A respectful tribute to the controversial and important musical form hip-hop from Fernando, a writer for The Source magazine. Stitched together with youthful enthusiasm from journalistic accounts, textual research, interviews, and song lyrics, the book gives basic information for uninitiated readers as well as rich material for devotees, and responds to hip-hop's critics. Fernando covers a lot of ground -- from Jamaican ""toasting,"" a precursor of modern-day rapping, to the birth of deejaying and rapping in the Bronx -- as he explores hip-hop's economic, political, and cultural context: urban poverty, drugs, racism, media controversy. Overall, Fernando thinks, ""America now stands in the midst of a renaissance of black culture, propelled to a large degree by the energy of hip-hop."" He credits the music with raising black consciousness, spurring community activism, and giving young black men from the streets a legitimate way to make a living. Fernando defines basics like ""scratching"" (a technique of manually moving the record with the needle in the groove to create a scratching noise), then goes into greater depth, for instance, explaining that the now-standard technique was pioneered by a 13-year-old working with Grandmaster Flash. However, the author's focus is limited and lopsided. A self-described purist, he prefers ""authentic"" hip-hop to ""co-opted"" or ""mainstream"" music not aimed at the ""core audience"" of urban black males; thus he discusses at length rapper KRS-ONE and the group EPMD as well as Public Enemy and NWA. But Fernando ducks many tough questions about the machinations behind the huge and profitable business of turning these groups' messages into mass-market products. Also missing almost completely are jazz-influenced and more intellectually oriented hip-hop, female rappers, and any group or artist not from California or the East Coast. A commendable effort, but lacking in perspective, offering more insider tidbits and accolades than analysis.
Pub Date: Sept. 9, 1994
Page Count: 336
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994
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