Pimps Up, Hos Down!

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“Hip-hop culture is no more or less violent and sexist than other American cultural products,� Sharpley-Whiting argues.


In the wake of Don Imus being fired for his racist comments about Black women, there have been renewed complaints in certain African-American circles about gangsta rap for its similar demeaning depictions of females. Therefore, you probably couldn’t ask for a more timely release of a book than “Pimps Up, Ho's Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women� by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting.

Its author, a model-turned-professor and director of the African-American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University, not only has her finger on the pulse, but shares a cornucopia of novel insights here. Most folks are already familiar with the well-aired complaints about hip-hop by such monitors of American culture as Stanley Crouch and Bill O’Reilly. What makes Ms. Sharpley-Whiting unique is not only that she’s a Black female but that she admits to being conflicted as a fan of the controversial genre.

Capable of dissecting the subject from the inside out and from a variety of angles, she serves up a string of salient insights in the process, such as when echoing Imus’ self-defense that gansta’ rap is merely a reflection of generally-accepted values. “Hip-hop culture is no more or less violent and sexist than other American cultural products,� she argues. “However, it is more dubiously highlighted by the media as the source of violent misogyny in American youth culture.�
Highly recommended as a seminal tome likely to usher in a promising new era of honest intellectual debate about the imminent head-on collision between hip-hop and emerging, black feminist thinking.      

Pimps Up, Ho's Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women. by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting. NYU Press. Hardcover, $22.95. 206 pages. ISBN: 0-8147-4014-9

Excerpt from the Prologue (pg. xviii):  “I believe we have reached a fascinating, and predictably retrogressive, moment in American pop culture regarding class, gender, and race. As a member of the Hip-Hop Generation, I am continually intrigued by the ways in which hip-hop sets the tone for how women, myself included, think and act...
This is not a book that chronicles rap lyrics and sexism. That line of inquiry has been vigorously pursued and will continue to be a touchstone for dialogue about hip-hop generation men and misogyny… Rather Pimps Up, Ho's Down aims to cast the net wider and deeper…
The book addresses the male-dominated culture of hip-hop and the various ways in which young black women connect with that culture… I recognize that the madness visited upon Hip-Hop Generation black women comes as much from their own communities as from without.
Sexual vilence, sexism, beat-downs, sexual dishonesty, anti-lesbianism, and the legacy of color prejudice all hammer away at self esteem… This book attempts to explicate where hip-hop culture contributes to these distinctly female difficulties.�

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