Between God and Gangsta' Rap
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Between God and Gangsta' Rap : Bearing Witness to Black Culture

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A former welfare father from the ghetto of Detroit, Michael Eric Dyson is today a critic, scholar, and ordained Baptist minister who has forged a unique role: he is a compelling spokesman for the concerns of the black community, and also a leader who has a genuine rapport with that community, particularly with urban youth. In his essays, lectures, sermons, and books, he has emerged as one of the leading African-American voices of our day. Dyson's passion for contemporary black culture informs Between God and Gangsta' Rap, his latest foray into the ongoing debate about African-American identity which embraces the hopes of the church and the cool reality of hip-hop. Bringing together writings on music, religion, politics, and identity, and offering a multi-faceted view of black life, the book charts the progress of Dyson's own soul, from his roots in the Detroit ghetto, to his current status as a Baptist minister, professor, cultural critic, husband, and father. Dyson opens with a letter to his brother, who is serving life in prison on a murder charge. This painful piece reveals a violence in the author's own family that sets the tone for themes that will emerge throughout these writings: violence on the black body and soul; the redemptive power of hope through school, church, and family; sexuality as a source of anguish and of joy; and the struggle with entrenched white racism. There is a section of wonderful profiles Dyson calls "Testimonials"-studies of black men, from O.J. Simpson to Marion Barry, and from Baptist preacher Gardner Taylor to Michael Jordan and Sam Cooke. In "Obsessed with O.J.," Dyson offers an extremely personal and insightful series of reflections on the case. In "Lessons," Dyson takes up the subjects of politics and racial identity. Newt Gingrich and moral panic, Quabiliah Shabazz, Carol Moseley Braun, the NAACP, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X all figure in these insightful and accessible pieces. And "Songs of Celebration" draws from Dyson's writings for the popular press such as Rolling Stone and Vibe, and explores the joys and pitfalls of black expression, from the black vernacular bible to gospel music, R & B, and hip-hop. Dyson concludes with an essay framed as a letter to his wife, which offers a positive counterbalance to the opening address to his brother. The letter serves as a tribute to the redemptive powers of love, the black family, spirit, and change. Arguing that the richness of black culture today can be found in the interstices-between god and gangsta' rap-Dyson charts the progress and pain of African Americans over the past decade, showing that brilliance and beauty, pain and drudgery are components of this changing culture. As a compendium of his thinking about contemporary culture Between God and Gangsta' Rap will find a wide audience among black and white readers.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 240 pages
  • 134.62 x 198.12 x 12.7mm | 272.15g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0195115694
  • 9780195115697
  • 1,987,119

Review quote

"Michael Eric Dyson is one of those rare intellectuals who actually manages to keep in touch with the real world. In Between God and Gangsta Rap, he demonstrates that he has his finger on the cultural pulse of this sick country of ours. In the wake of a conservative movement that is launching yet another assault on our humanity, we need serious black thinkers and warriors to counteract that madness. This brother is one of them-he's a street fighter in suit and tie."-Nathan McCall, author of Makes Me Wanna Holler "Few books have spoken to me as powerfully and embracingly as this one by Michael Eric Dyson. It stirs the emotions, clarifies thought, moves the heart with its intimacies, incites the passions with its love of humanity, and animates the spirit with its breathtaking implicit conception of religion. Reading it was for me an intimate education in values and sensibility. I wish its many revelations of wisdom could reach those who lead our society and who need its compassionate insights and cautious, perceptive judgments."-Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, Soul Mates, and Meditations "These essays represent Dyson at his best, showing us his special affinity for black popular culture, his perspective as a minister, and his clear powers of analysis. He is the best of the new generation, and everyone interested in black culture-especially young people-will want to own this book."-Henry Louis Gates, Jr. "Michael Eric Dyson has given us a penetrating, thoughtful book on many of the issues confronting society today: families and raising children, crime and punishment, politics and poverty, racial tensions and the need to keep the lines of communication open. Insightful and challenging, Between God and Gangsta Rap has an important message for all of us."-Marian Wright Edelman, President, The Children's Defense Fund "In a country such as ours, divided as it is by race, gender, class, and ideology, our best hope lies in listening to voices such as Michael Eric Dyson's. An academic who is unafraid to speak accessibly to a mass audience, a preacher who is unafraid to talk about the power of faith to a skeptical elite, a writer about masculinity who is unafraid to engage compassionately with feminism, and a black American who chooses to speak across the color line, he embodies the ideal public intellectual for our time: translator, boundary-breaker, and healer of a war torn culture."-Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth and Fire With Fire "Among the young black intellectuals to emerge since the demise of the civil rights movement and the rise of white conservatism, undoubtedly the most insightful and thought-provoking is Michael Eric Dyson."-Manning Marable, Professor of History and Director of African-American Studies, Columbia University "A lucid...stimulating roundup of op-eds, reviews, and articles about books, music, people, and politics."-Publishers Weekly "In his latest collection of essays, Between God and Gangsta Rap, this provocative scholar...talks the talk about terrain as varied as Carol Moseley Braun's rise to power, the O.J. Simpson trial and Public Enemy's political relevance."-Essence "One of our most important black intellectuals limns the lives of black Americans with subtle, lucid rigor....Dyson's discussion ranges across the complexities of class, race, and gender, touching on politics, personalities, music, and the culture wars....Synthesizing the disparate poles of the sacred and the secular, men and women, 'high' culture and 'low,' Dyson's wisdom is a needed antidote to the poisons of racial hatred and gender inequality ever present in our lives."-Kirkus Reviews "This is the most up-to-date analysis of the signs and signifiers of black America."-Might "If you're a member of the hip hop community who's fed up with critics attacking the genre and villifying its artists, Michael Eric Dyson's latest book, Between God and Gangsta Rap, provides long-sought-after relief. In this insightful collection of essays, Dyson...explores and celebrates all facets of black culture, from the critical role of preachers to the brilliance of Chuck D. Most importantly, Dyson's words flesh out how our lives are defined 'between the secular and the sacred,' and probe conditions that cause gangsta rap's anger. This brother's sermon is a must-read."-Shani Saxon, Vibe "Nervous parents, educators, and others with an interest in future generations and in racial and class hatred would do well to read this thoughtful assessment of a controversial aspect of current popular culture."-Booklist "Thought-provoking opinions from an articulate professor."-Booklist "Michael Eric Dyson is one of a fast-growing group of black essayists who set themselves the...task of pondering the nation's fast-growing racial crisis.... Mr. Dyson is most effective when recalling the kind of hard life few of his counterparts know from the inside."-The New York Times Book Review "Between God and Gangsta Rap collects Dyson's newspaper and magazine articles from the last few years, setting in one compact volume work from venues as disparate as Rolling Stone and The Christian Century.... Eclectically jumping from profiles of Michael Jordan...to the Rev. Gardner Taylor,...Dyson provides an expertly composed snapshot of contemporary African-American life."-Newsday "A provocative collection of essays on black culture.... Dyson is one of a group of contemporary black writers, including bell hooks, Cornel West, and Derrick Bell, who are forging what might be called a new canon of inclusion."-Christopher John Farley, Time "A poignant series of essays on the Black experience which raises the hip hop and rap scenes to collective worthiness for intellectual discourse."-The Indianapolis Recorder "[Dyson] has an incredible ability to reach people."-Robin Kelly, New York University, in The Chronicle of Higher Education "The media love Mr. Dyson, perhaps because there are so many sides to him.... At 37, he is one of the youngest stars in the firmament of black intellectuals.... Because of his ease with both the street and the academy, he is viewed as one of the most important voices of his generation."-The Chronicle of Higher Education "Minister, university professor and a father at 18, Michael Eric Dyson explores the issues facing black men today in his lively Between God and Gangsta Rap.... Dyson's writing possesses an enviable energy and an ability to mesh influences that include everything from Shakespeare to Public Enemy."-USA Today "Michael Eric Dyson is...one of our most compelling spokesmen for the concerns of the Black community today."-Black History "[Dyson's] love and appreciation for the astonishing medley of African-American culture is obvious and his wide-ranging knowledge of its many forms makes him a fitting guide."-Trenton Timesshow more

About Michael Eric Dyson

About the Author: Michael Eric Dyson is an ordained Baptist minister, Director of the Institute of African-American Research, and Professor of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of the widely acclaimed Reflecting Black: African-American Cultural Criticism, and Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X. His most recent publication is race Rules: Navigating the Color Line.show more

Rating details

76 ratings
3.76 out of 5 stars
5 25% (19)
4 37% (28)
3 28% (21)
2 11% (8)
1 0% (0)
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