• Questlove argues that "[h]ip-hop has taken over Black music."
    • Based on the following quote, explain how you think hip-hop is or isn't a positive aspect of racial equality in America:

"Black culture, which has a long tradition of struggling against (and at the same time, working in close collaboration with) the dominant white culture, has rounded the corner of the 21st century with what looks in one sense like an unequivocal victory. Young America now embraces hip-hop as the signal pop-music genre of its time. So why does that victory feel strange: not exactly hollow, but a little haunted?"

  • Questlove points to hip-hop as a means to demonstrate that the social contract has been broken and that wrongs need to be righted.
    • Based on the following quote, explain whether you think hip-hop has an obligation to be meaningful in the sense of social justice:

"The winners, the top dogs, make art mostly about their own victories and the victory of their genre, but that triumphalist pose leaves little room for anything else. Meaninglessness takes hold because meaninglessness is addictive. People who want to challenge this theory point to Kendrick Lamar, and the way that his music, at least so far, has some sense of the social contract, some sense of character. But is he just the exception that proves the rule?"

  • Questlove describes part of hip-hop's value as a way to define power through ownership, something Black Americans have historically not always been able to do.
    • Based on the following quote, explain whether you think the symbol of wealth is a positive or negative aspect of modern hip-hop:

In "the 'Otis' video that Jay Z and Kanye West made... the two of them go to an industrial space and proceed to demolish a Maybach (another car, like a Bugatti, that no one can afford), after which they drive around the lot, four models in the backseat. What are they destroying with their hammers and their saws? The car? The idea of the car? The idea of the car in other videos? And what are they building as they destroy? The idea that they exist at a level where they can afford to discard something as valuable as the car? The idea that their cool transcends money and the things that it can acquire? The belief that art should always violate and remake consumer products? A hierarchy of image that somehow, strangely, privileges the human element? The car was eventually auctioned, and proceeds were donated toward the East African Drought Disaster."

  • Questlove categorizes upper-echelon hip-hop stars as "predictable" in their representation of black culture as a whole.
    • Based on the following quote, explore how unpredictability is an important aspect of protest:

"These days, the vast majority of hip-hop artists follow a script because they're trying to succeed in a game whose rules are clear.... It might be worth watching if nothing else is on, but you don't need to keep an eye on it. And that leads to a more distressing question, not rhetorical this time: Once you don't have a cool factor any longer - when cool gets decoupled from African-American culture - what happens to the way that black people are seen?"

  • Questlove asks "[d]oes black culture need to care about what happens to hip-hop? Does it need a cultural force like hip-hop at all?"
    • Based on the following quote, consider how protest is or isn't a cross-cultural act:

"Resistance here doesn't mean revolution. It doesn't mean storming the barricades. Resistance means using art for the things that it does best, which is to create human portraits and communicate ideas and forge a climate where people of different races or classes are known to you because they make themselves known. In the simplest terms, art humanizes. It opens the circuit of empathy. And once that process happens, it's that much harder to think of people as part of a policy or a statistic. Art reverses the alienation that can creep into society. After Johnson, after DuBois, the Harlem Renaissance itself stalled, largely as a result of the Great Depression, and many of the economic gains made by African-Americans were lost, but cultural influence persisted."

All quotes cited from Does Black Culture Need to Care About What Happens to Hip-Hop?