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December 25 , 2010

Other People's Property

A Shadow History of Hip-Hop in White America


Over the last quarter-century hip-hop has grown from an esoteric form of African-American expression to become the dominant form of American popular culture. Today, Snoop Dogg shills for Chrysler and white kids wear Fubu, the black-owned label whose name stands for "For Us, By Us." This is not the first time that black music has been appreciated, adopted, and adapted by white audiences-think jazz, blues, and rock-but Jason Tanz, a white boy who grew up in the suburban Northwest, says that hip-hop's journey through white America provides a unique window to examine the racial dissonance that has become a fact of our national life. In such culture-sharing Tanz sees white Americans struggling with their identity, and wrestling (often unsuccessfully) with the legacy of race.
To support his anecdotally driven history of hip-hop's cross-over to white America, Tanz conducts dozens of interviews with fans, artists, producers, and promoters, including some of hip-hop's most legendary figures-such as Public Enemy's Chuck D; white rapper MC Serch; and former Yo! MTV Raps host Fab 5 Freddy. He travels across the country, visiting "nerdcore" rappers in Seattle, who rhyme about Star Wars conventions; a group of would-be gangstas in a suburb so insulated it's called "the bubble"; a break-dancing class at the upper-crusty New Canaan Tap Academy; and many more. Drawing on the author's personal experience as a white fan as well as his in-depth knowledge of hip-hop's history, Other People's Property provides a hard-edged, thought-provoking, and humorous snapshot of the particularly American intersection of race, commerce, culture, and identity.
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