September Book Review: Hip-Hop & Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason Edited by Derrick Darby & Tommie Shelby

Hip-Hop and Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason (Popular Culture and Philosophy) Edited By: Derrick Darby & Tommie Shelby 

This book was written in 2005 and I knew from just reading the title that it would be a great addition to our curriculum. It begins with a foreword by Dr. Cornel West that sets the tone for the rest of the book. This book has multiple contributing authors such as Joy James and Rodney C. Roberts. The book takes a look at the philosophy of Hip Hop Culture and how it permeates the music and how we interact with each other on a daily basis. There was considerable thought when creating this works as it dawns a graffito cover and even the language in the book uses Hip Hop jargon without coming across corny or unauthentic. The fact that there are sixteen different authors would lead one to think that a work may lack continuity. Every contributing author provided detailed examples that involve critical thinking. The book starts off with a warning telling its readers that practicing any of the elements is not an easy task and requires a level of skill if it is to be executed properly. 

The book has five sections with three sub-sections or chapters each besides the final section as it contains four sub-sections. The first chapter debates religion in Hip Hop and the usage of the word ‘God’ and how religion exists within the culture. Followed up with a discussion on the conflicting messages between real life relationships and the type of relationships depicted in the lyrics of Rap music. The chapter that closes the first section of the book brings up the unofficial fifth element of Hip Hop, the knowledge. Author Mitchell S. Green breaks down the thought process of someone in moral dilemmas and the difficulty in making choices for ones wellbeing. The first section alone is what we try to do with our students upon their initial enrollment in the program. We strive to remove all previous cognitions that negatively impact the thought process. In order to make a real difference in the life of the reader or student you as an author or teacher have to remove all personal insecurity about their abilities and the abilities of others

It continues on to mentions topics that really need to be looked at when it comes to maintaining the integrity of the culture. The other authors touch on feminism, capitalism, violence, and politics within the culture and how it is translated through the music. One of my favorite section has to be ‘Word Up! Language, Meaning, and Ethics’. Lyrics are the all important aspect of the music that’s how the message is communicated to the listener. The meaning of lyrics, the intention, and the persona versus the real person behind the public image. This chapter questions the authenticity of the artist and the message they’re trying to communicate to the audience. It interprets the type of message the artist is trying to convey and whether it is to be taken seriously or for entertainment purposes and how to differentiate between the two types of messages as well as being able to identify a public persona versus the actual person.

You may find yourself questioning some of your own behaviors after reading this book. I’ll be honest some people may have to read this book twice to totally digest everything that was included but that’s just like listening to a good Hip Hop album you won’t get everything on the first spin. If you are a philosophy instructor I definitely recommend this as a leisurely read and classroom usage. As a parent you can read this book and engage your teen in intimate conversation. It will allow you to see what type of person your child is and give you the opportunity to parent on a more intimate level. I recommend this book for anyone looking for a good read, something on a deeper level, especially for those who enjoy philosophy or any behavioral science such as psychology.

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