Positive young artist tries to show the way forward for oppressed African-Americans.
Asante (Creative Writing/Morgan State Univ.; Beautiful. And Ugly Too, 2005, etc.) joins the throng of idealistic young academics, black and white, desperate to find messages of hope and change amidst the monotonous bluster and carnage of much hip-hop. He dutifully trots out lyrics from artists who don’t fall into gangsta clichés, such as the Roots and ghetto-insurrectionists Dead Prez, the latter interviewed at length. He rightly bemoans the way in which hip-hop’s calls for change have been swallowed by the white-owned consumerist maw. He’s also correct in noting the ways in which the modern media-corporate-government Panopticon creates a near-inescapable matrix of oppression, from racist drug laws to for-profit prisons, that keeps black America in the ghetto. Unfortunately, Asante is a mere echo chamber of other people’s ideas, which he doesn’t present especially well. His sloppiness of thought begins with the book’s thesis—the “post hip hop generation” is hardly ever identified, much less shown to exist outside the author’s hopeful imagination—and continues throughout. He scatters lazy generalizations as he leaps among such hot-button topic as the Rockefeller drug laws, police racism and white ownership of rap labels. He offers little in the way of coherent argument, instead simply stringing together paraphrases and references so that one quote contends with another quote. There may be a post-hip-hop generation of activists out there, ready to lead the charge for change, but Asante has certainly not located or identified it.
The right message, blurred to near illegibility by misdirected energies.