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Our generation made hip-hop. But hip-hop also made us. Why are suburban kids referring to their subdivision as “block”? Why has the pimp become a figure of male power? Why has dodging the feds become an act of honor long after one has made millions as a legitimate artist? What happens when fantasy does more harm than reality?—From the Introduction
Hip-hop culture has been in the mainstream for years. Suburban teens take their fashion cues from Diddy and expect to have Three 6 Mafia play their sweet-sixteen parties. From the “Boogie Down Bronx” to the heartland, hip-hop’s influence is major. But has the movement taken a wrong turn? In Beats Rhymes and Life, hot journalists Kenji Jasper and Ytasha Womack have focused on what they consider to be the most prominent symbols of the genre: the fan, the turntable, the ice, the dance floor, the shell casing, the buzz, the tag, the whip, the ass, the stiletto, the (pimp’s) cane, the coffin, the cross, and the corner. Each is the focus of an essay by a journalist who skillfully dissects what their chosen symbol means to them and to the hip-hop community. The collection also features many original interviews with some of rap’s biggest stars talking candidly about how they connect to the culture and their fans. With a foreword by the renowned scholar Michael Eric Dyson, Beats Rhymes and Life is an innovative and daring look at the state of the hip-hop nation.