Other People's Property
Writer: Jason Tanz
Review: Adam Bernard
There have been a lot of books written about Hip-Hop but Jason Tanz's Other People's Property: A Shadow History of Hip-Hop in White America, takes on the subject from a completely new angle, namely how whites have been influenced by Hip-Hop and how Hip-Hop has been influenced by whites.
Tanz starts his book with some truly awful tales from his youth when he was getting into Hip-Hop and going about it the wrong way a lot of the time. Rather than turn the entire book into a personal history, however, he draws on his experiences to investigate the complete white impact, what it means, and how it's created a litany of subgenres in the culture. Heck, there's even a section on nerd rap with some very interesting analysis on artists such as MC Chris.
Other People's Property includes a number of diverse stories, including one of a breakdancer who rides the train into a Connecticut suburb to teach kids both how to break and the history of breaking, an incredible chapter that revolves around radio and rap music being delivered to the masses in Wisconsin, and a chapter that takes on the issue of white suburban gangsters. Each topic seems to have required a great deal of interviews and travel as Tanz even left the country to go to Canada for one chapter, making it an impressively well researched book. I bring this up because a lot of times when someone who knows Hip-Hop writes a book they just sit down and write it from their perspective, but Tanz took the time to speak with as many people as possible so it's less you reading his point of view and more you creating your own point of view after taking in all the information.
The writing style of Other People's Property is very fluid and easy to read. Tanz interjects a good amount of humor where appropriate, as well, for instance when he writes of one rapper in particular he says "you would have heard him recount his many sexual exploits, including the fact that – and I'm sorry to be the one to have to tell you this – he has had sex with your mother."
The white influences in Hip-Hop are a very important aspect of the culture at this point, but it's usually either missing from, or simply a footnote in, many books about Hip-Hop, which is exactly what makes Tanz's book such an important read. This book is for everyone in Hip-Hop, especially those who are worried that what happened to jazz will happen to Hip-Hop. Other People's Property tackles all the issues and helps complete Hip-Hop's current story, making it a must read.
Enjoyment: 9 of 10
Readability: 9 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10
Originally posted: April 24, 2007