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5.0 out of 5 starsDense, Clever, Fun, Informative
Reviewed in the United States on August 10, 2016
Wallace and Costello, a matching I had no idea even existed until seeing this book pop up among DFW's other works after ordering Pale King, wrote a great lil book of open-ended arguments and riff off of each other's love for hip-hop in the late 1980's. Learned a lot about Schooly D, and plenty of cleverly written anecdotes are bound within these pages. Great little argument by Costello regarding the sampling of the theme song for "I Dream of Geannie" in a Public Enemy (I think it was them? Now I can't remember if it was them or DJ Jazzy Jeff. Probably neither) song and how this doesn't show any barriers are being broken down between opposite communities i.e. Black people cherry picking theme songs from sitcoms intended for a primarily white audience to show how they aren't particularly different in finding their tastes, but rather is an example of how alien these communities are to one another. Either way, great read, and fascinating if you're into dense prose on the subject of hip-hop across the nation in the late 80's. Enjoy!
Reviewed in the United States on February 15, 2015
Oddly prescient. The text is a little tortured, especially as DFW is attempting to wrap his gift for deep insight and reconcile it with a sentence structure he would later master, but it's a worthwhile read. Especially when you realize how little things have changed over the years; this could be a 33 1/3 book spanning a genre published in 2015.
A very fascinating read. Its great to read anything by David Foster Wallace and this is no exception. I particularly enjoyed the extended introduction by co-writer Mark Costello which provided excellent insight to the two writers' lives at the time of writing this as well as their process.
Not a masterpiece by any means but still a worthwhile read. The authors give us a glimpse into the world of rap when it was entering it's heyday. Gives you an insightful (yet always) an outsiders point of view. Interesting read.
This is a very wordy book written by a couple of late 20-year-olds who possess great knowledge of the English language and of hip-hop. This is written in the late 1980s, and as such, it's a great testament of both culture and music of the day, in the USA.
The authors collaborated on the whole, but each chapter is written individually.
All in all: surgical precision when it comes to the authors' use of grammar and words, but at times the intellectual level of the book is its biggest downfall. "Stoopid fresh" isn't exactly it, when I got the feeling that this book was partly written as an intellectual exercise to impress peers, rather than to explain hip-hop and rap (which I don't hold as synonymous, despite the authors wishing to do so).
However, it does contain a lot of great insight into hip-hop, displaying it as "CNN for black people", to paraphrase Chuck D., also as the Shakespearian poetry of the now - and, indeed, during the 1980s.
I have read the other reviews on this book and they are overwhelmingly positive. So I am not sure what it is that I am missing. This is my first introduction to David Foster Wallace and his writing style, so I am not sure if this book is typical of his work or not. Perhaps it is an acquired taste? Maybe his other works are different? Let me first state that I am a huge fan of hip-hop and rap and as such was excited to get this book and read more about the genre and its origins. As a West Coast teen in the late 80's N.W.A. and Ice-T were constantly playing on my Walkman. So I am definitely a fan of the music and genre as a whole. The book: I am not sure how to express my disappointment with this book. I do not have the words to properly convey how horrible the reading experience was for me. I recognize that the co-author Costello openly admits that his book is a collection of essays by DFW and they put the book together after the fact, so that may contribute to the challenges I had with this book. But the material reads like a sociologist's jumble of field notes and observations. The thoughts are rarely coherent or build one upon the next. The writing style is frantic and just overwhelmingly long-winded. I am not an English or Literature teacher, so I am not an expert when it comes to syntax, grammar, punctuation, and proper writing conventions but it does not take a scholar to recognize that this book is a mess. There are run-on sentences that go on and on full of circular reasoning that just muddy the waters and confuse the topic at hand. The author often diverges off of the topic to bring in other elements in order to prove a point or offer background on the social climate of the time. The stories themselves are fine, but they are too long and presented in a way that detract from the main topic: RAP. As one other reviewer wrote, there are paragraphs upon paragraphs about an I Dream of Jeannie sequence during the race riots in Tampa. The story just goes on and on and the author writes his own fantasy episode reflecting the attitudes and mindset of the black population in Florida. The sequence is just too long and goes beyond the point of adding relevant information. There are several other instances that the author brings in stories to establish a point, but the stories just go on and on and fill pages for the sake of filling pages. I get it, Rap music was not born in a vacuum. In order to truly understand early Rap we need to understand what these artists were facing in society and the challenges they dealt with. The angst of social injustices of those times, the lack of Punk Rock's ability to properly express or represent the plight of the Black Man... That is essential to understanding the story line and evolution of Rap, but the author does such a poor job of weaving these stories seamlessly into the book. This is my biggest challenge with this book. There is no unifying story here. There is nothing that ties one chapter to the next. There is no progression or building of an actual story. When I finished, I did not feel as though I read a book, but rather spent 3 days trudging through the ramblings of Rap fan, not the work of an esteemed author.