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by Touré

Pub Date: July 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-316-66643-2
Publisher: Little, Brown

Hip-hop culture gets both glorified and sent up, sometimes in the same sentence, in a debut collection by essayist and Rolling Stone contributing editor Touré.

Cruising between real New York and mythical Soul City, riffing on real stuff and craziness, Touré takes on bogus preachers, television, Black Panthers, Black American princesses, white idiocy, dreams of glory, prep schools, ebonics, clubs, cutting-edge chic, and hundreds of other bits and pieces of contemporary urban life and death in 24 mostly fast-moving pieces—pieces that are usually stories but sometimes just wild long lists. Perhaps writing about ghetto fabulousness demands excess, and most of the time it works. Opening with the lovely Steviewondermobile, Touré follows Huggy Bear Jackson as he smooths through downtown Soul City in his 1983 Cadillac Custom Supreme convertible with its $25,000 Harmon Kardon sound system, followed by his posse of four in their own cars, filling the air with Stevie Wonder. The superpowerful electronics of the sound system are more than the aged car can take, and the show grinds to a halt regularly until a fresh battery can take over. Huggy Bear is just one part of the parade that fills Freedom Avenue, taking music to the streets, but he’s a star. As is the Right Revren Daddy Love, pastor of the Church of Kentucky Fried Souls, oversized, oversexed and, when he starts flying, over the congregation. Equally stellar is the Black Widow, a DJ and black power queen who started off as just another Park Avenue preppie. William Safire disciples will revel in Afrolexicology Today’s Bi-Annual List of the Top 50 Words in African-America, and hipsters-in-training will find help in Blackmanwalkin and The African-American Aesthetics Hall of Fame, or 101 Elements of Blackness (Things That’ll Make You Say : Yes! That There’s Some Really Black Shit!). Progressive English teachers are sure to get mileage out of the thematic linkage provided by Satan, who shows up in various disguises.

Agreeably shocking, sharply perceptive, quite funny.