Somebody Scream!

Title: Somebody Scream!: Rap Music’s Rise to Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power
Author: Marcus Reeves
Publisher: Faber & Faber, Inc.
ISBN: 0571211402
Date: 2008

While hip hop music is known for many things, some good and some bad, often overlooked is its politics. Like other forms of Black music, hip hop has always reflected socio-political issues and the ideas of Black Americans. In Somebody Scream!: Rap Music’s Rise to Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power, Marcus Reeves explores hip hop’s political nature over the course of 300 pages.

A native of New Jersey, Reeves is a journalist who has followed hip hop since its early days and has professionally covered the music for over fifteen years. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, and Vibe, among others. He was also deputy music editor at The Source and a columnist for Russell Simmons’ One World magazine.

Reeves features a number of major hip hop artists in his effort to demonstrate how rap music was “a unifying expression for the post-Black Power generation and, eventually, the world” (xi). Artists such as Run-DMC, N.W.A., Tupac, and Eminem are the means by which Reeves discusses hip hop’s political nature. Particularly compelling is the chapter on Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Death Row Records titled “Gangsta Chic.” In it, Reeves discusses how Death Row crafted the atmosphere and attitudes of the post-1992 L.A. Riots era into commercial music that revolutionized the hip hop market. Reeves does an excellent job of presenting how Death Row records was situated within the context of a volatile, urban Los Angeles.

While context is definitely one of the strong points of the book, it is also of the problems. In many of the chapters, Reeves provides unnecessary historical information regarding the artists he features. For example, the founding of N.W.A. has already been rehashed numerous times, so the inclusion of these details seems redundant and somewhat unimportant to the overall scope of the book. This is a minor distraction, however, and takes little away from the book. Reeves is very successful in presenting hip hop as an artistic manifestation of the political ideals of the post-Black Power generation.

Overall, Somebody Scream! is very informative and engaging, and provides a different lens through which one can view this often maligned and misunderstood culture. This book is recommended to both scholars and fans of hip hop music and culture.

Posted by Langston Collin Wilkins

Ice Cube: In the Movies

icecube_in_movies.jpgTitle: Ice Cube: In the Movies
Artist: Ice Cube
Label: Priority Records
Catalog No: 09463 97253 28
Date: 2007


Ice Cube is one of the most legendary figures in hip hop music and culture. With N.W.A., Cube laid the foundation for gangsta rap. As a solo artist, he took rap music to new heights with his booming voice and chilling social commentary. Another avenue in which Cube has made a significant impact is film-as an actor, screen writer, director, and musician. Over the last fifteen years, he has made many notable contributions to the soundtracks of his own films as well as others. Ice Cube: In the Movies is a Priority release that compiles Cube’s best soundtrack work into a single disc.

The CD opens with Ice Cube’s three most commercially successful soundtrack singles, “You Can Do It” from Next Friday (2000), “We Be Clubbin” from The Player’s Club (1998), and “Natural Born Killaz” with Dr. Dre from Murder Was the Case (1994). After the lackluster “Anybody Seen the Popo’s” from XXX State of The Union (2005), his gangsta rap classics “Friday” from Friday (1995) and “How to Survive in South Central” from Boyz N The Hood (1991) are included back to back. The well-written and grossly overlooked “Ghetto Vet,” from I Got the Hookup (1998), kicks off the second half of the album. “Higher” from Higher Learning (1995) and the classic “Trespass” with Ice-T from Trespass (1992) rounds out the disc.

Aside from minor sequencing issues, there is nothing wrong with this compilation. Priority Records did a solid job of amassing Ice Cube’s best soundtrack work. In a genre where artists typically give their most mediocre songs to soundtracks, Ice Cube’s material stands out. Over the last few years, rappers Eminem and Three Six Mafia have won Oscars for their contributions to film soundtracks.1 Ice Cube: In the Movies proves that Ice Cube set the standard for hip hop soundtracks and deserves a lifetime achievement award if one is ever created for this category.

Posted by Langston Collin Wilkins

[1] On March 5, 2006, Three 6 Mafia made history as they became the first Black music group to win an Academy Award for Best Song and also became the first hip hop artists to ever perform at the ceremony. The group was nominated for the song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from the Hustle & Flow soundtrack. This marked only the second time a rap act has won an Academy Award, following Eminem in 2002. -cf. Wikipedia.