Rebroadcast: Hip Hop

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Open Source is off this week, so we’re re-broadcasting five shows we developed in the months after Katrina hit as part of an ongoing series on race and class. Tonight: Race and Class: Hip Hop.

From Chris’s original billboard:

A quarter century before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, hip-hop music had become a sort of advance soundtrack of the storm. In that sense, Katrina and its revelations about race and class realities in America fit into a series of a hip-hop moments in our modern history, up there with the burning of the Bronx in the 70s, with Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing?? hit movie in the 80s, with the Rodney King beating, trial and riots in Los Angeles in the early 90s: all of them markers of rage at a color line that’s officially not there, rage at injustice and now at abandonment. Hip hop began as both the protest poetry and the danceable entertainment version of an evolving African-American take on life after the civil rights movement. By now hip-hop refers to a generation, a dress code, an attitude, a galaxy of stars and a cultural bridge for kids of all colors that makes all of their parents a bit nervous.

Chris Lydon, Open Source, December 12, 2005

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  • loki

    If you are in a jam and want to go free

    Mr. Holmes is the man who want to see

  • Ward

    Hip Hop hurts very poor vocal, musical tone and rhythm. Also never has the level of violence against everything in life accelerated so fast in music. I just want another silly love song! I am afraid if this trend continues I will have to take the radios out of my home and car. I already turned off the TV in 1982.

  • Ward I understand your frustrations…but you only get to hear the “commercialized hip-hop” there is plenty of Hip Hop that has what your looking for, even some live bands with singing. But I’m sorry you have to go looking for it. As the DJ’s used to “dig in the crates”

    One Luv,


  • Brendan– thanks for asking my question nine months back on the original broadcast. I remember tuning in very briefly to this show but never getting a chance to listen to it, so it was nice to hear my question asked!

    And thanks leaving in my disclaimer– yes, I was willing to be proved wrong.

    Tracking down a random research lead, I found myself trying to answer my question in the last week. I read Jeff Chang’s book, read portions of Tricia Rose’s Black Noise and Greg Tate’s essays in the Village Voice from that era.

    It’s certainly a rich history, and I now think it impossible to understand the last 25 years of America without understanding hip-hop. I empathize by Ward’s comment above; I certainly used to make that case myself. We tend to judge popular music by the greats– Ellington, the Beatles, U2– who’ve carried a long career of music as a steady companion that takes us through all the moods. Hip-hop is a sustained dialogue, an assault even, that doesn’t let its listener rest.

    Granted, given the hypermasculine roots of hip-hop, by now there have been plenty of silly love songs that have now backfilled the genre.

  • darwhin

    i think they over think the issue. they are putting way too much weight into the power of this entertainment. tell me, whens the last time this “rap” turned out the youth vote? NEVER! its just masturbatory nonsense.

    as for the supposed conspiracy mtv and the “corporations” have against this progressive hip hop, well thats just ignoring the market. one of the speaker talkslike there are thousands of hit songs being ignored, thats absurd. where theres demand and money to made it’ll get done, never underestimate the power of greed. hell, with the internet you can reach out and spread like wildfire if you were really any good. its just more of this racial “the man is keeping me down” nonsense, the politics of the past. with the internets rise with p2p and itunes/ipod the influence of mtv is fading fast. its not a good excuse to use these days.

    as for kanye west, what he said was rather trite and really didn’t mean much beyond it being slightly rude or unexpected. and people around the world not knowing we have poor? well maybe they’ve supressed it in a rather selective way. i’m sure any european smugly knows exactly how many people we incarcerate and how superior their social benifits are compared to ours.

  • barbarajeane

    Enough with all of the yammering on about commercialization and ‘telling it like it is’!! That Americans (of any color) will invest so much vitriol into a discussion of pop music is proof that we’re living in a culture that’s past its prime. This is particularly so for Black Americans. The problem with this poor, Black youth culture (which we all know is consumed and marketed by a wide variety of people, many of whom are wealthy, old, and not Black) is that it is profoundly unintelligent and reinforces the anti-achievement orientation that plagues many of its listeners. Who cares whether more so-called progressive artists receive airplay?? Ask your average poor, Black 14 year old to solve a Physics problem or write a persuasive essay, then get up in arms about the result. While some black people debate what “real” hip hop is or whether something is “positive”, they’re not focusing on SAT scores, the impact of estate tax reform on poor & middle America, energy policy or anything else of far greater importance. If you want to know ‘what time it is’, buy a watch, pick up a newspaper, or read a book. Don’t listen to a rhyming 20 year old trying to sell a record.