Russell Simmons provides a particularly interesting personality within the space of hip-hop and modern popular culture. As co-founder of Def Jam Records – the kick-and-push for the placement of hip-hop within the everyday – Simmons has not only seen, but has helmed much of the growth of rap music and rap music culture to the juggernaut it is today. From the first record pressing for L.L. Cool J. to the interconnected industry he has helped build, Simmons has served as a statesman of hip-hop through example.
A new edition of Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" is being published in February, replacing the "n-word," which shows up 219 times in the original edition. Instead the publisher, New South Books, uses the word "slave." New South's editor-in-chief, Randall Williams, told The Takeaway that removing the racial slur isn’t censorship.
White people used to own black people in the United States. And it was profitable to own black people because they performed labor that white people couldn’t or didn’t want to perform. And it was legal to own black people in the same way that it is now legal to own a cow, or a horse, or a dog.
He nicknamed her "Shorty," and she refers to him as one of her "judicial heroes," but in their storied lives and careers, neither of them probably expected what transpired in yesterday's meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee. As Solicitor General Elena Kagan sits on the precipice of becoming only the fourth woman in history to sit on the Supreme Court, the name of another barrier-breaking justice, Thurgood Marshall, may turn into her biggest liability.
With no history of judicial activity to examine, Republicans are focusing on the year Kagan spent clerking for Marshall in 1988, when she was 28-years-old. To the befuddlement of some, Republicans are decrying the civil rights pioneer as a "well-known liberal activist judge," as Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the raking Republican on the Judiciary committee, described him. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), told The Salt Lake Tribune that he wasn't sure whether he would vote to confirm Marshall if given the chance.
McChrystal spoke out of turn – again – was figuratively chin checked, and provides an interesting cultural marker concerning issues of race within the United States.
It could be argued that the “loose cannon” and former Commander of U.S. and NATO Coalition Forces in Afghanistan would have talked slick about any administration and civilian leadership that he disagreed with, black president or no. There has been made the easy parallel between the present situation and that of President Truman and MacArthur during the Korean War. And the comparison fits, but for the fact that they typify two powerful white men going at it and this is a white four star general pushing at a black president within a hyper-media sphere.
Surely many might suggest this a reach, going in on the issue of race – but it’s there.
Like others on this show, Morehouse psychology professor — and Takeaway contributor — David Wall Rice bought into the hype surrounding Apple's new iPad this week. But on Earth Day, he put his new device away and got insight from a day without technology.
President Obama's State of the Union Address last night prompted a wide range of comments on style and policy. But maybe the most surprising came from MSNBC Chris Matthews, who said he "forgot that he was black tonight for an hour." We ask Morehouse College professor David Wall Rice.
[Rakim's "Guess Who's Back"]
Rakim’s influence is all over contemporary hip hop (and beyond it), from Tupac and Jay-Z to Eminem and Rage Against the Machine. He releases his third solo album, “The Seventh Seal,” today – his first solo album in nine years. Morehouse College professor David Wall Rice talks with us about why Rakim is so respected in hip-hop circles, and why he's relatively unknown outside hip-hop despite his wide-ranging influence.
I've never gravitated toward Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." I know, terrible. As a kid I thought the 338-word masterpiece was creepy, and imagined myself being punished by my mother much more severely, had I spazzed out like Max did in the book. Curious then, that I have three copies of the Caldecott Medal award-winning story in my home - the embossed gold sticker on the edition I had as a kid, ironically, made the book a premium in my developing library. Two other copies were given to my son a few years ago and are on a shelf in his room.
Anyway, Max was a bad kid, man. And he was rewarded by getting to hang out with big Muppets: exactly how I imagined the creatures then, and, in a cool coincidence, the way Spike Jonez had Jim Henson's Creature Shop make them in his new "Where the Wild Things Are" flick, being released today. (...continue reading)
Conventional thinking has me on the side of President Obama in that I, too, “do not feel that [he] deserve[s] to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by [the Nobel Peace Prize].” (... continue reading)
Forbes estimates that Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z and the man behind such classic hip-hop songs as "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" and "Hard Knock Life," rakes in about $82 million a year. Admittedly, a lot of that annual income stems from his former day job as CEO of Def Jam Records and as the owner of the New Jersey Nets. But! The world mostly knows Jay-Z as a rap star. (And maybe as Beyonce's husband.) David Wall Rice, avid hip-hop listener and professor of psychology at Morehouse College, joins us to put the "best rapper alive" into a broader context. (Read Rice's latest blog post, "Jay-Z Grows Us Up," about the new album.)
Shawn Carter’s new album has echoes of an experience around John Edgar Wideman’s 2008 novel "Fanon." Ham-fisted and a bit less than what many wanted, Wideman's prose at first seemed an exercise only in personal growth and in pushing himself more than representing his popularly-appreciated strengths and accomplishments as a writer. Upon further consideration, however, it was more; it was a particularly good piece of work that pushed the reader’s thinking. Super-long sentences, weird punctuation and winding, layered connections to the Martinique revolutionary Franz Fanon were commonplace, and they were all put together in a way that justified Wideman’s MacArthur "genius grant" and the other celebrations of his skill.
And Shawn Carter, with his just-released album, "The Blueprint 3," presents no small contribution to mass cultural thinking this week. He grows us up a bit within a public space that considers black men largely less-than and further solidifies himself as a relevant pop-culture icon. (...continue reading)
Last night President Obama addressed the nation during a primetime news conference. The number one item on the president's agenda was health care reform, but other issues popped up, too. The Takeaway's Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich was there for it all and he joins the show with his analysis. Also joining the roundtable conversation are Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard, and David Wall Rice, a professor of psychology at Morehouse college and author of Balance: Advancing Identity Theory by Engaging the Black Male Adolescent.
"The standard insurance product that most people have is an umbrella full of holes. That is, if you have a really serious illness you'll still be bankrupted, even if you keep the standard insurance policy."
—Dr. Steffie Woolhandler on health care
Here the president addresses concerns about Medicare in the health care debate:
Disorderly conduct. Charges dropped. Cool, now we can all pretend that we’re post-racial again.
The fact that Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested at his own home after being suspected of breaking in is upsetting, but is it surprising? Newsflash – Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a black man. Sure, he’s the renowned Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard and Director of the school’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research…and he’s black. For real, when I see him on his recumbent bike in Martha’s Vineyard, he’s a black man on a recumbent bike. When he spoke at this year’s Morehouse Commencement, black man in regalia giving a commencement address. And when he was in his home, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, last Thursday allegedly exclaiming, “ya, I'll speak to your momma outside,” to the responding Officer Crowley, he was a black man about to go to jail. ... (continue reading)
On Monday, Henry Louis Gates Jr, one of the nation's pre-eminent African American scholars, was arrested for breaking into his own home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The charges have been dropped against the Harvard professor but the racial questions are still swirling. With the election of the first black man to the White House, many people thought American society was becoming "post racial." Joining The Takeaway to discuss race in America is Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor, law professor at George Washington University and author of Let's Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice and our friend David Wall Rice, a psychology professor at Morehouse College.
Read David Wall Rice's blog post, Professor Gates Arrested? No Surprise
"The police engage in these who's-the-man masculinity contests. And you know there are things you can do if you don't want to get locked up: you can not look them in the eye, you can be deferential. But sometimes, when you're a black man who's tried to do the right thing your whole life and still end up getting treated like a you-know-what, you do get loud and tumultuous."
—Law professor and author Paul Butler
David Wall Rice is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
This past Friday marked the second week I'd attended a spinning class taught by a very energetic, polite woman. The class was a good one and is getting me closer to being the next notable cyclist — like Kenyans Zakayo Nderi or Samwei Mwangi. In my mind at least. But I digress. The class began as it had times before, with one or two up-tempo pop tunes. We proceeded without incident.
And then the hills came.
The 20-year-old single "Don't Believe the Hype" by hip-hop icons Public Enemy has been a constant thought of mine in days up and through the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. The seminal political rap tune instructs black Americans, and others, to look beyond contrived media stereotypes to explore the complexities of black males and the negotiation of social and political spaces.
Having this lyrical tome — however dated — as a backdrop in considering the celebration of so many blacks on the election of President Obama can be helpful.
In cutting to the quick of Obama, there is an appreciation of him as articulate (I hated that reference to me by condescending teachers in school), self-disclosing and a brilliant, disciplined political mind. His list of personal and professional positives represents much of the best in the black community. And to see him appreciated so grandly gives us, and obviously many others, a sense of hope that we can be seen beyond the boxes that so often separate us from being seen as whole.
This is not to say that Mr. President is all-the-way on point. He is a politician. One who has manipulated circumstance, situation and stakeholders in ways that politicians do, and that's OK as long as there is an understanding of it all.
Just before the election of Mr. Obama to the presidency I opined that I'd sipped the Kool-Aid. I explained that I was a true believer, but only halfway. As with many who experience marginalization in this country, I believe in the ideal of American democracy — I dare say many black folk do. However that ideal has not been, nor is it now bound in one individual, no matter how cool and competent.
So, with President Obama there is true belief. His social standing and thoroughness gives us an opportunity to bet on black. He has allowed Us to step forward in this pivotal point in history.
Nonetheless, 'politics' is still 'politricks,' and we'd be wise to consider the words of Chuck D.