Rapping to the feminist beat

Rating: NNNWhen Chickenheads Come Home To Roost: A Hip-hop Feminist Breaks It Down, by Joan Morgan (Touchstone), 240 pages, $17.50.

Rating: NNN

When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost: A Hip-hop Feminist Breaks It Down, by Joan Morgan (Touchstone), 240 pages, $17.50 paper. Rating: NNN

Joan Morgan has a problem with her black feminist foremamas. She gives them mad props for their milestone achievements, but she worries that young women – the ones who need the movement the most – can’t identify with the academic writers who have built the foundations of black feminism.

To help change that, Morgan, a respected writer for Vibe, Spin and Essence, unites the wisdom of writers like bell hooks and Audre Lorde with the voice of a hiphop sista.

In sections like From Fly-girls To Bitches And Hos and Babymother, she addresses concerns and identity issues specific to black women, all in the populist language of hiphop.

In less capable hands, the hiphop idiom would seem like a gimmick, but Morgan knows her stuff – her lyrical narrative flows naturally, like spoken-word poetry.

Beginning with a cogent historical context, she deconstructs some of the prevailing mythology shaping the black urban female experience, suggesting a new, pragmatic breed of black feminism.

But after this strong start, the book eventually loses steam. Morgan starts singing the same song over and over, echoing mediocre mainstream hiphop where voices and faces blend together telling the tired tale of gangstas and benjamins.

And Chickenheads would have been much stronger if Morgan had discussed a wider range of issues. Every section contains some variation on how to reconcile a feminist mentality with the desire for good lovin’ from a good man. In her attempt to refute the popular diss that all feminists are dykes, Morgan falls all over herself to proclaim her straightness, and completely leaves out lesbian life.

This book could have been an invaluable tool for b-girls looking for a way to break old patterns. Too bad Morgan spends so much time focusing on her rhyme and not enough on her reason.

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