Know What He Means?

Hip-hop gets blame for everything from violence to misogyny to homophobia. Even when a white guy spilled out a racial slur on public radio, “nappy-headed ho,” hip-hop takes the flame for it. Many, including the older generation of black people, look down on hip-hop with their bigotry instead of listening to what young black artists have to say with an open mind. In his new book, Know What I Mean? Reflections on Hip-hop, Michael Eric Dyson sets the record straight from an academic point of view. Whether his argument is on the authenticity in hip-hop (“They see and they say”), the rhetoric and language usage (Lauryn Hill rhymes: “Even after all my logic and my theory / I add a motherfucker so you ignorant niggas hear me”), or the women contradictions (“praising their mamas, slamming their babymamas”), Dyson shows his intellectual criticism and his broad of knowledge on hip-hop culture. In the intro, Jay-Z praises Dyson as someone who “started out translating between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and now he’s helping put together a world where there is only ‘us.’” In the outro, Nas sees Dyson as someone “who can give CPR to hip hop” and he’s glad that Dyson is on their side.