Buy the book on the University of Chicago Press website — here
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“After four decades, the old US cultural copyrights on hip hop have expired. The form has travelled and the style become a planetary phenomenon. This detailed, innovative and exhilarating book tracks their impact across the postcolonial world. At last we have a critical survey that can match the complexity and power of the music.” —Paul Gilroy, author of The Black Atlantic
“Flip the Script takes us on a marvelous journey from Paris to Berlin, London to Cork, offering a brilliantly textured portrait of European hip hop. Rollefson’s lively readings of performances help us to hear hip hop music as a postcolonial art and practice that can lead us to a more equitable and just future. An inspiring and hopeful book.” —Ellie M. Hisama, Columbia University
“Employing sophisticated theoretical analysis mixed with ample hip-hop savvy, J. Griffith Rollefson deftly explains how hip hop artists not only flip the historical scripts of European colonial authority and narrowly defined national identities, but rip and shred them. Simply stated, this is a powerful book with a killer flow.” —Murray Forman, author of The ‘Hood Comes First
“Flip the Script is highly original and ambitious, and a substantial contribution to research on hip hop and postcolonialism. Rollefson combines ethnographic methods with close readings of media texts in a way that allows him to account for both the texture of everyday life in the communities he worked in, and musical and textual details of the art emanating from within those communities.” —Thomas Solomon, University of Bergen
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The University of Chicago Press also offers examination copies to academics who will adopt the text for their classes. See here for details.
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Written by Séverin Guillard (University Paris Est Créteil) on 1 March 2018
Ultimately, Flip the Script is a dense and ambitious book that will be valuable to a vast array of scholars. It will be particularly useful for those interested in European Studies, as it casts light on the postcolonial and racial dimensions that are often omitted from the analysis of European identities. It will also interest scholars studying globalization and postcolonialism, given its fresh perspective on the circulation of cultural practices, aesthetics, and political models, and the way these elements can contribute to specific local issues. Finally, Flip the Script will push the boundaries of the hip-hop scholarship that has emerged in the last few decades in Anglophone research. In addition to the comparative perspective, that has not yet been extensively explored in Hip-Hop Studies, hip-hop readers will especially appreciate Griffith Rollefson’s effort to go beyond textual analysis of the hip hop works to take account of their musical, visual, and performative dimensions. They will also be interested in the way Flip the Script puts hip-hop works on the same level as academic work, asserting the ability of this music to dialog and renew theory.
… Flip the Script will certainly lay the foundations for collaborative studies that can address the ways in which hip hop renews the identity politics of various countries, not only in Europe, but throughout the world.
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Review in Journal of Popular Music Studies
Written by Meghan Drury (Portland State University) on 1 August 2018
“European cultural politics have been at the forefront of many recent conversations on migration, xenophobia, and nationalism, particularly in the wake of Great Britain’s 2016 decision to exit the European Union. Both scholarly and popular media discussions about the future of the European political order tend to frame their views around populist and nationalist ideologies and therefore fail to acknowledge the significance of longer histories of racialized imperialism and colonial intervention. Although the field of postcolonial studies has linked various forms of cultural production to colonial discourse, few scholars of postcolonialism have seriously examined popular music. Whereas the global reach of hip hop has long been a focus in the overlapping fields of hip hop and popular music studies, scholarship on European hip hop generally has not come under the lens of postcolonialism.
J. Griffith Rollefson’s Flip the Script seeks to fill both gaps with a compelling study of hip hop and postcolonial politics in Berlin, London, and Paris. Rollefson contends that despite (or perhaps in conjunction with) its commercial appeal, European hip hop is an important site of resistance that elucidates “postcolonial paradoxes” or contradictions that emerge in racialized capitalism. As he writes, “Hip hop sits at the confluence of dehumanizing neoliberal globalization and the gritty human realities of postcoloniality” (3). He encourages hip hop scholars to move away from a simplistic “bad hip hop” versus “good hip hop” binary that demonizes materialism and sexism in the genre while elevating artists who demonstrate a heightened political awareness. Using a combination of ethnography and close reading, Rollefson fuses multiple narratives with racial and diasporic identities as well as performance and political economy.
Through first-person accounts of performances, interviews with performers from field work conducted between 2006 and 2008, and descriptive analyses of numerous albums, Flip the Script makes a case for hip hop as a postcolonial art form…
Taken as a whole, Flip the Script is an innovative and dynamic piece of scholarship that lays a valuable foundation for future work connecting the fields of hip hop and postcolonial studies.”
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Review in ScratchedVinyl.com
Written by Chi Chi on January 16, 2018
J. Griffith Rollefson is Associate Professor in Popular Music Studies in the Department of Music at University College Cork, National University of Ireland. Originally from San Francisco, Rollefson has been researching the subject matter of the intersection of postcolonialism and hip hop for a long time. After spending time in Berlin, Paris, and London researching this material, we finally get the results of his hard work in Flip the Script: European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality.
Flip the Script is an interesting book on many levels, but first and foremost, as an American, I find the book incredibly helpful in just shifting perspective and forcing readers to understand how hip hop is being used to deal with complex issues across the ocean. Towards the beginning of the book, Rollefson looks at groups in Paris and Berlin, and discusses how through hip hop, artists are using an artform developed in America and most commonly assumed as an African American style of music to deal with issues such as free speech, police brutality, immigration, and racial identity. Hip hop fans in America are surely familiar with all of this through their own experiences and listening to the music, but there are additional layers to consider when you visit cities in countries with different governments, histories, and immigration patterns, who then turn to hip hop as tool to deal with these issues. This could be as simple as just giving a voice to the Black German population, a smaller group that is not often acknowledged, or it could be the careful and dangerous distinction in France between artistic expression and felonious behavior. As the book progresses, Rollefson takes on a couple of specific and fascinating case studies. One is the case of M.I.A., who Rollefson examines as her first album rolls out. There are so many factors rising out of postcolonialism and the conversation between cultures that are key to propelling her to stardom, and it’s important to take this step back and examine them thoroughly now, since we’ve got a Sri Lankan-born, London-based artist using hip hop and dancehall to discuss issues of terrorism, colonialism, and capitalism, all while maintaining an international pop sensibility. The other case study of note is Juice Aleem, another London-based artist, who Rollefson argues uses his music to create a metaphysical discussion between the colonial past and the future to come. It’s a style of music and lyricism that is deceptively simple, but loaded with hidden meanings and references waiting to be unpacked.
All of this discussion is incredibly interesting and gives lots of food for thought to readers, especially those of us who don’t always get to see the world with these perspectives. None of this would matter, though, if Rollefson wasn’t able to effectively communicate any of this. Fortunately, Rollefson is able to take this rigorous academic and theoretical work, using tools laid out by cultural theorists and historians such as Edward Said and Amiri Baraka, and translate all of his analysis and observations in a way that the general reading audience can easily understand.
Flip the Script is a must-read for hip hop fans that are seeking to broaden their horizons and understand how hip hop is being made and consumed in Europe. Rollefson takes into consideration different scenes, different countries, and different artists, and puts them in discussion to create a narrative that brings to light all of the complex factors of how hip hop functions in postcolonial Europe. It’s a complex subject, but Rollefson has crafted a book that is very readable, and helps build a base knowledge that will leave you hungry to learn more.
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Review in Telegraph Books: Telegraph.co.uk
In his history of hip-hop, ethnomusicologist J. Griffith Rollefson combines ethnography and music analysis to look at the three foundational cities in the hip-hop world of twenty-first century Europe.
He first explores Paris’s musical response to the National Front in France, then Turkish German groups in Berlin, and finally M.I.A. and other South Asian critiques in London. Throughout, Rollefson shows how African-American expressive cultures, especially rap music and hip-hop culture, are central to minority identity in the UK, France, and Germany, and how music plays a pivotal role as a point of political commentary and action.
He offers great insight into cross-cultural and postcolonial minority experience and the paradoxes of Western modernity, such as the use of a commercialized music as a form of resistance.
This engaging and provocative study helps to show how music can outline the cultural dimensions of ethnicity and race in the modern Western world.
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Joint Review on RoyChristopher.com featuring Flip the Script and Su’ad Abdul Khabeer’s Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip-Hop in the United States (NYU Press, 2016)
“The Alterity of Cool”
Written by Roy Christopher on January 24th, 2018
…As Gilroy himself puts it, “the old U.S. cultural copyrights on hip-hop have expired.” Along with the rest of the globe, Europe is in the house. Some of the best at it are based over there. Dizzee Rascal is a native and a hip-hop veteran. Fellow East-Coast emcees M. Sayyid and Mike Ladd relocated separately to Paris years ago. Ex-New Flesh for Old emcee Juice Aleem also holds it down in the UK, among countless others. There’s an entire chapter on Aleem in J. Griffith Rollefson’s Flip the Script: European Hip-hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality (University of Chicago Press, 2017). Sometimes to move ahead, you’ve gotta step back first. Rollefson investigates Aleem’s postcolonialism via pre-Enlightenment performative linguistics. It’s an Afrofuturist alternative history via precolonial tricks and tropes, not unlike Kelley’s reimagining in A Different Drummer. Aleem’s signifyin’ is one of many examples of Rollefson’s arguments regarding the postcoloniality of hip-hop.
Hip-hop has come full circle at present,” South African emcee, Mr. Fat (R.I.P.) once said. “Emcees are like the storytellers of the tribe, graffiti is cave paintings, and the drums of Africa are like turntables: This is our ideology.” (quoted in Neate, 2004, p. 120). Indeed, as hip-hop has moved from around the way to around the world, mapping it requires a deft hand, a def mind, an understanding of the alterity of cool, and a handle on histories other than those in the history books.