Friday, June 12, 2015

Hip Hop Books as Shields

That's the Joint! and other hip-hop related books a student brought to the meeting.

Since I follow scholarly discussions on African American popular culture and music, Mark Anthony Neal's work has been moving around in my circles and mind for about a decade now. I assumed I had a good handle on the ways folks might draw on his work. I was wrong.

Yesterday, I was surprised, amused, and then pleased to encounter the use of his work as a potential shield.

In this summer Institute that I work with for undergraduates, the program founder and I were meeting with individual students to talk about their research projects. They had written abstracts, and we were meeting to ask follow-up questions. Sometimes, students feel anxiety about going through this kind of process, which I suppose feels like "a defense."

Well, one participant had apparently wanted to be prepared just in case we questioned the legitimacy of her project on hip hop and Islam. So when she entered the room, rather than carrying a notebook like all the other participants, she came in holding a copy of That's the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader edited by Mark Anthony Neal and Murray Forman.

Now, That's the Joint! is not a small book. It's 776 pages. It's a hefty work.

The student sat the book on the table between herself and my colleague and me.

"Ohhh snap, lil sister," I said reaching for Forman and Neal's book. "You came prepared. You brought this as your shield, to protect you in case we questioned your project?"

"Unh-hunh," she said and then began pulling a few more books out of her bag. She told me that her mentor Sonja Lanehart had purchased the books for her. What generosity! And the student decided to bring them to the meeting "just in case." 

I assured her she should have no worries, and no need to use her shield. She was in friendly territory. Still, I was pleased to see that she viewed these particular books as a mode of protection. Some people carry knives; some carry guns; this lil sister showed up with a book co-edited by Mark Anthony Neal.

Mark Anthony Neal 

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