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Callaloo - Summer 2006

  • Issue Number: Volume 29 Number 3
  • Published Date: Summer 2006
  • Publication Cycle: Quarterly

Talib Kweli sums up this issue in the final interview/article when he advises, “Make sure that you acknowledge, at all times, your history, your ancestors, where you come from and what you are responsible for, what people have done, how people fought, struggled, and died to get you to where you are.” Each and every engaging and diverse perspective in Callaloo’s issue on “Hip Hop and Culture” clearly sounds off on the importance of the roots of the culture, which entails those directly and indirectly involved in the music and culture. The authors manage to establish the importance of hip hop culture’s history through a variety of interviews, photos, poetry, and articles, not to mention the great front and back cover artwork. There’s nothing like seeing a respectable journal’s title in graffiti topped equally with city and island skylines, a meeting of the urban and the earth. The roots of hip hop and its culture also find an unexpected icon in Curtis Crisler’s poem, “Elegy for Mister Rogers: In memory of Fred Rogers,” which served “as a backbeat, before Run/DMC, Eric B. and Rakim, Tupac and Biggie.” Again the dominant theme for each poet in this issue is the importance and relevance of personal and cultural history in hip-hop. Regarding the critical articles, I found Wayne Marshall’s work on sampling’s relevance in hip-hop and Ed Pavlic’s exploration of the relationship between the DJ and audience the two most captivating pieces of criticism.

All of the critical articles were definitely worthwhile for those interested in hip-hop, the African Diaspora, and/or music, but Marshall does an excellent job of discussing the insistence on “authentic hip-hop” utilizing sampling, interweaving The Roots’ drummer and music producer Ahmir "?uestlove" [pronounced "Questlove"] Thompson’s perspective, which comes from a true hip-hop band member. Pavlic’s article gives both the perspective of a participant and critic’s view of the different social and physical spaces covered as a DJ and audience interact over a night at the Red Dog club in Chicago. The interviews are the lamb’s bread of the issue, providing diverse, yet consistent, perspectives on hip-hop. We hear the female voice via interviews with rapper/lyricist extraordinaire Jean Grae, journalist/writer Joan Morgan, and writer Gwendolyn D. Pough. Because I finally bought Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek’s Reflection Eternal, the separate interviews with both artists were the personal highlights of the issue. The interviews continue to explicate the importance of knowing your personal and cultural past history while still pushing forward. R. Scott Heath states in the introduction that “hip_hop [underscore correct] studies has been, in large part, a legitimizing project—to prove that hip_hop is worthy of institutional attention,” which should no longer need to be said with the publication of respected journal issues as this.
[www.press.jhu.edu/journals/callaloo/]

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Review Posted on January 31, 2007
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