"Few books on popular music treat their subject so comprehensively, with thoughtful attention to ideology, history, and verbal and musical rhetoric. Miyakawa's approach is at once comprehensive and streamlined, making for an especially effective presentation of the issues as well as a good read." —Albin Zak, author of The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records
"Miyakaya provides a great deal of information and analysis that is impossible to come by elsewhere. A sterling example of culturally-engaged musicology, her book is also a significant contribution to American history." —Joseph Schloss, author of Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop
The Five Percent Nation is a controversial organization and a substantial cultural force. Also known as Five Percenters, this offshoot of the Nation of Islam has employed commercial rap, or "God Hop," to teach its beliefs, comment on relevant issues, and recruit new members. Rap artists such as Erykah Badu and Queen Latifah are past members of the Five Percent Nation; GURU and Wu-Tang Clan are currently affiliated.
Five Percenter Rap: God Hop's Music, Message, and Black Muslim Mission examines the phenomenon from musical, historical, and cultural perspectives. Such a kaleidoscopic approach is necessary given the Five Percent Nation's complex theology—grounded in Black Muslim traditions, black nationalism, Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) symbolism, Masonic mysticism, and Gnostic spirituality—its historical ties to major movements and moments in American history, and its deep involvement with popular culture.
After establishing the theological and historical underpinnings of Five Percenter Rap, Felicia Miyakawa considers its marketing approaches and its use of specific musical techniques such as sampling, groove, and layering (often in significant numerical groupings). These techniques, she argues, are in service to the greater goal of Five Percenter rappers, who see themselves primarily as teachers and as bringers of a specific type of redemption and self-knowledge to benighted souls.
Vividly written and solidly researched, Five Percenter Rap will appeal to readers interested in popular music, American music and history, and African American religion and culture.
Introduction: God Hop
History and Theology of the Five Percent Nation
1. Building a Nation
2. The Five Percenter "Way of Life"
God Hop's Tools
4. Flow, Layering, Rupture, and Groove
5. Sampling, Borrowing, and Meaning
6. Album Packaging and Organization
Conclusion: Reaching the Blind, Deaf, and Dumb
Appendix: Five Percenter Rap Musicians
Miyakawa (Middle Tennessee State Univ.) examines a breakaway sect of the Nation of Islam known as the Five Percent Nation, which produces music known as God hop. God hop rappers see themselves as teachers. Since 9/11 and the 2002 beltway sniper killings in the Washington, DC, area, this group and its musicians, known as Five Percenters, have come under more and more fire. The author divides the book, which originated as her dissertation, into two parts: in the first part she discusses the theology and history of Five Percent Nation; in the second she examines the tools that God hop musicians use to bring their message to the masses. Including appendixes of Five Percent Nation rappers, a glossary, a discography, and indexes of songs and performers in addition to the standard apparatus, this is an interesting examination of a little-known musical genre and culture. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.December 2005~B. L. Eden, University of Nevada, Las Vegas