Books by Jr. Baker

Released: June 15, 1993

From former M.L.A. president Baker (English and Black Studies/University of Pennsylvania): four essays in defense of Black Studies and rap that tend to grow muddled and slip from your grasp. ``Black Studies: A New Story'' offers a superficial glance at what brought Black Studies into being (``What was required...was a revocabularization of academic discourse'') and at how the new discipline was greeted by the establishment (``What generally occurred...was moral panic as a function of territorial contestation''). In ``The Black Urban Beat: Rap and the Law,'' Baker sees rap as a way ``to provide sometimes stunning territorial confrontations between black urban expressivity and white law-and- order.'' This last being arguably a false dichotomy doesn't keep Baker from concluding—after a faintly unified meditation on urban space, rappers 2 Live Crew, and the Central Park jogger case—that ``Positive sites of rap represent...a profitable, agential resource for an alternative American legality.'' Meaning becomes increasingly obscured as the essays move on and Baker hides behind yet more words. The uncertain merits of 2 Live Crew are little clarified by his assertion that the group ``is less a causal site of agency than a single point of imbrication in an intricate social (and preeminently materialist) narrative.'' Rap, Baker concludes (``Hybridity, Rap, and Pedagogy for the 1990s''), ``is now classical black sound,'' but the claim isn't strengthened by the sound of the essayist's own reasoning—as in the following parenthetical definition en route to his conclusion: ``By postmodern I intend the nonauthoritative collaging or archiving of sound and styles that bespeaks a deconstructive hybridity. Linearity and progress yield to a dizzying synchronicity.'' Ideas worth hearing—and knowing—more about. But, on balance, Baker offers here a float across jargon-choked shallows. Read full book review >