Taking the rap: hip hop, R&B and social responsibility

Sunday 20 October, 9.30am until 10.15am, Garden Room Artistic Battles

Hip hop and R&B have been embraced by mainstream society in recent years, yet the culture and its leading exponents still find themselves coming under intense scrutiny. Criticised for propagating homophobia, misogyny and gangsterism, stars from Jay-Z to Rihanna are increasingly called upon to buck the trend and set a good example. It is within this climate that Frank Ocean is lionised for coming out as bisexual, thus standing up against hip-hop homophobia, while Rihanna is lambasted for going back to abusive boyfriend Chris Brown, as she is seen as reinforcing the culture’s underlying patriarchy.

Should musicians be expected to set a good example – in either their music or personal life? Are such calls simply symptomatic of hip-hop’s growing cultural acceptability or proof that it still possesses the ability to terrorise respectable opinion? Are critics expressing deeper anxieties over out-of-control urban youth or is it time for rap culture to grow up?

Speakers
Lindsay Johns
writer and broadcaster; (non-residential) Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African & African-American Research at Harvard University

Brendan O'Neill
editor, spiked; columnist, Big Issue; contributor, Spectator; author, A Duty to Offend: Selected Essays

Rosie Swash
online fashion editor, Guardian

Campbell X
film maker and digital consultant, director, Stud Life

Chair:
Tom Slater
deputy editor, spiked; coordinator, Down With Campus Censorship!

Produced by
Tom Slater deputy editor, spiked; coordinator, Down With Campus Censorship!
Recommended readings
Conscious Hip-Hop, Change, and the Obama Era

This article identifies a particular aspect of hip-hop’s range of cultural production—conscious rap—in order to isolate one of the more politicized discursive options available to youth in America and a site where critical perspectives on post-Civil Rights America have emerged most forcefully.

Murray Forman, American Studies Journal, 2013

WHY ALL THE WHINING OVER BLURRED LINES?

The hysteria over Robin Thicke’s hit shows PC has colonised every area of life.

Tom Slater, spiked, 13 September 2013

Rage gone wrong: Kanye West releases angry, misogynistic ‘Yeezus’

When he targets social injustice, racism, corrupt politics and cultural ills, he contributes to the American conversation in a meaningful way. But when he is so casually violent in his attitudes toward women, West does himself, the hip-hop art form and the rest of us a huge disservice.

Jeff Miers, Buffalo News, 26 June 2013

In hip-hop, violence is taking on a diminishing role

Nowadays gangsta rap doesn't hold the same sway as in the days of Tupac and Biggie. For artists like Drake and Nas, the battles are of ideas and emotions.

Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times, 15 February 2013

Homophobia in Hip-Hop

When I was growing up, rap's raw sound drew me in, but its repugnant attitudes toward women and the LGBT community left me feeling torn. I love hop-hop but dislike what it has sometimes stood for.

peter Wright, Huffington Post, 8 February 2013

Charities accuse Rihanna of 'sanctioning' violence

Campaigners against domestic violence condemn singer for sending 'dangerous message' after she shows compassion for man who beat her

Kunal Dutta, Independent, 19 August 2012

Electoral Reform: purple revolution or middle-class obsession?

"To contribute to Battle of Ideas is to add a few words to a giant, communal speech-bubble out of the gap-toothed mouth of British opinion. It is a strong reminder that the joys of free, uncalculated speech and the right to attack orthodoxies can in no way be assumed in 2012 – that we use them or lose them."
Piers Hellawell, composer; professor of composition, Queen’s University Belfast

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