At its rhythmic, beating heart, Close to the Edge asks whether hip hop can change the world. Hip hop—rapping, beat-making,b-boying, deejaying, graffiti—captured the imagination of the teenage Sujatha Fernandes in the 1980s, inspiring her and politicizing her along the way. Years later, armed with mc-ing skills and an urge to immerse herself in global hip hop, she embarks on a journey into street culture around the world. From the south side of Chicago to the barrios of Caracas and Havana and the sprawling periphery of Sydney, she grapples with questions of global voices and local critiques, and the rage that underlies both. An engrossing read and an exhilarating travelogue, this punchy book also asks hard questions about dispossession, racism, poverty and the quest for change through a microphone.
Listen to the ABC documentary “My Sister’s Hip Hop Odyssey,” based on the book. Produced by Deepa Fernandes
Periscope dossier on Close to the Edge: commentary by Joe Schloss, Ali Colleen Neff, Derek Pardue, Kwame Harrison
“Fernandes brilliantly captures the moment when a global generation curved toward a unifying language and culture and found something that was both much more and much less than what it was searching for. Close to the Edge is a beautifully told tale of the collective and the personal, the cultural and political—a classic of hip hop writing and a poignant tribute to urban youth.”
– Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation and Who We Be: The Colorization of America
“Brilliant, lyrically-written stories and reporting from the frontlines of global hip-hop in all its rich complexity. It’s Eat Pray Love for the global hip-hop movement – and a real feast.”
– Billy Upski Wimsatt, Author of Please Don’t Bomb the Suburbs: A Midterm Report on My Generation and the Future of our Super-Movement, and Bomb the Suburbs and No More Prisons.
“Close to the Edge documents a deeply personal quest in search of the essence of global hip-hop. Over the course of this tightly knit narrative, Sujatha Fernandes embraces both the diversity and the coherence of hip-hop practices in a range of cultural settings around the globe, ultimately producing a work that is wide-ranging, insightful, and profoundly moving.”
-Joe Schloss, author of Foundation: B-Boys, B-Girls and Hip-Hop Culture in New York and Making Beats
“Fernandes chronicles her search for a global hip hop movement through an earnest and self-reflexive approach to storytelling that is equally concerned with history and social issues. She offers fascinating and detailed snapshots of the hip-hop scenes in Sydney, Chicago, Havana and Caracas while asking broad and crucial questions about the intersections between music, identities, and politics. Close to the Edge is both thought provoking and a pleasure to read.”
– Raquel Z. Rivera, author of New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone, and editor of the anthology Reggaeton
“One of the best books on hip hop to come out in the last few years.”
“That she merges so smoothly into the hip-hop experiences of her informants ultimately reinforces the book’s premise… she is the embodiment of these new networks of global exchange… Fernandes is a keen observer, a genial guide, and a skillful storyteller, the kind you don’t mind sitting with as she relates the details of her adventures.”
– Murray Forman, Cultural Politics
“There is a real sense of power in this book and an intriguing insight into how the globally recognized culture of hip-hop changes and shifts to suit the needs of its protagonists. Enlightening and interesting, Close To The Edge is a personal study of hip-hop that should inform followers of hip-hop as a political force on a global scale.”
– Grind Mode Connection
“The book’s fast-paced, globetrotting narrative is gripping. Its highlights are the stories of individual rappers, divided geographically but strikingly similar in their devotion to music above all else.”
– Rory Gibb, Word Magazine
“Close to the Edge is most bracing… when she seeks out spaces of resistance, where hip hop has evolved beyond its American roots.
– Hua Hsu, The Wire
THE beauty of this book about global hip-hop is that you don’t need to be interested in rap to be drawn into Sujatha Fernandes’s journey from Sydney to New York, Chicago, Cuba and Caracas, or caught up in her passion for this art form from the streets. Fernandes grew up in a working-class suburb of Sydney in the 1970s and ’80s when high youth unemployment fuelled drug addiction, crime and violence. When she discovered hip-hop, it became her way out. Hip-hop, she says, gave voice to not only African Americans but to young people “from the banlieue of Paris to the hillside shanties of Rio”. Her quest for a global home where she “an Indian-Australian-Portuguese gringa” might belong is both personal and political. Combining a strong narrative with cultural analysis, she takes us into diverse worlds, examining her own expectations and hopes with humour and intelligence.
– Pick of the Week, The Melbourne Age, 09/10/2011
“Close to the Edge is a powerful document that speaks as a testament to her hip-hop sojourn as well as a set of keen observations concerning the effects and challenges of hip-hop’s proliferation… a fascinating read that makes us reconsider how we define “culture” in hip-hop.”
– Review, Quentin B Huff, PopMatters
“Sujatha Fernandes has assembled a wonderfully accessible book… Hers is a compelling global journey conveyed in a pithy and readable work that is part travelogue and part academic treatise.”
– Review, Joseph Scarpaci, Journal of Latin American Geography