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Dead Precedents by Roy Christopher review: how hip-hop and cyberpunk hijacked culture

A Chicago academic makes a spirited argument for two movements that marked the start of the 21st century

In an infamous Newsweek cover story in March 1990, beneath the strapline “Rap Rage”, journalist Jerry Adler laid out the case for the prosecution against the corrupting influence of hip-hop which, even by that stage, had become wearyingly overfamiliar to its many fans. The broad brushstrokes of the charges were aptly satirised later, in the voice of Marge Simpson: “Rap music belongs in the rubbish bin: it encourages punching, boasting, and rudeness to hoes.” But in the midst of this archetypal George Bush Sr-era moral panic, the article made another criticism that sounded rather more accurate. Hip-hop is, Adler wrote scathingly, “music so post-industrial it’s almost not even played, but pieced together out of pre-recorded sound bites”. In the Chicago-based writer Roy Christopher’s Dead Precedents, we have an enjoyable, pithy account of why this isn’t a criticism at all.

Written with the passion of a zine-publishing fan and the acuity of an academic (he is both), Christopher explores the idea of hip-hop as “black cyberpunk”. His argument is that rap and cyberpunk were twin movements, in which technologically liberated renegades created the future by reinventing the past, building new worlds using DIY ethics and freewheeling bricolage. Like hip-hop itself, his book is layered with overlapping references and allusions, quotes and “samples’” proudly standing on the shoulders of giants.

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Source: The Guardian – Dead Precedents by Roy Christopher review: how hip-hop and cyberpunk hijacked culture

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