The Nightmare and The Dream: Reviews and Endorsements

by Dax-Devlon Ross

 

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The Nightmare and the Dream charts new ground in analyzing the impact of hip-hop on African-American political culture.  By going beyond a mere inquiry into the dynamics of hip-hop in the post-Civil Right era-a limiting perspective that a majority of contemporary hip-hop works fall prey to-Ross goes back in time to the nineteenth-century and locates a recurring phenomenon that has continued into the twenty-first century.  The Dyad Syndrome of dual conflicting political leaders has plagued black communities from the era of Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany to the life and times of W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan.  According to Ross, this syndrome haunts the Weltgeist, or world-spirit, of hip-hop as well, whether we talk of the tensions between Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur, East Coast and West Coast rappers, or artists such as Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown.  Ross provides a moving narrative that weaves in and out of well-known black figures in addition to musicians and politicians whose lives have been disavowed in historical memory.  Select figures represent archetypes of a “Dream” vision full of the Horatio Alger story in blackface, while others embrace a nihilistic conception of the “Nightmare” reflecting the realities of rampant injustices facing black agents since the founding of the American republic.  So where do we go from here?  With Du Bois’s ideas of double-consciousness and second sight serving a mediating role, Ross details the tensions and ultimate public reconciliation between Jay-Z and Nas as a prime example of how hip-hop, like black politics, can progress forward positively, in solidarity, despite the obstacles.  Ross’s final tale is not a nihilistic one such as that of the mythical Sisyphus, bound forever to repeatedly push rocks up a hill only eventually to fall down.  The Nightmare and the Dream uniquely spells out a radical existential injunction made famous recently by Toni Morrison, Cornel West, and Barack Obama: hope can result after we come to terms with the dialectics of partisan conflict.  Dax-Devlon Ross’s brilliant textual achievement is a must read for anyone concerned with the future of hip-hop, African-Americans, and new directions in late modern America as a whole.”

 -Neil Roberts, Williams College

 Co-Editor of the CAS Working Papers Series in Africana Studies

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