Crawley, Ashon T. Black Pentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility. New York: Fordham University Press, 2017. 320 pp., notes and index; ISBN: 978-0-8232-7455-0.
Miller, Monica R. and Anthony B. Pinn (eds). The Hip Hop and Religion Reader. New York: Routledge, 2015. 454 pp., index; ISBN: 978-0-415-74101-9.
The two books under review here provide readers with a fascinating look at African American religion and hip hop from a historical, contemporary, and global perspective. Written by well-known scholars of African American religion and culture studies, these volumes are embedded in two very important major fields of inquiry in the area of Black/Africana Studies- religion and music. Until now, the fields of African American religion and African American music have lacked the creation of coherent and relevant books that highlight and examine the intersections of hip hop, religion, and theology. Moving beyond traditional and institutional notions of religion, these books grapple with an assortment of ideas and concepts that most scholars within these fields regularly discard. But, the scholars of these volumes traverse a variety of subjects that helps us understand the intertwining of African American religion and music today with much more precision and clarity.
In Black Pentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility, Ashon T. Crawley, an Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Riverside, presents an intriguing, sophisticated, and somewhat controversial study on the history, development, cultural activities, and spiritual manifestations of the strand of modern Black Pentecostalism that emerged in 1906 from Los Angeles, California. Specifically, Crawley examines the concept of "blackness" as well as the "fleshly practices and performances" of Black Pentecostalism that has a creative space and a very flexible aesthetic for individuals to become highly imaginative in their expression of faith and survival (p. 26). Also crucial is the author's claim that the religious practices of Black Pentecostalism, such as "whooping, shouting, noisemaking, and tongues speech" are so distinctive in this denomination of African American religion that it allows for nontraditional and unorthodoxy activities to exist and thrive for persons of African descent in the United States who are under consistent assault be the larger society (p. 30).
In comparison, Monica R. Miller, an Assistant Professor of Religion and Africana...