The Root: For Your Holiday Reading List
Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-Hop and Black Politics, Lester K. Spence, (University of Minnesota Press)
The American tradition of political protest songs runs rich and deep. Think of Billie Holiday ("Strange Fruit"), Woody Guthrie ("This Land Is Your Land"), Pete Seeger ("If I Had a Hammer"), Bob Dylan ("Blowin' in the Wind") and James Brown ("Say it Loud -- I'm Black and I'm Proud"), to name only a few. According to Spence, much of hip-hop falls right into this cultural heritage -- from the very beginning, hip-hop artists were criticizing the way things were and calling for change. Some of them delighted people; some of them frightened people. But whether hip-hop did the one or the other, it became a powerful cultural and political force.