"Tell us how it feels to be a problem": Hip hop longings and poor young Black men

Imani Perry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


In "Of Our Spiritual Strivings," the autobiographical essay that opens The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois reflected on his response to provocative (and insulting) white peers: "To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word" (1903, 1). In the United States today, perhaps no one is made to feel like a problem more acutely than the poor young Black man who, despite his great social vulnerability, is so often presumed to be a predator or threat.1 These youths, proclaimed to be "in crisis" by commentators ranging from academics to New York Times headlines, respond to the question, "How does it feel to be a problem?" in the lyrics of our popular music. The answer offered there often seems more problematic than problemsolving; indeed, it seldom even identifies the nature and sources of the problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAgainst the Wall
Subtitle of host publicationPoor, Young, Black, and Male
PublisherUniversity of Pennsylvania Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780812206951
ISBN (Print)9780812220179
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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