Blowin' Up: Rap Dreams in South Central

University of Chicago Press
Free sample

Dr. Dre. Snoop Dogg. Ice Cube. Some of the biggest stars in hip hop made their careers in Los Angeles. And today there is a new generation of young, mostly black, men busting out rhymes and hoping to one day find themselves “blowin’ up”—getting signed to a record label and becoming famous. Many of these aspiring rappers get their start in Leimart Park, home to the legendary hip hop open-mic workshop Project Blowed. In Blowin’ Up, Jooyoung Lee takes us deep inside Project Blowed and the surrounding music industry, offering an unparalleled look at hip hop in the making.

While most books on rap are written from the perspective of listeners and the market, Blowin’ Up looks specifically at the creative side of rappers. As Lee shows, learning how to rap involves a great deal of discipline, and it takes practice to acquire the necessary skills to put on a good show. Along with Lee—who is himself a pop-locker—we watch as the rappers at Project Blowed learn the basics, from how to hold a microphone to how to control their breath amid all those words. And we meet rappers like E. Crimsin, Nocando, VerBS, and Flawliss as they freestyle and battle with each other. For the men at Project Blowed, hip hop offers a creative alternative to the gang lifestyle, substituting verbal competition for physical violence, and provides an outlet for setting goals and working toward them.

Engagingly descriptive and chock-full of entertaining personalities and real-life vignettes, Blowin’ Up not only delivers a behind-the-scenes view of the underground world of hip hop, but also makes a strong case for supporting the creative aspirations of young, urban, black men, who are often growing up in the shadow of gang violence and dead-end jobs.
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About the author

Jooyoung Lee is assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Mar 23, 2016
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780226348926
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Language
English
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Genres
Music / General
Music / Genres & Styles / Rap & Hip Hop
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies
Social Science / Sociology / General
Social Science / Sociology / Urban
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Project Blowed is a legendary hiphop workshop based in Los Angeles. It began in 1994 when a group of youths moved their already renowned open-mic nights from the Good Life, a Crenshaw district health food store, to the KAOS Network, an arts center in Leimert Park. The local freestyle of articulate, rapid-fire, extemporaneous delivery, the juxtaposition of meaningful words and sounds, and the way that MCs followed one another without missing a beat, quickly became known throughout the LA underground. Leimert Park has long been a center of African American culture and arts in Los Angeles, and Project Blowed inspired youth throughout the city to consider the neighborhood the epicenter of their own cultural movement. The Real Hiphop is an in-depth account of the language and culture of Project Blowed, based on the seven years Marcyliena Morgan spent observing the workshop and the KAOS Network. Morgan is a leading scholar of hiphop, and throughout the volume her ethnographic analysis of the LA underground opens up into a broader examination of the artistic and cultural value of hiphop.

Morgan intersperses her observations with excerpts from interviews and transcripts of freestyle lyrics. Providing a thorough linguistic interpretation of the music, she teases out the cultural antecedents and ideologies embedded in the language, emphases, and wordplay. She discusses the artistic skills and cultural knowledge MCs must acquire to rock the mic, the socialization of hiphop culture’s core and long-term members, and the persistent focus on skills, competition, and evaluation. She brings attention to adults who provided material and moral support to sustain underground hiphop, identifies the ways that women choose to participate in Project Blowed, and vividly renders the dynamics of the workshop’s famous lyrical battles.

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In Top 40 Democracy, Eric Weisbard studies the evolution of this multicentered pop landscape, along the way telling the stories of the Isley Brothers, Dolly Parton, A&M Records, and Elton John, among others. He sheds new light on the upheavals in the music industry over the past fifteen years and their implications for the audiences the industry has shaped. Weisbard focuses in particular on formats—constructed mainstreams designed to appeal to distinct populations—showing how taste became intertwined with class, race, gender, and region. While many historians and music critics have criticized the segmentation of pop radio, Weisbard finds that the creation of multiple formats allowed different subgroups to attain a kind of separate majority status—for example, even in its most mainstream form, the R&B of the Isley Brothers helped to create a sphere where black identity was nourished. Music formats became the one reliable place where different groups of Americans could listen to modern life unfold from their distinct perspectives. The centers of pop, it turns out, were as complicated, diverse, and surprising as the cultural margins. Weisbard’s stimulating book is a tour de force, shaking up our ideas about the mainstream music industry in order to tease out the cultural importance of all performers and songs.
An inspirational book by self-made musical superstar, Russ, reminding you that it starts with YOU, to believe in yourself, and to get out of your own way.

Twenty-six-year-old rapper, songwriter, and producer Russ walks his own path, at his own pace. By doing so, he proved that he didn’t need a major label to surpass over a billion streams on Spotify/Apple Music, get on Forbes’ 2019 “30 Under 30,” make the Forbes‘ “30 Under 30 Cash Kings” at number 20 for most earned, sell out arenas across the U.S. and around the globe, and become one of the most popular and engaged rappers right now. His method was simple: love and believe in yourself absolutely and work hard no matter what. In this memoir, Russ inspires readers to walk to their individual rhythms and beat their biggest obstacles: themselves.

With chapters named after his most powerful and popular songs, IT'S ALL IN YOUR HEAD will reflect on the lessons he’s learned from his career, family, and relationships. He’ll push readers to bet on themselves, take those leaps of faith, and recognize struggles as opportunities. With illustrations throughout consistent with the brand Russ has built and his fan base loves, IT'S ALL IN YOUR HEAD will give readers an inside-look at the man and the motivation behind the music. A lover of books like The Alchemist and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Russ delivers a short, potent, inspirational, raw, and honest book that gives readers a way to find self-belief and unlock their potential. Fans already rely on Russ as an inspiration of confidence; now, he is taking it to the next level with this book, which will contain lyrics from his music and visuals that reflect his inimitable style.

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A panoramic experience that tells the story of Beastie Boys, a book as unique as the band itself—by band members ADROCK and Mike D, with contributions from Amy Poehler, Colson Whitehead, Spike Jonze, Wes Anderson, Luc Sante, and more.
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Rolling Stone • The Guardian • Paste  

Formed as a New York City hardcore band in 1981, Beastie Boys struck an unlikely path to global hip hop superstardom. Here is their story, told for the first time in the words of the band. Adam “ADROCK” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond offer revealing and very funny accounts of their transition from teenage punks to budding rappers; their early collaboration with Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin; the debut album that became the first hip hop record ever to hit #1, Licensed to Ill—and the album’s messy fallout as the band broke with Def Jam; their move to Los Angeles and rebirth with the genre-defying masterpiece Paul’s Boutique; their evolution as musicians and social activists over the course of the classic albums Check Your Head, Ill Communication, and Hello Nasty and the Tibetan Freedom Concert benefits conceived by the late Adam “MCA” Yauch; and more. For more than thirty years, this band has had an inescapable and indelible influence on popular culture.
 
With a style as distinctive and eclectic as a Beastie Boys album, Beastie Boys Book upends the typical music memoir. Alongside the band narrative you will find rare photos, original illustrations, a cookbook by chef Roy Choi, a graphic novel, a map of Beastie Boys’ New York, mixtape playlists, pieces by guest contributors, and many more surprises.

Praise for Beastie Boys Book

“A fascinating, generous book with portraits and detail that float by in bursts of color . . . As with [the band’s] records, the book’s structure is a lyrical three-man weave. . . . Diamond’s voice is lapidary, droll. Horovitz comes on like a borscht belt comedian, but beneath that he is urgent, incredulous, kind of vulnerable. . . . Friendship is the book’s subject as much as music, fame and New York.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Wild, moving . . . resembles a Beastie Boys LP in its wild variety of styles.”—Rolling Stone 

“As nutty, irreverent, and fun as you think it would be.”—Vogue

“As freewheeling and funny as their albums . . . a beautifully messy (and large) talisman containing within it many of the great joys and surprises that come with listening to the Beastie Boys”—The AV Club
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