Prophets of the Hood

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Prophets of the Hood

Academic books about popular music rarely get it right but Imani Perry’s Prophets of the Hood does a better job than most, in part because she follows Henry Louis Gates’ example laid out by The Signifying Monkey: Use the jargon when necessary, then prove the music itself does a better job of conveying the same complex ideas.

Perry’s a law professor at Rutgers, but she’s also a hip-hop head, so she gets the music right. Drawing as frequently on Jay-Z and Eve as she does on more “progressive” rappers like KRS-One and Mos Def, she demonstrates that consciousness isn’t just the domain of the polite, and that we dismiss gangsta rap at our own—and by that, I mean our nation’s—peril.