In this controversial look at the impact of cutting-edge black urban culture on contemporary America, Dr. Todd Boyd, the man CNN deemed “the hip-hop professor,” uses the intertwining worlds of basketball and hip hop as a powerful metaphor for exploring the larger themes of race, class, and identity.
In the 1970s, as a direct result of both the civil rights and the black power movements, black popular culture became a visible, influential presence in mainstream film, television, music, and sports. Basketball, in particular, reflected the changing landscape. The NBA came to be dominated by young black men whose potent combination of fame and wealth, often coupled with a defiance of white mores, profoundly disrupted the status quo. At the same time, hip hop music was emerging from the streets of New York City. An expression of and a response to urban conditions, it served as a way of being heard when many other forces attempted to suffocate the black voice. It, too, aroused strong reactions.
In Young, Black, Rich and Famous, Todd Boyd chronicles how basketball and hip hop have gone from being reviled by the American mainstream to being embraced and imitated globally. For young black men, he argues, they represent a new version of the American dream, one that embodies the hopes and desires of those excluded from the original version. Shedding light on both perceptions and reality, Boyd shows that the NBA has been at the forefront of recognizing and incorporating cultural shifts—from the initial image of 1970s basketball players as overpaid black drug addicts, to Michael Jordan’s spectacular rise as a universally admired icon, to the 1990s, when the hip hop aesthetic (for example, Allen Iverson’s cornrows, multiple tattoos, and defiant, in-your-face attitude) appeared on the basketball court. Hip hop lyrics, with their emphasis on “keepin’ it real” and marked by a colossal indifference to mainstream taste, became an equally powerful influence on young black men. These two influences have created a brand-new, brand-name generation that refuses to assimilate but is nonetheless an important part of mainstream American culture.
A thought-provoking examination of basketball and music—“the two rarefied spaces where the most fundamental elements of blackness are articulated and played out, both internally and for the masses”—Young, Black, Rich and Famous brilliantly captures a culture and a sensibility that are at once unique, influential, and sometimes intimidating to so many.
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Page for page, this slim volume is a powerful and provocative history of modern basketball and how issues of race, class and popular culture have played out both on and off the basketball court.| Read Full Review of Young, Black, Rich and Famous...
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