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Few pop culture critics understand the complexities and ramifications of race, class, gender, commerce, and pleasure

with the command of Carol Cooper. Her prose is lucid, her understanding vast. Reading her essays brings to life

key periods in modern culture




Pop Culture Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race

Selected Critical Essays 1979 to 2001

By Carol Cooper



We are pleased to announce the fall release of Pop Culture Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race, the first collection of essays about contemporary music, art, film, literature, television, and nightlife trends by Harlem-based cultural critic Carol Cooper. For the focus of this book Cooper has chosen stories that first appeared in various British and American publications during the last 20 years of the 20th century.

As one of the few pop journalists then allowed to write regularly about emerging trends in world music, ethnic films, and underground genre literature, she was often first on the mainstream scene to offer opinions about subsequently influential artists from Spike Lee and Sade, to sf-author M. John Harrison to graphic novelist Dave Mack.

A partial list of the commercial outlets which have featured her work includes: Elle; Essence; Wired; The Village Voice; Billboard; International Musician; Spin; Latin N.Y; Black Music and Jazz Review; and The New York Times.

—Publisher, Nega Fulo Books

Few pop culture critics understand the complexities and ramifications of race, class, gender, commerce, and pleasure with the command of Carol Cooper. Her prose is lucid, her understanding vast. Reading her essays brings to life key periods in modern culture and casts them in a light all her own.


—Jim Farber, music critic, New York Daily News

Where other writers cannot see even one dimension, Carol Cooper sees many. She takes on complex issues
race, politics, gender, spirituality—with clear, precise language, a rare skill that packs this collection with thrills and revelations." Joe Levy, editor, Rolling Stone magazine

—Joe Levy , Rolling Stone Magazine

May the gods continue to bless Carol Cooper. She writes from the heart. one senses immediately that she genuinely cares about the subject. this is rare and most welcoming. She is the only female contender I know, in the field of critical journalism, who deserves the throne. If she is given it, she will take it. Hail Cooper!

—August Darnell, confounder, Kid creole & the Coconuts and Dr. Buzzard's' Original Savannah Band

*   *   *   *   *

When it comes to pop culture, first impressions means a lot. Do you remember the first time you encountered Prince? Sade? A Spike Lee film? Internet Service Providers? House music? Green Day? Gilberto Gil? Cyberpunk? Run DMC?

Carol Cooper remembers. And from the late 1970s until the present she documented those encounters with wit and verve for publications ranging from The Face (in England) to American Elle, to regional tabloids like The Village Voice. The first collection of essays cherry-picks work from the last 20 years of the 20th century, giving intellectual closure to America's "modern age."  

[ (photo left) The Author with Sen, Muggs, and B-Real of Cypress Hill]

Here you will find fresh opinions on The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Cypress Hill, Bob Marley, TLC, Tori Amos, Teddy Riley, Teena Marie, The Clark Sisters, Otis Redding, Brazilian literature, Singaporean rock, Latin hip-hop, Broadway musicals, New York nightlife, and much much more. Over the last two decades of the 20th century, Harlem-based journalist Carol Cooper wrote about pop music, theater, dance, books, nightclubs, television and film for some of the most influential underground trend-'zines and newspapers on the planet. Collected in one volume for the first time are selected essays from a seminal voice in ongoing debates interrogating the social relevance of both "high" and "low" art once they become commodified and distorted by runaway consumer capitalism.

The 1980s and 1990s were shaped by the increasing significance of women's studies, race/identity politics, the international dissemination of global pop culture, and digital communications media of all kinds. To comment on these changes, Cooper brings a resolutely utopian, structurally rigorous, Pan-Africanist perspective to each issue, thereby creating refreshing new contexts for critical meaning. this controversial yet often-imitated approach has kept Cooper among the vanguard of trenchant cultural critics of the present day.

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Table of Contents

I. Introduction By Bruce Sterling


II. Foreword: So Why an Uphill Bicycle Race?


III, Nota Bene: On Errata—Or, Why The New York Times Still Has a Corrections Page




The Best of Brazilian Lit - Latin N.Y., 1979


       (Paperback imprint Bard Books popularizes Brazilian lit in English translation)  
Movement of Jah People - Soho Weekly News, 1979


     (Kenny Gamble's Black Music Association Conference in Philly, capped by a live performance by Bob Marley,  joined onstage by

         Stevie Wonder.)

Jamaican Sunrise: The Promise, Problems and Ethos of Rasta Reggae - The Black American, 1980


      (The socio-political ramifications of Rasta-reggae's global agenda.)  
Reggae Woman: Blowing Dinah's Horn - Village Voice, 1980


     (Judy Mowatt's album "Black Woman.")  
Jamming in South-East Hell - Village Voice, 1980


     (Review of the film "Rockers.")  
The Subculture Sweepstakes - Village Voice, 1980


     (Two films: "Reggae Sunsplash" and "Bongo Man.")  
Tuff Gong: Bob Marley's Unsung Story - Village Voice, 1980


    (Bob Marley's attempt to resurrect the Pan-African ideals of Garveyism.)  
The Second Coming of Gospel - Village Voice, 1980


    (Genobia Jeter's album "Heaven.")  
Broadway Bible Study - Village Voice, 1981


    (Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.")  
Avant Noir - Village Voice, 1981


    ("Modernism and Negritude: The Poetry and Poetics of Aimé Césaire" by A. James Arnold.)  
Altered Statements - Village Voice, 1981


    (English translations of contemporary Brazilian fiction.)  
Art of Darkness - Village Voice, 1981


    ("The Decorated Body" by Robert Brain.)  
Coroner's Inquest into the Killing of Coonskin -- Village Voice, 1982


    (The national controversy over Ralph Bakshi's animated satire.)  
A Subterranean for Our Time, Black Music & Jazz Review (London), 1982


    (Interview and profile about original Savannah Band-founder Sonny Browder, Jr. around the release of Savannah's new album

      "calling All Beatniks.")

The Rising Sun's Set - Village Voice, 1982


     (Terno Nakamura's jazz recordings and new show at The Bottom Line.)  
Gregory Isaac's Brotherly Love - Village Voice, 1982


     (Two Gregory Isaac albums and his performance at Pier 84.)  
The Gospel Truth? - Village Voice, 1982


     (Film festival debut of "Say Amen, Somebody.")  
The Real Thomas Dorsey - Village Voice, 1982


      (Profile of gospel music pioneer Thomas A. Dorsey.)  
Virgin Version - Village Voice, 1982


      (Althea Forrest's reggae album "Virgin Style.")  
August Darnell And The Creole Perplex - Village Voice, 1982


     (A philosophical profile of the singer, songwriter, producer and main theoretician behind Kid Creole and the Coconuts.)  
Ear to the Street - Village Voice, 1982


    (Sharon Redd's 12-inch single "Beat the Street.")  
Twinkie Clark's Santified Syncope - Village Voice, 1982


    (The quiet genius behind the angelic sound of The Dynamic Clark Sisters.)  


Some Boys - Village Voice, 1983


    (The Rolling Stones concert film "Let's Spend the Night Together.")  
Three Little Birds - Village Voice, 1983


    (Solo albums from each of Bob Marley's I-Threes.)  
Rags and Riches - Village Voice, 1983


   ("The Sting II.")  
Rematch - Village Voice, 1983


    (Melvin Van Peebles's new play "Champeen!")  
Kitty Cornered - Village Voice, 1983


    ("All By Myself: A Musical Portrait of Eartha Kitt.")  
Zombie Jamboree - Village Voice, 1983


    (Review of the film "Vigilante.")  
Confronting Marley's Legacy - The Record, 1983


    (Bob Marley's posthumous album "Confrontation.")  
Kid Creole & The Coconuts: To the Life Boats - The Face [London], 1983


   (Analysis of August Darnell's sly strategies for global domination.)  
Someday Your Prince Will Come - The Face [London], 1983


   (Tongue-in-cheek and wholly imaginary interview with Prince Rogers Nelson.)  
Savannah Takes to the Hills - Village Voice, 1984


    (The Savannah Band comeback album "Calling All Beatniks.")  
From Brazil with Heart and Soul - Village Voice, 1984


    (Two shows: Beth Carvalho at Carnegie Hall and Gilberto Gil at the nightclub Sounds of Brasil.)  
Brazilian Négritude Meets New York - Village Voice, 1984


    (Feature about the Brazilian civil rights movement being re-examined in New York during an academic conference mounted by

     several transplanted activists.)

Teena Marie Steals away - Village Voice, 1984


     (Teena Marie's new album "Robbery.")  
Run for It - The Face, [London] 1984


    (The origins of Run-DMC.)  
Pablo Moses's Acid Reign - Village Voice, 1984


    (Review of Pablo Moses's album debut on Mango Records)  
Death in Bahia - Village Voice, 1984


    (Dance review of Jelon Viera's DanceBrazil troupe at riverside Church.)  
Broadcasting from Anywhere - Village Voice, 1984


    (Review of penguin Cafe Orchestra's Brooklyn Academy of Music performance upon release of the album "Broadcasting from


Marquee de Sade - Village Voice, 1985


    (Review of Sade's first album "Diamond Life.")  
Fela's Trials and Tribulations - Village Voice, 1985


    (Review of three album reissues by Nigerian Afrobeat master Fela Anikulapo Kuti.)  
The Costa Freedom - Village Voice, 1985


      (Review of Gal Costa's American debut at Carnegie Hall.)  
God's Anointing: Detroit's First Family of Gospel - Village Voice, 1985


      (Feature profile of the singing and composing Clark family with Mattie Moss Clark and her daughters setting a new standard for

          innovative musical ministry.)

Farce Forward - Village Voice, 1985


     (Review of the film "Fast Forward.")  
Homeboy Hopeful - Village Voice, 1985


    (First mainstream profile of rising director Spike Lee.)  
Trans-Fusion - Village Voice, 1985


     (Concert review of Hermeto Pascoal at sounds of Brazil, with guest cameo by Flora Purim.)  
The Staples Sanctify DOR - Village Voice, 1985


     ("Turning Point" by the Staples Singers.)  
Shall We Dance? - Village Voice, 1985


    (Film review of "That's Dancing!")  
Young Americans! - The Face, [London] 1987


    (Full report on the American Latin hip-hop scene, published first in England because stateside publications

      were slow to recognize the importance of this phenomenon.)

Steely Jam - Village Voice, 1986


    (The Swinging Pistons's 12-inch single "I Love the Sound of Machines.")  
Salty Gals - Village Voice, 1986


    (Salt 'n Pepa's first album "Cool, Hot, and Vicious.")  


Teena Marie's Heart Belongs to Rhythm & Blues - New York Times, 1988


    (Profile of Marie with review of "Naked to the World.")  
Living Large - In the Music, 1989


    (Interview with Harlem-bred super-producer Teddy Riley.)  
Sound Factory: Safest Club in the City? - In the Music, 1989


    (Interview with the brain trust behind New York's newest underground dance palace.)  
Still in Love and Trouble - Village Voice, 1989


    (Albums from Judy Torres, Sweet Senation and the Cover Girls.)  
The Noise from Brazil -- Elle, 1989


    (Feature-length look at innovations in the pop music of contemporary Brazil.)  
Pop Plural: How '80s Music Bent the Color Line - Village Voice, 1990


    (A full decade's assessment of the multi-culti trend in '80s pop.)  
Let Love Rule - Essence, 1990


    (Interview with Lisa Bonet with Lenny Kravitz and baby Zöe.)  
Reggae Redux -- Village Voice, 1990


    (Provocative new albums from Lee Perry and Maxi Priest.)  
Dirty Mind - Village Voice, 1990


    (Dance album "Lil Louis & The World.")  
Group Effort - Village Voice, 1990


   (Illustrated fashion article about the visual flair of clubland's freestyle girl groups.)  
Turning the Tables - Egg, 1990


    (The origins and function of new York's influential record pools.)  
Alive, Well and Working in the South Bronx - Dance Music Report, 1990


    (Profile of no-wave funk band ESG, a/k/a Emerald, Saffire & Gold, and their renascent recording career.)  
Jumping on the Paddy Wagon - Village Voice, 1992


    (The group "House of Pain" an Irish-American rap debut.)  


Wild Child - Village Voice, 1993


    (Illegal's first rap album, "The United Truth.")  
Dead Reckoning - Village Voice, 1993


    ("Weekend at bernie's2" and the dubious ethics of toying with death.)  
Check Yo'self at the Door: Cryptoheterosexuality and the Black Music Underground - Vibe, 1993


    (Describing the mysterious connection between gender, music, and fashion that drive New York clublife.)  
The Definitive Otis Redding -[Sleevenotes on Rhino Box Set] 1993


    (The political life and times of Otis redding and his music.)  
Doing Time on the Cross - Village Voice, 1994


    (Arrested Development's album "Zingalamaduni.")  
Of Phreaks and Hackers - Vibe Magazine, 1994


    (Introducing an anarchic teen underground: the Ho-Ho Con computer hacker conference in Texas.)  
Gee, It's G-Funk! New York - New York Newsday, 1994


    (Warren G makes gangsta rap more sweetly soulful.)  
Our Man From Havana - New York Newsday, 1994


    (Jon Secada emerges from the Miami Sound Machine hit factory.)  
The Most Inscrutable C*cktease in the World - Village Voice, 1994


    (Simultaneous Prince albums" "Come" from Warner Bros. and "1-800-new-Funk" from Belmark.)  
Dallas Austin: Manchild in the Promised Land - New York Newsday, 1995


    (Profile of Atlanta-based producer/songwriter Dallas Austin.)  
The Kids are Alright - New York Newsday, 1995


    (Concert review of Green Day at Nassau Coliseum.)  
We Like Ike - Village Voice, 1995


    (Isaac Hayes and his latest deal.)  
The Bo Diddley Beat Just keeps Jangling Along - New York Newsday, 1995


    (Bo Diddley in concert at Manhattan's Chicago Blues club.)  
Pretty Young Things - Rolling Stone, 1995


    (TLC riding the success of "Crazy, Sexy, Cool.")  
Glitter Funk - Rolling Stone, 1995


    ("The Gold Experience" by Prince.)  
A Multifaceted Muldaur - New York Newsday, 1996


    (Maria Muldar sings the blues.)  
Rebel Rebel - Village Voice, 1996


    (Live show by leather punk band Tribe 8.)  
Swamp Thing - Village Voice, 1996


    ("Rubberneck" by The Toadies.)  
The Fire This Time - New York Daily News, 1996


    (Tori Amos at Madison Square Garden.)  
Surf Pop: The New Wave - Village Voice, 1996


    (Various underground surf-punk bands, and the movement that spawned them.)  
Bernard Edwards, 1952-1996 - Village Voice, 1996


    (Obituary for Chic bassplayer Bernard Edwards.)  


Bio Hazard - Village Voice, 1998


     (Bruce Sterling's novel "Distraction.")  
Erotic City - Village Voice, 1999


     (Two autobiographical works of erotica: "Times Square Red, Times Square Blue" by Samuel R. Delany, and "Bread and Wine" by

        Samuel R. Delany and Mia Wolff.)

'Alternative' Soul: Progress in Design - Village Voice, 1999


     (Five different neo-soul CDs respectively by: Toshi Reagon; Méshell Ndégeocello; Angie Stone; Mary Gray, and Melky Sedeck.)  
Diddily-Dee - Village Voice, 1999


    (Heavy D's new album "Heavy.")  
Beyond Salsa - Village Voice, 1999


    (An appreciation of Puerto Rican journalist/songwriterTite Curet Alonso.)  
Renaissance Man - Village Voice, 1999


    (The Milton Nascimento;s CD "Tambores de Minas.")  
Higher Ground -- Village Voice, 2000


    (Sade's "Lovers Rock," Rachelle Ferrell's "Individuality (Can I be Me?)," and "S.I.O.S.O.S. Volume One" by The Spooks.)  
Why Singapore Rocks - Crawdaddy, 2000


    (Young Malay, Chinese, Filipino, and Tamil underground rockers in Singapore City.)  
Are We the World? Global Music in the U.S. Faces the 21st Century - Village Voice, 2000


    (Think-piece written on the cusp of a new century about the future of global pop.)  
Guess Who's Coming to Dharma - Village Voice, 2001


     (Feature story and book reviews about successful black women embracing various schools of Buddhism.)  
About Black Folks and Buddha Dharma: An Interview with Bell Hooks - [research material], 2001


     (Q&A as background research for feature article.)  
Pretty Persuasion: Going for the Girl Market - Village Voice, 2001


    (Trina Robbins's intentionally girl-friendly comic book series "Go Girl!")  

Source: Carol Cooper. Pop Culture Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race: Selected Critical Essays 1979 to 2001. Nega Fulo Books, December 2006. Music/Sociology/American Studies, 362 pages, 6 x 9, 5 B&W photographs. $25.00 (CAN $34.00), Cloth, ISBN: 0-9788908-0-9.

Ms. Cooper is available for evening in-store talks and book signings; book-group appearances, and public or private school programs in connection with creative writing classes. [School programs may qualify for special bulk-order discounts.]

*   *   *   *   *

Carol Cooper is a New York-based journalist and cultural critic who has been reviewing music, books, film, and live performance for over twenty years. Her work has appeared in national and international publications including Actuel (Paris), The Face (London), Latin New York, The Village Voice, Essence, Elle, New York Newsday, and The New York Times. Her essays have also been anthologized in following collections: Rock She Wrote, The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock, Brooklyn, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough: Essays in Honor of Robert Christgau and Rolling Stone Press: The '70s. Ms. Cooper has also done short tours of executive duty in the music industry, serving as East Coast Director of Black Music Artists and Repertoire for A&M Records in the mid-'80s, and National Director of Black Music Artists and Repertoire for Columbia Records in the early '90s.

[(photo above right)  The author with Nora lead singer for Orquestra de la Luz.]

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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Panther Baby

A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention

By Jamal Joseph

In the 1960s he exhorted students at Columbia University to burn their college to the ground. Today he’s chair of their School of the Arts film division. Jamal Joseph’s personal odyssey—from the streets of Harlem to Riker’s Island and Leavenworth to the halls of Columbia—is as gripping as it is inspiring. Eddie Joseph was a high school honor student, slated to graduate early and begin college. But this was the late 1960s in Bronx’s black ghetto, and fifteen-year-old Eddie was introduced to the tenets of the Black Panther Party, which was just gaining a national foothold. By sixteen, his devotion to the cause landed him in prison on the infamous Rikers Island—charged with conspiracy as one of the Panther 21 in one of the most emblematic criminal cases of the sixties. When exonerated, Eddie—now called Jamal—became the youngest spokesperson and leader of the Panthers’ New York chapter. He joined the “revolutionary underground,” later landing back in prison. Sentenced to more than twelve years in Leavenworth, he earned three degrees there and found a new calling. He is now chair of Columbia University’s School of the Arts film division. . . . In raw, powerful prose, Jamal Joseph helps us understand what it meant to be a soldier inside the militant Black Panther movement. . . .

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The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

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W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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