A Guest in the House of Hiphop: How Rap Mu­sic Taught a Kid from Ken­tucky What a White Ally Should Be

Mickey Hess Ig Pub­lish­ing (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $17.95 (252pp) 978-1-63246-077-6

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Nonfiction - MERED­ITH GRAHL COUNTS

One thing is for sure, Mickey Hess has done his home­work for A Guest in the House of Hip-hop, in which he records try­ing to be a good am­bas­sador as he am­pli­fies black voices and schol­ar­ship.

The ti­tle draws upon the work of rap­per Lord Ja­mar, who says that white rap­pers—as vis­i­tors to, rather than orig­i­na­tors of, the art—must re­spect the cul­ture. Hess meshes hip-hop schol­ar­ship with vivid, some­times self-skew­er­ing sec­tions of me­moir. His per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences are ex­am­ples of try­ing to be a good ally in academia and rap crit­i­cism.

Hess re­calls learn­ing about race, es­pe­cially while grow­ing up in a small and very white town in the South. Re­cur­ring broad and per­sonal top­ics carry through­out the book’s chap­ters, mak­ing it co­he­sive and con­ver­sa­tional. Racist gaffes in the news and what white rap­pers get away with are noted, and early men­tions of Wu Tang Clan’s Ol’ Dirty Bas­tard later con­nect to an en­tire chap­ter about coau­thor­ing a bi­og­ra­phy with ODB’S long­time friend Bud­dha Monk.

Great sources ex­pand the dis­cus­sion, ex­plor­ing is­sues in the class­room and in me­dia. They draw upon clas­sic and con­tem­po­rary writ­ers on race and black cul­ture and quote rap­pers, most of­ten Hess’s friend Traum Diggs, along­side other hip-hop au­thor­i­ties.

Thought-pro­vok­ing points are raised. Hess de­clares that it’s not right for white pro­fes­sors to leave dif­fi­cult think­ing about race and cul­ture to peo­ple of color and says that it’s equally im­por­tant that white peo­ple who teach and pub­lish hip-hop schol­ar­ship work un­der black peer re­views and over­sight. Hess never seems to se­ri­ously con­sider quit­ting the genre, but he ques­tions whether he has a right to his role in it.

A vivid and timely me­moir, A Guest in the House of Hip-hop asks im­por­tant ques­tions and of­fers great leads for fur­ther lis­ten­ing and reading to­ward white ally­ship.

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