poles of the Alaskan Tlingit Indians and by embracing its diversity of forms (formal, vers libre, prose, performance, jazz, blues, hip-hop, and sound poetry) as well as content (African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American experiences). Inspired by his own method for teaching poetry at Berkeley, where he mixed poems written by established poets with students’ poems, Reed presents American poetry as a unitary whole traversing two centuries and bridging cultures and languages. In his introduction, Reed


contests the limited and outdated canon of American literature. By limited, he means the mindset of tokenism with which mainstream editors approach works written by ethnic minorities, women, and controversial and experimental poets. By outdated, he critiques their reluctance to change and envisions instead a canon ceaselessly confronting and incorporating the changes and challenges of a world in flux. Reed, who espouses a transcultural multiculturalism, chose poems that treat universal themes and are approachable to readers of dissimilar backgrounds. The poems were then grouped into five theme-based sections. In the first section, “Nature & Place,” nature and other variables—memory, rumors, history, and discrimination—come to define places, whereas in the second section, “Men & Women,” relationships between the sexes are inflected by immigration and rendered in songs. The next section, entitled “Family,” explores the concept of “family” from diverse vantage points, including folk medicine, cuisine, chauvinism, business and street violence, and immigration laws. The ensuing “Politics” section probes topics including prison, discrimination, cultural theft, imperialism, the Vietnam War, and religions. The “Heroes & Sheroes, Anti & Otherwise” section comprises poems portraying deities, heroes and anti-heroes in folklore, fairy tales, literature, popular culture, and politics. In addition, selected poetics are ensconced in a final part called “Manifestos.” Ranging from the Black Aesthetic Movement and the Asian American aesthetic to feminist, language, and hip-hop poetics, most of these poetics herein gravitate toward a joint view of poetry’s referentiality. Moreover, the poets’ biographies and publications are helpfully encapsulated in a list of contributors at the end of the volume. Though as Duriel E. Harris suggests, the anthology features a more than usual number of works by California-based poets, the majority of critics responded favorably to this anthology’s forum of diversity and its excavation of lesser known poets. Following his earlier endeavors, Calafia: The California Poetry (1979) and The Before Columbus Poetry Anthology (1992), From Totems to Hip-Hop, reflecting Reed’s vision, seeks to restore to the canon of American poetry its veritable and inherent multicultural constitution. FURTHER READING Guillory, Daniel L. “Review of From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry across the Americas, 1900–2002.” Library Journal, Vol. 128 Issue 6 (April 1, 2003): 104. Harris, Duriel E. “Review of From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry across the Americas, 1900–2002.” Black Issues Book Review, Vol. 5 Issue 3 (May/June 2003): 59.

Yi-Hsuan Tso


G GEORGE, NELSON (1957–). Professional writer, cultural critic, and filmmaker whose work spans over 25 years. One of the first writers to seriously document, study, and critique hip hop culture. Nelson George began establishing his career as a writer for the New York-based black paper The Amsterdam News and Billboard magazine. In addition to being an independent film critic, George served as the black music editor of Billboard magazine during part of his tenure from 1982–1989. His 1985 piece, which appeared in the Village Voice, “Rappin with Russell: Eddie Murphying the Flak-Catchers,” was cautiously optimistic about an upand-coming producer/manager Russell Simmons of Rush Management and the emergent rap music. The relationship with Simmons has resulted in a lifelong collaboration of films, books, and cable television programs including Cold Chillin in the Hot Spot, Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, and God, and producing 2004–2008 VH1’s Hip Hop Honors series (George, 87). George’s criticism foreshadowed the budding industry of not only hip hop music but also hip hop journalism and cultural criticism. Also during this period George published significant volumes, Where Did Our Love Go: The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound (1986) and The Death of Rhythm & Blues (1988). The text of Where Did Our Love Go detailed the highs and lows of Motown Records with a specific focus on the role of self-motivated Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. and his unique method of finding and grooming talent. The Death of Rhythm & Blues chronicles the transformation of race music to R&B and the role black expressive culture plays in the political and social landscape beyond music. The themes in these works would merge with the subject of hip hop in his Buppies, B-Boys, Baps & Bohos: Notes on Post-Soul Black Culture (1992). Although George continued to write both fiction and nonfiction works, his film production increased during the 1990s. Beginning with investing in his then neighbor’s (Spike Lee) film, She’s Gotta Have It (1985), he produced and or co-wrote for the films Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (1993), Strictly Business (1991), and the Chris Rock vehicle, CB4 (1993). George’s work in film continues with more recent programs, such as consulting producer of the Chris Rock Show, directing and producing the HBO film Life Support (2007), and another more recent project, To Be A Black Man (2004), starring Samuel Jackson. One of his documentary pieces, A Great Day in Hip Hop (2004), revisits the concept of A Great Day in Harlem. Hip hop magazine XXL had a photo shoot on the same block and in front of the same building as the famous A Great Day in Harlem jazz photo. The short film captures a timeline from the old to the new of hip hop emcees. Pioneering filmmaker and photographer Gordon Parks, the shoots photographer, is also featured. George’s beginning film work participated in an important aspect of hip hop cinema. The early films of the 1990s are part of the post civil rights, typically urban black youth


coming-of-age film genre known as “hood” films. The hood films are marked by certain production and artistic similarities: they are predominately made by young, African American men working with minimalist budgets and deal with related narrative content— African American men trying to stay alive despite the trappings of the hood (crimes, drugs, racism)—and they illustrate a different language of cinematic techniques, relying on African American cultural clues to move the story. Also during this period, though primarily known as a provocative, insightful nonfiction writer, George began to produce more urban romance fiction volumes, including Seduced: Life & Times of a One Hit Wonder, One Woman Short, and more recently, Night Work. See also And It Don’t Stop!: The Best American Hip Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years; Detective/Mystery Fiction; Hip Hop America; Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, and God FURTHER READING George, Nelson. Blackface: Reflections on African-Americans and the Movies, 1st edition. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. ———. Buppies, B-Boys, Baps & Bohos: Notes on Post-Soul Black Culture, 1st edition. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1992. ———. The Death of Rhythm & Blues. New York: Plume, 1988. ———. Fresh, Hip Hop Don’t Stop. 1st Ed. New York: Random House, 1985. ———. Hip Hop America. New York: Viking, 1998. ———. The Michael Jackson Story. New York: Dell, 1984. ———. Post-Soul Nation : The Explosive, Contradictory, Triumphant, and Tragic 1980s as Experienced by African Americans (Previously Known as Blacks and before that Negroes). New York: Viking, 2004. ———. Where Did Our Love Go?: The Rise & Fall of the Motown Sound. 1st Ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987.

Akil Houston

GIOVANNI, NIKKI (1943–). Nikki Giovanni is a world renowned author, speaker, poet, social activist, and educator who is considered one of the leaders of the black poetry movement. Giovanni was born as Yolande Cornelia Giovanni Jr. on June 7, 1943, in Knoxville, Tennessee, to Jones “Gus” and Yolande Cornelia. Giovanni’s older sister, Gary Ann, began calling her “Nikki” and the name stayed. Shortly after Giovanni was born, the family moved to Lincoln Heights, a predominantly black suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. Both her parents accepted low-paying teaching positions at different schools. In 1958 her father accepted a job in a correctional facility and her mother worked in the local welfare office. Even though the family was making more money, the family still experienced the tensions of financial problems, so Giovanni moved back to Knoxville to live with her grandmother. Her grandmother, who was involved in many charities and political groups, was very influential on the young Giovanni, who would later participate in these same groups and take on many of the social injustices she witnessed. In 1960 Giovanni enrolled at Fisk University but was later expelled because she voiced her dissatisfaction with many of the university’s rules. Later, in 1967, she was reaccepted and graduated with a B.A. in history. While at Fisk, Giovanni was involved




in the Black Arts Movement and helped organize the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In college, Giovanni attended several writing workshops but never considered writing as her career until her grandmother died in 1967. Giovanni began writing poetry, much of which appeared in Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968). In her early poems, she tried to raise African American’s awareness about their rights and to show them that they needed to recognize their own identities, not to try to imitate or emulate another culture. During this time, people thought of her as a revolutionary Black Rights poet and gave her the nickname the “Princess of Black Poetry.” Inspired to do even more, Giovanni decided to move to Wilmington, Delaware, and attend the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Work. She soon left college to fight against social injustices. She attended Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral in Atlanta and was so moved by the experience that she wanted to share her experiences and the experiences of African Americans with others. She decided that one way she could achieve this goal was through writing. She moved to New York City and attended a Master of Fine Arts program at Columbia University. In 1969 her son Thomas Watson Giovanni was born. While spending time with her infant son, Giovanni edited and published one of the first anthologies of black females’ poetry, Night Comes Softly (1970). At this time she also published her autobiography, Gemini (1971), and Spin a Soft Black Song (1971), a collection of poetry for children. She spent the next several years speaking, traveling, and writing until 1978, when she moved back to Cincinnati when her father had a stroke and was diagnosed with cancer. After her father’s death, she taught at several colleges and universities and finally accepted a permanent tenured English professor position at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. In January 1995, Giovanni was diagnosed with lung cancer but continued to write. Her poetry, even today, describes racial issues and social injustices, but many of her poems also display her strong religious upbringing and her sense of family. She completed several collections of children’s poetry despite suffering great losses. Both her mother and sister died in 2005 from lung cancer, which led Giovanni to try to make people aware that there is a high rate of lung cancer for African Americans. Even today, Giovanni believes in standing up for what she believes. In 2007, Giovanni found herself being interviewed after the shootings that killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. She stated that she had Cho Sueng Hui, the killer, removed from her classroom because he was exhibiting behavior that was intimidating, and if the school hadn’t removed him, she would have resigned. Giovanni has received over 70 awards, including the first Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award in 2002, keys to many of the major cities in the United States, and over 20 honorary degrees. In 2004 Robert Baker, a biologist, named a new species of bat in her honor. She will be remembered as one of the greatest American poets. Her poetry touches people because it is “real”; she writes about events, historical and personal. She is a person who writes about life as she experienced it—even sharing her “thug life” tattoo that she got in memory of Tupac Shakur. See also Black Poetry FURTHER READING Giovanni, Nikki. Black Feeling, Black Talk. New York: William Morrow, 1968. ———. Dialogue: Conversations with James Baldwin. New York: William Morrow, 1973. ———. Ego Tripping and Other Poems for Young People. New York: William Morrow, 1973.

GIRLS FROM DA HOOD ———. Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-Five Years of Being a Black Poet. New York: William Morrow, 1971. ———. Love Poems. New York: William Morrow, 1997. ———. Racism 101. New York: Quill, 1994.

Candace A. Henry

GIRLS FROM DA HOOD. Books series edited by Nikki Turner, hip hop literature novelist and publisher. Nikki Turner, the “Queen of Hip Hop Fiction,” began as the lead writer for the Girls From Da Hood (2004) book series, which is issued by Urban Books, a Kensington Press imprint. As part of the growing phenomenon of urban fiction, sometimes referred to as “street,” “ghetto,” or “hip hop” fiction, the Girls From Da Hood series earns its distinction as a venue to introduce new writers into the urban fiction fold. The series originally paired a novella-length story written by Turner with two novellas written by two relatively unknown urban writers. The pairing delivered Turner’s well-established reading audience to these new writers, while providing them a space to develop their own voices and storylines. The success of the original Girls From Da Hood spawned three more installments in the series, and Turner, after lending one more novella to the Girls From Da Hood series, branched out to produce her own series-based projects published by Random House: Street Chronicles Volume I and II and another novella series listed under the rubric of “Nikki Turner Presents.” Thus, the Girls From Da Hood series has the distinction of introducing this author presentation format to the publishing world of urban fiction. The first installment of Girls From Da Hood was published in 2004 and has been followed by two more installments, with the fourth book in the series to be published in 2008. Authors of the novellas include Chunichi, Roy Glenn, Joy, Kashamba Williams, Mark Anthony, and MadameK, many of whom have gone on to have fruitful careers publishing solo novels for the Urban Books imprint. Girls From Da Hood, while serving as a training ground for these artists, features protagonists whose ages and racial identities mirror those of the intended audience of the series: young, black women between 15 and 25 years of age. Like much urban fiction, the young protagonists of this series are urban dwelling and find themselves caught up in various scenarios that may combine one or more of the following plot lines: embarking on an ill-fated love affair with a drug dealer or hustler, becoming a drug dealer, developing a self-destructive drug habit, entering the world of stripping and/or prostitution, committing murder, and, finally, doing a bid in the state penitentiary. Although the original book in the series featured three novellas set in the Richmond area of Virginia, later books in the series feature urban settings ranging from Brooklyn, New York, to Miami, Florida. All of the novellas are complete within themselves; however, over the course of the series, locations, events, and even characters are cross-referenced to create intertextuality between the stories. For instance, Turner reprised her character, Unique, for the second issue of the series, offering readers a more comprehensive story of character progress. There is an open-endedness to all the stories in the series, which allows characters to be reintroduced in future issues. Thus, each story has the potential to become a serial, rather than a finished product. Like most urban fiction, the Girls From Da Hood series makes use of sex and violence to propel forward the storylines of its novellas. This coupling is done to not only delight




but also instruct its young readers in the vices of a life lived as indiscreetly as the protagonists of these stories. As Nikki Turner notes, she’s interested not only in entertaining her readership but also in showing them how destructive a life riddled with crime, sex, and drugs can be. Turner has said that a book such as A Hustler’s Wife is “not just about drugs—it’s about a girl and her struggle. I wanted to warn young girls about street life. They never know the risks that come with it. They listen to the music and see the blingbling. But nobody ever says what can happen to you—that you can go to jail. . . . I try not to reinforce stereotypes, I try to show a different light.” Although the Girls From Da Hood series may do little to deconstruct notions of black sexual ferocity or innate black violence, it does attempt to create a rich and dynamic imaginary space for new and more established writers of urban fiction to co-create. See also Triple Crown Publications; Turner, Nikki FURTHER READING Kilgonnon, Corey. “Street Lit with Publishing Cred: From Prison to a Four-Book Deal.” The New York Times, 14 Feb. 2006, 1. Venable, Malcolm, Tayannah McQuillar, and Yvette Mingo. “It’s Urban, It’s Real, but Is This Literature? Controversy Rages Over a New Genre Whose Sales Are Headed Off the Charts.” Black Issues Book Review (Sept.–Oct.2004). Weeks, Linton. “New Books in the Hood: Street Lit Makes Inroads with Readers and Publishers.” Washington Post, 31 July 2004, C01.

Eve Dunbar

GOINES, DONALD (1937–1974). One of the first writers of African American urban fiction. Donald Goines penned 16 novels that helped define the seminal themes of the genre: the tragic allure of the black criminal underworld, racism and classism in the American justice system, and insurgent black revolt against white oppression. All of Goines’s books were originally published between 1971 and 1975, but his work has never gone out of print and remains popular among African American readers. Donald Joseph Goines was born in Detroit on December 15, 1937, to Joseph and Myrtle (née Baugh) Goines. His parents met in 1929 after their families relocated to Michigan during the Great Migration, a development that saw thousands of southern blacks move to urban centers in the North to escape racist violence and pursue industrial employment. Following a brief stint in Chicago, Joseph and Myrtle settled in Detroit and started their own dry cleaning business. Their company’s modest success allowed their three children— Donald, his older sister Marie, and his younger sister Joan—to enjoy a relatively stable middle class upbringing. Goines spent his early years at Sacred Heart, a Catholic school, and helped his parents with the dry cleaning business in his free time. In his teens, however, he attended public schools and was drawn to the young hustlers who populated Detroit’s poor black neighborhoods. Goines’s rebellious streak came to a head when, at the age of fifteen, he passed Marie’s birth certificate off as his own and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Goines served in Japan during the Korean War, and though he eventually became a military police officer, the time he spent overseas also saw him indulge in whoring and heavy drug use.


Goines was only seventeen when the war ended in 1953. He returned to Detroit and resumed living with his family but was unable to hold down a steady job. Soon Goines turned to pimping and petty crime to feed the heroin habit he had developed in the military. Supporting his drug addiction with income from criminal activity became Goines’s primary pursuit. Over the next fifteen years, he established himself in Detroit’s black underworld and racked up prison sentences for, among other things, attempted larceny, armed robbery, and bootlegging. It was during his final stint as an inmate, in Michigan’s Jackson State Prison, that Goines was inspired to write novels about life in the ghetto. The source of Goines’s inspiration was an author whose recently published paperback books were in demand among black inmates. Iceberg Slim’s fictional autobiography Pimp (1967) and novel Trick Baby (1967) struck a chord with these readers because they articulated first-hand knowledge of the ghetto underworld. Goines embraced Slim as a literary model, recognizing that he too had an archive of experiences that would make for entertaining reading. With the encouragement of other inmates, he produced the manuscript that would become Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp (1972). Goines’s fictional autobiography transports the reader into the cold, calculating mind of Whoreson Jones, a young man who figures pimping is his surest path to success in the ghetto. In the course of the narrative, Whoreson learns how to control women through emotional manipulation, physical abuse, and sexual gratification. This storyline has much in common with Slim’s Pimp, but Whoreson bears what would come to be Goines’s literary mark: graphic, almost unbearable, depictions of sexual and physical violence. By the time Goines was released from prison in December 1970, he had already secured a contract for Whoreson from Slim’s Los Angeles-based publisher, Holloway House. Although the manuscript for that novel was held up in the editorial process, Holloway House offered Goines a contract for another manuscript. This novel, Dopefiend: Story of a Black Junkie (1971), would appear before Whoreson, and its repertoire of characters and themes are drawn from Goines’s experiences as a heroin addict. Mirroring Goines’s path to addiction, Teddy and his girlfriend Terry leave the comfort and security provided by their middle class families when a pusher named Porky gets them hooked on heroin. Foregoing their dreams and laying waste to their potential, Teddy and Terry take to hustling on the streets as a means of funding their habit. In addition to the tragic power of this storyline, the detailed descriptions of shadowy drug houses and needle-ravaged bodies make Dopefiend one of Goines’s most memorable works. In 1972 Holloway House also published Black Gangster. Both an engaging crime story and a satire of African American social protest, this novel relates how Melvin “Prince” Walker starts a revolutionary organization, the Freedom Now Liberation Movement (FNLM), to use as a front for his fledgling criminal operation. Prince’s nod toward political struggle is calculated to serve his material interests, but it also reveals the extent to which protest sloganeering has supplanted genuine political change in the black community. Black Gangster’s cynical vision of social justice in a post civil rights world signaled that Goines was beginning to distinguish himself from Slim, who was his senior by almost twenty years. Following the success of his first three titles, Goines and his common-law wife, Shirley Sailor, moved to Los Angeles to be closer to his publisher and the Hollywood scene. It was here that Goines sustained a frantic and productive period of writing. With an eye toward adapting his novels for film, particularly in the flourishing blaxploitation genre, Goines published Street Players, Black Girl Lost, and White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief in 1973. In these books Goines honed his ability to describe the abject conditions of poverty and incarceration in graphic, almost visual, detail. Street Players tells the story of a pimp




and drug dealer, Earl the Black Pearl, whose ruin follows the brutal murder of a prostitute he came to love. Black Girl Lost features a young female heroine, Sandra, whose innocence is a target for economic and sexual exploitation in the black criminal underworld; the only positive relationship in her life, with her boyfriend Chink, ends in tragedy. Finally, White Man’s Justice is Goines’s scathing indictment of the American justice system, in which black men are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement and black inmates are subject to bigotry, harassment, and psychosexual depravity. The novel’s depiction of homosexuality is phobic and reactionary, but it reflects Goines’s belief that the racial inequities of prison life are largely expressed through symbolic emasculation. In 1974 Goines continued his breakneck pace of writing, in part because he needed advances and royalty payments to fund his heroin habit. No fewer than eight books of his were published that year; these included Eldorado Red, Swamp Man, Never Die Alone, and Daddy Cool. Eldorado Red is based on Goines’s knowledge of the “numbers” game, a popular form of illegal gambling in urban black communities. The novel turns on a son rebelling against his father by robbing his profitable numbers houses, where the daily “take” is counted. Goines himself served time for attempting to rob a numbers house in Detroit; his depictions of bloodlust in Eldorado Red reveal the lengths to which people are willing to go to claim their stake in the ghetto’s most lucrative underground venture. Swamp Man is the only one of Goines’s novels to be set outside of the city and in the South. It reflects Goines’s attempt to come to terms with the racist violence from which his parents’ families fled during the Great Migration. George Jackson and his sister Henrietta witness the brutal lynching of their father by a group of white men; these men later kidnap and rape Henrietta upon her return from college. Recognizing there is no justice to be had for such crimes in the South, George becomes the novel’s eponymous hero and hunts down his family’s torturers through the swamps. Never Die Alone advances Goines’s most uncompromising vision of the black crime lord. Struggling writer Paul Pawlowski discovers the diary of King David, a fearsome gangster and cocaine pusher who has just been assassinated, and recounts the events that led to his rise and fall. King David is revealed to have been a narcissistic and wildly violent man, a criminal who sought to make the ghetto his personal sphere of power and exploitation. Goines’s unflinching descriptions of King David’s viciousness and greed eventually convince Paul that “[this] man needed killing.” Finally, Daddy Cool consciously builds on themes laid out in Black Girl Lost. Whereas Sandra is the savior of Chink’s, or “Daddy’s,” soul at the end of Black Girl Lost, Daddy Cool sees professional hit man Larry Jackson struggling to keep his daughter Janet off the streets. In some ways Janet is a more well-rounded character than Sandra: she is openly rebellious of her father yet always searching for fatherly protection, desirous of a better life yet drawn to the criminal underworld. Goines’s narrative plays on these contradictions to great effect, setting up a final showdown between Larry and Janet that is at once cruel and bittersweet. Goines attached the pseudonym “Al C. Clark”—the name of a friend—to the four other novels that appeared in 1974. His publisher recommended this strategy in view of the sheer number of books that had been circulating with his name on them. To mute the impression that Holloway House was saturating the African American literary market with Goines’s fiction, some books needed to come out under a pseudonym. Excepting Cry Revenge!, a tale of black-Chicano interracial conflict in New Mexico, the resulting novels—Crime Partners, Death List, and Kenyatta’s Escape, along with Kenyatta’s Last Hit (1975)—constitute a series about a militant black leader’s efforts to rid the streets of drugs, prostitutes, and


racist white cops. That leader’s name is Kenyatta, and over the course of four books, his organization expands from a collectivist militia in Detroit to a 2,000-strong following in Los Angeles. In contrast to Black Gangster, these late novels reveal Goines’s deadly serious attitude toward the question of black self-determination. Facing racist law enforcement and government indifference to their plight, Kenyatta calls on denizens of the ghetto to take matters into their own hands and police the streets themselves. Although Kenyatta is slain in a shootout with a white drug kingpin in the last book in the series, his vision of insurrectionary violence as the only means of eradicating drug addiction and intraracial exploitation in the ghetto is Goines’s most explicitly political response to the injustices that pervade poor black people’s lives. The novels of 1974 solidified Goines’s reputation as the most widely read author of African American pulp fiction. Yet, even at the peak of his literary career, Goines’s personal life was in shambles: he was broke, strung out on heroin, and fraught with anxiety about his writing and his professional relationship with Holloway House. Eventually Goines decided that a move back to Detroit would help put these demons behind him. The decision proved to be unfortunate, however, for it was in his hometown that Goines met a grisly end. On October 21, 1974, he and Sailor were shot dead in their home in an apparent robbery. Detroit police speculated that the slayings were drug-related, but friends and family members thought Goines was targeted for whatever royalties he might have collected as an author. The murders remain unsolved. Along with the final installment of the Kenyatta series, Goines’s novel Inner City Hoodlum was completed in Detroit and published posthumously, in 1975. Appearing almost immediately after Goines’s death was Eddie Stone’s Donald Writes No More (1974), an in-house biography that highlights the ways in which Holloway House offered the struggling addict the opportunity to pursue his dreams of becoming a writer. Journalist Eddie B. Allen Jr.’s recent biography Low Road (2004) is more even-handed in its treatment of Goines’s literary career, drawing on unpublished notes and letters to reveal the editorial pressure under which the author was contractually obliged to work. Despite his untimely death, Goines lives on through his books’ influence on African American popular culture. Characters such as Kenyatta and Larry Jackson have become icons of urban black masculinity, celebrated for their unflinching confrontation with white racism and street violence. This representation of black masculinity has been central to the formation of hip hop culture, where a generation of artists and producers grew up understanding the plight of poor black communities through Goines’s novels. Among the rappers who cite Goines in their lyrics are Tupac Shakur, Nas (Nasir Jones), and Ludacris (Christopher Bridges). In recent years Holloway House has pursued opportunities to market its flagship author beyond the pulp fiction sphere. In 1997 W. W. Norton’s imprint Old School Books republished Daddy Cool in a trade paperback edition. As a review in Entertainment Weekly put it, this stylistically “cool” edition marked Goines’s introduction to the mainstream literary market. Hollywood, too, has been an attractive source of revenue for Holloway House. Rights to Goines’s work were sold in the midst of the burgeoning market for African American-oriented films in the 1990s and early 2000s. The unremarkable, straight-to-video Crime Partners (2001) was a major disappointment for Goines fans, but Never Die Alone (2004), directed by Ernest R. Dickerson and starring rapper DMX as King David, was considered a moderate success. Less noticed in the mainstream was the independent documentary Donnie’s Story, which was released in 2004. Director Kelvin Williams’s film reconstructed Goines’s life through interviews with surviving family




members and gave testament to his legacy through interviews with rap stars such as DMX, Ice Cube, and Fab 5 Freddy. Still, Goines’s most enduring contribution to black popular culture remains the bestselling novels on which he built his reputation. Along with Iceberg Slim’s oeuvre, Goines’s 16 books were responsible for establishing the predominant themes of African American pulp fiction. He did this not only by writing so many novels in such a short period of time but also by drawing on personal experiences that, for his readers, captured the essence of life on the street. The authenticity of Goines’s language, plotlines, and character portraits has served as an aesthetic benchmark for authors of urban fiction and hip hop literature more generally. See also Dopefiend: The Story of a Black Junkie; Low Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines; Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp FURTHER READING Allen, Eddie B., Jr. Low Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004. Goines, Donald. Black Gangster. Los Angles, CA: Holloway House, 1972. ———. Black Girl Lost. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1973. ——— (as Al C. Clark). Crime Partners. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1974. ——— (as Al C. Clark). Cry Revenge! Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1974. ———. Daddy Cool. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1974. ——— (as Al C. Clark). Death List. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1974. ———. Dopefiend: The Story of a Black Junkie. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1971. ———. Eldorado Red. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1974. ———. Inner City Hoodlum. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1975. ——— (as Al C. Clark). Kenyatta’s Escape. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1974. ——— (as Al C. Clark). Kenyatta’s Last Hit. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1975. ———. Never Die Alone. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1974. ———. Street Players. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1973. ———. Swamp Man. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1974. ———. White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1973. ———. Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1972. Goode, Greg. “From Dopefiend to Kenyatta’s Last Hit: The Angry Black Crime Novels of Donald Goines.” MELUS, Vol. 11 Issue 3 (1984): 41–48. Grant, Tracy. “Why Hip-Hop Heads Love Donald Goines.” Black Issues Book Review, Vol. 3 Issue 5 (2001): 53. Ruta, Suzanne. “Review of Daddy Cool by Donald Goines.” Entertainment Weekly (25 Jul. 1997): 66. Stallings, L. H. “‘I’m Goin Pimp Whores!’ The Goines Factor and the Theory of a Hip Hop Neo-Slave Narrative.” CR: The New Centennial Review, Vol. 3 Issue 3 (2003): 175–203. Stone, Eddie. Donald Writes No More. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1974.

Kinohi Nishikawa

GRAPHIC NOVELS. Serialized, drawn narratives with hip hop themes. Despite their resemblance to serial comic books in both form and design, graphic novels are works of narrative art that typically avoid the otherworldly exploits and improbable scenarios of superhero comics. Instead, many graphic novels render the lives of their characters with an attention to the drama, conflict, and intensity that is already inherent


in the world we know. Graphic novels are still comic books, however, and they often adopt many of the same conventions, including the juxtaposition of word and image, the use of frames and panels, and the movement away from realistic models of artistic representation. In many respects, it is by working within these conventions that graphic novels are able to assert their distinct rhetorical force; they tell stories for which words alone cannot suffice. For example, Will Eisner’s 1978 graphic novel, A Contract With God— largely regarded as the first major work to use the term “graphic novel”—stages the harsh reality of life in New York tenements with simple, black-and-white drawings that are at once whimsical and haunting. Given the singular importance of visual presentation and representation in hip hop culture—from the guerilla aesthetics of graffiti to the iconic images of rappers such as 50 Cent and MF Doom—it is no surprise that a number of key texts may be characterized as hip hop graphic novels. First, there are those graphic novels in which the culture and music of hip hop is a principal theme. The series of three novels that comprise Ahmed Hoke’s @Large combine the art of both hip hop culture and Japanese manga to tell the story of an L.A. crew of rappers, graf artists, and thugs who become tangled in a terrorist conspiracy. Negotiating tragedy and comedy, @Large uses the medium of comics to create an ironic portrait of a world in which image itself is everything; Hoke’s artistry uses cartoon and caricature to interrogate the distortion of identity on the streets. Similarly, the first collected volume of Blokhedz—produced by the “MadTwiinz,” Mark and Mike Davis—follows a talented young MC, Blak, as he wrestles with temptations of fame, violence, and vengeance on the streets of the fictional Empire City. Illustrated with rich and often luminous colors, Blokhedz balances a sense of the supernatural and the innate; Blak discovers that he is the recipient of mystical superpowers, but he also realizes that his prowess as an MC allows for battles that are purely verbal. The term graphic novel is also often used to describe books that are not works of fiction at all but memoirs that use images and illustrations to reveal one’s personal history. Perhaps the most emblematic hip hop graphic novel of this type is Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm, which was written by Percy Carey—better known as the rapper and producer MF Grimm—and illustrated by Ronald Wimberly. In Sentences, Carey tells the story of his life as the story of hip hop itself, from his early infatuation with block parties and sound systems to his years as a drug dealer and gangsta. Carey characterizes himself as someone simply unable to stay out of trouble, and the memoir contrasts scenes of stark violence and aggression with more reflective and thoughtful moments—especially during the years in which he was both in prison and paralyzed after a shooting. Above all, though, it is hip hop that is framed as the dominant presence in his life, and the music is something to which Carey and his narrative consistently return. For Carey, the spirit and soul of the music is the principal reason for looking beyond the immediate reality of the streets. There are also a number of graphic novels that invoke the tenets and tropes of hip hop as a model for storytelling, even if the music is not the apparent subject of the novel. Aaron McGruder, celebrated creator of The Boondocks comic strip, worked with Reginald Hudlin and illustrator Kyle Baker to write Birth of a Nation—the title of which signifies D. W. Griffith’s notorious 1915 film about the Ku Klux Klan. Drawn in a colorful style that is oddly reminiscent of The Proud Family television cartoon, this graphic novel presents an ironic tale of independence and hubris; after East St. Louis, Illinois, is disenfranchised in a national election, its mayor is coerced into seceding from the United States and forming the sovereign Republic of Blackland. Another graphic novel of this type is Ho Che Anderson’s masterful King, a biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that




occasionally sacrifices journalistic veracity for pure style and storytelling. In some ways, Anderson’s art conveys the rhythmic connotations of a beat; King is marked by an interlocking collage of drawings, text, photographs, and colors that alternately achieve different cadences and accents in their juxtaposition. Finally, the four issues that are collected in Jim Mahfood’s Grrl Scouts trace the path of three drug-dealing young women who aspire to old school authenticity in a world of commercialized culture and organized crime. Mahfood’s distinctive style—as with the other artists noted here—communicates the fluidity and immediacy of hip hop within a purely visual medium. See also Comics FURTHER READING Anderson, Ho Che. King: A Comic Book Biography. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2005. Carey, Percy, and Ronald Wimberly. Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm. New York: Vertigo, 2007. Davis, Mark, Mike Davis, and Brandon Schultz. Blokhedz: Genesis. Vol. 1. New York: Pocket Books, 2007. Hoke, Ahmed. @Large. 3 vols. Los Angeles, CA: Tokyopop, 2003–2005. Mahfood, Jim. Grrl Scouts. Portland, OR: Oni Press, 2000. McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerennial, 2004. McGruder, Aaron, Reginald Hudlin, and Kyle Baker. Birth of a Nation: A Comic Novel. New York: Crown, 2004. Stromberg, Fredrik. Black Images in Comics: A Visual History. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2003.

David B. Olsen

H HARRIS, E. LYNN (1957–). One of the most commercially successful black authors in history, his work addresses issues of color consciousness, class mobility, and male homosexuality/bisexuality in black communities. Harris spent his childhood in Little Rock, Arkansas, during the integrationist 1960s. He attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he earned a degree in journalism. After working as a computer salesman for thirteen years, he quit that job so he could dedicate all his time to writing his first book. Three years after self-publishing Invisible Life (1991) and selling it through African American bookstores and salons, Anchor Books republished and mass-marketed the novel. With Invisible Life Harris succeeded in producing a book that brought the often-unseen lives of gay and bisexual black men into the public view. Harris implicitly links Ralph Ellison’s metaphor, developed in Invisible Man, of the “invisibility” of blacks in America to the existence of gay black men. Invisible Life speaks to how many of these men hide their gay activities from black and white communities and from heterosexual women with whom they have intercourse, a practice known as being on the “down low.” A female character tells the narrator, Raymond Tyler, that his gay affair is invisible to all except him and his lover. Raymond’s longing for a deep and lasting relationship, as well as his concerns about the spread of AIDS among both gay men and heterosexual women, refute simple caricatures of gay figures as hedonistic and promiscuous. The struggle of gay and bisexual black men to reconcile their sexualities with Christianity and to find acceptance in their faith communities figures prominently in two novels by Harris. His third novel, And This Too Shall Pass (1997), depicts black men and women at various levels of comfort and disaffection with organized religion. Through several clever narrative devices, Harris explains many of the diverse views about homosexuality held by religious African Americans. The grandmother character of MamaCee provides one of the more enlightened perspectives and makes a call, grounded in religious faith and family history, for loving treatment of gay black men. Whereas And This Too Shall Pass (2006) focuses on the personal spiritualities of gay Christian men, I Say a Little Prayer, Harris’s ninth novel, interrogates the institution of the black church itself and its openness to homosexuals. When it is learned that a homophobic speaker with an anti-gay agenda will take part in a church revival, the gay members of the church decide not to attend the revival to demonstrate their presence in the church. Not until What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: A Memoir (2003) did Harris make a deliberate turn away from fiction in order to write the story of his life. With a narrative prose style similar to that used in his novels, Harris relates the story of his life from a less than financially secure childhood to his success as an author. He reveals the difficulties of



growing up in a home with a father who hated whatever was not masculine in his son and describes how he eventually came to accept his sexuality. Interested not only in adding his own voice to the American canon Harris has also tried to bring greater attention to the vibrant work of black gay writers. As the editor for the anthology Freedom in this Village: Twenty-Five Years of Black Gay Men’s Writing, 1979 to the Present (2005), Harris collected work by gay black authors writing in novel, short story, and poem forms with varied styles and subjects represented. In his introduction, Harris situated these authors in a living tradition of writing that investigates issues and desires black communities have been reluctant to acknowledge or embrace. More broadly, certain concerns and practices run throughout Harris’s body of work. The vast majority of his fiction centers on the lives of middle class black Americans who have achieved some degree of social security and success. Most of Harris’s novels contain moments of revelation when surprising secrets, often pertaining to characters’ sexual histories, are made public. Benevolent, wise mentors occasionally appear in the form of older family members to one of the central characters. Also, many of Harris’s novels build on the stories of characters from previous books so that readers become invested in various characters over time.

T. J. Geiger

THE HAUNTING OF HIP HOP (2002). In her novel The Haunting of Hip Hop, Bertice Berry offers a modern ghost story that emphasizes the importance of changing one’s future by connecting with the past through music. A hip hop producer in high demand, the main character Freedom is interested in purchasing a supposedly haunted house in Harlem. The spirits gathered there are waiting to tell their stories to Freedom’s generation before they are forgotten and today’s generation is lost forever. Despite his friend Ava’s first-hand experience with the spirits and her insistence he not buy the house, Freedom doesn’t listen and sneaks into the house, where a malevolent spirit pushes him down the stairs, killing him. After this, he hears the story of Ngozi, the spirit of his ancestor, which helps Freedom reconnect to his past and culture and recognize the need to create music with a positive message. After Freedom’s death, Ava also experiences the strength of connecting with one’s culture when she visits his family. Even Charles, who resists anything to do with his old neighborhood, reconnects with his roots when his grandmother comes to lay the spirits to rest. Berry stresses that this generation, particularly musicians in the hip hop industry, have lost the connection with their past and culture. Although their music has the same alluring beat as that of the drum used by their ancestors to unite one another, it has no message, no truth in it. In the novel, the lyrics of the rapper Elum N Nation are used as a typical example and are referred to as “misogynistic, violent, and not at all pro-black” (2002, 29). Instead of promoting positive change in people, the songs discuss acquiring material wealth, performing acts of violence, and having sex. Before his death, Freedom gets caught up in this hip hop lifestyle, even though he gets more joy out of creating his own form of music. Because of this contradiction in his life, Freedom illustrates another of Berry’s points. Ngozi states that whereas his people were forced into slavery by others, many in Freedom’s generation have enslaved themselves. They believe that happiness and security come from the accumulation of material wealth and try their best to gain this. Even Freedom feels the need to produce hip hop music like


that of Elum N Nation in order to have the “economic independence to do what he really wanted to do artistically” (2002, 16). Ngozi recognizes this separation and sense of emptiness, stating “It comes from our inability to connect with one another in spirit and in life, from past to present” (2002, 166). Berry illustrates that there is hope for those in today’s hip hop industry, and for those who listen to them, if they break this cycle of self-enslavement and reconnect to their history. The only way to find peace and happiness is to remember the past but forgive, to move on. Through the characters in her narrative, Berry urges these musicians to be a positive change in this world.

Nicole Staub

HIP HOP: BEYOND BEATS AND RHYMES (INDEPENDENT LENS, USA, 2006). Written, produced, and directed by Byron Hurt, this documentary looks at the construction of masculinity in hip hop culture and music. Structured in traditional documentary style, this film uses a series of interviews with rap artists, intellectuals, and consumers to frame the ways in which male identity is formed quite often in ways that are violent, sexist, and homophobic. Hurt styles himself as a lover of the genre who has the right and the responsibility to open up dialogue and critique. Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes conducts interviews with industry insiders such as Chuck D, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes, Doug E. Fresh, and Russell Simmons; activist Kevin Powell; and artist Sarah Jones. Most notable among the responses were Busta Rhymes’s refusal to discuss homophobia, Russell Simmons’s skirting of the issue when it came to misogyny in rap, and Chuck D’s declaration that BET had proved cancerous to the minds and hearts of black males. Hurt visited the campus of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, to talk to some of the women at the forefront of the controversy with rapper Nelly. Nelly’s foundation proposed to hold a bone marrow drive on Spelman’s campus in 2004. Several Spelman students wanted to have a dialogue with Nelly regarding the presentation of women in the music video for his song “Tip Drill.” Rather than speak with the women, Nelly canceled the bone marrow drive. Also responding to the issues in the film are Spelman Professor William Jelani Cobb, author of To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic (2008), and popular culture pundit Michael Eric Dyson, University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University. In order to bring a fully balanced perspective to the film Hurt embarks upon what may be the most interesting aspect of his documentary. Hurt takes his camera to a BET “spring fling” in Florida. As scarcely clad women walk the beat, young men point cameras and fingers at what they presume are female bodies at their disposal. When Hurt asks the young men why they assume the women are “bitches” and “hos,” one young man tries to make a distinction between “hos” and “sisters.” Many of the men are burgeoning rappers, who spit violent, misogynistic, homophobic lyrics with incredible speed and dexterity. The would-be rappers are even able to provide a critique about the popularity of such lyrics. They seem anxious to pontificate that major record labels aren’t interested in lyrics and platforms that uplift the constituency. It is quite disheartening that none of them offer a critique of art, entertainment, or technology that proposes ways to build audiences that do not involve major corporations. Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes is a significant contribution to the growing body of work that asks hip hop to grow up, engage in self-reflection, and be responsible for its




actions. Although the film is a brief introduction to some incredibly complex issues in hip hop and popular culture, it opens the door in a way that encourages open discourse. FURTHER READING Berg, S. M. “Beyond Beats and Rhymes: A Hip-Hop Head Weighs in on Manhood in Hip-Hop Culture.” Off Our Backs, Vol. 37 Issue 1 (2007): 53.

Tarshia L. Stanley

HIP HOP AMERICA (1998). Nelson George’s 1998 publication Hip Hop America is a critical analysis of hip hop’s development and position as both an American art form and African American cultural expression. The intersection of hip hop’s two identities, American art form and African American cultural expression, according to George, simultaneously accounts for hip hop’s ingenuity, derivativeness, and contradictions as a music form. Continuing with the critical authorial voice he established in his 1988 publication The Death of Rhythm and Blues, George deftly traces the evolution of hip hop from its infancy to its current status in a manner equally appealing to the casual fan of the music and the most critical hip hop scholar. George’s analysis starts with the claim that the development of hip hop as a cultural influence can be linked to its shared parentage within American and African American culture. As George points out, the identification of hip hop as an art form that comes out of the African American experience is undeniable. But many of the values that have come to define hip hop culture including an obsession with avarice and violence are certainly not new in the pantheon of wider American culture. The seemingly entirely negative linkage between American and African American culture that George appears to be saying is embodied in hip hop is not the entire story of this music, nor is it George’s entire analysis of it. Beginning his analysis of hip hop with what seems to be such a grim correlation serves to lead George into his larger commentaries concerning hip hop’s position as an artistic and cultural force worthy of as in-depth a consideration as he offers with Hip Hop America. What George highlights in drawing such a correlation is the uneasiness of hip hop’s cultural identity in that its history as black American counterculture runs parallel to its emergence as one of the leading purveyors of American cultural capitalism and decadence. This circumstance leads George to refer to hip hop as “contested ground” when it comes to issues of race, generation, class, gender, and sexuality. George points out that several contradictions exist in hip hop as a result of its contestable position within African American and American culture. A few of note are the following: hip hop’s position as a music form of undeniable ingenuity, when a great deal of hip hop structure and performance is borrowed from older music; hip hop’s supposed attention to social justice and equality when it largely commodifies women and discriminates against non-blacks and homosexuals; the authenticity of hip hop as being of and belonging to the black urban experience, when its popularity and survival is largely fueled by its millions of white customers; and the upholding of hip hop’s lyricism as its prominent feature, when most popular hip hop is driven by the catchiness of its beats. George attributes hip hop’s complex identity and resulting contradictions to its being a “product of schizophrenic, post civil rights America.” In detailing these contradictions and the evolutionary stages of hip hop—“post soul” to “old school” to “new school” to “gangsta


rap” to today—and contextualizing each stage with discussion of the social climate that accompanied it, George illuminates the pressure hip hop is burdened with as the entire culture struggles to maintain its integrity as the reminding voice for the strife of the countless black urban forgotten, while needing to acknowledge the white masses not only for the money they spend, but also because their realities have contributed to and are shaped by all that hip hop culture embodies. Not lost in all of this is that much of hip hop’s appeal as an art form is the fact that it is just fun. George makes sure to keep sight of this simple fact with personal stories and experiences that celebrate hip hop’s whimsicality as much as they deconstruct all of its social and cultural implications. This fun nature of hip hop has resulted in its only recently receiving serious critical attention. The interplay between hip hop’s cultural weight and sheer fun that George is able to represent demonstrates why Hip Hop America was written, and why contemporary America is “hip hop America.” See also And It Don’t Stop!: The Best American Hip Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years; Detective/Mystery Fiction; Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, and God; George, Nelson FURTHER READINGS Dyson, Michael Eric. Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2007. Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.

Gil Cook

Hip Hop; Hiphop; Hip-hop; hip hop; hip-hop Culture. Hiphop is a subculture with origins in the Bronx, New York, circa 1965. Hiphop is a means of empowerment and the expression of oppressed creative intelligence. Hiphop practitioners, hipphoppas or hip hop heads refer to hiphop as a culture and way of life. Its immediate precursors and influences include the Black Arts Movement, Black Power Movement, and Civil Rights Movement. Though its influences can be traced further back to African oral and performative traditions, hiphop is a combination of the spread of African cultural practices across the African Diaspora from Africa to the Caribbean and into the Americas. Referring to the HipHop Generation Bakari Kitwana writes, “Young Blacks born between 1965 [and] 1984 are the first to have grown up in a post-segregation [United States]” (Kitwana 2002, xiii). Hiphop is further the product of Africana and Latino youth and according to Tricia Rose, a cultural form that attempts to negotiate the experiences of marginalization, brutally truncated opportunity, and oppression within the cultural imperatives of African-American and Caribbean history, identity, and community. [It is] the tension between the cultural fractures produced by postindustrial oppression and the binding ties of black cultural expressivity that sets the critical frame for the development of Hip Hop. (Rose 1994, 21)

Hiphop is made up of nine expressive elements: the DJ, Emcee (rappers), B-girl/B-boy (popularly known as break dancers), writers (also known as graffiti artists), knowledge, fashion, language, beatboxing, and entrepreneurs. These elements represent a youth culture




working-class response to the end of the initiatives outlined by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society agenda and de-facto discrimination based on race and class. Jeff Chang in Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation writes that job loss and the destruction of residential neighborhoods helped to create hip hop: The South Bronx lost 600,000 manufacturing jobs; 40% of the work force and average per capita income dropped to 2,430, just half of the New York City average and 40% of the national average. Youth unemployment was 60% although Youth Advocates sources estimate the actual number around 80%. (2005, 13)

The Bronx was fractured by a loss of jobs and the building of the Cross Bronx Expressway eliminated 60,000 residents’ homes—all of which provided the context for a culture of necessity known as hiphop. Graffiti is widely recognized as the first element of hiphop culture, although scholars and writers often disagree on exact dates. Graffiti as it functions within hiphop is a means of political expression and street gang territorial markers. Although graffiti movements outside of New York predate the 1960s, writing during this period defines the hip hop style. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during the 1960s began the tradition of bombing—a term for getting one’s name up and noticed on walls. The writers who are credited with beginning bombing are CORNBREAD and COOL EARL. There is no consensus about graffiti making a formal transition to New York, although the New York scene began to develop after the first Philadelphia writers. TAKI 183 serves as a marker of the start of the New York period. In 1971 The New York Times published a piece on graffiti about Demetrius, also known as TAKI 183. TAKI was the nickname for the Greek-American writer Demetrius and 183 was the number of the street where he lived. TAKI was not the first writer or even the first king, but he was the first to be recognized outside the newly formed subculture— Graffiti Art. The underground culture of writing migrated to all five boroughs. As time progressed writing became more intricate and moved from streets to include subways. The writing environment was highly competitive. The period of 1975–1977 is generally regarded as the end of the first phase of graffiti writing. During this period many foundations had been established, providing a platform for new writers to add new perspectives and further advance technique. After 1985 the writing culture changed dramatically with many writers opting for the gallery and international art shows instead of train yards. Additionally, New York began to crack down on graffiti writing with anti-graffiti legislation, graffiti proof trains, and tighter Mass Transit security. Writing continues to remain an integral part of hiphop culture, although it is not as frequent in train yards. Many contemporary writers opt for commissioned pieces or walls to display their work. Some writers continue to work in the underground scene or as part of hiphop shows performing live pieces during musical sets. DJ Kool Herc is recognized as the father of hiphop, although there were other notable DJs, such as DJ Hollywood and Eddie Cheba, around at the time. Herc is the originator for the unique sound that would become the hiphop sound. Herc’s mixing of various music albums to create a new sound began the very early stages of sampling, a common practice in rap music production. The father of hiphop culture was born in West Kingston, Jamaica, and immigrated to the Bronx in 1967 at the age of 12. DJ Kool Herc called his unique blend of playing music with two turntables, the Merry-Go-Round. It is important to note there are many individuals who contributed to the culture of hiphop whose names may not be known to history books. The people who attended the first jams in the parks and who


helped to spread mix tapes from borough to borough and by word of mouth are as essential to hiphop’s start as the pioneers. Afrika Bambaataa is considered to be the godfather of hiphop culture because his presence serves as a spiritual force within the culture. Bam, as he is affectionately referred to, grew up in the South Bronx in the late 1960s and early 1970s, once called Little Vietnam for its gang and drug infested streets. Bam lived in the Bronx River Projects and rose to divisional gang leader of the Black Spades. A series of events would impact Bam’s thinking. After winning an essay contest, Bambaataa took a life-changing trip to South Africa. During his trip he was inspired by the story of visionary leader Shaka Zulu. Shaka Zulu is most known for his role in the Dingiswayo army where he became its highest commander. Though Shaka Zulu’s history is one marked by his fierceness in battle and his take-no-prisoners approach to expanding the Zulu territory, Bam was most impressed by his strong resistance to the British in their attempts to colonize the Zulu Nation, as represented in the film Zulu starring Michael Cain. Shaka Zulu was able to expand the Zulu Nation, and at the peak of his power he was considered to be one of the most powerful leaders in southern Africa. Bam decided to revolutionize the Black Spades. After fellow Black Spades member Black Benji was killed, Bam transformed the Spades into the organization that later became the Universal Zulu Nation, a group of socially conscious people of various ethnicities interested in the development of hiphop culture. Bam’s work continues to be focused on spreading hiphop culture and challenging the one-dimensional notion that hiphop is solely rap and exclusive to one racial group and negative subject matter. His name, Bambaataa, translates to “affectionate leader.” In addition to his cultural contributions Bam is also known as the “Master of Records,” a title given to him for his ability to find obscure albums across all genres and make them palatable to hiphop sensibilities. By 1977 Bambaataa had begun organizing block parties around the South Bronx and had established himself as one of the trinity in hiphop’s foundation. His genre bending appreciation for music introduced electro-funk in rap records. In 1982 he released the timeless classic Planet Rock on Tommy Boy records with the song “Soul Sonic Force.” This song is the foundation for drum and bass, electro-hop, and a host of subgenres within rap music. Using Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express Bam introduced a new realm of possibility in beat production. Many pioneers suggest Bam gave the world hiphop because he was responsible for organizing the first hiphop tour. Although Rappers Delight (1979) was the first single that caught mainstream attention, Bam represented the core of hiphop. The third person in the trinity of hiphop pioneers is Grandmaster Flash. Flash, of Bajan descent, was raised in the Bronx, New York. Flash studied top DJs of the day, in particular Kool DJ Herc, and pioneered the use of the turntable as an instrument. Flash developed a series of innovations still in use. The quick mix theory includes the technique of “cutting,” manually moving a record back and forth, which laid the foundation for DJ Grandwizard Theodore to create “scratching.” Cutting and scratching are now staples in turntablism, a term coined by DJ Babu of the Beat Junkies to encompass the art of DJing. Flash created the first beat machine, a modified homemade mixer that could produce sound effects. In addition Flash created a “Peak-a-Boo” switch, which allowed the DJ to hear the mix before audiences. In addition to his popularity as a DJ, his collaboration with the Furious Five (Melle Mel, Kid Creole, Cowboy, Mr Ness, and Rahiem), set the benchmark for excellence in rapper/DJ




crews. In 1981 The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel was the first record to feature complex cuts and scratches, creating a collage of different songs to make a new composition. This record is considered the beginning of sampling, which is the use of previously recorded material mixed with vocals to create a new song. Although often mistaken as interchangeable for hiphop, rap music is an element within hiphop culture. Many historians look to the poetic prose of The Black Arts Movement, which includes Amiri Baraka, Gil Scott Heron, The Last Poets, and The Watts Prophets, who used socially charged lyrics as the first forms of rap music. The first emcees (rappers) were Coke La Rock and Clark Kent, who provided the framework and early stages of contemporary rap. Sha-rock emerged as an early female emcee in 1977—she took the microphone and joined the formerly all male group The Funky Four (Plus one). With emceeing being a heavily male space, she did something truly groundbreaking. Sha-rock was not the “good for a female emcee,” the space that sexism grants in a male-dominated arena, she was talented, period. Sha-rock, who was known for her smooth delivery, battled head to head with Melle Mel and The Furious Five, considered one of the best of the early rap groups. Sha-rock was also a part of the historic episode of Saturday Night Live on February 14, 1981, when hiphop appeared on national television for the first time; she and The Funky Four (Plus one) performed the single “That’s the Joint” with punk band sensation Blondie. Emceeing or rapping consists of spoken words rhythmically set to music. Since the inception of rap music from emcees such as Grandmaster Caz, Starkski, Kool Moe Dee, and Busy Bee, rap music has developed into various styles and patterns. Early forms were similar to the Motown style. Groups such as the Cold Crush Brothers and Crash Crew delivered lyrics that were similar to a quartet’s lyrics. The Furious Five styled their delivery as one voice with five distinct sounds. These early forms laid the foundation for contemporary rap music. Contemporary patterns are a reflection of geographic similarities, style of narrative, subject matter, as well as the technique of the accompanying musical production. Some of the classification of rap includes old school, true school, west coast, southern rap, chopped, and screwed, in addition to categories such as Christian rap and conscious rap. B-Boy/b-girls, also known as breakdancers, represent the dance aspect of hiphop culture. B-boying began when Kool Herc noticed groups of dancers who would dance at the break section of albums he played during parities. Recreating a call and response dynamic the break in the music consisted of heavy instrumentation, which provided space for improvisation for both the DJ and dancer with each relying on the other for energy in the total performance. These dancers began to be known as “break girls/boys.” This form of dance consists of moves such as top-rock, power moves, freezes, and suicides. These moves vary from standing positions to using hands and various forms of gymnastic styled kicks, sweeps, and back spins. Though no formal ties have been established, scholars and students of the dance cite Capoeira Angola as an artistic influence of bgirl/boying. Capoeria de Angola is an African Brazilian form of martial arts—a style created by enslaved Africans who, without weapons, would defend themselves with their hands and feet. Capoeiras was the name of the brush woods where the fugitives entrenched themselves, and it is believed that the first group of slaves that arrived in Brazil was from Angola. To better disguise its resistance origins from enslavers, capoeira was performed in a circle with songs and musical instruments. Capoeira was outlawed in Brazil in 1890 until 1928. “Breakin” in popular slang during the mid to late 1970s described behavior beyond the norm to a breaking point or disrespect, such as “Why is he breakin’ on me?” The organized


form of dancing within a circle that is typically associated with b-girls/boys developed as a strategy for rivals to settle disagreements. These battles are based on routine dances both conscious and unrehearsed. The winning crews, members of the same group, are determined by factors such as overall showcase of skill, mastery of style, depth of artistry, and crowd response, and the successful ability to outperform the opponent. Though mainstream fascination with b-girl/boy culture declined in the late 1980s, The Rock Steady Crew remains as one of the oldest and most recognized crews. The Rock Steady Crew was formed in 1977 by Bronx b-boys Jimmy D and Jojo. Both east and west coast styles influenced the art form of b-girl/boying. During the 1980s, with the rise in commercial rap music, hiphop culture began to decline in significance. Afrika Bambaataa added the fifth element, knowledge as a way to center the positive aspects of hiphop culture. KRS One and the Temple of HipHop, an organization dedicated to the preservation of hiphop culture, recognized the other expressive themes within hiphop and the other elements began to be recognized as part of hiphop’s expressive tradition. Hiphop activists and scholars have begun to critique and comment on the split of hip hop and the rap industry, suggesting a demarcation between the culture of hip hop and the commercial industry of rap music. Though all core expressive elements are still viable parts of hiphop, rap is the most widely known and often misunderstood as synonymous with hiphop culture.

FURTHER READING Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005. D, Chuck, and Yusuf Jah. Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality. New York: Delacorte Press, 1997. Forman, Murray. The ‘Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop. Middletown, CT.: Wesleyan University Press, 2002. Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme. Dir. Fitzgerald, Kevin. Prod. White, Michelle, Ann Berger, and Tiare White. DVD. Palm Pictures, 2004. The Freshest Kids. Dir. Israel. Prod. Israel. DVD. QD3 Entertainment, 2002. George, Nelson. Hip Hop America. New York: Viking, 1998. Graffiti Art. 15 June 2007. . Gwendolyn, D. Pough. Check It While I Wreck it: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 2004. Hip-Hop Beyond Beats and Rhymes. Dir. Hurt, Byron. Prod. Media Education Foundation. Perf. Mos Def, Jadakiss, and Busta Rhymes. DVD. 2006. Kitwana, Bakari. The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2002. Morgan, Joan. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks it Down. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2000. Nobody Knows My Name. Dir. Raimist, Rachel, Unleashed Entertainment, and Women Make Movies. Distributed by Women Make Movies, 1999. Parker, Kris. Ruminations. New York: Welcome Rain, 2003. Perkins, William Eric. Droppin’ Science: Critical Essays on Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1996. Perry, Imani. Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004. Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994. Scratch. Dir. Blondheim, Brad, Ernest Meza, Doug Pray, et al. Palm Pictures, 2002.



THE HIP-HOP EDUCATION GUIDEBOOK: VOLUME I Style Wars. Dir. Silver, Tony. Prod. Chalfant Henry. VHS. 1982. Wild Style. Dir. Ahearn, Charles. Prod. Wild Style Productions, LTD. VHS. 1983.

Akil Houston

THE HIP-HOP EDUCATION GUIDEBOOK: VOLUME I. Created by Marcella Runell and Martha Diaz and edited by Tatiana Forero Roy, the H2Ed Guidebook (2007) combines theory and practice to offer a solid introduction to hip hop pedagogy in 5th through 12th-grade classrooms. The first section of the book frames the issues involved in hip-hop pedagogy, touching on the need for culturally responsive teaching models; the connections between hip-hop, adolescence, and consumerism; and hip-hop and social justice. The authors argue that one of the best ways to engage contemporary students in the materials being presented is to draw on their own interests and values. Hip-hop’s presence in the lives of adolescents, as evidenced by even a cursory glance at magazine racks and billboard charts, is strong, and growing stronger, both within the United States and internationally. Part two of the guidebook offers an extensive collection of lesson plans that cover a wide range of subjects: literacy and English language arts; history, global studies, and geography; music, math and science; leadership and peer mediation; media and technology; and social justice, tolerance, and diversity. Each lesson plan indicates the appropriate grade range and national standards, the required materials and time allowance, activities/procedures, evaluation, and extension activities. Although some lesson plans incorporate theory and author biographies, the focus remains on putting theory into practice through the classroom activities. Many of the lesson plans include related lyrics, articles, and handouts to use during the class. Contributors to the book are primarily K–12 teachers, graduate students, and university professors with an investment in the hip-hop community and culture. The Hip-Hop Education Guidebook concludes with a list of valuable resources for hip-hop scholars and practitioners. This book joins the work of authors such as H. Samy Alim, Alastair Pennycook, and Michael Nelson in developing scholarship within the field of hip-hop pedagogy. FURTHER READING Alim, H. Samy. “Critical Hip-Hop Language Pedagogies: Combat, Consciousness, and the Cultural Politics of Communication.” Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, Vol. 6, Issue 2 (2007): 161–176. ———. Rock the Mic Right: The Language of Hip-Hop Culture. New York: Routledge, 2006. Hall, Marcella Runell, Martha Diaz, and Tatiana Forero Roy. The Hip-Hop Education Guidebook: Volume I. New York: Hip-Hop Association, Inc., 2007. Low, Bronwen. “Hip-Hop, Language, and Difference: The N-Word as a Pedagogical Limit-Case.” Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, Vol. 6, Issue 2 (2007): 147–160. Newman, Michael. “Rap as Literacy: A Genre Analysis of Hip-Hop Ciphers.” An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse, Vol. 25 Issue 3 (2005): 399–436. Pennycook, Alastair. “Language, Localization, and the Real: Hip-Hop and the Global Spread of Authenticity.” Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, Vol. 6, Issue 2 (2007): 101–115. Richardson, Elaine. Hip Hop Literacies. New York: Routledge, 2006.

THE HIP HOP GENERATION Stovall, David. “We Can Relate: Hip-Hop Culture, Critical Pedagogy, and the Secondary Classroom.” Urban Education, Vol. 41, Issue 6 (2006): 585–602.

Carey Applegate

THE HIP HOP GENERATION: YOUNG BLACKS AND THE CRISIS IN AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURE (2002). Bakari Kitwana’s 2002 book identifies the many social and historical problems facing the generation of black Americans born between 1965 and 1984, after the advances of the civil rights era and unified by hip hop culture. A historically unprecedented visibility of black youth in popular culture allows this generation the potential to address significant social problems. Kitwana describes these critical challenges for young African Americans as underemployment, criminal justice disparities from racial profiling to the increasing incarceration of black men, lack of trust between black men and women, and a general nihilism in black masculine representation, particularly in gangsta rap and the ‘hood films of the 1990s. He argues that the national popularity of hip hop culture provides this generation with the means to seize the political power to solve these social problems. The author’s background is as a journalist and magazine editor, and he coined the term “Hip Hop Generation” while heading The Source: The Magazine of Hip-Hop Culture and Politics during the 1990s. He points out that the first generation of African Americans born after desegregation faces less visible but nevertheless daunting forms of racism. Whereas the book cites rap lyrics, ’hood films, and other features of hip hop culture, the author’s primary effort is to draw attention to broader sociological phenomena that popular culture represents and to whom it appeals, and to discuss the lived experience of urban black men and women in their teens, twenties, and thirties during the 1990s. This Hip Hop Generation is thus a large, economically and politically significant but insufficiently organized group different from but connected to the generations before and after it. Kitwana draws from sociology, statistics, history, historiography, and interviews with prominent black leaders with the intent of both documenting problems facing the Hip Hop Generation and demonstrating the organization necessary for solving them. He describes the primary political topics for young African Americans as education, employment, reparations, the economic health of urban neighborhoods, youth poverty and disease, the criminalization of young black men, and foreign policy. He cites Russell Simmons’s Rap the Vote 2000 as a failed effort to politicize the Hip Hop Generation. Instead, a new group of existing grassroots organizations must emerge and grow together, coalescing into a strong voting block not dependent on the previous generation’s Democratic or Republican relationships and antipathies but seeking leadership from within. Hip hop’s longstanding association with youth produces a second Hip Hop Generation, those born after 1984, integral to recognizing and solving social problems from inside the African American community. See also And It Don’t Stop!: The Best American Hip Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years; That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader; Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop: Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabes, and the New Reality of Race in America FURTHER READING Cepeda, Raquel, ed. And It Don’t Stop!: The Best American Hip Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years. New York: Faber and Faber, 2004.



HIP-HOP, INC.: SUCCESS STRATEGIES OF THE RAP MOGULS Forman, Murray, and Mark Anthony Neal, eds. That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004. Kitwana, Bakari. Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop: Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabes, and the New Reality of Race in America. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005.

Peter Caster

HIP-HOP, INC.: SUCCESS STRATEGIES OF THE RAP MOGULS (2006). A collaboration between business school professor Richard Oliver and journalist Tim Leffel—two self-described “middle-aged white guys”—Hip-Hop, Inc. focuses exclusively on the business aspects of the hip-hop music industry. The authors make a point to differentiate “rap” (a style of music) from “hip-hop,” which they describe as a larger lifestyle characterized by choices in consumption. The book traces the development of hip-hop “from Africa to Africa Bombaataa” and notes that rap represents the first time in the history of the music industry where African American performers, by and large, have moved beyond working on a for-hire basis and retained ownership of their music and lyrics. Possession of this intellectual property has enabled many to become “serial entrepreneurs,” parlaying initial gains in the music industry into a number of brands and business ventures and using cross-promotion to achieve wider success across a range of products. The book focuses heavily on five of hip-hop’s most successful moguls: Russell Simmons, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Percy “Master P” Miller, Damon Dash, and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter. These five moguls share a number of successful traits: they all work hard, stay close to the streets, have a strong belief in their own abilities, are willing to move beyond their failures, and understand the importance of ownership. The authors make a point to acknowledge the excesses of gangsta rap, but they also credit it for giving hip-hop a harder edge and for establishing the genre’s core identity of the poor street hustler made good. The real danger is when business practices mirror gangsta rap’s image and lyrics. They present the rise and fall of Death Row Records’s Suge Knight as the case study of a failed mogul. In addition to his poor business choices— including over-reliance on one brand, failure to branch out into other markets, and poor money management—Knight’s use of threats and violence to get ahead led to long prison sentences and eventual bankruptcy. The authors note that the criminal element is not unique to hip-hop, but has always been present in other industries including finance, manufacturing, and technology. The central thesis of the book is that hip hop is one industry among many in the business world, one that has been overlooked by the business establishment despite its enormous success. At the heart of this success is the inversion of the conventional wisdom that states that products must differentiate themselves from their competitors to establish a unique selling position. Instead, moguls sell the hip-hop lifestyle first and the individual brand second. By putting the category before the product, moguls have been able to stretch the category to include an ever expanding assortment of products and services. These moguls have created a hip-hop “total consumer experience” that has moved from music into movies, clothing, video games, soft drinks, fashion, car accessories, technology, and more.

Paul Falzone


HIP HOP MATTERS: POLITICS, POP CULTURE, AND THE STRUGGLE FOR THE SOUL OF A MOVEMENT (2006). S. Craig Watkins writes about hip hop’s influence on politics and economics as well as culture. In his second contribution to the growing body of critical work on hip hop culture, S. Craig Watkins brings a unique understanding of the nuances and intricacies of hip hop as a cultural phenomenon. He is one of the few theorists to give credit for the commercialization of hip hop to a woman—Sylvia Robinson. Robinson’s Sugar Hill Records launched “Rapper’s Delight,” which was the first hip hop song to reach top 40 status. Also, Sugar Hill initiated the careers of The Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, and Melle Mel. Watkins is careful to point out that pivotal moment between hip hop as an underground culture and its exposure to the mainstream (2006, 10–11). The book continues to explore the shifts in culture initiated by hip hop with an inimitable look at the rapper wars—from the first rap war between Tupac and the Notorius B.I.G. in the 1990s through the trouble between JaRule and 50 Cent. Watkins points to the fight for market share by industry magazines such as The Source, Vibe, and XXL as one reason the rifts between rappers and the idea of street credibility were pushed with such passion. Hip hop had become not only a producer of culture but also an entity whose culture could be manipulated by corporate infrastructures. This multi-faceted dynamic of hip hop went on to produce gangsta rap and hypersexual presentations of women hand in hand with activism and social consciousness in a new generation of participants. According to Watkins, both popular culture and politics are in a battle to own hip hop. Hip hop as a culture force has permeated virtually every social space where digital technology is available. Hip hop has the ability to unite people from the most varied backgrounds and as such is extremely important to global corporate interests. The same way hip hop is able to reach across barriers and unite people struggling with socioeconomic inequity, injustice, and marginalization in general, it is also able to sell shoes or jeans or identity. In the end the title of the book is more a declaration than a moniker. Hip hop does matter. Whether one is a willing participant in the genre or not, hip hop culture has had an extraordinary impact on the social, political, and economic structures of our world. FURTHER READING Morgan, Jo-Ann. “Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement by S. Craig Watkins.” American Culture, Vol. 29 Issue 3 (Sept. 2006):78–379. Watkins, S. Craig. Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2006.

Tarshia L. Stanley

HOCH, DANNY (1970–). One of the first actors/playwrights to actively represent hip-hop culture in theater. Danny Hoch is as multifaceted as hip-hop itself, assuming roles as actor, writer, lecturer, filmmaker, and director. Born in 1970 in New York City, his work in theater highlights and captures the life experiences of American immigrants, specifically the diverse soundscapes of New York City. He grew up in a neighborhood in Queens where no particular ethnic group dominated. As Hoch has noted, this cultural diversity greatly affected his sense of identity and community, as well as his work as an actor and writer. Early on he asked himself two questions: Which community do I belong to and what does it mean to be white




(Sengupta 1999, B1)? He has brought these questions of identity and community into his work as a playwright. His plays frequently consist of a series of monologues, peopled by seemingly disparate characters, from a Havana youth using hip-hop lyrics and Americanisms in an attempt to engage an American tourist, to a Queens teenager, who, born as a crack baby, thanks his departing speech therapist. What unites them thematically is the notion that hip-hop represents the current generation’s dominant form of cultural and linguistic expression and crosses all ethnic and racial boundaries (Sengupta 1999, B1). Hoch promotes his aesthetic and plays as “hip-hop theater.” For him, “there is a theater in hip-hop itself whether it’s the theater of b-boying—break dancing—or the theater of monologue of the rapper. There’s a whole generation of hip-hop kids that has gone to theater school. And a lot of us, we don’t want to do Shakespeare anymore. Our stories that are really about us are not really being told unless we tell them. So we are telling them” (McKinley 2001, E1–E2). Not surprisingly, his efforts to educate audiences and bring theater to the inexperienced led to his founding in 2000 of the Hip-Hop Theater Festival, which has presented over 75 “Hip-Hop Generation plays” globally and in New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, and San Francisco. In addition to promoting hip-hop as a viable genre of theatre and music, Hoch has written and acted in several television shows and films, including Washington Heights, Bamboozled, Prison Song, Subway Stories, The Thin Red Line, White Boyz, Blackhawk Down, and his original HBO show, Some People. His plays Pot Melting, Some People, and Jails, Hospitals and Hip-Hop have won numerous awards including two OBIES, an NEA Solo Theatre Fellowship, a Sundance Writers Fellowship, a CalArts/Alpert Award in Theatre, and a Tennessee Williams Fellowship. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, New York University. FURTHER READING “Danny Hoch.” 11 Dec. 2007 . Hoch, Danny. “Film: Straining to Live Black.” New York Times, 10 October 1999, 13. ———. Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop and Some People. New York: Villard Press, 1998. McKinley, Jesse. “On Stage and Off.” The New York Times, 8 June 2001, E1–E2. Sengupta, Somini. “A Multicultural Chameleon: Actor’s Experience Spawns Polyglot Cast of Characters.” The New York Times, 9 October 1999, B1. Takahashi, Corey. “Minority of One.” New York Newsday, 11 October 2001, B3. Weber, Bruce. “Employing Broken English for Community Repair.” The New York Times, 2 November 1993, C15.

Robert Torre

HOLMES, SHANNON. Shannon Holmes, as the self-proclaimed “King of HipHop Literature,” used his life experiences to craft some of the most popular hip hop literature on the shelves today. With a high school education completed with a GED from prison, Holmes has used his previous experiences with various drug offenses, as well as his five years in prison, to lend a gritty real feel to his books that readers of the second wave of hip hop literature want to read. Holmes signed his contract from prison for his first book, B-More Careful, which focuses on the adventures of Netty and the P*ssy Pound as they steal, cheat, and revel in obtaining illegal money. His even-handed and careful treatment of the female characters in the book


made many readers believe that Holmes was female—not an easy feat. The success of B-More Careful got attention from Simon and Schuster and he signed a contract with them. He then wrote the very successful Bad Girlz, set in Philadelphia, which followed the lives of a group of young women who were into drugs and stripped for a living. The exploits of Tender, Goldie, and Kat were so popular with audiences that a sequel, Bad Girlz 4 Life, followed a year later in 2008. In between, Holmes continued to write short story collections and novels that built up his popularity and sales: Dirty Game, Hood2Hood, and The Game. Holmes’s sales have been so attractive that he signed a new publishing deal with St. Martin’s Press. Holmes explains his own popularity in the foreword to his novel Never Go Home Again: The experience and quality that I bring to my writing can’t be faked. I know what I know. Through my novels, I invite readers to journey with me into the streets. Come see what I’ve seen. Let me show the gritty and grimy undercarriage of society, the “flip side” of the game. (2005, 3–4)

These are the reasons why a writer like Holmes is so popular in the hip hop literary world. Readers are looking for those gritty details, and because Holmes lived that life, he is able to convey that sensibility in his fiction. However, it should be remembered that his success was confirmed when he was able to write stories from a strong, realistic female perspective. That is not an easy skill for a male writer to acquire, and Holmes should be accorded appropriate respect for his accomplishment. FURTHER READING Holmes, Shannon. Bad Girlz. New York: Atria, 2003. ———. Bad Girlz 4 Life. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008. ———. B-More Careful. New York: Teri Woods Publishing, 2001. ———. Dirty Game. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. ———. Hood2Hood. New York: Shannon Holmes Communications, 2005. ———. Never Go Home Again. New York: Atria, 2005. ———. The Game: Short Stories about Life. New York: Triple Crown Publishing, 2003.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

HOME GIRLS MAKE SOME NOISE: HIP HOP FEMINISM ANTHOLOGY (2007). A collection of critical essays on hip hop feminism. Known for her first book, Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere (2004), Gwendolyn D. Pough edits Home Girls along with Elaine B. Richardson, Rachel Raimist, and Aisha S. Durham. The volume collects essays by women artists, activists, journalists, historians, and scholars who seek to expand the concepts of women in hip hop. Rather than accepting the popular view that hip hop is a male-centered space, this collection documents women’s participation in creating and sustaining a hip hop aesthetic that does not relegate them to marginal status. Ranging from essays that document Cuban women’s presence in hip hop culture to poetry, art, and memoir, the wealth of information in Home Girls is pertinent to the understanding of hip hop as an expression of political and social ideologies. Just as hip hop has been billed as the war cries of young black and Latino males, Pough, Richardson, Raimist, and Durham




pull together the laments and call to arms of women all over the globe who understand hip hop as being birthed by and belonging to them as well. In “Hip Hop at the Political Crossroads: Organizing for Reproductive Justice and Beyond,” Kamal Price points to the politics that affect women of the Hip Hop Generation, particularly reproductive rights, which opens into the wider discussions of economic and social rights. Rachel Raimist expands the discussion of commercial hip hop and its devastating ability to exclude the perspectives of women and the feminist sensibilities they promote. Unfortunately, many people who have only been exposed to mainstream, commodified hip hop do not know the history of women’s involvement, nor do they understand the role women continue to play globally. Raimist writes “We must resist and counter the limited views of women in hip hop. Thus, we need to reify that there are many agents of hip-hop and it is the sum of all our parts to make this a living, breathing and active culture and, for many of us, a movement” (2007, 2). In “They’re Not Talking About Me” Eisa Nefertari Ulen creates a moment to reflect on the inner anguish that women can experience in hip hop culture as young girls confused by the mixed message sent to them in rap music and videos adopt a passive attitude toward misogyny or become enamored with hypersexual representations of particularly black womanhood. Many women choose to negotiate the difficult spaces by refusing to acknowledge that they exist. Home Girls Make Some Noise asks its audience to do just that. It encourages an understanding of hip hop that makes room for and pays homage to the passion, participation, and presence of women. It asks the audience to move beyond a simple and gendered understanding of the culture to see the many facets of hip hop’s personality and to acknowledge that many of those facets are female. See also Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere FURTHER READING Kitwana, Bakari. The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2002. Morgan, Joan. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks it Down. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2000. Pough, Gwendolyn D. Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 2004. Sharpley-Whiting, T. Denean. Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women. New York: New York University Press, 2007.

Tarshia L. Stanley

HONEY MAGAZINE. Honey magazine promoted itself as “a fashion and entertainment magazine aimed at stylish urban women.” Initially begun as a monthly glossy that once boasted a circulation of 400,000, Honey features a range of multicultural entertainers as cover models, including popular stars LL Cool J, Beyonce, Boris Kodjoe, Lauryn Hill, Lil’ Kim, Tyra Banks, Jennifer Lopez, Pink, Mary J. Blige, Gabrielle Union, Jada Pinkett Smith, and the late entertainers Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Aaliyah. In 2007 Honey was relaunched in a new online format. The magazine’s home at www. honeymag.com, the self-proclaimed “ultimate urbanista spot,” specifically targets urban


females aged 18–34, by providing an online presence that speaks to their fashion and entertainment interests, as well as their career and relationship concerns. Honey is a uniquely structured online platform that encourages its readers to submit stories and share their experiences. In keeping with that spirit, honeymag.com includes the “Honey of the Week,” which features everyday women from the magazine’s cyberspace audience. The “Honey Career Center” provides job postings, internship opportunities, and articles about important workplace issues, such as discrimination, and tips for getting ahead in the corporate world. The career center also allows users to search diversity opportunities from leading corporations. The “Fresh Out The Pack” portion of the site showcases artists such as R&B newcomer J Holiday. “Sweet Spot” highlights trendy, of-the-moment beauty and fashion products, providing pictures, commentary, and links to external retailers. “Taste of Honey” offers candid photographs of random people, places, and things, to spotlight current fashion trends and to give users the opportunity to post comments and feedback. The “Hot Spot” allows for a oneon-one interview with an up-and-coming designer, artist, or entrepreneur making moves in the world of pop culture. The “Love & Sex” portion of the site offers numerous articles about love and relationship issues facing many women in the key 18–34 demographic. Articles about finding happiness in being single, tell-tale signs of being in a dead-end relationship, and dealing with the break-up of a relationship are submitted by contributors who have real-life experience with the situations they then share with honeymag.com visitors. The “Beehive Blogs” allows users from across the United States and Canada to post their own writings about what’s happening in their lives and in their cities. Contributors from major cities, such as Toronto, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, share their hometown perspectives with honeymag.com visitors. Honey, once under the umbrella of Vanguarde Media, is currently owned and operated by Sahara Entertainment in conjunction with Black Book Media Corporation. See also Vibe Vixen FURTHER READING “Honey Magazine Launches New Website Honeymag.Com: the True Voice of the Urban Female.” PR Web. 26 June 2007. Accessed 11 Nov. 2007. . “New Publisher to Restart Honey.” Richard Prince’s Journal-Isms. 21 May 2004. Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. 11 Nov. 2007. . Shirer, Tamara. “Shattering the Double Standard: How One Sister is Learning to Love the Single Life.” Honeymag.com. 11 Nov. 2007. .

Nneka Nnolim

THE HOOD COMES FIRST: RACE, SPACE, AND PLACE IN RAP AND HIP-HOP (2002). Murray Forman’s exploration of the development of hiphop through the organizing logics of race, space, and place. In this text, Forman demonstrates how minority youth—he looks at African American and Latinos mostly—mobilize and deploy race, space (ideological and




political arena mobilized through discursive exchange), and place (distinct, intimate geographies) in discourses of hip-hop to express and celebrate oppositional individual and collective identities. The affiliations with localized places, or what Forman describes as “extreme locals,” reflect hip-hop artists’ awareness of how their racialized and class experiences are products of historically and spatially structured patterns of power (2002, xviii). Forman, however, urges a more nuanced analysis of the music industry in also aiding the facilitation of hip-hop’s development internationally. He argues that a dialectical tension of artists’ geocultural priorities and the economic exigencies of the music industry have shaped the contours of hip-hop as it is today. Forman situates the presence of urban tropes in hip-hop within the political and economic mechanisms of post-industrial America and hip-hop artists’ responses to these particular encroaching and destructive forces. Forman challenges dominant narratives of decaying inner cities as “natural” by demonstrating how “[social] spaces are [social] products.” That is, policy cutbacks for youth and family services coupled with a restructured economy and loss of a livable wage produced the destruction and evacuation of inner cities (2002, chapter 1). Yet, according to Forman, dominant scripts of inner-city cultural pathology in public discourse hide these histories of structural abandonment. Rappers, however, “flip the script” of this dominant discourse of spatial and racial devaluation by asserting what Tricia Rose refers to as “prestige from below” through hip-hop practices (i.e., political raps, community park parties) of self-definitions, creativity, and recuperation of their hood (2002, 36) However, Forman emphasizes how the ideological spaces of the music industry (2002, chapters 4–9) have also shaped the spatial imaginary in rap music. For example, Forman traces the subgenres of conscious or political raps as a trend born out of the popularity and financial marketability of “The Message” by Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five. Carbon copies later proliferated lacking the depth of the original as corporations learned to exploit these conventions (2002, chapter 3). Forman sees this trend in the beefs between hardcore east coast rappers and west coast gangsta rappers where corporations transformed localized narratives and identifications into larger national dramas over market turf (2002, chapter 5). Yet artists learned to navigate through the exploitative industry, working within capitalist mechanisms to simultaneously create a subversive “Black public sphere”; from 1987–1994, artists created their own labels as a way of circumventing industry control, simultaneously expanding the cartographies of rap music, and black solidarity locally and nationally amidst increasingly debilitating social conditions (2002, chapter 6). In the final chapter, Forman documents the emergence of regional styles, such as the south, midwest, and global developments, further demonstrating how racial formations and local places are socially constructed through competing spatial ideologies and discursive practices. See also That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader FURTHER READING Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Back Culture in Contemporary America. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.

Brian Su-Jen Chung


HOOKS, BELL (GLORIA WATKINS) (1952–). A prolific African American feminist scholar and social critic, bell hooks uses a variety of theoretical approaches in her books to discuss and critique race, gender, and class issues. hooks rose to prominence as a feminist theorist in the early 1980s. She was born in Kentucky to a working-class family and first attended school during the Civil Rights era, which shaped her worldview, as hooks says in her books. During her work on her Ph.D. at the University of California at Santa Cruz, hooks noticed that few feminist theory books that focused on the issues surrounding black feminism existed, so she wrote Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism. In this text, hooks examined how racism and sexism shaped the image and role of black women in America. hooks also criticized white feminists (such as Gloria Steinem) for ignoring black women’s plights and neglecting to acknowledge the role black women played in the earliest stages of women’s liberation (1981, 122). She says that most heterosexual white feminists were participants in the “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy,” because they wanted all the things that white men had and did not want to liberate their black sisters. According to hooks, a “white supremacist capitalist patriarchal” system exists in the West—particularly in America—that shapes African Americans’ concepts of gender roles, selfhood, success, and relationships. This system normalizes and idealizes whiteness and makes everything else into the “Other,” or deviations from the ideal. It also privileges white manhood over all other groups, as she asserts in We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity. In this system, success is defined by capitalism and how close one can come to having the social capital that white men have. Being able to support one’s family on one’s income, owning expensive material possessions, and being of the managerial class are three “white” markers of success that many black men aspire to and often fail to achieve because of how racism has shaped American cultural structures, as hooks suggests in We Real Cool. Hooks urges the marginalized to question whiteness as a norm and to question the capitalist version of success. Perhaps the most immediately apparent feature of bell hooks’s critical work that distinguishes her style from other academics’ style is her frequent use of an unpretentious, often conversational writing style and the lack of adherence to academic citation styles. This writing style, according to hooks in Talking Back, is a political act that challenges the primacy of exclusionary language in academic writing and asserts that participants in the struggle to liberate need to use an “oppositional discourse” to resist oppression (1989, 29). In “Postmodern Blackness,” an essay in Yearning, hooks says that many oppressed people want to be part of a critical dialogue about “Otherness,” race, class, and gender but are intimidated or turned off by elitist, jargon-filled language. Therefore, she often uses language that appeals to groups outside of academia, paving the way for social transformation and revolution. hooks frequently uses autobiography as a critical mode, using her experiences to illustrate her authenticity and authority when she discusses race, gender, and especially class, as she does in Class Matters. This follows in the African American autobiographical tradition, of which Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth were seminal members. In Ain’t I A Woman, Hooks says that Sojourner was one of the first feminists to advocate for the rights of all women and explains how Sojourner’s personal experiences lent authority to her statements about the nature of women (1981, 160). Her assertions that liberated African Americans have a responsibility to help their brethren to become liberated echoes W.E.B. DuBois’s and Malcolm X’s work. Hooks asserts that her existence on the fringes of multiple marginalized groups gives her a unique position from which she may critique all three, using a variety of theoretical




approaches as well as her insider knowledge. Hooks says that the margins are “location[s] for the production of a counter-hegemonic discourse that is not just found in words but in habits of being and the way one lives” (1990, 149). Therefore, those who exist on the fringes of groups should recognize their position and work on decolonizing themselves. The intersection of African American studies and postmodern theory is one that hooks particularly focuses on in her work. In “Postmodern Blackness,” she discusses how postmodern nihilism (stemming from the lack of inherent meaning and the breakdown of industry in America) is similar to the nihilism many young African Americans are currently experiencing (1990, 1–15). hooks uses metaphors from postcolonial cultural theorists, such as Paul Gilroy, when she urges African Americans to “decolonize” their minds and to locate or develop a true subjective self not defined by oppressive forces, as she does in “The Politics of Radical Black Subjectivity” (1990, 15–16). hooks criticizes the patriarchy inherent in Jacques Derrida’s and Michel Foucault’s works but makes use of their terms “Other” and “difference” in her criticism, though she redefines them. In Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life, she and fellow social critic Cornel West have a dialogue about the crises facing black America in the postmodern age. One of the crises affecting African American youth lies in education as oppression, which hooks addresses in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, her book influenced by Paulo Freire’s pedagogical theories. In both these books, hooks addresses actual problems affecting the African American community and suggests ways in which the community may heal itself. In Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations, hooks critiques hip-hop films and music, asserting that they are products of the American “patriarchal framework” in which they were produced (1994, 113). She provides cogent, serious analysis of Menace II Society, Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, Ice Cube’s lyrics, and Madonna’s reinforcement of sexist and racist stereotypes, asserting that all these cultural productions are predicated on “larger structures of domination” that “maintain and perpetuate these values that uphold these exploitative and oppressive systems” (1994, 117). As she continues to teach and write, hooks continues to influence feminists and students of cultural studies in America and all over the world. FURTHER READING hooks, bell. Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1981. ———. Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations. New York: Routledge, 1994. ———. “Postmodern Blackness.” Postmodern Culture, Vol. 1 Issue 1 (Sept. 1990). ———. Talking Back: Thinking Black, Thinking Feminist. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1989. ———. We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity. New York: Routledge, 1994. ———. Where We Stand: Class Matters. New York: Routledge, 2000. ———. Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1990.

Angelle Scott

HUNT, LA JILL (1972–). La Jill Hunt became an Essence best-selling author because of her novels published by Carl Weber’s Urban Books: Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda; Drama Queen; No More Drama; Old Habits Die Hard; and Another Sad Love Song. She is known for bringing “the drama,” which is why she is so popular. She doesn’t “come corny” but finds original ways to end her stories and challenge her readers. Her


most popular titles are Drama Queen and its sequel, No More Drama, which are all about the adventures of Kayla Hopkins and how drama seeks her, starting with her love for one man while pregnant with another man’s child. The Around the Way Girls series is an extension, or riff, off of the part of the LL Cool J rhyme dedicated to the “around the way girl,” a beautiful young woman who thinks that she knows it all but is about to learn some hard lessons in life. This is the general theme of the series, which consists of four wildly popular books thus far. Hunt has contributed to three of the four volumes and has been cited repeatedly on message boards as the one who writes the best submissions. She is obviously talented and knows her literary backgrounds and presents them in fresh ways to a new audience who may not be so educated. Hunt’s work has provided some interesting twists on standard literary themes. In Around the Way Girls 4, for instance, Hunt incorporates elements of the K˝unsterrínroman, the story of a talented artist, by telling the story of Jovia Grant, a young artist who is torn between two worlds when she falls for the wrong kind of man in “Thug Passion.” Hunt cleverly exposes the audience to these literary themes and creates a story that is fresh and appealing to a new generation of readers. She incorporates elements of female friendship plots as well as writing an engaging love story in Around the Way Girls 2 when she introduces two girlfriends, Lyric and Alicia. At the start, Lyric is the cynic about men and Alicia is the idealist. Lyric then falls for Alicia’s brother and becomes a romantic, and Alicia becomes the cynical one when her man begins to disappoint her. This plot twist represents another fresh take on a standard literary conceit. As a practitioner of the short story/novella form, as well as a popular novelist, La Jill Hunt has garnered great respect for her contributions to the second wave of hip hop literature. FURTHER READING Hunt, La Jill. Another Sad Love Song. New York: Urban Books, 2006. ———. Drama Queen. New York: Urban Books, 2003. ———. “Lyric & Alicia.” Around the Way Girls 3. New York: Urban Books, 2007. ———. No More Drama. New York: Urban Books, 2004. ———. Old Habits Die Hard. New York: Urban Books, 2007. ———. Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda. New York: Urban, 2005. ———. “Southern Comfort.” In Around the Way Girls. New York: Urban Books, 2007. ———. “Thug Passion.” In Around the Way Girls 4. New York: Urban Books, 2007. ———. Too Close For Comfort. New York: Urban Books, 2006.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

HUSTLE AND FLOW (PARAMOUNT CLASSICS, USA, 2005). Fictional rap narrative whose theme song won an academy award. Set in the slums of Memphis, Tennessee, Hustle and Flow, produced by John Singleton, written and directed by Craig Brewer, presents the tale of protagonist DJay (Terrance Howard), a small scale pimp and drug dealer managing to scrape out a living through his motley band of prostitutes, including Nola (Taryn Manning), Lexus (Paula Jai Parker), and Shug (Taraji Henson), who represents DJay’s love interest. Being trapped in a stagnant existence, bartering with a drug addict, and exchanging marijuana for an electronic keyboard, stimulates DJay’s memories from his high school




days of freestyle rapping over his school’s public announcement system and at local parties. The keyboard, coupled with the opportunity to exclusively provide Skinny Black (Ludacris), the local Memphis rapper turned superstar, with marijuana during his Fourth of July return to Memphis, triggers DJay’s imagination as he both considers and desires the perceived wealth, lifestyle improvement, and status that rapping has yielded Black. A chance encounter with an old high school classmate, Key (Anthony Anderson), who has been producing gospel music recordings since graduating from high school, presents DJay with the technological ability to transform his musings of rapping into real possibilities. Key invites Shelby (D.J. Quall), a white piano player and amateur beat maker who appreciates the artistic and blueslike quality of southern rap music and its democracy of voice, to join in the production of DJay’s demo. A make-shift recording studio in a back room of DJay’s house serves as the site of production. DJay relies on the exploitation of Nola to finance the production of the demo audiotape, and Shug’s raw and sultry voice is used to supplement the choruses of the songs they create. The climax of the movie becomes DJay’s Fourth of July encounter with Skinny Black, where he plots to use his psychological manipulation ability to persuade Black to listen to his demo tape and open the door to his new future. Tragically, when DJay realizes that Black’s acceptance of his tape is insincere, he challenges Black regarding his intentions of listening. A physical confrontation erupts between DJay, Black, and his cohort that results in DJay’s shooting one individual and his subsequent incarceration. After his imprisonment DJay places the reins of his demo project and rap dream in Nola’s hands as she successfully gets his music air time on local radio. Ironically, DJay’s imprisonment and confrontation with Skinny Black fuel his song’s popularity. The film, with a production budget near $2.8 million, opened in theaters July 22, 2005. Its opening weekend, in over 1,000 theaters across the United States, grossed approximately $8 million. Over the course of the film’s sixteen week box office run, the film grossed over $22.2 million domestically and over $23.5 million internationally before closing on November 28th of that same year. Terrance Howard won an academy award nomination for “best actor” for his portrayal of DJay, and Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman, and Paul Beauregard, members of rap group Three 6 Mafia, won an academy award for “original song,” marking the first time in history that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized hip-hop music. FURTHER READING Staples, Jeanine M., “Hustle & Flow: A Critical Student and Teacher-Generated Framework for ReAuthoring a Representation of Black masculinity.” Educational Action Research, Vol. 16 Issue 3 (Sep 2008): 377–390.

Nicholas Gaffney

I I MAKE MY OWN RULES (1998). LL Cool J (aka James Todd Smith) is recognized in the entertainment industry as a popular actor and Grammy Award-winning hip hop artist. Smith discusses his longevity in the hip hop music industry and the dark side of celebrity status in his autobiography I Make My Own Rules. Published in 1998 by St. Martin’s Press, Smith’s autobiography reveals in-depth details about his childhood, substance abuse, and rise to fame. The national bestseller is coauthored with Karen Hunter, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and editor. Hunter, the coauthor of many notable hip hop texts, cowrote additional bestseller titles such as Confessions of a Video Vixen (2005), Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman (1998), and Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip Hop Superstar (2007). I Make My Own Rules provides readers with access into Smith’s life prior to hip hop stardom. Assuring readers that he is in fact a “healing victim of abuse,” Smith speaks freely about the domestic violence that occurred between his parents James and Ondrea Smith. The abuse in the Smith household continued well into his mother’s ninth month of pregnancy, which may have contributed to the paralysis in Smith’s right arm at birth. Smith witnessed his own father’s rage when James Smith opened fire on Smith’s mother, Ondrea, and her father. Although both his mother and grandfather survived the assault, Smith’s life soon turned violent again when his mother became involved with another abusive man who became his stepfather. Years of enduring abuse from a father and stepfather led Smith to seek an outlet to subvert the pain and frustration in his domestic life. At age sixteen, Smith embarked on his professional hip hop career, believing that he had escaped the domestic trauma that had plagued his developmental years. While achieving success as a hip hop artist, Smith began one of the most difficult battles of his lifetime. In I Make My Own Rules, Smith admits to drug use that began out of his desire to be accepted. As a mature adult, Smith reflects on this stage of his life by telling readers that his use of drugs and alcohol spiraled out of control, barely escaping the point of addiction. In addition to his struggle with drugs and alcohol, Smith discusses his addiction to sex and pornography. Smith makes it clear that casual sex is commonplace within the industry, but his addiction was driven by an emotional void that controlled his actions. Smith notes in his autobiography that the fame and glamour of the hip hop industry failed to provide an adequate environment for finding self. The artist’s ability to end the dangerous cycle of drugs, sex, and alcohol is attributed to his determination to acquire a new love and respect for himself. Smith also acknowledges his wife, Simone, for her continual support throughout their relationship. Now married with three children, Smith has made peace with his past and is optimistic about the future. His triumphs are rooted in his



relationship with God and his desire to maintain strong familial ties. As intended, Smith’s “emotional and spiritual cleansing” is eye opening and real.

Chaunda A. McDavis

ICEBERG SLIM (1918–1992). African American writer whose literary works focused primarily on his experiences as a pimp. Born Robert Lee Maupin and also known as Robert Beck, Iceberg Slim was an important influence on hip-hop artists and rappers such as Ice-T and Ice Cube who adopted their names because of their affinity with his writings. Iceberg possibly got his name by keeping “ice-cold” in a shoot-out, where he did not allow a bullet puncturing his hat to make him afraid. He tells this account at the end of his first work Pimp in Chapter l3. According to Tosh Berman, Iceberg got his name because he never showed any emotion to the prostitutes whom he pimped. Regardless of the origin of his name, his lasting impression on hip hop artists and rappers is seen even in the works of Too Short and Snoop Dogg. Even highly successful rapper and businessman Jay-Z has also referred to himself as “Iceberg Slim” when he has discussed his encounters with women, and Comedian Dave Chappelle has often discussed Iceberg during his stand-up routines. Tosh Berman also comments that Iceberg is the “godfather of blaxploitation. Without him, there would be no Superfly or Shaft” (2007). Born in Chicago, he spent much of his childhood in Milwaukee and Rockford, Illinois, but returned to Chicago as a teenager. His father abandoned him and his mother, and she supported her family as a domestic and also operated a beauty salon. Although many men exploited his mother, drifting in and out of her life, she was able to provide her son with a good life, and he allegedly stated that his mother’s pampering him paved the way for his life as a pimp. Seeing the pimps in his Chicago neighborhood with nice clothes, fancy automobiles, and very attractive prostitutes, he knew early on that this was the life that he wanted for himself. Leaving Chicago briefly to attend Tuskegee Institute (at the same time when Ralph Ellison was there), before dropping out in 1937, he began to engage in criminal activity. At age eighteen, he started to pimp in Chicago’s brutal street life and became very wealthy and successful. Iceberg, in his writing, said that he used as a motive for his pimping women American slavery, when slaves noticed their white owners’ physical attraction to and sexual exploitation of black women. Iceberg pimped women in Chicago but also extended his business to other cities in the Midwest. Iceberg Slim served seven years in jail for different crimes, with time at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, the Cook County House of Corrections, and Waupun State Prison. During one of his prison sentences, he escaped and pimped for thirteen more years before he was recaptured and placed in solitary confinement at Cook County House of Corrections. At age forty-two, Iceberg quit pimping, and Monroe Anderson of the National Observer quoted him as stating about his life as a pimp, “I realized I had been stupid . . . I had the revelation that pimping, after all, was not the most magnificent profession. I had a feeling that I had wasted myself.” This statement was quite compelling coming from a man who reportedly had an I.Q. of 162. Upon his release from prison, Iceberg retired from the streets and moved to Los Angeles, California, to care for his mother who was dying of complications from diabetes. His mother’s death was so traumatic for him that he quit his use of drugs, which he had continued from his


days in prison. In 1962 he began selling insecticide for $75 a week and sold it for four years, during which time he met and married a woman who was twenty years younger. While trying to make a sale to a college professor, he confided in the man that he had been a pimp. The professor offered to work with Iceberg on publishing his book, but Iceberg later discovered that the professor would receive a higher percentage of pay from the book royalties. Slim procured the services of Bentley Morris of Holloway House Publishers, which published his book in 1967. Iceberg, seeking to pursue a normal life, changed his name to Robert Beck, using the surname of a man to whom his mother was once married. Writing his controversial book, Pimp: The Story of My Life (l969), Iceberg examines the business of prostituting women, using language that one would associate with ghetto or urban street life. Although reviews of his book were varied, Pimp was categorized as an African American work that highlighted his personal experiences as a criminal and as an exploiter of women. Pimp was considered a revolutionary work that was often shelved in the same category as autobiographical works by Eldridge Cleaver and Malcolm X. Iceberg Slim died in l992 at the age of 73. See also Iceberg Slim: The Life as Art FURTHER READING Berman, Tosh. “Iceberg Slim.” 22 April 2007. Accessed 2 September 2008. . Muckley, Peter A. Iceberg Slim: The Life As Art. Pittsburgh, PA: Dorrance Publishing, 2003. Slim, Iceberg. Airtight Willie and Me: The Story of Six Incredible Players. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1979. ———. Death Wish: A Story of The Mafia. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1977. ———. Doom Fox. New York: Grove Press, 1998. ———. Long White Con: The Biggest Score in His Life! Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1977. ———. Mama Black Widow: A Story of the South’s Back Underworld. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1969. ———. The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim: Robert Beck’s Real Story. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1971. ———. Trick Baby: The Story of a White Negro. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1967.

Timothy Askew

ICEBERG SLIM: THE LIFE AS ART (2003). Peter A. Muckley’s study of the life and work of African American pulp fiction author Iceberg Slim (born Robert Lee Maupin and later changed to Robert Beck) was self-published in 2003. The book combines elements of biography and literary criticism to show how Slim’s literary career was influenced by his real-life experiences as a hustler and a pimp. Featuring composition histories and close readings of each of Slim’s eight published works, Iceberg Slim is the most comprehensive and knowledgeable study of the author we have to date. According to Muckley, the key to understanding Slim’s literary output is the “Life”— the beliefs, practices, and attitudes that form the hard-nosed ethos of urban, or street, culture. Despite being associated with criminality and extralegal forms of business and affiliation (the “numbers” game, prostitution, etc.), the Life has functioned, for poor blacks, as a practical strategy of surviving the poverty and racism endemic to America’s




ghettos. The Life neither consents to white racist policing of ghetto communities nor conforms to bourgeois models of uplift and respectability; it is, rather, a defiant subculture of “outlaw” self-sufficiency. In Muckley’s view, Iceberg Slim has become the Life’s most celebrated chronicler because his stories reflect the unvarnished reality of those, like himself, who have struggled to overcome hardship in the ghetto through pluck, ingenuity, and sheer determination. The Life has a language of its own: the urban black vernacular. As such, Muckley, who holds a doctorate in African American literature from Temple University, takes care in analyzing Slim’s language for its social and cultural references to the street. He points out that Slim, from Pimp (1967) to the posthumously published Doom Fox (1998), draws from a rich vernacular heritage that includes sermons, raps, and toasts. But Muckley’s critical attention to language also reveals that Slim is an intuitively crafty wordsmith when it comes to more traditional literary devices such as zeugma, anaphora, and chiasmus. Here Muckley believes it is important to recognize the diversity of Slim’s linguistic abilities so that readers engage his books as complex literary objects and not gloss them as mere reportage or entertainment. Among critical studies of African American popular literature, Muckley’s Iceberg Slim stands out for its twinned focus on culture and aesthetics. Moving between the harsh reality of life in the ghetto and the imaginative labor of creative expression, Muckley treats Slim’s oeuvre as both self-reflexive social criticism and provocative literary art, setting it alongside American and European authors ranging from Baldwin and Ellison to Shakespeare and Zola. See also Iceberg Slim FURTHER READING Milner, Christina, and Richard Milner. Black Players: The Secret World of Black Pimps. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1972. Muckley, Peter A. “Iceberg Slim: Robert Beck—A True Essay at a BioCriticism of an Ex-Outlaw Artist.” The Black Scholar, Vol. 26 Issue 1 (1996): 18–25. Wepman, Dennis, Ronald B. Newman, and Murray B. Binderman. The Life: The Lore and Folk Poetry of the Black Hustler. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1976.

Kinohi Nishikawa

INVISIBILITY BLUES: FROM POP TO THEORY (1990). A lesson in black feminism by critic and Professor Michele Wallace. Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory is a compilation of Wallace’s frank and fearlessly honest essays, reviews, and articles previously written and published between 1972 and 1989. Although the twenty-four essays cover a wide range of topics, this four-part collection represents Wallace’s interpretations of literary texts and related theorizations of racist and sexist representations in media and popular culture. Wallace begins the first quarter of Invisibility Blues with semi-autobiographical reflections on childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Her writings convey the profound influence her mother, acclaimed black feminist artist and social activist Faith Ringgold, had on her life and work as a feminist activist and scholar. Wallace’s essays comment on


challenges black feminists face in the effort to organize and act collectively against structural injustices. Wallace’s writings also insist that racism and sexism limit the rights of black women, particularly those who are imprisoned or homeless. She goes on to show that structural white supremacy not only perpetuates the notion that homeless and imprisoned black women are pathological but also causes poor health, including the spread of HIV, in black communities. Wallace’s commentary on the maintenance of negative and creatively limited images of black people, particularly women, in media and popular culture comprises the second and third portions of Invisibility Blues. Wallace illuminates the media’s minimization and silencing of African American achievement. Her writings in this part also consider the cinematic interpretations of texts, such as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Gloria Naylor’s Women of Brewster Place, and explain that the possibilities and alternatives for black women found in texts are often interestingly circumscribed and replaced by stereotypical tropes in films. She also writes about the films Mississippi Burning and Bird and celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jackson. Further, Wallace takes acclaimed independent film maker Spike Lee to task, considering the ways certain artistic choices in films, such as School Daze and She’s Gotta Have It, reinscribe and maintain the social silence and fixity of black women. Wallace considers issues of cultural production in relation to the manipulation of black women writers, such as Zora Neale Hurston and her book Their Eyes Were Watching God. She flushes out the politics of ownership of black women’s texts and challenges the viability of accepting black patriarchal demarcations of black women’s writing in the academy. Taking Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls as an example, Wallace also contends with the often unfair backlash feminist artists receive from established patriarchies. The final quarter of this collection represents Wallace’s effort to create a niche for black feminism and black feminist theory. As a whole, Invisibility Blues calls for revolutionary changes led by black women in order to produce true progress, namely, black women’s social empowerment. See also Wallace, Michele Faith FURTHER READING Wallace, Michele. Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman. New York: Dial Press, 1979. ———. Dark Designs and Visual Culture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.

Christin M. Taylor


J JACKSON, CURTIS JAMES (50 CENT) (1975–). Rapper, Author, Entrepreneur. Curtis James Jackson III, known as 50 Cent, learned his entrepreneurial skills the hard way when he began to deal drugs when he was 12 during the height of the crack epidemic in New York City. He was arrested in 1994 and was sentenced to three to nine years in prison but served six months in a boot camp, where he earned his GED. This encounter with the law was not the end of his troubles by any measure, but he did learn to use his experiences and natural street smarts as well as a genius for marketing to achieve an unprecedented success across several media arenas. 50 Cent’s contributions to hip hop literature involve his memoir, novel, nonfiction book writing, and launch of an imprint with Time Warner called G-Unit Publishing. From Pieces to Weight: Once Upon a Time in Southside Queens (2005) is the memoir of 50 Cent. Given the colorful life that he has led, the book is full of lessons and advice for the second wave of the Hip Hop Generation. From the death of his mother when he was eight to his bonding with drug dealers as his only role models, his memoir is brash and full of promotion of himself. He also uses the memoir as a space to give the “behind the scenes” review of his various feuds with multiple rappers, among them Ja Rule, and the 2000 shooting that left him nearly dead. The memoir served as a publicity piece, and the material in it was used to form the basis of a roman á clef movie: Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Of course, given his personality, he acted in the movie. Driven by his wide street experience, 50 Cent launched an imprint at the start of 2007. He cowrote three novels, which were released simultaneously, with some of the biggest names in hip hop literature: Nikki Turner, Noire, and K Elliott. Death before Dishonor, cowritten with Nikki Turner, is a thriller about an ex-con who is running from the law and comes across a beauty salon manager who assists him in evading the law. Baby Brother, cowritten with Noire, is about seven brothers who make a deathbed promise to their mother to look out for their youngest brother who was headed for Stanford before he was murdered. The brothers then swear to avenge the loss of the only brother who was not headed for the streets. The Ski Mask Way, cowritten with K Elliott, is due to become a movie in 2008. The plot deals with a drug dealer who steals from his employers to get back into his drug dealing life before he has to report to jail. While it may not be as profitable as some of his other ventures, 50 Cent obviously enjoys his turn as a novelist and has become a coauthor and presenter of some of the grittiest hip hop fiction around. 50 Cent also wanted to inspire youth by creating an advice book for the Hip Hop Generation. He admired the work of Robert Greene in The 48 Laws of Power and The 33 Strategies. Greene’s work features theories about how and why people obtain or lose


power and updates Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War and Machiavelli’s The Prince. 50 Cent teamed up with Greene to write a hip hop twist to Greene’s theories about power called The 50th Law. It is due to be released in 2008 by MTV books. Although Greene’s theories may seem alarming to some, it is difficult to argue with 50 Cent’s formula for success in keeping himself front and center in a wide variety of media interests, including his developing career across multiple genres in hip hop literature. FURTHER READING 50 Cent. From Pieces to Weight: Once Upon a Time in Southside Queens. New York: MTV, 2005. “50 Cent.” 15 June 2008. . 50 Cent and Derrick Pledger. The Diamond District. New York: G-Unit, 2008. 50 Cent and K Elliott. The Ski Mask Way. New York: G-Unit, 2007. 50 Cent and K’wan. Blow. New York: G-Unit, 2007. 50 Cent and Mark Anthony. Harlem Heat. New York: G-Unit, 2007. 50 Cent and Metta Smith. Heaven’s Fury. New York: G-Unit, 2007. 50 Cent and Noire. Baby Brother. New York: G-Unit, 2007. 50 Cent and Nikki Turner. Death Before Dishonor. New York: G-Unit, 2007. 50 Cent and Relentless Aaron. Derelict. New York: G-Unit, 2007. 50 Cent and Robert Greene. The 50th Law. New York: MTV, 2008.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

JONES, LISA (1961–). Jones is a playwright, writer, and cultural critic. Lisa Jones, writer, was born Lisa Victoria Chapman, the youngest daughter of writers Hettie Jones and Amiri Baraka. Jones and her sister, art historian Kellie Jones, were raised on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and attended New York City public schools for their early education. In 1979 Jones matriculated at Yale University, where she studied political science and served as writer and editor of two Yale journals: Aurora (oldest collegiate feminist journal) and Ritual and Dissent. In 1983, after completing all Yale course work except her senior thesis, Jones traveled to London, where she worked as a freelance writer for the newspaper City Limits. Upon returning to America, Jones turned her attention to playwriting and performance. The plays Jones wrote during the mid-eighties dealt with issues of identity, politics, miscegenation, and self-loathing. In 1985 Jones wrote “Carmella and King,” a play about a love affair between a pagan deity (Carmella) and a brown man (King) that drives the woman insane. From 1986–1988, Jones was a member of Rodeo Caldonia, a seventeen-woman performance troupe addressing feminist/women issues and other political topics with satiric prose, dance, and song. Jones wrote “Combination Skin,” a play about negative stereotypes, in 1986: Rodeo Caldonia staged the first reading and workshop production of “Combination Skin” under Jones’s direction that fall. “Combination Skin” later opened to enthusiastic reviews at the Company One Theater in Hartford, Connecticut, for a week-long run in 1992. Jones also began collaborating with Spike Lee (whom she met through the black arts scene) on three books about his movies: Uplift the Race: The Construction of School Daze (1988), Do The Right Thing (1989), and Mo’ Better Blues (1990). Though it has not been produced, Lisa also adapted Toni Morrison’s Sula in 1991.




In 1992 Jones submitted her Yale senior thesis and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She subsequently joined Village Voice as a staff writer, where she wrote a provocative monthly column, “Skin Trade,” that explored popular culture and politics. As an observer and critic of hip hop culture, Jones demanded more from hip hop than discourse on misogyny and glorified violence. During this time, Jones also contributed articles to Essence, Vibe, Spin, Mirabella, The New York Times, and the Washington Post. Jones’s work was honored by the Exceptional Merit in Media Award (1992–1993), the Women in Communications (1992 Clarion Award), and a grant from the Experimental Television Center (1992). Jones began collaborating with performer Alva Rogers in 1992 while enrolled in New York University’s Film and Television School. Their first effort was three one-act plays, commissioned by New American Radio. The plays, “Aunt Aida’s Hand” (1992), “Ethnic Cleaning” (1993), and “Stained” (1993), focused on issues such as love, memory, and generational conflicts and were accompanied by innovative hip hop music. She graduated with a M.F.A. in 1993. “Stained” was produced at Company One Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1994 and at Harlem’s Aaron Davis Hall in 1995, directed by Carl Hancock Rux. She won the 1995 Bessie Schomburg Award for her adaptation of “Stained.” Also during this year, Jones published her first solo book, Bulletproof Diva, a collection of previously published and new essays that interrogated intersectional politics, hip hop, and style. Jones also moved into television, writing teleplays for Oprah Winfrey’s production of Dorothy West’s “The Wedding” (which aired on February 22, 1998) and the HBO production of Terry McMillan’s “Disappearing Acts” (which aired on December 9, 2000). Jones married executive Kenneth S. Brown in 2004 and gave birth to a daughter, Margaret Hettie Chapman Brown, in 2005. Jones currently lives in Harlem, New York, and is working on a collection of nonfiction essays. Jones remains committed to telling stories about black people and analyzing hip hop culture. See also Bulletproof Diva: Tales of Race, Sex, and Hair FURTHER READING Harrington, Walt. Crossings: A White Man’s Journey into Black America. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1992. Jones, Lisa. Bulletproof Diva: Tales of Race, Sex, and Hair. New York: Doubleday, 1994. ———. Personal interview. 30 November 2007. Klein, Alvin. “Theater in the 90’s, Questions of Color and Identity,” New York Times 18 Oct.1992: CN15. Lee, Spike and Lisa Jones. Do The Right Thing. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989. ———. Mo’ Better Blues. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990. ———. Uplift the Race: The Construction of School Daze. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988. Perkins, Kathy A. and Roberta Uno, eds. Contemporary Plays by Women of Color: An Anthology. New York: Routledge, 1996. Race, Mary F. Sex and Gender in Contemporary Women’s Theatre: The Construction of “Woman.” Portland, OR: Sussex Academic Press, 1999.

E. Angelica Whitmal

JONES, SARAH (1973–). Hip hop theater artist and poetry slam champion. Sarah Jones is a critically acclaimed poet, performer, and playwright whose work is known for its unflinching and provocative look at identity and power in contemporary


America. In solo shows, Jones transforms herself through body language, facial expression, intonation, and accents into each personality of her multicultural casts. Jones’s performances are influenced by and incorporate elements of hip hop, often portraying characters who are immersed in the culture or whose vocal delivery style resembles that of rap music. In addition to theatrical productions and television appearances, Jones has been featured on albums such as Lyricist Lounge. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Jones was raised in Queens, New York, by her African American father and her mother of European and Caribbean descent. Jones has credited her own experience as someone of multiethnic ancestry in a white-dominated society as an influence on the themes of her creative projects. After attending Bryn Mawr College as a Mellon Minority Fellow for two years, Jones returned to New York. She became involved in the open mike poetry scene, and won the renowned Nuyorican Poets Café Grand Slam poetry championship in 1997. The celebrated poetry of Jones’s Nuyorican days evolved into her first show, Surface Transit, which debuted in 1998 and became the headlining act of the first Hip Hop Theater Festival in 2000. In a series of sketches, Jones portrayed eight New Yorkers, including Pasha, a young Russian widow raising a biracial child; Joey, a violent and homophobic Italian-American cop; and a politicized recovering rapper named Rashid. As the monologues unfold, these disparate personalities are shown to be directly or indirectly tied to one another. Despite the often extreme bigotry of characters who assert their superiority, cross-cultural linkages and entanglements endure. Through personal narratives, Jones depicts each individual with compassion while still offering a strong social critique. In 1999 Jones attracted the attention of the Federal Communications Commission with her poem, “Your Revolution,” a loving tribute to hip hop culture and uncompromising response to misogyny and materialism in commercial rap. The poem that won Jones her 1997 Nuyorican championship became the sharp-tongued diatribe of Surface Transit’s Keisha Rae. Inspired by Gil Scott Heron’s, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Jones’s poem lifts graphic imagery from popular rap songs and subverts their meaning to assert an anti-consumerist and feminist hip hop consciousness. When recorded with collaborator DJ Vadim, the FCC censored the piece, citing indecency. Ironically, the FCC targeted Jones’s poem, rather than the songs her lyrics referenced. Jones became the first artist ever to sue the FCC, and, eventually, it reversed its ban. Three of Jones’s subsequent performances were works that nonprofits and philanthropist foundations commissioned. In 2000, international organization Equality NOW asked the artist to address the oppression of women worldwide in Women Can’t Wait!, another solo performance in which Jones inhabits several characters’ divergent identities. Her next piece, Waking the American Dream (2002), was Jones’s answer to the National Immigration Forum’s call for a performance about the everyday lives of immigrants. The disparity in access to health care was the theme of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation-commissioned piece, A Right to Care (2005). Sarah Jones then authored and starred in Bridge & Tunnel, a piece for which she won a Tony Award in 2006. Expanding her earlier show, Waking the American Dream, in Bridge & Tunnel, Jones shifts into fourteen different roles, each a voice on the margins of multicultural America. The scene of the play, which ran off-Broadway before its Broadway run, is an open mike gathering of collective, I.A.M.A.P.O.E.T.O.O. (Immigrant and Multiculturalist American Poets or Enthusiasts Traveling Toward Optimistic Openness). In a Queens café with colorful graffiti-covered walls, occasional snippets of hip hop music filter in while Jones introduces audiences to characters of international origins and varied backgrounds.




As young Vietnamese-American Bao, Jones explodes into a slam poetry cadence: “This poem is for the Vietnamese history chapter/ My school never had.” In its review, The New York Times praised “the uncanny accuracy with which she portrays the host of immigrants and outsiders who make up this hybrid nation.” Sarah Jones is highly regarded as a promising young performance artist, whose verbal versatility, compassion, and commitment to social justice have garnered prestigious grants, awards, and accolades. See also Jones, Lisa FURTHER READING Jefferson, Margo. “One Woman Cooking Up the Melting Pot.” The New York Times, 20 Feb. 2004, E1. Kalb, Jonathan. “Advertisements for Myself: Sarah Jones’s Bridge & Tunnel.” The Nation, 22 Mar. 2004, 43–45.

Vanessa Floyd

JUICE (PARAMOUNT PICTURES, USA, 1992). This film is early hip hop cinema in that it deals with the cultural and socioeconomic plight of the first generation reared on hip hop and stars Tupac Shakur. The basic tenets of hip hop cinema involve the good black kid vs. the one made evil by circumstance, an urban landscape, and the presence of rap and hip hop artists. Juice certainly embodies all three. Starring Tupac Shakur and Omar Epps, the film also features cameos by Fab Five Freddy, Queen Latifah, Dr. Dre, and Treach from Naughty by Nature. The film is the story of a group of young men who spend their days brushing up against trouble. The bad boy of the group, Bishop (Tupac Shakur), needlessly kills a man during a robbery and threatens the other boys to ensure their silence. Bishop ends up killing another of the Wrecking Crew, as they call themselves. Because Q (Omar Epps) is the member of the group least afraid of Bishop, Bishop sets him up to look like the killer of yet another young black male. As the story ensues, Bishop and Q end up fighting on a rooftop, and although Q tries to save Bishop, the latter falls to his death. Juice is written and directed by Earnest Dickerson, whose body of work includes the television series The Wire (2002); Bones (2006), starring Snoop Dogg; and Never Die Alone (2004), featuring DMX. Never Die Alone is an adaptation of a Donald Goines novel.

Tarshia L. Stanley

JUST ANOTHER GIRL ON THE I.R.T. (MIRAMAX, USA, 1993). An important film depicting the coming-of-age of a young black girl in Brooklyn amidst the backdrop of rap and hip hop culture. Leslie Harris wrote, directed, and produced this 1992 film chronicling this coming-ofage story of a young African American woman in Brooklyn. It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize and won Special Jury Recognition at the Sundance Film Festival. Among the earliest feature films directed by African American women—the first is Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991)—it deals honestly with such topics as sex, teen pregnancy, working class poverty, and race and class tensions. The film was made independently for


only $130,000, less than one percent of the cost of a then typical Hollywood budget, and uses its small-scale location shooting and handheld camera work to its advantage. It maintains a look and feel of realism within commonplace youth situations of friendship, romance, and difficult choices in the inner city without veering to the sensational depictions of violence and drug use in better known films such as Boyz N The Hood (1991), Juice (1992), and Menace II Society (1993). Ariyan A. Johnson plays Chantel, a bright, outspoken high school student seeking to skip her senior year and head straight to college, but the school counselor requires that she stay in high school to gain maturity and learn to control her temper. Her relationships with her friends, boyfriend, and parents take a turn when she becomes infatuated with Tyrone (Kevin Thigpen). Their relationship leads to sex and her unplanned pregnancy, and Chantel’s long denial and then concealment of it culminates in one of the most gripping and realistic scenes of childbirth ever filmed. The choices, good and bad, that Chantel makes before and after the pregnancy make the film a rich character study. The main figure is at once just another girl on the rapid transit of the film’s title and a gripping, imperfect character rising to challenges that are not strictly black or urban but essentially human. The film demonstrates that emotional maturity does not necessarily coincide with adulthood but is instead the result of making decisions in the face of adult situations such as poverty, sex, pregnancy, and parenthood. The story focuses on Chantel, but the setting in Brooklyn is populated with characters and circumstances of everyday urban life. Taking the subway and interacting with her white employer and upper-class customers at a specialty grocery cause the main character to vary her language use in order to present herself as she sees fit. Shopping in the mall, gossiping with friends, and challenging her teacher, parents, and boss stage Chantel’s selfassertion, her interest in both fitting in and rising above generational poverty. The challenges of self-presentation and authenticity are the core of the film. Even the main character’s occasional direct address to the camera does not break the illusion of truth in the story but enhances its realism, adding to its documentary feel. FURTHER READING Adjaye, Joseph K. and Adrianne R. Andrews. Language, Rhythm and Sound: Black Popular Cultures into the Twenty-First Century. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997.

Peter Caster


K KELLEY, ROBIN D. G. (1962–). Historian of twentieth-century African American life and culture. Robin D. G. Kelley’s experiences growing up in public housing and his mother’s positive outlook led him to imagine a better world. In his book Yo Mama’s Disfunktional he describes swapping “yo mamma” jokes with his peers, a play on words among some African Americans known as “shootin the dozens.” The phrase “the dozens” refers to the group purchase of African slaves considered deficient by buyers and sellers. As a popular pastime in urban cities, African Americans refashioned the negative connotation into a teasing dis. Youth use these metaphoric forms of expression as a bulwark against poverty, crime, police brutality, and other ills of city life. These urban cultural experiences followed Kelley throughout his academic training and ultimately shaped his life work. He left the inner city and began his life in academia, finishing in 1987 with a Ph.D. in American History from UCLA. His work provides some of the earliest critiques of hip-hop along with contextual narratives that inform listeners on conditions that birthed this developing cultural expression. Kelley’s first book, Hammer and Hoe, examines the lives of African Americans who used the Communist Party to combat racism. In telling the story of Communist Party activism among poor blacks in Birmingham and white Alabamians’ resistance to black progress, this book reveals the tensions surrounding life for blacks in urban and rural areas of the South. These tensions demonstrated the sharp color line that largely defined the nature of social interaction between blacks and whites in the twentieth century. African Americans collaborated under the Communist umbrella in spite of the consequences of their membership because of the alternative vision it offered. Children born to this generation of activists would later contribute to the birth of hip hop. Kelley continued to focus on the ways blacks altered expressions of black culture as political tools in Race Rebels, his most renowned publication to date. As a labor history told through the lives of everyday people, Race Rebels explores black working class communities and the tactics they developed to ease social, political, and economic restraints on black life. Because Kelley draws from his earlier works, this text allows for a broad look at nontraditional forms of resistance shaped by mostly poor African Americans. In terms of hip hop, Kelley argues for the need to revise narrow conceptions of political activism to include cultural forms of expression such as gansta rap. Rather than taking rap lyrics literally, he encourages listeners to understand rappers’ use of metaphorical analysis as a way to give voice to young urban blacks while raising awareness of inner-city life. In Freedom Dreams, Kelley again describes hip hop’s relation to larger trends in African American history. The “vision of an earthbound utopia” presented in earlier forms of hip


hop pointed to the capacity of African Americans to imagine a world vastly different from everyday realities (2002, 34). Kelley argues for a more complex understanding of hip hop as a continuation of earlier black cultural forms with added technology. Since hip hop is both an art form and a political tool, Kelley argues that “what counts more than the story is the “storytelling”—“an emcee’s verbal facility on the mic, the creative and often hilarious use of puns, metaphors, [and] similes” (2002, 37). Hip hop’s main contribution to black culture, then, is its dual artistic and political nature. Kelley’s feminist leanings result in attention to the oft overlooked contributions and historical roles of black women. However, he tends to focus more fully on the thoughts and actions of black men. In addition to his many novels, Kelley has authored a plethora of articles related to his interest in African American history and culture, working-class populations, and African people worldwide. His latest project continues in the tradition of African American culture and alternative forms of expression in its focus on legendary jazz artist Thelonious Monk. FURTHER READING Kelley, Robin D. G. Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2002. ———. Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1990. ———. Into the Fire: African Americans since 1970. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. ———. Race Rebels: Culture, Politics and the Black Working Class. New York: The Free Press, 1996. ———. Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1997.

Christina L. Davis

KENNEDY, ERICA (1970–). Erica Kennedy published her first novel, Bling, in 2004. The satirical novel offers an inside look at the glamorous hip hop lifestyle. In a 2004 review in The New York Times Book Review, Sia Michel proclaimed, “Hip-hop gossip lit makes its inevitable arrival. Kennedy’s novel has hip hop artists and fans alike trying to decode the true identity of the various characters.” Kennedy’s parents divorced when she was ten years old, and she moved with her mother to an all-white neighborhood in the suburbs of New York City. Later Kennedy attended Stuyvesant, a well-known public high school in New York. As a teenager, she was introduced to the world of hip hop by a boyfriend who was a music producer. At 17 she met hip hop impresario Russell Simmons and later befriended his then girlfriend and future wife, Kimora Lee. After graduation from Sarah Lawrence, Kennedy worked in fashion, music, and public relations before pursuing a writing career in 1998. She interviewed numerous hip hop stars for various fashion and entertainment magazines including Vibe, US Weekly, and In Style. Kennedy’s debut novel, Bling, was published by Miramax books. The publishers also purchased the film rights to the novel. Kennedy received immediate critical acclaim for the novel. The title comes from the phrase “bling-bling,” originally hip hop slang for diamonds. The term evolved to represent the hip hop stars’ penchant for the glamorous, extravagant, and opulent lifestyle. The novel is divided into five phases, cleverly called




“Discs.” The 57 short chapters are each titled after the hip hop songs that have defined a generation. The novel focuses on hip hop mogul and self-made man Lamont Jackson and his musical protégé Mimi. Born Marie-Jean Castiglione, Mimi gets a radical makeover, and Lamont transforms the biracial singer into a “hip hop R&B princess.” The story follows Mimi as she learns the music business and becomes a fixture on the New York hiphop scene. The colorful cast of characters includes Mimi’s wild child best friend Lena, image consultant and former model Vanessa, A&R rep Daryl, and Lamont’s devoted assistant Imani, and his mother, affectionately called “Mama.” At its core, Bling is the classic rags-to-riches, coming-of-age story. As Mimi struggles to maintain a sense of self in a world of flash and glitz, she must battle the pressures of fame. With Lamont pulling her strings, she laments that she feels more like a puppet than an artist. Eventually, after personal highs and lows, Mimi realizes the emptiness of the life dream she has achieved. At the time of publication rumors swirled and several names were bandied about regarding who the characters in Bling were based on. Kennedy maintains that although the novel is inspired by her experiences, the characters are creations of her vivid imagination. In a Newsweek article, Kennedy was quoted as saying that any rumor suggesting otherwise “diminishes my skills as a fiction writer.” FURTHER READING Bush, Vanessa. “Review.” Booklist, 15 May 2004, 58. Donahue, Deirdre. “Review.” USA Today, 29 June 2004, D6. Gregory, Deborah. “Review.” Essence, June 2004, 138. Kennedy, Erica. Bling. New York: Miramax, 2004.

Kimberly R. Oden

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORPORATION. A prolific publisher of urban or street literature. Founded in 1974 by Walter Zaccharius, Kensington Publishing is the largest independent publisher of fiction in the United States. As the other major publishing houses have been acquired by larger corporations through the years, Kensington fancies itself a “David and Goliath” publisher of literature ranging from romance, to true crime, to erotica, and to what it calls alternative health. Kensington began to distinguish itself as a company whose catalogue dictated the trends. Many of its books mimic those by distinguished and successful authors, and much has been reckoned about Kensington as a publisher of quality books. In recent years Kensington has established a loyal fan base by producing books according to niche markets. This is one of the reasons Kensington has become a leading publisher of African American and urban or street literature. Kensington’s imprints Daufina and Vibe Books are readily recognizable as having published texts that cater to African American and hip hop audiences. Kensington recently teamed with Urban Books, a company founded by prolific urban literature author Carl Weber, to form the imprint Urban Soul, which targets African American women. Women readers make up more than half of Kensington’s audience. In 2008 Kensington acquired Holloway House Publishing. Holloway made a name for itself as the publisher of African American urban literature by Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim.

KNOW WHAT I MEAN?: REFLECTIONS ON HIP HOP FURTHER READING Bookjobs. 2 June 2008. . Hoover Inc. 2 June 2008. . Kensington Books. 2 June 2008. . Reid, Calvin. “Kensington Acquires Holloway House Backlist.” Publishers Weekly (June 2008).

Tarshia L. Stanley

KNOW WHAT I MEAN?: REFLECTIONS ON HIP HOP (2007). In the collection of interviews that comprise his fifteenth book, Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop, Michael Eric Dyson draws on the rhetorical charisma and academic rigor that have made him both a prominent public intellectual and a university professor at Georgetown. In its construction, the book attempts to approximate the form and flow of hip hop itself; the book is comprised of “tracks,” not chapters, and also features an “Intro” written by Jay-Z and an “Outro” by Nas. According to Dyson, “Hip hop scholarship must strive to reflect the form it interrogates, offering the same features as the best of hip hop: seductive rhythms, throbbing beats, intelligent lyrics, soulful samples, and a sense of joy that is never exhausted in one sitting” (2007, xxvii). Yet as much as the book exists as a critical celebration of the linguistic inventiveness and rich musical tradition of hip hop, Dyson also consistently wrestles with the negative attributes of its music and culture: misogyny, materialism, violence, and drugs. Dyson begins the book by firing back at critics, of both his work and hip hop in general, who have argued that hip hop fosters a harmful image of black authenticity and identity. Dyson’s argument for the sustained attention to hip hop is twofold. First, he reminds us that most great art serves to provoke the sensibilities of a culture: “art is supposed to get in our faces and not simply soothe or reassure us” (2007, xxiii). In the same way that the bebop movement in jazz sought to counter the appropriation of black expression by white musicians and producers, the best hip hop works provide a voice for marginal urban youth who are often spoken about—and not spoken to—within mainstream media. In addition, Dyson also argues that critics of hip hop fail to account for the intricacy of the lyrics, which often adopt a complex system of literary and artistic conventions, including parody, hyperbole, and kitsch. Dyson locates the ghetto as “an intellectual organizing principle of expression” for hip hop (2007, 12), but the listener must remember that what may seem like “realism” in the lyrics actually depends on a set of literary and narrative devices that achieve a desired effect. To be able to bring an image of the ghetto to life in hip hop does not depend on having lived there but instead relies on tapping into the creativity that comes out of it. At the same time, Dyson routinely acknowledges the danger that comes with the perpetuation of certain images within hip hop. For Dyson, much of the misogyny and aggression of hip hop stems from the systematic abuse, neglect, and denigration of black bodies within a larger cultural context. Dyson maintains that a violent vision of masculinity is a part of American mythology in general, which has given a privileged status to outlaws, rebels, and outcasts—to say nothing of the popularity of violent sports such as football and boxing. Within this context, the subjugation of women in hip hop is still entirely reprehensible but can be read to exist within a larger social pattern that must be questioned along with any criticism of hip hop. Drawing on the national debate about the racist remarks of radio host




Don Imus in 2007, Dyson interrogates the way in which the black female body in America has never really “belonged just to her,” but is part of a system of symbolic ownership that includes the history of slavery, the church, the media, and women’s liberation (2007, 143). Similarly, Dyson suggests that the glorification of prison life in certain strands of hip hop can be read to draw on a set of cultural messages in which black men are lead to believe that there are few available options other than prison: “a lot of us are told that’s where we’re going to end up. So it doesn’t take much imagination to conjure prison as an alternative home” (2007, 16). Above all, Dyson stresses that hip hop endures as a vibrant and viable instrument for black cultural expression, and as rappers become more conscious of the problems that exist within hip hop itself, the influence of the music will become increasingly pronounced. Although hip hop cannot be a substitute for politics and political action, Dyson’s book professes hope that hip hop will continue to foster inspiration for social change and renewal. See also Dyson, Michael Eric FURTHER READING Dyson, Michael Eric. Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2007.

David B. Olsen

KRUSH GROOVE (WARNER BROS, USA, 1985). A hip hop cult classic film, Krush Groove is one of a handful of films in the 1980s which served to chronicle the history of rap and hip hop culture. The loosely disguised biopic of media mogul Russell Simmons’s rise to mega producer and promoter of hip hop culture, Krush Groove starred many of rap and hip hop’s super groups of the 1980s. Under the direction of Michael Schultz, with a screen play by Ralph Farquhar, the film virtually chronicles the rise of Russell Simmons via a character named Russell Walker, played by Blair Underwood. In the film Russell Walker is CEO of the Krush Goove record label, which can’t afford to press the records of its new stars Run DMC. Russell borrows the money from a loan shark, and the drama and comedy ensue. Boasting talent such as Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, The Fat Boys, Sheila E, and the Beastie Boys, the film was a financial success, though not without some backlash from hip hop purists. Michael Shultz directed a number of films with African American thematic content and casts, including Car Wash (1975), Cooley High (1976), and Which Way is Up (1977). FURTHER READING Krush Groove. . .

Tarshia L. Stanley

L LADIES FIRST: REVELATIONS OF A STRONG WOMAN (1999). This is the inspirational memoir of rapper Queen Latifah (Dana Owens). Originally published in 1999, Queen Latifah’s memoir is her reflection on the major events in her life. Ranging from her parents’ divorce to the death of her brother, the rapper turned actress, spokesmodel, and producer shares the insight she has gained from the most difficult moments in her life. Born in New Jersey in 1970, Queen Latifah examines the lessons she learned as an athletic girl who was called “tomboy” because she wanted to play with the boys. She also talks about the difficulty she had after losing her brother in a motorcycle accident. Her subsequent bout with depression and drugs and her run-in with the law are all discussed in an attempt to provide strength by example to her readers. Many critics found the book disappointing because it was not a tell-all memoir. Although Latifah shared many of her struggles, she spent little time discussing her career or the rumors surrounding her sexuality. The memoir was the perfect opportunity to reveal her ruminations of the position she occupies as a female rapper, but Queen chose instead to rely on euphemisms and concentrate on encouraging her audience.

Tarshia L. Stanley

THE LAST POETS. Poetry collective, proto-hip hop performance poets. The Last Poets—originally David Nelson, Gylan Kain, Felipe Luciano, and Abiodun Oyewole—came together May 19, 1968, to recite poetry for a celebration of Malcolm X’s birthday. Nelson, Kain, and Luciano soon left the group (though they continued to perform, appearing in the film Right On!), and Oyewole was joined by Umar Bin Hassan, Jalal Nuriddin (then known as Alafia Pudim), and percussionist Nilija. This core group recorded the seminal album The Last Poets (1970). Disagreements led to the departure of Oyewole, leaving Bin Hassan, Nuriddin, and Nilija to record 1971’s This Is Madness. Bin Hassan eventually left and was replaced by Suliaman El Hadi, following which elements of jazz and funk were added to the group’s sparse percussion-backed spoken word (to become what they called “jazzoetry”). Various incarnations of the group have emerged and disappeared since the mid-70s, with strife among members and occasional albums. Nuriddin’s and El Hadi’s poems appeared as The Last Poets in 1992’s Vibes from the Scribes. Poetry and autobiographical statements by Oyewole and Bin Hassan were published in 1996 as The Last Poets On a Mission.



The Last Poets were born in the act of performance, which combined poetry reading with percussion, leading to a highly rhythmic, chant-like recitation. It is impossible to separate the Poets’ verse from its oral delivery, which is why the first two albums must be considered the original documents of the Poets’ literary output (as spoken word records) as well as experiments in a new kind of urban music that count among the very first examples of hip hop. In this way the two volumes of Last Poets verse that appeared in the 1990s are better read as transcriptions of these original performances than as texts from which these performances originate. The printed text cannot reproduce the kinds of simultaneous voicings that are ubiquitous in the Poets’ performances, such as in the poem “Run Nigger,” whose first lines—“I understand that time is running out”— are delivered over the repeated recitation “tick tock.” This technique is expanded on in This is Madness, where recapitulated “chants”—first introduced as separate tracks— serve as the accompaniment for syncopated poetic recitation (e.g., “Black Is Chant,” “Black Is”). Such repetition is characteristic of the Poets’ verse, which deals with a variety of urban experiences and heterosexual male desire. Performance is intimately connected with the Poets’ main theme, the need for revolution to kindle African American consciousness and social change (e.g., “When the Revolution Comes,” “Niggers Are Scared of Revolution”). Performance poetry becomes a means to provoke reflection on the necessity of Black Nationalism and revolutionary action (e.g., “Wake Up Niggers”). Ultimately, poetry itself becomes an act of revolution, the poet and revolutionary being one and the same. See also Black Poetry FURTHER READING The Last Poets. The Last Poets. Douglas Records, 1970. ———. This is Madness. Douglas Records, 1971. ———. Vibes from the Scribes: Selected Poems. Trenton: Africa World Press, 1992. Oyewole, Abiodun and Umar Bin Hassan. The Last Poets on a Mission: Selected Poems and a History of The Last Poets. New York: Henry Holt, 1996.

Samuel Frederick

LET THAT BE THE REASON (2001). A novel written by Vickie M. Stringer while she was incarcerated for seven years for money laundering and drug trafficking. After being freed from jail, Stringer sent her manuscript to twenty-six publishing houses but was rejected by all. As a result, Stringer self-published her first novel, Let That Be The Reason, with $100 donations from family and friends. In 2001, 1,500 copies were published by Stringer and sold for $10 each. Stringer sold her novel at the car wash, to beauty salons, and from the trunk of her car. In 2002, Stringer was offered $50,000 by UpStream Publications to publish her novel. It sold over 100,000 copies and made Essence’s bestsellers list. The success paved the way for Stringer’s books, Dirty Red and Imagine This, and Triple Crown Publications, which is a leading hip-hop publishing house founded by Stringer. In addition, the novel allowed Stringer’s Triple Crown Publications to make a major contribution to the hip-hop literary genre by publishing A Hustler’s Wife by Nikki Turner and Gangsta by K’wan. The novel is based on Stringer’s street experiences. It is the intersection between fiction and fact about Stringer’s life, but most importantly Stringer hoped her depiction of the


consequences and repercussions of engaging in criminal activities would discourage readers from this lifestyle. The novel begins with Pamela Xavier, owner of L-O-Quent Hair Salon—a high-end establishment servicing an elite clientele. The reader is also introduced to Chino, co-owner of L-O-Quent Hair Salon, drug dealer boyfriend of Pamela, and her son’s father. As the novel progresses, Chino abandons Pamela and their child. As Pamela’s personal relationship quickly comes to an end, so does her profession as a hair stylist. Chino’s absence coupled with financial restraints causes her to close her salon. Hopeless and penniless, Pamela turns to her alter ego Carmen to help her cope with her troubles. Pamela names herself Carmen to establish her call girl service and drug trafficking business. The alternating names act as an apt metaphor for Pamela’s double life. For Pamela, the modification of her name coincides with the transformation of her life. Pamela goes from a respected hair stylist and mother to the criminal conscious Carmen. Stringer’s novel starts off slowly, but like a pot of water it gets hot and eventually boils over, becoming more intense as you read it. The reentry of Chino leaves Carmen torn between staying in a life of crime as a drug hustler—to please Chino, who needs her to help him link up with criminal minded Dragos—or leaving to start a new life with her son and new boyfriend Delano. As the novel comes to a close, the reader learns that Carmen runs out of choices, and the law determines her fate. FURTHER READING Smith, Dinitia. “Unorthodox Publisher Animates Hip-Hop Lit.” The New York Times, 9 Sept. 2004, E6. Stringer, Vickie M. Dirty Red. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007. ———. Imagine This. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006. Stringer, Vickie M., and Mia McPherson. How to Succeed in the Publishing Game. Columbus, OH: Triple Crown Publications, 2005.

Ava Williams

LETTERS TO A YOUNG BROTHER: MANIFEST YOUR DESTINY (2006). Hill Harper’s manifesto to young African American men. Actor and star of television’s CSI: NY, Hill Harper made his debut in the hip hop literary genre with the publication of his first book, Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny. Published in 2006 by Gotham Books, Letters to a Young Brother became an inspirational best seller and winner of an award for Best Books for Young Adults 2007 by the American Library Association. Inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letter to a Young Poet, Harper’s inspirational text draws on Rilke’s informal approach to mentoring. The Austrian poet’s text provides insight and motivation in his responses to ten letters written by a student in 1903 seeking advice and guidance on poetry and life. Although written well before Harper’s time, Rilke’s willingness to cultivate the next generation of scholars and artists served as a blueprint for Letters to a Young Brother. In Letters to a Young Brother, Harper engages in an important dialogue concerning the complex terrain of African American male identity and masculinity. His focus on the issues that often complicate the road to success for many African American male youths is structured to spark conversation about life choices being faced by the Hip Hop Generation. By addressing issues such as premarital sex, materialism, education, mentoring, quality friendships, establishing strong familial ties, and career goals, Harper’s




inspirational messages extend themselves beyond socio-economic barriers. The honest and forthright response to letters written by today’s African American youths creates a universal appeal that easily reaches young men throughout the black diaspora. As a member of the Hip Hop Generation, Harper presents himself as a successful yet accessible brother whose humility and passion for shaping the next generation continues to be a priority. In the introduction to Letters to a Young Brother, Harper reflects on the multiplicity of the African American male experience as he shares details about his own family history. During this reflection Harper emphasizes the importance of support systems, determination, and black male role models. Harper acknowledges his grandfathers, Harold E. Hill and Harry D. Harper Sr., as two of his greatest role models. Both Harold E. Hill and Harry D. Harper Sr. overcame racial and economic obstacles in order to achieve professional goals. Harold E. Hill (Doc Hill), a self-educated pharmacist, became the owner of Piedmont Pharmacy in 1936 in Seneca, South Carolina. Harry D. Harper (Doc Harper) became a successful family practitioner in Fort Madison, Iowa, in the 1920s. Despite the “privileged” label some would attach to his background, Harper addresses the reality of the pain that one can experience as a result of abandonment. Harper relives the painful childhood memories of his mother’s departure and the process toward rebuilding the bond between them. The use of Harper’s family history serves as a motivational lesson for readers. He is careful to explain to youths that one’s past inevitably informs current self-perception but that it should not deter future possibilities. Written from a layman’s point of view, Harper speaks directly to young black men by joining their discourse community. By speaking to young men as a friend and advisor, Harper engages in difficult conversation without intimidation or didacticism. Additionally, Harper enlists the help of fellow celebrities and mentors to help answer some of the most difficult questions received via email from young black men. Harper’s positive reinforcement team includes AIDS activist Phil Wilson, NFL star Curtis Martin, Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree, actresses Gabrielle Union and Sanaa Lathan, Senator Barack Obama, and hip hop artist Nas to name a few. Ultimately, Harper promotes education as the key to success and stronger understanding of self. As a graduate of Harvard Law School with three Ivy League degrees among his accomplishments, Harper is a great role model for African American male youth. His messages of hope and inspiration are authentic and will continue to inspire future generations.

Chaunda A. McDavis

LIFE AND DEF: SEX, DRUGS, MONEY, AND GOD (2002). Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, and God is an autobiography by Russell Simmons with Nelson George. The novel discusses Simmons’s childhood and his experiences as a manager and producer of hip-hop music, comedy, and fashions. Russell Simmons was born in 1957 in Jamaica, a part of Queens in outer New York City. He is the second of three sons in his family, and both his parents were graduates of Howard University in Washington, D.C. His father was a teacher who eventually became a professor of black history at Pace University, and his mother worked for the New York City Parks Department as a recreation director. The Simmons family moved to the Hollis neighborhood of Queens when Simmons was eight years old. Their home was near a


corner that was a known meeting place for drug users and their dealers. His older brother, Danny, influenced by the environment, became a heroin addict. Ironically, Russell’s first attempt at entrepreneurship would be selling marijuana and later fake cocaine. In order to avoid the fates of his brother and friends (death or prison), Russell looked for other less dangerous ways to earn a living, and ultimately, hip-hop music became his salvation. He started promoting and producing rappers and hip-hop groups at a young age. He was also passionate about the culture and the hip-hop phenomenon that was developing in the community. Russell overcame racial, economic, social, and critical barriers to achieve financial success: a history-changing rap record label, Def Jam (co-founded with Rick Rubin); a clothing label, Phat Farm; and an artist management company, Rush Productions. Simmons is also responsible for the launch of Def Comedy Jam, the long-running hit television series that introduced a new generation of black comedic stars to America. These comedians include Martin Lawrence, Bill Bellamy, Bernie Mac, and Chris Rock. Simmons made an indelible mark on popular culture by taking previously marginalized music into the pop mainstream. Under Simmons’s savvy tutelage, Def Jam and Rush Communications helped make LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Slick Rick, and Public Enemy into household names. In this autobiographic novel, Simmons also gives accounts of the unglamorous side of the music industry, and he recounts his success as a black businessman, beginning with his crucial partnership with co-Def Jam head Rick Rubin. Simmons’s business successes and personal philosophies keep him grounded. He is not only a business entrepreneur but also focused on how to give back to the community. Russell Simmons is one of the most innovative and influential figures in modern American business and culture. He is known as the godfather of hip hop and has brought hip-hop music, along with the urban culture it represents, to the American mainstream. FURTHER READING Gueraseva, Stacy. Def Jam, Inc.: Russell Simmons, Rick Rubin, and the Extraordinary Story of the World’s Most Influential Hip Hop Label. New York: One World Ballantine, 2005.

Beatrice Nibigira Kelley

LIFE IS NOT A FAIRY TALE (2005). This is the memoir of rhythm and blues singer Fantasia Barrino. Born on June 30, 1984, in High Point, North Carolina, African American author and singer Fantasia Barrino is most famous as the third winner of American Idol, the TV reality show. In Life is Not a Fairy Tale Barrino tells the story of her upbringing in a poor but religious family. The narrative depicts the dreams she had for her life and their subsequent interruption by illiteracy, abuse, rape, and the birth of a daughter. In addition, the narrative depicts her insecurities and self-consciousness about her physical attributes. The memoir ends with Barrino’s maturation and clarity about being a good mother and entertainer and additionally encourages literacy, education, and perseverance for all young people. Life is Not a Fairy Tale recounts Barrino’s childhood singing in church with her family: “I have been singing since I was five years old.” Her entire family had aspirations of singing professionally, but a badly interpreted contract signed by Barrino’s father, Joseph, ended the family’s hopes. Barrino credits the strong Christian beliefs of her family seeing her through the tougher times in life. The difficult moments included dropping out of high




school, an unplanned pregnancy, living in government subsidized housing, stealing to support herself and her child, and her subsequent struggle to earn her GED. Barrino declares that her voice is her medium of communication and she used it to speak to the world when her past, particularly her lack of a high school education and her status as a single parent, haunted and threatened her chances of completing the American Idol competition. Despite some questioning of her ability to be a role model to the younger generation, Barrino persisted. The turning point came when her rendition of George Gershwin’s classic “Summertime,” from the 1937 opera Porgy and Bess, endeared her to the audience. On May 26, 2004, after a documented 65 million votes were cast, Barrino, in a final competition with Diana DeGarmo, became an American Idol. Currently, Barrino dedicates her life to encouraging others to live their dreams. A major part of her platform is the importance of literacy and education. She is focused on encouraging teenagers and individuals with low self-esteem. In 2004 Barrino released her debut album, Free Yourself, on the J-Records label. “I Believe,” her debut single, rated number one on Billboard magazine’s 100 singles chart. Barrino also appeared as the principle character Celie in the Broadway rendition of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. FURTHER READING Fantasia. Life is Not a Fairy Tale. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Tolu O. Idowu

LITERARY FICTION. Literary fiction is high quality fiction writing according to Western, traditional modes of interpretation. Often distinguished from popular and genre fiction, literary fiction aesthetics encompass a range of styles from various narrative structures, astute erudition, eloquent prose, and allegory. However, a fictional work’s literary merit is not limited to these techniques but includes an amalgamation of precursor influence or intertextuality and stands the test of literary touchstone or canonical inclusion. According to prominent literary critic Harold Bloom, as noted in The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, William Shakespeare and Dante Alighieri are the major influences for the development of Western literature. Bloom supports this claim by noting Shakespeare’s preeminence as a literary figure and also suggesting that Shakespeare is the representation of literary originality, which places him at the head of the canon. In Bloom’s opinion, Shakespeare’s work is the touchstone by which other writers are tested for literary merit. Bloom asserts the importance of time-tested literary merit by a writer’s influence and canonical inclusion and objects to “social” literary theories, such as Feminist, Marxist, and Post Colonial criticism, that seek to open up the literary canon to what Bloom considers undeserving texts. Despite Bloom’s claims, social literary criticism also illuminates aesthetically valuable texts. For example, Womanist theory, as developed by Alice Walker in the text In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Prose, is a more inclusive feminist theory that recognizes not only the system of patriarchy in Western society and Western letters, but also the system of racism and classism that exists in society and texts as well. In practice, Womanist theory rereads canonized texts with a more inclusive feminist gaze and/or rediscovers important yet underrepresented texts written by women for inclusion into the literary canon. A work of fiction that has benefited from a Womanist reading is Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were


Watching God, which is noted for its use of African American folklore, biblical allusions, blues aesthetics, and African American dialect. Prior to the publication of “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens,” Walker published an article entitled “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston,” using the rediscovery or “re-search” proponents of Womanist theory and revitalized interest in her literary “mother’s” works. The overall literary merit of Their Eyes Were Watching God, affirmed by Bloom as well, demonstrates the benefit of a social re-reading of texts but also emphasizes the importance of a precursor’s influence and the possibility of canonical inclusion through Walker’s own Pulitzer Prize winning literary development. Aesthetic techniques, intertextual originality, and exemplary touchstone excellence are ways to mark literary quality, and these features are often the basis for the honor of prestigious literary awards. Notable prestigious literary awards, such as the International Nobel Prize for Literature, the Pulitzer Prize for American fiction writers, and The Booker Prize for writers of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth, are awarded to works of high literary merit. Although there has been some criticism about awarding certain writers over others, a notable standard of literary craftsmanship is honored by the three literary prize committees. The winners of these awards are benefited by high critical acclaim, international recognition, and monetary awards, all which signify their positions as serious writers. Furthermore, there is a broader visibility of the work that can lead to inclusion in academic syllabi and scholarly publication, front page reviews in The New York Times, a reissue of the text with critical accolades, and excerpts featured in anthologies, which all can lead to the works’ canonical inclusion. Perhaps one of the most notorious critiques of award winning and critically acclaimed literary fiction in recent history is B.R. Myers “A Reader’s Manifesto,” first published in the July/August 2001 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. In his declaration, Myers debases the state of contemporary literary fiction, particularly the works of writers Annie Proulx, Don DeLillo, Paul Auster, and David Guterson and the later work of Cormac McCarthy, and disesteems the literary establishment’s admiration for what he considers bad writing and genre fiction convoluted by slow, prolix, unintelligible prose. Myers’s article received mixed reviews, but the response was mostly negative criticism concerning the writers he chose to repudiate, the passages from the novels examined, and the neglect of acknowledging well known highly skilled contemporary literary fiction writers. However, his exposition demonstrated that though our culture is immersed in fragmented oral and visual stimuli, where popular novels are becoming ever more cinematic stylistically, there is still a demand for intellectually stimulating literary writing. Similarly, the resurgence of African American letters interchangeably called hip hop literature, urban fiction, and “ghetto lit” has had its share of criticism concerning the lack of literary merit in many of its works. In the article “It’s Urban, It’s Real, But Is This Literature?,” mystery author Walter Mosley advocates reading ghetto lit, though he sets apart this category of fiction from more literary fiction such as Mark Twain’s novels or his own. On the other hand, writer and publisher Victoria Stringer repeatedly claims that the fiction she publishes is hip hop literature because of its resemblances to hip hop music. As represented by Triple Crown publication’s catalog of titles, such as Whore, A Hustler’s Son, A Project Chick, Gangsta, A Hustler’s Wife, and Crack Head, Stringer’s assessment is predominately based on rap’s current saturation with street life. However, in the Backlist article “Two Scholars, Two Books, One Hip Hop,” hip hop critic Gwendolyn Pough notes that hip hop literature also models the writings of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines. Although many writers of hip hop literature do intertextualize themes of Iceberg




Slim’s and Goines’s writings, other authors have more literary predecessors. Black British writer Diran Adebayo, whose first novel Some Kind of Black was long listed for the Booker Prize, intertextualizes Shakespeare and the urban philosophy of Wu-Tang Clan and alludes to the Old Testament and West African Yoruba tradition in his second novel, My Once Upon a Time, while writing very capable literary prose that incorporates techniques of detective fiction, hip hop literature, and fairy tales. FURTHER READING Adebayo, Diran. My Once Upon a Time. Oxford: Abacus, 2002. Bloom, Harold. The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1994. Venable, Malcolm, Tayannah McQuillar, and Yvette Mingo. “It’s Urban, It’s Real, But Is This Literature?” Black Issues Book Review (Sept.–Oct. 2004).

Tyechia L. Thompson

LOVE DON’T LIVE HERE NO MORE (2006). Love Don’t Live Here No More is a hip hop novel written by Snoop Dogg and David E. Talbert. Born Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. in 1971, but better known by his stage name Snoop Dogg, Broadus is an American rapper, record producer, and actor. David E. Talbert is a five-time NAACP Award-winning playwright and a bestselling author. Their collaborative novel depicts a young man, Ulysses, who lives the hard life in southern California (on the east side of Long Beach) while struggling to make it in the world of hip-hop. The story takes place in 1989, when the protagonist Ulysses and his peers listen to politically conscious hip-hop, specifically, Public Enemy’s Fight the Power (1989). Hip-hop ethos can trace its genealogy to the emergence in that decade of an American black ideology that equated black strength and authentic black identity with a militantly adversarial stance toward American society. Unabashedly political, Fight the Power’s message is confrontational, demands action, and acts as the perfect summation of its ideology and sound. The song Fight the Power was introduced at a crucial period in America’s struggle with race, capturing both the psychological and social conflicts of that time. The Republican administration of that day had dismantled a battery of social programs, squashing urban communities already struggling with drugs, poverty, guns, and violence. In Love Don’t Live Here No More, Ulysses Jeffries’s mother decides to move her family from the drug infested East side to what she believes will be safer North Long Beach, but Ulysses and his bother Bing are thrown into a world of drugs, violence, thefts, and prostitution. Ulysses’s family lived in a dilapidated apartment and, although they lived in poverty, they were supportive of each other. With growing conflicts in the streets, and at home with his mother’s new live-in boyfriend Harvey, Ulysses is forced to make decisions that will forever alter his life. His only chance of survival is through close friends, family, and the music he loves. Snoop’s novel takes us through the 1990s “summer of crack cocaine,” as young Ulysses learns the crafts of dealing and rhyming, and he is on a mission, spending every moment writing music and trying to succeed in the world of hip hop music. The novel’s main protagonist, Ulysses, reminds us of Odysseus (Ulysses), the main hero in Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey. Like the Greek warrior, Ulysses and his equally heroically named friend Hercules, are on a mission, which is


their Manifest Destiny. The novel also comes with an original single that provides the backdrop to this compelling tale. The subtitle of Love Don’t Live Here No More, “Doggy Tales: Vol. 1,” suggests that there are more books on the way. The sequel is set up in the final sentence of Love Don’t Live Here No More, as the young hero points a gun and debates whether to pull the trigger. FURTHER READING Kitwana, Bakari. The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture. New York: Basic Civitas, 2002.

Beatrice Nibigira Kelley

LOW ROAD: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF DONALD GOINES (2004). Journalist Eddie B. Allen Jr.’s biography of Donald Goines was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2004, thirty years after the murder of the prolific African American pulp fiction author. Black and mainstream periodicals alike reviewed the book favorably, and National Public Radio featured an interview with Allen in a piece on Goines. Written for a general audience, Low Road includes a foreword by the rapper DMX, who played King David in the 2004 film adaptation of Goines’s novel Never Die Alone. In the preface to Low Road, Allen explains that his decision to write Goines’s biography resulted from a chance meeting with a radio station manager named Charles Glover. Glover, it turned out, is Goines’s nephew, the son of his older sister Marie. He thought Allen was the perfect candidate to pen a biography that would improve on Eddie Stone’s book Donald Writes No More. This paperback page-turner had been put out by Goines’s publisher, Holloway House, mere months after his death in 1974; for three decades it stood as the lone, sensationalistic account of his life. Allen accepted Glover’s offer and sought to give a human face to the man at once celebrated and vilified for his literary representations of sex, violence, and drug use in the ghetto. Thanks to his connection with Glover, Allen was given access to an archive of rare material and personal effects that shed light on the enigmatic author’s life. In writing Low Road, then, Allen was able to draw from not only historical research and Goines’s published work but also interviews, correspondence, official documents, and sources otherwise unavailable to anyone outside of the Goines family. Including this material in his narrative allowed Allen to create the most complete portrait of Goines we have to date. Interviews with Goines’s relatives illuminate his years as a precocious middle-class boy growing up in Detroit. Business correspondence with Holloway House indicates certain methods the publisher used to encourage its star author to produce sixteen books in just five years. And excerpts from Goines’s handwritten will, which his younger sister Joan helped compose, reveal the terms by which the author distributed his “legacy” among the several children he had fathered with his wife and lovers: each son or daughter had a book’s royalties bequeathed to him or her. In an investigative turn in the narrative, Low Road’s epilogue surveys competing theories on the brutal slayings of Goines and his common-law wife Shirley Sailor. Allen interviewed a police detective, now retired, who worked on the double homicide; he still believes the crime was drug-related. A historian suggests it may have been Shirley, not Donald, who was the actual target of the attack, and Bentley Morriss, cofounder of Holloway




House, thinks someone on whom Goines had based a delinquent character in his novels wanted to silence him for good. See also Goines, Donald; Dopefiend: Story of a Black Junkie FURTHER READING Stone, Eddie. Donald Writes No More. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1974.

Kinohi Nishikawa

M MAKES ME WANNA HOLLER: A YOUNG BLACK MAN IN AMERICA (1994). Akin to Claude Brown’s 1965 autobiography Manchild in the Promised Land, McCall’s Makes Me Wanna Holler gives an accounting for why so much of young black America feels hopeless and why a success story such as his is so rare within that community. Nathan McCall’s 1994 publication Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America offers a new and exciting addition to the African American memoir literary genre. Beginning with his youth in Portsmouth, Virginia, in the 1970s, McCall recalls the details of his life to the present in order to demonstrate how the entire pathology of America’s history of racial inequality can be observed by looking at the life of any one young black person in America. McCall’s account begins in a working-class black neighborhood in Portsmouth, Virginia, where, as McCall describes, he and his peers were faced with the harsh realities of America’s race consciousness at a very early age. To mentally deal with the injustices suffered due to this consciousness, it became vital for McCall to win the respect of these black peers. With each caught up in their own form of this high-stakes fight for identity, the culture that defined the relationship of McCall’s peer group was one of acting out against society in order to compensate for their seemingly inconsequential roles within it. McCall recalls one such act in the book’s opening chapter, where he describes his group’s beating of a random white person riding through their neighborhood on a bike as their way of getting back at white people and asserting their power within the system. Conforming to this peer culture was demanding and entailed that one constantly be ready to prove oneself to the group in various shows of deserved belonging: behaving a certain way, walking a certain way, talking a certain way, and being able to physically defend your walk and talk if necessary. McCall presents the alternative to conforming to this peer culture as exposing oneself as an outsider who was not to be trusted or respected. Thus McCall and his peers engaged in criminal and deviant behaviors in a vicious cycle of respect earning. But McCall is careful not to present the behavior of young black America in response to dominant culture as only mere senseless and misguided acts of social deviancy. There was often a conscious and political reasoning behind the deeds of McCall and his peers. Witnessing white peers getting better summer jobs despite not being any more qualified, looking at the indignity with which his stepfather was treated by his white employer for the second job he worked to make ends meet, and dealing with the overt racism of his own white employers led McCall and others in his peer group to view acquiescing to the dominant system and working for a white employer with a particular disdain. The urgency to



function outside of a proven unfriendly system leads one of McCall’s peers to formulate a plan to be financially set for life by his early twenties by dealing drugs for a few years. So undesirable was the idea of working for whites within a white system that McCall and some of his friends decide to become professional thieves for a living. These political responses to the unfriendly nature of the dominant social system to blacks, of course, lands McCall and several of his peers in prison. While in prison, McCall took advantage of the opportunities presented to him and eventually left prison as a budding intellectual. Riding this momentum, McCall earned a degree from Norfolk State University and eventually went on to become a renowned journalist, first at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and then with the Washington Post, where he was at the time he wrote Makes Me Wanna Holler. Though not a sociological study in the strict sense of the term, McCall’s candid accounting of the systematic helplessness felt by America’s black citizens offers as in-depth a description and analysis of the race pathology hindering black folks in America as any sociological study could. See also Brown, Claude; Manchild in the Promised Land FURTHER READING Brown, Claude. Manchild in the Promised Land. New York: Touchstone, 1965. Thomas, Piri. Down These Mean Streets. New York: Vintage, 1997.

Gil Cook

MANCHILD IN THE PROMISED LAND (1965). Written by autobiographer, writer, social activist, and lecturer Claude Brown in l965, the same year that he graduated from Howard University with a degree in government and business, this book is an autobiographical odyssey that vividly recounts the story of his life during the l940s and l950s as an African American youth in Harlem. Originating from a shorter work that he wrote for Dissent magazine, this stirring memoir reveals Brown’s struggles growing up in the rough streets of Harlem and his coming of age as he learned from these struggles, but Manchild is so much more— functioning as a seminal text in African American literature and autobiography. The book is a window into seeing the conditions of poor, urban African Americans during the aforementioned decades. Brown’s work in many ways provides ground-breaking images and insights, which awakened many American readers to these conditions and which created for him a literary and social platform from which to address these problems of African Americans in Harlem and around the nation. As Herb Boyd wrote, “Claude Brown’s novelistic autobiography conjured up the social pathology and the psychological trauma of black Americans caught in the throes of unforgiving ghettoes, particularly Harlem” (2002). Born on February 23, 1937, to parents from South Carolina who had come North in search of better economic opportunities, he describes growing up in a run-down Harlem apartment building and other conditions that left his parents economically impoverished and frustrated that the North had not provided for them the economic haven that they had desired. Brown turned to the streets as a respite from an overbearing home life and from the poverty that he saw around him at home and in the community.


In Manchild, Claude Brown records that he was thrown out of school by the age of 8 and constantly beaten by his father. “Sonny,” as he refers to himself in the book, became a member of a gang, the Harlem Buccaneers, and was immersed in Harlem street life and violence. He was constantly in trouble with the police and was given several psychiatric examinations that did little to alter his destructive behavior. Even at the young age of 5 or 6, he took to the street life, fighting and engaging in other mischievous behavior in his community. A couple of years later, Brown had earned a reputation for himself. He ran with older boys in Harlem and constantly disobeyed his parents. Living in many group homes because of his behavior, Brown continued to carry his street and gang behavior with him. He was shot in the leg, and he was introduced to heroin or “horse” as it was then known. He became a heroin addict and eventually saw the deleterious affects of this drug on the lives of others and on his own life. Claude Brown’s life changed as a result of his enrollment at the Wiltwyck School, which was a special-education school in upstate New York’s Ulster County, a rural area, far away from urban violence and the street life with which Brown was familiar. The school was cofounded by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. He would later dedicate Manchild to Mrs. Roosevelt, whom he met. Although he dedicated his book to Mrs. Roosevelt, his strongest influence at the Wiltwyck School was Dr. Ernest Papanek, a psychologist and the director of the Wiltwyck School for emotionally disturbed boys who had a history of bad behavior. Brown describes the doctor as perhaps the smartest person whom he had ever known. Dr. Papanek encouraged him to read and seek an education. Brown found solace reading the biographies of African Americans and others who had triumphed over adversities. Manchild was a monumental work when it was published in l965 because it gave evidence that a person who had endured such a life of crime, violence, and drug addiction could become an American success story, beating the odds of poverty and racism that were placed against him as an African American youth. This work still resonates, not only as an important work of African American biography and African American letters, in general, but also because it rings chords of similarity with the plights of many urban African American youth today who struggle in unrelenting, harsh environments against racism and against other issues that plague them in urban locales and beyond. Claude Brown graduated from Howard University in 1965, the same year that Manchild was published. He later attended Stanford and Rutgers law schools, but the demands of a successful career as a lecturer prevented him from finishing. His second novel, Children of Ham (1976), though not nearly as successful as Manchild, brought more serious attention to African Americans and drug addiction. Brown’s lifetime concerns of African American youth and urban issues brought him to juvenile detention centers and prisons, and he drew the conclusion that American society had abandoned young African Americans, especially African American males, who were somehow compelled to respond by violent, destructive behavior. As a “hip cat,” (Brown describes himself as such in Manchild), he can certainly be considered a forerunner of hip hop artists who, in their lyrics, have expressed the kinds of concerns that Brown delineates in his writing. Claude Brown died of respiratory failure in 2002. See also X, Malcolm FURTHER READING Boyd, Herb. “Manchild in the Promised Land.” Black Issues Book Review, Vol. 1 (May 2002). Brown, Claude. Children Of Ham. New York: Stein and Day, 1976.



MAYO, KIERNA ———. Manchild in the Promised Land. New York: MacMillan, 1965. Gilmore, Brian. “Appreciation: Author Claude Brown Offered Promise.” The New Crisis, (May/June 2002) 11 September 2008. . Madhubuti, Haki. “In Memoriam: Claude Brown: 1937–2002.” Black Issues in Higher Education, Vol. 19 Issue 1 (February 2002): 26.

Timothy Askew

MAYO, KIERNA (1970–). Hip hop journalist and one of the first female editors at The Source (1991–1994); founding editor-in-chief of Honey, a magazine aimed at young women of color. As one of the first female hip hop journalists in a male-dominated field, Mayo developed a complex, ambitious writing style: each word balances on a tightrope; Mayo appreciates hip hop music and culture, yet dislikes its materialism; and she critiques hip hop’s misogyny, violence, and homophobia but points out, often with dark irony, the way that the poverty and racism that have fueled hip hop culture are left out of the discussion. “Caught Up in the (Gansta Rapture)” demonstrates Mayo’s complicated writing style, as Mayo interviews C. Delores Tucker, a crusader against “gangsta rap music,” for The Source, a magazine that was, at the time, the authoritative hip hop magazine. In this story, Mayo adopts a tone that is at times respectful and at others blatantly mocking. Mayo refers to Tucker—always—as “Dr. Tucker,” but she points out that a “psychic friend and a welfare recipient” (Mayo’s derisive references to Dionne Warwick and Melba Moore) were the people who first made Tucker aware of the sexism and violence in hip hop lyrics. Likewise, Mayo recognizes Tucker’s power in Washington, but when Tucker tells Mayo that she marched with King, Mayo dismisses Tucker as out of touch with the Hip Hop Generation. For young people of the Hip Hop Generation, Mayo announces, “Dr. King has become less than a hero, role model, or intrepid warrior but instead, more of an intangible icon that every February, McDonald’s insist we remember” (2004, 123). Interestingly, in “Caught Up in the (Gangsta) Rapture,” what quickly becomes apparent is that Mayo is critical of hip hop’s misogyny—perhaps even more so than Tucker. Still, Mayo argues, first, that the people who are not members of the hip hop community have no right to criticize a culture they neither love nor fully understand and, second, that the larger community has failed to recognize the Hip Hop Generation’s own efforts to fight misogyny: Heated sessions take place between black women and girls who listen to and love this music as they defend themselves against the same hateful threats and images black females have always had to fight. Nasty editorials challenging rap artists to check themselves are written. (2004, 126)

Writing about Queen Latifah, Mayo demonstrates a similar ability to fuse a hip hop sensibility with a journalist’s eye for detail and truth. In “Queen Latifah: The Last Good Witch,” Mayo is not afraid to use the word “feminist” to describe what is arguably the most “feminist” of rappers, even though “feminist” is a title that many female rappers, including Latifah herself, resist. Still, as Mayo traces Latifah’s history, Mayo demonstrates quite clearly that Latifah is a feminist. Here, Mayo writes, is a rapper who “has never shied away from women’s issues,” who has “never let the presence or absence of a man determine her fate” (2001, 52).


In the Latifah story, Mayo interviews sources who discuss Latifah’s obvious influence over female rappers from Lauryn Hill to Eve, but she also daringly explores lesser discussed aspects of Latifah’s persona. At times, for instance, Mayo quotes what seems to be a more private Latifah, who discusses her spirituality and her brother’s death. Ultimately, Mayo is careful to show the irony of Latifah: as a female rapper who has refused to diet or wear tight clothing or fit a prescribed definition of femininity, Latifah, Mayo writes, is still very much a “brand,” a money-making entity that has mainstream crossover appeal in much the way a Whitney Houston or an Oprah Winfrey does. See also Honey Magazine; Source Magazine, The FURTHER READING Mayo, Kierna. “Caught up in the (Gangsta) Rapture: Dr. C. Delores Tucker’s Crusade Against ‘Gangsta Rap.’” In And It Don’t Stop!: The Best American Hip Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years. Raquel Cepeda, ed. New York: Faber and Faber, 2004, 121–30. Mayo, Kierna, “Queen Latifah: The Last Good Witch.” In Hip Hop Divas. Vibe, ed. New York: Crown Publishing, 2001, 52–61.

Rochelle Spencer

McDONALD, JANET (1953–2007). A prominent author of fiction and nonfiction written for and about urban youth coming of age. Her 1999 memoir, Project Girl, chronicles McDonald’s experiences while living in one of New York’s housing projects, The Farragut Homes in Brooklyn. The memoir explores the evolution of housing project life from that of a safe and pastoral environment to poverty, violence, drugs, and single-parent homes. The hip-hop genre is steeped in the politics of location. Listen to any hip-hop song or read any novel by a popular urban fiction author and notice that theme of “place” permeates throughout the piece. McDonald’s work informs readers of just how critical one’s “home” is in the shaping of a worldview. The daughter of Jim Crow South immigrants, McDonald was one of seven children who were part of what she terms “the founding families” of Farragut. McDonald’s insight into how the deterioration of a well-intentioned plan to provide housing for the working poor of New York turned into a social nightmare in a matter of a few years. McDonald draws a correlation between segregated schools and rising unemployment as the catalyst for the fall of urban, poor, and minority residents. McDonald’s academic abilities made her stand out from her peers. She was double promoted in elementary school and then subsequently selected for admission to the elite Erasmus Hall Academy for high school. Unfortunately, fledgling grades and a growing sense of resentment for her living circumstances made it difficult for McDonald to take advantage of the opportunities that came with attending an academically rigorous school. McDonald managed to earn her general high school diploma but was forced to return to school, The Harlem Preparatory Program, in order to obtain her academic diploma. McDonald continued her discussion of coming of age in her young adult fiction. The Spellbound trilogy, which includes: Spellbound, Chill Wind, and Twists and Turns, chronicles the ups and downs of three very different project girls who stop at nothing to create their own version of success. Following the Spellbound series, McDonald




explores hip-hop culture from a male perspective. In Brother Hood, the protagonist balances the opposing worlds of Harlem with life at an upstate prep school, and he shatters the myth that street smarts and community allegiance cancels out studiousness. In Harlem Hustle, the main character is an aspiring rapper and street-wise hustler. OffColor, McDonald’s final novel, explores the tensions that come with society’s tendency toward racial categorization. The main character finds out that she is not white but biracial. Her discovery makes it necessary that she confront the negative stereotypes that she holds about black people in general and project girls in particular. Janet McDonald’s work is crucial to the understanding of hip hop culture because she balances her experiences of growing up in the projects with straying away from judgment and condemnation in order to demonstrate how an urban streetwise existence is not mutually excusive of a positive sense of self. See also Teen Fiction FURTHER READING McDonald, Janet. Brother Hood. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press, 2005 ———. Chill Wind. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press, 2003. ———. Harlem Hustle. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. ———. Project Girl. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000. ———. Spellbound. Topeka, KS: Topeka Bindery, 2003. ———. Twists and Turns. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press, 2004.

Catherine Ross-Stroud

MEDINA, TONY (1966–). Poet, educator, activist, and anthologist. In the Harlem poetic tradition of Langston Hughes, the fiery oratorical tradition of Amiri Baraka, and the griot as historian tradition of Haki Madhubuti, Tony Medina— poet, mentor, and social archivist—is a bridge figure in the world of hip hop poetry. One of the most prolific poets of the Hip Hop Generation, Medina has published five volumes of poetry—including Emerge and See, No Noose is Good Noose, and Committed to Breathing—and four children’s books—Deshawn Days, Letters to Santa, Love to Langston, and Christmas Makes Me Think. Additionally, while developing emerging poets formally as a Howard University professor and informally as a community mentor—one of the younger poets is also one of the younger poets featured in the 2004 Furious Flower Poetry Conference—Medina has edited anthologies such as In Defense of Mumia (winner of The American Bookseller Association’s Firecracker Alternative Book Award), Role Call, and Bum Rush the Page. Creatively, Medina operates “from the whole position of the poet as messenger, the poet as warrior—the fighter. The poet on the front lines using poetry as the tool or weapon to raise consciousness but not in a way that is rhetorical or beating people over the head, but coming from the voices of the tribe” (Johnson 2005, 14–15). Medina’s poetry is best described as brash, in-your-face, confrontational, political, and passionate, just like early hip hop; Medina is a poet who is passionate about the state of humanity, especially that of the poor and people of color. His poetry critiques such issues as neo-imperialism, urban blight, America as an icon, homelessness, the plight of children, capitalism, violence, and terrorism. As Jonathan Scott notes, “there is the preference in Medina’s poetry for dialogue over monologue, for


the concrete over the abstract, for sarcasm over irony, for the plural over the singular, and a strong emphasis on the naming of places, things and people” (2005, 36). As a bridge between Black Arts poets, whom Medina counts among his diverse influences, and their poetic children, the hip hop poets, Medina’s role as a mentor and editor has had a substantial impact on contemporary, published poetry. Indeed, wherever poets of today are collected, whether on page or stage, Medina is spiritually (and sometimes, physically) present. Proof that the bridge—the continuum, the circle—is unbroken, hip hop poet and publisher Jessica Care Moore-Poole describes Medina, who edited her first poetry collection, as a mentor. Concerned with preserving and passing on the heritage of poetry and social consciousness, Medina, ever the socially active poet, crafts a bridge between the Hip Hop Generation of poets, their ancestors, and an ever-expanding progeny of twenty-first century poets. See also Black Poetry FURTHER READING Johnson, Jacqueline. “The Wonderful World of Tony Medina.” Mosaic Literary Magazine, Vol. 15 (Spring 2005): 1–15, 48–49. Scott, Jonathan. “A New Aesthetics of Black Equality: On Tony Medina.” Race & Class, Vol. 46 Issue 4 (April–June 2005): 20–38.

Adrienne Carthon

MENACE II SOCIETY (NEW LINE CINEMA, USA, 1993). Twin brothers Albert and Allen Hughes wrote, directed, and produced this dark urban fable in 1993, and it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival when they were 21. It is one of the earliest and best of the ‘hood films, a genre emerging in the 1990s and matching hip hop literature and gangster rap in expressing the violence of young African American street life. Set in South Central Los Angeles, the story follows Caine Lawson (Tyrin Turner) the summer after his high school graduation, as his increasing involvement in murder and theft sets him on a path to prison or death. The back story and setting establish reasons for the casual violence of the main character and his peers. Caine’s father, played by Samuel Jackson, was a drug dealer and murderer, his mother a heroin addict, and the grandparents who raise him are generations removed from his present life. The main character’s voiceover narration mentions the Watts riots, from which the neighborhood never recovered, leaving it saturated with drive-by shootings, retaliatory violence, car jacking, and drug use. Characters in the film either pull the central character to salvation or destruction. The father shown in flashback is no role model, and the subsequent father figure serves a life sentence in prison and counsels Caine to seek another path. With the exception of Sharif (Vonte Sweet), a black Muslim advocating brotherhood and education, the young men in the film participate in a violent, nihilistic world typified by the charismatic psychopath O-Dog (Larenz Tate). The grandparents’ Christian faith offers no attraction for Caine, but love interest Ronnie (Jada Pinkett Smith) proposes escaping the neighborhood. The tragic ending stages the conflicts of bad choices made in the face of few options. Critical comment on the film splits between celebrating its style and challenging its representation of hopeless violence. The film features technical flourishes, and its tense narrative is enhanced by rapid-fire editing and camera work, including a masterful circular




tracking shot during Caine’s police interrogation. However, some viewers felt the incessant bloodshed ran the risk of glorifying violence. The Hughes brothers guard against that critique by weaving in the plot a security videotape of Caine’s friend O-Dog shooting a Korean store owner, which O-Dog and his friends watch for fun even as it remains evidence of the crime. Their enjoyment disturbs Caine, the audience’s focal character, and he worries that it could implicate him in the murder. The gritty realism of the videotape and Caine’s response to it depict violence without promoting it, just as the film does. The Hughes brothers describe Menace II Society as a representation of what their lives might have been if they had not discovered filmmaking early on. Their subsequent careers have involved African American and hip hop history, including writing, directing, and producing Dead Presidents (1995), a fictional account of black veterans of the Vietnam War turning to crime, and the documentary American Pimp (1999), as well as producing a documentary of DJing, Scratch (2001).

Peter Caster

MIRANDA, ELISHA (1969–). Author of The Sista Hood, a series of young adult novels that follow the lives of four girls of color who attend a predominantly white high school in San Francisco, California, and together form a hip hop crew. Miranda is a writer, activist, filmmaker, educator, and businesswoman with numerous credits and awards in both publishing and film. As with her literary work, hip hop remains a prominent theme in Miranda’s initiatives as an activist and entrepreneur. Born and raised in the Mission district of San Francisco, California, Miranda participated in several youth programs. At the age of twenty-three, she created one of her own called the Kellogg Koshland Youth Leadership Project. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with dual degrees in Ethnic Studies and English in 1991. In 1997, she earned a master’s in urban planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she completed a thesis entitled ”Using the Arts to Empower Urban Youth of Color.” Eventually, Miranda moved to New York City to attend the Columbia University School of the Arts, graduating in 2003 with an MFA in both directing and screenwriting. Soon thereafter she co-founded Chica Luna Productions, a nonprofit organization that seeks to identify, support, and develop young women of color who wish to create socially conscious entertainment. Furthermore, Miranda has written, produced, and/or directed various screenplays and films that are notable for their hip hop sensibility. For example, her directorial debut, the short film Corporate Dawgz, features a white male protagonist (and aficionado of socially conscious hip hop) who attempts to wield his skin privilege in the interest of racial justice while working a demoralizing job in corporate America. Her feature-length screenplay Outside the Wall, which depicts a Puerto Rican graffiti artist, has garnered several awards and continues to gain recognition from respected entities from the Sundance Institute to the Tribeca Film Institute. Arguably, her most notable work of hip hop literature is the young adult fiction series called The Sista Hood. The first installment of the series The Sista Hood: On the Mic was published by Atria/Simon and Schuster in 2006 and three more will follow. Dubbed by the author in her Amazon.com author’s profile as “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants for urban girls of color,” the series provides a rare depiction of young women participating in hip hop culture as practitioners of its various art forms. Furthermore, the four ensemble


characters are diverse with respect to race, class, sexual orientation, and national origin. In her review representing A Place of Our Own BookClub, a respected online literary community of African American readers, Lena Willis wrote, “E-Fierce does an excellent job of illustrating to the reader what life is like for Mariposa. . . . She touches on issues that any teenage girl growing up in an urban city would witness—divorce, a parent’s alcoholism, homosexuality, teen domestic violence, race relations, and teen pregnancy. She also makes an admirable effort to show how Mari and her friends come together to be a support to each other, step-by-step. Girls reading this novel will be able to gain so much from this book and hopefully apply Mari’s learnings to their own life” (2006) The next installment of The Sista Hood is slated for publication by Atria/Simon and Schuster in 2009. Also, Miranda aims to write and direct a feature-length film adaptation of On the Mic under her own multimedia production company Sister Outsider Entertainment. In fact, to promote The Sista Hood, Miranda used multimedia strategies, including producing an album consisting of poems and lyrics commissioned for publication in the first novel and creating faux MySpace pages for each of the four main characters in the series. FURTHER READING Miranda, Elisha. The Sista Hood: On the Mic. New York: Simon & Schuster/Atria, 2006. Willis, Lena. “The Butterfly Learns How to Fly.” 31 October 2006. . 5 September 2008.

Sofía Quintero

THE MOMENTS, THE MINUTES, THE HOURS: THE POETRY OF JILL SCOTT (2005). Neo-soul artist Jill Scott’s first published book of poetry. Scott considers the eighth grade as her beginnings as a poet, but the poems in the volume represent work culled from her young womanhood, dating back to 1993. The Moments followed the release of three critically acclaimed, award-winning, multi-platinum albums. Whereas her music has received a great deal of critical attention, particularly because of its commercial success, there was little critical attention given to this collection of poetry. Publishers Weekly and The Black Review of Books offered positive, albeit brief, reviews. Music fans were mostly enthusiastic about seeing Scott’s words, even without benefit of musical accompaniment. The poems, written in either free verse or haiku, range from short, poignant musing couched in the guise of asides to more direct declarations of emotion. Broken into five sections, the subjects covered include black pride, feminism, parent/child relationships, and spirituality. Scott offers social commentary in a number of poems and looks not only at systems of oppression for black people but also at those that exist specifically for women. And as she examines and calls to task those outside forces that affect women’s lives, she is quick to put that same critical lens on women’s attitudes and behaviors from within. However, her most frequently discussed topic is love. The poems are supplemented throughout by the inclusion of photography and other graphics. From the very first section, “All the evil and all the love” (the title refers to a comment made by Mister about Shug Avery in Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple), Scott explores the conflict inherent in love—both of self and others. In the introduction, Scott specifically refers to Black Arts Movement poet Nikki Giovanni as an early influence and this is evidenced by the tone and structure of many of the poems,




which call to mind Giovanni’s periodic autobiographical statements. Although many readers will not see them as poems in the strictest sense, they are indeed poetic statements. Just as female artists such as Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, and others who came before her struggled to assert their right to creativity and productivity on their own terms, so does Scott throughout this collection. This tension runs throughout the final section of the collection, “Poetry 4 Poets and Folks Who Would Like to Be.” It is in this section that Scott’s connection to those poets of the Black Arts Movement is most keenly felt as she moves to investigate the creative impulse and its effects on the artist. As the reader sees her wrestle with her role and responsibility as a poet, the reader is offered both encouragement and admonishment in their own craft.

Wandra C. Hunley

MOORE, JESSICA CARE (1971–). “First Lady of Hip Hop Poetry.” There can be no discussion of hip hop poetry without acknowledging the voice, the legacy, the performance, and the poetry of Jessica Care Moore whose first foot on the national stage was at the Apollo Theater. The Detroit native was one of the first to bring national attention to what would become known as hip hop poetry, a form that has reinvigorated the genre of poetry on a large scale. When Moore first stepped to the mic on It’s Showtime at the Apollo in 1995 after being in New York for only five months, few knew what to expect, but by the time she completed her poem, “Black Statue of Liberty,” with her fist flying high in the air, a five-time winner and Apollo legend was born. After a subsequent tour on the college circuit with The Last Poets, Moore opened her own publishing house in 1997, Moore Black Press, and simultaneously published her first hip hop inspired poetry collection, The Words Don’t Fit in My Mouth, under the editorial direction of poet and anthologist Tony Medina. Moore’s poetry has taken her message of activism, self-reflection, feminism, community responsibility, and hip hop mores into many different venues. Moore’s poetry has been widely anthologized and catalogued on video; it is regularly featured in a variety of magazines. Moore has also performed throughout the United States, Europe, and South Africa as well as opened and closed her own club, MoorEpics: The Poetry Planet, in Atlanta. The playwright also has two theatrical productions to her credit: There Are No Asylums for the Real Crazy Women about Vivienne Eliot, the wife of T. S. Eliot, and AlphaPhobia, a show about a woman who believes the alphabet is a homicidal threat. In addition to performing on various talk and entertainment shows, she is a repeat performer on Russell Simmons Presents: Def Poetry Jam, the television venue for hip hop poetry. Moore is also a recording artist as the lead vocalist-poet for her band Detroit Read. As active as she is, the 2000 Harvard Black Men’s Forum Woman of the Year and ardent AIDS activist additionally works with young people at the Alvin Ailey Dance Camp in Atlanta on personal development and self-esteem. Further positioning herself as a multimedia guru of hip hop poetry, Moore is also the talent, writer, and producer for the poetry and music show SPOKEN! on Robert Townsend’s Black Family Channel. Moore is a renaissance hip hop woman working to secure a legacy for oral and written hip hop poetry. Poet, publisher, wife, mother, activist, public speaker, band member, actress—Moore functions in many roles, but her most lasting contribution to hip hop poetry may be her role as a publisher. Moore Black Press moved to Atlanta in 2000, where it published Moore’s second collection, The Alphabet Verses the Ghetto, as well as work by other influential hip


hop artists: poet and actor Saul Williams; poet Sharrif Simmons; philanthropist, novelist, poet, and visual artist Danny Simmons, also a co-creator of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam; community activist and second generation poet Ras Baraka (son of Amina and Amiri Baraka); basketball player and poet Etan Thomas; novelist and poet, Asha Bandele; and visual artist/painter Marcia Jones. Moore’s third collection, God Is Not an American, will be Moore Black Press’s first publication of essays and poems. Moore’s goal as a publisher is to ensure that hip hop poetry is taken seriously and disseminated widely. As a part of that mission, Moore Black Press has a nonprofit organization, Literacy Through Hip-Hop, whose initiatives include the anthology, The Poetry of Emcees, a collection of poems by hip hop artists to further the cause of literacy among youth. As the youngest recipient of African Voices magazine’s Ellie Charles Artist Award (2006), formerly presented to such prestigious writers as Toni Morrison, Moore is a chronicler for her generation just as Dudley Randall (Broadside Press) and Haki Madhubuti (Third World Press) were for theirs. Moore’s memorable rise to star status on the Apollo stage, her fiery performances, her hip hop riddled poetry, and her position at the helm of Moore Black Press solidify her place as “The First Lady of Hip Hop Poetry.” See also Black Poetry; Spoken Word Movement FURTHER READING Anglesey, Zoe, ed. Listen Up! New York: One World/ Ballantine, 1999. Moore, Jessica Care. The Alphabet Verses the Ghetto. Atlanta, GA: Moore Black Press, 2002. ———. The Words Don’t Fit in My Mouth. New York: Moore Black Press, 1997.

Adrienne Carthon

MOORE, NATALIE Y. Natalie Moore’s experience is as a reporter for a prominent news organization, Chicago Public Radio. She used her background and reporting experience and co-wrote a book in 2006 with Natalie Hopkinson: Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation. Written by two black women, this book gives some insight into the black male mindset by using Erikah Badu’s song “Tyrone” as a frame for explaining their theory of “Tyronicity.” Deconstructing Tyrone focuses on several black men to explain this hip-hop theory and how it explains black men of the present day. “Tyronicity” can be defined as a disregard for the contention of society. Some of these discarded attitudes can be seen as positives and some as negatives. Moore and Hopkinson cite examples of how some of these Tyrones start their own businesses as an example of a positive disregard. Other Tyrones who are more prominent may work within the system but do it with their own flair. Recently disgraced Detroit politician Kwame Kilpatrick is an example of their kind of Tyrone. They cite him taking off his diamond ear stud on the advice from pollsters as he ran for office and his defiance in putting it back on again after he won as an example of “Tyronicity.” Moore and Hopkinson state, “Like hip-hop, he’s flashy, fresh, a finger-to-the-establishment. Like hip-hop, he is, at his worst, arrogant, unfocused, and undisciplined” (2006, 90). Moore and Hopkinson are not social scientists, but this statement about Kilpatrick is quite prescient given his later legal problems. Moore and Hopkinson cite more of the negative disregard in Tyronicity in the negative attitudes and portrayals of black women, and they cite the famous example of Nelly swiping a credit card between a woman’s buttocks. They state, “Often the most thugged-out rappers




turn to sharp, educated women to market their images” (2006, 45.) Here they are making a conclusion about the many thousands of women that had input into Nelly’s infamous video but were powerless to say or do anything in their defense because they were not economically empowered to make a social change. Moore and Hopkinson also focus on regular black men. Kofi “Debo” Ajabu is a subject who was a gifted child of committed black parents, who taught him Swahili and believed they did everything right in raising a strong black son. He is in jail, convicted for his part in a gruesome murder at age 21. Moore and Hopkinson’s analysis provides an answer for what went wrong with this young man of such strong potential—the lure of the gangster lifestyle. Ajabu says, “You wouldn’t believe how many middle-class gangbangers there are” (2006, 35), citing the need to prove themselves as worthy men. In Deconstructing Tyrone Moore and Hopkinson are not afraid to take on established theorists such as Jawanaza Kunjufu as “homophobic.” Their analysis provides some important insight into the mindset of the Hip-Hop Generation and makes for a worthy read. See also Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation FURTHER READING Moore, Natalie, and Hopkinson, Natalie. Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: Cleis Press, 2006.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

MOORE, STEPHANIE PERRY (1969–). A novelist who writes for the Hip Hop Generation using Christian themes. Following in the footsteps of many urban fiction writers, she also established her own publishing company. Authors are often encouraged to specialize in one genre for the sake of understanding and clarity. Writer Stephanie Perry Moore has, thankfully, paid no attention to these delineations and writes what she pleases to appeal to both young people and adults alike. Moore understands that she can produce quality fiction that appeals to the masses and includes a Christian reach as well. As president of Soul Publishing, Inc., Moore has made it her mission to make sure that this fiction is readily available to all who want to take in a positive message as part of their fiction. In all of her writing, whether it is for young adults or women, Moore is careful to include elements of hip-hop culture into her works to show that elements of the culture can be embraced while also espousing a Christian frame of mind. Moore’s reach beyond the typical genre boundaries has included starting a series of books for young African American men called the Perry Skyy Jr. series after achieving great success with the series of similarly themed books for young African American women about Perry’s sister, called the Payton Skyy series. She has also written other book series for young people with the Laurel Shadrach and Carmen Browne series of books. Moore takes her reach as an author seriously and her desire to reach younger populations with positive messages is admirable. She has discussed her own struggles in finding this fiction as nearly impossible in terms of the marketplace and has created her own books to appeal to various age groups. As an added bonus, the young people in her books exhibit a strong, if imperfect, faith in their Christianity, and she produces strong and believable conflicts in her works.


Moore also writes for adults as well. Staying Pure, Sober Faith, Saved Race, A Lova’ Like no Otha’, Chasing Faith, and A Heated Romance Without Him . . . Burns Vigorously Out of Control are other titles that Moore has written to appeal to an adult female audience to convey that women struggle to find the right man but they should place their trust in God to find the happiest ending for their lives. Moore is a life-long writer, but is also an NFL wife who found a creative way to minister to women and young adults. Her marketing savvy has allowed her to become very successful in selling to a reading population that is growing. Like E. Lynn Harris and Sutton Griggs, Moore saw a niche market for African Americans and set out to fill that niche. Her contribution in writing Christian fiction that shows young people that their culture is not “wrong” or “strange” should be further recognized as a strong positive force.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

MORGAN, JOAN (1965–). Joan Morgan has developed a poignant voice in the literary world writing about issues of race and gender from the perspective of a feminist and as a member of what Bakari Kitwana defines as the first Hip Hop Generation (1965–1984). A former executive editor at Essence Magazine, the Jamaican-born, South Bronx-bred journalist and author has published in The Village Voice, Vibe, New York Times, Ms., Interview, Spin, and Working Mother. In 1999 Simon and Schuster published her first book, When the Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks It Down. This series of essays explores such topics as the gender war apparent in male/female relations, misogyny in hip hop and women’s complicit behavior in this male-dominated industry, and men’s powerlessness in the pro-choice movement—specifically male accountability once a woman decides to have a child even against their desire. Morgan, who was around age 34 when the book was released, raises the question: “If we don’t allow a father’s desire for parenthood to impinge on an unwilling mother’s desire for an abortion, how then, both legally and morally, can we ignore an unwilling father’s objections to parenthood?” It’s a controversial and radical thought that reviewer Angela Ards describes as her “most provocative contribution to feminist thought.” Morgan’s book has been both celebrated and criticized by book reviewers, cultural critics, and hip hop enthusiasts. Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Nelson George, and Fab 5 Freddy all hail Morgan’s voice in When the Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks it Down as passionate and powerful and describe her writing style as fresh and playful, yet provocative. Stanley Crouch in the New York Daily News revered her for putting “her foot deep into the rump of all the wrongs arriving from the world of hip hop.” He added: “It was exciting to hear her go after rappers who make the ugliest conceptions of life into commodities” (2001). Conversely, reviews in Publishers Weekly and Women’s Review of Books point out theoretical analysis and a limited scope as shortcomings. Ards says Morgan raises an interesting question in the chapter “babymama” about “male parental accountability, but theoretical analysis is where this collection falls short.” (1999, 17). Sarah Lazim, another critic, writes: “Though she claims ‘to explore the world of the modern black woman from a variety of viewpoints’, Morgan comes off as a self-consciously styled hip-hop provocateuse” (1999, 69–70). This appears to be intentional because her target audience are members of the Hip Hop Generation from the ‘hood—not the ivory tower. In an interview with Faedra Chatard




Carpenter in Callaloo, Morgan describes her audience as “first and foremost, young people of color, but if you’re asking me who I wrote this book for, I wrote this book for young women who were not finding their experience represented in any other book” (2006, 76). Her point is that she and other young women who grew up in the ‘hood are not connected to black feminists rooted in the academy. Is it an issue of class or an issue of urban vs. suburban? The dividing line she paints in When the Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks it Down does not clearly answer this question; however, it makes clear that there is a disconnect between Morgan and her Hip Hop Generation peers and black feminists such as bell hooks, Angela Davis and Audre Lorde: When I thought about feminism—women who were living and breathing it daily—I thought of white women or black female intellectuals. . . . Women who had little to do with my everyday life. The sistas in my immediate proximity grew up in the ‘hood, summered in the Hamptons, swapped spit on brightly lit Harlem corners, and gave up more than a li’l booty in ivy league dorms. They were ghetto princesses with a predilection for ex-drug dealers” (1999, 37).

Morgan speaks openly about her conflict with feminism and her contradictions—having chickenhead tendencies, using sex as a commodity; being a fan of some aspects of patriarchy; and holding the viewpoint that women should be held accountable for complicity to sexism. “I think there is a very strong tradition of feminism, especially black feminism, that goes back to pre-suffrage in this country and I absolutely want to link myself to that and I also want to be able to analyze it and be critical of it and be aware of how my generation’s experiences depart from that and need a new narrative. A lot of my work is about trying to create that narrative for our generation,” Morgan explains in the Callaloo interview. The Hip Hop Generation cannot afford to let the feminists of the 1970s women’s liberation movement or those of the black civil rights movement define the conversation necessary in the new millennium. Joan Morgan has birthed a new school of thought—hip-hop feminism—in her first text exploring the impact of race and gender on male/female relations. She is joined in this effort with others writing on this subject, such as Farai Chideya, Tracy Sharpley-Whiting, and Gwendolyn Pough. See also When the Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks It Down FURTHER READING Ards, Angela. “Down with Feminism.” Women’s Review of Books Vol. 17 Issue 1 (1999): 17. Carpenter, Faedra Chatard. “An Interview with Joan Morgan.” Callaloo, Vol. 29 Issue 3 (2006): 76. Crouch, Stanley. “Hip-Hop Gets the Bruising It Deserves.” New York Daily News, 9 April 2001. . Kitwana, Bakari. The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture. New York: Basic Books, 2002. Lazim, Sarah. “When the Chicken Heads Come Home to Roost: My Life as a Hip-Hop Feminist.” Publishers Weekly (1999): 69–70. Morgan, Joan. When the Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks It Down. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1999.

Tomika DePriest


MYERS, WALTER DEAN (1937–). One of the foremost authors of young adult, urban fiction. Walter Dean Myers has earned numerous accolades for his children’s and young adult fiction and nonfiction. However, his works that center upon the lives of African American pre-teens and teenagers, especially African American males, position him as one of the foremost authors of urban fiction for young adults. Myers’s body of work illustrates his determination to rid children’s literature of mere caricatures of black children’s lives and, instead, present the real dreams, aspirations, and “happy endings” that black youths encounter. Myers writes “in the real” by placing his characters within the urban environ of Harlem, New York, while thematically encouraging his readers to identify the maturation of his young protagonists from reactionists to respondents. Myers began writing by way of a fifth grade assignment in which he and classmates were instructed to write an original work to read for the class. According to Denise Jordan, Myers composed a poem that “he could read without his tongue getting in the way” (1999, 30). He and Jordan note how this moment was not only a turning point in Myers’s troubled youth but also an opportunity for him to work around a speech impediment and express himself (Jordan 1999, 30; Myers 2000, 44). Thus, he composed a work that, simultaneously, reflected his perspectives on the world and allowed him to select words and an arrangement that he could pronounce clearly. It is this quality of Myers’s works that makes them reflective of hip hop’s language and culture, for he, like many hip hop lyricists, recalls experiences from his own past, creates a language and structure through which to relay these events, and infuses them into the lives of the young men and women who populate his works. Myers’s first young adult novel, fast sam, cool clyde, and stuff (1975), established him as important advocate for and author of young African American male lives and their stories. This novel follows the lives of Stuff and his friends—Clyde, Fast Sam, Gloria, Maria, and BB—as they confront the many issues of their teenage years. In order to cope with the challenges of their lives, the characters decide to form a club called the 116th Street Good People and vow to always be there for one another and any other person who may need their help. The novel’s friendship motif is a refreshing contrast to the expected stories centering upon the lives of African American teenagers, and it proves that many young adults are compassionate individuals who are smart enough to realize that they, too, need someone as they attempt both physical and psychological survival. This novel captures one of the most vital components of hip hop culture in that it presents a young man and his “crew” working together to find their way in a world that is constantly changing. In 1977, Myers penned three young adult novels, Mojo and the Russian, Brainstorm, and Victory for Jamie, and in 1978 wrote It Ain’t All for Nothin’ (1978), which garnered the American Library Association’s Best Book for Young Adults award. Myers published the The Young Landlords (1979), earning the ALA’s Best Book for Young Adult award and the Coretta Scott King award (in 1980), and the essay “The Black Experience in Children’s Books: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.” In the 1980s, Myers published three novels that migrated away from the Harlem setting—The Legend of Tarik, Tales of a Dead King, and The Nicolas Factor—while simultaneously composing the Harlem centered texts Hoops (1981), Won’t Know Till I Get There (1982), The Outside Shot (1984), Motown and Didi: A Love Story (1987), and Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid, Fallen Angels, and Scorpions all in 1988. Myers’s young adult novels, arguably, trace the development of hip hop culture from its prehistory in the late 1970s to its commercial recognition by the end of the 1980s, especially as it reveals the rapidly changing face of African American urbanity. Myers illustrates how the




world and choices that young people encounter become more complicated year by year, especially in the novel Scorpions. Scorpions, which earned Myers both an ALA Best Book for Young Adults award and a Newberry Honor Book award, belies the realities that many young people face— single-parent homes, gangs, guns, poverty, and incarceration of a family member. The story offers a poignant portrait of an African American family struggling to stay afloat despite the multiple systems of oppression that attempt to destroy it. Central to this novel’s plot are a gang and gun. Scorpions’ protagonist, Jamal Hicks, is “forced” into gang life after his brother is incarcerated and requests that Jamal take his place as leader of the gang. Jamal does not enter into the gang willingly or alone. His best friend, Tito, refuses to allow Jamal to spar with bullies and/or gang life without him, for he views Jamal as not just his friend but as his brother. The story concludes with Jamal finding his way out of the gang but losing Tito, not to gun violence but because of the gun that he, Tito, hid and subsequently used to protect Jamal. Tito accidentally murders a gang member, wounds another, becomes depressed, and confesses his crimes. The police suggest that he move away from Harlem and to his family’s native Puerto Rico. This novel, like Myers’s earlier works, presents the importance of friendship despite the ugliness that many young people find themselves confronting everyday. By the 1990s rap music had migrated from the underground to the commercial world and became an important “soundtrack” for Myers’s novel The Mouse Rap (1990). In this novel Myers melds street slang, rap lyrics, parental voices, and Harlem in order to create a plot where the fifteen-year old protagonist, Mouse (aka Frederick) experiences friendship, the return of his previously absent father, and a multicultural “gang” that consists of his friends—Styx, Omega, Beverly, Celia, Sheri, and Booster—and former gangsters, Gramps and Sudden Sam. The Mouse Rap affords Mouse and his comrades the opportunity to be young people who love basketball, experience “puppy love,” playground fights, and family issues but emerge alive and looking forward to the possibilities of tomorrow. Moreover, The Mouse Rap, as its title foreshadows, most clearly exemplifies Myers’s hip hop influence in the rap lyrics that precede each chapter and Mouse’s rhymed speeches. The novel begins with Mouse’s lyrical introduction, “My tag is Mouse, and it’ll never fail/And just like a mouse I got me a tale” (1992, 3) and concludes with “You’ve heard my story, you’ve dug my show/You’ve rapped my rhythm and felt the flow” (1992, 186). Between these rap preludes is a story that proves Myers’s ability to capture the nuances and rhythms of “urban” youth life but also challenges the expected representations of young African American men and women. The Mouse Rap celebrates rap music and its ability to enable young adults to locate and express themselves via a cultural vernacular that they can proudly own. Throughout the nineties and into the twenty-first century, Myers continues to add to the young adult literary canon and reflect the angst of urban, young adult lives. His novels enable young readers to encounter other persons—though fictional—who share their stories and learn from them how to find solutions and hope despite what others may tell them. Myers’s fiction brings hip hop culture to the young adult literary canon in the way that Langston Hughes’s seminal poem “I, too, Sing America” reminds readers of the importance of all of America’s cultures. Myers and his young protagonists collectively “sing America” but with a hip hop beat. See also Teen Fiction

MYERS, WALTER DEAN FURTHER READING Hughes, Langston. “I, Too, Sing America.” The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. Henry L. Gates Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay, eds. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1996. Jordan, Denise M. Walter Dean Myers: Writer for Real Teens. New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, 1999. Lane, R. D. “Keepin’it Real: Walter Dean Myers and the Promise of African-American Children’s Literature.” African American Review, Vol. 32 Issue 1 (1988): 125–138. Myers, Walter Dean. Bad Boy: A Memoir. New York: Harper Tempest, 2000. ———. The Mouse Rap. New York: Harper Trophy, 1992.

Ladrica Menson-Furr


N THE NAKED SOUL OF ICEBERG SLIM: ROBERT BECK’S REAL STORY (1975). This collection of essays, letters, and musings was written in 1971 by Robert Beck (1918–1992), who was best known by his street moniker Iceberg Slim. Much like other works from Slim, which are considered black pulp fiction, many of the essays featured in The Naked Soul offer an objective, realistic, and often harsh look at inner-city life. However within these recounts of his life as a pimp and hustler, Slim focuses on acknowledging the errors of his ways in an attempt to steer others away from the street life that nearly destroyed him and toward black liberation. The Naked Soul offers the most personal look into Slim’s life to date, conveying his most intimate feelings about incarceration, the politics of publication, his family, and his life as a pimp. Many of the essays in this text relay Slim’s political beliefs within anecdotes about people that he has encountered, such as “The Goddess,” “The Professor,” and “Melvin X.” Among the letters in this text, Slim’s “Letter to Papa” is the most personal and insightful because it recounts the unnecessary cruelty he showed his father and the one positive memory of his father lambasting former Chicago Mayor William “Big Bill” Thompson. Throughout the ever shifting content of Slim’s essays, letters, and musings, his political criticisms remain constant. Beginning with the very first page Slim sets the tone, “I want to say at the outset that I have become ill, insane as an inmate of a torture chamber behind America’s fake façade of justice and democracy,” (1975, 17). By critiquing the U.S. legal system in this fashion, Slim opens the door for the praise he shows revolutionaries, such as The Black Panther Party and Melvin X. Nonetheless he further critiques black America in “Racism and the Black Revolution,” in which he speaks in depth about the black man’s desire for the white woman. Also within “Uncle Tom and his Master in the Violent Seventies,” Slim recreates the Uncle Tom figure to address the newly formed black middle class and “so-called religious and political leaders” by portraying them as effective agents for “the master in his strategy to keep niggers nonviolent and peaceful in the ghetto torture chamber,” (1975, 184–185). These candid critiques of black life and American life only further solidify his place within African American literature. Despite the lack of scholarly attention shown to the work of Iceberg Slim, it is estimated that he has sold over six million books. Not only was his work the muse that led Donald Goines to write but it remains an inspiration to the hip hop community, whose music provides a soundtrack for the unrelenting reality that Slim so eloquently forces his readers to observe. See also Iceberg Slim; Iceberg Slim: The Life as Art

NEAL, MARK ANTHONY FURTHER READING Beck, Robert. The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim: Robert Beck’s Real Story. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House Publishing, 1971. Muckley, Peter. “Iceberg Slim: Robert Beck—A True Essay at a Biocriticism of an Ex-Outlaw Artist.” Black Scholar, Vol. 26 Issue 1 (1996): 18–26.

Rachel Robinson

NEAL, MARK ANTHONY (1965–). Scholar and critic of popular culture. Coeditor of That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader, and author of three books on black popular music. Neal serves as Chair of Black Popular Culture at Duke University (where he also directs the Institute for Critical U.S. Studies) and is a crucial figure in what Murray Forman has termed the “new black intelligentsia.” In addition to his books, his work has been included in numerous essay collections, as well as appearing in various online publications. A progressive proponent of the Hip-Hop Generation, Neal is firmly convinced that recognizing the struggles and successes of previous generations of black resistance need not come at the expense of critical reassessments of black history. His most persistent concerns revolve around questions of black masculinity, and he singles out the “strong black man” (praised and typified by men such as Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. DuBois) as a problematic model of black identity, whose values call for reevaluation. Neal’s own appraisal of this figure comes sharply into focus in his latest book, New Black Man, where candid personal reflections underpin a compelling critique of misogyny, homophobia, and classism. Neal argues that the tendency to treat middle-class, heterosexual masculinity as “synonymous with black identity” stems from a collective desire to shield the community by putting its strongest members front and center, whereas consigning to the margins those perceived (for reasons of gender, class, or sexuality) to be most vulnerable to criticism. This patriarchal model of headship reproduces the very relations of dominance suffered under racist society, inflicting a regimen of internally directed violence (and self-imposed silencing) in the name of protecting the community from more debilitating “external” threats. Strategies of self-representation have always been a contentious issue within African American communities, inspiring passionate debate over the “proper” portrayal of black life in ongoing negotiations with the dominant culture. These concerns have often led to the internalized policing of images likely to exhaust the sympathies of wider audiences (most often imagined as white, or black middle class), a tendency exemplified for Neal by the NAACP “Image Awards.” Neal questions the conservatism of such capitulations to the dominant classes, affirming unreservedly the diversity of African American identity. His hopes are rooted in anticipation rather than nostalgia, and his work is motivated by the conviction that the community’s future depends upon “the recognition and empowerment of those most ostensibly marginalized within it, and within the larger American society” (2002, 9). Neal’s exceptional grasp of hip-hop culture, commerce, and criticism is attested to by the meticulous work of compilation and commentary undertaken in his comprehensive hip-hop reader, That’s the Joint. In the face of the mass commodification of black experience through hip-hop, the question of identity becomes especially vexed, and Neal’s work is finely attuned to the many ways in which corporate interests shape cultural production. “Keeping it real” often amounts to little more than the “commodification of black dysfunction,” a racist




fantasy that revolves around criminality, hyper-masculinity, and violence. A century after Twain’s nostalgic lament for the “real nigger show,” Neal still sees minstrelsy as an apt metaphor for the way many black performers are made “complicit in their own demonization by producing commercially viable caricatures of themselves” (1998, 10). Authenticity sells, and the colonization of culture by a market that requires its performers to “blacken up” insidiously undermines the nuances of black experience. Though this strain on cultural identity is most starkly evident in the case of hip-hop, Neal observes that the genre represents a critical vanguard in explicit addressing “issues of commodification and commercialization as narrative themes” (1998, 164). Neal’s clearest alliances are with black feminists, such as Masani Alexis de Veaux, Hortense Spillers, and bell hooks. His affirmation of the fluidity of black identity has led many to characterize his position as postmodern. Although this tradition certainly informs his thought, Neal avoids the potentially alienating qualities of such academic identifications; his style borrows more from hip-hop vernacular than the theoretical jargon of French philosophy. As a committed public intellectual, Neal’s cultural analysis is disciplined by a principled impatience for symbolic controversies and abstract debate; his writing displays a keen sense of priorities that never loses sight of the material circumstances and of African Americans in all of their diversity. See also Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic; That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader; What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture FURTHER READING Neal, Mark Anthony. Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic. New York: Routledge, 2002. ———. What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture. New York: Routledge, 1998. Neal, Mark Anthony and Murray Forman, eds. That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Gregory Donald Brophy

NEW JACK CITY (JACMAC FILMS, USA, 1991). One of the early films dealing with the violence, drugs, and criminal aspirations seemingly associated with hip hop culture in the early 1990s. Rapper Ice-T is one of the principle actors. New Jack City was the first film directed by Mario Van Peebles, who also plays the role of Stone, a police detective. At the heart of this story are the defining elements of hip hop cinema. There is gang initiation, black-on-black crime, and the expendability of black women—their bodies and their lives. The film is said to pay homage to 1970s drug king Nikki Barnes and signals the iconic switch from gangsta rapper to film and television cop made by Ice-T. The film denotes the rise and fall of Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes) and the blueprint for making crack and making money in 1990s New York. The Cash Money Brothers mix Wall Street wisdom with ruthless violence as they take over an apartment complex, where they terrorize residents and evade the police. The police send in Pookie, (Chris Rock) an exaddict, to infiltrate the gang, but the wholesale exposure to crack cocaine is his undoing.


Left with few choices, it is undercover police detective Scotty Appleton’s (Ice-T) job to get close to the Cash Money Brothers and Nino Brown. Although he made his acting debut in Breakin’ and Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984), Scotty Appleton is perhaps Ice-T’s most memorable role. Having been known for his vehement and vitriolic raps about police brutality in the late 1980s, Ice-T as a cop seemed quite a departure from his status as the Original Gangsta. The character also seemed to foreshadow his long-running role as Detective Odafin Tutuola in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. The critical reception of New Jack City was unusually positive. Roger Ebert’s assessments of the film are often cited. In particular is Ebert’s reading of the scene in which Nino compares himself to the character of Tony Montana in Brain De Palma’s 1983 film Scarface. There is a moment in New Jack City when Nino Brown, a character who has made millions by selling cocaine to poor blacks, relaxes in his suburban mansion. He has his own screening room and is viewing Scarface, the Al Pacino movie about a drug lord. Nino brags to his girlfriend that he will never make the mistakes the guy made in the movie—but as he stands in front of the screen, the image of Scarface’s dead body is projected across his own. (1991)

New Jack City is unique in that it critically engages the tendency of hip hop films and music videos to paint traditional caricatures of gangster life as right and desirable. The superimposition of Montana’s dead body upon the body of Nino Brown invites the audience to see beyond the glamour and excitement of the drug/thug life and see the pain, death, and ultimate destruction. Although Nino manages to maneuver past the police and the legal system during his trial, an average citizen of the streets he has devastated kills him, thus committing an act of vigilante justice. In the end, Nino does not get away but is gunned down inside the courthouse. In addition to its critique of the glamorization of gangs, drugs, and violence, it is significant that New Jack City belongs to a genre of films that feature black characters and that highlight individuals enacting their own justice rather than relying upon the traditional system (i.e., A Time to Kill (1996) and Shaft (2000)). FURTHER READING Ebert, Roger. “New Jack City,” Chicago Sun-Times, 1 May 1991. . Grant, Natasha. “‘New Jack City’ Stars Reflect On 1991 Hit.” New York Amsterdam News, Vol. 96 Issue 35 (25 Aug. 2005): 22–45. Smith-Shomade, Beretta E. “‘Rock-a-Bye, Baby!’: Black Women Disrupting Gangs and Constructing Hip-Hop Gangsta Films.” Cinema Journal, Vol. 42 Issue 2, (Winter 2003): 25.

Tarshia L. Stanley

NO DISRESPECT (1994). Sister Souljah’s memoir, No Disrespect, is an outspoken yet sensitive collection of experiences that aims for the collective healing of the black female community. Each chapter of No Disrespect is devoted to an individual who made a difference in her life—from her mother to the men and women who taught her about love and loss—and Souljah uses these examples to illustrate to young black females how they must “listen up!” and be strong. Through her experiences she chronicles the division between the




sexes, the disintegration of the family, and the ways in which racism remains pervasive in American society and continues to circumscribe the way African American people view and treat one another. She continually draws upon the strength of her African roots and her faith in God to make a case for a collective movement against white racism and for a return to family. Beginning with the chapter on her mother, Souljah writes about growing up in the projects of New York City and highlights the challenges mothers faced raising their children as single parents. Men come in and out of her mother’s life, and even as a young girl, Souljah identifies the high turnover rate and her mother’s white boyfriend as a symptom of slave mentality. Although her mother did not lead by example, she instilled in Souljah that she could use her mind and faith to resist temptations such as drugs and sex—the pitfalls of welfare living. By revealing painful stories of her own naiveté, as in the chapter “Chance,” she offers her experiences up to her readers so they can learn from her mistakes. The vulnerability with which she writes conceals nothing but leaves her in a position of authority to challenge the pieties of race, class, and gender. Her views are wise but unconventional. Regarding homosexuality in the black community, she believes it to be a symptom of racial victimization and a deterrent to building the strong family structures she feels are necessary to rebuild the black community. Also, in the section titled “Derek,” she suggests mansharing as a possible solution to the shortage of black men and notes that sharing men openly might bring solidarity to black women. This situation does not turn out to be the ideal for her, but the scenario supports her objective to take whatever steps necessary to unite the black family. In her view, racism has dismantled the black consciousness, and by highlighting the consequences of racism—prostitution, conflicted sexual identity, infidelity, and violence—she argues for a return to family values and a strengthening of the black family unit. In her final chapter called “Sermon,” she challenges young black women to respect themselves and to save themselves. See also Souljah, Sister; The Coldest Winter Ever FURTHER READING Pittman, Coretta. “Black Women Writers and the Trouble with Ethos: Harriet Jacobs, Billie Holiday, and Sister Souljah.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Vol. 37 (2007): 43–70. Rose, Tricia. “Review: A Sister without Sisters.” The Women’s Review of Books, Vol. 12 Issue 19 (June 1995): 21–22. Wamba, Philippe. “Review: Souljah on Ice. No Disrespect by Sister Souljah.” Transition, Vol. 67 (1995): 138–149.

Sheri McCord

O OLD SCHOOL BOOKS PUBLISHING. Between 1996 and 1998, W. W. Norton published sixteen books under its Old School Books imprint. The books were trade paperback reprints of little-known or “underground” hard-boiled novels of the black urban experience from the 1950s to the 1970s. Edited by American pulp fiction aficionado Marc Gerald and French journalist Samuel Blumenfeld, the imprint sought to recover, in Gerald’s words, “a lost legacy of AfricanAmerican noir.” Gerald started doing research for the series after reading the gritty crime novels of Donald Goines. Noting that Goines was popular among African Americans yet unknown to the literary mainstream, Gerald wondered if there were other black novelists whose work had so provocatively defied white middlebrow tastes. Two years of research yielded a list of books that, for Gerald, constituted a “forgotten” genre of black writing, one that “chronicled the truth about the hurt, pain, frustration and rage of the urban American experience” (1997, 2). Gerald approached Norton with his idea for a book series, and it was black crime novelist Walter Mosley’s editor at the company, Gerald Howard, who helped launch Old School Books. Two cult classics of African American pulp fiction were logical choices for inclusion in the series: Goines’s revenge tale Daddy Cool (1974; rpt. 1997) and fellow Holloway House author Iceberg Slim’s ghetto tragedy Mama Black Widow (1969; rpt. 1998). The other reprints were more obscure but no less graphic in their representation of urban, or street, culture. Among these titles were Herbert Simmons’s jazz novel Man Walking on Eggshells (1962; rpt. 1997), Clarence Cooper Jr.’s surreal prison narrative The Farm (1967; rpt. 1998), and Robert Dean Pharr’s picaresque Harlem adventure Giveadamn Brown (1978; rpt. 1997). Old School Books’ most renowned contribution to literary history was the publication of Chester Himes’s Yesterday Will Make You Cry in 1998. The book was based on Himes’s earliest manuscript for a novel, which he began during a stint in the Ohio state penitentiary from 1928 to 1936. After several rounds of rejection letters and manuscript revisions, however, Himes could only get his book published in bowdlerized form as Cast the First Stone in 1952. Lost in the editorial process were some of Himes’s most pointed observations on male homosexuality in prison. Old School Books’ publication of the original manuscript thus restored an important work of social criticism and a unique hard-boiled narrative to American letters. The Old School Books series has been credited for sparking critical and popular interest in authors who drew from personal experience to depict the harsh realities of ghetto and prison life for African Americans. Indeed, by bringing the forgotten archive of urban experience novels to the attention of mainstream readers, Old School Books helped establish what we now recognize as the “first wave” of black urban fiction.



See also Kensington Press FURTHER READING Franklin, H. Bruce. “‘Self-Mutilations,’ Review of Yesterday Will Make You Cry, by Chester Himes.” Nation (16 Feb. 1998): 28–31. Gerald, Marc. “Blood Stains: My Search for African-American Noir’s Lost Legacy.” Salon.com 7 Mar. 1997. .

Kinohi Nishikawa

OTHER MEN’S WIVES (2005). This is the third novel written by Freddie Lee Johnson III, professor of history at Hope College. The story centers on the response of protagonist Denmark Wheeler to the infidelity of his trophy wife, Sierra. After growing up in Cleveland’s dangerous Brownfield District, Denmark Wheeler worked hard, put himself through college, and is now a regional manager of an auto parts store and happily married to Sierra Montague Wheeler. He adores his wife and is planning several extravagant surprises for her to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, but when he receives a DVD sent anonymously he is enraged to find his beloved wife engaged in explicit sexual acts with a man whose face is blurred. Denmark not only files for divorce but also embarks on a mission to find the identity of the man on the DVD. The top two suspects are his best friends, Harry and Gordon. Harry is married to Inez, but their marriage is on the rocks because she wants kids and he doesn’t. Gordon is a popular television personality, who has been known to cheat on his longsuffering wife Alice. Although he has no concrete evidence, Denmark sets out to sleep with both their wives because he’s convinced that one of their husbands has crossed the line. He also has a few encounters with other women along the way. Meanwhile, he enlists the help of a technology wiz, who will be able to modify the DVD and reveal the culprit. Denmark also calls on his friend, Mason Booker, a private investigator, who has done background checks on potential new hires for Denmark’s store. Is Wheeler’s retaliation against his wife’s indiscretions the best answer? Psychologist Mark Leary notes that humiliation inflicts such a deep and painful injury to a person’s self-esteem and social status that taking revenge might well be regarded as a powerful means of restoring dignity and regaining some control over the situation. By the time the electronic investigation reveals that Mason was Sierra’s lover, marriages and friendships have been unnecessarily ruined. Johnson’s main character, Wheeler Denmark, acts without confirming all the facts. He is a multifaceted character, a smart and ambitious businessman who is regional manager of Speed Shift’s Auto Supply, a lover, and a jealous husband consumed by rage, lust, and deceit—he is a friend and enemy. Wheeler’s anger is a natural and a common social reaction to hurt and betrayal, but it is extremely destructive. There are far better ways to cope with marital infidelity than with anger. As Wheeler acknowledges, he acted in a self-centered manner. His sexual rampages ultimately degraded the quality of his own life as much as they hurt the lives of others. Beliefs and expectations about the rights and wrongs of relationship behavior and the consequences of breaking the rules are explored in the novel. Clearly, our understanding of Wheeler’s behavior needs to be explored further, particularly in relation to the balance between betrayal, revenge, and forgiveness.

OTHER MEN’S WIVES FURTHER READING Leary, Mark R., ed. Interpersonal Rejection. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Tucker, Belinda M., and Claudia Mitchell-Kernan, eds. The Decline in Marriage Among African Americans: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Implications. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1995.

Beatrice Nibigira Kelley


P PERRY, IMANI (1972–). One of America’s leading cultural critics of the artistry and literary narrative forms within hip-hop music. Perry is both hip-hop scholar and a self-proclaimed hip-hop head. After hearing Sugar Hill Gang at age five, hip-hop music served as the backbeat to Perry’s coming of age, and its political and cultural substance organically meshed with her educational path. In 1994 when The Fugees entered the Booga Basement, grabbed the mic, and proved they “got the vocab,” Perry was graduating from Yale with a B.A. in literature and American studies. Six years later when Lauryn Hill chose self-seclusion, Perry was graduating from Harvard with a Ph.D. in history of American civilization and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Perry, a law professor and cultural scholar, explores the intersection of aesthetics and politics in African American cultural productions, including hip hop. Perry argues in “It’s My Thang” that the early 1990s produced a flowering of feminist discourse, empowerment, and self-possession for black women rappers. Poetic lyrics by such writers as MC Lyte and Salt n’ Pepa were opening up and occupying a feminist space, allowing women to articulate their sexual desires. By “endowing the woman with power as she positions herself as the sexual subject,” female rappers were inverting the “sexual gaze,” and thereby objectifying males (1995, 526). Dramatic changes—fueled by commodification and commercialization—have transpired since the 1990s, diminishing the feminist presence in hip-hop. Perry’s “Who(se) Am I?” posits that the shift toward video culture, which fuels the objectification of women with sexist images, has undermined the feminist message. “Language,” Perry argues, “even aggressive liberatory language becomes nearly powerless in the face of the powerful discourse of the visual within the texts of music videos” (2003, 145). Prophets of the Hood, Perry’s richly nuanced treatment of hip hop, explores the aesthetic and artistic value of the “poetry of the lyrics and the music of the beats,” a unique public space where the “sacred” meets the “profane” (2004, 3–4). Perry cogently argues that hip hop is a distinctly black American form, deeply rooted in oral traditions and influenced by such signature features as African American vernacular English, call and response, trickster consciousness, metaphors, storytelling, braggadocio, signifying, and the dozens. Perry probes beneath the raw, explicit, often aggressive lyrics to the skillful articulation and sophisticated understanding of social politics by hip-hop artists, who offer brilliant insights on society’s ills. With emotional authenticity and radical honesty these “self-proclaimed contemporary prophets” insert themselves into our culture’s material reality and offer “truth-revealing parables” (2004, 2).

PICTURE ME ROLLIN’ FURTHER READING Perry, Imani. “It’s My Thang and I’ll Swing It the Way That I Feel! Sexuality and Black Women Rappers.” In Gender, Race and Class in Media: A Text-Reader. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez, eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1995, 524–530. ———. Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004. ———. “Who(se) Am I? The Identity and Image of Women in Hip-Hop.” In Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-Reader, 2nd edition. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez, eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2003, 136–148.

Judy L. Isaksen

PICTURE ME ROLLIN’ (2005). Determined to write contemporary yet impactful novels for “all warrior women, realized and emerging, alive and transcended, celebrated and unsung and the men fierce enough to love them,” Sofia Quintero wrote her second novel Picture Me Rollin’ under the pen name Black Artemis. This self-proclaimed “Ivy League homegirl” has contributed immensely to hip-hop culture as a pioneer in the field of hip-hop literature. She was born into a working-class Puerto Rican-Dominican family in the Bronx, where she still resides. Growing up, Quintero loved to read but felt she wasn’t reflected in the works she was given. And now she is changing that by creating cutting edge hip-hop noir. Upon first glance, Picture Me Rollin’ is a classic story of redemption. It chronicles a young woman, Esperanza Cepeda, who returns home after a year in prison with a felony conviction and tries to get her life together despite many obstacles. What is of particular significance is that “Espe” is a young Latina from the South Bronx who has a passion for Tupac. Her sister Dulce, a reformed “gangster chick” uses tough love to keep Espe on track and hold their family together. During her brief stint in prison, Espe is influenced by her cellmate Isoke Oshodi, a political prisoner who teaches her powerful lessons about activism, history, and social movements. But Espe isn’t quite sure how to integrate that “new” knowledge into her old life. She needs to reconcile past relationships, including that with her former boyfriend Jesus, who is responsible for Espe’s incarceration in the first place and is intent on coaxing her back into criminal enterprise. She also struggles to reconcile her new identity as a convicted felon by attempting to go to school, get a job, and, otherwise, “do the right thing,” in a society that rarely gives second chances to formerly incarcerated urban people of color. In her attempts to reconcile the inconsistencies and contradictions within herself and others, Esperanza makes many mistakes along the way. Nevertheless, she attracts unlikely mentors and friends as she attempts to grow into the person she wants to be. Eventually, Espe realizes that the path of her complicated hero, Tupac, is an all too common one in present times because of the systemic inequities in place. A Place of Our Own Book Club (APOO) raved about Picture Me Rollin’, “The storyline captures the language and feel of the current Hip-Hop Generation while also delivering a powerful social message. Artemis has written a powerful and poignant story with believable characters that will resonate well with today’s youth while also enlightening parents and adults. For those who enjoy books with an urban feel and that are well written, Picture Me Rollin’ should become part of your library today” (2007).




Black Artemis delivers an inspirational narrative in Picture Me Rollin’ that is also entertaining and educational, which has truly become her trademark. In an interview on her blog, she advises, “Be authentic. Tell it the way it is. It will resonate with a broader community. I think everybody should write, sing and dance for themselves. It keeps us connected to our humanity and to each other” (2007). See also Burn: A Novel; Quintero, Sophia FURTHER READING Artemis, Black. Picture Me Rollin’. New York: New American Library/Penguin, 2005. “Black Artemis Beyond Keepin’ it Real.”2 Dec. 2007. . “Picture Me Rollin’ Review.” Dec. 2007. .

Marcella Runell Hall

PIMP: THE STORY OF MY LIFE (1969). Published by Holloway House and written under the pen name Iceberg Slim, Pimp: The Story of My Life stands as a primary text that is frequently referenced in hip hop culture. Its author was born Robert Lee Maupin in Chicago in 1918 and would later change his name to Robert Beck in 1960 (Muckley 2001, 18). The twenty-two chapter novel, which includes a preface, an epilogue, and a glossary of terms used in the text, sold some six million copies worldwide and was translated into six languages before his death in 1992 (Osborne 2001, 54). Beck’s fictionalized reflection on his life remains a seminal text within the African American pulp fiction genre. Though it is a foundational text of that genre, the novel draws upon the conventions and forms of other genres. In particular, it closely follows some of the purposes of the slave narrative, which typically employs a narrative frame, including a prologue or preface and an afterword or epilogue, attesting to its authenticity and the sufferings described within, in addition to arousing the sympathy of readers in order to promote humanitarian purposes. Further, it utilizes some of the patterns that critic Frances Smith Foster identifies in slave narratives, which include a descent from a state of innocence into a recognition of slave status, a progressive dehumanization and concomitant growth of self-reliance, a spiritual bottoming out, a resolution to change his/her situation, flight from the situation, and ultimately, spiritual and emotional redemption (Foster 1994, 85). Although Beck’s work may have attracted more attention to the world of pimping and prostitution, in the novel’s preface, he clearly frames it as a cautionary tale that reveals the inhumanity of the profession arguing that “if one intelligent valuable young man or woman can be saved from the destructive slime, then the displeasure I have given will have been outweighed by that individual’s use of his potential in a socially constructive manner” (Iceberg Slim 1969, 17). In effect, providing the details of his protagonist’s descent into pimping and his rise from it into a solidly middle-class lifestyle serves as a means of dissuading others from “the Life”—or what the novel’s glossary defines as street or criminal life—which in turn achieves broader humanitarian purposes. The novel provides a first-person narrative of the 30-year career of the novel’s protagonist Young Blood/Iceberg as a pimp in the street skin trade. Much like the bildungsroman or novel of personal development, it describes his Depression-era struggles to overcome childhood sexual abuse, his father’s abandonment, his mother’s desertion of a working-class


man, Henry, who loved them both for a con man who abused them, and finally, at his mother’s urging, a brief stint as a student at the Tuskegee Institute. Ultimately, his dismissal from Tuskegee marks his entry into “the Life,” from roughly 1938 to 1960. While under the tutelage of his mentor, Sweet Jones, he is sentenced to multiple jail terms and becomes a heroin addict. During his fifth jail term, Iceberg experiences a psychological “bottoming out” and rejects “the Life,” naming his troubled relationship with his mother as a primary factor in his ability “to see the terrible pattern of [his] life” (Iceberg Slim 1969, 305). Lamenting the time he has lost, he asserts that he “had spent more than half a lifetime in a worthless, dangerous profession” (Iceberg Slim 1969, 305). Upon his release from jail, Iceberg returns to his dying mother’s bedside in California, and as she apologizes for her earlier mistakes, he forgives her, absolving her of any responsibility for what he has done with his life. At the novel’s end, he remarks in the epilogue that although the “square world” is a strange place for him, his wife and two young children provide the motivation to “fit in” and, he concludes that he is “an Iceberg with a warm heart” (Iceberg Slim 1969, 311). Thematically, concerns around class status and access to class mobility informs much of the novel’s action as does escaping the brutality of institutional racism in the era preceding the African American freedom struggle and the end of Jim Crow segregation. Iceberg frequently alludes to “the Life” as an alternate means of accessing class mobility and evading racism. Observing the symbols of wealth and upper-class status that his mentor Sweet Jones has gained, Iceberg asserts “[h]e came out of the white man’s cotton fields . . . [h]e ain’t no nigger doctor . . . [h]e ain’t no hot sheet nigger preacher but he’s here” (Iceberg Slim 1969, 163). Figuring Jones as a model for his own pursuit of class mobility, he continues, “I got more education, I’m better looking, and younger than he is. I know I can do it too” (Iceberg Slim 1969, 163). Although he outlines a career as a doctor or minister as two significant and conventional avenues available to African Americans to gain class mobility, he views Jones as contesting social restraints imposed on African Americans regarding race as well as class status. The novel continues to impact popular culture. It was optioned by Fine Line Features in 2000 and rapper Ice Cube was slated to star as Iceberg with Bill Duke to direct. However, after the project stalled, Pras, a former member of the hip hop group The Fugees, acquired the rights to the story. A variety of cultural producers have acknowledged that the novel significantly influenced them, including rappers Snoop-Dogg, Ice-T, and Ice Cube, comedian Dave Chappelle, African American pulp fiction writer Donald Goines, and film directors Allen and Albert Hughes. See also Iceberg Slim; Iceberg Slim: The Life as Art FURTHER READING Foster, Frances Smith. Witnessing Slavery: The Development of Antebellum Slave Narratives, 2nd edition. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994. Muckley, Peter. “Iceberg Slim: Robert Beck—a True Essay at a BioCriticism of an Ex-Outlaw Artist.” The Black Scholar, Vol. 25 Issue 4 (2001): 18–25. Osborne, Gwendolyn. “The Legacy of Ghetto Pulp Fiction: Hustler Heroes for All Times.” Black Issues Book Review, Vol. 3 Issue 5 (Sept./Oct. 2001): 50–52. Patton, Phil. “Sold on Ice: Six Million Readers Can’t Be Wrong.” Esquire, Vol. 118 Issue 4 (Oct. 1992): 76. Slim, Iceberg (Robert Beck). Pimp: The Story of My Life. Los Angeles: Holloway House, 1969.

Carol Davis




PIMPS UP, HO’S DOWN: HIP HOP’S HOLD ON YOUNG BLACK WOMEN (2007). A feminist perspective on the role of young black women in commodified hip hop culture. Currently the director of African American and diaspora studies and French at Vanderbilt University, T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting has been described as one of the brightest of the young black intellectuals who theorize race and gender within the framework of hip hop culture. Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women is an important work chronicling the power hip hop culture has to shape sexual identity for many young black women. The title is perhaps a derisive nod toward the 1999 HBO documentary Pimps Up, Ho’s Down, but it is far different in that Sharpley-Whiting presents a serious and in-depth critique of the effect of the exploitation mentality on self-perceptions and actions of young women who participate in hip hop culture. Much of the essence of commercial hip hop culture has at its core the relationships of men to women. If the male archetypes in the culture are of gangsters, thugs, and pimps, then their primary counterpart has been the sexually available female. From lyrics and music videos to movies and literature the prevailing mythology surrounding girls denotes their place as “eye-candy,” groupies, hoochies, strippers, video dancers, and oftentimes whores. The author is candid in her criticism of a culture that, like traditional western capitalism, makes much of its money from the bodies, minds, and spirits of girls and young women. Sharpley-Whiting presents her readers with the knowledge that sales of downloadable music videos are in some instances outdistancing the sales of the actual music (2007, 25–26). As a result the bodies of the young women in the video become increasingly important as marketing tools. In addition to the video dancer’s importance to the music sales, she is the iconic role for young women in hip hop culture. Many young girls desire the status of a video dancer because she is seen as having power—she supposedly has control over the males who ogle her. The other roles available for young women as commodities include groupies and golddiggers. These women are constantly vilified in hip hop culture as opportunists and manipulators, yet the male rapper persona is deeply tied to his ability to draw these very women. Music videos have also made strippers infamous as they become an integral part of what it means to have a good time as a rapper. The side effect of these kinds of presentations is that young female viewers and participators in the culture often crave the kind of attention these archetypes provoke. Sharpley-Whiting’s book makes a space for a critique that includes the very negative aspects of these presentations. Because gender relations are overly influenced by current commercial manifestations of hip hop culture, there is much confusion and contention regarding the young black female body and her rights to control it. Issues of sexual abuse and violence become increasingly difficult to talk about in a culture that embraces exploitation and the commoditization of black female bodies. See also Confessions of a Video Vixen FURTHER READING Hill Collins, Patricia. From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racisim, Nationalism, and Feminism. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2006. Morgan, Joan. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost : A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks it Down. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2000.

Tarshia L. Stanley


POETIC JUSTICE (COLUMBIA PICTURES, USA, 1993). This film examines the difficulty of growing up black and female in South Central Los Angeles during the 1990s. John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood established a precedent for a rash of black, malecentered, inner-city films during the last decade of the twentieth century. In 1993 he expanded the theme by developing a project with a young woman at its center. In the aftermath of gang and drug violence there are many victims. During the explosion of black-on-black crime in the 1980s and 1990s much attention was given to the black men who were killed or incarcerated. Singleton’s film is one of the few instances of a work that deals with the collateral damage of this terrible phenomenon. Justice (Janet Jackson) is a young woman suffering excruciating depression and loneliness after the death of her loved ones. Her mother and grandmother have passed away and her boyfriend has been shot to death. Alone in the world, Justice becomes emotionally isolated and her only outlet becomes the poetry she writes. Throughout the film her poetry, which is original work scripted by Maya Angelou, must speak for her, until she meets a flirtatious postman named Lucky (Tupac Shakur). Justice and Lucky have a hard time getting to know one another as both their assumptions about the opposite sex get in the way. Lucky tries to court Justice at the beauty salon where she works, but he is summarily rebuffed by her. The two end up traveling to Oakland in Lucky’s mail truck because Justice’s friend Iesha (Regina King) and Lucky’s friend Chicago (Joe Torry) are a couple and have made the travel arrangements. The two become close and after several twists and turns the film ends with Lucky bringing his daughter to the hair salon to meet Justice. In Poetic Justice: Filmmaking South Central Style, Singleton says that the poetry interwoven throughout the film was designed to give it depth (1993, 128). Because the protagonist of the film is female, Singleton saw the need to enhance her characterization by making her a poet. Justice’s need to wax poetic in the voiceovers seems contrived to show that “around the way girls” have hearts too. Jut as his presentation of Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) in Boyz was meant to provide a human subtext to the caricatures of black men seen on the nightly news engaged in drive-by shootings; Justice is a conglomerate of emotions and attitudes and Singleton tries hard to make her a whole character. Finally, the film gives yet another nod to the black poetic tradition with a cameo by The Last Poets. FURTHER READING Nicholson, David. “Poetic Justice and Other Clichés.” American Visions, Vol. 8 Issue 4 (Aug./Sep. 1993): 26. Singleton, John, and Veronica Chambers. Poetic Justice: Filmmaking South Central Style. New York: Dell Publishing, 1993. Travers, Peter, and Gary Kelley. “Girlz ‘n the Hood.” Rolling Stone, Issue 663 (19 Aug. 1993): 81.

Tarshia L. Stanley

POSTMODERNISM. Because postmodernism is such a large phenomenon with a range of definitions, it is important to identify one of the most recognized definitions of postmodernism as posited by Fredric Jameson in Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism: “Postmodernism is what you have when the modernization process is complete and nature is gone for good” (1991, ix). Jameson, like many others, sees




postmodernism as not a distinctly new period but a continuation of modernism, the final stage of modernism. Although discussions about postmodernism are tremendously contentious, there is agreement that postmodernist literature has a proclivity to be selfreflexive, parodic, ironic, and formally fragmented. Terry Eagleton comments on how this consensus about postmodernist literature is “depthless, decentered, ungrounded, self-reflexive, playful, derivative, eclectic, pluralistic art which blurs the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture, as well as between art and everyday experience” (1997, vii). Just as contentious as the discourse about what defines postmodernism is the debate about specifically when postmodernism emerges. There is, however, a dominant acceptance that postmodernism begins to develop with the fundamental shifts in Western thought that occurred in the decades following World War II. The most important historical phenomenon responsible for the shift between modernity and postmodernity is the arrival of the Cold War. As Eagleton highlights, postmodernist literature is differentiated by “a style of thought which is suspicious of classical notions of truth, reason, identity and objectivity, of the idea of universal progress or emancipation, of single frameworks, grand narratives or ultimate grounds of explanation” (1997, vii). Marxist literary and cultural critic Fredric Jameson is one of the foremost critics of the phenomenon of postmodernism and postmodern literature. Jameson has written a number of works about postmodernism and postmodern literature, but none of his works have been more important than his seminal work Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. In this work, Jameson offers his account of how postmodernism is literally the cultural logical of late capitalism. He finds that one has to understand postmodernism by understanding capitalist ideology. One of the fundamental problems that Jameson has with postmodernism is with the unwillingness of individuals situated in the postmodern moment to engage in thinking historically: “It is safest to grasp the concept of the postmodern as an attempt to think the present historically in age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first place” (1991, ix). Jameson’s work places a strong focus on this crisis of historicity in postmodernism. In discussing this crisis of historicity, Jameson speaks about one of the central features of postmodernism he finds: pastiche, that is, “blank parody” (1991, 17). Although Jameson does not find pastiche in itself to be problematic, he does contend that postmodern literature’s use of pastiche has a disregard for historicity, which he comes to understand as postmodern literature’s resistance to history. Another dimension of postmodern art that Jameson finds that characterizes postmodern art and postmodernism is “the waning of affect”—the flattening of emotion that has accompanied the arrival of the postmodern moment (1991, 11). Whereas Jameson does not argue that people can no longer feel basic human emotion and compassion in the postmodern moment, he does argue that they have an unwillingness to evince basic human emotion and compassion. This accounts for the great “waning of affect” that we experience in postmodern literature containing disquieting violence and disregard for the basic value of human life. Jameson contends that it is the lack of the ability to think historically that has contributed to the unwillingness of postmodern subjects to feel basic human compassion and emotion. This “waning of affect” is conspicuous in the literature of postmodern texts that glamorize violence, suffering, oppression, racism, and discrimination, and those texts that do not have the “waning of affect” express a desire for the reader to respond to these aforementioned issues with a sense of social, personal, and political responsibility. Jameson’s call to engage always in historicizing the quandary one is attempting to solve is what Jameson argues that postmodern writers resist, or have no concern for at all.


Just as Jameson’s work has had a tremendous influence on how scholars have come to understand postmodernism and postmodernist literature, Brian McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction (1987) has also had a tremendous impact on how postmodernism and postmodernist literature is viewed. He emphasizes that postmodernism is not a definitive object but something that has been constructed by contemporary readers. Postmodernism is something that does not have a definitive meaning, so he says that this allows for it to have numerous interpretations. It is McHale’s fundamental belief that a definitive meaning of postmodernism cannot be created. Although McHale and Jameson agree that postmodernism is a continuation of modernism, McHale disagrees with Jameson’s argument that postmodernism can be understood through a dominant narrative of postmodernism as the culture logic of late capitalism. McHale contends that the fundamental difference in postmodernist fiction and modernist literature is in the shift of modernist literature’s concern for epistemological questions to postmodernist literature’s concern for ontological questions (1987, 10). He contends that the ontological disposition of the postmodern novel is evinced in its concern for engendering autonomous worlds. Drawing upon what he accomplished in Postmodernist Fiction, Brian McHale decided to extend what he said and offer more specific examples of postmodernist texts in Constructing Postmodernism (1992). In Constructing Postmodernism, McHale engages in critical readings of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) and Vineland (1990), Umberto Eco’s In The Name of the Rose (1980) and Foucault’s Pendulum (1988), and some of the fiction of Joseph McElroy, Christine Brook-Rose, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Walter Jon Williams. McHale comments that the first half of Joyce’s Ulysses challenges our understanding of the notion of what postmodernist and modernist literature is: he argues that the first half of Ulysses operates in the tradition of modernist literature, but the second half of the work he acknowledges as being read as “normatively postmodernist” (1992, 10). McHale, therefore, wants scholars to rethink the way in which they negotiate notions of what is modernist and postmodernist, for example, considering Ulysses as modernist and postmodernist at the same time. McHale finds that each of the aforementioned works complicates our notions of what is postmodernist literature because they do and do not enact elements of postmodernism. In McHale’s reading of Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, McHale concentrates his focus on how the reader experiences Pynchon’s novel. He opines: Pynchon’s text sets itself against this modernist mind-set, chiefly by luring paranoid readers— modernist readers—into interpretive dark alleys, culs-de-sac, impossible situations, and requiring them to find their way out by some other path than the one they came in by. (1992, 82)

Pynchon’s text is a classic example of the way in which a great crisis of certainty hovers over postmodernist literature. The uncertainty that Pynchon engenders for his readers is accomplished by having them learn a certain world in the text, and then, at any moment, modifies that world in a way that causes the readers to have to reorient themselves to the world of the text. Pynchon’s novel provides a strong example of how the postmodern novel reflects the difficulty of being able to think in terms of totality. Postmodernist literature and postmodernism have a tremendous skepticism and disapproval of totalizing narratives. Therefore, as we see through McHale’s reading of Pynchon’s novel, this novel exemplifies postmodern literature because it demonstrates a frustration with the difficulty of thinking in terms of totality in a growing and fragmented world.




Similarly, McHale’s reading of Pynchon’s Vineland helps to illuminate what postmodernist literature is. McHale argues that Vineland’s close engagement with television and the phenomenon of television channel switching reveals how the work itself parallels with the formal fragmentation of the work. One of the fundamental features of postmodernism and postmodernist literature, as mentioned earlier, is formal fragmentation. McHale contends that the narrative movement in the text is reflective of the narrative movement of television, a movement that resists totalizing, coherent narratives. The narrative associated with television also is reflected in Pynchon’s narrative, considering that the language of the text reflects cutting and perspective practices associated with television and film. FURTHER READING Anderson, Perry. The Origins of Postmodernity. London and New York: Verso, 1998. Eagleton, Terry. The Illusions of Postmodernism. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997. hooks, bell. “Postmodern Blackness.” Postmodern Culture, Vol. 1 Issue 1 (Sept. 1990). Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. London: Routledge, 1988. ———. The Politics of Postmodernism. New York: Routledge, 1989. Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991. Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, trans. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1984. McHale, Brian. Constructing Postmodernism. New York: Routledge, 1992. ———. Postmodernist Fiction. London: Methuen, 1987.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

POWELL, KEVIN (1966–). Hip-hop historian, journalist, and social activist. Kevin Powell, a native of Jersey City, New Jersey, in many ways codified and institutionalized hip-hop music and culture during the 1990s. Parlaying his brief stint on the first season of MTV’s Real World in 1992 into an opportunity to become an entertainment world insider, Powell became one of the founding staff members and a senior writer for Vibe magazine, one of the most influential hip-hop publications. He has written articles, essays, and reviews that have appeared in Rolling Stone, Essence, The Washington Post, and Newsweek. He has interviewed major hip-hop figures, such as Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, and Aaliyah, as well as prominent leaders, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and cultural critic and feminist scholar bell hooks. Powell, who attended Rutgers University from 1984 to 1988, seamlessly melds academic and journalistic fervor with a hip-hop sensibility that positions hip-hop music and culture squarely in the center of contemporary public discourse. He is the editor of Who Shot Ya?: Three Decades of Hip Hop Photography (2004), Step into a World: A Global Anthology of the New Black Literature (2000), and In the Tradition: An Anthology of Young Black Writers (1992). These books highlight and articulate the diversity and scope of hip-hop art. He has also published four books, including Someday We’ll All Be Free (2006), in which he analyzes American politics and raises poignant questions about the tragedies of September 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. True to his hip-hop activist roots, Powell personally traveled to New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Houston to interview Katrina survivors, organized New York City benefits to raise supplies, and co-created Katrina on the Ground, a nonprofit group that sent college students to the devastated areas of the Gulf Coast in March 2006.


Powell writes extensively about his impoverished childhood, his single mother Shirley Mae Powell, and the countless obstacles he encountered as an African American male raised in an urban environment. In Keepin’ It Real: Post-MTV Reflections on Race, Sex, and Politics (1997), Powell summarizes his journey toward personal enlightenment the following way: “Over the course of the last decade I’ve been a flag-waving patriot, a Christian, an atheist, a Muslim, a student leader, a homeless person, a pauper, a lover, a social worker, a poet, a misogynist, an English instructor, an MTV star, a full-time journalist, an egomaniac, a manic-depressive, a bully, a punk, an optimist, a pessimist, and most of all, someone who is always trying to tell the truth as I see it.” Like hip-hop artists, Powell asserts that the personal is political, and he writes candidly about his own failures in order to create public dialogues. With activist April Silver, Powell cofounded the nonprofit community-based group Hiphop Speaks, and in 2006, he made an unsuccessful bid for the United States House of Representatives in the 10th Congressional District of New York. FURTHER READING Powell, Kevin, ed. In the Tradition: An Anthology of Young Black Writers. New York: Harlem Writers Press, 1992. ———. Keepin’ It Real: Post-MTV Reflections on Race, Sex, and Politics. New York: One World/Ballantine, 1998. ———. Recognize: Poems. New York: Harlem River Press, 1995. ———. Someday We’ll All Be Free. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2006. ———, ed. Step into a World: A Global Anthology of the New Black Literature. New York: J. Wiley, 2000. ———. Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?: Manhood, Race, and Power in America. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003. ———. Who Shot Ya?: Three Decades of Hip Hop Photography. New York: Amistad, 2004.

Seretha D. Williams

THE PRISONER’S WIFE (1999). Asha Bandele’s memoir denoting the effect of incarceration on the loved ones outside of the prison. Today, there are millions of Americans behind bars, and African Americans are disproportionately represented in this population. Asha Bandele’s The Prisoner’s Wife, a lyrical memoir, puts a personal face on these grim statistics. In it, Bandele, a poet and former editor-at-large at Essence, recounts the evolution of her relationship with Zayd Rashid, an inmate serving a fifteen-year-to-life sentence for second degree murder. What’s remarkable about her story is that this relationship blossoms behind bars; he is in prison when she meets him. She and her college classmates read poetry for a class in a New York State prison, and she is immediately attracted to his spirit. They begin their relationship as platonic friends, and after building a relationship over the next seven years, decide to marry. Bandele recounts how differently she was treated once she began traveling to the prison to visit Rashid, no longer entering the heavily secured areas as a volunteer, but rather as a friend and later a girlfriend of someone incarcerated there. The memoir details the repression of sexual desire that lies at the center of the incarceration experience; at the same time, Bandele cites this time as the most romantic one of her life and describes her own sexual awakening. Because he is incarcerated, she and Rashid undergo constant surveillance of their visits, phone calls, and letters. Her own




history of disassociation from her sexual needs parallels that of Rashid. Whereas she felt earlier that she was not in touch with her sexuality and allowed men to dominate her, falling in love with Rashid primarily through his letters made for a more egalitarian relationship. She credits Rashid with helping liberate her sexuality. The liberation of sexuality ties into the memoir’s trope of overcoming imposed distances. She describes the five-hour ride from New York City to the prison in upstate New York with the other women. When she did see Rashid, they were forced to maintain distance between them. After talking for hours, their physical contact was limited to hand holding and a kiss and hug when she left. So they fought to maintain mental and emotional intimacy despite their lack of physical closeness. After they were married, it took four months to get permission for a conjugal visit, two days of privacy in a trailer on prison grounds. However, even during her visit then, their sex is interrupted by the prison’s count. Even when they can be together, the prison continues to keep them separated. Though the couple is now legally separated and Rashid has been denied parole, The Prisoner’s Wife succeeds in offering an insight not often portrayed in contemporary literature, the experiences of loved ones and family who bridge the geographical and mental distance imposed by the criminal justice system on a regular basis to keep their imprisoned friends and family connected to the “outside.” Bandele contests dismissive generalizations about her relationship with Rashid by repeatedly showing that we, in fact, need them as much, if not more, than they need us. FURTHER READING Girshick, Lori B. “I Leave in the Dark of Morning.” Prison Journal, Vol. 74 Issue 1(Mar. 1994): 93.

Courtney D. Marshall

PUSH: A NOVEL (1996). Written by Sapphire, Push is a short novel, often regarded as a young adult novel, that has been met with much acclaim and almost as much controversy for its raw and honest depiction of a young black girl dealing with sexual abuse. Push is the story of sixteen-year-old Clarice “Precious” Jones. Told through Precious’s eyes, the novel details two years of Precious’s life as she attempts to deal with sexual and physical abuse at the hands of both her mother and father, motherhood as a result of incest, contraction of HIV, and ultimately, the struggle to articulate the many traumas she has faced in her young life through the gradual acquisition of literacy. It is through Precious’s involvement with an adult literacy program, run by Miss Rain, that Precious is able to process and articulate what she has endured. Written in a combination of barely literate first-person narrative and journal entries, it is through literacy that Precious is able to more maturely comprehend and express what she has experienced. Through this articulation, low self-esteem and self-blame are transformed into something more positive and progressive. Sapphire, whose real name is Ramona Lofton, was born in 1950 in Fort Ord, California. A bi-sexual author and poet, Sapphire deals with the recurring themes of girlhood, sexuality, transformation, voice, and the visibility of marginalized individuals. Although she was first noticed as a poet, it was Push that thrust Sapphire into the spotlight. The controversy Push was met with on release in part stemmed from anger directed toward the seemingly relentless and brutal traumas that Sapphire’s young protagonist endures and tells in her own raw language. The sexual abuse is graphic, and Precious’s own processing of the abuse is honest


and raw in ways that many readers have found difficult to confront. However, confrontation and its healing, transformative effects are key themes in Push and much of Sapphire’s work. Crediting the very manifestation of Push to authors such as Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, Sapphire is continuing a legacy of black female voices that seek to expose and confront the traumas and silenced narratives of the African American community. Just as Walker’s The Color Purple and Morrison’s The Bluest Eye were met with anger at their allegedly negative portrayals of the black community, particularly black men, so Push has been met with similar scorn for what is deemed by some to be a betrayal. Push, as Sapphire has noted on occasion, can be seen as The Color Purple for a new, more contemporary generation. Since its publication, rumors of a Hollywood adaptation of Push have continued to surface, yet Sapphire has resisted due to her concerns that Hollywood might exploit the subject matter. As well as this, a film adaptation would lose much of the novel’s themes of literacy, language, and Precious’s own intimate voice. Sapphire currently lives in New York and is working on her next novel. See also Sapphire FURTHER READING Sapphire. American Dreams. New York: Vintage Press, 1994. ———. Black Wings & Blind Angels. New York: Vintage Press, 1999. ———. Meditations on the Rainbow: Poetry. New York: Crystal Bananas Press, 1987.

Laura H. Marks


Q QUEEN OF THE SCENE (2006). Queen of the Scene is a children’s book written for ages 3–8. It follows the adventures of a young African American girl as she dominates the streets and courts of her neighborhood to become the ultimate representation of girl power. Penned by Queen Latifah, arguably the most prolific and popular female hiphop artist and one of the first to articulate the experience of African American women in a genre often dominated by men, and made possible by the Coretta Scott King’s New Talent Award, Queen of the Scene is a hip-hop urban tale of strength and pride in one’s community and neighborhood. Written in rhyme, with a hip-hop flavor that engages audiences at all levels, and incorporating the language of street urban culture, Queen of the Scene engages us in the experience of a young girl’s strength, determination, and ambition to be the best at everything in her neighborhood. Queen of the Scene allows us to follow a young African American girl as she presides over the sports (basketball, running, and football) and the streets traditionally thought to be ruled by boys. The book continues with her proving that she is just as adept at hopscotch, stickball, and double Dutch; thus, proving to all who read this tale that girls, strength, and athleticism go hand in hand. More importantly, this gendered and authentic urban experience is embedded in an urban hip hop language (represented here as a powerful voice) and includes a rapped version of the story by Queen Latifah herself (included on a CD attached to the book). As the Queen of the story tells us, she is “representin’.” Representin’ is an urban slang generally used to position strength and representation of a specific area or place and used here to further reflect the representation of young girls empowering themselves to find spirit, voice (especially a hip-hop one), and pride in their gender and in their neighborhoods. The “neighborhood,” generally thought to be beyond an individual’s control, is represented as a space that girls do have the power to influence. Significant to the story are the images drawn by Frank Morrison, a children’s book illustrator whose other illustrated books include Sweet Music in Harlem, written by Debbie A. Taylor, and Jazzy Miz Mozetta, written by Brenda C. Roberts, for which he won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. Morrison’s illustrated text draws upon images from an urban street culture, evident in the graffiti walls, the city buildings in the background images, the unfortunate litter that finds its way into the urban world, and the concrete paved sidewalks and courts where the kids play all day. Additionally, the appreciation and admiration of the urban and ethnic is everywhere in both the story and the illustrations, from the hairstyles (Afros, Locs, barrettes, beads, and ponytails) to the clothing (rolled up jeans, Converse shoes, and baseball caps) and


on toward the images of her parents and other adults, dressed to evoke the representation and spirit of the pro-black power movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, what is different and exciting in this children’s tale is the choice made by Queen Latifah to show the experience of young ethnic girls and boys growing up in a multicultural world, illustrated in the varied faces of ethnic youth that are found throughout the playground. The children range from African American and Latino youths to Asian youths. Ultimately, Queen Latifah gives us an urban hip hop children’s tale that examines the courage and strength to be oneself and proves that no matter race and/or gender the Queen is always at the top of her game. See also Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman FURTHER READING Latifah, Queen, and Frank Morrison. Queen of the Scene. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2006.

Rosa Soto

QUEEN PEN. Rap artist and passionate hip hop novelist. Queen Pen (aka Lynise Walters) started her hip hop career first as a guest rapper on BlackStreet’s smash-hit single “No Diggity” in 1996. She then released her debut album My Melody in 1997 and later Conversations with Queen in 2001. She is known particularly for her groundbreaking song “Girlfriend,” which discusses lesbian culture. In 2002, Queen Pen turned to fiction writing and self-published her first book Situations, which is made up of short stories about various urban street life topics. Since then, Queen Pen has been recognized as an urban literary writer in the writing genre of urban literature. Although urban literature has received much criticism for its “positive” narratives about drugs, violence, and sex, Situations gained notice and sold well despite the lack of support from big publishers. The popularity of the book was probably due to Queen Pen’s ability to write about daily life situations that reflect the reality that readers face in their own lives every day. Queen Pen, an independent writer at that time, also encouraged other urban literary writers to consider self-publishing, which could provide writers with maximum control of their own work. Her success with her first book attracted attention from Simon and Schuster, with whom she signed a deal for the publication of Blossom in 2006. Instead of a collection of short stories, Blossom is a romance novel about a beautiful schoolgirl falling in love with a New York City street hustler. The novel portrays the mixed feelings of love and pain that the girl experiences in her first love relationship. Blossom does not just reveal an African American hustler’s world, which is associated with drugs, material things, danger, and the street, but more importantly, it also gives insight into the issue of love in African American culture. One reason why Queen Pen is skillful in writing street-related stories that often touch the hearts of readers may be because she has had much personal experience in her hometown of Brooklyn, which, along with the Bronx, is known for its rich hip hop culture history. This may also explain why Blossom is set in Brooklyn streets. Queen Pen is a prime example of an artist using her efforts in urban literary writing to promote African American culture. She is keen to use her words to convey messages that




can inspire people. Her hard work was further recognized when she was nominated for the “Breakout Author of the Year” of the African American Literary Awards Show Open Book Award in 2006. Queen Pen is also a columnist for The Source magazine, a popular publication about hip hop music and culture. FURTHER READING Walters, Lynise (aka Queen Pen). Blossom: A Novel. New York: Atria Books, 2006. ———. Situations. New York: Queen Pen Music, 2002.

Almaz Tsz-ying Leung

QUINTERO, SOFÍA (1969–). Under the pen name Black Artemis, Sofía Quintero writes cutting edge hip-hop fiction. Quintero is a well-known writer, activist, educator, producer, speaker, and entrepreneur once named one of the “New School Activists Most Likely to Change New York” by City Limits Magazine. She was born into a working-class Puerto Rican-Dominican family in the Bronx, where she still resides. The self-proclaimed “Ivy League homegirl” has contributed immensely to hip-hop culture as a pioneer in the field of hip-hop literature. Before becoming a novelist, Quintero earned a B.A. in history-sociology from Columbia University in 1990 and her M.P.A. from the university’s School of International and Public Affairs in 1992. Quintero’s activism is far-reaching. For example, she has worked on campaigns to defend multicultural education, fight police brutality, and educate communities on HIV/AIDS. Yet after years of working on a range of policy issues as an “unapologetic generalist,” she decided, in her own words, to “heed the muse” and pursue a career in entertainment. Quintero is adamant about distinguishing between “street lit” and hip-hop lit through her essays on Blogger and MySpace, speaking engagements, and her body of work itself. Her Black Artemis novels have been hailed by critics for being as intelligent and substantive as they are entertaining and accessible. As such, they are assigned regularly in university courses ranging from English literature to women’s studies, a rarity for any author of popular fiction. Determined to write entertaining yet clever novels for “women who love hip-hop even when hip-hop doesn’t always love them in return,” Quintero wrote her debut novel Explicit Content. It is the first work of fiction about women MCs in the hip hop industry as the protagonists and was published by New American Library/Penguin in August 2004. In a review of the novel Explicit Content posted on the Black Artemis website, Booklist said, “Fans of Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever (1999) will find this debut novel just as tantalizing.” Her second Black Artemis novel, Picture Me Rollin’ (published in June 2005) brings a new twist to the home-from-prison tale, telling the story of a young Latina whose obsession with Tupac Shakur leads her to find self-love. Black Beat wrote of Picture Me Rollin’, “Black Artemis has penned yet another piece of hip-hop fiction that’ll have you at the edge of your seat ‘til the very last page” (2005). Her third Black Artemis novel, Burn: A Novel, was released in August 2006 and follows a female bail bond agent in the South Bronx who searches for a missing graffiti artist and grapples with her own tragic past. With her beloved friend and creative/business partner Elisha Miranda (aka E-Fierce, author of The Sista Hood), Sofia cofounded Sister/Outsider Entertainment in 2006, a multimedia production company with several projects in development for television, film, and


stage. Quintero is also a co-founder and current board member of Chica Luna Productions, a community-based organization that supports young women of color in popular media. Acknowledging the controversy over street lit, Quintero’s mission is to write “urban noir” that reaches past stereotypes of urban, low-income communities by tackling sociopolitical issues, exploring the social and economic conditions that give rise to “street life,” and captivating reader interest through innovative storytelling. See also Burn: A Novel; Explicit Content; Picture Me Rollin’

Marcella Runell Hall


R RAIMIST, RACHEL (197?–). Hip hop filmmaker, educator, and activist who garnered critical acclaim for her hip hop documentary, Nobody Knows My Name (1999). In addition to serving as one of the editors for Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology (2007), Rachel Raimist describes herself as a “mother, filmmaker, scholar, educator, hip-hop feminist, activist, community organizer, and blogger.” Raimist, who speaks and writes about her love of true hip hop culture, also teaches classes and hosts an Internet site providing information and links for those interested in learning about the history and depth of the culture outside of the confines of commercialism. Raimist is particularly interested in presentations of hip hop culture through the eyes and minds of women. Her documentary, Nobody Knows My Name, chronicles the journeys of six women. Their intimacy with hip hop ranges from the rap artist and deejay to the political organizer and self-styled mother of a hip hop family. From maintaining the righteousness of hip hop to using hip hop to change her life, the women’s stories in the film are marked by passion and a blazing desire to express their understanding and interaction with the culture. Raimist documents their voices from their perspectives and gives faces to the various ways women are situated within hip hop. It is a welcome departure from depictions of women in hip hop as always helpless, voiceless, and purposeless. However, the filmmaker is careful not to create a world where sexism does not exist. Raimist’s talent lies in her ability to give shape to the complexity and diversity that is hip hop culture and to fulfill the mission of hip hop in its infancy—to provide a means of expression for those who have often been locked out and overlooked. See also Home Girls Make Some Noise: A Hip Hop Feminism Reader FURTHER READING Pough, G., R. Raimist, E. Richardson, A. Durham, eds. “Feminist Filmmaker.” In The Women’s Movement Today: An Encyclopedia of Third Wave Feminism. L. L. Heywood, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005, 122–123. ———.“Hip Hop Feminism” In Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender. F. Malti-Douglas, ed. Thomson Gale Press, 2007. ———. Home Girls Make Some Noise: A Hip Hop Feminism Reader. Los Angeles, CA: Parker Publishing, 2007. VIDEO PRODUCTIONS BBOYSUMMIT 2001 V. I-III (Digital Video, 90 min.) 2001. B-Boy Summit 2000- Vol. 1 & 2 (Digital Video, 60 min.) 2000.

REED, ISHMAEL NOBODY KNOWS MY NAME (Digital Video, 57 min.) 1999. SPEAK UP SISTAS! (Digital Video, 90 min.) 2001.

Tarshia L. Stanley

REED, ISHMAEL (1938–). Poet, novelist, teacher, playwright, anthologist, and cultural activist—born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Ishmael Scott Reed is one of the preeminent African American literary figures of the twentieth century. Reed attended Buffalo public schools and the State University of New York at Buffalo but left without a degree in 1960, moving to the Talbert Mall, a lower-class black housing project. After leaving college, Reed briefly served as a staff correspondent for the Empire Star Weekly, and then as a cohost for WVFO’s radio program “Buffalo Community Roundtable,” which was canceled after he interviewed Malcolm X. Later, relocating to New York City, Reed attended Umbra Society, an African American writers’ fraternity, where he met influential figures, including James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Amiri Baraka. During the early 1960s, Reed helped establish the East Village Other, the first “underground” newspaper of New York City. The fundamental source of Reed’s creative and subversive energy is Neo-HooDoosim. As a variant of Haitian Voodoo, HooDooism, hitherto oppressed by the Western culture, not only serves Reed as an alternative to Western conventionality but also as an explanation for his hybrid and eclectic use of narratives. Central to Neo-HooDooism is the belief that “every man is an artist and every artist a priest” who can bring their “own creative ideals to Neo-HooDoo.” “Neo-HooDoo Manifesto,” “The Neo-HooDoo Aesthetic,” and “catechism of d neoamerican hoodoo church” are significant Neo-HooDoo statements. The Free-Lance Pallbearers (1967), his first novel, parodies the autobiographical modes in African American literature and also unequivocally asserts the manifold aspects of HooDooism. In his second novel, Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down (1969), Reed satirizes the American west as symbolized in the novel by the Loop Garoo Kid. It is with the celebrated Mumbo Jumbo (1972), however, that Reed develops the “true Afro-American aesthetic.” Set in New Orleans during the Harlem Renaissance, the novel revolves around the possession of Jes Grew’s sacred text and PaPa LaBas, the head of the Mumbo Jumbo Kathedral and the atonist of The Wallflower Order. Characterized as “laborious ‘fundamental brainwork’” by Houston Baker, Mumbo Jumbo is a postmodern syncretistic composition that incorporates drawings, photographs, and a bibliography to affect a double parody against essentialism of the Black Aesthetic movement, on the one hand, and monolithic Western aesthetics on the other. Again, his collection of poetry Conjure (1972) efficiently summarizes the features of Neo-HooDooism. His major novels, such as The Last Days of Louisiana Red (1974), Flight to Canada (1976), A Secretary to the Spirits (1978), The Terrible Twos (1982) and its sequel The Terrible Threes(1989), and Reckless Eyeballing (1986), among other things, provide refreshing commentary on language, black essentialism, Western aesthetics, slavery, capitalism, and race and gender politics. Particularly, his satiric narrative in Reckless Eyeballing about feminism courted controversy during the 1980s. Reed’s critically acclaimed Flight to Canada signifying clearly Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, not only establishes the ongoing effects of slavery but also raises awareness of the subversive use of language. This concern with language and multilingualism finds extended treatment in his recent novel, Japanese by Spring (1993). Thus, Reed draws on three languages, English,




Yoruba, and Japanese, and even leaves the epilogue section of the novel in Yoruba untranslated. Reed has also authored numerous essays and nonfictions and has cofounded literary magazines such as Yardbird Reader, Y’Bird, Quilt, and Konch, now published on the Web. Further, Reed, showing his concern for pan-American values, helped establish the Before Columbus Foundation, an organization that celebrates multiracial and multicultural America. In addition to winning several awards, Reed has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and was twice a finalist for the National Book Award. Interestingly, Reed’s oeuvre not only challenges the norms and values of Western culture but also satirizes the excesses and absurdities of the black community—a detachment that lends objectivity and critical force to Reed’s oeuvre. To conclude, Reed’s narrative experiments, signifying and parodying practices, and syncretic flexibility represents a new direction in African American letters. Though detractors have criticized Reed for the eclectic and provocative nature of his works, Reed remains one of the most controversial and original voices in the contemporary African American literary scene and, therefore, deserves special critical attention. See also From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry across the Americas, 1900–2002 FURTHER READING Dick, Bruce, and Pavel Zemliansky, eds. The Critical Response to Ishmael Reed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999. Fox, Robert Elliot. Conscientious Sorcerers: The Black Postmodernist Fiction of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Ishmael Reed, and Samuel R. Delany. New York: Greenwood Press, 1987, 39–92. Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. “On ‘The Blackness of Blackness’: Ishmael Reed and a Critique of the Sign.” In The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988, 217–238.

Sathyaraj Venkatesan

REPRESENTING: HIP HOP CULTURE AND THE PRODUCTION OF BLACK CINEMA (1999). S. Craig Watkins’s first book offers a critique of hip hop’s impact on the black film industry. S. Craig Watkins begins the first sentence of his book, “Black youth are not the passive victims of history but are instead actively involved in its making” (1999, ix). The idea that black youth have both produced a distinct brand of culture and influenced many others is at the heart of this book. In particular Watkins looks at the rise of black cinema since the 1980s and sees in the filmmakers, who for Watkins are largely black men, the same sensibility of rap performers and producers. There is a no-holds-barred approach to art production that is brash, irreverent, and highly marketable. This texts examines black film from 1986–1993 and looks primarily at the work of Spike Lee and what Watkins terms “ghetto action films.” Watkins sees Spike Lee’s meteoric rise to success as indicative of a larger need by black youth to “represent” themselves in popular culture. Like hip hop, black cinema of this time period is in part a reaction to the conservative discourse that often sought to theoretically undo the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. In the face of Reaganomics and a society that became highly individualized, black youth culture invented ways to make themselves heard. Spike Lee’s initial


foray into moviemaking was as an independent. Lee found a way to “represent” the issues and themes he found problematic, and his success at finding an audience captured the attention of mainstream Hollywood. Lee’s success was pivotal to, and opened the door for, filmmakers such as John Singleton and the Hughes Brothers. In the chapter entitled “The Ghettocentric Imagination” Watkins critiques ghetto action films in light of their adherence to Eurocentric models of family, masculinity, and femininity as indicative of some of the ambivalence present in the minds of the Hip Hop Generation. In this case, filmmakers Matty Rich and John Singleton are praised for being young black male directors who are able to make tangible their creative force. Yet, according to Watkins although they seek to create strong, honorable depictions of black males in particular, they often reinvigorate other stereotypes that are just as detrimental. He cites the dichotomy of parenting featured in Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood by noting how the film, though “hip-hop inflected,” managed to receive the endorsement of the then Governor of California Pete Wilson. The book purports that Wilson liked the film because there were familiar elements with which he could identify; there were messages being promoted in Boyz that the Governor wanted to be reinforced. Watkins references David Brinkley’s interview with Pete Wilson as the governor used the message in the film to soothe the public’s reaction to the Rodney King verdict in 1992. Wilson saw the father figure in Boyz as “strong.” He saw him as strong enough to pluck his son out of gang warfare and keep him safe. He saw the Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne) character as a successful father because his son was able to get out of South Central LA and go on to college (1999, 223–224). What Governor Wilson does not see is that saving black youth from themselves and from systemic racism requires more than one strong father. S. Craig Watkins’s book is important to understanding the connection between hip hop as performance and hip hop as film. Although the films he critiques are those created prior to 1994, his insights prove helpful in studying contemporary film productions that feature or are created by members of the Hip Hop Generation. See also Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement; Representing: Hip Hop Culture and the Production of Black Cinema FURTHER READING Roach, Ronald. “Decoding Hip-Hop’s Cultural Impact.” Black Issues in Higher Education, Vol. 21 Issue 5 (22 Apr. 2002): 30–32. Tate, Greg. “The Color of Money.” Nation, Vol. 282 Issue 8 (27 Feb. 2006): 23–26.

Tarshia L. Stanley

“THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED.” One of the first important recordings of the hip-hop genre. When Gil Scott-Heron recorded the iconic hip-hop classic “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” in 1970, perhaps for the want of an appropriate label, critics referred to it simply as a “song-poem.” However, the cultural importance of this poem in both its written and oral forms was acknowledged in its 2005 selection to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.




The recorded version first appeared on Scott-Heron’s first recording, “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox” (1970). However, the poem was not published in written form until the 1990 publication of the poetry volume So, Far, So Good. The initial recorded version was performed as a spoken word piece that simply featured the poet reciting his poem over the pulsating staccato of bongo and conga drums. The most well-known recorded version appears on his sophomore recording effort, “Pieces of a Man,” and features the distinct, eloquent, confident, and somewhat confrontational voice of Scott-Heron backed by a bass heavy jazz-funk melody punctuated by the shrill, haunting notes of renowned flutist Hubert Laws. The inspiration for the piece can be found in The Last Poets spoken word recording “When the Revolution Comes.” Scott-Heron builds upon this work in an attempt to grasp the revolutionary energy, the spirit of change, and the heightened levels of consciousness and black pride engendered by the various social upheavals of the 1960s and, using music as both a tool of communication as well as a unifying force, bring about a new understanding of the dynamics of change. In other words, through “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” he seeks to redefine the meaning of revolution. Whereas the fiery rhetoric of the Cultural Liberation Movement with its concomitant demand for black power seemed to define revolution as a violent seizure of power through pitched bloody battles in the street, Scott-Heron seeks to define revolution as more local, located not in violent struggle but in individual self-enlightenment and revision. However, the requisite level of self-evaluation is not possible because Americans, particularly African Americans, have allowed themselves to become wholly disconnected from reality and lulled into a benign complacency by the superficiality of the alpha beam of television, resulting in a generation inebriated and incapacitated by the crass commercialism of television. In lines alternating between genuine hope and compassion and soaring anger and despair, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” delineates the poet’s vision of this revolution of self. The revolution that Scott-Heron describes will not be inspired by superficial, popular media-contrived images or superficial gestures. Popular television sitcoms, soap operas, and motion pictures will lose their opiatelike appeal and will not serve as a distraction. The revolution of self will not depend on corporate sponsorship for its continuance, thus removing the influence of a sprawling, dominating industrial complex and the empty promises of commercialization. Impetus for revolution will originate from within the individual and not be motivated by political gain. Likewise, varied social movements will have no bearing on the form and path the revolution takes. And finally, the revolution will not make any outrageous promises or product claims it cannot live up to. It will, however, affect real and lasting change. See also Black Poetry; Scott-Heron, Gil FURTHER READING The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Dir. Don Lett. BBC, 2006. Scott-Heron, Gil. Now and The . . .: The Poems of Gil Scott-Heron. New York: Canongate Books, 2000. ———. Pieces of a Man. Flying Dutchman, 1971. ———. Small Talk at 125th and Lenox. Flying Dutchman, 1970. ———. So Far, So Good. Chicago, IL: Third World Press, 1990.

James Arthur Gentry


RICHARDSON, ELAINE B. (1960–). One of the premier scholars studying hip hop as a rhetorical engine, Elaine B. Richardson, Ph.D., acknowledges that there is a distinct language within this cultural movement. As a well-respected and highly published scholar specializing in African American rhetorics and communications, Dr. Richardson, among other scholars of African American vernacular English (AAVE), argues for an understanding of African American rhetorical traditions that challenge notions set forth within mainstream paradigms. Richardson earned her B.A. and M.A. at Cleveland State University and her Ph.D. at Michigan State University. Throughout her academic career, Richardson’s scholarship highlights the importance of engaging in and understanding the linguistic diversity and viability of African American literacies. As hip hop is an element of the oral culture of African American experiences, the breadth of Richardson’s scholarship is doubly important. Reading hip hop through her scholarship provides a way to offer critical inquiry into the ways that hip hop has been shaped by and in turn shapes the rhetorical underpinnings of the African American literary and to a much larger extent socio-cultural experience. To that extent, Richardson’s scholarship stresses the importance of understanding the relationship between the vernacular traditions of African American/hip hop culture and wider cultural intersections. See also Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology FURTHER READING Pough, Gwendolyn, Elaine B. Richardson, Rachel Raimist, and Aisha Durham Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology. Mira Loma, CA: Parker Publishing, 2007. Richardson, Elaine B. African American Literacies. New York: Routledge, 2003. ———. African American Rhetoric(s): Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004. ———. Hip Hop Literacies. New York: Routledge, 2006. ———. Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Terry Bozeman

RIVERA, RAQUEL Z. (197?–). Hip hop scholar and journalist. One of the positive aspects of hip-hop music is its ability to appeal to individuals across many different racial and ethnic backgrounds and its ability to inspire people from all walks of life to express themselves through the prism of hip-hop while adding their own unique flavor. What is also interesting is the way in which some hip-hop fans take the various aspects of the culture and incorporate those elements into academic pursuits, preserving the essence of hip-hop while still being rooted in a quest for knowledge and intellectual exploration. Writer and professor Raquel Z. Rivera, Ph.D., embodies this hiphop intellectualism, and the music has been an underlying motivation for many of her scholastic endeavors. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Rivera has lived in New York City since 1994. It is fitting that the city that gave birth to hip-hop would be home for Rivera, especially given the intertwining presence of hip-hop culture and a strong Puerto Rican community. With her cultural and academic background, Rivera consistently showcases her educational and




artistic pursuits through numerous media outlets, all the while infusing her work with a hip-hop sensibility. Rivera’s unique perspective on hip-hop and Latin culture has earned her an abundance of respect on the lecture circuit, with many colleges, community-based organizations, and conferences frequently seeking her out to conduct presentations and take part in panel discussions throughout the United States, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. All through her career, Rivera has remained a freelance journalist, contributing to such publications as Vibe magazine and Urban Latino magazine. She also has a weekly column, which appears each Wednesday in El Diario La Prensa, the largest and oldest Spanish-language newspaper in New York City and the oldest Spanish-language daily in the United States. In 2008 Rivera was working on her first novel, a story infused with the rhythms of Caribbean, reggaeton, and hip-hop music. Additionally, Rivera is collaborating with artist Tanya Torres in writing a book of essays and images dedicated to “Our Lady, Mary Magdalene.” As a hip-hop enthusiast, it is a natural extension of her creative abilities that Rivera is also a singer/songwriter, adding to her writing, presentation, and academic work. She is a founding member of Boricua roots music group Yerbabuena, a group where she was once also a member. To keep her musical energy flowing, Rivera is a member of an all-women’s Bomba group Yaya, as well as a member of another Bomba group Alma Moyó. Bomba is one of Puerto Rico’s most popular musical styles, originating centuries ago in West Africa. Rivera has taught courses in sociology, anthropology, and Africana and Latino Studies at Columbia University, Hunter College, and Tufts University. In fact, it was at Columbia University where Rivera taught a course entitled “From Hip Hop to Reggaeton: New Directions in Latino Youth Cultures.” As of early 2008, Rivera was a Research Fellow at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York City. FURTHER READING Rivera, Raquel Z. New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Nneka Nnolim

RIZE (LIONS GATE, USA, 2005). Rize is a 2005 documentary film directed by well-known fashion photographer and music video director, David LaChapelle. The film traces the development of clowning and krumping, two vibrant, athletic, competitive, and constantly-evolving dance forms that developed in Los Angeles during the 1990s. Framing the documentary with newsreel footage of the 1965 Watts riots and the 1992 Rodney King riots, LaChapelle locates these dance forms as positive outlets within Los Angeles’s often dangerous, gang-ridden inner-city neighborhoods. Similar to breakdancing battles, dancers form groups and compete nonviolently against their peers. They adopt nicknames (Dragon, La Niña, Tight Eyez, Miss Prissy) and paint various designs on their faces for performances and competitions. Dance groups therefore provide kids with a constructive and nonviolent alternative to joining a gang. Further, the dance groups disabuse many stereotypes surrounding black, inner city youth—particularly the association of black men with violence and athletics. As several interviewees note, the dance groups provide an opportunity for community building and creative expression that the neither the schools nor gangs offer. For instance, a clown named Larry states, “In other neighborhoods, they have dance schools and prestigious academies. There’s nothing like that around here for us. So we invented this.” Dragon, a krumper, poignantly describes the dances as “our ghetto ballet.”


Clowning’s development is attributed to Tommy Johnson (Tommy the Clown), a former drug dealer and convict who, after being released from jail and noticing the devastated state in which many inner city youth were living, sought to spread a positive message. He began performing as a clown at local birthday parties and eventually started Tommy the Clown’s Hip Hop Clown Academy, an informal school in which kids could learn to dance, and, after developing their skills, perform with Tommy at birthday parties and other local events. Far more than just a teacher, Tommy is presented as a rare positive male role model who cares for, looks after, and lovingly disciplines his students. After clowning became established within the community, different groups splintered from Tommy’s core group of clowns. Though an estimated 50 dance groups existed at the time in which Rize was being filmed, the major and most identifiable division occurred between the clowns and krumpers. Krumping, though based on and seemingly very similar to clowning, is a more aggressive, overtly confrontational style specifically meant to provide an emotional release. Krumping battles often resemble fights as dancers push and flail their arms and legs at competitors. Rize is structured in a straightforward, interview-driven form that outlines clowning’s beginnings, krumping’s development from clowning, and the dance forms’ various functions within the community. LaChapelle intersperses the interviews with musical interludes of dance footage and a montage sequence that compares clowning and krumping to African rituals. The film’s climax examines Tommy the Clown’s Battlezone, an annual competition between the clowns and krumpers in which dozens of dancers participate in front of hundreds of spectators. See also Cinema FURTHER READING Franklin, V. P. “Send in the Clowns . . . Please!” Journal of African American History, Vol. 90 Issue 3 (Summer 2005): 187–189.

Travis Vogan

ROBY, KIMBERLA LAWSON (1965–). Novelist, publisher. Like other African American novelists, Kimberla Lawson Roby found it tough going to find a publisher for her work initially. She developed her own publishing company, Lenox Press, to publish her first book, Behind Closed Doors, when she could not get anyone to publish her. Since then, Roby has found great success as a New York Times bestselling author who has published ten books. Her example of perseverance in the face of indifferent white publishers follows in the footsteps of other African American writers such as Sutton Griggs, E. Lynne Harris, and her contemporary Stephanie Perry Moore. Roby takes pride in centering the concerns of her fiction on issues that are real to her readers. This is a central belief from hip hop culture that she has sought to embrace in her work. Various issues relevant to African American culture, such as single motherhood, infidelity, addictions, abuses, and corruption within the African American church have all found expression in her fiction. Besides her self-published first work, she has written other novels, Here and Now, A Taste of Reality, It’s a Thin Line Changing Faces, Love and Lies, and the Curtis Black books, Casting the First Stone, Too Much of a Good Thing, The Best-Kept




Secret, and Sin No More. Her willingness to showcase the “less-than-pious” preacher Curtis Black as a central character in several of her books shows how Roby embraces African American religious life, but she is not afraid to offer a critique of it. As someone who was raised as a Christian and admitting that she herself has lived through weight issues and overeating addiction, Roby continues to capitalize on a wide fan base and her work can be classified as hip hop literature to African American chick lit while also being fiction that has serious religious and moral concerns. Roby started writing in 1995 while working in the corporate world. Her marketing and finance background contributed to her ability to self-publish and sell Behind Closed Doors. After her success, Roby was able to stop working in business and concentrate on writing full time. Roby’s writing is very popular and has garnered various sales awards, and she won a substantial publishing contract with Dutton after receiving offers from seven publishers. She noticed an increase in her male fan base due to her Curtis Black books and is glad that she is writing a character that engages the interest of all kinds of reading populations. Curtis Black represents the kind of difficult yet realistic situations that Roby, and her audiences, find repeatedly appealing. She will soon publish her fourth Curtis Black book. She currently lives and writes in Illinois. FURTHER READING Roby, Kimberla Lawson. Casting the First Stone. New York: Kensington Publishing, 2000. ———. Love and Lies. New York: William Morrow, 2007. ———. Sin No More. New York: William Morrow, 2008. ———. Too Much of a Good Thing. New York: William Morrow, 2004.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

ROSE, TRICIA (1963–). Preeminent hip hop theorist, hard hitting sociocultural critic, groundbreaking scholar, professor. Born into an era of heightened black consciousness and raised in Harlem and the “Boogie Down” Bronx, Dr. Tricia Rose came of age in a working-class family during the burgeoning of hip hop culture. Rose’s contributions to the corpus of African American Cultural Studies encompass a wide range of interrelated subjects, including, but not limited to, the politics of desire, the relationship between public and private space, science fiction and fantasy, and the socio-political ramifications of de-industrialization and urban renewal. In an arena dominated by white men, Rose talks openly about race in order to transform knowledge production in and outside of the academy. Rose earned her B.A. at Yale University in sociology in 1984 and her Ph.D. in american civilization at Brown University in 1993. She currently serves as a professor at Brown and specializes in twentieth century African American cultural politics. Before joining Brown’s faculty, Dr. Rose held teaching positions at the University of California-Santa Cruz and NYU. Rose’s highly acclaimed and award winning text, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America, is the first scholarly examination of hip hop music and culture in relation to the use and repurposing of technology. In this text Rose also celebrates the haven that women carved out for themselves as successful and socially relevant artists in the male-dominated space of rap music. She also challenges scholarship to constantly extend beyond U.S. borders to explore international reverberations of hip hop culture more broadly.


Since the publication of this work, Rose continues to challenge scholars and artists to actively engage the many contractions and layers enmeshed in hip hop music. Concerning the controversy surrounding the potentially detrimental affects of hip hop music on youth in America, Rose makes a pointed and important distinction between true artists, such as those who continue to focus on the recreation and expression of new possibilities for understanding the world, and those who abuse rap music by treating it solely as a commercial product. Rose also challenges popular misconceptions about black women’s sexuality in her second work, Longing to Tell. This unmistakably avant-garde text is the first undertaking of its kind. Longing to Tell is a collection of twenty oral histories based on Rose’s interviews with African American women from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Their stories focus on multivalent experiences of intimacy and sexuality with men and other women. Although Longing to Tell centers on African American women, the work enables all women to discuss issues affecting their spiritual, psychological, and physical health by fostering conversations ranging from virginity to homosexuality to polygamy to, importantly, HIV/AIDS. Rose lectures before broad audiences, which include high school and university students as well as the general public. She maintains contact with community and often weighs in on current events and issues affecting African Americans through various media forums such as National Public Radio, Vibe, The Village Voice, Essence, The New York Times, Art Forum, and Time Magazine. In so doing, Rose transcends the breech that often exists between communities and academic institutions invested in African American culture. As a scholar and critic Rose is a necessary, charismatic, unafraid, and authoritative voice. Continuing in the scholarly traditions established by pioneering and revolutionary African American women in the academy, such as Angela Y. Davis, Nikki Giovanni, and Hazel Carby, Tricia Rose is brave and experimental in the field of American Cultural Studies. Her work is essential and crucial to maintaining the centrality of African American Studies and the richness of African American humanity more generally in the ever expanding field of American studies and culture. Most importantly, Rose is always innovative, honest, genuine, and hopeful in her quest for social justice and change. See also Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America FURTHER READING Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994. ———. “Flow, Layering, and Rupture in Postindustrial New York.” In Signifyin(g), Sanctifyin’, & Slam Dunking: A Reader in African American Expressive Culture. Gena Dagel Caponi, ed. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999. ———. Longing to Tell: Black Women Talk about Sexuality and Intimacy. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003. –——. Microphone Fiends: Youth Music and Culture. Tricia Rose and Andrew Ross, eds. New York: Routledge, 1994. ———. “Race, Class and the Pleasure/Danger Dialectic: Rewriting Black Female Teenage Sexuality in the Popular Imagination” In Sociology of Culture. Elizabeth Long, ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell Press, 1998.

Christin M. Taylor


S SANCHEZ, SONIA (1934–). Sonia Sanchez is a poet, playwright, essayist, educator, and activist who was a central figure in the Black Arts Movement of the mid-1960s and early 1970s and also participated in the Civil Rights Movement through her membership in the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE). Born Wilsonia Benita Driver in Birmingham, Alabama, Sonia Sanchez has played a significant role in African American literature and culture. After her mother died in 1935, Sanchez went to live with her paternal grandmother until her death and then she joined her father and stepmother in Harlem. She attended public schools there, and in 1955 she earned a B.A. in Political Science at Hunter College. She later did postgraduate work in poetry at New York University, where she studied with Louise Bogan. Shortly after, Sanchez began a writer’s workshop with Nikki Giovanni, Etheridge Knight, and Don L. Lee (now Haki Madhubuti)—Sanchez called the group the Broadside Quartet of Poets. Although the date is unknown, she married Puerto Rican immigrant Albert Sanchez, whose name she retained throughout her career. By 1968, she had divorced Sanchez and married her Broadside Quartet colleague, Etheridge Knight, and then had three children with him, but they later divorced. Sanchez published her first anthology of poetry, Home Coming, in 1969, and that same year her achievement was recognized with the PEN Writing Award. By 1972, Sanchez had left the Broadside Quartet to write and give poetry readings on her own. She also joined the Nation of Islam the same year, but later left the organization in 1975, not because of their stance on women’s rights as is often cited but because her political affiliations were not well received. She asserts that she was not “greeted well in the Nation, because they said I was a Pan-Africanist, a revolutionary PanAfricanist and a socialist . . . so I understood, truly that my days in the Nation were numbered” (Kelly 2000, 683). Sanchez is perhaps more widely known as a poet than a playwright, but her work in both genres share common themes and devices that emphasize her oeuvre’s concern with challenging institutional racism and the struggle to resist racial and economic oppression. Both her plays and poetry utilize what Haki Madhubuti has called urban black English, and he credits her with helping to legitimize its use as a poetic form by putting it in the context of world literature (1984, 420). He further contends that her work reflects a blending of African American cultural aesthetics and political issues, arguing that “she has effectively taken black speech patterns, combined them with the internal music of her people, and injected progressive thoughts in her poetry” (1984, 422). Madhubuti also locates Sanchez’s work within African American literary history, asserting that long before other writers, she “set the tone and spaces of modern urban written Black poetry” (1984, 421).


Highlighting the links between Sanchez’s poetry and drama in his assessment of Home Coming and I’ve Been A Woman, critic David Williams posits that her poetry in those volumes are “characterized by an economy of utterance that is essentially dramatic, like language subordinated to the rhythms of action” (1984, 434). Further arguing that the poems in these volumes are “overtly dramatic, designed to be spoken as part of a larger performance in which silences and an implied choreography say as much as the actual words,” Williams figures her poetry as part of an ongoing critical trajectory that “use[s] a sense of history as a liberating device” (1984, 445). Though the thematic connections between her poetry and drama are apparent, her drama has not gained the same critical attention that her poems have enjoyed. In his discussion of Sanchez’s Sister Son/Ji (1969) and Malcolm/Man Don’t Live Here No Mo (1972) alongside the plays of other Black Arts Movement dramatists including Ed Bullins and Amiri Baraka, critic Mike Sell argues for the plays’ rejection of the primacy of literary texts and their emphasis on the immediacy of performance as vital tools in advancing the Black Arts Movement’s concerns with black acculturation, self-criticism, and liberation. Suggesting that Sanchez’s plays participate in this larger project to build black community through culture, Sell asserts that they “utilize monologue and movement to highlight personality without celebrating individuality” (2000, 71). He further contends that unlike the works of the predominantly male Black Arts Movement playwrights and critics, her plays articulate “a rigorously feminist attitude that one rarely encounters among the plays and critical works of the movement,” and additionally, they foreground “the importance of community cooperation and collective beauty” (2000, 72). As an educator, Sanchez has also made significant contributions to the fields of African American Studies and African American literary scholarship. In 1969, she was the first college professor in the country to offer a seminar on literature by African American women, which was taught at the University of Pittsburgh. She also taught the first black studies curriculum in the United States at San Francisco State University that same year. Sanchez has also taught as a professor at eight colleges and universities across the country and retired as the Laura Carnell Chair of English at Temple University in 1999 after 22 years of teaching there. In addition to her PEN Award in 1969, she has also been honored with the National Education Association Award 1977–1988, the National Academy and Arts Award, and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Award in 1978–1979. In 1985, she won the American Book Award for Homegirls & Handgrenades. Her 1997 book Does Your House Have Lions?, which details her brother’s struggle with AIDS, was nominated for both the National Book Critics’ Circle Award and the NAACP Image Award. Finally, Sanchez remains an engaged political and social activist. She and ten other women who were part of an organization called the Granny Peace Brigade were acquitted on charges of defiant trespassing following an anti-war protest in Philadelphia in June 2006. Sanchez along with the other grandmothers staged a peaceful protest against the war in Iraq outside of the Armed Forces Center in Philadelphia. All of the women were detained and arrested, but the charges were dropped because they protesting at a public building and exercising their rights to free speech. SELECTED POETRY A Blues Book for Blue Black Magical Women. Detroit, MI: Broadside Press, 1973. Does Your House Have Lions? Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1997. Home Coming: Poems. Detroit, MI: Broadside Press, 1969.



SAPPHIRE Homegirls & Handgrenades. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1984. It’s a New Day: Poems for Young Brothas and Sistuhs. Detroit, MI: Broadside Press, 1971. I’ve Been a Woman: New and Selected Poems. Sausalito, CA: Black Scholar Press, 1981. Love Poems. New York: Third Press, 1973. Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1999. We a BaddDDD People. Detroit, MI: Broadside Press, 1970. SELECTED PLAYS The Bronx Is Next. In A Sourcebook of African American Performance: Plays, People, Movements. Annemarie Bean, ed. New York: Routledge, 1999. Sister Son/Ji. In New Plays from the Black Theatre. Ed Bullins, ed. New York: Bantam, 1969. Uh, Uh; But How Do It Free Us? In The New Lafayette Theatre Presents: Plays With Aesthetic Comments by Six Black Playwrights. Ed Bullins, ed. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1974.

See also Black Poetry FURTHER READING De Lancey, Frenzella Elaine. “Refusing to be Boxed In: Sonia Sanchez’s Transformation of the Haiku Form.” In Language and Literature in the African American Imagination. Carol Blackshire-Belay, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992. Jennings, Regina B. “The Blue/Black Poetics of Sonia Sanchez.” In Language and Literature in the African American Imagination. Carol Blackshire-Belay, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992. Joyce, Joyce Ann. Conversations with Sonia Sanchez. Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 2007. Kelly, Susan. “Discipline and Craft: An Interview with Sonia Sanchez.” African American Review, Vol. 34 Issue 4 (Winter 2000): 679–687. Madhubuti, Haki. “Sonia Sanchez: The Bringer of Memories.” In Black Women Writers (1950–1980): A Critical Evaluation. Mari Evans, ed. Garden City, NY: Anchor/Doubleday Press, 1984. Sell, Mike. “The Black Arts Movement: Performance, Neo-Orality, and the Destruction of the ‘White Thing.’” In African American Performance and Theatre History: A Critical Reader. Harry J. Elam Jr. and David Krasner, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Williams, David. “The Poetry of Sonia Sanchez.” In Black Women Writers (1950–1980): A Critical Evaluation. Mari Evans, ed. Garden City, NY: Anchor/Doubleday Press, 1984.

Carol Davis

SAPPHIRE (1950–). Author of the controversial book Push: A Novel. In 1950 Sapphire was born Ramona Lofton in Fort Ord, California. Both of her parents were in the army, and she was the second of four children. On the surface, their family life was very normal, at least for a family that moved regularly from one military post to another. But under the surface, there were all sorts of unsettling family secrets that Sapphire has explored directly or indirectly in her poetry and prose. In her more openly confessional works, Sapphire has acknowledged drawing on the models provided by Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. But she has also cited the influence of the songs of Smokey Robinson and Bob Dylan, not just on her consciousness but more directly on her work. When Sapphire was thirteen years old, her mother deserted the family. So as she was entering adolescence, she had to deal with her abusive father and her siblings, including a


brother who was schizophrenic, without her mother to confide in or to provide any kind of buffer. Indeed, it would be another thirteen years before Sapphire would see her mother again, and by that time, the two of them had established such completely separate lives that they were as strange to each other as familiar. Haunted by several deaths, her mother declined into alcoholism, passing away in 1988. Her father died in 1990. In the early 1970s, Sapphire attended San Francisco City College majoring in chemistry. In 1977 she moved to New York City, where she supported herself in jobs ranging from house cleaning to topless dancing. While studying modern dance at the City University of New York, she was attracted to performance poetry and began to read at the Nuyorican Café and at similar venues. In 1991, one of her poems, “Wild Thing,” was published in a literary journal funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The poem was written in the voice of one of the teenaged rapists of the Central Park jogger, and it caused such a furor that John Frohnmayer, the chairman of the NEA, was forced to resign. Still, Sapphire would not publish her first book until 1994, when she was in her midforties. That book, American Dreams, is a collection of poems, many of which look ironically but poignantly at the experiences that shaped Sapphire’s own development as a woman and a poet and, by extension, the lives of many other women of her race and generation. Her second collection of poetry, Black Wings and Blind Angels, was published in 1999 and received much notice because it followed on the success of her first novel. It focuses on the experiences of young African Americans coming of age in urban environments and juxtaposes their premature streetwise knowledge of their world with the terrible limits that their world imposes on their perspectives. After the success of American Dreams, Sapphire enrolled in the graduate program in creative writing at Brooklyn College, working under the novelist Susan Fromberg Schaeffer and producing the manuscript that would become her first novel. That novel, Push, was published in 1996, and it almost immediately created a sensation. An initiation narrative, the novel focuses on a teenaged African American girl named Claireece Precious Jones. Her father has been physically and sexually abusing her for years, and she has given birth to two of his children, one of whom is afflicted with Down’s Syndrome. Rather than being sympathetic toward Precious or regretful about what she has permitted to happen to Precious, her mother also verbally and sometimes physically abuses her. So the fact that Precious is very overweight is more a reflection of her horribly dysfunctional home environment than any sort of reflection of “normal” adolescent issues of identity. Still, Precious is not simply a victim. Despite the scars that her upbringing has left on both her body and her psyche, she is a survivor. In fact, her life has been so completely defined by material and spiritual impoverishment that she, ironically, has remained resilient—that is, she has had no opportunity to step outside of her experience and assess how impossible her situation would seem to be. As she tries to improve herself, she meets a tutor at an adult literacy center. This woman, a lesbian named Blue Rain, becomes the closest thing to a positive role model that Precious has ever had. In interviews, Sapphire has indicated that Blue Rain is an alter-ego and that Precious was based on a particular young woman whom she herself tutored in the early 1990s, though she could have been based on any number of similar young women whom the author met. Sapphire has variously described her second novel, still in progress, as a fictional exploration of her mother’s life and as a fictional portrait of a young man driven by the sort of pathologies that resulted in the Columbine massacre. See also Push: A Novel



SCOTT-HERON, GIL FURTHER READING Powers, William. “Sapphire’s Raw Gem; Some Say Her Novel Exploits Suffering. She Says They’re Reading It All Wrong.” Washington Post, 6 Aug. 1996, B1. Smith, Dinitia. “For the Child Who Rolls with the Punches.” New York Times, 2 July 1996, C11. Taylor, Alan. “Blue Steel.” Sunday Herald [Glasgow], 26 Aug. 2001, 9. Tran, Mark. “Portrait: The Novel Approach to Bleak Lives; A 45-Year-Old African-American Is Taking New York Literary Society by Storm.” Guardian [London], 18 July 1996, T13.

Martin Kich

SCOTT-HERON, GIL (1949–). Poet, novelist, political activist, composer, and musician; credited as one on the chief progenitors of hip-hop. Born in 1949 in Chicago, Illinois, Gil Scott-Heron grew up in the southern city of Jackson, Tennessee, in the home of his maternal grandmother. He lived there until his grandmother’s death soon after his thirteenth birthday. He then moved to the Bronx in New York City where he resided in the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of Chelsea. He later went on to earn a B.A. from Lincoln University and an M.F.A. from Johns Hopkins University. Many have attempted to affix labels to Gil Scott-Heron—avant-garde poet, street poet, modern griot, godfather of rap music, or progenitor of rap music. He once characterized himself as simply, “a black man dedicated to expression of the joy and pride of Blackness.” However, although reluctantly accepting many of these labels and acknowledging his role as a major influence on the hip-hop genre, he has expressed his preference to be known simply as a bluesologist, one who studies the blues. He counts what he refers to as the blues poets, African American poets Paul Laurence Dunbar, Sterling Brown, and particularly Langston Hughes among others, and the blues tradition as major influences of his artistic works. He asserts that the blues poets and musicians serve the historical function of modern community griots, keepers and purveyors of information, myths, and history. Also, from the Black Arts Movement and figures such as Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, and Larry Neal, Scott-Heron seized upon the notion of utilizing art as a major weapon to attack an oppressive system as well as the use of several forms to get one’s message and ideas across. Thus, the poet or artist functions not simply to entertain but to inform, to provide the masses with honest insight and information. Poetry not only constitutes an art form but a mode of communication meant to convey the ideas and attitudes of the community in the very language of the community so that it may be understood by all. Across Scott-Heron’s oeuvre of two novels, three overlapping volumes of poetry, and fifteen albums, this principle is very much in evidence. Armed with an engaging, sardonic wit, Scott-Heron has produced works in a variety of forms, which, in the tradition of the griot, serve to inspire, inform, and push forward. He emerged in the early 1970s as a distinct new voice with a unique talent for the precise use of language in composing sparing works teeming and alive with the ideas, images, and ideologies of black cultural nationalism. He was and remains unapologetically political and possesses a keen and respectful knowledge of African American history and culture. Built around themes of social justice, race, economics, love, and addiction, his works range from the biting satire to the violent polemic and give meaning and voice to the socio-politics of the moment in such a way that they might be understood by the masses in creating a heightened awareness of the forces shaping their lives.


His career began with the publication of a novel, The Vulture, a whodunit about the death of a drug dealer, while still a student at Lincoln University. He later published a second novel, The Nigger Factory, centered around a student rebellion on a black college campus and the resulting tension between the conservative, old-guard administration and the students impatient for change. The Vulture was well received by critics and led to the publication of his first volume of poetry Small Talk at 125th and Lenox: A Collection of Black Poems, which was published simultaneously with a spoken word album of the same name; within this cultural moment, the foundations of the hip-hop genre can be located in the powerful interaction between oral and the written word. Though in written form ScottHeron’s poems are powerful, when infused with the author’s personality and delivered in the deep, expressive baritone of the author’s voice with the intended tone and cadence and backed by the stampeding percussion of bongo and conga drums, the poems achieve maximum efficacy. The first poem of this seminal volume shares the volume’s title. “Small Talk” serves as Scott-Heron’s formal introduction to his audience and seeks to develop consanguinity with that audience. It begins with the simple imperative, “Tell me.” In the next four lines, he closes the perceived gap between himself and his audience by asking encoded questions that identify him as a cultural and communal insider. After having established this connection, he delivers the imperative “Listen.” And in the lines that follow, he delivers poetic riffs in the form of snippets of conversation that might be heard on any street corner or any street in the African American community. The volume then follows an artistic agenda informed by street politics and delivered in the form of poetry and evinces an artistic maturity beyond the poet’s years. Although his message is informed by a cultural nationalist platform, he displays a decided insight and intrepidity in criticizing that platform. The poem “Brother” criticizes the aspects of the platform that exclude participation by community members based on external notions of “Blackness” while chiding his audience to each take responsibility for the uplift and well-being of the other. In his later volumes of poems, his poetic vision expands as he takes up the themes of the lack of political awareness and activity, the connectedness of the diasporic experience, gun control, nuclear war, and an increasingly arrogant and corrupt government. The popular “Winter in America” bemoans the loss of focus on issues of social justice and uplift and the turn toward a rampant materialism. The term winter suggests a metaphor describing the lives of African Americans and other marginalized groups in the period following the great social upheavals of the 1960s. The death or incarceration of the great thinkers and leaders of that period results in a directionless mass of people devoid of the spirit of revolution and change that drove an earlier generation. However, there exists a vein of hope, an eager expectation that things will get better, that spring will return and with it, change. The same hope that the revolutionary spirit will be reignited is the driving theme for the iconic “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” which is widely considered to be the first major recording of the hip-hop genre. “Johannesburg,” a poem celebrating the South African struggle for freedom, works not only to connect that struggle with the African American struggle for freedom and social justice but also to inform African Americans, many of whom were oblivious to the South African struggle and the atrocities committed against the black South Africans. A later poem, “Alien,” connects the African American struggle for dignity with that of illegal aliens. He also introduces several political poems in the form of humorous poetic monologues, stepping up his virulent attacks on governmental corruption and hypocrisy, which presage




the George W. Bush presidency and reveal the timelessness of his poetic vision. Perhaps the most well-known and easily recognized are the “‘B’ Movie Poems,” “‘B’ Movie” and “Re-Ron,” attacking the Ronald Reagan presidency and his conservative policies. Frequently referring to Reagan as “Hollyweird,” alluding to Reagan’s stint as an actor, Scott-Heron characterizes the Reagan presidency as defining an era of runaway greed and neglect of the great masses of people. Reagan symbolizes the ingenuity of American democracy. America, animated by fears of an ascending third world, attempts to reach backward in time to a historical moment in which all fears are assuaged by the arrival of the proverbial “‘B’ Movie” hero wearing a white hat and sitting astride a white steed. Not finding that hero, America settles instead for Ronald Reagan. As a by-product of Reagan’s presidency and his economic policy, Reaganomics, the rich got decidedly richer as the poor got poorer. Crack ravaged the inner cities and many of the gains of the civil rights era were trod underfoot. Out of this crucible, the hip-hop genre emerges. Perhaps the “‘B’ Movie” poems enact a symbolic passing of the torch to another generation. Through one of his later poems “Message to the Messenger,” Scott-Heron acknowledges his contribution to the genre of hip-hop. Speaking to hip-hop artists, he apprises them of the power of language and music and admonishes them to wield that power responsibly as a tool of uplift for their communities. He implores these young artists to increase their level of artistry and be more articulate in their delivery and act as agents of change. In many instances, Scott-Heron’s life and philosophy reflect the history and sensibilities of hip-hop. His novels, poetry, and music reflect not only his life and experiences but the lives and experiences of his people as well. His artistic offerings are as much about the people as they are for the people. His works address many of the themes addressed by hip hop and embodies much of the rage, the anguish, and the truth embodied in the genre. See also “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” FURTHER READING Scott-Heron, Gil. Now and Then . . . : The Poems of Gil Scott-Heron. New York: Canongate Books, 2000. ———. Small Talk at 125th and Lenox: A Collection of Black Poems. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1970. ———. So Far, So Good. Chicago, IL: Third World Press, 1990. ———. The Vulture and The Nigger Factory. 1970, 1972. New York: Canongate Books, 2001.

James Arthur Gentry

SHAKUR, TUPAC “2PAC” (1971–1996). Poet, actor, rapper, writer, and activist. Tupac Amaru Shakur burst onto the music scene during the early 1990s and quickly became one of hip hop and popular culture’s most influential and adored artists. To date, he has sold more than 75 million records worldwide. Shakur was born in New York City on June 16, 1971, to Afeni Shakur, an active member of the New York chapter of the Black Panther Party and part of the “New York 21,” a group of activists arrested on conspiracy charges to bomb several New York City businesses. A month before Shakur was born, Afeni, acting as her own lawyer, helped her fellow defendants get acquitted of all charges.


Shakur’s mother named him in honor of a famous Inca chief; Tupac Amaru translates into “shining serpent, blessed one,” and in Arabic, Shakur means “thankful to God.” Afeni later said in an interview for the black community site “The Talking Drum” that she gave her son the name so that he might feel connected to the indigenous people of the world and to their struggles. She said she wanted him “to know he was part of a world culture, not just from a neighborhood” (2008). Largely due to his mother’s influence, from an early age, Shakur was deeply immersed in community activities, politics, and the performing arts. When he was 12 years old, he joined the 127th Street Ensemble, a theatre group in Harlem. In his first stage performance, Shakur played the role of Travis from Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, a play set in the 1950s about a family living on the south side of Chicago and struggling with competing visions of success and the American dream. Shakur was later accepted to the Baltimore School for the Arts in Baltimore, Maryland, where he studied acting, poetry, music, and the work of William Shakespeare. In 1988 his family relocated to Marin City, California, where he attended but later dropped out of Tamalpais High School. Shakur first worked professionally in the music business as a member of the Oaklandbased rap group, Digital Underground, appearing on their 1991 single, “Same Song.” Later that year, his debut solo album, 2Pacalypse Now, caused national controversy due to its explicit content and “graphic language.” Former Vice President Dan Quayle publicly disparaged the album, declaring that it had “no place” in society. In interviews, Shakur vehemently defended his artistic intention as well as his political views, arguing that the dramatization of violence on the album represented what he had witnessed. The album introduced listeners to many of the themes and motifs that would become central to Shakur’s later work. In songs such as “Brenda’s Got a Baby” and “Trapped,” he rhymed about the psychological and generational effects of racism, systemic poverty, police brutality, and the over-imprisonment of young black men. His second album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., was released in 1993 and debuted at number 24 on Billboard’s 200. Similar to his first album, Strictly portrayed a range of topics and points of view, including an ode to single mothers, “Keep Ya Head Up,” and the now-classic party song, “I Get Around.” Shakur would repeat this formula (politics plus party) again on his 1995 follow-up, Me Against the World, with its successful singles “Dear Mama” and “Temptations.” The album debuted at number 1 on the charts, and at the time of its release, Shakur was serving a sentence for aggravated assault in Clinton Correctional Facility. Shakur was later released from prison when the CEO of Death Row Records, Marion “Suge” Knight, posted bail in exchange for contracting three records with the label. Shakur’s first album released by Death Row, All Eyez on Me, was the first double-disc recorded by a hip hop artist. Released in 1996, All Eyez on Me reached number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, largely propelled by the Dr. Dre produced single “California Love” and its Mad-Max themed video. On September 7, 1996, Shakur was shot in a drive-by shooting following a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas, Nevada. Shakur died six days later on September 13, 1996, at University Medical Center, Las Vegas. At the time of his death, he had already completed The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, which was released by Death Row Records later that year. Since his death, critics, journalists, and more recently, academics, have become increasingly intrigued by the enduring quality of Shakur’s work. Poets and scholars, including Sonia Sanchez and Nikki Giovanni, have honored Shakur’s artistic legacy by penning poems of their own about Shakur. Academics and filmmakers have also contributed to a




growing body of serious critical work on the late artist, including Michael Eric Dyson’s seminal biography of Shakur, Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur (2001), Jamal Joseph’s multi-media book, Tupac Shakur: Legacy (2006), and the Academy Award nominated documentary, Tupac: Resurrection (2003). These recent efforts have differed considerably from early journalistic accounts of Shakur’s life, which tended to focus on his involvement in what was framed as an “East Coast vs. West Coast” feud in hip hop, stemming from a dispute between Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. Shakur is also associated with the genre of hip hop known as gangsta rap. Shakur himself consistently denied that there was any such musical genre as gangsta rap, telling reporters, “I’m not a gangsta rapper. I rap about things that happen to me,” and “This is what I do. I’m an artist. I rap about the oppressed taking back their place. I rap about fighting back” (Hoye and Ali 2003, 132). Shakur’s songs held in productive tension such labels as “gangsta,” “revolutionary,” and “thug,” and in fact, he is one of very few artists able to consistently convey the complexity of human experience as a dance of opposites. Shakur often questioned the logic that his work was singled out by politicians as “inappropriate,” when the work of white artists was not. Indeed much of Shakur’s work as a poet and activist was concerned with thinking through the burden of racial representation placed upon black artists. Shakur’s lyrics might be better understood if we look at not just his musical influences but also his literary ones. At times, Shakur explicitly drew on books and plays in order to explain his own writing method. Leila Steinberg, who mentored a teenage Shakur during the late 1980s and early 1990s and kept many of his poems (poems that would later be compiled in The Rose that Grew from Concrete), told Michael Eric Dyson in an interview that Shakur’s personal library boasted hundreds of books, on “psychic science, yoga, alternative health, metaphysical science, painting, philosophy, psychology and meditation” (Dyson 2001, 99). According to Steinberg, Shakur planned to “use rap to get kids reading again. They were going to analyze and destroy all the great theorists and philosophers” (Dyson 2001, 93). Shakur planned to utilize the medium of hip hop to encourage reading, critical thinking skills, and political engagement. If we read Shakur’s music (or “storytelling”) within the genealogical framework of the books he claims influenced his writing style, we can begin to piece together a better understanding of his work. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet provides one such example. The protagonist of the play, Hamlet, is visited by the ghost of his dead father and afterward believes that his uncle and his mother conspired to murder his father so that Hamlet’s uncle could seize power. Hamlet devises a strategic plan in order to make his uncle confess to his crime. He organizes a group of traveling actors to perform a play in which they reenact the scene of the murder. For Hamlet, “the play’s the thing” that will “catch the conscience of the king,” forcing the guilty parties to confess to their treason. Shakur often described his own politics of performance in much the same way. Explaining to an interviewer that the violence portrayed in his music was put there deliberately to expose what was happening in America’s poorest neighborhoods, Shakur argued, “It’s like, you’ve got the Vietnam War, and because you had reporters showing us pictures of the war at home, that’s what made the war end, or that shit would have lasted longer . . . but because we saw the horror, that’s what made us stop the war . . . so I thought, that’s what I’m going to do as an artist, as a rapper. I’m gonna’ show the most graphic details of what I see in my community and hopefully they’ll stop it quick” (Hoye and Ali 2003, 132). Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Shakur enlisted various actors/personas to tell his stories, hoping to draw out the conscience of the listener, hoping they would be called to act and to “stop it


quick.” In songs such as “Brenda’s Got A Baby,” Shakur attempts to expose—through a kind of staged dramatization—the plight of poor, single mothers. He showed reality in the hopes that it would elicit collective political and individual response. Shakur also read and referenced the writings of military and political philosophers, such as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince. After Shakur’s murder, some fans and conspiracy theorists argued that Shakur adopted the alias Makaveli because he planned to fake his own death, a strategy supposedly condoned by the fifteenth century political theorist. However, Machiavelli’s work provided Shakur with much more than an alias or an alibi. Machiavelli was especially interested in thinking about how modern power functioned (because right of the sovereign no longer required inherited right but could be achieved by strategic will and war). According to Machiavelli, this required the prince to learn the arts of social maneuvering and public performance. This might include deceitfulness and manipulation but not always. In this way, Machiavelli’s work served as a pragmatic framework through which Shakur could think about performance as a political strategy in the struggle for power. Shakur’s final album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day theory, includes several songs that explore these themes, including “Bomb First” and “Me and My Girlfriend.” Shakur left several unfinished projects that gesture at the scope of his literary talents. While in jail in 1995, he began writing a screenplay called “Kindred Spirits,” a story he noted would be “loosely” based on the novel by Octavia Butler. He had also begun an autobiography entitled Mama’s Boy. He completed at least one screenplay, Live to Tell. FURTHER READING “Afeni Shakur.” The Talking Drum. 5 September 2008. . Dyson, Michael Eric. Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2001. Hoye, Jacob, and Karolyn Ali. Tupac: Resurrection 1971–1996. New York: Atria Books, 2003. Jones, Quincy. Tupac Shakur, 1971–1996. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998. White, Armond. Rebel for the Hell of It: The Life of Tupac Shakur. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1997.

Georgia M. Roberts

SIMMONS, RUSSELL (1957–). As a businessman and visionary, Russell Simmons was named one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 Years.” It was his visions as the CEO of Rush Communications that launched hip hop as a force in American music, business, media, and fashion. Simmons, coupled with Rick Rubin, was responsible for launching Def Jam Records at the dawn of the first wave of hip hop, which is seen as the founding music label for hip hop music. His literary contributions have included a magazine and the phenomenon of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry, a spin-off of his Def Comedy Jam concept. Poets of all stripes were motivated to get together and read their poetry aloud to one another in vivid new ways. Simmons used the program to showcase poets from “poetry slams”—no small accomplishment in the first part of the twenty-first century, when poetry appeared to be disdained as an elitist pastime by mainstream culture. Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry is credited with single-handedly reviving the interest in poetry among young people. He later




furthered the Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry success into a tour and a Broadway show. While on Broadway, Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam won a Tony award. In addition to his successes in these innovate arenas, Simmons also authored two nonfiction books, which put down on paper his vision and business philosophies, thus passing on his wisdom to another generation. In both books, the college-educated Simmons is intent on using his street smarts coupled with his life knowledge to create advice books for the younger hip hop generation. Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, and God was Simmons’s first book. Published in 2002 and co-written with music journalist Nelson George, the book is an intriguing blend of memoir and business philosophies. The book’s contents are in line with the necessity in hip hop to “be real,” and Simmons does that in the book. He included valuable, hard-core truths about how the music industry works. He cites Sony in particular with a critique on how major record labels exploit the small, more innovative ones. Seeing himself as a father of the hip hop phenomenon, he summarizes his formula for success in five lessons as well as taking time to convey his life story in an “as-told-to” kind of quality. Simmons tells about developing his business skills by organizing parties, street-hustling with Kurtis Blow, and attending parties with big celebrities such as Naomi Campbell and Robert De Niro. The inclusion of the advice, coupled with pertinent autobiographical details, make Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, and God necessary reading just because Simmons wrote it. His second book, published in 2007, is called Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success. This book is apparently an expansion on the five laws that he wrote about in Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, and God. Forwarded by Donald Trump, Do You! 12 Laws to Access The Power In You To Achieve Happiness and Success obviously positions Simmons as a mogul who wants to make a positive contribution to young people. Much of what Simmons portrays in the book points out how being open to opportunity and responsibility can lead to success. For example, Simmons relates how his practice with yoga and his vegetarianism help prepare his mind and body for his work. These are topics that are not frequently discussed in any kind of African American literature, much less from a hip hop perspective. Readers have cited the book’s specific steps as helpful to achieving an understanding of their own pathways to success. Simmons discusses how basic respect for others, rather than obnoxiousness, can also assist in a successful career path. Some of his suggestions may seem common or small, but Simmons is aware that he is writing to an audience who may not have had strong role models or solid parental influences to already understand his “12 laws.” Simmons uses concrete examples from his own life and understanding to exhort his audience to expand their viewpoint and to “do more” to become themselves. FURTHER READING Berfield, Susan. “The CEO of Hip-Hop.” BusinessWeek (27 Oct. 2003): 90. “Def Poetry Jam.” 16 June 2008. . Ogg, Alex. The Men Behind Def Jam: The Radical Rise of Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin. London: Omnibus Press, 2002. “Russell Simmons.” 16 June 2008. . Simmons, Russell. Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success. New York: Gotham, 2007. ———. Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, and God. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins


SLAM (OFFLINE ENTERTAINMENT GROUP, USA, 1998). A film highlighting the spoken word movement of the latter twentieth century and its direct link to rap and the African American oral tradition. Written and directed by Mark Levin, Slam received the Cannes Film Festival’s Golden Camera and the Sundance Film Festival’s Dramatic Feature Grand Jury Award. Slam is the story of Ray Joshua (Saul Williams), an inner-city Washington, D.C., poet who struggles to, as the movie’s tag line notes, make “words make sense in a world that won’t.” Gifted with an ear and heart for rhythm and rhyme, Ray wants to be a rapper, but drugs and wrong associations have other plans for him. After being sent to prison Ray chooses words to help him deal with the pressure of being locked up and locked out of a future. Encouraged by prison writing instructor Lauren Bell (Sonja Sohn), Ray begins to see and speak himself free. After he is released from prison, Bell invites Joshua to a poetry slam, and while on stage he delivers a diatribe concerned with the difficulties of being a black man. This film, like several others of its ilk, functions not only to document the terrors of navigating manhood for black youth but to document the cultural impact of art created by and for young people of color. In this instance spoken word and the particulars of its exhibition reached a broader audience because of the film’s popularity. Spoken word is performancebased poetry said to have originated in 1984 at the night club operated by poet Marc Smith. According to a Washington Post article by Teresa Wiltz, Smith’s open mic nights gradually evolved into the performing of poetry rather than a typical reading. FURTHER READING Demby, Eric. “The World According to ‘Slam’ Star Saul Williams.” Rolling Stone, Issue 799 (12 Nov. 1998): 40. Ressner, Jeffrey. “Aiming for the Heart.” Time, Vol. 152 Issue 16 (19 Oct. 1998): 107. Schwarzbaum, Lisa. “Poetic Justice.” Entertainment Weekly, Issue 455 (23 Oct. 1998): 49. Wiltz, Teresa. “Slam-Dunked: Poets Duke It Out Chicago Contest.” Washington Post, 18 August 1999.

Tarshia L. Stanley

SOLOMON, AKIBA (1974–). Hip hop journalist and former politics and senior editor at The Source; Solomon is the co-editor of Naked, an anthology of black women discussing body image. As politics editor at The Source, Solomon made some of the most important news events of the late 1990s and early 2000s accessible to the hip hop generation. At The Source, Solomon wrote and edited several articles about the prison industrial complex—an issue that disproportionately affects the hip hop community—and she helped to produce the magazine’s 2000 Voters’ Elections Guide that informed readers of candidates’ stances on topics ranging from immigration to health insurance. Solomon’s Source stories demonstrate how her mordacious, dynamic language brought readers’ attention to issues that could be easily drowned out by the magazine’s lighter fare. In “American Politrix,” for example, Solomon chooses to open the story with a quotation from “The What,” a song by Notorious B.I.G. and Method Man. The quotation is a fitting one: the story describes how the 2001 United Nations World Conference against Racism— a collaborative effort to fight racism on a global scale—was largely ignored by the United




States; likewise, “The What” quotation glorifies the power of individual goals over communal ones. “American Politrix,” too, is representative of Solomon’s ability to mix SATtype vocabulary (“raucous”) with hip hop slang (“a $10 ho”). Readers of The Source may best remember Solomon for her popular “What the F#@k” columns—brief, satirical, and humorous streams of consciousness about social issues that affected hip hop. In these columns, Solomon passionately defends hip hop while also pointing out ways in which the music is problematic. In one “What the F#@k” column, Solomon took on Harvard University scholar Ronald Ferguson’s argument that rap music is to blame for black children’s low test scores. Solomon objected to what she saw as an oversimplification of a complex problem and explained that Ferguson was wrong to ignore the roles that “poverty, drugs, the increasing criminalization of our youth, [and] piss-poor public schools” played in these children’s academic achievement. Furthermore, Solomon ended her column ironically, by pointing out just how popular hip hop has grown with white children. Solomon’s later publications reveal how she grew more concerned with hip hop’s gender politics. Solomon wrote a story for Vibe Vixen, a magazine aimed at young women of color, that explored how the “ride or die chick” popularized in rap music has led to some women’s imprisonment. Also, in a story Solomon wrote for HoneyMag.com, an online version of a magazine geared toward young women of color, Solomon described Assata Shakur’s work to free political prisoners and the ways that this woman is still revered by the hip hop community (Solomon mentioned that Shakur’s words are featured on Common’s album Like Water for Chocolate). Finally, in 2005, Solomon coedited Naked, a book that featured hip hop artists, rap video vixens, and other black women discussing their bodies. See also The Source Magazine FURTHER READING Byrd, Ayanna, and Akiba Solomon, eds. “American Politrix.” The Source (December 2001): 147–148. ———. Naked. New York: Penguin, 2005.

Rochelle Spencer

SOUL BABIES: BLACK POPULAR CULTURE AND THE POSTSOUL AESTHETIC. This is a scholarly book that examines the contemporary black popular cultural experience in the United States. It employs the term post-soul, which Mark Anthony Neal tells us is the way he describes the political, social, and cultural experiences of the African American community after the civil rights movement. Neal’s book engages primarily with the ways in which black masculinities in the cultural framework are contested upon racial and gendered anxieties. Examining film, television, and music, Neal posits that only when the African American community engages with all images produced by society (both positive, negative, and marginalized) will recognition and empowerment become the future of that community. Chapter one “‘You Remind Me of Something’: Toward a Post-Soul Aesthetic,” begins with a controversial examination of an equally controversial African American figure in contemporary popular culture, musician R. Kelly, whose reputation for engaging in sexual


acts with young women, as well as promoting an overt black male sexuality, has overshadowed his strength as a performer and a voice for the African American experience. However, Neal argues that, unlike other popular African American musicians, including Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Luther Vandross, the performance, music, and lyrics of R. Kelly’s music videos are a unique social space where positive and possibly more progressive critiques and subjectivity of contemporary black life, culture, and experience exist. Specifically examining the music video of the title, Neal argues that R. Kelly is consciously aware of the inherent contradictions of his music and feels that is a strategic ploy by R. Kelly to relate to his audience, as well as open a space for the critique of black female sexuality, black male subjectivity, and the black community. Chapter two “Sweetback’s Revenge: Gangsters, Blaxploitation, and Black Middle-Class Identity,” begins with an examination of images of African American men and women in the 1960s and 1970s film era, including Sidney Poitier’s and Bill Cosby’s portrayals in a number of films dedicated to bringing sanitized versions of black male sexuality into the white mainstream, which Neal contrasts with the overt image of black male and female sexuality introduced in Melvin Van Peebles 1971 blaxploitation film Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song in 1971. Neal’s analysis is one that examines the divisiveness of race, class, and gender that exists within a fractured black community as a result of dual images in the black popular culture framework, one that is reminiscent of earlier African American struggles with leaders W. E. B Dubois and Booker T. Washington. Neal follows these contradictions through to the 1980s image of Bill Cosby on The Cosby Show and asks his audience to consider the ways in which these transcendent images reflect a desire and achievement of the mainstream American dream, while negating the realities of race, class, and gender felt by the African American community, and asks what obligations a popular artist may have to reflect a wider and more diverse level of representation. Chapter three “Baby Mama (Drama) and Baby Daddy (Trauma): Post-Soul Gender Politics,” begins by examining images of African American women and black female sexuality present in the cultural framework of the 1960s through the 1990s. Beginning with the image of Aunt Esther in Sanford and Son, who Neal argues is one that embodies the emasculating independent black woman of the 1960s, Neal follows the trajectory of these negative black women images—from “mammy” to “matriarch,” from “jezebel” to “welfare mother,” and finally the contemporary image of “baby mama,” which infiltrates its way into the social lexicon and imagery of African American women today—onto the contemporary arena, where the images of black women are often silenced in lieu of black male father images, such as James Evans Sr. in Good Times or Cliff Huxtable in The Cosby Show. Neal argues that taking a look at contemporary images of the baby mama will allow the black community to come to terms with a history of silence and oppression faced in a gender battleground within a racialized community. Chapter four “The Post-Soul Intelligentsia: Mass Media, Popular Culture, and Social Praxis,” examines the generation of black urban intellectuals living through a waning postCivil Rights Movement to whom urban and hip-hop aesthetics, mass media, and popular culture are the spaces for social interaction, resistance, and subjectivity. Nostalgic for earlier historical frameworks of struggle, Neal argues that hip-hop is a New Black Aesthetic and a place for a contemporary historical negotiation with black identity politics, which includes issues concerning hypermasculinity, homophobia, misogyny, language, and more. Chapter five “Native Tongues: Voices of the Post-Soul Intelligentsia” tackles the controversial usage of the word “nigger” by hip-hop artists of the last decade and asks the audience to consider the ways in which the word is a divisive one for African American




communities struggling with issues of race and class. As he examines this divisiveness, Neal takes a look at the space and responsibility of ethnographers responsible for accurately representing and understanding black life and culture and how that is fractured by questions of authenticity and who can claim such authenticity within a black popular cultural framework. From there, Neal takes a look at hip-hop feminism as a new space of resistance in the larger African American community and follows with a careful critique of twenty years of Black Entertainment Television (BET) and whether they have achieved their goals in representing the concerns and cultural practices of the black community. Ultimately, Mark Anthony Neal’s book opens a progressive space of possibility, resistance, agency, and subjectivity for African American communities struggling with today’s confusing cultural matrix and posits that hip-hop is a space that should not be ignored but reveled in the possibilities of representation offered. See also Neal, Mark Anthony; That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader FURTHER READING Neal, Mark Anthony. New Black Man. New York: Routledge, 2006. ———. Songs in the Key of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2003. ———. That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004. ———. What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture. New York: Routledge, 1998.

Rosa Soto

SOULJAH, SISTER (1964–). Hip hop activist, speaker, and novelist. As one of the most vocal and influential members of the hip hop generation, Sister Souljah (born Lisa Williamson) is credited for increasing the American public’s awareness of sexism, racism, and poverty in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Like many of her contemporaries who broke new ground on the hip hop scene in the 1980s and 1990s, Souljah grounded her adaptation of the hip hop art form within the important realms of intellectualism, politics, global awareness, and black empowerment. Unlike many of today’s hip hop notables, the longevity of her career and influence as a hip hop artist, author, activist, and film producer can be measured by her unwillingness to succumb to the mainstream music industry’s demand for entertainment and spectacle. Souljah’s lyrical content is most recognized for its conscious rhymes and messages that extend beyond the entertainment industry to serve as a catalyst for social, political, and economic change. Her work as an activist and lecturer mirrors the legitimacy and authenticity of her musical contributions without any contradiction or digression. Born in the Bronx, New York, and raised on the welfare system for fifteen years, Souljah’s early years were shaped by the government subsidized housing in which she resided. Despite her humble beginnings, she was determined to excel beyond her environment, and her academic success during high school led to numerous achievements that reaffirmed her belief that young African American women from poverty stricken backgrounds could succeed. She was the winner of the American Legion’s Constitutional Oratory Contest, a Legislative intern in the House of Representatives for the


Republican Party, a participant in Cornell University’s Advanced Placement Studies Summer Program, and a participant in a study abroad program in Spain at the University of Salamanca. After enrolling at Rutgers University, Souljah enhanced her knowledge of global issues through her travels to England, France, Spain, South Africa, Portugal, Zambia, Finland, and Russia. In addition to exposing herself to new cultures, Souljah utilized these opportunities to work with refugee children in Mozambique and serve at a Zimbabwean medical center located in Mtepa Tepa village. Throughout her matriculation at Rutgers University she became a well-known and respected student leader. Her growth as a young scholar and activist is represented in her service as a writer and political commentator for the university newspaper. Staying true to her love for community uplift, Souljah organized numerous rallies against police brutality, racially charged crimes, apartheid in South Africa, and for education of inner-city youth, thus raising the awareness of relevant issues among college students. Souljah’s travels abroad and her first-hand experiences in relief efforts provided her with a sophisticated world view possessed by few of her peers. These experiences led to Souljah becoming the founder of the African Youth Survival Camp during her senior year at Rutgers University. Her collaboration with Reverend Benjamin Chavis of The United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice resulted in the development of a shared vision to make an impact on the lives of children. Located in Enfield, North Carolina, the African Youth Survival Camp was financed by Souljah and provided 200 children of homeless families with six weeks of academic, cultural, and financial curriculum for three consecutive years. While completing her studies at Rutgers University, she focused on cultural and historical subjects that helped to enhance her knowledge of an African American centered curriculum that she felt was lacking in the New York Public education system. Equipped with a new perspective on history and world issues, Souljah graduated from Rutgers University with degrees in American history and African studies. Many of the subjects discussed within these disciplines would later become some of the most prevalent themes in her albums and videos. Souljah’s in-depth study of American and African histories, along with extensive experience in social organization, provided a sound backdrop for her emergence into the hyperconscious hip hop music arena of the early 1990s. During the early stages of her career as an activist and lecturer in local prisons, she began to attract a following of both African American youth and accomplished producers in the hip hop music industry. Impressed by Souljah’s pro-black rhetoric and afrocentric themes, producer Eric Sadler produced her first and only solo album to date, “360 Degrees of Power.” Additionally, the videos “The Final Solution: Slavery’s Back in Effect” (1991), and “The Hate that Hate Produced” (1992), were barred from music video channels such as MTV. Despite the album’s focus on community building, quality education, and economic independence, it received poor reviews from mainstream music media because of a perceived insensitivity to whites and American race relations. In 1992 Souljah’s views on American race relations became more pronounced when Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Clinton expressed his disapproval of statements made by Souljah in regard to the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. The impetus of Clinton’s attack on Souljah was a controversial quote featured in a May 13, 1992, interview in the Washington Post. During the interview Souljah made a controversial comment in response to the Rodney King beating, stating, “If Black people kill Black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?” Clinton’s attack on Souljah’s statement lacked any reference to the interview in its entirety and led to a scathing media blitz against her. In




addition to his original complaint, Clinton went on to publicly criticize the Reverend Jesse Jackson for allowing Souljah to serve as a guest of the Rainbow Coalition’s Leadership Summit. As a result of this exchange, Souljah obtained a more intimidating presence in white American political consciousness and established what is commonly known in political circles as a “Sister Souljah Moment.” A term used to describe the public repudiation of an extremist statement, person, or group, a Sister Souljah Moment often results in the irretrievable loss of allies due to the original effort to obtain the support of centrist voters. Continuing to rise above this series of negative media attention, Souljah moved on to increase her community outreach work within the African American community. Unfortunately, Souljah’s career as a hip hop artist was short lived and much of the media attention generated as a result of the Clinton attack faded from public interest. Unshaken by the backlash of this affair, Souljah’s career has continued to move in a positive direction. Moving beyond the confinements of a music industry that had not prepared itself to support or digest her take on racism and sexism, Souljah returned to the community uplift efforts that have always been most dear to her heart. Through her desire to make a difference in the lives of black youth, Souljah continued to speak publicly to youth about the dangers of gang violence and the importance of education. Her ability to reach the masses of young people struggling with these issues includes an array of media outlets, such as speaking at the Million Woman March in Philadelphia and television appearances on Phil Donahue, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, MTV, BET, Geraldo, and her acting debut on the sitcom A Different World. Souljah also became an influential voice for hip hop audiences as a political commentator on New York City radio station 98.7 KISS-FM. Transitioning from her active role as a voice of the hip hop generation, Souljah went on to establish herself in the urban literary genre. She made her first attempt as an author in 1995 with the publication of her autobiography, No Disrespect. An intriguing story of her life, No Disrespect is a candid account of experiences that molded her into the woman she is today. Souljah followed the success of her memoir with the publication of her first and only novel to date, The Coldest Winter Ever in 1999. A national best seller, The Coldest Winter Ever was praised in reviews, making it a significant contribution to the urban literary genre. Today she remains true to her commitment to serve the black community. In recent years she has led the effort to encourage celebrities in the entertainment industry to participate in community outreach and giveback programs. She has worked closely with Sean “Diddy” Combs, Lauryn Hill, and Doug E. Fresh to establish events for youth and summer camps. Souljah also serves as the executive director of Bad Boy Entertainment’s Daddy’s House Social Programs Inc., an urban youth development program financed by Sean “Diddy” Combs. Although she is far removed from her early image as a controversial hip hop artist, Souljah remains a voice of social and moral integrity. Currently, Souljah writes for various magazines and is in the production process of the film version of The Coldest Winter Ever in conjunction with Souljah Story, Inc. with actress Jada Pinkett Smith as executive producer. See also The Coldest Winter Ever; No Disrespect FURTHER READING Mills, David. “Sister Souljah’s Call to Arms.” Washington Post, 13 May 1992, B1. Souljah, Sister. The Coldest Winter Ever. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1999.

THE SOURCE MAGAZINE ———. No Disrespect. New York: Times Books, 1994. White, Jack E., Jr. “Sister Souljah Capitalist Tool.” Time (29 June 1992): 88.

Chaunda A. McDavis

THE SOURCE MAGAZINE. Once referred to as the “Bible of Hip Hop,” The Source was founded in 1988 as music newsletter and grew into one of the premier publications of hip hop music and culture. In recent years The Source has been in decline due to internal management issues. In 1988 Harvard undergraduate students David Mays and Jon Shecter upgraded their music newsletter to The Source magazine. With Mays acting as publisher and Shecter as chief editor they, along with friends James Bernard and Ed Young, used their knowledge of rap music from their time as deejays to establish the magazine. One of the controversies surrounding the magazine began with its establishment of The Source awards in 1994. In the second year of the awards show, Suge Knight, then CEO of Death Row Records, made a controversial comment aimed at Bad Boy Records CEO Sean Combs (Puff Daddy, P Diddy). Knight invited those rappers who did not want their executives to appear in all their videos to defect to Death Row Records. This moment is often quoted as one that intensified the coming feud between East Coast and West Coast rappers. The awards ceremony again faced difficulty when a fight broke out during its filming in Pasadena, California, in 2000. The show has not aired in recent years. Yet another controversy haunting the magazine occurred when the rap artist Benzino (Raymond Scott), suddenly became co-owner of The Source. Even staff members at the magazine were critical of Benzino’s handling of his power when performers and rap groups affiliated with him personally began to receive preferable treatment at the awards shows and in the magazine reviews. The Source suffered further injury when in 2002 Benzino released a rap recording that began a lyrical feud with rapper Eminem. According to an article in Rolling Stone: “Eminem is the culture stealer, and I’m coming for him,” says Raymond “Benzino” Scott, a Boston-bred rapper who touched off a war of words with Eminem late last year that culminated in a volley of dis tracks between the two artists. In Benzino’s “Pull Your Skirt Up” and “Die Another Day,” Em gets called “2003 Vanilla Ice” and “the rap Hitler.” (Eliscu 2003)

Several raps were released back and forth between Benzino and Eminem amidst accusations that Benzino used The Source as his own personal instrument to attack Eminem. Hip-hop business insiders suggest that Benzino, who is also a co-owner of hip-hop magazine The Source, is taking on Eminem in a desperate attempt to increase his own profile. (Eliscu 2003)

The battle culminated in The Source’s February 2004 issue, which was devoted to outing Eminem as a misogynist and a racist—on an early tape Eminem rapped racist and sexist lyrics. Eminem apologized and claimed his vehement rant was caused by his angst at having broken up with a black girlfriend. By 2005 lawyers for Benzino were preparing to face Eminem’s defamation of character lawsuit when the suit was dropped. However troubles did not end for The Source or Benzino. Kimberly Osorio, the former editor-in-chief was awarded more than 15 million dollars after winning a sexual harassment




lawsuit against the magazine. Finally the Benzino years at The Source came to an end in 2006 when both he and David Mays were fired. The Source was forced into bankruptcy and according to its most recent issue is successfully rebuilding its staff, audience, and reputation. The source.com claims that it will relaunch soon. See also Mayo, Kierna; Solomon, Akiba FURTHER READING Carlson, Peter. “Hip-Hop Editor Wins Suit over Her Firing.” Washington Post, 25 Oct. 2006, retrieved 30 June 2008. Eliscu, Jenny. “Benzino, Eminem Feud Heats Up: Boston Rapper Goes After Slim Shady.” Rolling Stone, 3 Jan. 2003, retrieved 30 June 2008.

Tarshia L. Stanley

SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION IN HIP HOP LITERATURE AND CULTURE. Hip-hop culture functions as a political force and as a creative space where youth express their individual identities and the concerns of the communities from which they come. Although hip-hop music with its roots in political and social protest would seem to some to be completely divorced from spiritual and religious life, hip-hop also serves as a spiritual and religious force for inward and communal change in the lives of artists and fans. In the United States and beyond, hip-hop artists use the elements of breakdancing, emceeing, DJing, and graffiti art to express their criticism of political, economic, and social dynamics that continually threaten the livelihood of marginalized people of color. Some artists, such as Dead Prez and Public Enemy, have also utilized hip-hop music and culture as a means to express their discontent with and criticism of traditional and institutionalized spiritual and religious practices. Others, such as KRS-One, view hip-hop as an alternative spiritual space in and of itself. Furthermore, hip-hop musicians such as Cross Movement and Blakstone bring a specific religious background and sensibility to their hiphop practices through an expression of their Christian and Muslim beliefs, respectively. References to and practices of religion and spirituality are as varied in hip-hop as the music and culture itself. Despite the widespread attention given to the spiritual and religious references and practices in hip-hop music in media outlets from MTV to The New York Times, a relevantly small amount of scholarly work addresses this phenomena. The earliest known academic texts to explore the religious and spiritual dynamics of hip-hop music are two special editions of Black Sacred Music: A Journal of Theomusicology published in 1991 and 1995. The 1995 edition entitled The Emergency of Black and the Emergence of Rap includes essays by authors such as Michael Eric Dyson and Jon Michael Spencer (the journal’s editor) in an exploration of how rap music and culture continue in the tradition of black theological critique and protest. Following these special editions was Michael Eric Dyson’s Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture (1996), an autobiographical exploration of his experiences as an ordained Baptist minister and public intellectual with a fan’s enthusiasm about the transformative power of hip-hop culture. A more recent work, Anthony B. Pinn’s Noise and Spirit: The Religious and Spiritual Sensibilities of Rap Music (2003), is the first edited collection to explore gradients of spirituality and religion evoked in rap music in a variety of traditions, from the evolution of


African American Islam in contemporary hip-hop, to spiritual and religious metaphors, ideologies, and allusions in rap music by artists such as Tupac Shakur, to the exploration of rap music as a spiritual practice. Robin Sylvan’s Traces of the Spirit: The Religious Dimensions of Popular Music (2002) includes a chapter entitled “The Message: Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture” that consists of an ethnographic study of rap music and its function as a transcendent, spiritual, or religious experience for devout fans. Additionally, musicologists Felicia Miyakawa, Teresa L. Reed, and Christina Zanfagna and anthropologist Ted Swedenburg have each published recent works that examine the spiritual or religious nature and function of hip-hop music and culture. Whereas many hip-hop fans would embrace the idea of the spiritual or religious function of the music and culture for fans and for the artists themselves, the hip-hop that stems from a clearly defined, theologically distinctive context has encountered opposition from both fans of mainstream hip-hop and the religious circles from which these artists belong. In an African American context, Christian hip-hop artists in particular have faced strident opposition from African American Pentecostal churches, who believe that hip-hop music—Christian or not—has no place in the church. “Holy hip-hop” is a term that practitioners of Christian hip-hop use to distinguish their work from mainstream, secular hiphop. But this distinction does not preclude a cultural and religious battle over what musical practices should be used for sacred or religious purposes. Not unlike the backlash against gospel blues in the first half of the twentieth century and against Christian rock in the 1970s, Christian hip-hop has been derided and often excluded from certain African American Pentecostal churches as “the devil’s music.” In particular, Elder G. Craige Lewis of EX Ministries is one of Christian hip-hop’s strongest critics and says that hip hop and Christianity cannot mix. Despite rejection from many conservative Christian churches and church leaders, Christian or “holy” hip-hop music artists such as Japhia Life, Cross Movement, and Mahogany Jonz have continued to use hip-hop as a medium for evangelizing to youth and for expressing their Christian beliefs. Some artists also see themselves as rehabilitating the negative images and practices that, over time, have come to be associated with mainstream hip-hop culture, including misogyny, drug use, gangster life, violence, and immorality. Muslim hip-hop artists have also met with opposition in circles of Islam that question the use of the music in religious practice. Some Islam practitioners believe that music, especially hip-hop music, is haram (forbidden) completely, whereas others take the position that it is halal (permissible) as long as the music does not contain content that violates the principles of Islam. Still, there is a struggle over the acceptance of the melding of Islam and hip-hop culture because both religious circles and mainstream hip-hop fans see these cultures as diametrically opposed to each other for a variety of reasons. Whereas Christians, Muslims, and other religious groups have used hip-hop music and culture within their religious practices, some hip-hop artists, such as KRS-One, consider hip-hop a spiritual practice. KRS-One is due to release his book The Gospel of Hip-Hop, which shows an approach to hip-hop as a spiritual as well as a cultural art form. The Temple of Hip-Hop, established by KRS-One, Professor Z, Chuck D, Big Daddy Kane, Kool DJ Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Fat Joe, and other hip-hop artists in 1996, functions as a hiphop preservation society. KRS-One states, “We believe that not only is hip-hop divine, but the temple is divinely ordained, because we accept it as that. And in accepting that hip-hop is of divine origin, our temple becomes sanctioned by our God.” In the world of hip-hop there are wide-ranging spiritual and religious beliefs and ideologies that come into play within the music and culture. Whereas some artists may




choose to either allude to their personal spiritual and religious beliefs or to keep them separate from their musical and performance careers, other artists choose to foreground their beliefs in their music, as in MC Hammer’s rap single “Pray” (1990) and Kanye West’s wildly popular hip-hop track, “Jesus Walks” (2004), which was a crossover hit that appealed to Christian and nonreligious fans. As hip-hop music and culture continues to take on different forms throughout the world, so do the religious and spiritual manifestations therein. With such a wide variety of musical, spiritual, and religious influences in hiphop music and culture, this is a rich arena for more study, exploration, and scholarship. FURTHER READING Dyson, Michael Eric. Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Miyakawa, Felicia. Five Percenter Rap: God Hop’s Music, Message, and Black Muslim Mission. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2005. Pinn, Anthony B., ed. Noise and Spirit: The Religious and Spiritual Sensibilities of Rap Music. New York: New York University Press, 2003.

Shanesha R. F. Brooks Tatum

SPOKEN WORD MOVEMENT. Spoken word is essentially a type of performance poetry. Once seen as an art form on the printed page, the spoken word movement has made poetry an aural art form, often combining orality, music, verbal performance, and intense messages. At the very core of the spoken word movement is the belief that poetry should have a democratic sound; it should be the voice of the people and it should voice the concerns, thoughts, and beliefs of those people. It is also a personal form of expression. It is a paradoxical form of making an individual, and yet public, statement. The spoken word, or spoken poetry, has manifested itself in numerous and varied ways throughout history. The current spoken word movement was clearly given new life, flavor, and style by the African American community, but the roots of the modern spoken word movement are many. One can find traces of this art form in Jewish cantors, minstrel bards, and even Biblical psalms, all channels leading to spoken word as we now know it. Indeed, in the Western/Christian tradition it is believed that the spoken word created life: “And God said ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” Some trace rebirth of spoken poetry, or the current spoken word movement, to the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, with such artists and activists as Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanches, and The Last Poets attempting to move people to political action through verbal creative expression. Baraka is widely referred to as one of the original spoken word artists. He was also one of the original jazz poets. Many modern spoken word artists cite Baraka as one of their direct influences. The influence of the Beat Generation cannot be underestimated, particularly Allen Ginsberg’s performance of his poem “Howl” at the San Francisco Six Gallery reading in 1955, a great moment where the written word left the page, becoming alive and real for a whole new generation. Jack Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose” jazz aesthetic exemplifies another variation in the new directions poetry would take. Kerouac’s use of jazz as a model for how poetry should “sound,” as well as his appreciation for the spontaneous and the genuine in writing have direct ties to the musicality and authenticity that are so valued in the spoken word community. Allen Ginsberg’s brand of shockingly confessional


and highly performative poetry can also be seen as planting a very important seed in the growth of spoken word. His persona and celebrity after his reading at the Six Gallery also has clear ties to the performances and relative celebrity of current spoken word poets. Further, the high modernist movement that preceded the Beat Generation was certainly not an easily accessible or attainable voice. T. S. Eliot footnoted The Waste Land. A footnoted poem is not accessible to the common reader. And it has been said that to fully comprehend Ezra Pound’s Cantos one needs an encyclopedic mind for all of human history. Pound, in fact boldly declares in ABC of Reading that he knows and presents within the pages of that book the “RIGHT WAY to study poetry, or literature, or painting.” The Beat Generation rejected those rules and they did so with the kind of defiance and enthusiasm that many spoken word artists maintain today. Far from being an elitist movement, the Beat writers (and the spoken word community) often speak for the disempowered and the voiceless members of our society. The telling of an individual story, as well as the one voice speaking for many, is a task that many current hip-hop and spoken word artists have undertaken, becoming the modern-day bards and minstrels for a new generation. The contemporary spoken word movement has been greatly influenced by hip-hop. Spoken word poetry can often be described as lyrics that are spoken and not sung, similar to hip-hop lyrics. Music is sometimes used in spoken word performances, though the lyrics and the speaker are always at the forefront of these performances. In the mid1990s the connection between hip-hop and poetry was undeniable. Notable spoken word artists such as Jessica Care Moore, Sarah Jones, and Saul Williams infused their spoken word performances with hip-hop elements. Amiri Baraka has said that hip-hop and spoken word have very strong connections to one another: “It’s the same continuum; it just depends on where you get on the train.” Of course, Yusef Komunyakaa also notes that some spoken word pieces “are more akin to the blues tradition than to hip-hop. They seem to be saying, what you see is what you get.” Further, he notes that there are poems “straight out of the R&B tradition of crooning and swooning on the edge of heartbreak.” Certainly then, this movement has many roots and influences that are both literary and musical. One thing that often separates a spoken word performance from a more traditional poetry reading is audience participation. The audience is actually an integral part of a spoken word performance. Audiences are known to interject periodically, both to acknowledge that they understand and/or agree with the content of the poem and to demonstrate that they know where the poet is coming from. In fact, sometimes at a reading, if the audience is unresponsive, it isn’t unheard of for the poet to make sure that the message is being heard. “Check-ins” such as “you know what I’m saying?” can facilitate audience response and ensure that a connection is being made. The audience also serves as a safe space and support system for the reader. The poet can share radical and revolutionary ideas that would not necessarily be embraced by the outside world. Spoken word etiquette dictates that audiences applaud after each piece as a show of encouragement and appreciation. The spoken word movement gained popularity not only in coffee shops and poetry venues around the country but also in the media. MTV had a spoken word edition of their hit show Unplugged in 1993 that featured such prominent spoken word artists as Henry Rollins, Reg E. Gaines, and Maggie Estep. Two more spoken word Unplugged shows followed in 1994, featuring Jim Carroll, MC Lyte, Danny Hoch, and 1970s spoken word icon Gil Scott-Heron. The motion picture industry wasn’t far behind. In 1998, Saul Williams




starred in Slam, a film about a drug dealer who discovers the transformative and healing powers of the spoken word. His character, Ray Joshua, finds that being able to name that which oppresses, being able to name one’s enemy, allows room for change and victory. This film won the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. In 1998, director Paul Devlin released a documentary titled SlamNation, which looked at the 1996 National Poetry Slam held that year in Portland, Oregon. This documentary also starred Saul Williams as a member of the Nuyorican slam team, along with Jessica Care Moore, Beau Sia, and Mums the Schemer. In 2002, HBO premiered Def Poetry Jam, an original series produced by Russell Simmons and hosted by hip-hop artist Mos Def in which established spoken word artists, actors, and musicians, as well as relatively unknown talents, showcased their poetry before a television audience. A live stage production of the show ran on Broadway from November 2002–May 2003. The popularity of the spoken word movement and the proliferation of coffee-shop poetry readings was also famously spoofed in the 1993 Mike Myers comedy So I Married an Axe Murderer. It is not merely the entertainment value but also the political urgency of spoken word that makes it so powerful and appealing today. Poetry has always been at the vortex of social change. Poets are, as Pound declared, the antenna of the race. But for too long, this voice had been distant and removed from the people. Poetry for too long shied away from the confessional and the political. It would of course be inaccurate to claim that all spoken word poetry is political in nature. Spoken word artists are not driven by a collective agenda like artists of the Black Power Movement, for example, were. The poems run the gamut from political to romantic to humorous. Even performances run the gamut from the theatrical to the musical to the traditional. Spoken word artists themselves know that their genre is complicated and genre-bending in many ways. It is an art form that thrives on performance, yet many spoken word artists publish books, indicating that their arts can translate from the stage to the page. On the other hand, many spoken word artists put out CDs instead of books, emphasizing the aural aspect of this art form. Still others merely participate in the performance without books or CDs to promote, emphasizing the temporal nature of this art form: once the moment is gone, it is gone forever, and those who were there to see it should count themselves as fortunate. The idea of the slam, or poetry-as-competition, a verbal boxing match of sorts, also emerged from the spoken word scene. The modern poetry slam is widely believed to have been started by Marc Smith in Chicago in November 1984. Although not exclusively a form of hip-hop poetry, many slam poets do draw their sense of delivery and lyricism from hip-hop. Slam poets draw from a wide variety of influences, though. Performers are generally judged by random audience members, making the slam process as democratic an art form as possible, though preselected judges can sometimes vote on a winner, depending on the venue. The Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City, for example, has a popular weekly slam, where audience members are selected at random to judge the poets. It is not merely the judging process that makes the spoken word movement so democratic but also the very performance of it. Generally, poets will sign up to read on a signup sheet. They will then take the stage on a first-come, first-serve basis. There may be a “featured” poet or performer, but the sign-up sheet is a staple in the spoken word scene, ensuring that anyone who has a voice and has something to say will be given a platform on which to say it.

See also Black Poetry; Slam

STEFFANS, KARRINE FURTHER READING Anglesey, Zoe, ed. Listen Up!: Spoken Word Poetry. New York: One World, 1999. Elevald, Mark, and Marc Smith, eds. The Spoken Word Revolution: Slam, Hip Hop & the Poetry of a New Generation. Naperville, IL: MediaFusion-Sourcebooks, 2003.

Beth Lagarou

STEFFANS, KARRINE (1978–). Karrine Steffans is a former video girl whose memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen (2005), is considered the first major hip-hop confessional. The autobiography debuted at number seven on The New York Times bestseller list and remained on the list for twenty-two weeks after peaking at number five. As a result of the book’s popularity, Steffans was signed to a lucrative two-book publishing contract with Warner/Hachette. The first of those books, The Vixen Diaries, was published in September 2007. Steffans recounts the first twenty-five years of her life in Confessions of a Video Vixen. She was born on the island of St. Thomas and lived there until she was ten years old. Because of her academic prowess, young Karrine was well-liked on the island. She was also quite attractive, which won her the favor of her grandmother and others. Her attractiveness, however, was a point of contention between Karrine and her mother, Josephine. At several points in the text Karrine hints that her mother, who was beautiful herself, was jealous of the attention Karrine received. Karrine goes so far as to say that she and her mother were in competition and had been since her birth (2005, 12). She also describes her mother as physically and emotionally abusive. Steffans provides vivid details of her mother’s beatings, which would often leave her young body badly bruised. In contrast to her mother is her grandmother, whom she fondly recalls as a source of protection, encouragement, and comfort. When Karrine is ten, her mother moves the family to Tampa, Florida. Without her grandmother to protect her, Karrine reveals that her mother’s abuse amplifies. She says her mother calculatingly defames and degrades her character. Karrine gives the example of when she is thirteen and raped. Her mother does not express concern about the ordeal’s affect on Karrine; instead, she beats Steffans and makes her feel as if the incident was her fault. This and other events cause Steffans to run away from home when she is 14 years old. She lives on the streets for a month until the police pick her up. She refuses to return home to her mother and goes to Arizona to live with her father. For a while she enjoys a normal, happy life with her father but runs away from his home when she is 16. At this point she lives with her boyfriend and his mother, who is a stripper. She introduces Steffans to stripping and Karrine develops her alter ego, Yizette Santiago, who quickly becomes a highly paid and sought after exotic dancer. When she is invited to a home to provide private entertainment, Yizette meets Kool G Rap who takes her as his concubine. Initially they live a charmed life, but he becomes emotionally and physically abusive. She admits that she loses forty pounds four months into their relationship. In 1998 she gives birth to their son, and a year later, with the help of some of his friends, moves to Los Angeles. Yizette is able to make a life for herself in Los Angeles with the help of Ice T and someone she refers to as “Papa.” She is introduced to the rap video scene when she is cast for Jay-Z’s “Hey Papi” video. She quickly assimilates into the business and becomes one of




its most requested and top paid video dancers. Her rise to the video girl throne includes trysts with A-list rappers, R&B artists, and athletes, such as Sean Combs, Ja Rule, Usher, Bobby Brown, and Shaquille O’Neal as well as abuse of alcohol and drugs. A near fatal overdose at an upscale Chinese restaurant, however, causes her to rethink her life and reject the lifestyle she embraced. She reclaims her son and at the urging of Damon Dash decides to write about her experiences to sway other young girls from the lure of the video girl lifestyle. See also Confessions of a Video Vixen FURTHER READING Steffans, Karrine. Confessions of a Video Vixen. New York: HarperCollins/Amistad, 2005. ———. The Vixen Diaries. New York: Warner Books/Hachette, 2007.

Yolanda Williams Page

STREBOR BOOKS. Strebor Books International is an African American owned publishing house that specializes in producing “popular” urban fiction and nonfiction for the fast-growing, hip-hop audience. Started in 1999 by the bestselling author Zane, Strebor Books was established, like many other African American publishing houses and imprints where African American authors self-published their works at their own expense, to allow minority voices to be heard without the editorial judgments of those who do not understand or who are not interested in African American culture and experiences. As a result, Strebor Books became one of the few African American-owned publishing companies that published stories about the young, African American urban experience and culture. Since the revitalization of urban fiction in the 1990s, Strebor Books has dominated the urban fiction category by producing numerous bestsellers under the imprint, including the three erotica novels Zane originally self-published: Addicted: The Novel, The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth, and Shame on it All. Because of its success, the mainstream publishing house, Simon and Schuster, decided to bring the Strebor Books imprint in-house. As a result of a distribution deal with Simon and Schuster, Strebor Books was acquired by Simon and Schuster in 2003 and became an imprint of Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, where some of Zane’s books were already distributed. Now all of the Strebor Books titles are included in Atria’s catalog under the Strebor Books imprint. Although Zane sold Strebor Books to Simon and Schuster, she still retained ownership of the publishing company and decides which titles are published. As a result, 15–25 titles are acquired under the Strebor Books imprint each year. Since the acquisition, Strebor Books has produced a variety of fiction, and not just the erotica associated with Zane. Strebor Books’ list of titles covers a wide range of popular fictions, ranging from mysteries, crime stories, historical fiction, pulp fiction, science fiction, urban fiction, nonfiction, fictionalized biographies, and erotica, as well as romantic and suspense novels. Strebor Books also features gay and lesbian-themed books (Lee Hayes’s Passion Marks: A Novel and A Deeper Blue: Passion Marks II) as well as religiousthemed books, including Dr. James Deotis Roberts’s Roots of a Black Future: Family and Church and Christian Beliefs.


Some of the bestselling authors published under the Strebor Books imprint include Shonda Cheekes (Another Man’s Wife), Allison Hobbs (Pandora’s Box and Double Dippin’), Darrien Lee (All That and a Bag of Chips and Been There, Done That), Tina Brooks McKinney (All That Drama), and Franklin White (Money for Good and Potentially Yours). Strebor Books publications are predominantly aimed at a mass audience of urban African Americans; however, because of the diversity, many of its publications appeal to a wide audience, including urban teenagers and young, urban professionals. See also Kensington Publishing Corporation; Old School Books; Triple Crown Publications FURTHER READING Campbell, Dwayne. “Already a Hot Name in Erotica, Zane Blooms into Fuller Flower.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 5 Nov. 2006, M01. Johnson, Kalyn. “Zane, Inc.” Black Issues Book Review, Vol. 6 Issue 5 (2004): 17–20.

Danielle R. Tyler

STYLE WARS (PBS, USA, 1983). Style Wars, which was originally produced for PBS by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant, is a 1983 documentary film that explores the history, culture, aesthetics, and politics of graffiti writing in New York City. One of hip hop culture’s first visual documents, Style Wars traces graffiti’s evolution from its crude beginnings in the early 1970s—when writers would simply spray paint or just write their pseudonyms on various public places—to the elaborate, train-car sized “pieces” produced in the early 1980s. Further, it situates graffiti within the larger cultural context of New York’s embryonic hip hop movement, which was gaining national and global attention at the time with the popularity of musical acts, such as The Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (both of which are featured on the film’s soundtrack), and break dancing. Graffiti, an art form that most often doubles as vandalism, was hip hop’s most visible and controversial form during the time in which Style Wars was produced. As the narrator states at the film’s beginning, “Graffiti writing in New York is a vocation. Its traditions are handed down from one youthful generation to the next. To some it’s an art. To most people, however, it is a plague the never ends; a symbol that we’ve lost control.” The film examines this tension through interviews with graffiti writers, city officials, and casual observers, providing an ultimately sympathetic portrait of this phenomenon that captures and emphasizes its vital importance to hip hop and American culture. The film’s interviews with graffiti writers—most notably Seen, Skeme, and Case— demystify the many stereotypes surrounding graffiti and its practitioners, presenting an intelligent, multi-racial community of young people who are engaged with and committed to their art. Graffiti provides a unique opportunity for writers to gain status through their creative talents. Using Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) trains as their primary canvases, writers “bomb” the trains after hours with the goal of going “all-city,” or having their pieces displayed on train lines that travel throughout all of New York’s neighborhoods. On the other hand, Mayor Edward Koch, the NYPD, the MTA, and others viewed graffiti as an eyesore and an offense against New Yorkers’ quality of life that represented youthful




unruliness and the city’s decay. In tandem with its celebratory examination of graffiti, then, Style Wars traces the city’s various efforts to eradicate this art form—from implementing an unsuccessful train-washing system to surrounding train yards with razor-wired fences. Aside from simply providing a history and examination of graffiti and hip hop, Style Wars began a continuing conversation surrounding hip hop’s conflicted position as an exciting American art form and a symbol of urban decline—a tension that is still pervasive today. Style Wars received the Grand Prize for Documentaries at the 1984 Sundance Film Festival and, in 2003, was re-released on a two-disc DVD edition. See also Cinema

Travis Vogan

T TAYLOR, CAROL. As a long-time editor and short story writer, Carol Taylor saw Zane single-handedly reinvigorate a publishing genre and wanted to expand that readership and keep them satisfied between Zane projects. Taylor became committed to showcasing the very best writing that she could find. She became the main force and organizer behind the Brown Sugar series, of which there are four volumes. Starting the Brown Sugar series for Simon and Schuster has given her an opportunity not only to be published but also to publish the very best in developing writers who write black erotica. The popularity of the Brown Sugar series keeps Carol Taylor as a force in hip hop literature. Brown Sugar: A Collection of Black Erotic Fiction, the first book in the series, got attention when it became a Los Angeles Times best seller and won a Gold Pen award for short story writing. This designation pointed to the quality of Taylor’s selections in the collection and was widely seen as an unusual award for “genre” material. The other books in the series were centered around a particular theme: Brown Sugar 2: Great One Night Stands, Brown Sugar 3: When Opposites Attract, and Brown Sugar 4: Secret Desires. Taylor’s introductory story “The Blacker the Berry, the Sweeter the Juice” in Brown Sugar 4 incorporates desire as well as global themes with the inclusion of an African Chinese heroine who speaks of her fondness for Dutch people. As she deals with her ambivalent feelings about her own color, Taylor’s heroine meets an African Dutch man who helps her learn to accept herself for who she is. This collection helped Taylor to further her global reach in her next collection and to deal with pertinent issues of colorism at the same time. When witnessing the popularity of these collections, other publishers wanted to be part of the action. Taylor edited Wanderlust: Erotic Travel Tales for Penguin in 2005. By using different worldwide settings, Taylor organized this collection around a theme that reaches toward globalization and continues her reach toward attaining critical respect for this area of writing in African American and hip hop literature. Apparently, Taylor is working on a short story collection of her own, which is bound to be good news for her readers who love the softer, more literary appeal of the Brown Sugar series. FURTHER READING Taylor, Carol, ed. Brown Sugar: A Collection of Black Erotic Fiction. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001. ———. Brown Sugar 2: Great One Night Stands, Vol. 2. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002. ———. Brown Sugar 3: When Opposites Attract, Vol. 3. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003.


TEARS FOR WATER: SONGBOOK OF POEMS AND LYRICS ———. Brown Sugar 4: Secret Desires, Vol. 4. New York: Washington Square Press, 2005. ———. Wanderlust: Erotic Travel Tales. New York: Penguin Group, 2005.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

TEARS FOR WATER: SONGBOOK OF POEMS AND LYRICS (2004). Published in 2004 by Penguin/Putnam, Alicia Keys’s first book is a deeply soulful look at Keys’s inner self with themes of loneliness, hope, and love in poems such as “Unfulfilled Keys” (2004, 35) and “Love in Chains” (2004, 33). Keys describes the work as her most “delicate thoughts” in the book excerpt, combining the stylistic genres of such great African American poets as Maya Angelou and Tupac Shakur. Keys’s experiences growing up in poverty with a single mother and her struggles to have her inner music heard by larger audiences is apparent in this touching volume taken from Keys’s own journals. Born Alicia J. Augello-Cook to unmarried parents, Irish-Italian mother, Terri Augello, and Jamaican father, Craig Cook, on January 25, 1981, Alicia grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. Her first piano was an old 1920s player piano given to Keys’s mother by a friend. Keys began playing piano at age five and went on to study at the prestigious Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan, where Keys was classically trained. Graduating from high school at age 16, Keys won a scholarship to attend Columbia University. Keys was first signed by the So So Def label, distributed by Columbia Records, and then followed her mentor, Clive Davis, to Arista and his new label, J Records, producing her first multi-platinum album, Songs in A Minor (2001). The album won five Grammys, one for Best New Artist, as well as sold eleven million copies worldwide. Her second album, The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003), was also a multiplatinum hit in America, selling eight million copies worldwide. Keys recorded an MTV concert entitled Alicia Keys Unplugged in 2005. Her third studio album was released in late fall of 2007. Keys’s neo-soul sound has earned her eleven Billboard Music Awards, nine Grammys, four American Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, and two Soul Train Awards. Her poetry in Tears for Water reflects her experiences as a young recording artist being raised by a single parent, but it also shows Keys’s compassion for human life. Keys is part of Keep a Child Alive, an agency that helps deliver medicine directly to African children and their families afflicted with HIV/AIDS. Keys offers a vital look at her work in Africa through a moving photo journal published by Umbrage in 2006 entitled, How Can I Keep From Singing? Transforming the Lives of African Children and Families Affected by Aids. She also is part of two other charitable foundations, Frum Tha Ground Up and Teens in Motion; both help deliver hope and help to underprivileged teens. Keys is a multitalented producer, songwriter, singer, artist, poet, photographer, and actress. Her first television appearance was in a March 1985 episode called “Slumber Party” on The Cosby Show. Most recently, Keys has branched into film, playing assassin Georgia Sykes in the sleeper hit Smokin’ Aces (2007), starring Hollywood heavy hitters, Jeremy Piven and Ben Affleck. Her next role was with Scarlet Johanssen in The Nanny Diaries, released in fall 2007. Keys’s work is just beginning. Part of Bakari Kitwana’s definition of the first Hip Hop Generation born between 1965 and 1984, Keys is flexing her powerful, and personal, creative muscles through multi-dimensional formats, including her palpable, neo-soulful work as a poet and writer in Tears for Water: Songbook of Poems and Lyrics.

TEEN FICTION FURTHER READING Keys, Alicia. How Can I Keep From Singing? Transforming the Lives of African Children and Families Affected by AIDS. New York: Umbrage, 2006. ———. Tears for Water: Songbook of Poems and Lyrics. New York: Penguin/Putnam, 2004. Nash, Alanna. “Face to Face with Alicia Keys: Heart and Soul.” Readers Digest (December 2005): 116–121.

Rebecca Housel

TEEN FICTION. The term teen fiction or teen literature refers to works written for and about young adult audiences. Traditional understandings of teen fiction mark the genre as angst-filled problem works that affirm adolescent identity and experience. The American Library Association (ALA) expands the definition of teen fiction to include works marketed toward adult audiences that have realized a teen following as well as works that include an adolescent protagonist. From the 1960s until the early 1970s, Donald Goines and Robert “Iceberg Slim” Beck (Maupin) wrote stories that are anxious in tone and intensity; these novels are popular among teens. Later, Ohio-based Triple Crown Publications, founded in 2001, began publishing contemporary urban fiction for adult audiences as well. Triple Crown’s founder, Vicki Stringer, who published the press’s first novel, Let That Be The Reason (2002), landed the designation as “the queen of hip-hop literature” for her pioneering efforts in the contemporary hip-hop publishing world. However, whereas the ALA’s definition of young adult literature would include these original hiphop storytellers, publishers of teen fiction realized that young adults needed a literature to call their own. Frequently described as sub-par because of its perceived lack of quality and rigor, teen fiction is often geared toward reluctant readers in many classrooms. A closer look at teen fiction, however, yields a different understanding of its scope and purpose. If one considers young adulthood to be an unstable moment in the coming-of-age process, then it would seem logical that texts that address the concerns and experiences of teens be the Balm in Gilead for adolescent strum und drag. Readers of adolescent literature often notice that the characters in these books are on a quest for autonomy from both adults and the social institutions that guide adult decision making. Characters in these books explore their sexuality and all of the consequences that result. Finally, characters in teen fiction question the fragility of life and the finality of death. According to Roberta Trites, the overriding themes in adolescent literature are linked to power. The level at which teen novels convey the trauma involved in surviving the teen years has just as much to do with the central conflict of a work as it does with the dénouement of the story. If, for instance, a novel charts a character’s growth from childhood to adulthood, then that work is considered a Bildungsroman. However, works where the teen protagonist conveys the didactic message of the text but does not reach adulthood are defined as Entwicklungsroman, or novels of growth. In teen fiction for urban, hip-hop adolescents, the distinction between novels of growth and novels of maturation matters greatly. Early writers, such as Louise Meriwether, Alice Childress, and Rosa Guy, gave readers an early glimpse into the experiences of urban teens. These novels, set mostly in Harlem, created the context for what would later be called teen urban fiction. Meriwether’s work, Daddy Was a Number Runner, for instance, focuses




on a black teen who navigates her way through her rough neighborhood, but not without the help of the support of her close-knit family. Childress’s protagonist in A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich tests his family’s bond by experimenting with drugs and skipping school. Eventually, the protagonist gets rescued from his destructive behavior by his parents. Rosa Guy’s Friends trilogy is best known for the first installment, The Friends. The novel is set in Harlem and focuses on a Jamaican American family. The novel’s protagonist learns the value of friendship as she faces the realities of growing up black and female in a harsh environment. In each of these novels, readers witness the protagonist’s gaining of self-understanding. Thus, although the characters do not mature into adults, they gain new knowledge that pushes them further toward adulthood. By the late 1970s through the mid-1990s, urban fiction moved into a more mainstream spotlight. Along with the proliferation of the hip-hop genre in 1980s film, teen fiction echoed the concerns of urban youth. For instance, Walter Dean Myers’s work examines the impact that gang violence and fragile family structures have on the survivability of teens. Myers’s cautionary tales revolve around gang activity or basketball. His protagonists are predominantly black and male, and the storylines often address the social constraints that are perceived by urban youth to oppress them. By novel’s end, readers are confronted with the decision to do the right thing or to be prepared to suffer the consequences of bad decisions. Sharon Draper’s Tears of a Tiger explores the emotional state of a high school basketball star who is in turmoil after driving drunk, which results in the death of a friend. In Rita Garcia Williams’s Like Sisters on the Homefront, a fourteen-year-old, streetwise, angry teen mother comes to understand the importance of family and friendship. The novel gives the audience insight into how the environment from which they come can either empower or destroy them. Other prolific authors of fiction aimed at teens include Janet McDonald and Elisha Miranda. The increasing demand for literature that is specifically geared toward hip-hop youth culture resulted in the proliferation of urban-themed publishing houses. One publisher, New Jersey–based Townsend Press, publishes young adult fiction that is culturally and socially relevant to urban teens. The goal of the series editors is to create stories for every reader. In doing so, the Bluford Series editors carefully researched the needs of their target audience. They discovered data that supports the notion that in order to create ardent readers, the literature needs to reflect the diversity of its audience. There must be a balanced number of male and female heroes and villains; the storylines must reflect current trends in popular culture; the storylines should be sophisticated in a way that appeals to intermediate and advanced readers; and finally, each novel should be no longer than two hundred pages so as to encourage sustained reading without overwhelming teens. See also McDonald, Janet; Miranda, Elisha; Myers, Walter Dean FURTHER READING Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005. Sims Bishop, Rudine. Free Within Ourselves: The Development of African American Children’s Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007.

Catherine Ross-Stroud


THAT’S THE JOINT!: THE HIP-HOP STUDIES READER (2004). Co-edited by Murray Foreman and Mark Anthony Neal is a collection of essays exploring the origins, meanings, and messages in hip hop. Often referred to as “Hip Hop 101,” this collection is a broad-based approach to understanding the history of hip hop in all its forms as well as some of the major conceptual issues that frame debates about the genre. The first section of the text is largely dedicated to explications of the pillars of hip hop, including DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti. Subsequent essays are especially adept at dealing with issues of authenticity in hip hop culture. The critics contributing to the subject include Michael Eric Dyson, Paul Gilroy, and Robin D. G. Kelley. The third section looks at the complexity of hip hop in terms of space and place. Although the boroughs of New York are well known as the home of hip hop, its influence has been global. As such, hip hop has changed and transformed as it has been embraced in various places by a range of people. Joan Morgan, Gwendolyn Pough, and Tricia Rose are among the scholars who bring a critical interrogation of the spaces occupied by women in rap music. Although there are the usual questions of misogyny and exploitation of women’s bodies and brains in the genre; there are thoughts on the ways black women and girls have created and/or wrested a place for themselves in a remarkably male space. Of particular interest is an essay by Kyra D. Gaunt called “Translating Double-Dutch to Hip Hop: The Musical Vernacular of Black Girls’ Play.” Discussions are rounded out with treatises on hip hop as aesthetic, cultural, and capitalist production. See also Neal, Mark Anthony; Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic FURTHER READING Foreman, Murray. The ‘Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip Hop. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2002. Hager, Steven. Hip Hop: The Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music, and Graffiti. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984. Melling, Phillip H. Americanisation and the Transformation of World Cultures: Melting Pot or Cultural Chernobyl? Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996. Neal, Mark Anthony. New Black Man. New York: Routledge, 2006. ———. Songs in the Key of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2003. ———. Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic. New York: Routledge, 2002. ———. What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture. New York: Routledge, 1998. Perkins, William Eric. Droppin’ Science: Critical Essays on Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1996.

Tarshia L. Stanley

THOMAS, BRENDA L. (1957–). Urban fiction author. Author Brenda L. Thomas has made a name for herself as an authentic voice on the publishing landscape, writing books that her readers can relate to and also use to escape into a fantasy world of intrigue, passion, and excitement. Born and raised in Philadelphia,




Pennsylvania, Thomas’s evolution from an ordinary “Philly Girl,” to a successful novelist is the classic story of a person taking their passion and turning it into their livelihood. Like many writers, Thomas was always interested in reading, and she decided at a young age that she would become a writer and tell stories from her own unique perspective. It was her life experiences that would prove to be a deep reservoir of ideas that would ultimately shape her identity as a writer. One of those experiences was a 15-year-long abusive marriage Thomas endured as a young woman. In addition to the abuse she suffered, Thomas also had to deal with her husband’s hindrance of her writing, and it was that stifling of her passion that was an unforgivable burden on her soul. Thomas was motivated to make a change in her life and did so by climbing the corporate ladder from executive assistant at IBM to a position as a marketing assistant at the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Despite her accomplishments in the corporate world, Thomas had other aspirations, including founding her own company, Admin Ink. As a result of this personal business venture, Thomas became the Director of Marketing & Player Relations for AND1 Basketball, the athletic apparel company founded in 1993. The world of professional sports, superstar athletes, and personal assistance was the inspiration for Thomas’ first novel, Threesome: Where Seduction, Power & Basketball Collide. The book tells the story of a woman named Sasha who, as the personal assistant to an NBA All-Star, gets caught up in the glitz and glamour of the NBA lifestyle. This book was the catalyst for a series of Thomas’s books chronicling the lives and loves of on-the-go professional women. Thomas’s other books include Fourplay: The Dance of Sensuality, a novel following up with the protagonist Sasha from Threesome, this time detailing Sasha’s various exploits juggling four men and also being the founder of her own public relations firm, Platinum Images. The Velvet Rope picks up where Fourplay left off, telling the story of Tiffany Johnson, a publicist with Platinum Images who decides to enter into a coownership arrangement on a nightclub with her fiancée, sister, and best friend. In the later part of 2007, Thomas released a very personal book. Unlike her previous nonfiction efforts, Thomas’s memoir Laying Down My Burdens recounts in gory detail her experiences with domestic violence. The book serves as a testament to her ultimate triumph over an abusive past and her subsequent success as an author. FURTHER READING Thomas, Brenda L. Fourplay: The Dance of Sensuality. New York: Pocket Books, 2004. ———. Laying Down My Burdens. Philadelphia, PA: Phillywriter.com, 2007. ———. Threesome: Where Seduction, Power & Basketball Collide. New York: Pocket Books, 2005.

Nneka Nnolim

TRIPLE CROWN PUBLICATIONS. One of the leading publishers of hip-hop literature founded by self-published author Vickie Stringer. Triple Crown Publications (TCP) in Columbus, Ohio, was founded in December 2002 by former inmate 63752-061 Vickie Stringer (Let That Be The Reason, 2002) and former inmate/silent partner Shannon Holmes (Never Go Home Again, 2006). Stringer earned $10,000 as she sold her first book out of her car and then started TCP with a $5,000 personal loan. In 2006 TCP earned $1.8 million with 36 titles by 25 authors. With nine full-time employees, TCP specializes in pulp/urban fiction, street/gangsta/hip-hop literature that Stringer calls hip-hop fiction because “it’s mirroring the things you saw in the music [rap, hip-hop music, videos]” (Jones 2004, 1).


TCP has a presence on book lists. According to AALBC.com Best Sellers (African American Literature Book Club), in January–February 2007 TCP had four out of ten books: Still Sheisty by T. N. Baker; Sheisty by T. N. Baker; A Project Chick by Nikki Turner; and, Hold U Down by Keisha Ervin. TCP novels are distinguished by explicit covers, brash language, and profanity fused with black dialect that equals non-standard English, black English, “Ebonics,” African American vernacular English (AAVE), or “black vernacular idiom” (Gates 2004, 79). For example, the standard English word “with” would become the AAVE word “wit,” and the words “is going to” would become “gone.” The accomplishments of TCP challenge black culturalists. Paul Coates, publisher of Black Classic Press, enjoys reading the type of literature TCP manufactures. “I love it,” he says. “After reading [urban fiction], people become interested in their history, and that’s when they come to us. [Black Classic Press] wouldn’t publish any of that stuff, but I love to see people read” (Foxworth 2005, 1). Poet Sterling Plumpp from the 1960s Black Arts Movement says that hip hop writing “is the most inventive thing happening to the language in a long time.” But, “They [hip hop writers] did not inherit the legacy of W. E. B. DuBois or Frederick Douglass in terms of literacy” (Weeks 2004, 2–3). To critics who accuse TCP of glorification of life with immoral sex to criminal behavior Stringer defends TCP by saying “our books have consequences. . . . We encourage them (readers) not to live like that” (Marech 2003, A1). Stringer is very conscious of outselling the Simon and Schusters of the world in hip hop genre and hopes to convert her titles into films in the future. See also Kensington Publishing Corporation; Old School Books; Strebor Books FURTHER REFERENCES Foxworth, Darryl R. “Urban Legends: Paul Coates and Rudolph Lewis Offer Alternatives to the Current Crop of Contemporary Literature.” Baltimore City Paper, 14 September 2005. . Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, 2nd edition. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004. Jones, Vanessa E. “Hip-hop’s New Plot Urban Novels Get a Read on Literary Success.” The Boston Globe, 2 March 2004. . Marech, Rona. “‘Hip-hop Lit’ Is Full of Grit: New Literary Genre Emerging from Underground Authors.” San Francisco Chronicle, 19 October 2003. . Weeks, Linton. “New Books In the Hood: Street Lit Makes Inroads with Readers and Publishers.” Washington Post, 31 July 2004. .

Sandra L. West

TURNER, NIKKI (1973–). Novelist, publisher, and the proclaimed “princess” of hip hop fiction has done much to cultivate appreciation of the street life into readable forms of fiction. As an early protégé of Vickie Stringer, Turner has capitalized on the success of the early self-publishers of hip hop literature and she has become very popular.




As a single mother, Turner was more than motivated to write. She started out writing journal entries when she was young, but life intervened and she ended up working in a cookie factory. Encouraged by an uncle at a picnic, Turner produced her seminal work, The Hustler’s Wife, as a rough draft in just 37 days. Published by Stringer’s Triple Crown Publications, she never dreamed that The Hustler’s Wife would stay on Essence’s best seller list for two years in a row and would have to be “practically retired” from the list. Following the business model set up by Stringer, Turner went to Random House, where she began to extend her own unique brand. Like other African American writers, Turner sought opportunities to encourage other African American writers with the establishment of two Street Chronicles anthologies that would tell extensively raw and gritty stories in short story form. Once they saw how Turner was encouraging other writers by being the lead writer on the project, Random House wanted to be part of her vision. Her publisher made a deal with Turner that was very profitable. In just a few short years, Turner’s instincts had lead to the success of the Street Chronicle volumes, which then spawned an imprint and more lucrative deals for Turner’s original novels. Turner’s business acumen has played a role in the continuing success of her career. Besides encouraging other writers, her own novels, “Nikki Turner Originals,” were also published: A Project Chick, The Glamorous Life, Riding Dirty on I-95, the forthcoming Black Widow, and the highly awaited sequel project Forever a Hustler’s Wife: A Novel. Writers such as Turner have been credited with furthering the vision of hip hop literature and with also making companies like Random House profitable in years when they might not be otherwise. Turner continues to use her business acumen to expand her horizons into other publishing opportunities. She collaborated with 50 Cent on Death Before Dishonor, Kashumba Williams and Joy Turner on Girls from Da Hood 2, and Chuchini in Girls in Da Hood. Within her MySpace page and other places, Turner encourages submissions to her Street Chronicle volumes, including from prison. Her submission guidelines point to the character of these highly successful anthologies: “We are looking for ONLY original, fresh, ghetto theatrics, romances, and tragedies with mayhem, madness, confusion, and chaos written all over it. We want hot, hood drama that can only leave the readers smelling gunpowder!” There are, of course, critics who object to the material and the presentation of the content, but Turner is another writer who has gotten many people who might not have otherwise opened a book to read and to participate in various literary formats.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

TYREE, OMAR (1969–). Popular adult fiction novelist. The self-proclaimed “Urban Griot” is an African American male who has put hip hop literature on the map. His experiences growing up in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., gave him the perspective to comment on life in the urban inner cities of America. He has had a distinctive career in cultivating a new aesthetic and has used “the real” to showcase his take on African American life. After graduating from Howard with a degree in journalism, Tyree took the route that many other African American writers have had to and he sought to self-publish, forming his own publishing company MARS Publications. He published an unsuccessful roman á clef novel called Colored, On White Campus in 1992. This book, although not a sales


success, enabled him to publish the book that set the standard for the hip hop literature genre: Flyy Girl. Released in 1993, Flyy Girl focused on the maturation process of Tracy Ellison as a new kind of heroine who grew up middle class but turned to the streets for comfort. Tyree’s re-imagining of the bildungsroman focuses on capturing the way that African Americans spoke and related to one another and gave insight and validation into the way that the youth culture emerged in the early 1990s. Even though Flyy Girl had its detractors, critics have to keep in mind that Tyree is an educated writer who knows and draws upon inspiration from his literary predecessors, such as Richard Wright, Chester Himes Ralph Ellison, and Iceberg Slim. His following novels reflected these influences. His next novel, Capital City has been referred to as a revisioning of Ellison’s Invisible Man. Tyree’s career has been prolific, and he has had varying success with his follow-up novels: A Do Right Man, Single Mom, Sweet St. Louis, For the Love of Money, Just Say No!, Leslie, Diary of a Groupie, Boss Lady: A Novel, What They Want: A Novel, The Last Street Novel, and as the “Urban Griot,” One Crazy A** Night and College Boy. Tyree’s attempts to “change up” by developing the “Urban Griot” pseudonym are interesting, but he will not be able to escape the long standing influence of Flyy Girl. He acknowledged this by developing a sequel, For the Love of Money, in 2000 and features Tracy again as a mentor in Boss Lady: A Novel. Although some of his novels have suffered critically, they still continue to sell. Tyree is actively developing his works, especially Flyy Girl, for the big screen to continue to shape portrayals of African American life in the mainstream media. His influence has been widespread and deserves more critical attention. See also Flyy Girl FURTHER READING Henderson, Carol. “Omar Tyree.” In Twenty-First Century American Novelists. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Lisa Abney and Suzanne Disheroon-Green, eds. Detroit, MI: Thompson Gale, 2004, 425–430.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins


U ULEN, EISA NEFERTARI (1968–). Ulen is the author of Crystelle Mourning: A Novel, a novel about the pain and healing black women—the entire black community, in fact—must experience in response to the violence prevalent in the black community. The novel follows the story of a young woman who is haunted by the spirit of her slain best friend and first love. According to Ulen, the novel was inspired by an overheard conversation between two young black women who were discussing the desire, the need, to have a lover’s baby before he was imprisoned or killed. Ulen’s debut novel speaks to and for those two women and the many nameless African Americans who go on living and surviving in spite of the struggles of poverty and racism, heartaches and hardships. Giving voice to the voiceless seems to be Ulen’s passion. An African American Muslim, Ulen has written several articles and essays, which have appeared in Essence, Ms., and the Washington Post that have focused on telling the stories of women, blacks, and Muslims. A talented writer who uses the written word to bring sensitive subjects, such as equality in Islam, to the forefront, Ulen has also contributed to periodicals such as Azzizah, a magazine for Muslim women, and Health. Recognized for her talent and skill, Ulen has been nominated by Essence magazine for a National Association of Black Journalists Award. She is also the recipient of the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center Fellowship for Young African American Fiction Writers and a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship. In 1990 Ulen, a resident of Brooklyn, New York, graduated from Sarah Lawrence College. She soon went on to earn her Master’s degree from Columbia University in philosophy and education in 1995. Having worked as an elementary school teacher at one point, she currently teaches English at Hunter College in New York. See also Crystelle Mourning: A Novel FURTHER READING Ulen, Eisa Nefertari. Crystelle Mourning: A Novel. New York: Atria Books, 2006. ———. “Letter to Angela Davis.” In Putting the Movement Back Into Civil Rights Teaching. Deborah Menkart, Alana Murray, and Janice View, eds. Washington, DC: Teaching for Change/PRRAC, 2004. ———. “Letter to Angela Davis.” In Step into a World: A Global Anthology of the New Black Literature. Kevin Powell, ed. New York: Wiley, 2000. ———. “Muslims in the Mosaic.” In America Now: Short Readings from Recent Periodicals. Robert Atwan, ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002.

URBAN FICTION ———. “Tapping our Strength,” In Shattering the Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out! Fawzia Afzal-Khan, ed. New York: Interlink Books, 2005.

RaShell R. Smith-Spears

URBAN FICTION. Traditionally referred to as street lit, gangsta lit, hip-hop lit, ghetto realism, or ghetto fiction, urban fiction reflects the brutal realities of urban life in American inner cities. Marketed toward young African Americans and Latinos living in the inner cities, these largely self-published stories are characterized by dark, fast-paced stories of violence, hustling, crime, sex, drugs, and other unsavory aspects of street life. These stories are saturated with the language, clothes, and cultural references of the hip-hop culture and are told from a first-person point of view through young African American or Latino male and female protagonists. Urban fiction characters often use slang and graphic language to convey their stories of triumph and tragedy. The protagonists experience some form of hardship in the ghetto or inner city and often struggle against opposing forces, whether against their hostile environment, against another person, against society, or against themselves. The protagonists also experience some form of a rite of passage, such as puberty, childbirth, marriage, or death. Urban fiction stories usually take place in the ghettos of major United States cities, where the action is centrally located to that city or a neighborhood in that city, and contain realistic descriptions of urban life with detailed descriptions of neighborhoods, popular song and movie titles, and popular brand names. Often drawing from their experiences on the streets in the inner cities, urban fiction writers present realistic representations of urban life with themes and topics such as violence, hustling, rape, death, premarital sex, pregnancy, teen parenthood, prostitution, drugs, and incarceration. Urban fiction is similar to a number of genres including the 1940 urban realism novels (Richard Wright’s Native Son and Ann Petry’s The Street) that described the hardships and tragedies of life in the large American cities, as well as the African American autobiographies of the 1960s, particularly, the autobiographies by both Malcolm X (The Autobiography of Malcolm X) and Claude Brown (Manchild in the Promised Land). Like some urban fiction, these autobiographies provide vivid, factual details about urban street life and coming of age in the city. However, urban fiction often includes the graphic details and language used in the inner city and hip-hop culture. Thus, the term is often closely associated with the African American pulp fiction writing of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines. Urban fiction emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s with Iceberg Slim’s Pimp: The Story of My Life (1967) and Donald Goines’s Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp (1972), which were both autobiographical accounts of African American life on America’s inner-city streets. Both Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines wrote gritty tales about the dark side of the inner city and unexpectedly created the new genre. Although Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines were not the first to write and describe the harshness of city life, arguably, they were the first African American authors to reflect the harsh realities of street life in fiction form in the 1970s. Both Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines became prolific writers in the genre, producing dozens of urban fiction novels. However, the genre experienced a period of inactivity in the 1980s. Then in the 1990s, with the rise of the Internet and inexpensive, print-on-demand




technology, more writers had the opportunity to tell their stories and self-publish their novels. Now considered classics in the genre, Omar Tyree’s Flyy Girl (1993) and Terri Woods’s True to the Game (1994) were the first novels published about the dark side of the inner city since Iceberg Slim’s and Donald Goines’s novels. However, it was not until the late 1990s that urban fiction became popular with a mass, African American audience and became recognized as a literary genre. The revitalization of urban fiction occurred in the late 1990s with Sister Souljah’s fictional biography, The Coldest Winter Ever (1999). This dark, graphic novel about Winter Santiaga inspired a new generation of urban fiction writers as well as a demand for novels that authentically conveyed the urban African American experience. As a result of this increased interest, more urban fiction writers self-published their writings with “hand-to-hand” and “word-of-mouth” sales and/or published their writings with the newly created urban fiction publishing companies (Strebor Books International, Urban Books, and Triple Crown Productions), imprints, and mainstream publishing houses. This increased interest in urban fiction also encouraged publishing companies to produce teen urban fiction (Jennifer Burton’s Topeka Heights or The Bluford Series book series). Because most of the “adult” urban fiction novels contain explicit, graphic content, publishing companies began to produce urban fiction to cater to the interest of teenagers living in the inner city, including African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. Publishing companies also catered to the interests of Hispanics living in the inner cities by publishing urban fiction specifically for the Latin population. By the mid-2000s, writers such as Jerry Rodriguez (Devil’s Mambo) and Jeff Rivera (Forever My Lady) took their urban readers into the dark, dangerous world of street life from the Latino perspective. Like the African American writers, some of the Latino writers even wrote autobiographies about their lives as former gang members. In Reymundo Sanchez’s My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King, Sanchez discusses the violence, abuse, and drug use that led him to join the Latin Kings. Although the literature varies from autobiographical fiction to fictional biographies, urban fiction has produced numerous best sellers and best-selling authors and has become one of the fastest growing of all “popular” literature. Representative works include LaJill Hunt’s Drama Queen, T.N. Baker’s Sheisty, KaShamba Williams’s Blinded: An Urban Tale and Grimey: The Sequel to Blinded, Zane’s Addicted: The Novel and Afterburn, K’wan’s Gangsta and Hoodlum, Vickie Stringer’s Let That Be The Reason and Dirty Red: A Novel, and Thomas Long’s A Thug’s Life. FURTHER READING Morris, Vanessa J., Sandra Hughes-Hassell, Denise E. Agosto, and Darren T. Cottman. “Street Lit: Flying off Teen Fiction Bookshelves in Philadelphia Public Libraries.” Young Adult Library Services, Vol. 5 Issue 1 (2006): 16–23. Venable, Malcolm, Tayannah McQuillar, and Mingo Yvette. “It’s Urban, It’s Real, but Is This Literature? Controversy Rages over a New Genre Whose Sales Are Headed off the Charts.” Black Issues Book Review, Vol. 6 Issue 5 (2004): 24–25.

Danielle R. Tyler

V VERNACULAR TRADITION. Hip hop vernacular is a genre of African American vernacular English or black discourse popularized by hip hop music and culture. Rooted in the black oral tradition and African American discursive patterns, hip hop vernacular is a constellation of syntactic structures evolving continuously and distinctly by region; discursive and communicative practices shaping what words are spoken and how they are pronounced; rhythmic beats driving the pace and creative arrangement of expressions; and pervasive attitudes revealing belief in the power of language, namely, its ability to construct a sense of community, to resist the dominant culture, to display linguistic skill, and to communicate verbally and conceptually. Hip hop vernacular has several key discursive features: call and response, signification/ signifyin’, the dozens/playin’ the dozens, tonal semantics, narrative sequencing, and grammatical and phonological forms. Initiated by the rapper or emcee, call and response is a communicative strategy used to engage the audience/listeners in the performance. The emcee uses signature phrases like “Say ‘Hoooo!’” to call for a response. The hip hop audience, quite familiar with the call, responds as expected with “Hoooooooo!” (Alim 2006, 79). Signification/signifyin’ is an indirect and typically humorous verbal insult directed toward an individual, either playfully or seriously, to inform, correct, or critique. Similarly, the dozens/playin’ the dozens is also a verbal insult, but unlike signification, these insults are humorous as well as fictitious slurs against an opponent’s relatives, most often his/her “momma.” Tonal semantics refers to rhythmic creativity in word choice and inflection. Through “talk-singing” (Alim 2006, 84) and word play, most commonly marked by repetition and alliteration, emcees demonstrate lyrical aptitude, emphasize central points and themes, educe audience/listener response, and tell moral narratives. Narrative sequencing or narrativizing, a central feature of black discourse and communicative practices, is likewise prevalent in hip hop vernacular. Akin to the African griot who skillfully retains and narrates cultural history, today’s rappers use narrative sequencing to elucidate ideas, to convince others of their point of view, and to illustrate their everyday observations through word imagery. Narrativizing also includes braggadocio, boasting about the emcee’s sexual prowess, verbal skill, physical ability, masculinity, and fearlessness. Female rappers, such as Lil’ Kim, also exemplify this tradition. Hip hop vernacular’s grammatical and phonological forms primarily stem from black discourse or African American vernacular English. Prevalent features include aspectual or habitual be—“They be trippin”; zero copula—“This bus on time today, but most times it be late” (Smitherman 1986, 273); past participle been—I been done that; go to indicate future tense—He gon do it; intersyllabic /r/ vocalization—Hey shawty [shorty], zero r—“th’ow



the Porsche at you” (Richardson 2006, 17); and /Ang/ and /ank/—“It’s a Black Thang” (Smitherman 1986, 274). In addition to its linguistic features, hip hop vernacular is a resistance art expressing contempt for the socioeconomic conditions of African Americans, especially those living in American ghettos. Unemployment, poverty, powerlessness, incarceration, racism, racial profiling, police brutality, and educational disparity are among the social ills that rappers decry. Contrastingly, hip hop vernacular is also known to include misogynistic, materialistic, violent, and vulgar lyrics. Despite rappers’ glorification of gangster living, hip hop scholars and linguists revere hip hop vernacular for its embodiment of the black oral tradition and its opposition to white American racism and cultural oppression. FURTHER READING Alim, H. Samy. Roc the Mic Right: The Language of Hip Hop Culture. New York: Routledge, 2006. Campbell, Kermit. Gettin’ Our Groove On: Rhetoric, Language, and Literacy for the Hip Hop Generation. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 2005. Richardson, Elaine. Hip Hop Literacies. New York: Routledge, 2006. Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1994. Smitherman, Geneva. Talkin that Talk: Language, Culture and Education in African America. London: Routledge, 1999. ———. Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1986.

Zandra L. Jordan

VIBE MAGAZINE. Hip hop music and culture magazine. Published by Vibe Media Group and founded by Quincy Jones, Vibe Magazine has been dedicated to bringing its audience an insider’s view of hip hop music and culture since 1993. In addition to staple articles on celebrity rappers and R&B artists, Vibe’’s content includes features on Caribbean and Reggae music, new artists, and music reviews. Nearing its fifteenth anniversary, Vibe Magazine continues to be a popular and viable publication because of the way in which it connects to hip hop music, culture, fashion, and news. The cover photographs of Vibe have often been innovative and some of them even legendary. Vibe Media Group has expanded its brand to include the vibe.com Web site, Vibe Vixen Magazine, Vibe-On-Demand cable channel, and its signature Vibe Awards telecast. VX: Ten Years of Vibe Photography and The Vibe History of Hip-Hop are among its publications. See also The Source Magazine; Vibe Vixen Magazine FURTHER READING Jones, Quincy, and Vibe Magazine. The Vibe Q: Raw and Uncut. New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2007. Kenner, Rob, George Pitts, and Quincy Jones, eds. VX: Ten Years of Vibe Photography. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2003. Light, Alan, and Vibe Magazine. Vibe History of Hip Hop. New York: Random House, 1999. Vibe Magazine. Hip Hop Divas. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2001.

Tarshia L. Stanley


VIBE VIXEN MAGAZINE. Vibe Vixen Magazine is published bi-monthly, with six issues produced per year by VIBE Media Group LLC. It is a spin-off of the highly successful Vibe Magazine. Although Vibe Magazine’s readership is almost evenly split between men and women, it has just slightly more male readers than females, hence the need for a magazine like Vibe Vixen, which is geared exclusively towards young women. With a subscriber base of more than 300,000, and a newsstand readership rate of 70,000, Vibe Vixen has carved out a unique spot in the publishing industry, recognizing a key demographic of consumers who are trendsetters and innovators and who dictate much of what is considered new and fresh. The magazine bills itself as the “sophisticated life and style guide for the most diverse, tech-wise, brand-savvy generation of women in history.” African Americans comprise 80 percent of the magazine’s readership. The median age of Vibe Vixen readers is 28, and 79 percent of its readers are identified as single. This group of young, single, fashion and beauty conscious women is a highly coveted demographic by advertisers, especially those companies advertising cosmetics and other beauty maintenance products. The magazine’s readers have typically gone unrecognized by the magazine publishing industry, which offers Essence magazine as one of the few periodicals geared towards African American women. However, younger African American readers are left with very few choices for magazines offering information that speaks to their unique needs and tackles issues that are facing their generation. Vibe Vixen contains numerous ads for popular urban fashion designers and hair care products. The magazine routinely runs ads that feature African American, Latina, and Asian models, something that is not typically seen in mainstream publications. In addition, similar to other magazines that cater to females between the ages of 21 and 35, Vibe Vixen provides information on fashion, hair, cosmetics, entertainment, and relationships. However, unlike mainstream publications, Vibe Vixen offers its predominantly African American readers a unique perspective on the issues that matter to them most. From an editorial piece by an African American woman fed up with having to explain every nuance of her hair, culture, and race to unnecessarily inquisitive strangers, articles about cosmetic surgery and the specific concerns about surgery that African Americans might have, and profiles on celebrities popular in the African American community, such as actress Tracee Ellis Ross, star of the hit television sitcom Girlfriends, Vibe Vixen covers stories and provides representation for topics that appeal to the hip-hop generation of young women. The magazine is representative of a generation of women who encompass many different aspects of femininity, women who care about fashion, beauty, politics, advice on relationships, and all the issues young women confront each day. Vibe Vixen magazine is equal parts lifestyle how-to guide, fashion bible, entertainment publication, and a hip-hop generational narrative with a decidedly feminine flair. See also Vibe Magazine; The Source Magazine FURTHER READING Chance, Julia. “Made to Fit.” Vibe Vixen (June–July 2007): 53–54. King, Aliya S. “The Anti-Diva.” Vibe Vixen (Fall 2006): 104–111. Williams, Nia R. “You Can’t Handle the Truth.” Vibe Vixen (Holiday 2006): 54.

Nneka Nnolim


W WALLACE, MICHELE FAITH (1952–). Michele Wallace is a black feminist writer and scholar whose work highlights issues of race and gender particularly as it relates to black women in American society in general and in popular culture in particular. Wallace is best known for the controversial feminist polemic she published in 1979 titled Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman. Black Macho is a critique of the male-dominant Civil Rights and misogynistic Black Power Movements and a scathing exposé of sexual politics within the African American community. She also debunked the myth of black women as “superwomen” who have no need for feminism (Guy-Sheftall 1995, 219). Although Wallace is not a member of the Hip Hop Generation, four of Wallace’s essays published in the early 1990s, the golden age of “hip hop culture,” particularly relate to it. In the same critical direction as Black Macho, Wallace utilizes a feminist approach, and the predominant themes in these essays are the status of black women in popular culture including their images and invisibility, hip hop culture, and black female–black male relations. Wallace’s examination of rap music in “When Black Feminism Faces the Music, and the Music Is Rap” (1990) was most likely the first feminist reading of rap music that highlighted the presence of sexism in rap lyrics and videos. She argues that black women are always shown as desiring sex and that their bodies are always on display in rap videos. Similar to what she found in the early hip hop films, Boyz N The Hood (1991), Jungle Fever (1991), and Poetic Justice (1993), Wallace notes that black women do not really have a voice even when it appears that they should, as in the case of Poetic Justice. In essence, if black women do not have a voice (if they do not speak for themselves or if the characters are not fully developed), then they are invisible. In “The Search for the Good Enough Mammy” (1994), Wallace’s brief analyses of two hip hop films, Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. and Poetic Justice, applaud the fact that they feature black female (hip hop) protagonists. However, these black female protagonists remain in dialogue with the mammy stereotype of the nineteenth century and she suspects that films with black female protagonists produced and directed by persons who are not black females play an important role in determining how the characters evolve and develop and, consequently, help to influence how black female audiences will respond to them. When addressing black female–black male relations, Wallace shows that black female–black male relations are not particularly favorable based on what is heard in rap lyrics and seen in rap videos. Since rap remains male-dominated, Wallace believes the sexism in rap will only be subverted by women rappers. Regarding Boyz N The Hood and Jungle Fever (1991), Wallace finds these films to be “visually irresistible” but assesses that both hip hop films “demonized black female sexuality as a threat to black


male heterosexual identity” (2004, 215–222). As such, these relations are always conflicted and strained. Ultimately, what we find in Wallace’s earliest writings related to the Hip Hop Generation is that sexism in popular culture affects black women by oppressing them from three fronts: sexual objectification (rap lyrics and videos), voicelessness (underdeveloped black female film characters), and sexual scapegoatism. Wallace’s feminist approach to primary sources in popular culture is significant to hip hop literature because her work contextualizes the status of black females and black female-black male relations, which, then, help to historically ground the cultural expressions of today’s Hip Hop Generation. FURTHER READING Dent, Gina. Black Popular Culture: A Project by Michele Wallace. Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1992. Guy-Sheftall, Beverly. Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought. New York: New Press, 1995. Wallace, Michele. Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman. New York: Dial Press, 1979. ———. “Boyz N The Hood and Jungle Fever.” In Dark Designs and Visual Culture. Michele Wallace, ed. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004, 215–222. ———. Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory. New York: Verso, 1990. ———. “When Black Feminism Faces the Music, and the Music is Rap.” In Dark Designs and Visual Culture. Michele Wallace, ed. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004, 134–137. ———. “Why Women Won’t Relate to ‘Justice’: Losing Her Voice.” In Dark Designs and Visual Culture. Michele Wallace, ed. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004, 147–148. ———. “The Search for the Good Enough Mammy: Multiculturalism, Popular Culture, and Psychoanalysis.” In Dark Designs and Visual Culture. Michele Wallace, ed. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004, 275–285.

Angela M. Nelson

WEBER, CARL (1967–). Popular novelist, entrepreneur, and publisher. One of the African American male writers to have emerged in this first wave of hip hop literature is Carl Weber. Prolific, Weber’s books have leaned toward the emphasis of the positive as well as using his talents to appeal to the aesthetic of his largely female reading population by beginning a line of “Big Girls Book Club” books to show that larger women have adventure too. This awareness of his audience, coupled with the popularity of his books, make him an intriguing addition to hip hop literature. Like some other contemporary African American writers, Weber has a business background with an M.B.A. He started out as a business and finance teacher. He gave his students an assignment to create a book store model, which he then found out that worked. Now, he owns a chain of three bookstores in the greater New York area. Owning these bookstores gave Weber insight to gathering material and data to craft stories that would appeal to his target audience. With his publishing connections, Weber was able to get his first book, Looking for Luv’, picked up within three months. At the rate of one per year, Weber continued to write Baby Momma Drama, Married Men, Preacher’s Son, Player Haters, A Dollar and a Dream, So You Call Yourself a Man, and others. Not willing to just rest on his laurels as a bookstore owner and novelist, he joined with Kensington to become a publisher with a new imprint. In Weber’s vision, the establishment of Urban Books in 2004 sought to fill a void that existed in the publishing world. Like Vickie Stringer, Weber seeks to appeal to audiences in a varied, and for him, profitable way.




Like Stringer, he seeks to collaborate with other authors; for example, he collaborated with Mary Morrison in She Ain’t the One. Through Urban Books he has been responsible for fostering the careers of La Jill Hunt, Dwayne S. Joseph, and Jihad, among others. His influence has continued to perpetuate the African American fiction market with the establishment of the Big Girls Book Club books: The First Lady and Something on the Side, which is soon to be published. Weber’s vivid imaginings of real life situations, which he ascribes to his inclusion of real events that have happened to him or to friends, have helped to secure his popularity in the annals of hip hop literature. His sense of business and need to encourage other African Americans to publish has also done much to increase his reach beyond the New York area. Weber travels extensively, citing that he spent every penny of his first two book advances on the promotion of his books. The trajectory of his career and the cultivation of his business opportunities give other writers much to study and emulate.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

WHAT THE MUSIC SAID: BLACK POPULAR MUSIC AND BLACK PUBLIC CULTURE (1998). In his book, What the Music Said, Mark Anthony Neal argues that black music continues to play a crucial role within black communities as a “public aural space” in which blacks remember, celebrate, endure, protest, subvert, and triumph. For Neal, styles such as bebop, soul, and hip-hop are important markers of black consciousness and response to issues in society. The book consists of an introduction and six chapters. The introduction previews the various black public spheres—black church, dance halls, and so on—as avenues to transmit communal values, traditions of resistance, and aesthetic sensibilities. Then, the chapters examine 1) the impact of Civil Rights, Black Power, and the struggle for black musical hegemony; 2) Black Power, state repression, and black communities of resistance; 3) the marketing of black musical expression; 4) authentic black voices in an age of deterioration; 5) black popular music at the crossroads; and 6) the digitized aural urban landscape. For his argument that the history of black music mirrors discourses in the larger society, Neal considers the impact of developments like Reconstruction, mass migration, the Civil Rights Movement, and the rise of the black bourgeoisie (Jones 1963). The section on soul music is examined within the context of the Civil Rights Movement, whereas the discussion on hip-hop is prefaced with the following: “The emergence of the postindustrial city radically altered black communal sensibilities in the late 1970s and 1980s. Intense poverty, economic collapse, and the erosion of viable public space were part and parcel of the new urban terrain that African Americans confronted. Culled from the discourse of postindustrial city, hip-hop reflected the growing visibility of young, urban, and often angry so-called ‘underclass’” (Neal 1998, 125). Throughout the discussion we are reminded of how politics, gender, class, religion, and other issues shaped and are shaped by the lives and contributions of musicians. Neal also examines the impact of commercialization on black popular music and culture. Soul music was an important symbol for the Civil Rights/Black Power Movements for racial and social equality during the 1960s and early 1970s. However, once co-opted, soul went “for sale.” The larger meanings of soul were “deconstructed for use within mass culture by divorcing it from its politicized and organic connotations to become a malleable market resource” (Neal 1998, 94). Hip-hop, despite its intense commodification, Neal writes, has


managed to “continuously subvert mass-market limitations by investing in its own philosophical groundings” (Neal 1998, 137). There are no musical analyses of the styles discussed, nor are there any extensive lyrical analyses of specific songs. Some discussion of the latter would have added more depth to the book. Overall however, this text is well researched, weaving together the voices of scholars, critics, and artists. See also Neal, Mark Anthony; That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader FURTHER READING Gilroy, Paul. “Living Memory: An Interview with Toni Morrison.” In Small Acts. Paul Gilroy, ed. London: Serpent’s Tail, 1993, 175–182. Jones, Leroi (Amiri Baraka). Blues People. New York: William Morrow, 1963. Neal, Mark Anthony. New Black Man. New York: Routledge, 2006. ———. Songs in the Key of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2003. ———. Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic. New York: Routledge, 2002. ———. That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004. ———. What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture. New York: Routledge, 2004. Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.

Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum

WHEN CHICKENHEADS COME HOME TO ROOST: A HIP HOP FEMINIST BREAKS IT DOWN (2002). Feminist and hip hop critic Joan Morgan’s book problematizes the act of young black women developing a critical consciousness. The title of Joan Morgan’s book of personal essays is an allusion to a controversial statement made by Malcolm X following the assassination of JFK; she alters its meaning with the derogatory term “chickenheads,” a reference to women who trade on their sex appeal in order to get financial support from men. This interplay of concepts related to race and gender indicates the focus of Morgan’s analysis. She uses her own experiences with family, friends, and relationships to detail the complications and contradictions faced by young African American women trying to balance the demands of feminism and nationalism. She delineates the forces that shape this perspective by referring to it as “the post-Civil Rights, post-feminist, post soul, hip-hop generation” (Morgan 2000, 57). Morgan, having honed her credibility as a hip-hop journalist through articles for Vibe and Essence, is more concerned with how hip-hop operates as a cultural force that expresses a contemporary mindset than she is with rap music. As a daughter of a second wave feminist, Morgan acknowledges the ways that her perspective has been shaped by the gains of the prior movement. She rejects an oppressor/victim model in order to position hip-hop feminism as a space in which women and men take responsibility for their own choices and the implications of their own lives. The personal nature of her essays reflects the overall goal of contributing to a spectrum of voices on the nature of identity. The main theme that Morgan develops is that women must be willing to acknowledge the complex and contradictory ways that they relate to feminism and nationalism and




examine how these allegiances have contributed to their individual circumstances. She illustrates how feminism has underestimated the appeal of clearly delineated gender roles to both sexes, adeptly illustrating how feminist calls for equality within relationships can have a chilling effect on male-female interpersonal dynamics. Men and women have different social measures of self-worth, and this entrenches a gendered power imbalance. Morgan explores this by challenging accepted cultural notions about black womanhood, debunking the “strongblackwoman” myth and the “endangeredblackmen” stereotype that she views as its counterpart. She argues that black women participate in the construction of these mythologies by according their sense of self-worth with their ability to shoulder multiple burdens without complaint or assistance. Chickenheads was critically well-received, but aspects of the author’s tendency to theorize through personal experience did raise some controversy. Critics noted a lack of theoretical analysis in the work as a whole, best exemplified by Morgan’s inclusion of everyone in her age group as the Hip-Hop Generation and her lack of attention to defining hip-hop for the reader. Although she acknowledges an older generation of black feminists who have shaped her thinking, she does not contextualize her work within hip-hop literature. She does not reference notable contemporaries, including Rebecca Walker and Tricia Rose, although she engages with similar subject matter. One of the most controversial aspects of the book is Morgan’s call for male reproductive rights, offering men the opportunity to renounce parental responsibility within six months of a child’s birth. She argues that this is necessary to produce gender equity; the current system can be employed to force men to be financially responsible for children they do not want, while the system ostensibly offers women choices. Ideas such as this one led critics to charge Morgan with theorizing a “masculinist” feminism, more attuned to the needs of men than of women. Her focus on positing a feminism that allows black women to love themselves (feminism) and to love black men (nationalism) contributes to a heterosexual bias in the book; although the discussion of relationships is extensive, there is minimal acknowledgement of gays and lesbians. Morgan herself has stated that some black feminists responded negatively to Chickenheads, arguing that it reinforces negative stereotypes about black women that are common among white feminists (Carpenter 2006, 767). Those who challenged Morgan’s work perceived that in her attempts to evade an oppressor/victim model, she was laying blame on black women for their social and material circumstances. Morgan responded to these charges by offering her personal experiences as proof of her intent, reinforcing her commitment to theorizing the meaning of feminism through lived experiences.

See also Morgan, Joan FURTHER READING Carpenter, Faedra Chatard. “An Interview with Joan Morgan.” Callaloo, Vol. 29 Issue 3 (2006): 764–772. Hill Collins, Patricia. From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racisim, Nationalism, and Feminism. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2006. Morgan, Joan. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2000. Springer, Kimberly. “Third Wave Black Feminism?” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Vol. 27 Issue 4 (2002): 1059–1082.

Caryn Murphy


WHORESON: THE STORY OF A GHETTO PIMP (1972). Written by Donald Goines (1937–1974), Whoreson was the first of sixteen black pulp fiction novels written by Goines and the second to be published by Holloway House after Dopefiend: Story of a Black Junkie in 1971. While in prison, Goines began reading the work of Iceberg Slim, which inspired him to forsake the western stories he had previously been writing and to begin penning Whoreson. This novel tells the compelling story of Whoreson Jones, the child of Jessie, a strong black prostitute, and a nameless white john, who was born to pimp. As Goines vividly portrays the street education that Whoreson receives from his mother and others, he creates an urban bildungsroman, in which Whoreson’s coming of age is achieved through attaining material wealth and abusing women. Even after Whoreson’s incarceration, he continues to live by the code of the street, seeking revenge on a former friend, which lands him back in prison. The news of his second incarceration comes shortly after Whoreson begins his transformation from a street hustler, pimp, and criminal to a husband, father, and citizen. As is the case in almost all of Goines’s novels, the glory of the street life in Whoreson is short lived and ends tragically as Whoreson is jailed for a crime that he did not commit. Despite the proliferation of sex, drugs, and violence in Whoreson, Goines does a remarkable job of artistically commenting on the social issues that contribute to the problem. The choice of “Whoreson” as the protagonist’s name is a prime example of this, “his name is the visual sign of an unadulterated oppression of blackness . . . he is no one, just the son of a whore,” (Stallings 2003, 195). Whoreson’s name is his proverbial scarlet letter. His name, like his race, sex, and socioeconomic status, are not chosen and presumably cannot be changed. Moreover, the relationship between Jessie and Whoreson, mother and son, teacher and student, whore and pimp, is loaded with social commentary. Jessie provides her son with “the tools for survival that he will need for the streets and at the same time teaches him to exploit herself and other women” (Stallings 2003, 196). Goines’s use of Jessie in this text is a direct critique on the cyclical nature of the destruction that exists in the ghetto as inner-city dwellers often find themselves trapped, without an opportunity for upward mobility, only survival. Such is the case for Jessie who replies “as well as any nigger woman can hope to be,” after being asked how she is, suggesting that her current situation as a whore is the best she can hope for (Goines 1972, 42). Whoreson is a complex narrative that not only observes ghetto life but analyzes it from an insightful and realistic viewpoint. The significance of Goines’s work cannot be ignored because his work has become an integral part of hip hop culture. See also Dopefiend: Story of a Black Junkie; Goines, Donald FURTHER READING Goines, Donald. Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House Publishing, 1972. Stallings, L. H. “‘I’m Goin Pimp Whores!’ The Goines Factor and the Theory of a Hip-Hop Neo-Slave Narrative.” The New Centenial Review, Vol. 3 Issue 3 (2003): 175–203.

Karley K. Adney

WHO’S GONNA TAKE THE WEIGHT: MANHOOD, RACE, AND POWER IN AMERICA (2003). Functioning as autobiography and cultural criticism, Kevin Powell’s book springs from the tradition of Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice (1968) and James Baldwin’s No Name in the Street (1972).




Eschewing the often-criticized tendency of such texts to associate “freedom with manhood” and forge common bonds between black men and white oppressors, Powell offers an account of his emergence as a feminist (hooks 1990, 58). With attention to bell hook’s oeuvre as well as his friend Robyn Rogers’s claim that resistant African American men adopt “bootleg definition[s] of white manhood,” Powell argues for masculinity to be built on grounds of identification, empathy, and a common drive for social justice (Powell 2003, 92). Before his emergence as a cultural critic, Powell occupied a number of public roles that brought him notoriety. As the only African American cast member on the first season of MTV’s The Real World (1992), Powell’s tenure was troubled and included an on-screen accusation of violence by a female cast-member. From 1992 to 1996 Powell honed his skills as a hip hop intellectual at Vibe magazine, where he often interviewed Tupac Shakur. He indentified the rapper’s troubled relationship with women and sexuality, his constant need for intellectual query of culture, and his broken bond with a wandering and negligent father. The book continues with Powell’s reflection on his own history of violence, which was motivated by a fear of insufficient masculinity. He postulates his violence against men and women as the influence of toxic acculturation. He subsequently revises W. E. B. DuBois’s prescient epigram of the color line to argue that “the problem . . . is race and sex and class operating in tandem to control, bamboozle, violate, divide and conquer” the majority of people to benefit the elite (2003, 21). Ultimately, his strategy for dismantling these divisions is to operate with constant self-scrutiny. Though Powell demands that African American men analyze their failings in relationship to women, he does not solely burden individuals; he suggests that many of these failings are the product of a national culture that has never come to terms with its apartheid past and present. For both scholars and fans of hip hop, Powell’s account of himself as a “recovering misogynist” will inform and illuminate, particularly when he extends the tools of feminist analysis to the life of Tupac Shakur in the final chapters of the book. Though earlier chapters advocate cross-gender affiliation, Powell spends the final pages discussing the men who came before him in both intimate and public contexts, trying to forgive his own father, as well as leaders of prior black resistance movements who were inhospitable to gender analysis. He ends with an almost mythic demand for self-creation and rebirth: “I have to be my own father now” (2003, 160). See also Powell, Kevin FURTHER READING hooks, bell. “Reflections on Race and Sex.” In Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1990, 57–64. Powell, Kevin. Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?: Manhood, Race, and Power in America. Three Rivers Press: New York, 2003.

Jennie Lightweis-Goff

WHY WHITE KIDS LOVE HIP HOP: WANKSTAS, WIGGERS, WANNABES, AND THE NEW REALITY OF RACE IN AMERICA (2005). A wide-ranging analysis explaining hip-hop music and culture’s cross-racial appeal and arguing for a new racial politics enabled by hip-hop’s rise. In Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop, Bakari Kitwana, former executive editor of The Source and author of the widely acclaimed Hip-Hop Generation, explores such subjects as hip-hop’s


primary audience, which the entertainment industry has unfairly assumed are suburban whites; Hollywood’s representations of white-black relations, which largely rely on older stereotypes; and the case of white people who identify with hip-hop as a specifically black culture, for example, Eminem, whose popularity would be impossible without black youths’ approval. But lying underneath the surface-level investigation are the questions that make the book truly significant: What should we understand about hip-hop’s white audience beyond its taste in music? Why is considering their race relevant? And how can they be mobilized to make positive change? To answer these questions, Kitwana outlines two political perspectives: the “old racial politics,” that sees black and white as oppositional categories, and the “new racial politics” arguing for a more complex view of racial categories. From the perspective of the old racial politics, white kids’ love of hip-hop is contradictory because it is associated with African Americans; the only resolution would be for whites to appropriate the culture as their own, as occurred with rock and roll. That hip-hop remains securely part of black culture suggests the presence of a fundamental change in the relationship between race and culture—which Kitwana sees as the key to developing a new racial political movement with the potential to surpass the successes of the Civil Rights Movement. Certainly those earlier successes helped change social conditions today. Notably they led to an increased presence of African Americans in civic life and popular culture. As Kitwana points out, school curricula now include nondominant histories, such as that of the Civil Rights Movement, whereas on the popular culture front, television, movies, and music offer not only black-identified popular culture but entertainment that circulates beyond racial categories, as does Oprah Winfrey’s media empire. However, current conditions are not only the product of political successes but of economic turmoil. The rise of the global economy and the consequent loss of high-paying jobs have led to a growing gap between rich and poor, increasing personal debt and unemployment, and widespread economic insecurity that have resulted in increasing alienation and “a declining sense of white privilege” (Kitwana 2005, 23). Americans raised with hip-hop on their cultural radar experience a different America than that of previous generations, in part because of the conditions listed previously and in part because they understand hip-hop culture’s inclusiveness. Indeed, Kitwana argues that although racism stubbornly endures, the Hip-Hop Generation (those born in 1965 and after) believe on some level that “all men are created equal.” Thus, understanding why white kids love hip-hop—because they no longer identify with stark racial separations and have incorporated the music and culture as part of their everyday lives—actually leads to the possibility of forming new political coalitions across racial boundaries. Thus, Kitwana concludes, “Hiphop is the last hope for this generation and arguably the last hope for America” (2005, 209). See also The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture FURTHER READING Kitwana, Bakari. Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop: Wankstas,Wiggers, Wannabes, and the New Reality of Race in America. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005.

Patricia Ventura

WILLIAMS, KaSHAMBA. Hip hop author, publisher. Among hip hop authors, KaShamba Williams is no exception to the ability to do it all. She followed the lead of the incomparable Vicki Stringer, determined to succeed after being




ignored by mainstream authors: publishing, publicity, marketing, and writing. She is the driving force behind Precioustymes Entertainment, which states on its Web site that the company has just released the first documentary about hip hop authors, a very timely development given the extraordinary popularity of these works. As a writer, Williams is a very popular novelist and has contributed to the popular Around the Way Girls series and other anthologies as well. She has also cowrote and published a line for teenagers called “Platinum Teen.” Among Williams’s most popular works are Driven and At the Courts Mercy, which focus on the life of a young black man named Nasir who has to decide what path his life is going to take and how he is going to be a father to his child. Williams’s handling of writing for a different gendered perspective, as well as incorporating other aspects of psychological drama has led these books to be among her most popular titles. Williams has written other novels as well: Blinded, Grimey, and Mind Games. Blinded and its sequel, Grimey, have also recently been published in Japanese—Williams is among a select group of hip hop authors to be so honored. Her works tend to focus on the troubled lives of young people caught in the crossfire of hardened street life. Readers have responded to her instinct so trustingly, however, that she writes forewords for many of the other books and authors published by Precioustymes Entertainment. Williams sees it as part of her mission to not just write for adults but also for the teenage audience. Her line of books, “Platinum Teen,” is geared to give teenagers a sense of selfesteem and worth in their lives. She uses her appeal as an Essence best-selling author to continue to cultivate a wide readership and to get authors to become more entrepreneurial and read their contracts. To have both of these objectives as a goal make KaShamba Williams worth attention in the hip hop literary world. FURTHER READING “Interview with KaShamba Williams.” Urban Book Source. March 2007. . Williams, KaShamba. At the Courts Mercy. New York: Urban, 2005. ———. Blinded. Columbus, OH: Triple Crown Publications, 2003. ———. Driven. New York: Urban Books, 2007. ———. Grimey. Columbus, OH: Triple Crown Publications, 2004. ———. If Only Eye’s Knew. Bear, DE: Precioustymes Entertainment, 2003. ———. Mind Games. Bear, DE: Prescioustymes Entertainment, 2007.

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins

WILLIAMS, SAUL (1972–). Hip-hop emcee, actor, and poet. Saul Williams, originally from Newburgh, New York, received a B.A. in philosophy and acting from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and a Masters Degree in acting from New York University. His poetry collections include The Seventh Octave (1998), She (1999), Said the Shotgun to the Head (2003), and The Dead Emcee Scrolls (2006). His albums include Amethyst Rock Star (2001) and Saul Williams (2004). Williams co-wrote and starred in Slam (1998), winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Williams prefaces The Dead Emcee Scrolls with “A Confession,” which appears to be equal parts autobiography and origin myth for Williams’s poetry. In “A Confession” Williams describes a subterranean pilgrimage to view graffiti art upon which he discovers


a spray-paint can filled with unreadable ancient scrolls. Williams “confesses” to slowly copying and deciphering these scrolls over a period of years and claims that they are the direct source of much of his poetry. Playing upon the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Williams imagines himself as the spiritual translator and prophet of “The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop.” This narrative brings together many of Williams’s major themes and expresses his vision of his poetry, especially its relationship to hip-hop. Williams represents himself as a prophetic vessel for ancient African and feminine wisdom that carries a direct and ameliorative meaning for contemporary times. “The changes that I have wanted to see in hip-hop, American society, the black community, and the world at large, can only unfold at the rate of our evolving consciousness,” he writes (2006, xxx). For Williams, poetry is an act of copying and deciphering traditional knowledge whose African lineage offers corrective spiritual consciousness for political, racial, and musical problems. Williams locates hip-hop within this lineage and largely views it as deeply affirmative and powerful, qualities reflected in his own poetry. Although at times this poetry exhibits an abstract or elusive spiritualism, at other times it powerfully protests patriarchy, oppression, and war, evidenced on spoken word tracks such as “The Pledge of Resistance” on his anti-war EP, Not In My Name (2003). One senses the strong influence of performance and spoken word in Williams’s poetry, which is inseparable from his training as an actor. His origin myth about performing the script of Dead Emcee Scrolls underscores these connections to the stage. The poetry is often strongly rhythmic and alliterative; it uses anaphora, internal and end rhymes, and puns and wordplay, elements that suggest a script for recitation or even hip-hop performance. Indeed, those familiar with Williams’s hip-hop delivery on Amethyst Rock Star or Saul Williams might find it difficult to dissociate Williams’s distinctive voice and cadences from the poetry on the page, especially when poetic and lyrical content overlap. However, Williams also exploits typographical conventions and other visual elements of the page, emphasizing the written in conjunction with the oral nature of his poetry. Important elements of the poetry rely on their uniquely textual character and would be lost in oral performance. Instances of this include the unutterable comma in the title of, Said the Shotgun to the Head, suggesting, perhaps, an indeterminate antecedent discourse to which the poem responds, or the juxtaposition of white pages with black typeface with black pages with white typeface, deepening and reinforcing the themes of darkness and illumination, whiteness and blackness. Williams’s poetry contains strong affinities to graffiti art, which may represent language but is at the same time irreducibly visual. Williams writes in response to the increasing materialism and misogyny that he senses in contemporary hip-hop. Materialism is bitterly ironic, for, as Williams writes, “The have-nots of the African American ghettos had seemingly bought into the heartless capitalistic ideals that had originally been responsible for buying them as slaves” (2006, xxvii). As the quasimathematical title of She suggests, Williams is also deeply concerned with the relationship between genders, which is perhaps both “divisible” and “indivisible.” Williams, whose middle name is Stacey, seems unusually receptive to his own femininity. Indeed, he often positions himself as the prophet of a female god, reflecting his essentialist view of woman as “great mother” and social, political, and cultural redeemer.

See also Slam; Spoken Word Movement



WILLIAMS, WENDY FURTHER READING Williams, Saul. The Dead Emcee Scrolls. New York: MTV/Pocket Books, 2006. ———. Said the Shotgun to the Head. New York: MTV/Pocket Books, 2003. ———. The Seventh Octave. Atlanta: Moore Black Press, 1998. ———. She. New York: MTV/Pocket Books, 1999.

David Rando

WILLIAMS, WENDY (1964–). Wendy Williams is considered the Queen of Radio and the Queen of Urban Airwaves because of the more than 20 years she has spent behind the microphone during her radio career. Although other professions have seen representation between men and women equalize over the years, talk radio remains a male-dominated genre. Nonetheless, Williams has carved out a spot in the highly competitive world of talk radio. Williams’s radio show, aptly titled “The Wendy Williams Experience,” is broadcast on WBLS 107.5 FM in New York City. The show is also syndicated across the United States. Williams grew up in the Wayside section of Ocean Township, New Jersey, a suburb about 45 minutes south of New York City. Williams got her start working at her college radio station WRBB, at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in journalism from Northeastern, she secured her first professional radio job at WVIS, a reggae, calypso, and soca radio station in the U.S. Virgin Islands in Frederiksted, St. Croix. After spending eight months at WVIS, Williams’s next stop was Oldies WOL AM in Washington, D.C. After less than a year in D.C., Williams made her first foray into the New York City radio market at WQHT HOT 103.5, and then it was on to WPLJ 95.5. From there, Williams was offered a job at WKRS 98.7 KISS FM, thus giving her the opportunity to work in the urban radio market. At KISS, Williams had the number one rated radio show that aired from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. At some point, KISS changed its radio format, prompting Williams to make the jump to the afternoon shift at HOT 97, a hip-hop station under the same ownership umbrella of KISS. Williams consistently beat the competition in the ratings, making a name for herself as the host of the number one afternoon radio show. For three years, Williams’s status and visibility steadily increased as she defined her own style of talk radio. She was part advice columnist, entertainment reporter, and gossip/tabloid journalist. Williams left HOT 97 in 1998 and was offered a job at WUSL POWER 99 in Philadelphia. In her three years in Philadelphia, Williams boosted the ratings, taking her morning show from number fifteen in the ratings to number one. Having reached the top in the Philadelphia radio market, Williams returned to New York City, landing a spot at WBLS 107.5. It was at WBLS that Williams made a name for herself in the world of urban radio. Her show “The Wendy Williams Experience” has been a massive ratings success, and it has allowed Williams to expand her presence across the media landscape. The list of celebrities who have been interviewed on the “The Wendy Williams Experience” is a who’s who of the entertainment industry, from musicians, to executives, to Hollywood actors, to television stars. Williams has interviewed industry heavyweights, such as actress/singer Jennifer Lopez, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, and multi-platinum recording artist Mariah Carey, just to name a few. Williams is known for asking the tough questions and grilling her interview subjects to talk about various gossip items and rumors that may be swirling around at the time. One memorable


interview took place between Williams and renowned singing sensation Whitney Houston. The December 2002 interview with Houston was an unforgettable discussion, the kind of exchange that would not typically occur outside of the urban talk radio genre. In her trademark take-no-prisoners interview style, Williams questioned Houston about her drug use, plastic surgery, the stress of living under a microscope, her marriage to R&B singer Bobby Brown, and a host of other interesting subjects during the sometimes heated interview. Williams has carved out an indelible place for herself in the talk radio genre. She is relevant and important to hip-hop culture because she speaks to the unique nuances of the Hip-Hop Generation. In a media environment in which nothing seems to shock the masses anymore, her persona is bold, unapologetic, sometimes sweet, occasionally over the top, oftentimes controversial, but always keeping it real with an ear to the streets. Her style is evocative of the fundamental elements of hip-hop: the antiestablishment, rebellious sounds and expressions of a generation. Although some may disagree with her in-your-face interview style, Wendy Williams is a one-of-a-kind radio personality who isn’t afraid to be herself. FURTHER READING Williams, Wendy. The Wendy Williams Experience. New York: Penguin Group, 2004. Williams, Wendy, and Karen Hunter. Wendy’s Got the Heat. New York: Atria Books, 2003.

Nneka Nnolim

WOODS, TERI. Hip hop novelist. In self-publishing her first novel, True to the Game, Teri Woods joins the ranks of other notable authors who have self-published their work, among them Margaret Atwood, e. e. cummings, Henry David Thoreau, and entrepreneur John H. Johnson. Woods’s venture into self-publishing occurs at a propitious time; for although self-publishing was once viewed as synonymous with vanity publishing, the success experienced by recent selfpublished writers has changed that perception. And similar to the self-published authors whose ranks she has joined, Woods’s efforts allowed her to test and establish a market for her work, and eventually to sell the reprint rights to a well-known publishing house. A Philadelphia native, Woods was employed as a legal secretary when she began writing True to the Game in 1993. After copyrighting her work in 1994, she began to submit her work to publishers; however, none of them expressed interest in acquiring the work. By 1998, Woods, determined to market her work, began selling handmade copies of the text at beauty shops in Philadelphia and out of the trunk of her car in Harlem, New York. The rest is history: Woods’s innovative marketing strategies led to sales topping 100,000 copies of her first novel. The immensely popular True to the Game has been described as one of the best street stories ever penned, and Woods has been crowned the female version of authors Donald Goines and Robert Beck, both of whom wrote about street life. The success of her first novel led to a contract with Warner Books; that publishing house released True to the Game under its imprint in spring 2007 and anticipates release of the sequel, True to the Game II, in fall 2007. Since the release of True to the Game, Woods has continued to produce novels that examine, celebrate, and explicate the experiences of people who inhabit the seamy underbelly of society. Woods has also started a publishing company, film companies, a scholarship fund, and a nonprofit organization. Through her publishing company, Woods




has made texts by other new authors available to readers. She concentrates on film projects through her film companies, Teri Woods Films and Tahluu Films, Incorporated. Her nonprofit organization, The Teri Woods Foundation, has been established to donate proceeds from her novels to a scholarship fund designed to provide financial assistance to inner-city youth interested in pursuing careers in journalism and the literary arts. FURTHER READING Munt, Sally Rowe. Murder by the Book?: Crime Fiction and Feminism. New York: Routledge Press, 1994. Pepper, Andrew. The Contemporary American Crime Novel: Race, Ethnicity, Class. New York: Routledge Press, 2001. Scaggs, John. Crime Fiction: The New Critical Idiom. New York: Routledge Press, 2005.

Mary Loving Blanchard

X X, MALCOLM (MALCOLM LITTLE; EL-HAJJ MALIK EL-SHABAZZ) (1925–1965). Minister of the Nation of Islam, black activist, subject of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Through his speeches, Malcolm X made it clear that the African diaspora and Africans suffering under colonialism should work together to uplift their race, to form a selfgoverning community, to fight against injustice, and to actively engage in the struggle to overthrow oppressive, exploitative social forces. The Nation of Islam (NOI) shaped the bulk of Malcolm’s ideology during the twelve years he spent as one of its top ministers. The NOI’s doctrine mixed teachings from the Koran and the Bible with Black Nationalism (Robinson 2001, 35). Elijah Muhammad, as the head of the NOI during Malcolm X’s tenure with the movement, proscribed many of the dictums of the movement: followers were not to drink alcohol, use drugs, gamble, or eat pork, among other things. By divesting themselves of detrimental behaviors, black Muslims would be better equipped to create healthy lives. The Nation encouraged its members to celebrate their blackness and to revile whiteness. Malcolm followed these strictures faithfully, and asserted that those who insisted on having “conked” hair bore the signs of ignorance (Haley 1999, 264). The NOI strictly enforced patriarchal gender roles; Malcolm reinforced these essentialist views of men and women. According to Dean E. Robinson, the NOI “offered an explanation and a solution to racial oppression and the problems it created for black people” (2001, 36). Part of the solution was moderation, but a larger part of the solution the NOI proposed was the creation of a separate, fully functional community for African Americans. Malcolm continued to support the notion of separatism even after his break from the Nation in 1963. The Nation advocated separate African American businesses, schools, and communities as a way to achieve independence from oppression at the hands of the “white devils” (Haley 1999, 271). According to Malcolm, the schools were especially important, as an African-centered curriculum would instill black identity and pride into African American youth (1992, 16). Malcolm asserted that white American schools keep African American students undereducated to “keep [them] trapped” in low-paying jobs and ignorance, so African American-run schools were a good start to alleviating the systemic oppression of African Americans (1991, 43). Over the course of Malcolm’s career, his ideology continued to change due to influences from Muslims abroad and Pan-Africanists. Malcolm X rejected the Civil Rights leaders’ passive methods for change and insistence on integration. Malcolm advocated political action over nonviolent protests, which clashed with NOI and Civil Rights methods of dealing with civil rights issues. Malcolm often said that integration would be detrimental to African Americans because the system



would continue to be unequal. He asserted that white America’s “social system is based upon the castration of the black man” and that a radical revolution was necessary (1991, 22). The Autobiography of Malcolm X, arguably the most authoritative text concerning Malcolm X, is a conversion narrative, much like St. Augustine’s Confessions, or like Paul’s conversion in the Bible, which Malcolm explicitly refers to in the text (Haley 1999, 166). This narrative serves as a model for people who are like him to follow on their path to selfactualization. The text follows the pattern of all conversion narratives but for one deviation: two conversions exist in the text. Malcolm discusses his life before his conversion to Islam in jail to illustrate the depraved state he was in before becoming enlightened, rather than to titillate his audience. After every description of misguided behavior, the post-conversion Malcolm evaluates the behavior under his new set of guidelines. The “new” Malcolm X thought of his “earlier self as another person,” Malcolm Little, which echoes other conversion narratives (Haley 1999, 173). Shortly after Malcolm broke away from the Nation of Islam, he made his hajj to Mecca, which played a part in his ideological transformation (or “conversion”) of his perceptions of “white” people. After experiencing kindness and brotherhood from various white-skinned people in and around Mecca, Malcolm realized that the problem of racism wasn’t inherent in whiteness but was specific to white Americans and their social constructs. After the hajj, as a testament to his experiences, Malcolm received the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. At the end of the text, Malcolm says that the primary purpose of his narrative is to provide “a testimony of social value” (Haley 1999, 386). As a testimony directed toward the disenfranchised, Malcolm presents himself as an example of a man who rose from ignorance to enlightenment with the help of education and the Islamic community; he appears to be exhorting African Americans to use the resources available to them to overcome oppression. Malcolm’s emphasis on education as a step toward liberation echoes Frederick Douglass’s and Benjamin Franklin’s autobiographies, as well as many slave narratives. Malcolm X exposed the world to the life in the “black ghettoes which are shaping the lives and the thinking of almost all the 22 million Negroes who live in America” (Haley 1999, 386). Through his influence, people (such as Spike Lee, bell hooks, and Public Enemy) in the hip-hop community are better able to “speak their rage” concerning social inequalities on stage, in film, and in books (Dyson 1995, 95).

See also Brown, Claude; Manchild in the Promised Land FURTHER READING Dyson, Michael Eric. Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. Gallen, David, ed. A Malcolm X Reader: Perspectives on the Man and the Myths. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1994. Haley, Alex, and Malcolm X. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. 1964. New York: Random House, 1999. Johnson, Timothy V. Malcolm X: A Comprehensive Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1986. Perry, Bruce. Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America. Barrytown: Station Press, 1991. Robinson, Dean E. Black Nationalism in American Politics and Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

XXL MAGAZINE X, Malcolm. By Any Means Necessary. George Breitman, ed. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1992. ———. Malcolm X: The Last Speeches. Bruce Perry, ed. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1989. ———. Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements. George Breitman, ed. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1989. ———. Malcolm X Talks to Young People. Steve Clark, ed. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1991.

Angelle Scott

XXL MAGAZINE. Hip hop culture magazine. XXL magazine covers various topics related to hip-hop culture, including music, entertainment, fashion, style, technology, politics, video games, and sports. Established in 1997, XXL is published monthly by Harris Publications, Inc. Elliott Wilson, also known as Yellow Nigga, is the current editor-in-chief of XXL. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, for the six-month period ending on December 31, 2006, XXL’s paid circulation was nearly 310,000. XXL’s top competitors are The Source magazine and Vibe magazine. XXL was established by former editors of The Source, Reginald Dennis and James Bernard. The current editor-in-chief of XXL, Elliott Wilson, was also a former music editor for The Source. Wilson left The Source on bad terms and since joining XXL has kept the feud with The Source going. In recent years the editors of XXL and The Source have engaged in well-documented feuds. At times the editors have used their magazines as a platform for their attacks on each other. Wilson insists that this is a normal part of hip hop culture and makes no apology for their quarrels. XXL includes interviews, articles, and reviews of hip-hop music. One of the most notable features is the XXL album rating scale. When albums are reviewed, they receive one of five ratings: S, M, L, XL, and XXL. XXL is the highest rating an album can receive. Very few albums have received this rating in XXL’s ten year history. Another popular feature of XXL is Eye Candy. Eye Candy features interviews and photos of women, usually from the hip hop modeling industry, dressed provocatively. Eye Candy has become such a popular feature that it now has its own yearly issue. Other ventures of XXL include a compilation of various artists entitled XXL Raps Volume 1, which was released at the end of 2005 by Razor and Tie Entertainment. XXL Raps Volume 1 includes music from Eminem, 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Young Buck, Tony Yayo, Fabolous, T.I., Lil Jon, Paul Wall, David Banner, Remy Ma, Fat Joe, Young Gunz, Memphis Bleek, Jim Jones, Common, Obie Trice, and Trick Daddy. XXLmag.com is the online counterpart to the print magazine. In addition to offering many of the features of the print version, XXLmag.com provides extra features, such as behind the scenes videos and message boards. FURTHER READING Grossberger, Lewis. “How Hip is Hop?” MediaWeek (26 May 2003): 46. Ogunnaike, Lola. “War of the Words at Hip-Hop Magazines.” The New York Times, 29 January 2003, E1. Surowiecki, James. “Hip-Hopped Up.” The New York Times, 5 April 1999, 20–21.

Apryl C. Price


Z ZANE (KRISTINA LAFERNE ROBERTS) (1967–). Zane is the pen name of Kristina LaFerne Roberts, the most popular African American writer of erotic fiction and a major producer of urban literature. Zane’s loyal following of readers will show up at a book signing as if a top-notch celebrity would arrive—in some instances drawing thousands. These book signings have been so popular that security guards have to be hired and barricades erected to hold back the masses. Zane has obviously touched a nerve in the rather puritanical America of the beginning of the twenty-first century—she writes raw, gritty, graphic sexual novels that many people of all races happen to enjoy. She is a leading figure in the second wave of the Hip Hop Generation—who has even had a television documentary aired on TV One about her career and her life. Much of this popularity and following comes as a surprise to Zane. Many who show up to see her at the book signings may be surprised at Zane’s rather quiet demeanor that more befits a Sunday School teacher rather than the writer of some of the raunchiest erotic fiction on the shelves today. Zane presents herself, though, with supreme excellence and confidence. She is the daughter of a prominent theologian, who has written a number of his own books, and an elementary school teacher. She is also a mother of three children and these roles mean more in terms of shaping her appearance and who she really is than anything else. Zane launched her writing career as a way of filling the hours after her children went to sleep. She wanted to share some fun stories with her friends at her dead-end sales job and the fun that she wrote about dealt with sexually graphic material. Her friends enjoyed the stories and encouraged her to put her stories on the Internet. Zane saw an opportunity and started an e-zine called “The Sex Chronicles.” Her popularity exploded and people started looking for her books, even though she didn’t have one at that time. Zane tried to circulate her books through conventional methods, but publishers did not have her vision and wanted more romance or women’s fiction approaches. With her sales expertise, Zane, like other hip hop authors, decided to self-publish a collection of “The Sex Chronicles” stories. These and two other titles sold 250,000 copies and Simon and Shuster saw a phenomenon in the making. Zane had revolutionized the erotica industry. She began to publish her works under her own imprint, an unheard of achievement for a black woman so early in her writing career. Simon and Shuster agreed to distribute the books. Zane’s Strebor Books International imprint, in addition to her own popular works, oversees a stable of more than 30 writers with almost three million books in print. This popularity has meant that she became only the third black woman, after Toni Morrison and Terry McMillan, to land on The New York Times fiction best seller print list since 2000.


Many of Zane’s fans do cite the enjoyable quality of her stories, aside from the raw and gritty sexcapades of the characters, as reasons why they continue to read her work. Addicted: The Novel deals with an arts dealer named Zoe who is a sex addict who almost loses everything due to her problem. Nervous deals with a woman, Jonquinette, who has an alternative sexual personality. Her psychological issue keeps her from developing a longer-lasting, more satisfactory relationship. Skyscraper deals with the steamy goings on in a business situation. Afterburn tells the story of a chiropractor and her bank employee boyfriend and how they both have to deal with constant interference in their relationship. Zane’s fearlessness in including real story elements, conflicts, and psychological interest keep her readers enthralled. Readers have thought her so proficient in sexual matters that she has published a nonfiction collection of fan letters called Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk about Sex and Love. In her capacity as the head of the Strebor imprint, she has also compiled anthologies (Chocolate Flava, Caramel Flava, and Blackgentlemen.com), edited collections, and expanded the focus of her works to include Latino protagonists. One of the collections, Breaking the Cycle, featured the theme of domestic abuse and the lasting effects on families. Zane obviously is looking to do more than write about raunchy sex, and her readers respond to that. Zane’s contributions to hip hop literature are large indeed, but even more importantly, she resurrected the genre of erotica single-handedly, and now other publishers are making large amounts of money by spinning off their own popular erotica imprints. See also Addicted: The Novel; Strebor Publishing

Piper G. Huguley-Riggins


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Allen, Eddie B., Jr. Low Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004. Blood, Rebecca. “Introduction.” We’ve Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing the Culture. John Rodzvilla, ed. Cambridge: Perseus, 2002. Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005. Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge, 1991. ———. Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1998. ———. From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2006. Dyson, Michael Eric. Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. ———. Holler If You Hear Me: Searching For Tupac Shakur. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2001. ———. Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2007. Forman, Murray. The Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2002. Forman, Murray, and Mark Anthony Neal, eds. That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004. George, Nelson. Hip Hop America. New York: Viking, 1998. Goines, Donald. Dopefiend: Story of a Black Junkie. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1971. ———.Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1972. Guy, Jasmine. Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary. New York: Atria, 2005. Hall, Marcella Runell, Martha Diaz, and Tatiana Forero Roy. Hip-Hop Education Guidebook: A Source of Inspiration & Practical Application. New York: Hip-Hop Association, Inc., 2007. Harper, Hill. Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny. New York: Penguin Group, 2006. Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. Dir. Hurt, Byron. Prod. Media Education Foundation. Perf. Mos Def, Jadakiss, and Busta Rhymes. DVD. 2006. Jones, Lisa. Bulletproof Diva: Tales of Race, Sex, and Hair. New York: Doubleday, 1994. Kitwana, Bakari. The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2002. McCall, Nathan. Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America. New York: Vintage, 1995. Moore, Natalie, and Natalie Hopkinson. Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip Hop Generation. New York: Cleis Press, 2006. Morgan, Joan. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks It Down. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2000. Neal, Mark Anthony. Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic. New York: Routledge, 2002.


SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Nobody Knows My Name. Dir. Raimist, Rachel, Unleashed Entertainment, and Women Make Movies. Distributed by Women Make Movies, 1999. Pough, Gwendolyn D. Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 2004. Pough, G., R. Raimist, E. Richardson, and A. Durham, eds. Home Girls Make Some Noise: A Hip Hop Feminism Anthology. Los Angeles, CA: Parker Publishing, 2007. Powell, Kevin. Who’s Gonna Take the Weight: Manhood, Race, and Power in America. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003. Reed, Ishmael. From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry across the Americas, 1900–2002. New York: Da Capo Press, 2002. Rivera, Raquel Z. New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994. Sharpley-Whiting, T. Denean. Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women. New York: New York University Press, 2007. Souljah, Sister. The Coldest Winter Ever. New York: Pocket Books, 1999. Style Wars. Dir. Silver, Tony. Prod. Chalfant Henry. VHS. 1982. Watkins, S. Craig. Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2006. ———. Representing: Hip Hop Culture and the Production of Black Cinema. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998.


Tarshia L. Stanley is an Associate Professor of English at Spelman College. She teaches courses in African American Literature, Film Studies and Visual Imagery—particularly as each pertains to images of women. She has authored several articles critiquing black women in African American, African, and Caribbean cinema as well as black female iconography in popular culture and has contributed to a wide range of reference works and monographs. Karley K. Adney is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of WisconsinMarathon County where she teaches courses in Literature, Writing, and Film. Her primary interests include sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British Literature and literature for children. Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum is an Associate Professor of Music at Illinois State University, where she teaches courses in Black Music, World Music, Ethnomusicology, and Women in Music, and directs the African Drumming and Dance Ensemble. She has master’s and doctoral degrees in Ethnomusicology from Florida State University. Her book Rhythms and Stories for African Bell Ensembles focuses on West African stories and songs to use in the elementary classroom. She has published articles in Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century African History, Yearbook of Traditional Music, and H-Net Book Review (online). She is currently working on a manuscript about identity, dance, and the African Diaspora. Marlene D. Allen is an Assistant Professor of English at Georgia Southwestern State University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. Her areas of research include American literature, African literature, and African American science fiction and gothic literature. Carey Applegate is a teacher currently working on her doctorate in English Studies at Illinois State University. Her studies focus on hip hop pedagogy within the high school English classroom, African-American adolescent literature and literacies, and (pop) cultural studies. Bridget A. Arnwine is a freelance music journalist and hip hop enthusiast. She currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. Jennifer Ashley grew up around her family’s publishing business where she was exposed to hip hop culture. She was immersed in the magazine and entertainment industries at a



young age. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she currently resides in Chengdu, China, where she runs a city magazine she co-founded and gains insight into her half-Chinese ancestry. Timothy Askew is an Associate Professor of English at Clark Atlanta University. He received his B.A. at Morehouse College, his M.A. at Yale University, and his Ph.D. from Emory University. Dr. Askew teaches courses in American Literature, Advanced Grammar, Southern Literature, and Autobiography. He has received the N.A.A.C.P Image Award for Excellence in Teaching at Clark Atlanta University as well as other awards for his teaching and service at Clark Atlanta University. W. C. Baxter III is currently a graduate student in Duke University’s Divinity School. He holds a B.A. in English from Morehouse College and plans to attain his Ph.D. in either English or African American Studies in the near future. He is currently the Assistant Pastor at Jerusalem Church in Emporia, VA. Mary Loving Blanchard is an Associate Professor of English at New Jersey City University where she teaches courses in the English major. Her manuscript in progress, Dear Sister: Letters from Phillis Wheatley to Arbour Tanner, examines relationships between slave women in general and in particular between the eighteenth century slave poet, Phillis Wheatley, and Arbour Tanner, the woman Wheatley met aboard the slave ship for which she was named. Blanchard’s essay, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Reading Community, Rebellion, and Religious Conversion in Phillis Wheatley’s Letters,” will appear in Correspondences: The Theory and Practice of American Letters, 1760–1820, forthcoming. Ellesia A. Blaque is a Philadelphian and a graduate of Temple University. She is a doctoral candidate at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, specializing in nineteenthcentury African American literature and history, as well as hip hop culture and rap music. Blaque is also an Associate Professor at Palm Beach Community College in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, teaching literature of the African Diaspora and composition. Terry Bozeman is currently the Assistant Director of the Comprehensive Writing Program at Spelman College. He received his Ph.D. from Georgia State University. His areas of interest are African American Studies, Rhetoric and Composition, and Studies of the American South. Gregory Donald Brophy is a doctoral candidate in the department of English at the University of Western Ontario. His current research investigates the fabrication of ethnicity, gender, and sexuality within late nineteenth-century pseudo-science. He is currently working as a lecturer in visual and cultural studies at McGill University. Adrienne Carthon holds a Ph.D. and is Assistant Professor of American Literature at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. Her research interests are African American popular culture, Women’s Studies, Cultural Studies, Literacy Studies, and Ethnic Literatures. Peter Caster is an Assistant Professor of Literature and Film at the University of South Carolina Upstate. He is the author of Prisons, Race, and Masculinity in Twentieth-Century


U.S. Literature and Film (Ohio State, 2008) and currently is co-editing a collection on black masculinity in history and literature. Lauren Chambers is a fourth-year doctoral student in the English Department at the University of Georgia. Her interests include African American Literature, Twentieth Century American Literature, Postcolonial Literature, and Feminist Theory. Her dissertation will seek to examine women writers of color (from the United States, the Caribbean, and several African countries) who devise new approaches for constructing community in order to define and renegotiate women’s identity formation. Brian Su-Jen Chung is a Ph.D. candidate in the Program of American Culture at the University of Michigan. His research interests include Asian American cultural studies, performance studies, popular music studies, critical race studies, and “the body.” He is currently working on a dissertation project investigating the relationship between hip hop dance performance and cultural citizenship in Asian American communities. Gil Cook is a doctoral candidate in the English department at Purdue University. His work focuses on modern and contemporary fiction of the African Diaspora, with a particular interest in African American fiction and popular culture. Gil is currently working on his dissertation project, which blends considerations of the hip hop industry with analysis of James Baldwin’s work in discussing contemporary black subjectivity. Antonio Maurice Daniels is a graduate student (English) at the University of Arkansas. He specializes in African American literature and culture. Mr. Daniels is currently teaching undergraduate composition and literature courses in the Department of English at the University of Arkansas. After obtaining his doctoral degree in English, Antonio plans to become a university professor and researcher in the field of English. As a Benjamin Franklin Lever Fellow, Daniels engages actively in presenting papers at conferences and has several scholarly publications forthcoming. He is a member of the following academic/professional organizations: The Popular Culture Association, The American Culture Association, Sigma Tau Delta, and National Scholars Honor Society. Delicia Daniels is an English instructor at Wiley College. She received her B.A. in English from Dillard University and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Chicago State University Carol Davis is a lecturer at Texas A&M University at Galveston where she teaches African American Literature. She earned her Ph.D. in English at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Christina L. Davis is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of Georgia. Her research interests include nineteenth-century African American education, U.S. Women’s History, and African American history. Through the support of the Spencer Foundation that funds research in education, she plans to complete a dissertation that examines the pedagogies of black and white women teachers during the Reconstruction Era.




Tomika DePriest is executive director of the Spelman College Office of Communications. She is responsible for strategic communications and management of branding, publications, media relations, new media and the Web. DePriest was named PR Person of the Year in Education in 2004 by PR News, and was recognized with a Bulldog Reporter Gold Award for Best Response to Breaking News in 2007. A recipient of the Spelman College Alumnae Achievement/Tiffany & Co. Award, DePriest holds a Master’s degree in Africana Women’s Studies from Clark Atlanta University. Her 1993 Master’s thesis, “Seductresses, Sex Objects, Tragic Mulattoes and Social Props: Images of Women in the Films of Spike Lee,” was a groundbreaking analysis of the stereotypes of Black women in popular culture. She is also an alum of the Institute for Education Management at Harvard University. For nearly 10 years, she covered hip hop for LA-based Rap Pages magazine, penning cover and feature stories, and music reviews. Her byline has also appeared in Black Enterprise, Upscale Magazine, Creative Loafing, and Atlanta Tribune. Eve Dunbar is an Assistant Professor of English and African Studies at Vassar College. She is completing a manuscript project that explores mid-twentieth-century African American writers who write to the United States from abroad. With a special attention to genre, she explores the relationships among American nationalism, black internationalism, and black diasporic discourse in contemporary African American studies. Paul Falzone is an experimental and documentary filmmaker, radical ethnographer, and activist. He is a doctoral candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on the theory and production of media for social and political change. Paul Farber is a doctoral student at the University of Michigan (American Culture). His research interests are twentieth-century American cultural history, queer theory, race and masculinity, and fashion and performance studies. His writing has previously appeared in Vibe, Blender, Complex, Mass Appeal, and Philadelphia Weekly, and on web portals Vibe.com, AOLMusic.com, and Outsports.com. Vanessa Floyd is a librarian working in Durham, North Carolina. In 2005 she was awarded a Master’s in U.S. History, with a focus in African American History, from the University of Illinois in Chicago. She completed a second Master’s in Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2007. Tikenya S. Foster-Singletary is currently teaching at Clark Atlanta University. She is a graduate of Spelman College and Vanderbilt University. She has presented and published in the fields of twentieth-century American and African American literature. Samuel Frederick received his Ph.D. in German Studies from Cornell University in 2008. He has published on the poetological implications of writing about nothing in Oswald Egger, Robert Walser, Johannes Kepler, Italo Calvino, and Wallace Stevens. His research interests include digressive narration, silent cinema, and performance poetry. Nicholas Gaffney is currently a history doctoral student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with research interests including twentieth-century United States


History, African American History, and Black Music History. He also holds an M.A. in African American and African Studies from Ohio State University and a B.A. from Morehouse College. T. J. Geiger is a doctoral student in the Rhetoric program in the Department of English, Speech, and Foreign Languages at Texas Woman’s University. He is also pursuing a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies from Texas Woman’s University. His research interests include African American rhetoric, composition studies, and feminist theories. James Arthur Gentry is a McKnight Fellow and a Doctoral Candidate in the English Department at the University of Florida. Shane Gilley is currently a Ph.D. student at Oklahoma State University and will begin his dissertation on hip hop cinema soon. Recently, he presented papers on rap videos, graffiti and the use of color, and early hip hop film at conferences both regional and national. He published the entry about Tupac Shakur in the Greenwood Press Encyclopedia of African American Literature. Brenna Clarke Gray is a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Her area of study is Canadian and American Literature, with a focus on Popular Culture and Masculinity Studies. Her thesis considers depictions of masculinity pre- and post-9/11 in the novels of Douglas Coupland, and her other recent work has looked at intertextuality in animated sitcoms, the role of language in primetime dramas, and the narrative structure of video games. Thomas Haliburton is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at the University of Sussex Brighton, United Kingdom. His dissertation is titled “Unrealising Narrative: Heroics in DeLillo and McCarthy.” Marcella Runell Hall is the former Director of Education for the Hip Hop Association, and co-editor of the nationally acclaimed Hip-Hop Education Guidebook. Hall also works in the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs at New York University serving as the campus-wide Diversity Educator & Trainer. Hall most recently served as the Assistant Director of Programs, Education & Training at the Tanenbaum Center for Inter-religious Understanding, as well as adjunct faculty for the Bank Street College of Education and University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is currently completing her doctorate in Social Justice Education. She also works as a freelance writer for the New York Times Learning Network and VIBE magazine. Hall received her Master’s degree in higher education administration with a focus on multicultural education from New York University in 1999 and holds a Bachelor’s degree in social work from Ramapo College of New Jersey, which she received in 1997. Alexander Hartwiger is a Ph.D. student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His research interests include postcolonial studies, contemporary theory, and critical pedagogy. He is currently working on a project that explores cosmopolitanism as a way to foster ethical reading practices for postcolonial literature. His Master’s thesis examined the influence of Japanese literature and culture on Paul Beatty’s novels.




Candy A. Henry is an Assistant Professor of English at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood, Pennsylvania. Michelle S. Hite is a lecturer in the English department at Spelman College. Her major fields of interest include twentieth-century African American literature and history. Rebecca Housel teaches popular culture and creative writing at Rochester Institute of Technology. She has published in the Popular Culture and Philosophy Series and is coediting a new volume in the Series, XMen and Philosophy, forthcoming in 2009. Rebecca Housel completed her postgraduate work at the University of New South Wales and also writes middle grade and young adult novels. Akil Houston is on faculty in the department of African American Studies at Ohio University and a doctoral candidate in the Cultural Studies in Education program at Ohio University. Houston received his B.A. from Clark Atlanta University in Mass Media Arts and both an M.F.A. in Film Production and an M.A. in International Affairs from Ohio University. Houston is founder and co-contributor of the hiphopscholar (www. hiphopscholar.org) and a member of The Hiphop Educational Review. Mr. Houston is author of The Poetry Name Game: The Challenge of Hiphop Culture (2004) and Beyond Blackface: Africana Images in U.S Media (2005, 2007). Piper G. Huguley-Riggins is a Lecturer at Spelman College. She received her Ph.D. in Twentieth Century American Literature from Georgia State University. She has taught at Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Berry College. Her research interests are in Autobiography, Women Writers, and Multi-Ethnic Literature. She lives in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. Wandra C. Hunley was born into the first generation of hip hop and was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Hunley has taught courses on hip hop and composition to middle school and college level students. She currently teaches English at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Tolu O. Idowu is currently pursuing her doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies. She is an instructor of composition and literature and enjoys promoting good writing through cultural exploration. She is especially fond of the nuances of hip hop in literature and how the literature has expanded the reading possibilities and practices for a whole new generation. Judy L. Isaksen is an Associate Professor of Media and Popular Culture Studies at the Nido Qubein School of Communication at High Point University in North Carolina. She teaches a wide range of courses in communication, media theory and production, cultural studies and pop culture, visual rhetoric, women and gender studies, race studies, rhetorical theory and writing, hip-hop culture, and African-American literature. Her research and publications have examined audio rhetoric, hip-hop theorists, Zora Neale Hurston, whiteness studies, Generation X, West African drumming, minorities on public radio, and racial discourse. Timothy S. Jones received an M.A. in Cultural Policy from the University of Chicago. He has recently served as Artistic Director of the Dawson City Music Festival in the Canadian


North, and runs his own concert promotion company. Academically, his research interests include the salience of critical theory to problems of definition in cultural econometrics, social capital, and autobiographical theory. Zandra L. Jordan is an Assistant Professor of English at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She earned a B.A. and M.A.T. in English from Spelman and Brown University, respectively, and a Ph.D. in English and Education from the University of Michigan. Her research in rhetoric and composition includes language and literacy and the African American Church. Beatrice Nibigira Kelley is a Professor of French and Linguistics at California State University, Sacramento. Her doctoral years were spent at the University of California, Davis, and the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests cover second language acquisition, French/francophone literatures, language and identity in French, and American hip hop music. Martin Kich is a Professor at Wright State University’s Lake Campus. In 2000, he was the 17th recipient of the University’s Trustees’ Award, recognizing sustained excellence in teaching, service, and scholarship. He recently contributed more than 70 articles to Greenwood’s Encyclopedia of African-American Literature and another 25 to Greenwood’s Encyclopedia of Multicultural Literature. Mikel Koven is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Worcester. His main area of research is cult and exploitation cinema and folklore and film. He has written La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film (2006) and Film, Folklore and Urban Legends (2008). He co-edited, with Sharon Sherman, Folklore/Cinema: Popular Film as Vernacular Culture (2007), as well as a special issue of Western Folklore on “Folklore & Film” (64.3–4, 2005). He also edited a special issue of Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies titled “Cool Jewz: Contemporary Jewish Identity in Popular Culture” (25.4, 2007). Beth Lagarou is a Ph.D. student in English at the University of Kansas. She earned a B.A. in English and Communication Studies from the University of Miami in 1999, an M.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 2003, and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Kansas in 2005. Her areas of interest include twentieth-century American literature, women’s studies, U.S. Latino/Latina literature, and literature of the Beat Generation. Almaz Tsz-ying Leung is an MPhil student at the University of Hong Kong. Her research interest is in language and gender and discourse analysis. She is also interested in gender representations in media and popular cultures. Jennie Lightweis-Goff teaches in the Women and Gender Studies Interdisciplinary Program at the State University of New York–Brockport. Laura H. Marks is a doctoral candidate in English and Women and Gender Studies at Louisiana State University. Her current research interests are in feminist theory, queer theory, and pornography.




Courtney D. Marshall is a Ph.D. candidate in English with a concentration in Women’s Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her dissertation, “Law, Literature, and the Black Female Subject” traces the theoretical connections between critical race studies and Black feminist literary criticism. Her related interests include queer theory and critical prison studies. She teaches courses on women, crime, and incarceration in American culture. Sheri McCord is a Ph.D. candidate in English at Saint Louis University (St. Louis, Missouri) where she also holds a Women’s Studies Certificate. She studies seventeenth-century British literature with an emphasis on the body and gender. Her other interests include narrative theory, autobiography, and memoir writing. She writes creative non-fiction and has published several of her own essays. Anita K. McDaniel is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she teaches in the Department of Communication Studies. She often presents papers at national conferences and publishes in international journals on the intertextual play between the visual and written texts represented in comic books. Her most recent comic related publications include “Dave Sim on Guys,” “Negotiating Life Spaces: Will Marriage Marginalize Storm?” and an encyclopedia entry entitled “Comics: 1960–2005.” Chaunda A. McDavis is an Assistant Professor of English at Auburn University Montgomery. She received her Masters of Arts and Doctorate Degree in English from The Pennsylvania State University. Dr. McDavis specializes in African American literature focusing on the African American novel and the short story. Her research also extends itself to Black women writers since 1970 and their literary responses to public policy, Black Cultural Nationalism, Third World feminisms, Afro-Caribbean literature, Black intellectualism, and the representation of migration and agency in Black diasporic literatures. Ladrica Menson-Furr is Assistant Professor of African American Literature at the University of Memphis. She has been published in Mosaic, Interrogating America through Theatre and Performance (eds. William Demastes and Iris Fischer), the Zora Neale Hurston Forum, and African American Dramatists: An A to Z Guide (ed. Emmanuel Nelson). Her research interests include the dramas of Ed Bullins, Lorraine Hansberry, Zora Neale Hurston, August Wilson, and Harlem Renaissance children’s drama. Trudy Mercadal-Sabbaugh has a Master’s in Liberal Arts from Barry University, a Master’s in Communication from Florida Atlantic University, and is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Studies and a fellow in the Public Intellectuals Program of Florida Atlantic University. Her main area of research and teaching experience is community and adult education in underprivileged areas, and she is especially interested in hip hop pedagogy and culture. Trudy Mercadal-Sabbagh is currently working on her dissertation on education and prison reform. David Morris has written about hip hop and popular culture for Audiogalaxy, Popmatters, Maximum Rock ‘n Roll, Skyscraper, and Signal to Noise, and is currently pursuing a doctorate from the University of Iowa.


Caryn Murphy is a Ph.D. candidate in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is currently an Associate Lecturer for the Women’s Studies program. Her dissertation examines the intersections of third wave feminisms, such as hip hop feminism and pop culture products marketed to teenage girls. Angela M. Nelson is Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University. She has edited “This Is How We Flow”: Rhythm in Black Cultures (1999) and co-edited Popular Culture Theory and Methodology: A Basic Introduction (2006) with Harold E. Hinds, Jr. and Marilyn F. Motz. Her current teaching and research focuses on black popular culture including African American popular and religious music and representations of African Americans in comic art and television. Kinohi Nishikawa is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Program in Literature at Duke University. His dissertation examines how social movements and popular culture spurred the rise of black pulp fiction in the 1960s and 1970s. Nneka Nnolim, a native of Brampton, Ontario, Canada, is a freelance writer in addition to being the founder and Chief Creative Officer of IsaacAlice Creative Enterprises. IsaacAlice is a multifaceted company specializing in producing and promoting urban creativity. Nneka holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Windsor and a Master’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. Kimberly R. Oden is an English Ph.D. candidate at Morgan State University. She received her B.A. and M.A. in English at North Carolina Central University, in Durham, NC. Kimberly’s scholarly interests include African American literature, women’s studies, and popular culture studies. David B. Olsen is a Ph.D. student in the Department of English at Saint Louis University, where he teaches literature, writing, and science fiction. In 2006 he also participated in the black intellectual history seminar at the Cornell University School of Criticism and Theory. Yolanda Williams Page is the editor of the Encyclopedia of African American Women Writers from Greenwood Press (2007). She has published bio-bibliographical essays in African American Playwrights: A Sourcebook, and African American Autobiographers: A Sourcebook, an essay in the Encyclopedia of Ethnic American Literature and an interview in August Wilson and the New Black Arts Movement. She is currently coordinator of collegiate success at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Apryl C. Price has been a librarian for three years and an avid fan of hip hop culture even longer. Her master’s degree is in Library and Information Science and her education specialist degree is in Instructional Technology. She is an Assistant Professor and Librarian for Electronic Resources and Reference in Odum Library at Valdosta State University. Sofía Quintero writes under the pen name Black Artemis. She wrote the hip hop novels Explicit Content, Picture Me Rollin’, and Burn. She is also the author of the novel Divas Don’t Yield and contributed novellas to the “chica lit” anthologies Friday Night Chicas and Names I Call My Sister. As an activist, she co-founded Chica Luna Productions, a nonprofit




organization that seeks to identify, develop, and support women of color who wish to create socially conscious entertainment. She is also the president of Sister Outsider Entertainment, a multimedia production company that produces quality entertainment for urban audiences. David Rando teaches twentieth-century literature at Trinity University, and has recently written about James Joyce, J. M. Coetzee, Anne Frank, and Neutral Milk Hotel. Tyeese Gaines Reid has written for 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Boston Magazine, M.D. News and NBC6 in Miami. She earned both her Master of Arts in Journalism and Bachelor of Science in African American Studies at Northeastern University and is currently an emergency medicine resident physician at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut. She earned the Doctorate of Medicine from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Georgia M. Roberts is a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her research interests include global hip hop culture, American and Comparative Cultural Studies, Critical Race Theory, and public scholarship. Roberts teaches an undergraduate course on Tupac’s literary influences, entitled “The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur.” The course reads Tupac’s work alongside that of Sun Tzu, Richard Wright, Shakespeare, and Machiavelli. Roberts also leads a monthly reading group at the Seattle Public Library on the same topic. Rachel Robinson is a first year M.A. student in the English Department at the University of Florida. Her concentration involves a synthesis of African-American Literature, Cultural Studies, Urban Literature, Neo-Slave Narratives, and Hip Hop Studies. As a native of Miami, Florida, her experiences with diversity have led her to pursue equality through education for all people. She hopes that through her scholarship she will be able to dismantle the many prejudices that are so pervasive in this country. Catherine Ross-Stroud is an Assistant Professor in literacy studies at Cleveland State University. She earned her Ph.D. in English from Illinois State University. Her research areas include children’s literature and adolescent literature, women’s literature, composition and rhetoric, adolescent literacy, theories of identity, and coming of age. Her manuscript, Janet McDonald: The Original Project Girl, is forthcoming. Angelle Scott is an instructor of English at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. She received both her M.A. and B.A. in English from the University of New Orleans. Her academic interests include American literature, rhetoric and composition, popular culture, and creative writing. RaShell R. Smith-Spears is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Modern Foreign Languages, and is Co-Coordinator of the Graduate Program in English at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. Rosa Soto is an Assistant Professor of English and Latino Studies at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. A Puerto Rican scholar born in Miami, Florida, she earned her


Ph.D. in English literature (with a specialty in gender and sexualities) at the University of Florida. She teaches Latino Literature, American Literature/studies, and cultural studies. Her works include examining images of race, ethnicity, gender, and class in film, television, and popular culture. Rochelle Spencer is a Fiction Editor for the literary journal Obsidian III. Her work appears in a variety of magazines and anthologies including African American Review, Poets and Writers, Black Issues Book Review, New York Stories, Oxygen, and the Greenwood Encyclopedia of Black Women Writers. Rochelle has taught at New York University, Georgia Southern University, Spelman College, and Metropolitan College. Nicole Staub received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Journalism from West Liberty State College, a small liberal arts school in West Virginia, and her Master’s degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. After receiving her M.A., she returned to WLSC where she now teaches Composition, Technical Writing, and various literature courses. Some of her current research interests include comics and graphic novels as academic tools, magical realism, experimental fiction, and technology in the classroom. Sharan Strange teaches creative writing at Spelman College. She has also been McEver Visiting Chair in Poetry at the Georgia Institute of Technology and resident writer at Fisk University, the California Institute for the Arts, and Wheaton College. She is a contributing editor of Callaloo and advisor to Spelman’s online journal, L-I-N-K-E-D. Her collection of poems, Ash, was awarded the Barnard Women Poets Prize in 2000. Shanesha R. F. Brooks Tatum is a Ph.D. candidate in the Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan, where she specializes in twentieth-century music, literature and performance. Her dissertation “Poetics With a Promise: Performances of Faith, Gender and Sexuality in African American Christian Hip-Hop” explores the identity performances of black Christian hip-hop performers in religious and secular spaces. She has published on Langston Hughes’ 1920s jazz and blues poetry and has forthcoming work on African and African American film operas. Christin M. Taylor is completing an M.A. in English at the University of Virginia. Her research interests focus on textual manipulations of the “black body” and intersecting political categories of “identity” in African American literature. Her essay “Performing the Law: Acts of Mastery in The Known World” will appear in the forthcoming collection, Crowned with Laurel, African American Pulitzer Prize Winning Authors (Greenwood 2008). Tyechia L. Thompson is a Doctoral candidate and Teaching Associate in the Department of English at Howard University. Robert Torre is a Ph.D. candidate in musicology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His dissertation examines music’s important role in the construction of urban identity in early eighteenth-century Naples, Italy. Other theoretical interests include diaspora and exile studies, performance studies, and the ways in which music aids the construction of place. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.




Yi-Hsuan Tso is Assistant Professor at the Center for General Education, National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, Taiwan. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Georgia in 2004. Her publications include two encyclopedia entries on contemporary American poetry, a translation that constitutes a chapter of a psychology textbook, an interview of a Taiwanese Canadian poet, and newspaper articles. Danielle R. Tyler is currently the Director of the Writing Center at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has a Master of Arts degree in English and a Graduate Certificate in Technical Communication from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Her interests include technical communication, writing center theory and practice, and Africana studies. Sathyaraj Venkatesan is a Lecturer in English in the Department of Humanities, National Institute of Technology (NIT), Trichy, India. He was a participant at the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University, New York (2006), and is currently an International Field Bibliographer for African American Studies with Publications of Modern Language Association of America (PMLA). Patricia Ventura is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Spelman College. She has published on film, media, globalization, and American cultural studies and has edited a special double-issue collection called “Circulating America” in the journal Genre 38. She is currently at working on her manuscript Neoliberal Culture in the 1990s United States. Travis Vogan is a Ph.D. student and Associate Instructor in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University. He studies American documentary film and is currently researching the history of the sports highlight. Vogan has published essays on the jazz musician Charles Mingus and the film American Psycho. Sandra L. West teaches African American Studies at Rutgers University. A literary society historian, she is Guest Curator of ENTRUSTED TO OUR KEEPING: The Legacy of African-American Literary Societies in Newark, The Nation, The World, an exhibition at Newark (New Jersey) Public Library (January–March 2008). Co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, the creative work of West is seen most recently in Pembroke Magazine #39, Visions of the City (Black Apollo Press, United Kingdom), Chickenbones: A Journal of Literary and Artistic African-American Themes, and Family Pictures: Poems & Photographs Celebrating Our Loved Ones, edited by Kwame Alexander. She is a member of the Harlem Writers Guild. E. Angelica Whitmal, Ph.D., is a Research Associate for Five Colleges, Inc., Amherst, Massachusetts. Ava Williams is a freelance Research Editor at Allure magazine. Her work has appeared in Black Issues Book Review, NV, and Avenue Report. She has a B.A. in English from Spelman College and an M.S. in Publishing from Pace University. Ava hopes to walk in the


shadows of literary artists she admires who have declared writing as their write—their write to life. She is writing a work of fiction and resides in Brooklyn, New York. Seretha D. Williams is an Associate Professor of English at Augusta State University. She teaches courses in world humanities, women’s literature, African literature, and African American literature. She has published articles on Leon Forrest and Gwendolyn Brooks. Currently, she is writing a manuscript on the novels of Zakes Mda. Aaron Winter received a B.A. Hons. in Political Science (York), an M.A. in Philosophy and Social Theory (Warwick), and a D.Phil. in Social and Political Thought (Sussex) and is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Abertay Dundee. His research focuses on the American extreme right in the post-civil rights era, racism and anti-racism in the United States and Britain, and racial politics and popular culture. He is a member of the British Sociological Association and the British Association for American Studies. Courtney Young is a graduate of Spelman College. In 2004, she graduated from New York University receiving her Master’s Degree from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She is currently a writer in New York City.


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Note: Bold page numbers indicate main entries in the encyclopedia. Abuse: of black bodies, 145; sexual, depiction of young black girl, 192–193; of women, portrayed in literature, 76 Academy Award, first for hip hop movie, 130 Activists, promoting black culture: Braxton, Charlie, 38–39; Bynoe, Yvonne, 49–51; Chang, Jeff, 53–54, 54–55; Chuck D, 59–60; Medina, Tony, 162–163; Powell, Kevin, 190–191; Souljah, Sister, 222–224; Wallace, Michele Faith, 250–251 Addicted: The Novel (Zane, 2001), 1 Adolescent literature or hip hop primers, 2. See also Children’ literature; Novels, young adult Advice and conduct books: for hip hop generation, 136–137; “Yo Little Brother” Series, 80 Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary (Guy, 2005), 2–3 Affect, waning of, in postmodernism, 188 African American communism, contribution to hip hop, 142 African American culture: challenges for, 119; primary political topics for youth in, 119 African American humor, 11 African American identity: poetry and crisis of, 18, 138–139; on power and, for men, 157–158, 256 African American pulp fiction: Goines, novels of, 105–106; Old School Books Publishing and, 179; urban fiction, term associated with, 245 African American studies. See Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy (Baker, 1995) And It Don’t Stop!: The Best American Hip Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years (Cepeda, 2004), 3–4 Angry Blonde: The Official Book (Eminem, 2000), 4–5 Art: black expressions of, 13; literary conventions of hip hop, 145; music video as post-

modern, 65; purpose of promoting cultural sensitivities, 145 Audience participation, and spoken word performance, 229 Autobiography: of Dyson, Michael Eric, 12–13; of LL Cool J, 131–132 Baby Boy (Columbia Pictures, USA, 2001), 6–7 Baisden, Michael (1963–), 7–8 Bambaataa, Afrika, 10, 115 Banks, L. A. (1960–), 8–9. See also Vampire Huntress series Beat Street (Orion Pictures, USA, 1984), 9–10 Beatty, Paul (1962–), 11 Belly (Big Dog Films, USA, 1998), 11–12 Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture (Dyson, 1996), 12–13 Biography of Donald Goines, 155–156 Biopics, hip hop, 63 Black Artemis. See Quintero, Sofía Black Arts movement (BAM): Baraka, Amiri, 20–21; legacy of, 22; poetry readings, venue of, 21; stylistic hallmarks of, 22 Black book clubs, 13–16: Oprah’s Book Club, 14 Black Entertainment Television (BET), 222 Black feminism/feminists: Bynoe, Yvonne, 49–51; commoditization of black female bodies, 186, 250; hooks, bell on, 127–128; of Morgan, Joan versus ivy-league feminists, 169; standpoint of, 73, 134–135; Third Wave of, 45; women’s responsibility for choices, call for, 253–254 Black Girl Magazine, 29–30 Black men: archetypes in hip hop, 186; characters as positive role models, 43–44; gay and bisexual, struggle of, 109; identity and power of, 157–158, 256; masculinity in hip hop culture, 81, 111–112; power struggle, hip hop theme, 67;


INDEX Black men (continued): prison as alternative home for, 146; reproductive rights of, call for, 254; responsibility, call for, 111–112; role models for young, importance of, 150; Singleton, John, in films of, 6; as strong, reevaluation of, 175; “Tyronicity,” 167–168; urban, in Goines’ writing, 105 Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (Rose, 1994), 16–17 Black periodical literature: fanzines, 93–94; online magazine, 124–125. See also Fanzines; Magazines; individual periodicals Black poetry, 17–25: Angelou, Maya, 22; Baraka, Amiri, 20–21; Black Arts movement, 20–22; black vernacular in, 25. (see also Black vernacular speech; Language); Brooks, Gwendolyn, 20; Brown, Sterling, 20; described, 12–13; dialect, 19; first published, 18; Harlem Renaissance and, 19; hip hop poetry, roots in, 22; Hughes, Langston, 19; on identity and power, 138–139; new poets, 24–25; published simultaneously in books and CDs, 24; sexuality in, 22; Shange, Ntozake, 22; slams competition, 230; social revolution, intended to create, 21, 230; spoken word in, 24; subjects of in 1970s and 1980s, 23; themes of, 21–22; Wheatly, Philis, 18–19; writing collectives and workshops, 23 Black Popular Culture, 25–26: Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy (Baker, 1995), 28–29; Bulletproof Diva: Tales of Race, Sex, and Hair (Jones, 1997), 45–46; Business of Hip Hop Publishing, 47–49; Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere (Pough, 2004), 55–56; Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation (Hopkinson and Moore, 2006), 81; Hip Hop America (George, 1998), 112–113; The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture (Kitwana, 2002), 119; Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology (Pough, ed., 2007), 123–124; The Hood Comes First: Race, Space and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop (Forman, 2002), 125–126; Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory (Wallace, 1990), 134–135; Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop (Dyson, 2007), 145–146; Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young

Black Man in America (McCall, 1994), 157–158; Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women (SharpleyWhiting, 2007), 186; Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic (Neal), 220–222; That’s the Joint!: The HipHop Studies Reader (Foreman and Neal, 2004), 239; When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks It Down (Morgan, 2002), 253–254; Who’s Gonna Take the Weight: Manhood, Race, and Power in America (Powell, 2003), 255–256; Why White Kids Love Hip Hop: Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabes, and the New Reality of Race in America (Kitwanna, 2005), 256–257 “Black public sphere” (1987–1994), 126 Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism (Collins, 2005), 27–28 Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy (Baker, 1995), 28–29 Black urban culture: blaxploitation films, themes in, 33; Slim, Iceberg, as seen in life of, 133. See also Cinema; Films; individual film titles Black vernacular speech: Black Arts poetry, expected in, 21; black speech patterns, 208; of hip hop, 203, 241; Hughes, Langston, use of black vernacular by, 19; subversive use of, 199–200; in urban fiction, 245; tradition of, 247–248 Black women: abuse of, 230; feminist standpoint, 73, 127–128, 134–135; image change, call for in hip hop, 50, 135; novels for, 90–91; place of, in hip hop, 186; poetry of, 100, 165–166; publishers, 69; rappers, 55–56; relegation of to misogynistic ends, 56; resiliency of, essays on, 45–46; role of, in counteracting image in hip hop, 50; self perception, hip hop exploitation mentality effect on, 186; subjugation of, by hip hop, 145–146; symbolic ownership, treatment of bodies as, 146 Blaxploitation films, 30–34: Asian-made, 32; defined, 30–31; directors of color and, 31; pimps in, 32–33; Slim, Iceberg, as godfather of, 132; themes in, 33 Block parties, 107, 115 Blogs, 34–36 Book clubs. See Black book clubs THE BOONDOCKS, 73–74

INDEX Boyz N The Hood (Columbia Pictures, USA, 1991), 36–38 Braxton, Charlie (1961–), 38–39 Break dancing, 39–40; clowning and krumping, 204–205; moves in, 116; origins of, 116; strategy to settle disagreements, 117 Breakin’ (Canon Pictures, USA, 1984), 39–40 Brothers Gonna Work It Out: Sexual Politics in the Golden Age of Rap Nationalism (Cheney, 2005), 40–41 Brown, Claude (1937–2002), 41–42 Brown, Cupcake (1964?–), 42–43 Brown, Parry “Ebony Satin” A. (1952–), 43–44 Brown Sugar (20th Century Fox, USA, 2002), 44–45 Bulletproof Diva: Tales of Race, Sex, and Hair (Jones, 1997), 45–46 Burn: A Novel (Quintero, 2006), 46–47 Business of Hip Hop Publishing, 47–49 Bynoe, Yvonne (196?–), 49–51 Calderón, Jennifer “Jlove” (1971–), 52–53 Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the HipHop Generation (Chang, 2005), 53 Chang, Jeff (1967–), 54–55 Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere (Pough, 2004), 55–56 Cheekes, Shonda, 56–57 The Cheetah Girls (Gregory, 1999), 57–58 Chickenheads, defined, 153 Chideya, Farai (1969–), 59 Children’s literature, 2; picture books, 2; urban street illustrations in, 194–195. See also Adolescent literature or hip hop primers Christian: beliefs and hip hop, 226, 227, 228; fiction, 168–169 Chuck D (Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, 1960–), 59–60 Cinema, 60–65; Academy Award, first for hip hop movie, 130; biopics, hip hop, 63; blackon-black violence in, 36, 37; blaxploitation films, 30–34; critique on black, 200–201; documentary on hip hop, 61–63; dramas, 64; ghetto action films, 200–201; music video, use of, 64; narratives, 63–64, 64; Singleton, John and black urban film, 6; and spoken word movement, 229–230. See also Films; individual film titles Clark, Al C. See Goines, Donald Class, as social control, 256 Classic literature, as inspiration for rap, 217

Clowning, 205 Cobb, William Jelani (1969–), 65–67 The Coldest Winter Ever (Sister Souljah, 1999), 67–69 College courses in hip hop literature (1998–present), 69–72 Collins, Patricia Hill (1948–), 72–73 Comics, 74–75; and graphic novels, 106–108 Coming of age stories: of Beatty, Paul, 11; “hood” films, 99, 163–164; of McDonald, Janet, 161–162; target audience, needs of, 238; in urban environments, 211, 237–238. See also Novels, young adult; Teen fiction; individual titles Commercial hip hop: men and women, relationships of, as core, 186; women’s bodies as marketing tools for, 186 Commercialization of hip hop: black popular music, impact on, 252; opposition to, 207 Communism. See African American communism Compact discs, with books, 2 Confessions of a Video Vixen (Steffans, 2005), 75–77 Crystelle Mourning: A Novel (Ulen, 2006), 77–78 Cultural criticism, hip hop: Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture (Dyson, 1996), 12–13; Brothers Gonna Work It Out: Sexual Politics in the Golden Age of Rap Nationalism (Cheney, 2005), 40–41; of Chideya, Farai, 59; of Cobb, William Jelani, 65–67; of Collins, Patricia Hill, 72–73; of Dyson, Michael Eric, 7–8; Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology (Pough, ed., 2007), 123–124; of hooks, bell, 127–128; of Jones, Lisa, 137–138; of Jones, Sarah, 138–140; of Kelley, Robin D. G., 142–143; of Neal, Mark Anthony, 175–176; of Perry, Imani, 182; of Raimist, Rachel, 198; of Reed, Ishmael, 199–200; of Rose, Tricia, 206–207 Cutting, 115 Dancing groups as alternative to gangs, 204–205 Daughter: A Novel (Bandele, 2003), 79 Davis, Anthony C., 80 Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation (Hopkinson and Moore, 2006), 81



INDEX Deejaying, 50 Detective/mystery fiction, 81–83 Dickey, Eric Jerome (1961–), 83–84 Diggs, Anita Doreen (1960–), 84–85 DMX, 89 Documentaries, 61–63, 111–112, 233–234; Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes (Hurt for Independent Lens, USA, 2006), 111–112; Style Wars (PBS, USA, 1983), 233–234 Dopefiend: Story of a Black Junkie (Goines, 1971), 85-86 Drugs and hip hop: Goines, Donald and, 85–86, 102, 103; Shakur, Afeni and, 1–2 The Dying Ground: A Hip-Hop Noir Novel (Tramble, 2001), 86–87 Dyson, Michael Eric (1958–), 12–13, 87–88 E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX (Simmons and Fontane, 2002), 89 Ebonics. See Black vernacular speech; Language Economic turmoil and hip hop’s appeal to white youth, 256–257 Education: Chuck D’s emphasis on, 60; Souljah, Sister on, 224 8 Mile (Universal Pictures, USA, 2002), 89–90 Emancipation, dialect poetry following, 19 Emceeing (MCcing), 116 Eminem (Marshall Mathers), 4–5, 89 Erotica novels, 235, 266–267; Addicted (Zane, 2001), 1–2 Essays: on Blogger and MySpace, 196; women in hip hop, concepts of, in, 123–124. See individual essay titles Explicit Content (Artemis, 2004), 90–91 Fabulosity: What It Is & How to Get It (Simmons, 2006), 92 Fanzines, 93–94; The Source Magazine, 225–226; Vibe Magazine, 248; Vibe Vixen Magazine, 249; XXL Magazine, 265 Federal Communications Commission, censorship of poem, 139 Feud between East Coast and West Coast rappers, 216, 225; media corporations transformed as marketing turf, 126 Films: Baby Boy (Columbia Pictures, USA, 2001), 6–7; Beat Street (Orion Pictures, USA, 1984), 9–10; Belly (Big Dog Films, USA, 1998), 11–12; Boyz N The Hood (Columbia Pictures, USA, 1991), 36–38; Breakin’ (Canon Pictures, USA, 1984),

39–40; Brown Sugar (20th Century Fox, USA, 2002), 44–45; 8 Mile (Universal Pictures, USA, 2002), 89–90; Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes (Hurt for Independent Lens, USA, 2006), 111–112; Hustle and Flow (Paramount Classics, USA, 2005), 129–130; Juice (Paramount Pictures, USA, 1992), 140; Just Another Girl on the IRT (Miramax, USA, 1993), 140–141; Krush Groove (Warner Bros., USA, 1985), 146; Menace II Society (New Line Cinema, USA, 1993), 163–164; New Jack City (Jacmac Films, USA, 1991), 176–177; Poetic Justice (Columbia Pictures, USA, 1993), 187; Rize (Lions Gate, USA, 2005), 204–205; Slam (Offline Entertainment Group, USA, 1998), 219; Style Wars (PBS, USA, 1983), 233–234. See also Cinema; Documentaries Flake, Sharon G. (1955–), 94–95 Flyy Girl (Tyree, 1993/1996), 95–96 From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas, 1900–2002 (Reed, 2003), 96–97 Gangs, graffiti as territorial markers of, 114 Gangsta rap. See Rap music Gays and bisexuals in black communities, 109–110 George, Nelson (1957–), 98–99 Ghetto culture, described, 68 Giovanni, Nikki (1943–), 99–100 Girls From Da Hood (Turner et al., 2004–), 101–102 Global economy and hip hop, 257 Goines, Donald (1937–1974), 102–106, 155–156, 255 Graffiti, 114; hip hop art form, as, 233–234; political expression, as, 114; subways, as canvas for, 114; territorial markers, as, 114 Graphic novels, 106–108 Guy, Jasmine, 2–3 Harlem Renaissance, 19 Harris, E. Lynn (1957–), 109–110 The Haunting of Hip Hop (Berry, 2002), 110–111 Hip hop: African American communism, contribution to, 142; as African American cultural expression, 112; as American art form, 112; art forms of, depicted in film, 10; avarice and violence not unique to American culture,

INDEX 112; commercialization of, opposition to, 207; confessional, 75–77; connecting with past through music of, 110; contradictions within, 112; culture, manifestations of, 50; as deterrent to crime, 148–149; education about, 118; elements of, 113–114; expressions of, 10; feud between East Coast and West Coast, 216, 225; feuds as normal part of culture of, 265; gender politics, concern with, 220; music, first examples of, 148; history of, 16–17, 114–116, 146; ideologies of, political and social, 123; inspirational writing, 147, 149–150; issues contested within, 112; language of, 203; literature described, 15; movie portraying positive image of, 9; misogyny of, 56, 124, 145, 259; negative attributes of, 145; as New Black Aesthetic, 221; old school versus new school, 44; pioneers of, 114, 115; as political tool, 143; religious opposition to, 227; Southern (see Braxton, Charlie); spirituality and, 226–228; split from rap, 117; stars’ lifestyle, 143–144; vernacular as resistance art, 248; video images of women in, 182; white audience of, 257; women’s bodies as marketing tools for 186; women’s claim to, 123–124 Hip Hop America (George, 1998), 112–113 Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes (Hurt for Independent Lens, USA, 2006), 111–112 Hip hop culture: elements of, 70–71; history of (see Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (Rose, 1994)); masculinity in, 81 The Hip-Hop Education Guidebook: Volume I (Runell and Diaz, edited by Roy, 2007), 118 The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture (Kitwana, 2002), 119 Hip Hop; Hiphop; Hip-Hop; Hip-hop Culture, 113–117 Hip-Hop, Inc.: Success Strategies of the Gap Moguls (Oliver and Leffel, 2006), 120 Hip Hop journalism, 3–4 Hip hop literature: black speech patterns in, 208; characteristics of, 15; criticism of literary merit of, 152–154; demand for created by rap music, 47; Goines, Donald, as early progenitor of, 26; history of, 53; themes of, 26 (see also Hip hop themes) Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement (Watkins, 2006), 121

Hip hop poetry: censorship of, 139; collective, 147–148; first lady of, 166–167; reviving interest in poetry through, 217; slam competitions of, 230; social agenda, as mode of, 212, 230; spoken, 228–230 Hip hop publishing: 50 Cent and, 48–49; Simon & Schuster, 48, 49; Stringer, Vickie M. and, 47–48; Zane, 49 Hip hop studies, 69–72, 118, 239 Hip hop themes, 213; black men, power struggle of, 67; camaraderie, 3; catalyst for change, 222; Christian, 168–169; death and life, 77; general, 2; in graphic novels, 106–108; pulp fiction, 105–106; remembrance, 77; in urban fiction, 245 Hoch, Danny (1970–), 121–122 Hokum: An Anthology of African American Humor (Beatty, 2006), 11 Holmes, Shannon, 122–123 Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology (Pough, ed., 2007), 123–124 Honey Magazine, 124–125 The Hood Comes First: Race, Space and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop (Forman, 2002), 125–126 hooks, bell (Gloria Watkins, 1952–), 127–128 Humor, African American, 11 Hunt, La Jill, 128–129 Hustle and Flow (Paramount Classics, USA, 2005), 129–130 Iceberg Slim (Robert Lee Maupin, aka Robert Beck, 1918–1992), 132–133 Iceberg Slim: The Life as Art (Muckley, 2003), 133–134 Ice-T, 176, 177 I Make My Own Rules (LL Cool J, aka James Todd Smith, 1998), 131–132 Inner city destruction, 126 Inspirational writing, 147, 149–150, 177–178 Internet: essays on, 59, 196; hip hop blogging on, 35–36; honeymag.com, 124–125; urban fiction, revived on, 245–246 Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory (Wallace, 1990), 134–135 Islam and hip hop, 226, 227 Jackson, Curtis James, III (aka 50 Cent, 1975–), 136–137 James, Kenya Jordana, 29–30 Jones, Lisa (1961–), 137–138



INDEX Jones, Sarah (1973–), 138–140 Journalism, hip hop, 3–4 Juice (Paramount Pictures, USA, 1992), 140 Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (Miramax, USA, 1993), 140–141 Kelly, Robin D. G. (1962–), 142–143 Kennedy, Erica (1970–), 143–144 Kensington Publishing Corporation, 144 Keys, Alicia, 236 Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop (Dyson, 2007), 145–146 Krumping, 205 Krush Groove (Warner Bros., USA, 1985), 146 Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman (Queen Latifah, aka Dana Owens, 1999), 147 Language: black speech patterns, 208; of hip hop, 203, 241; Hughes, Langston, use of black vernacular by, 19; linguistics studies of Elaine B. Richardson, 203; narrativizing, 247; “nigger”/“N-Word,” use of, 15, 221–222; subversive use of, 199–200; of urban fiction, 245; vernacular tradition, 247–248 The Last Poets (poetry collective), 147–148 Latifah, Queen, 147, 160–161, 194–195 Lee, Spike, 200–201 Lesbian: culture and Queen Pen, 195; Lorde, Audre, as black, 22 Let That Be The Reason (Stringer, 2001), 148–149 Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny (Harper, 2006), 149–150 Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, and God (Simmons and George, 2002), 150–151 Life Is Not a Fairy Tale (Barrino, 2005), 151–152 Literary fiction, 152–154 Literary quality and hip hop literature, 152–154 Love Don’t Live Here No More (Snoop Dogg and Talbert, 2006), 154–155 Low Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines (Allen, 2004), 155–156 Magazines: Black Girl, 29–30; Honey, 124–125; honeymag.com, 124–125; The Source, 225–226; Vibe, 248; Vibe Vixen, 249; XXL, 265 Major publishing houses, 48 Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America (McCall, 1994), 157–158

Manchild in the Promised Land (Brown, 1965), 158–159 Mayo, Kierna (1970–), 160–161 MCing, 116 McDonald, Janet (1953–2007), 161–162 Media corporations: artists’ own labels, creating to circumvent, 126; blogging to bypass, 35; commodification of black dysfunction by, 175–176; disciplining and policing roles of, 17; women’s bodies as marketing tools for, 186 Media, spoken word movement in, 229–230 Medina, Tony (1966–), 162–163 Memoirs of: Bandele, Asha, 191–192; Brown, Claude, 158–159; DMX, 89; Eminem, 4–5; Harper, Hill, 149–150; Latifah, Queen, 147; LL Cool J, 131–132; McCall, Nathan, 157–158; Shakur, Afeni, 2–3; Simmons, Russell, 150–151; Slim, Iceberg, 184–185; Souljah, Sister, 177–178; Steffans, Karrine, 75–77; X, Malcolm, 263–264 Menace II Society (New Line Cinema, USA, 1993), 163–164 Miranda, Elisha (1969–), 164–165 The Moments, the Minutes, the Hours: The Poetry of Jill Scott (Scott, 2005), 165–166 Moore, Jessica Care (1971–), 166–167 Moore, Natalie Y., 167–168 Moore, Stephanie Perry (1969–), 168–169 Morgan, Joan (1965–), 169–170 Music video, 64–65; resubjugation of women in, 182; sexism in, 250; women’s bodies as marketing tools for, 186 Myers, Walter Dean (1937–), 171–172 Misogyny in hip hop: Dyson’s excuses for, 145; passive attitude in young girls toward, 124; as way for women to engage patriarchy, 56 The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim: Robert Beck’s Real Story (Iceberg Slim aka Robert Beck, 1975), 174 Narrativizing, 247 Neal, Mark Anthony (1965–), 175–176 Neo-HooDoosim, 199 New Jack City (Jacmac Films, USA, 1991), 176–177 No Disrespect (Sister Souljah, 1994), 177–178 Novellas, 101–102 Novels, young adult, 94–95, 164–165, 171; abuse of character in, 192–193; Christian, 168–169; rap, incorporating, 172; target

INDEX audience, needs of, 238. See also Coming of age stories; Teen fiction; individual titles Old School Books Publishing (W. W. Norton, 1996–1998), 179 Oprah’s Book Club, 14 Other Men’s Wives (Johnson, 2005), 180 Owens, Dana (aka Queen Latifah), 147, 194–195 Peer culture, 157–158 Performance poetry: audience participation expected, 229; Black Arts poets’ models for, 21; themes and techniques, 21–22; venues for, 21. See also Spoken Word Movement Performance, politics of, Shakur, Tupac, 216–217 Periodicals. See Black periodical literature Perry, Imani (1972–), 182 Picture books, hip hop, 2 Picture Me Rollin’ (Quintero, 2005), 183–184 Pimp, in blaxploitation films, 32–33, 132 Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women (Sharpley-Whiting, 2007), 186 Pimp: The Story of My Life (Iceberg Slim aka Robert Beck, 1969), 184–185 Poetic Justice (Columbia Pictures, USA, 1993), 187 Poetry: of Beatty, Paul (1962–), 11; From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas, (1900–2002) (Reed, 2003), 96–97; of Giovanni, Nikki (1943–), 99–100; of The Last Poets (poetry collective), 147–148; of Medina, Tony (1966–), 162–163; of Moore, Jessica Care (1971–), 166–167; The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Scott-Heron, 1970), 201–202; of Sanchez, Sonia (1934–), 208–209; of Scott-Heron, Gil (1949–), 212–214; of Spoken word movement, 228–230; Tears for Water: A Songbook of Poems and Lyrics (Keys, 2004), 236; of Williams, Saul (1972–), 258–259. See also Black Arts movement; Black poetry; Harlem Renaissance; Hip hop poetry Postmodernism, 187–190 Powell, Kevin (1966–), 190–191 Prison: epiphany while in, 158; few available options to, for black men, 146; spouse outside of, memoir of, 191–192 The Prisoner’s Wife (Bandele, 1999), 191–192

Publication. See Business of hip hop publishing; Major publishing houses; Selfpublishing; individual publishing houses Push: A Novel (Sapphire, 1996), 192–193 Queen of the Scene (Queen Latifah aka Dana Owens, 2006), 194–195 Queen Pen (aka Lynise Walters), 195–196 Quintero, Sofía (aka Black Artemis, 1969–), 196–197; social work of, 46 Race, as social control, 256 Racial inequality, 157 Radio: Baisden, Michael, host, 7–8; The Wendy Williams Experience, 260–261 Ramist, Rachel (197?–), 198 Rap music: Black Arts movement and, 23; in blogs, 35–36; classic literature, as inspiration for, 217; classification of, 116; clothing trend of, 47; commercialization and split from hip hop, 117; contemporary patterns of, 116; cutting and scratching, 115; emceeing (MCing), 116; feminist discussion of, 17; forerunners of, 23–24; gansta, and Tupac Shakur, 216; history of, 16–17, 116, 146; lifestyle trend of, 47; “Master of Records,” 115; moguls’ traits, 120; old school versus new school, 44; reading, trend in, 47; resistance, as form of, 142; revolution in, as selfenlightenment, 202; sampling, 116; slams, described 23–24; traits of, 17; video images of women in, 182. See also Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy (Baker, 1995) Rappers, as actors, 65 Rapper wars for market share, 121 Raptivists, 40, 41 Reed, Ishmael (1938–), 199–200 Religion and hip hop, 226–228 Representing: Hip Hop Culture and the Production of Black Cinema (Watkins, 1999), 200–201 “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (ScottHeron, 1970), 201–202 Richardson, Elaine B. (1960–), 203 Ridenhour, Carlton Douglas. See Chuck D (Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, 1960–) Rivera, Raquel Z. (197?-), 203–204 Rize (Lions Gate, USA, 2005), 204–205 Roby, Kimberla Lawson (1965–), 205–206 Rose, Tricia (1963–), 206–207



INDEX Sampling, 114, 116 Sanchez, Sonia (1934–), 208–209 Sapphire (Ramona Lofton, 1950–), 210–211 Scott-Heron, Gil (1949–), 212–214 Scratching, 115 Self-help books, 92–93; advice and conduct books, 80, 136–137; common sense and, 218 Self-publishing, artists resort to when rejected, 48, 49, 205, 232 Sex, as social control, 256 Sexism in hip hop: Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism, (Collins, 2005), 27–28; in rap lyrics and video, 250 Sexuality: critique of image of black, 221; and psychological health, 1 Shaft, as blaxploitation film, 31 Shakur, Tupac Amaru “2PAC” (1971–1996), 214–217 Simmons, Earl. See DMX Simmons, Russell (1957–), 217–218 Singleton, John, 6–7 Slam (Offline Entertainment Group, USA, 1998), 219 Slams: beginning of, 230; in film, 10 Slim, Iceberg, political criticisms of, 174 Smith, James Todd (aka LL Cool J), 131–132 Social change: Black Arts poetry intended to create, 21; hip hop inspiration for, 146, 222; means to power through hip hop, 119 Society, acting out against, 157–158 Solomon, Akiba (1974–), 219–220 Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic (Neal), 220–222 Souljah, Sister (1964–), 222–224 The Source Magazine, 225–226 Spirituality and religion in hip hop literature and culture, 226–228 Spoken word album of Scott-Heron, 213 Spoken word movement, 228–230; audience participation in, 229; Beat generation, influence on, 228–229; early standouts in, 24; in the media, 229; and poetry conventions, 24; published in book and CD formats, 24; relationship to hip hop, 229; roots of, 228 Steffans, Karrine (1978–), 231–232 Strebor Books International, 232–233 Stringer, Vickie M., and self-publishing, 47–48 Style Wars (PBS, USA, 1983), 233–234 Taylor, Carol, 235 Tears for Water: Songbook of Poems and Lyrics (Keys, 2004), 236

Technology, use and repurposing in hip hop, 206 Teen fiction, 237–238; target audience, needs of, 238. See also Coming of age stories; Novels, young adult Television: black women on, negative images of, 221; Def Poetry Jam (HBO, 2002), 230; Saturday Night Live, hip hop first on, 116; sitcoms featuring black families and reality, disconnect between, 221; and spoken word movement, 229–230. See also Documentaries Themes. See Hip hop themes That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader (Foreman and Neal, 2004), 239 Thomas, Brenda L. (1957–), 239–240 Tommy the Clown’s Hip Hop Clown Academy, 205 Toxic acculturation and violence, 256 Triple Crown Publications, 48, 240–241 Tuff (Beatty, 2000), 11 Turner, Nikki (1973–), 241–242 Turntable as instrument, 115 Tyree, Omar (1969–), 242–243 “Tyronicity,” 167–168 Ulen, Eisa Nefertari (1968–), 244 Urban fiction, 67, 239–240, 245–246; African American pulp fiction, relation to, 245; versus graphic novel, 107; Internet, revived on, 245; language of, 245; Latino, 246; novellas, 101–102; print-on-demand and, 245–246; teen, 237–238, 246; themes of, 245; for young adults, 171 Us Girls, 10 Vampire Huntress series, 8–9 Vernacular tradition, 247–248. See also Language Vibe Magazine, 248 Vibe Vixen Magazine, 249 Violence: avarice and, not new in American culture, 112; black-on-black, in film, 36, 37; disregard for human life as postmodern trait, 188; Goines, Donald, literary mark of, 103; and sexual abuse, 186; toxic acculturation, as influence of, 256 Wallace, Michele Faith (1952–), 250–251 Weber, Carl (1967–), 251–252 What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture (Neal, 1998), 252–253 Wheatley, Phillis, 18–19

INDEX When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks It Down (Morgan, 2002), 253–254 White Boy Shuffle (Beatty, 1996), 11 Whites and hip hop, 52–53: youth, appeal to, 256–257 Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp (Goines, 1972), 255 Who’s Gonna Take the Weight: Manhood, Race, and Power in America (Powell, 2003), 255–256 Why White Kids Love Hip Hop: Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabes, and the New Reality of Race in America (Kitwanna, 2005), 256–257 Williams, Hype, 11–12 Williams, KaShamba, 257–258

Williamson, Lisa. See Souljah, Sister Williams, Saul (1972–), 258–259 Williams, Wendy, 260–261 Woods, Teri, 261–262 Writing collectives and workshops and black poetry, 23 X, Malcolm (Malcolm Little, El-Hajj Malik ElShabazz, 1925–1964), 263–264 XXL Magazine, 265 “Yo Little Brother” Series, 80 Zane (Kristina LaFerne Roberts, 1967–), 2–3, 266–267 Zulu Nation Crew, 10