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Pimps Up, Ho's Down

24 Sep 2007

Book cover

Book Review: Pimps Up, Ho's Down: Hip Hop's Hold on Young Black Women

by T. Sharpley-Whiting (Author)

“I believe we have reached a fascinating, and predictably retrogressive, moment in American pop culture regarding class, gender, and race. As a member of the Hip-Hop Generation, I am continually intrigued by the ways in which hip-hop sets the tone for how women, myself included, think and act...

This is not a book that chronicles rap lyrics and sexism. That line of inquiry has been vigorously pursued and will continue to be a touchstone for dialogue about hip-hop generation men and misogyny… Rather Pimps Up, Ho's Down aims to cast the net wider and deeper…

The book addresses the male-dominated culture of hip-hop and the various ways in which young black women connect with that culture… I recognize that the madness visited upon Hip-Hop Generation black women comes as much from their own communities as from without.

Sexual vilence, sexism, beat-downs, sexual dishonesty, anti-lesbianism, and the legacy of color prejudice all hammer away at self esteem… This book attempts to explicate where hip-hop culture contributes to these distinctly female difficulties.”

- Excerpted from the Prologue (pg. xviii)

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In the wake of Don Imus being fired for his insensitive comments about black women in the months past, there have been renewed complaints in certain African-American circles about gangsta rap for its similar demeaning depictions of females. Therefore, you probably couldn’t ask for a more timely release of a book than Pimps Up, Ho's Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting.

Its author, a model-turned-professor and director of the African-American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University, not only has her finger on the pulse, but shares a cornucopia of novel insights here. Most folks are already familiar with the well-aired complaints about hip-hop by such monitors of American culture as Stanley Crouch and Bill O’Reilly. What makes Ms. Sharpley-Whiting unique is not only that she’s a black female but that she admits to being conflicted as a fan of the controversial genre.

Capable of dissecting the subject from the inside out and from a variety of angles, she serves up a string of salient insights in the process, such as when echoing Imus’ self-defense that gansta’ rap is merely a reflection of generally-accepted values. “Hip-hop culture is no more or less violent and sexist than other American cultural products,” she argues. “However, it is more dubiously highlighted by the media as the source of violent misogyny in American youth culture.”

Highly recommended as a seminal tome likely to usher in a promising new era of honest intellectual debate about the imminent head-on collision between hip-hop and emerging, black feminist thinking.

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