Tag Archives: NPR

Awareness Politics

Can Hip-Hop Change The Style Of Politics? : NPR

NPR asks an interesting question.  One that seems to come up every election season with increasing alacrity.  Can Hip-Hop Change The Style Of Politics?

I have to say that my suspicion is no.  Hip hop, like many other things with a following and with celebrity backing, can have an impact on changing public opinion.  Sure, it’s been crucial at raising awareness of many issues and probably has made a few people start thinking about things in a particularly different manner.  However, it cannot do it alone.

To get a better sense of the issues, NPR interviewed Lester Spence, an associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University.  They had him to discuss his book: Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-hop and Black Politics.

The audio interview is 12 minutes if you can spare it.  Otherwise, there’s also a transcript that will let you scan the interview.  It’s actually a fascinating piece, and if you have the time I strongly suggest you take a read/listen.  Here’s a snippet.

MARTIN: So the idea that hip-hop is a core sort of truth teller, its primary purpose is to say sort of uncomfortable truth. Has that always been a part of its history?

SPENCE: Yes, it has. Hip-hop starts and rap starts as a way, as a vehicle for working class, black and Latino youth to express themselves and, although there is this boastful element to it, where you have MCs talking about how dope they are, etc., etc., people have always made the attempt, at least, to connect them to everyday reality.

MARTIN: What is not in dispute is that hip-hop is associated with a certain generation, or the rise of a certain generation with its own kind of preferences around music and style and a beat and so forth. And it doesn’t seem illogical to think that a generation that grew up with hip-hop as its primary musical form would also kind of take it into the voting booth, you know, as it were, or take it into the world of political activism.

Here’s a moment that crystallizes this for you very clearly, which you talk about in the book. The former Detroit mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, elected in 2001 at the age of 31 – of course, he comes from a political family. His mother, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, was the long time congressional representative from the Detroit area.

And you describe one of his inaugural events where he enters the room, but rather than silencing the crowd in the traditional manner to speak, he – finish telling us about that scene and tell us why you found it particularly powerful.

SPENCE: Yeah. I mean, so I was there. There were a number of DJs spinning house hip-hop all night long and he comes in while Biz Markie is DJing and Biz Markie is an old school MC who’s transitioned into being a DJ. And around the time the mayor walks in, Biz starts spinning his own stuff, like "You Got What I Need." Right.

And Kwame comes in and, instead of calming everybody down, you know, he takes up the mic and he starts singing with Biz Markie in the song. And then we all start singing with him. And I remember saying, like, man, this was the most charged political moment of my life. It was like, finally, there was somebody like us in office.


Listen to Gorillaz new album Plastic Beach

For one week only, over on NPR, you can stream the entire new Gorillaz album called Plastic Beach.

It’s a great opportunity to check it out and see if you love it.  NPR has this to say about it

Plastic Beach unites Albarn and Hewlett with a huge list of guests, creating yet another well-crafted and dance-friendly set of songs. Here, Albarn and company’s songs demonstrate a genre-bending collection of glitchy club beats and hip-hop grooves, augmented by brass, glitzy synthesizers and Asian- and Arabic-tinged orchestral harmonies.

They’ve got a whole bunch of new collaborators on this one, including Snoop and Mos Def. 


NPR’s best of fall hip hop


Maura Johnston, famous from writing for Idolator, has given a little radio interview to NPR talking about some upcoming acts.

Frankly, I don’t really agree with some of her choices but she does make some good points  She pumps up Jay-Z’s release, and the new Raekwon album, and has some time for a couple of smaller releases.

Stream the Best of Fall Hip Hop here.

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NPR loves T.I

NPR, the venerable public broadcaster, appears to have a bit of a thing for T.I.  The article is a bit of a joke, though it does contain a couple of good nuggets.

Andrew Noz, the author, makes the following claim:

When Jay-Z speaks, the rap world listens. So when, around the turn of the decade, he began publicizing that neither he nor his late friend The Notorious B.I.G. wrote their rhymes on paper, many rappers followed suit. Tattered notepads turned obsolete, as many artists instead began committing raps to memory or constructing them off the cuff in the studio, one line at a time.

This is something I’ve never even thought of, let alone heard of.  I had no idea that that many rappers didn’t actually write their rhymes down.  Then again, a bunch of today’s stars don’t write their own rhymes to begin with, so maybe this is a non-issue.

I’m not entirely sure why they think T.I is so amazing, especially considering how many crazy lyracists inhabit this realm, but I think he’s well regarded because he’s one of a few popular emcees who does take the time to write their own rhymes.  Lil Wayne, for example, does not.  Jay-Z, also loves having ghostwriters.

Check out the whole T.I. lovefest here.


5 dope jazz albums

Arturo O’Farrill took over the baton of the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra from his father, Latin jazz pioneer Chico O’Farrill.

He’s listed his top 5 jazz albums here, and I’ve got to say he’s got some pretty amazing taste.  Here they are:

  1. Relaxin’

    Artist: Miles Davis Quintet

  2. Now He Sings, Now He Sobs

    Artist: Chick Corea

  3. Head Hunters

    Artist: Herbie Hancock

  4. A Love Supreme

    Artist: John Coltrane

  5. Mingus Ah Um

    Artist: Charles Mingus


Al Green drops new album

Al Green has just released his new album Lay it Down.  He’s really gone out of his way to make a pretty killer record.  He’s recruited some top-notch talent, getting ?uestlove to produce some tracks.

He’s also featured John Legend,  Corrine Bailey Rae and others, trying to get the best of the “new soul” movement on his side.

I can’t even begin to tell you how unreal Al Green is, or was, in his classic days.  “Let’s Stay Together” has to be one of the most classic tracks I’ve ever heard of.

Green says that this album is full of love songs, something he’s always been good at.  So if you’re looking for a killer album for some summer romance, definitely pick this one up.

Listen to the NPR interview.

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I believe in hip hop

It’s a simple way to start an incredibly powerful article.

Laura Hall has lived a pretty tough life. She had to drop out of college to take a factory job. Yeah, that part doesn’t sound that bad, I guess. But she had to do this just to be able to afford to take care of her husband who was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.

She’d hated hip hop before this. Apparently she hated it so much she used to give her husband the silent treatment when he’d make her listen. But her story is that soon after having to do this, one of her husband’s Mos Def albums came up on the changer, and this is what she says:

“What had once sounded like a muddle of words to me took form and my belief in the message of hip-hop began, and this is what I heard:

All over the world hearts pound with the rhythm
Fear not of men because men must die
Mind over matter and soul before flesh,
Angels hold the pen, keep a record in time

I listened carefully to the entire album and actually heard what Mos Def was saying. I heard his call for self-reliance and his cry for equality. But more than that, the music let me feel the struggle of another person’s life experience.”

I honestly loved reading that. Hip hop managed to reach someone who had been so hostile to it, and managed to do so by relating to a struggle going on in her own life.

Many of us fell in love with hip hop in similar ways. It doesn’t really matter what struggle we faced, what issues we were dealing with. I’m always proud of people who can come out and specifically pinpoint when they got turned onto music.

Now I like hip-hop more than Adam does. It’s what gets me through my day. Working with the beats helps me move faster, increasing my piece-rate pay by a dollar an hour. My dream is to help those who suffer with mental illness. I want to fight the problems of inaccessible treatment, incarceration, stigma and homelessness all resulting from mental illness. The only problem is that I work in a factory all day, everyday, just to pay for the medications Adam needs to get by.

If you just want to listen to her read her own essay, click below.

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[Source: NPR]


Can hip hop get out the vote? – NPR Radio will tell you.

NPR radio has just run a pretty interesting look at hip hop and its tie to US Politics.

So, NPR has run this interview with “interviewer Farai Chideya, Robert “Biko” Baker (the executive director of the League of Young Voters); Sonia Murray, a music reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; and DJ Drama, an Atlanta-based recording artist and DJ.” (I just copied and pasted this little paragraph from the NPR website).

Sadly, I can’t find a way to link directly to the audio stream, so you’ll have to listen from the NPR website here.

So Biko, besides being nicknamed after one of the biggest driving forces behind the movement to end apartheid in South Africa, is also the current director of the League of Young Voters.  It’s has a pretty amazing mission, to try and turn out young voters, particularly from inner-city and other disenfranchised areas.  Youth are the people who are often the most disaffected with contemporary politics and thus the least likely to turn out.

Not being extremely familiar with NPR, I was pleasantly surprised with the nature of the interview.  Chideya asked some tough questions, and I’m glad to see it.

If you have 16 minutes to spare, take a listen.  Even if you don’t, take a listen and fast forward through parts that you don’t like.