Dead Prez heats up campus conversations: Hip-Hop Weekly

Posted by Jenna Postler

Recent tension and discussions on campus surrounding race and class have caused some people in the college community to question the choice of rap group Dead Prez for the Student Entertainment Committee's Big Show on Friday, April 22.

A vocal questioning of the possible repercussions of having the group on campus has been raised on the Facebook wall of the event page for the concert.

Students have argued that the use of racist and homophobic lyrics by the group is negative, given the current campus climate.

What needs to be understood by the student community is that Dead Prez is a politically conscious rap group.

Since its founding in 1996, its members have maintained a socialist, politically active voice and hold a strong stance against corporate control of the media, and poverty within African American communities.

Although these issues are pervasive, the group often employs what some might call "reverse racism," or attacks and slanderous remarks against Caucasians, as demonstrated prominently in the song "Hell Yeah."

In the music video and the lyrics, Dead Prez advocates a "Robin Hood" figure stealing from the rich, contributing to the poor type of mentality that is filled with anti-white sentiments.

While the group is politically left and rebellious in nature, the controversy presented by some students is not its message, but rather how it presents its message.

Do racist, sexist and homophobic lyrics negate the group's message? Hip-hop as an art form has been filled with outlandish, racist and offensive lyrics since the genre's conception.

What needs to be asked though, is if offensive lyrics are an effective means to the end of raising political consciousness. Hip-hop's offensive lyrics have a lot to do with shock value, but also stem from the culture in which hip-hop originated from.

Condoning racism is wrong, and I am not one to do so. In listening to the music of Dead Prez, we must understand that the group aims to further a leftish, socialist agenda.

The lyrics are just a means to the end of raising popular consciousness. I know that as informed students we can all agree that racism is not okay, whether it be "reverse racism" or not.

Unfortunately racism and homophobia are often parts of the group's lyrics. To listen to the group is to accept it for the way that it is and the way that the genre currently functions.

As to whether or not bringing the group to campus is a good idea, I would answer that it could be positive, if used and understood in a productive manner.

Dead Prez's presence on campus can be used to continue the ongoing dialogue concerning class, race and sexuality that has been occurring on campus.

Essential to gaining something from the concert if you choose to attend is taking careful note of the lyrics and, instead of writing the group or its message off instantly, thinking critically about the role of the lyrics within the performance and greater political aims.

As listeners, we must be aware of generalizations concerning racial groups and hip-hop.

Jenna Postler is a sophomore from rural Vt. who knows what's hip (hop) and can be heard from 2- 4 a.m. every Friday morning on WSPN.

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