Thursday, February 01, 2007

Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes

Greetings all!

Well, work has not slowed down much after the pure chaos of last week. We've started to make decisions, which is good, but the amount of work has gotten crazy. Did I mention that classes start monday as well. Geez... I'm not sure how I'm going to get everything done!

On the knitting front, I ordered more Manos del Uruguay so I can finish S's scaft. The lovely people at Knitter's Studio just dropped it in the mail and it arrived right at my doorstep. I love that little store. I only wish I lived closer to it!

Now for the important part of the post... I want to recommend a documentary to you. It will be airing on PBS this month (can you believe it's Feb?!) on the 20th (be sure to check for local airing times) and is called Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes (see this web page also, and a review here). The film was made by Byron Hurt, a former football player, who does sexual violence prevention programming for young men. You can see a clip on YouTube.

Some friends and I went to a screening in LA this week and were lucky enough to get to hear Hurt and others talk about the film in a panel discussion after the screening. I doubt I've mentioned it here, but prevention of sexual violence and understanding how we can help individuals after assaults do occur is part of my professional work. Right now, I'm most interested in how cultural values impact men's willingness to perpetrate sexual assault. I think cutural values get communicated in lots of ways, from friends, from family, through the media, through religion, through education... lots of ways. Given this, I was really interested in Hurt's film.

The film does a great job at looking at how corporate media has selected and promoted only one type of hip hop music (a part that glorifies violence, the denigration of women, and promotes homophobia). Hurt also does a great job of showing how women think that songs calling women ho's and b*tches don't impact or apply to them (the "oh advertising doesn't impact me" phenomenon), when men are explictly translating those lyrics to them. The problem of homophobia in some lyrics and how that is tied toward ideas of masculinity are also taken head on. He also gets at one of what I think is one of the core issues here which is that predominantly white corporate america is packaging violence by and towards black men for the consumption of primarily white male america. Who loses there and can we say white privilege?

Hunt is an African American man with good connections to the hip hop community and comes to this film with a love for hip hop. In a film full of music, he takes on a number of difficult issues about how we define masculinity in our culture, and in hip hop, and the negative impact this can have on all of us, men and women alike. I also like the fact that the film has a positive message which is that there are many different types of hip hop out there, we can choose the type of hip hop we support, and that while we scapegoat hip hop and rap artists, maybe there are broader blame and solutions to go around. This is a message that really resonates with me.

I'd encourage you to look for this film and to have your kids watch as well.

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