Streams

Taking Hip Hop Seriously

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tricia Rose, professor of Africana Studies at Brown University and author of The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop-And Why It Matters, argues that any discussion about hip hop is also a discussion about race.

Guests:

Tricia Rose

Comments [52]

dre from nyc

just listened to the show. prof. tricia rose has opened my eyes to a whole new world. i would love to hear more of her. is it possible to get this author back on for more time???

Dec. 12 2008 11:51 PM
Ian from New Jersey

Why does everybody that comes on npr to talk about hip hop mispronounce rakim's name? it sort of negates everything that is said, as it gives the impression that the author hasn't spent too much time listening to the music she's writing about.

Dec. 09 2008 09:24 PM
Anthony from Brooklyn

Science, Genetics and religion have nothing to grow up to. "Modern" thought tries to deny what happens on a cellular level in the brain. Re-training human being to act up-to-date doesn't happen overnight and will take tens of thousands of years.

Dec. 09 2008 01:20 PM
Office Worker from Brooklyn

There is progressive, positive hip hop, but I think that there is a disturbing tendency of progressively-minded liberals to overstate its relevancy.

Flat out, no one listens to that stuff.

White friends ask me to give them the low-down on the hip hop that's REALLY good, like there's a genre of uplifing, positive and creative music that blacks are hiding from them. It's not really the case. Few black people listen to the underground/backpacker music.

The "streets" (ie, black urban centers) love jay-Z and Lil Wayne, not Mr. Lif or Murs or people like that. So hip hop has this mixed reputation, but most of the positive stuff is artificially inflated and gives outsiders a distorted perspective on the culture. The reality of hip hop is worse than its image.

Dec. 09 2008 01:15 PM
Ronnie from Netherlands

Dear Mischief,

While I agree with your comment, I think that it is important that Anthony and others understand where "enlightenment" comes from or else your just doing what your name suggests. Enlightenment from the Father and the Holy Spirit and is a result of being born again. It is carried out by possessing a child-likeness that allows one to be retaught. Put some effort into shedding light on this side as well?

Dec. 09 2008 01:09 PM
Mischief from New York

I must use "Anthony" as the example here... He embodies the whole screwed up hip hop mentality. I believe that Paulo (#3 Paulo) is on the money and that Anthony and those men and women like him can use Paulo's comment as a way to self-examine themselves and be "enlightened". It doesn't take a long time to simply get a clue...well maybe it does for so-called "educated" people. The truth is staring you in the face Anthony...use it to grow up and become the higher mammal that you were always meant to be.

Dec. 09 2008 12:46 PM
Peter from Sunset Park

Doug,

Thanks man, you have a good one too.

Peter

Dec. 09 2008 12:38 PM
Doug from Astoria


Peter,

very good points...I don't know Mos Def's music that well. If it is as you explain then I see your stance. All in all I guess all we can do is trust that what we hear being down by our Gov't is done with good intent and has been well thought out. I suppose only Neil Armstrong knows the truth. Have a good one!

Dec. 09 2008 12:23 PM
Doug from Astoria

Anthony,

Your comments are truly too foolish for me to muster effort to argue! You be an animal with no ability to make any decisions outside of what your instinct tells you and I will be an intelligent man. Imagine if we were to take this thought process to the rest of society. If so, why care about racism or equality at all. Why care about being faithful in a relationship. Why not kill and destroy anything in our way. This is extreme Darwinian thought taken out of context and then romanticized in the form of philosophy.

Dec. 09 2008 12:15 PM
avi from brooklyn

I was very impressed with Prof. Rose. I just wanted to link the recent Jon Favreau Facebook fiasco with the hip hop and frat boy misogyny that is so prevalent in our culture. President-Elect Obama is in a unique position to speak out on sexism. It is not amusing that his speechwriter feels it is acceptable to act in such a sexist way toward any woman, much less the Secretary of State designate. Yet Mr. Obama (a son, a grandson, a husband, a father of girls)never addressed the hatred against women shown duing the election and he doesn't seem to be doing so now. How can any woman, here or anywhere in the world, listen to his words from now on and not think about the callous young man who wrote them? Women are abused, women are murdered, every day because of this hatred. It doesn't belong in our music, and it certainly doesn't belong in our government.

Dec. 09 2008 12:00 PM
sarah from Brooklyn

My comment was about sexism in rap and how I choose not to take it too seriously, especially with commerical hip hop. It was in response to the viewpoint represented in the first comment.

Dec. 09 2008 12:00 PM
Doug from Astoria

Peter...though I am not saying I agree with Mos Def if this is what he said his idea is not as unusual as one may think. I studies History and Philosophy of Science and Technology while in my undergrad and I found that there are many prominent professors, engineers, astrophysicists etc that believe the same. That much of NASA is truly a gov't front that allows for supposed monies to be put places the Gov't or CIA wants. Interesting when we consider how much money has been put into something that only a few people can say whether the organization is really getting all that funding. Again just an interesting though but how do we know as average citizens how much it costs to study Mars etc. I mean is there really anyway for us to def know that say 100 million dollars really went into NASA research or did truly only 20 million go into it? ha just a thought

Dec. 09 2008 11:59 AM
Peter from Sunset Park

Dubya (23),

Mos Def is the same guy who proclaims that astronauts have never been to the moon and that there is some type of NASA conspiracy of lies going on. I hope Mos Def doesn’t get any more radio play. He isn’t someone who should be a role model or given a platform.

Dec. 09 2008 11:48 AM
Mario from Washington Heights

I commend Brian Lehrer and the show's producers for having Tricia Rose on the show. I believe that she is one of the wisest and most important thinkers of our time. (I was privileged to take two courses with her at NYU and have her sit in on my panel when I presented my thesis.) She is truly an example of how academia can play a vital role in the development not only of our collective culture and political thought, but also in our ability to reflect on the meaning of our political and cultural expressions... particularly in areas of our life that we somehow fail to recognize are politically charged. With all due respect to her peers, Tricia Rose is uniquely brilliant in her ability to balance academic critique with principled political orientation, and in a way that remains not only accessible to people in the mainstream, but which nearly everyone who hears her can immediately recognize as extremely vital. She really deserves a wider audience, and I hope that she is invited back on a much more regular basis.

Dec. 09 2008 11:46 AM
Doug from Astoria

Anthony,

I lived in Harlem for some time with my girlfriend. She is far from a whore as a matter of fact she is a very conservative dressing catholic. However, because she is tall, thin and attractive we constantly had to deal with rude, sexual, disgusting comments even when I was walking with her. I agree that when a women dresses in an intentional provocative way, inevitably it is going to get more attention and arousal from men; however, do you make vocal rude remarks everytime you see a person on the street you are attracted to. Frankly, your excuse is a foolish one. Do you not realize that part of the reason why some women feel they should dress in this manner is because they have lived a life under the dominance of anti-feminine thinking and mistreatment. I totally agree that there is a mutual responsibility but the excuse you are giving for this all is a quite dangerous and anti-progressive attitude.

Dec. 09 2008 11:44 AM
The Truth from Atlanta/New York

yeah there we go anthony. blame it on the women! what a one-sided sexist view.

Dec. 09 2008 11:43 AM
Brian from Brooklyn

Doug i agree. I think discussions like these aren't at all about music but about mainstream culture-- specifically corporate "hip-hop" and whatever trends and attitudes it happens to be promoting.

Dec. 09 2008 11:38 AM
Anthony from Brooklyn

If the woman would have more pride in themselves and not walk around half naked or dress seductively then men would not always act like disgusting idiots. It takes two to tango. The men act like pigs and the woman dress and act like whores.

Dec. 09 2008 11:35 AM
Nancy from Manhattan

Your last caller brought up a topic I'd love to hear addressed on your show in the future, Brian (probably in summer) -- (sexual) street harassment of women.

Dec. 09 2008 11:35 AM
Gary Price from Suffolk County (long Island)

Professor Rose,

I enjoyed the show very much. Do you see Hip Hop as a continuation of a Black musical tradition with its roots in Delta Blues?

Thank you.

Dec. 09 2008 11:34 AM
Doug from Astoria

Brian I disagree that hip hop is dead...it takes more effort and searching but there are really some amazing inde and underground rap and hip hop out there that has yet to be damaged by the money and demands of labels and corporate radio.

Dec. 09 2008 11:34 AM
Telegram Sam from Staten Island

sarah from brooklyn: That's like the white racist with the one black friend: "Yeah, I say 'n****r,' but one of my best friends is..."

Dec. 09 2008 11:31 AM
JR from Brooklyn

I am a great admirer of Tricia Rose's work, but have a bone to pick. Many politically progressive hip-hop fans sentimentalize hip-hop history -- positing that the marketplace corrupted what was an artistically pure, politically-engage folk form. But hip-hop was always party music. And the fact remains that many of the artists championed by progressive hip-hop fans -- Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco, the Roots, et. al. -- simply aren't as interesting, witty, artistically accomplished, or, yes, fun as, say, Lil Wayne or Jay-Z. There's a scolding, schoolmarmish quality to this critique. "Progressive" hip-hop performers need to step up their game if they want to compete.

Dec. 09 2008 11:30 AM
Aimee from Harlem

Growing up I was only able to listen to Rap or Hip Hop artists if I could prove to my mom that it had a message and what it was. Queen Latifah's U.N.I.T.Y. was allowed but many others were not. Parents need be the filters for their children's ears and challenge them to think about what they are listening to.

Dec. 09 2008 11:30 AM
Doug from Astoria

Dan this is what she is saying on the air...another issue is that even what we hear on corporate radio is so often the songs that Labels etc. want the Big Name rappers i.e. Lil Wayne, Kanye West to put out as singles. Sometimes when one looks deeper into the non radio play tracks that these guys do there is suddenly more intelligent and interesting lyrics and attitude. Rap culture and rap music can be so interesting and poetic. I believe it is an essential and fascinating movement in art and in American Equality progression. My overall point being that rap and the hip hop culture has been so slandered and pigeon holed into a degenerate state. It is not the true point of hip hop.

Dec. 09 2008 11:30 AM
Brian from Brooklyn

Hip Hop is dead.

Dec. 09 2008 11:30 AM
Chris from Manhattan

By the early 90's the conscience of hip hop was sold off. MTV took off KRS-1's love's gonna get you because of violent images, but left the humpy dance on because being sexually explicit is ok. Sex sells and moral values does not. The underground has more to offer then the commercialized form of hip hop.

Dec. 09 2008 11:30 AM
Telegram Sam from Staten Island

I'm always amazed how many white music fans - including critics - will accept lyrics and behavior from hip hop artists that they wouldn't from rock musicians. It's a form of "soft" racism.

Agreed though that talking about corporate hip hop as all hip hop is pretty silly. I know almost zip about hip hop except mainstream radio crap. I heard Common for the first time last year and it was a revelation, like, Wow, there are real artists doing this.

Dec. 09 2008 11:29 AM
The Truth from Atlanta/New York

This genre of music has quality levels - same as rock, heavy metal.

Dec. 09 2008 11:29 AM
Dubya

Dan from Queens,

Even Mos Def. Point is, if they aren't being marketed, no one knows they exist. Radio doesn't play them.

Dec. 09 2008 11:29 AM
David from Brooklyn

Hip Hop is a victim of its own success. Once a musical genre reaches it's level it no longer has the same freedom it once had to be real. Hip Hop as a music that conveys a message suffers greatly from the consolidation of the artform into a product.

Dec. 09 2008 11:27 AM
Davis from Brooklyn

I'm happy to hear someone speak about the problems within this genre of music, especially the lack of self criticism. I believe without the ability to self analyze and criticize it's impossible to grow and evolve to new forms of music. Like Gospel did for Blues and Jazz, Rock & Roll to Mo-town to Funk. What has evolved from hip hop in the last 20 years? Kids today listen to the same music as their parents. I hope music will start to grow again and we find a new hip hop.

Dec. 09 2008 11:27 AM
shaun from astoria

on that sad note, perhaps your guest can talk about the pervasive homophobia in mainstream hiphop

Dec. 09 2008 11:27 AM
Matt from Bushwick

A similar thing happens in country music - when Lucinda Williams won a grammy - somebody from a popular station called her label and said "don't get any ideas." What they meant was - she wouldn't get any more air time on a station who's programming was already streamlined to reflect a kind of image of the music.

Dec. 09 2008 11:25 AM
Not Believing the Hype in Brooklyn from Manhattan

As a loyal listener of color I am always troubled when guests like this are on your show and throw out statements such as "thousands of young black men are being targeted ..." and is not challeged to provide statistical support for such statements. Thus, guests like this lose credibility immediately. Why aren't the underlying premises of statements like this challenged?

Dec. 09 2008 11:24 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

On the subject of graffiti, when I was in Rio de janeiro earlier this year, I was stunned by the graffiti in the city. It was brilliant, it was edgy, and it really spoke to me. Some of it was absolutely beautiful.

Do a show on graffiti!

Dec. 09 2008 11:23 AM
Nechesa from Bed Stuy Brooklyn

all I kept saying was "YES, YES YES!!!" to Tricia's comments!

Can you comment on role models like Jay-Z who have capitalized off of the genre. This IS the day of selling out. He constantly raps about how he came from Marcy Projects but you don't see any substantive change in the community. All we hear about is the stadium off of which he's expected to make a mint.

Dec. 09 2008 11:23 AM
sarah from Brooklyn

Most male rappers don't disrespect women, it's part of a image and people should know not to take it seriously. Many succesful rappers became succesful because of supportive loving mothers (Nas, Kanye). And if you seen Snoop Dog's reality show, you know he respects and worships his wife!

Dec. 09 2008 11:22 AM
Top Gigio from The World

Thank you for this discussion. Could Prof. Rose discuss the troublesome "mainstreaming" of deviancy and indulging of negative hip-hop stars by Madison Avenue and politicians, (e.g. Bloomberg appearing with someone like Jay Z, Lee Iacocca appearing with Snoop Dogg in a TV commercial) I can only assume they've never listened to a minute of hip-hop. There are so many more thoughtful, intelligent artists in hip-hop to be indulged!

Dec. 09 2008 11:22 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

Everytime on turn on hot97, every song is about money. Does anyone else get sick of hearing the same song over and over and over. I don't want to hear about their car, rims and bling. Whatever happened to groups like Pete Rock and CL Smooth

Dec. 09 2008 11:22 AM
Mireille LIong from Jersey City

Very interesting. I like the fact that she can talks about hip hop from different stand points. I agree with a lot of what she says. I'll add the book to my wish list.

Dec. 09 2008 11:21 AM
Dan from Queens

I take "corporate rap" about as seriously as Britney Spears, what about Talib Kweli, Common, The Roots or Little Brother. Why can't we focus on the postive!

Dec. 09 2008 11:20 AM
Steve N. from Harlem

No female MCs? What about M.I.A.?

Dec. 09 2008 11:20 AM
AWM from UWS

Like all art forms when it became a lucrative business it's creation and form became part of a business formula. It became repetative, uninspired and ugly. De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, etc. aren't the greatest selling artists because ugliness sells and the industry realized this, positivity be damned.

Dec. 09 2008 11:18 AM
O from Forest Hills

Miss Rose is very eloquent, but I don't see the connection that she is trying to make.

It is almost like saying just because someone is black they automatically listen to hip hop, are violent, wear the pants around their knees, etc.

What is her point?

Dec. 09 2008 11:18 AM
Dubya

There are lots of bad hip hop but also some good stuff out there. BDP was a major voice in hip hop in the 80's and 90's, with KRS-1 leading the way. Common, The Roots, the Coup, Kanye, and even Jay-Z (old Jay) have crafted some of the most clever and intelligent hip hop today. I sample these guys because there is an honesty in their music. They show vulnerability, struggles, joys, love and anger.

The radio unfortunately doesn't play the "intelligent" stuff and thus, commenter #1 is actually validated in making comments like

It's not poetry, but a poetic art form that critiques others and themselves.

Dec. 09 2008 11:18 AM
Jim

Do hip-hop artists use the N***gr word in their music?

Dec. 09 2008 11:17 AM
Joe from Englewood, nj

I feel that the videos are doing a great disservice to young viewers. The artists never wear their seat belts in those fancy cars.

Dec. 09 2008 11:16 AM
O from Forest Hills

That was a good song by Queen Latifah.

Dec. 09 2008 11:15 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

Hip hop's "self love" is really shameless self promotion. It's hard to find any other genre of music that promotes the same sort of bald-faced narcissism and egotism. It may have started as a way for people to see themselves as beautiful and special, but its fallen far from that original ideal if so.

Dec. 09 2008 11:15 AM
Brian from Brooklyn

Did she just say "Ra-KEEM"? Credibility gone already.

Dec. 09 2008 11:11 AM
O from Forest Hills

Hip Hop music encourages violence against women and rape and disrespect of all people so I don't listen to it.

Dec. 09 2008 11:09 AM

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