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Losing My Cool cover art

Losing My Cool

By: Thomas Chatterton Williams
Narrated by: Thomas Chatterton Williams
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Summary

How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-hop Culture

A pitch-perfect account of how hip-hop culture drew in the author and how his father drew him out again - with love, perseverance, and 15,000 books.

Into Williams's childhood home-a one-story ranch house-his father crammed more books than the local library could hold. "Pappy" used some of these volumes to run an academic prep service; the rest he used in his unending pursuit of wisdom. His son's pursuits were quite different: "money, hoes, and clothes."

The teenage Williams wore Medusa- faced Versace sunglasses and a hefty gold medallion, dumbed down and thugged up his speech, and did whatever else he could to fit into the intoxicating hip-hop culture that surrounded him. Like all his friends, he knew exactly where he was the day Biggie Smalls died, he could recite the lyrics to any Nas or Tupac song, and he kept his woman in line, with force if necessary.

But Pappy, who grew up in the segregated South and hid in closets so he could read Aesop and Plato, had a different destiny in mind for his son. For years, Williams managed to juggle two disparate lifestyles- "keeping it real" in his friends' eyes and studying for the SATs under his father's strict tutelage. As college approached and the stakes of the thug lifestyle escalated, the revolving door between Williams's street life and home life threatened to spin out of control. Ultimately, Williams would have to decide between hip-hop and his future. Would he choose "street dreams" or a radically different dream- the one Martin Luther King spoke of or the one Pappy held out to him now?

Williams is the first of his generation to measure the seductive power of hip-hop against its restrictive worldview, which ultimately leaves those who live it powerless. Losing My Cool portrays the allure and the danger of hip-hop culture like no book has before. Even more remarkably, Williams evokes the subtle salvation that literature offers and recounts with breathtaking clarity a burgeoning bond between father and son.

©2010 Thomas Chatterton Williams (P)2010 Penguin

What listeners say about Losing My Cool

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Very insightful

I was looking to better understand the realities of hip hop culture from the inside, in this case from someone who didn't have an immediate demand that he be part of it. The story is well told, engaging and highlights some of the deterministic events that reinforce tropes and behaviours even in those who appear to have had a choice and a stable family. Relatively fast paced and dense, but with plenty of emotion, relatability and clear narrative.

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  • jason
  • 21-04-12

The book is awful and so is anyone who praises it.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Not much, the book itself was all but worthless. Worst thing I've read or heard for some time.

What could Thomas Chatterton Williams have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

He could start by taking responsibility for his actions instead of blaming hip hop and black culture. He could also do well by eliminating the implication that black culture and hip hop culture are the same. Further, he could dispense with the absurd and inaccurate implications that hip hop culture and gangster culture are also interchangeable. He would literally have to write an entirely different book. A shining example of Williams disturbing lack of accountability is when he writes about a time he assaulted his girlfriend; attributes his actions to Biggie lyrics and likens the sound of the slap to the sound of a hi hat from a drum machine- and not just any drum machine, Puffy's drum machine. To make matters worse, rather than simply state what he did, he describes the situation in third person, saying he "emerged from auto pilot" when he stopped.Are you kidding me? This man grew up in a home with a strong black father who does not appear to have remotely raised his son to believe that this was acceptable behavior. He has no excuse for the knuckle headed, idiotic actions of his youth, and so he found a very convenient scape goat by indicting an entire culture and race of people. He's an absolute coward in my book. He also writes about how, if these young black athletes who mopped the floor with him in AAU ball, had applied the same focus and determination to their education, they could cure cancer!! Why not apply that logic to any and everything else then? Everyone should aspire to be a doctor in that case. Why not apply that same logic to the legions of mechanics and entrepreneurs and construction workers and plumbers and anyone else who has a skill they are passionate about and seek to use in pursuit of a better life for themselves? In the same breath, he drones on with yet another painfully inept and poorly thought out comment about the odds of these young men ever getting to the NBA, as though THEY THEMSELVES aren't aware of that fact. Further, he completely ignores the fact that many of these young men play for scholarships, go to school and graduate with a degree. This is downright comical in light of the fact that he himself was trying to obtain a scholarship through athletics, which he mentions not too long before this passage. The worst part about this book, is that it gives people such as the "suburban 50 year old white woman" what they believe to be an "insiders view" of hip hop culture. This is disturbing and downright insulting, considering this hack Williams presents the most vapid, limited, stereotypical, MTV cultivated glimpse of the culture. He couldn't be more of an outsider, considering how often he states early on that he didn't really relate to the music he listened to much less the people he tried so hard to imitate.... and yet this "50 year old suburban white woman" talks about how she learned about hip hop from an insider. What an insult. He presents an entirely ignorant view based on exposure so limited it amounts to dipping your toe in a pool and then writing a book about swimming across the ocean. It's insulting to hear this woman write about how she "learned about hip hop" from this book, because it literally teaches nothing about hip hop culture. I find this absolutely repulsive.Despite what the title says, this moron wasn't saved from hip hop by his fathers love; he was saved from his own poor choices, lack of personal accountability, and complete lack of character. This man lacks so much as the back bone it takes to own up to his own poor decision making. He had an identity crisis and chose to assimilate the most negatively stereotypical traits black people and hip hop culture- all this in light of the fact he had a strong, well educated black man for a father- and that is a reflection of nobody but himself. I was thoroughly disgusted by this book and wish I could get my credit back. What a complete waste of time. I find myself leery of anyone who thinks this a quality book with any worthwhile commentary, as it serves only to reinforce so many negative perceptions people have toward blacks and hip hop culture, and does so without any attempt at balance or fairness from a guy who says he slapped his girlfriend because Biggie told him to do it.

Did Thomas Chatterton Williams do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

Don't make me laugh. Seriously. Everyone in this book was woefully one dimensional, except for Pappy and his high school coach.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Nope, not a single one. I found it completely repugnant and devoid of any value whatsoever.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 27-05-19

An unorthodox bildungsroman

Losing my cool is the story of Thomas Chatterton Williams’ youth and intellectual coming of age, against the backdrop of the hip hop culture of the 80’s and 90’s. This is a culture with which Williams identifies strongly for many of his formative years, but gradually comes to understand as prescribing a restrictive set of acceptable behaviours, desires and thought.

Ultimately Williams levels a firm critique of what he has experienced as the stultifying effects of these cultural expectations. This seems to be the primary source of enmity behind strongly negative reviews of the book. Don’t read Losing My Cool for the final word on hip hop culture, but rather as a compelling personal account of a racialized youth intertwined in this culture, but growing ultimately towards a life on terms of Williams’ own. Williams father features prominently as a deeply supportive figure who holds learning and true self-realisation (hard-won in his own case) as the highest ideals for his children.

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  • Roy
  • 14-09-10

15000 Books and Hip-hop Culture

I ordered this book because it covered a topic (Hip-hop and its culture) that I know little about. I am always looking for books that will inform and Williams has fulfilled that need on many levels. This is the essentially the first person tale of Thomas Williams and his life with a loving, well educated and well read father. Williams gets caught up in the Hip-hop culture and ultimately finds his way to a much enriched life including - books.

This is a coming of age book which is fulfilling on one level and first person explanation of hip-hop culture its influence on the author. The book is expertly written and wonderfully read by the author. It certainly expanded my apprciation for memoir, hip-hop culture, and reading. Give this one a try.

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  • Lee H.
  • 05-12-22

Very revealing about life

Narrator was great. I love the honesty of the author; allowing us a view into the supposed coolness of black culture but then showing us how and why he relinquished it.

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  • Lion Heart
  • 20-08-22

An Essential Read

Excellently written and read by the author. This book gave me permission, through a calm rational evisceration of hip hop culture to loose my cool. I am forever grateful.

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  • Donutrogue7
  • 18-10-21

Phenomenal

As a racialized white person, I don't know what to say. His insight, though traveling through the lens of the Racialized Black experience, helped me to review how I think about my own self and the ways in which I limit myself because of the labels and signs we hang on ourselves. I'll be buying the paper version of this book ASAP.

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  • Bryan Yanez
  • 28-12-20

Skrt Skrt on the Soul

TCW illustrates an intrinsic struggle beseeched by youth of various backgrounds through the interpolation of hip hop. His experience of flowing through class and culture, (often on visa in these spaces), he weaves the benefits of assimilation, but only to question at what cost? His questioning of the soundtrack to his life in juxtaposition to his father and personal achievement gives a supple tension that engages readers -- (and most definitely hip hop heads). He reads his work very well, and sonically is not droll at all. Wu Tang Forever

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  • TS
  • 18-10-20

What a book...

Simultaneously heartbreaking and hopeful, with a violent beauty that takes your breath away when the slow boil comes and the window opens to the world outside of what he has known. TCW is an independent thinker pushing against the ebb and flow of today’s racial discussions and forging his own path. Good on him. That more would follow his lead and take their own journey, and not jump onto everyone else’s.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 21-06-20

Eye Opening

Entertaining and enlightening and occasionally shocking. An inside look to the real black America.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rachel Crabtree
  • 19-06-20

June 2020

Listening to this book on Junteenth, one week after the BLM protests. This is what everyone needs to hear but what is not being said by the mainstream. There are so many great things to be learned from and reflected on within this book.