Beats, Rhymes, and Life: What We Love and Hate About Hip-Hop

“Beats, rhymes, and life is where the marriage is” to quote the Common man himself. Kenji Jasper and Ytasha Womack have gathered a team of superhero writers to comment on what they love about Hip-Hop, what they hate about Hip-Hop, and what may never change among the twain. They tackle every issue about this disputed yet beloved genre: the bling, the dancefloor, the rhyme, the image—everything that stirs in this boiling cauldron of culture. Each writer approaches his or her piece, not as a removed intellectual, but as a diehard fan in remission. In between their essays are dynamic interviews with a range of guests from conscious folks like Mos Def and Professor Robin Kelley to controversial heads like Uncle Luke and Heather Hunter. The writers on Beats, Rhymes, and Life: What We Love and Hate About Hip-Hop (Harlem Moon) definitely think outside the rhyme cipher. Their essays do not stab the issues to death; rather they look at traditional arguments about the integrity of Hip-Hop from fresh lenses. For example, the piece “The Disgruntled Fan” by Faraji Whalen examines rap’s frontline images like The Pimp, The Superthug, The She-Man and assesses how much damage they cause on account of their portrayal not-so-favorable of African Americans. Kenji Jasper’s piece, “The Evidence of Caps of Once Peeled” is a reminiscent tale of his first enchantment with Hip-Hop (via recounts of bullets found on his childhood playground) infused with lessons du jour for today’s confused generation. The common thread that these stories share is that they share personal relationships with Hip-Hop as the respective writers struggle through their proverbial falling out with the path the music has taken.Beats, Rhymes, and Life is very understandable. Many pieces in the book are very friendly and conversational. “The Floor,” written by People Magazine writer Bob Meadows recounts his days as a b-boy slash dance spectacle. He makes no hesitation retelling his days of break dance grandeur prefacing his tale with, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.” Even Imani Dawson’s piece on turntablism, arguably one of the nerdiest elements in Hip-Hop, has a fresh and fashionable wit to it. Mark Allwood contributes a humorously candid piece, “The Buzz” about his run-ins with Hip-Hop boomboxes and the almighty marijuana.The book’s stylized cover (painted portraits of Nelly, Mos Def, and Lauryn Hill) will attract those folks itching for another pop culture release. Yet, once the book is open and pieces by William Jelani Cobb and Scoop Jackson pop out, its substantial content from this Random House is quite pervasive. Beat, Rhymes, and Life gives a glimpse into why folks still have such a lifelong tie with Hip-Hop without the aid of a microphone.