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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

NPR: Rap as Geopolitics

Posted By on Wed, Jul 22, 2009 at 11:41 AM

click to enlarge Il(l) like Kim Jong: Lil' Wayne
  • Il(l) like Kim Jong: Lil' Wayne

National Public Radio has an interesting take  on beef in the rap world: it's essentially a mirror of global politics, according to Marc Lynch, a professor at George Washington University and the director of the Institute of Middle East Studies. ""The way that rappers compete with each other -- this is soft power," Lynch is quoted as saying. "This is the way you try and make a reputation, try and get what you want, and you have to do it through this very intricate series of alliances."

Lynch compares the recent dispute between Jay-Z and the Game and Jay-Z's denunciation of rap's reliance on Auto-Tune software to a nuclear anti-proliferation treaty. NPR calls Jay-Z an established, dominant power--similar to 19th century Britain or the United States in the 20th century, while the Game is somewhat erroneously referred to as an up-and-comer (yo, NPR: dude sold 5 million records back in 2005, so that's like calling Tsarist Russia a rising star in world affairs).

Still, the point is that the hegemony of the rap world reflects the hegemony of world politics in both a historical and contemporary sense.

With that in mind, here are some parallels between rappers and world powers:

Asher Roth/Israel: Small yet influential, perhaps too much so.

50 Cent/United Kingdom: A former world dominator in a bit of a decline of late.

Lil Wayne/North Korea: He's got the bomb, and everyone's a bit worried about him.

Lyrics Born/Venezuela: Self-reliant, self-contained, rich in natural reserves, and growing in influence with each passing day.

The Jacka/Mexico: Jacka has overridden established networks and is flooding the market with his own product.

Snoop Dogg/Russia: An established power who's had its ups and downs, yet still too much of a global force to be counted out as a factor.

(Got your own Rap/Geopolitics parallels? leave 'em in the comments section)

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Eric Arnold


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