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MSC Listening Party discusses Hip-Hop and Social Issues

Students arrived with open minds and ears at the MSC Listening Party on Feb. 21, discussing the role that hip-hop plays in the social world.

With the discussion led by Assistant Professor of Philosophy H.A. Nethery, students gathered in the Simmons Multicultural Center and followed along to a playlist of old school and new school hip-hop tracks that discussed a multiple of current issues.

“American hip-hop and rap reflect the culture of the urban, young, working-class African-Americans and the world around them,” Nethery said. “Through the power of words and rhythm, hip-hop, through its history, has been a powerful tool.”

When discussing hip-hop today, the controversy surrounding vulgarity and impact have overtaken the music’s view in the American media. From the murders of rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the history of hip-hop has been tainted by discussions of gang violence and affiliations, with further demonizing by political and media groups.

Even abroad, where hip-hop is still a growing genre, the backlash is still a pressing issue. Recently, news from the People’s Republic of China went viral after it was reported the nation banned airtime for rap and hip-hop, due to ‘non-noble morality’.

However, Nethery points out, despite the flashy imagery and violent lyrics of some rappers, critical audiences are missing messages broadcasted to the hip-hop community.

“I’ve grown up loving hip-hop, but since there’s such a current of hostility to it, I’ve had to find ways to help discuss it,” Nethery said. “I like using country music as an example. I don’t like country music, but I can still listen and hear its message.”

Hip-Hop and other genres of music, Nethery argues, cannot be understood unless it is studied with the knowledge of its historical and social context. The listening party thus serves as a gateway to students who are curious about what they’re listening to.

One song, in particular, “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, showed students the beginning of hip-hop and social commentary.

“When this song came out, it was unspoken for hip-hop to be anything other than something nice to listen and dance to,” Nethery said. “It changed the game, for more than just hip-hop itself, but music in general.”

The MSC house will continue to host more listening parties in the future. Students, both Nethery and organizer Tatiana Montilla said, are encouraged to come and listen, and be open to talking about more than what they might expect.

“We want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts and experiences with hip-hop,” Montilla said. “We want to change the notion that all hip-hop is deviant and immoral, and instead that it’s a musical tool of our generation.”

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