Nelson George - Hip Hop America


I always have a hard time trying reviewing non-fiction books and this could easily turn into my personal musings about hip hop and what it meant to be growing up in post communist Poland listening to hip hop. Being born in 1982 in still communist Poland I missed out on the beginnings of movement but joined happily as soon as I could.
Nelson George’s book fills the gaps for me – whoever heard of DJ Hollywood? – about how it all started.

The book sounds more like a sentimental journey through the history of hip hop rather than anything encyclopaedic. And, of course, George defends the genre as much as he can. He does it quite logically and sometimes I had to rethink my position (for example I – gasp! – can see some merit in gangsta rap now). Thankfully he is not trying to justify the misogyny of so many hip hop records because I would have to lower my rating considerably. As it is, it is a decent 3 – 3.5 star effort. It feels more like an introduction, as it is only about 200 pages long but gives a good idea about what hip hop was in the 80’s and the first half of the 90s.

It also investigates all the connections hip hop has made whether in fashion, film making or general visual arts. At the time when the book was written hip hop had already started selling out. Now it is just pimping itself to the limits. It has sadly turned from a movement into a product but on the positive note, it hasn’t died.

George closes the book with this sentence:
“One day in the year 2005, 2010, 2020, all this fun and fury will seem as antiquated as spats and big bands do to us “. Well, it is 2010 and it doesn't seem so. Hip hop is very much alive and kicking. And there is still quality to it but as it is often the case, you have to dig deeper underground now.