Commentary By Bakari Kitwana

Hip-Hop Politics Joins Conservative Hitlist

Originally published on newsone.com

When John McWhorter landed a summer 2008 release date for his book All About the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can’t Save Black America, those working behind the scenes to get it published correctly anticipated two variables that would give the book an edge: grassroots hip-hop organizers would be in full force this election season, and big name hip-hop stars would attach their names to youth-oriented get-out-the-vote efforts. What they didn’t predict was that McWhorter would not have done his research.

Who could blame them? McWhorter, a former linguistics professor at Cornell University and the University of California – Berkeley, is the author of 12 books and reads 13 languages. He has been outspoken about hip-hop in his New...

Ludacris Controversy Sparks Need for Morality in Hip-Hop

The recent uproar over the Ludacris pro-Obama rap song revealed once again that we are a nation willing to consume and enjoy hip-hop music, even as we refuse to understand hip-hop culture. The question “where does hip-hop end and Black culture begin?” would be a great start. Until we get there, what may be a speed bump for the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee today, poses an even bigger obstacle for hip-hop activists attempting to leverage hip-hop’s popularity into political influence this election season and beyond.

Senator Obama’s challenge is obvious. In the political mainstream hip-hop equals sex, violence, misogyny and criminal behavior. And no matter how fiercely it’s defended, this message doesn’t get explained away. Obama’s opponents (Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly...

Jay-Z: Hip-Hop and High Society

Black Book magazine

Jay-Z likes to tell the story of the radio station that invited him in for an interview. He arrives, sits down at the mic and can't help wondering why he's surrounded by bottles of Cristal. "What's that for?" he asks. "You," the radio host responds. "Come on Be for real, man, like what—did you think I was going to be popping Cristal at ten o-clock in the morning?"

Pose a surface question to Jay-Z about his seeming obsession with all things bourgeois from the private jets to Benzes, designer clothing and beyond that have served as the backdrop for much of his highly successful rap career and expect a defensive response.

" A lot of my records, a lot of things I do I just really paint a picture, you know. And, sometimes I'm just...

Hip-Hop Stands to Lose It’s Soul

Originally Published in Newsday

There comes a time in the life span of any art form when

becoming mainstream is a cause of celebration. (Happy to finally gain wider

recognition, after laboring so hard in the hinterlands.) And then there is that

other time when the realization comes crashing in that such mainstream

acceptance is the best indication that the art is quickly losing its soul. Now

is that time for hip-hop.

The Grammy Awards nominations (five each) for rappers Nelly and Eminem is

the latest such signpost that it's time (again) to reevaluate where hip-hop

stands relative to its humble beginnings and...

The Huffington Post

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 2:45pm

Originally published in the Huffingtonpost.com

As the 2012 presidential election ramps up, expect conservatives to keep gunning for black youth, in general, and hip-hop, specifically. Black youth showed significant gains in 2008, and now represent the group of 18- to 29-year-old who vote the most. Their ability via popular to inspire young voters -- who in 2008 voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by a ratio of 2-to-1 -- poses one of the most viable threats to Republicans' aspirations to retake the Ppesidency. The recent national discussion surrounding the rapper Common'...

Sunday, November 7, 2010 - 11:33am

Let’s begin with the premise that no people, culture, religious, racial or ethnic group is by definition immoral. Not acknowledging this, at the core, is the problem with Juan Williams’ gross generalization about Muslims that recently got him fired from National Public Radio (NPR). But if NPR’s “Fresh Air” interview last week with the rapper Jay-Z about his new book Decoded is any indication, it’s a message still lost on Terry Gross.

To be sure, Juan Williams revealed his bias by openly expressing his personal opinion. Terry Gross didn’t do that. Instead the bias is more subtle and...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 2:43pm

Originally published in the Huffingtonpost.com

As the 2010 midterm election season winds down, electoral politics experts agree that 18-29 year-old voters have a pivotal role to play on November 2nd. Anxiety among Democrats and Republicans concerning the way the political winds will blow the youth vote is crystallizing around the idea that over the last two years President Barack Obama did not fulfill his campaign commitments to the 14 million plus young voters so crucial to his 2008 victory.

Last week, the Houston, Texas local Fox affiliate framed the question like...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 12:32pm

As the 2010 midterm election season winds down, electoral politics experts agree that 18-29 year-old voters have a pivotal role to play on November 2nd. Anxiety among Democrats and Republicans concerning the way the political winds will blow the youth vote is crystallizing around the idea that over the last two years President Barack Obama did not fulfill his campaign commitments to the 14 million plus young voters so crucial to his 2008 victory.

Last week, the Houston, Texas local Fox affiliate framed the question like this: "Youth Vote: Obama Boost or Backlash?" or as reporter...