Book Review: Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation

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by Natalie Hopkinson and Natalie Y. Moore

    Publication Date:
    List Price: $14.95
    Format: Paperback, 264 pages
    Classification: Nonfiction
    ISBN13: 9781573442572
    Imprint: Cleis Press
    Publisher: Cleis Press
    Parent Company: Cleis Press
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    Book Reviewed by Kam Williams

    ’Hip-hop, whose entire aesthetic, at least as promulgated on cable and Radio, seems to be based on the world's oldest profession; all men are pimps and all the women are hos. As a whole, the Hip-Hop Generation has found prostitution to be an apt metaphor for American capitalism, which’ has taken the literal and figurative pimping of black culture to new depth’
    ’Excerpted from Chapter 6, The Pole Test

    It's too bad that a book as good as this one would have as misleading a title and cover photo as Deconstructing Tyrone. The authors, Natalie Hopkinson and Natalie Y. Moore, obviously had a sense that there was a problem, because they devoted most of their introduction to explaining the meaning of ’deconstruction’ and the derivation of the word Tyrone (Greek for ’king’) before explaining that Tyrone isn't a individual, or even one type of black man, but ’an abstract idea’ which ’tends to evoke a range of emotions.’

    But both Natalies more than make up for that distracting digression by following it up with a superb, thorough, and intellectually honest examination of the present-day African-American male. Leaving no stone unturned, the two assess how such phenomena as homophobia, the incarceration rate, brothers on the down-low, abandonment by baby-daddies, gangsta’ rap's influence, academic underachievement and underemployment have contributed to what they see as an unfortunate schism between brothers and sisters.

    Self-described feminists, with impressive journalistic credits on their resumes, Moore and Hopkinton structure the book by taking turn writing chapters. Nonetheless, Deconstructing Tyrone reads seamlessly, and with a clarity in terms of tone and a singularity in perspective, as if the work of one person.

    So, the only issue is whether you're ready to hear these sage social scientists weigh-in about how ’black women have developed coping strategies' in dealing with their ’tortured relationship’ with hip-hop. For example, they are not exactly fond of Nelly for sliding a credit card through the anal cleft of a dancer as if he's paying her for sex in his music video ’Tip Drill.’

    The fundamental question the book raises repeatedly, but in a myriad of ways, is ’How can you love your culture, hip-hop, but love yourself, too?’  Can a self-respecting black woman embrace the typical black male in spite of the gender frictions without capitulating and accepting the ’video ho’ label?

    Overall, the authors are surprisingly optimistic in their conclusions, since they ostensibly see their own fates as inextricably linked to African-American mates, though they remain resolute in their refusal to be defined as sex objects to be impregnated and abandoned.

    An excellent, urgent opus designed to initiate a healthy, long-overdue debate about the prospects and direction of the Hip-Hop Generation by exposing its prevailing male imagery as unacceptably misogynistic, and as more emasculated than macho.

    Natalie Hopkinson, Photograph by Marvin Joseph
    Natalie Y. Moore Photograph by Regina Boone.


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