Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Book Review: "Music…like Life, is a Struggle"





I think we each come to appreciate music not solely for the way that it makes us feel, but because of the inherent struggle that it comes to represent. In some way a chord, lyric, and in this case a break beat come to represent so much more than a song...it can symbolize a particular moment in one's life or an entire lifetime. Music is transformative in that way. If you speak to the earliest blues musicians they would tell you that the blues was something much bigger than a song, but represented the joys and the pains of life. It was not just a musical genre, but also the very essence of an expressive culture. The latest incarnation of American music--hip-hop is no different. Born from similar oppression and injustice, hip-hop was the child borne of the oppressive public policies and the urban decay of the South Bronx in New York City. Hip-hop and its associative culture is truly what Tupac called, "The Rose the Grew from Concrete."

In "It's Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop's First Latino DJ," Ivan Sanchez and Luis "DJ Disco Wiz" Cedeno demonstrate how one of the first roses grew from the hard unforgiving concrete of the South Bronx. Sanchez and Cedeno (DJ Disco Wiz) take you on a voyage that exemplifies the beautiful, ugly, fragile, and precious aspects that are the tracks of the album that is DJ Disco Wiz's life.

History, I am often reminded, is not just about events, places, or particularly people by themselves. History does not occur in a vacuum, but it is the very interconnectivity of events, places, and people that are the fabric of history, and in a successful biography you get a glimpse of how the subject is affected by the changes in the world around them, and also you see their place as a historical actor. Sanchez and Cedeno are able to masterfully accomplish such a synthesis of story telling, history, and memoir. Whether discussing the infamous 1977 New York City blackout's reciprocal effects in the Bronx or the 9/11 attacks, you are thrust into the life of DJ Disco Wiz in a very real way.

What is truly wonderful about this book is that it unabashedly is HIP-HOP. It baptizes the reader with the destructive forces that turned America's urban centers into ethnic ghettos and their inhabitants into survivors who still fight and scrape to not only survive, but also maintain their humanity in circumstances that many of us cast a blind eye to--even if we came from those same unforgiving streets. It's Just Begun is not simply just some hip-hop remix of an Horatio Alger story, but DJ Disco Wiz's life embodies the raw, unedited, mind numbing funk that hip-hop can be, while simultaneously encapsulating the love of family, community, and self.

In a time where so called hip-hop intellectuals pontificate and theorize about the impact of the music and culture and largely only pay attention to singular aspects of hip- hop culture--namely rapping--DJ Disco Wiz lays a template down just like the "mix plates" that he and Curtis "Grandmaster Caz" Fisher created in his apartment for their shows. While it is important to make space in the academy for hip-hop, we must listen to the voices of the people that were there, no different than we cherish and pay homage to freedom fighters of social movements or the lions of jazz and the kings and queens of the blues. If you claim to "love" hip-hop, this book must be purchased and read.
           
 (Hangin' out with legends in 2008 at Cornell University's Hip-Hop Conference; (l to r) DJ Disco Wiz, Negrointellectual, Grandmaster Caz/Casanova Fly, & DJ Tony Tone)
           

3 comments:

Ivan Sanchez said...

This is a great review of a wonderful piece of Hip Hop, Bronx, New York and Latino History... Thanks for the love brother!

One Love, Ivan Sanchez

Anonymous said...

This week on Basic Black, America’s longest running television show addressing issues facing the black community our panelists look at the right-to-life movement in African American communities and discuss a recent report revealing the stunning racial disparities in wealth and the worth of a black woman. Tonight our panelists are: Latoyia Edwards, New England Cable News; Kim McLarin, writer-in-residence, Emerson College; Peniel Joseph, professor of history, Tufts University; and Rev. Irene Monroe, syndicated columnist. TUNE IN to our live Broadcast at 7:30pm EST at www.basicblack.org and on Channel 2 in Boston.

NYtimes

Anonymous said...

This week on Basic Black, America’s longest running television show addressing issues facing the black community our panelists look at the right-to-life movement in African American communities and discuss a recent report revealing the stunning racial disparities in wealth and the worth of a black woman. Tonight our panelists are: Latoyia Edwards, New England Cable News; Kim McLarin, writer-in-residence, Emerson College; Peniel Joseph, professor of history, Tufts University; and Rev. Irene Monroe, syndicated columnist. TUNE IN to our live Broadcast at 7:30pm EST at www.basicblack.org and on Channel 2 in Boston.

Creative Commons License
Negrointellectual by Vernon C. Mitchell, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.negrointellectual.blogspot.com.