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Black Noise
Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America
Tricia Rose


1994 • 257 pp. 10 illus. 4 figs. Map. 6 x 9"
Music / African-American Studies / Cultural Studies

$22.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-6275-3

“Necessary reading for pundits, professors, and politicians, but most of all, for those who love hip-hop's rhymes and reasons.” —Michael Dyson, Village Voice Rock 'n' Roll Quarterly

A comprehensive look at the lyrics, music, cultures, themes, and styles of rap music.

From its beginnings in hip hop culture, the dense rhythms and aggressive lyrics of rap music have made it a provocative fixture on the American cultural landscape. In Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America, Tricia Rose, described by the New York Times as a "hip hop theorist," takes a comprehensive look at the lyrics, music, cultures, themes, and styles of this highly rhythmic, rhymed storytelling and grapples with the most salient issues and debates that surround it.

Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and History at New York University, Tricia Rose sorts through rap's multiple voices by exploring its underlying urban cultural politics, particularly the influential New York City rap scene, and discusses rap as a unique musical form in which traditional African-based oral traditions fuse with cutting-edge music technologies. Next she takes up rap's racial politics, its sharp criticisms of the police and the government, and the responses of those institutions. Finally, she explores the complex sexual politics of rap, including questions of misogyny, sexual domination, and female rappers' critiques of men.

But these debates do not overshadow rappers' own words and thoughts. Rose also closely examines the lyrics and videos for songs by artists such as Public Enemy, KRS-One, Salt N' Pepa, MC Lyte, and L. L. Cool J. and draws on candid interviews with Queen Latifah, music producer Eric "Vietnam" Sadler, dancer Crazy Legs, and others to paint the full range of rap's political and aesthetic spectrum. In the end, Rose observes, rap music remains a vibrant force with its own aesthetic, "a noisy and powerful element of contemporary American popular culture which continues to draw a great deal of attention to itself."

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Reviews / Endorsements

“Exactly the kind of down-and-dirty research linking life and art that most pop culture study lacks . . . Too few journalists (never mind professors) have examined such issues as the impact of insurance costs at arena on the progress of hip hop performance. Rose's greatest strength is something that's still shockingly rare among academics: a firm grounding in reality.”Vibe

Black Noise is a treasure trove of information on the early days of hip-hop in the South Bronx. Rap fans will marvel at the illustrations of 1979-vintage handbills for Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa’s Zulu Nation.”Rolling Stone

“Rose presents in Black Noise a fiercely intelligent analysis of the most misunderstood and misrepresented cultural and artistic practice in America today . . . It has something to teach all students of popular culture; for readers fascinated or confounded by rap, Rose's arguments are pursuasive and eloquent.”San Francisco Review of Books

“No more loose-headed talk about rap and hip hop! From now on, all discussion starts here with Black Noise, a crucial book about a culture that has also become a new kind of social movement. In her shrewd focus on both the details and the big picture, Rose moves us miles further down the road in our thinking about the politics of popular culture.”Andrew Ross


Winner of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation (1995)

TRICIA ROSE is a professor of Africana Studies at Brown University and author of numerous articles on black culture, rap music, and contemporary popular culture.

Thu, 6 Sep 2018 11:04:09 -0500