To the Editor:

In his article “Hip-Hop Unworthy of Academia” (The Hoya, A3, April 1, 2014), Jerry D. Rassias thought himself worthy to write about how curse words make him squeamish, how egotism and consumption feed moral depravity and how hip-hop is therefore unworthy of academia. There are many who are calling him a racist, and he absolutely must understand that we see him as such because he is stunningly ignorant of the roots of rap and hip-hop, so much so that he labeled rap as an overarching category. It is not.

Rassias did not do his research. He wrote an article in The Hoya based on his own supposedly superior surface-level analysis of lyrics in “rap music.” There are strong traces of misogyny, drug use and violence in the lyrics of some rap songs. But the reason we would study hip-hop is to understand why these traces exist.

Hip-hop is not solely a genre of music, but a cultural and lyrical movement that arose from a profoundly black experience. For black people living in poverty in housing projects, lyrics with rhythm became a way to express life. Words that we throw around easily, like “hood” and “ghetto,” were actually dangerous places that had been systematically created to keep blacks away from whites.

Explicit racism and segregation: Remember that?

The early artists of hip-hop rapped about life in the projects, injustice and a society that denied them equality in all aspects of life. Nas is one of these early- to mid-stage artists who expressed these conditions.

Now, there are Grammy-winning artists who rap about wealth and women. Hip-hop has evolved into a musical genre that is inclusive of all experiences. The songs that Rassias criticizes are the ones that often crow about success — a lifestyle of prosperity to which an entire group of people formerly had no access.

So, to say that an outcry about inequality “must be conveyed with much less provocative cultural tendencies” is part of an entire way of thought to which rappers shouted obscenities.

I think the best way to move on from here would be for Rassias to really study hip-hop and to write an article in The Hoya about why it should be studied.

Elizabeth Oh
SFS ’15

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