S. Craig Watkins is associate professor of radio-TV-film, sociology, and African American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. He lives in Austin, Texas.
Beneath the glitz and glut of mainstream hip-hop, there's an underground movement of "conscious rap," political angst and an anticapitalist ethos that would make even Bill Gates throw his hands in the air. That conscious rap is what Watkins, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, champions in this solid book. It's an ambitious attempt to cover a culture that began in the late '70s and is now an almost universal influence on global youth. Watkins wisely chooses to focus on what has not been said-like that it was a 43-year-old woman who produced hip-hop's first hit, "Rapper's Delight," or that hip-hop lit is one of the fastest-growing markets in book publishing. He tells his version of hip-hop's history in lyrical prose, often mirroring the rhythms and wordplay of the music he's discussing. He doesn't assert an overt thesis, but it's clear he believes that the more conscious, political hip-hop (think Common instead of Fifty Cent) is what has the potential to revolutionize youth, and by extension, America. This is undoubtedly a book for fans, but it is also an intriguing look at how hip-hop has become part of a universal cultural conversation. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Watkins (African American studies, Univ. of Texas, Austin) reveals the growing influence of hip-hop on American culture. After a brief description of the birth of commercial hip-hop on Sugarhill Records in 1979, he dives into the gangsta rap of the 1990s, convincingly demonstrating the corporate presence and pervasiveness of rap by 1998, with platinum record sales and clothing lines such as FUBU. He then focuses on the issues that have surfaced during the last decade, devoting chapters to the themes of race and rap, made most obvious by the popularity of white rapper Eminem, the impact of the Internet on the music of hip-hop pioneers like Chuck D. of Public Enemy, and the influence of hip-hop on local and presidential politics exemplified by the activity of Russell Simmons and Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The author ends with a section on the emerging intelligentsia of the genre with the hip-hop literature of Vickie Stringer and the street smarts of KRS-ONE. Offering a fast-moving and well-researched book, Watkins successfully unearths some of the disturbing and encouraging implications of hip-hop culture. Recommended for general readers and more sophisticated fans of cultural history and sociology.-Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Watkins wisely chooses to focus on what has not been said . . . [and] tells his version of hip-hop's history in lyrical prose, often mirroring the rhythms and wordplay of the music he's discussing. This is undoubtedly a book for fans, but it is also an intriguing look at how hip-hop has become part of a universal cultural conversation. -Publishers Weekly
"Offering a fast-moving and well-researched book, Watkins successfully unearths some of the disturbing and encouraging implications of hip-hop culture." -Library Journal "Quite an exposition of all things hip-hop." -Mike Tribby, Booklist "Watkins well understands the challenges facing the nascent hip-hop political movement."--Adam Bradley, Washington Post "Watkins sets his tome apart with a meticulous attention to the facts . . . He leaves few stones unturned examining the endless influence of hip-hop on the world around us, always with a critical eye."--URB "Watkins's study is the best yet on the hip-hop industry. Watkins has provided nothing less than a political economy of hip-hop, one that doesn't shy away from the dirty business hip-hop has become . . . He's also attentive to the way hip-hop was affected by the appalling rates of incarceration and AIDS in black communities." --Greg Tate, The Nation "With Hip Hop Matters, S. Craig Watkins establishes himself as one of the most insightful observers and critics of hip hop culture."--Michael Eric Dyson