A collection of stories, biographical sketches, and cultural critiques that describe the impact of hip-hop, from journalist Hinds.
It was the sheer primal joy and mental stimulation of hip-hop that pulled Hinds into the music’s orbit when he started to write about it for the Village Voice and then through various postings at The Source, of which he eventually became editor-in-chief. What makes his work so refreshing and insightful is his love of music rather than celebrities, of lyrics that swarmed with “nation consciousness,” of “Afro-bohemianism, inner-city defiance, and . . . stridently militant narratives.” He loved the homegrown cultural product, and he mourned its surrender. “[The] idea of a politically conscious group of hip-hop radicals achieving great commercial success seems, well, radical,” says Hinds. “Hip-hop has grown comfortable in its nineties success, comfortable in aping the money and material-obsessed boom mentality.” It was a revolution that yielded to the seduction of the marketplace. Hinds scrutinizes the minds of those he found captivating—Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, Andre Young, Sean Combs—and the results are almost always far indeed from the newspaper headlines. But Hinds isn’t about to sweep the violence under the rug, preferring to understand its context before lamenting its results. Street credibility is much of what hip-hop is about: “The streets are the people and places from which an MC springs. The streets birth you. Certify and validate you. Protect you. Crucify you.” They can also kill you faster than any record industry executives, who have their own stake in the commerce of violence, namely, the profits that attend trafficking in urban pathologies. Also of interest is the wild frontier atmosphere that made and unmade The Source, where members of rap groups were not averse to getting physical with writers and editors to receive favorable treatment.
Full of angels and demons. An alert take on hip-hop’s trajectory.