”There is no denying the cultural legitimacy of hip-hop.”

December 20, 2011 8 Comments
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So says Mychal Denzel Smith, a freelance writer and social commentator, in CiF.

Presumably, only because ‘Private Eye’ no longer does ‘Pseuds Corner’:

Judging by the amount of fuss he caused, one would think Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson had floated the idea of abolishing child labor laws. In reality, all he had done was announce that this semester he would be teaching a course entitled “Sociology of Hip-Hop – Urban Theodicy of Jay-Z.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…

Oh. Wait. You’re serious?

Perhaps the most incisive and disparaging critique came from Stephen Wu, a junior at Georgetown, who, writing for the Hoya student newspaper, said, “The proposition that Jay-Z is in the same galaxy as – much less the heir to – the preeminent epic poet [Homer] of human history represents a basic misapprehension of either Jay-Z’s importance or the development of western thought and literature over 2,500 years.”

Well, quite! Who the hell could argue with that?

But a controversy isn’t a controversy without at least two diverging points of view. Zack O’Malley Greenburg, author of Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office took to Forbes to defend the class that had invited him to be a guest speaker. Responding directly to Wu’s argument, Greenburg counters, “I’m not disputing Homer’s impact on western civilisation, but this sort of small-minded statement ignores the entire body of socially conscious hip-hop (yes, parts of it contributed by Jay-Z), not to mention some of the most prominent themes present throughout Homer’s works.”

Are you sure you’ve got the right ‘Homer’ there, Zack? I don’t think Stephen meant the one from ‘The Simpsons’, you know…

But the notion that this class needs to be defended is preposterous on its face. Jay-Z doesn’t need to be Homer. Or Shakespeare. Or Mark Twain, Beethoven or Wagner. He’s Jay-Z: arguably, the most important figure to come out of the biggest cultural movement of the past 30 years.

Or he’s just a kid who can sing. A bit. And sort of dance.

His particular genius lies in his ability to take the misunderstood worldview of a dispossessed group and make it palatable to a diverse audience. Through him, people from all different backgrounds have access to the unique and sometimes flawed philosophies of black men in the post-civil rights/black power generation.

Oh. I see. Aren’t we lucky?

“Hip-hop basically is simply this starting point for these broader questions about life and philosophy and worldview,” says Mark Anthony Neal, professor of black popular culture at Duke University.

Professor of what..?!?

This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, class on hip-hop to make its way into the halls of higher education (there are over 300, in any case). It is conceivable that, one day, major universities will award major degrees in the study of hip-hop. No, it isn’t organic chemistry or engineering, but that doesn’t diminish its value.

Well, organic chemistry and engineering has given us cheap power and lighting, the aeroplane, the motor car, television, etc. Hip-hop has given us….

…errr….

…OK, I’m struggling here. What has it given us, other than stupid clothes, bling-culture, drive-bys and misogyny?

The critics will find themselves on the wrong side of history. Everyone else will brush their shoulders off.

Is ‘brush their shoulders off’ a hip-hop slang thing? Or does this bloke just have bad dandruff?

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8 Responses to ”There is no denying the cultural legitimacy of hip-hop.”

  1. john in cheshire
    December 20, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    As usual I ask : Who is telling me this and why do they want me to know it? I haven’t heard of either Ms Smith or Mr Dyson. However, my first view is that they are sicialists/marxists and that they are promoting this trash because it is yet another opportunity to attach Western civilisation. I could be wrong, but then why would they knowingly make such ludicrous assertions?

    • December 20, 2011 at 8:54 pm

      >>”Who is telling me this and why do they want me to know it?”

      Exactly. Another thing to ask: Will someone be making the same claims in twenty years?

      • December 21, 2011 at 8:08 am

        No, I expect there’ll be other sorts of junk degrees around by then. :razz:

        • December 21, 2011 at 8:18 am

          TOWIE Studies?

    • Mr Civil Libertarian
      December 20, 2011 at 9:12 pm

      “However, my first view is that they are sicialists/marxists and that they are promoting this trash because it is yet another opportunity to attach Western civilisation.”

      How on earth is hip hop- a musical genre originating from the States- an attack on Western civilisation?

  2. December 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    “The critics will find themselves on the wrong side of history.”

    …as I intend to teach it.

  3. Simon in Ukraine
    December 20, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    When the powers that be expanded higher education was it to better the lot of mankind or was it to make jobs for people who are articulate about complete rubbish. The can write an intelligent sounding piece that makes the reader no better off than they were before, or in the student’s case having paid the fee, studied the module and thinking, right how do I apply this to life?

    • December 21, 2011 at 8:09 am

      “…or was it to make jobs for people who are articulate about complete rubbish.”

      Agreed!

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