Writer, musician and NPR cultural critic Juan Vidal makes an inspiring debut with his memoir, Rap Dad: A Story of Family and the Subculture that Shaped a Generation.
He recounts his turbulent youth growing up Latino in Miami in the 1980s and '90s. His parents were Colombian immigrants--with problems of their own--and Vidal and his friends got into all sorts of trouble that involved drug use, vandalism and other minor crimes. It was during these formative years that he discovered the power of rap music, "loud and savage and free, like us." Vidal reminisces about his youthful ambitions when he formed a rap group and toured around the world, trying his best to build a music career.
That music criticism eventually became his forte is no surprise. He balances his memoir with passionate and insightful critiques of the various rap artists who influenced him--Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, Jay-Z, Nas. The main focus of Rap Dad, though, is on parenting, as Vidal describes his challenges as a father. Candidly and painfully he recalls his father's shortcomings and how, as a young man, Vidal turned to rap music for male role models. His best criticism in the book breaks open the racist myth that black and Latino men are bad fathers. Besides offering substantive research to make his point, he discusses many rap artists who are nobly engaged in fatherhood. "I've come to know that great artists, like great parents, can be the best mirrors for us all," Vidal concludes.
Rap Dad is not only entertaining, it is socially and politically important for the way it challenges stereotypes. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset