Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement
by S. Craig Watkins
Beacon Press, 288 pp., $24.95
"You love to hear the story again and again, of how it all got started way back when." Taking MC Shan's infamous words to heart, UT professor Craig Watkins traces hip-hop's legacy from its roots as a localized, cultural phenomenon to its current rendering as an international public commodity. Distinguishing hip-hop as first and foremost a youth movement, Watkins accentuates the contrast between its current constituency and an older generation fanatically bound to the Democratic party by way of civil rights protectionism. Pointing to the political sovereignty of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick as a beacon, Hip Hop Matters foresees a future establishment that will inevitably be forced to come to terms with the genre's expanding black-and-brown constituency. Whether it's Bay area activists fighting in a failed attempt to defeat California's anti-juvenile Proposition 21 or the women of Spelman College speaking out against the rising tide of misogyny in rap, Watkin's forecast calls for the seedling concerns of today's most estranged communities to sprout into tomorrow's top priorities. By cultivating the full revolutionary potential of hip-hop as an autonomous abstract, informational cipher, and organization tool, the lofty ideals of such pop culture crackpots as KRS One and Chuck D may very well come to pass. Then again, P. Diddy couldn't even manage to rock the vote.