Rap is the verbal and musical domain of hip-hop, an expressive oral form through which personal and social perspectives are amplified. It is a means of communicating a “new worldview” (Kitwana, 2002: 9) that is shared by an entire generation of African-Americans and, increasingly, non-Black citizens of the U.S. as well as a growing international cohort. While rap music displays diverse formal aesthetics, multiple discursive themes, and encompasses a wide array of topics it is also frequently derided among its detractors for its rhythmic intensity or tendencies toward vulgar, violent or sexist lyrical content, factors that are, of course, also evident in various other realms of popular music and culture. In the worst instances such negative judgments harbor a prevalent racism, simultaneously dismissing the music, the cultural underpinnings from which it is produced, and the black cultural workers and primary audience group that comprises its base. Rap and hip-hop are, then, inextricably entwined with race, cultural politics, ideology, and communication in contemporary America and in various moments since their inception they have, in fact, been at the center of heated debates in the nation’s notorious “culture wars.”
Rap has taken on the same kind of diversity of narrative that one can find in rock, but also in other forms of cultural narrative like literature. The discourse is limited by the nature of music and the musical tradition of condensing messages down to an essence. That tradition opens up rap, like rock to interpretations according to the listeners tendency to internalize and interpret. A tendency which can lend itself to culture clashes and exaggerations. In an odd way it marks the maturity of rap. The phenomenon of interpretation, documenting cultural influences, parsing of meaning and modern reductionism happens eventually to all art forms.
It is not so much the criticism of rap and some of the contents – references to sex, drugs, gangsterism and some of the rap that is clearly guilty of misogyny and homophobia – is not valid. At times the criticism tends to hypocritical. In the country music song “Let’s Get Dirty” by Heartland he sings,
She pulled up in a tricked out Ford truck
Revved up the engine and scared me half to death
Leaned out of the window and said
Let’s get dirty, sling a little mud
Three hundred horses underneath my hood
Let’s get dirty, I know the perfect spot
Take you down a backroad show you what I’ve got
Get the motor running hot
Let’s get dirty
The double entendre is no less graphic than 50 Cent’s “Gun Runners” “I got beef, I wanna see what you got, and if I like it I’ll cop”. In country music singer Terri Clark’s “Dirty Girl” she sings,
You’ll be workin on that El Camino,
bustin knuckles with a monkey wrench,
i’ll come sneakin up and whisper real low
what you really needs a 3/16ths,
and you know that there’s nothin like it in the world,
when were underneath the hood and i’m a dirty girl
In rapper Black Rob’s “Whoa!” he sings “Plus I’m gettin’ brain from this chick like whoa! Finger near a nigga asshole like whoa!” . Depending on one’s generation one might be perceived as more graphic than the other, but the essential meaning is not exactly subtle in either. Clark and Black Bob are both having a conversation not appropriate for children, but I don’t remember ever hearing of Senate hearings about country music. Anyway back to Obama and how rap has changed and influenced a semi-post racial America,
Obama presents a different face of American politics and a new model of 21st Century leadership, appealing across lines of racial and class difference. According to hip-hop lawyer Wendy Day, “hip-hop has impacted Obama’s campaign […] I believe white folk have been educated about the struggle and the black experience since the early 80s through rap music. I believe this education and increased awareness has reduced racism within this generation to the point of accepting a black president” (Hale, 2008: 64).
[ ]…As Obama gained momentum during the 2008 campaign, hip-hop artists emerged in droves as consistent commentators on national politics and the social landscape, offering pithy analyses and expressing an urgent need for change. While Obama’s blackness was clearly a factor in their engagement, so, too, was his age. He was generally accepted as a member of the hip-hop generation, having grown and matured in a world with hip-hop;
I tend to think there is something to the rap as street education – street smarts handed down from a generation that was in their teens and early twenties in the eighties – as an influence on an acceptance of or awareness of civil rights. The full paper is worth a read.
Wikipedia has an entry up on the 10% of your brain myth. The human mind has great capacity and is seldom pushed to its limits, but physically and biologically speaking we use up the entire area meant for abstract thinking.
“Although farming productivity has increased, nowadays farmers are being asked to do more than produce more food for a growing world population,” said Julia Kornegay, chair of the committee that wrote the report, and professor and head of the department of horticultural science at North Carolina State University, Raleigh. “Many modern agricultural practices have unintended negative consequences, such as decreased water and air quality, and farmers have to consider these consequences while trying to increase production. If farmers are going to meet future demands, the U.S. agriculture system has to evolve to become sustainable and think broadly — past the bottom line of producing the most possible.”
Farmers in the United States have become more efficient producers. For instance, in 2008 farm output was 158 percent higher than it was in 1948, and farmers today are producing more food with less energy per unit output than 50 years ago. However, U.S. agriculture has external costs that are mostly unaccounted for in productivity measurements, the report says. For example, water tables have declined markedly in some agricultural areas, and pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizers and pesticides have infiltrated surface water and rivers, creating oxygen-starved zones in waterways. The agricultural sector also is the largest contributor of two greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide and methane, in the United States.
Additionally, the committee found that farmers face other challenges, such as consumer concerns about the treatment of farm animals and food safety. Farmers’ income is also not keeping up with rising production costs, primarily due to the higher prices of external inputs such as seeds, fuel, and synthetic fertilizer. More than half of U.S. farm operators work off the farm to supplement their income and to obtain health care and retirement benefit plans.