Fear of a Hip-Hop Planet

America's New Dilemma

by D. Marvin Jones


Every era of the black experience has produced an art form. The first great migration of blacks to urban centers took place in the early 20th century. It produced the blues. Another movement took place between 1970 and 2000, during which time seven million blacks relocated from the suburbs to the inner city. This last migration produced hip-hop music: an art form to express the shared experience of the black majority that has been left behind.

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Cover image for Fear of a Hip-Hop Planet

April 2013


Pages 297
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Race and Ethnicity/General

Is Gangsta Rap just black noise? Or does it play the same role for urban youth that CNN plays in mainstream America? This provocative set of essays tells us how Gangsta Rap is a creative "report" about an urban crisis, our new American dilemma, and why we need to listen.

Increasingly, police, politicians, and late-night talk show hosts portray today's inner cities as violent, crime-ridden war zones. The same moral panic that once focused on blacks in general has now been refocused on urban spaces and the black men who live there, especially those wearing saggy pants and hoodies. The media always spotlights the crime and violence, but rarely gives airtime to the conditions that produced these problems.

The dominant narrative holds that the cause of the violence is the pathology of ghetto culture. Hip-hop music is at the center of this conversation. When 16-year-old Chicago youth Derrion Albert was brutally killed by gang members, many blamed rap music. Thus hip-hop music has been demonized not merely as black noise but as a root cause of crime and violence.

Fear of a Hip-Hop Planet: America's New Dilemma explores—and demystifies—the politics in which the gulf between the inner city and suburbia have come to signify not only a socio-economic dividing line, but a new socio-cultural divide as well.


  • A chronological account of development of rap music going back to the era of slavery
  • Drawings and editorial cartoons
  • A multicultural bibliography containing sociological, historical, and legal materials
  • A glossary of many key terms such as "structural racism" and "governmentalism"


  • Depicts another side of the "culture wars" debate that shifts away from the "art" or "poison" angle back towards a conversation about the conditions that produced the music
  • Shows the deep interconnection between how urban youth are represented in the media and urban policies like the war on drugs
  • Examines how the geographic split within the black community masks a second split between two disparate cultures both claiming to be black
Author Info

D. Marvin Jones, JD, is professor of law at the University of Miami, School of Law, Coral Gables, FL. His published works include Praeger's Race, Sex, and Suspicion: The Myth of the Black Male. He has been a keynote or featured speaker for the Law and Society Association, the National Bar Association, the Florida Association of State Judges, the National NAACP convention, the National Association of Black Law Students, the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators, and many others. In 2009, Jones was recognized as one of the most influential blacks in South Florida by Success magazine.



"Jones has written a provocative, extraordinary analysis of Gangsta Rap and contemporary social conditions. . . . Highly recommended."Choice


"Professor D. Jones' new book, Fear of a Hip Hop Planet: America's New Dilemma, is informative, powerful, and enlightening. Professor Jones rebuts several criticisms of the hip hop generation and shows how hip hop impacts race, equality, and justice in America in the 21st century. This book is a must-read for those who need to better understand the hip hop generation and its role in informing America about the plight of people of African descent. I highly recommend it."—Charles J. Ogletree, Jesse Climenko Professor of Law at Harvard School of Law, Founder and Executive Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Author of The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Race, Class, and Crime in America

"D. Jones is a powerful and prophetic voice in the Age of Obama. He courageously and compassionately keeps our focus on social injustice and structural racism in America."
—Cornel West, Professor, Princeton University

"Finally, a book that illuminates the positive role of hip hop. Fear of A Hip Hop Planet puts hip hop in its political and social context. We have erased the color line, officially but we have 'raced' culture. The book shows how this brash urban art form interprets and reflects this new socio-cultural divide. This book will change the conversation from 'Is it art ?' to 'How do we bridge the chasm between the suburbs and the post-industrial ghetto?'"—F. Michael Higginbotham, Wilson H. Elkins Professor of Law and Interim Dean, University of Baltimore School of Law.

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