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Stare in the Darkness

The Limits of Hip-hop and Black Politics

2011
Author:

Lester K. Spence

Stare in the Darkness

Critiquing the true impact of hip-hop culture on politics

A growing number of black activists and artists claim that rap and hip-hop are the basis of an influential new urban social movement. Simultaneously, black citizens evince concern with the effect this culture exerts on their communities. Considering the prolific and prominent activities of hip-hop politics, Lester K. Spence reveals the political consequences of rap culture for black publics.

In Stare in the Darkness, Lester K. Spence brings an essential degree of clarity and precision to our understandings of popular culture and political expression. This book is engaging and nuanced, and it will enrich in an original fashion our understanding of hip-hop as well as black politics.

Richard Iton, author of In Search of the Black Fantastic: Politics and Popular Culture in the Post-Civil Rights Era

Rap’s critique of police brutality in the 1980s. The Hip Hop Political Convention. The rise (and fall) of Kwame Kilpatrick, the “hip-hop mayor” of Detroit. Barack Obama echoing the body language of Jay-Z on the campaign trail.

A growing number of black activists and artists claim that rap and hip-hop are the basis of an influential new urban social movement. Simultaneously, black citizens evince concern with the effect that rap and hip-hop culture exerts on African American communities. According to a recent Pew survey conducted on the opinions of Black Americans, 71 percent of blacks think that rap is a bad influence. To what extent are African American hopes and fears about hip-hop’s potential political power justified? In Stare in the Darkness, Lester K. Spence answers this question using a blend of neoliberal analysis, survey data, experiments, and case studies.

Spence finds that rap does in fact influence black political attitudes. However, rap also reproduces rather than critiques neoliberal ideology. Furthermore, black activists seeking to create an innovative model of hip-hop politics are hamstrung by their reliance on outmoded forms of organizing. By considering the possibilities inherent in the most prolific and prominent activities of hip-hop politics, Stare in the Darkness reveals, in a clear and practical manner, the political consequences of rap culture for black publics.

Awards

2013 Du Bois Best Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists

Stare in the Darkness

Lester K. Spence is assistant professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University.

Stare in the Darkness

In Stare in the Darkness, Lester K. Spence brings an essential degree of clarity and precision to our understandings of popular culture and political expression. This book is engaging and nuanced, and it will enrich in an original fashion our understanding of hip-hop as well as black politics.

Richard Iton, author of In Search of the Black Fantastic: Politics and Popular Culture in the Post-Civil Rights Era

Stare in the Darkness offers brilliant insight into the political realities of contemporary black life. More importantly though, Stare in the Darkness is remixed, chopped and screwed in ways that hip-hop heads will certainly love and more than a few social scientists will find great value in.

Mark Anthony Neal, coeditor of That’s the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader

Stare in the Darkness demonstrates that Spence can look at the subject matter objectively and critically, while still relaying his findings in a matter that is easy to understand.

Scratched Vinyl

It’s a provocative thesis, persuasively argued, that expands our understanding of how politics are embedded in popular culture.

Johns Hopkins Magazine

Stare in the Darkness

Introduction: Follow Me into a Solo
1. In This Journey You’re the Journalist: Rap Lyrics, Neoliberalism, and the Black Parallel Public
2. A Little Knowledge Is Dangerous: Consuming Rap and Political Attitudes
3. Follow the Leader: Hip-hop Activism and the Circulation of Black Politics
4. Put Here to be Much More than That: The Rise and Fall of Kwame Kilpatrick
Conclusion: Obama and the Future of Hip-hop Politics
Acknowledgments
Appendix A. Political Platforms for the Hip-hop Social Action Network (HSAN) and the Black Panther Party
Appendix B. National Hip-hop Convention (NHHPC) Agenda, 2004
Appendix C. Top Hip-hop Albums for the Week of Dec. 1, 2006
Appendix D: Ownership of Top Market Urban/Urban Adult Contemporary Radio Stations
Notes
Bibliography
Discography
Index