Ah! From the n+1 contributor (?!) and man who once brought you the famous Washington Post op-ed “Yes, Blame Hip-Hop,” comes the book version, the insanely titled Losing My Cool: How A Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture, which, wow! 15,000 books! Let’s type out some of the press release, shall we? “In Williams’ teen years,” reads the copy,
“the stakes of the hip-hop lifestyle escalated and the gap between street life and home life became ever-wider. He was accepted to Georgetown University and as his old friends remained entrenched in the value system of hip-hop–which exalted money, hoes, and clothes–Williams looked beyond it for the first time. His college classmates introduced him to new things, like wine, jazz, baguettes, and wanting to be the smartest person in the room. And Williams realized he had more to gain from being open to these things, things that his friends from home wouldn’t consider ‘real,’ than all the money his friends dreamed of earning as rap superstars.”
Somebody actually wrote that! Even the part of about wine, jazz, and baguettes! Now. With the caveat that this galley just touched down, and that the words inside may completely negate both the book’s appalling title and ridiculous press release, let’s permit ourselves to take some small amount of offense here. Hip-hop is arguably the most popular form of music on the planet; it’s certainly one of the most diverse, as anyone who has ever seen Karl Rove rap knows. And although Jay-Z did in fact once record a song called “Money, Cash, Hoes”–a pretty self-aware song, it should be said, but one that was titled “Money, Cash, Hoes” nonetheless–you pretty much have to live in a dingy, isolated cave to believe that the “value system of hip-hop” is encapsulated in those three words. Do we even need to utter the words Dead Prez here? Hopefully not.
Friends from the neighborhood since time immemorial have been trying to lead young bookworms astray. But not even Menace II Society thought that fact was rap’s fault. Poor and upwardly mobile people the world over crave money, etc.; they also crave wine, baguettes, and book learning, though my lord it’s grating to have those two aspirations set against one another. Keeping it real existed long before hip-hop. So did clowns inclined to lay genuine systemic problems at art’s doorstep. Most of them don’t have the nerve, as Williams does apparently–“among the first of his generation to measure the seductive power of hip-hop culture against its restrictive worldview, which ultimately leaves those who live it powerless,” reads the copy here–to claim they’re the first to do so. But then again, not everybody’s read 15,000 books, or had a father’s love, so who are we to say, right?