Local News

Hip-Hop Controversies Add to Material for Duke Class

Posted April 25, 2007

— Radio host Don Imus lost his job for racist comments, but many rappers use that kind of language in hit songs. The controversy has been the hot topic in a unique class on the Duke campus.

Some people have argued that Imus's comments are no worse than what appears in some rap lyrics. Recently, some within the rap industry, like mogul Russell Simmons, say more should be done to censor what appears on the radio.

Those are topics that students in Duke's hip-hop and rap music appreciation class have discussed in the basement of Duke's Biddle Music Hall

In Rap Class 101, the students are stars as they write lyrics and produce their own songs

"Duke doesn't really offer things like this,” said rap artist and adjunct professor Robi Roberts.

The class is the brainchild of Roberts, who says it’s the voice of a generation.

"Hip-hop has grown to a point where we're not just talking to our peers anymore. We're talking to the entire world,” he said.

"Don Imus really took attention and put it on hip-hop,” said Duke student Anteneh Addisu. “What everyone’s fired up about is the popular presentation of hip-hop. It's not actually. Hip-hop is a very large animal. All you know are the claws."

Those are claws that need cleaning, according to Simmons, and students were mixed on the subject.

"It's a matter of free speech,” said student Matt Decker. “Hip-hop artists have a right to say what they want to say. That's their choice (by the) First Amendment."

"The way we market and produce things and we sell it to children, they eat it up,” said student Ibtihaj Muhammad. “We definitely need to censor things."

Wednesday was the last day of classes at Duke, and marks the end of the fifth semester for Roberts and his class. He says there's always a waiting list to get in it.

“The fact that Imus is on television, the fact that Simmons is making some comments about censorship and the use of certain words — it's just basically ammunition for my students to learn more about hip-hop."


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  • anonemoose Apr 26, 2007

    kieskies, just to save you the trouble, it was David Ehrenstien from the LA Times who first uttered that phrase in an essay. BTW, Mr. Ehrenstien is black. Once again it's okay for a black man to say something, but not for a white man to repeat it, HUH?

    Now do we need to address the comment about ignorant drug users? Does that shoe fit?

  • anonemoose Apr 26, 2007

    kieskies, I bet you don't know where the phrase "Barak the magic negro" came from do you. Who was the first person to say it?

  • Iron Man Apr 26, 2007


    This forum is not about what is said, it's about allowing one group of people to say things and not allowing another group of people to say the same thing.

  • Iron Man Apr 26, 2007

    Until the various classes of people in the US; i.e., sexual orientation, race, religion, and national origin want to equal and not protected from such silliness described in this news article, unity can never exist. Why? Because, not just in this case, but in all walks of life. For example; all people in the US are using their race, religion, nationality and citizenship or lack there of to gain an advantage in employment, education, the courts and everyday speech. This kind of behavior just angers everyone, but the one who has benefited from their actions.

  • SOCLOSE Apr 26, 2007

    So Tax Man, do you call women ho's and black people N's, b/c rappers are doing it?

  • ladyblue Apr 26, 2007

    This would be a good case for the US Supreme Court to decide. Why is it certain ethic groups can use words that when you repeat them you are fired or considered a racist? Can't eat your cake and save it too. Imus should fight his case and take it all the way to the top and settle this mess once and for all. I'm tired of this issue coming up every few months about what is racist and what is offensive. It shouldn't be illegal to be offensive to people. It may make you a jerk, but that's your business. Hip Hop and rap is what it is;a form of art of music. Just like some art is offensive to me, so are these. If these words can be spoken by some it should be allowed by all and not calling it racist when others say it.To allow it any other way is discrimination.

  • Boogalooboy Apr 26, 2007

    The Imus things is just another reverse descrimination issue that no one tends to take forward. It's ok for an African American celebrity to say the same things Imus said but get by with it. Both should have been fired....

  • innocent bystander Apr 26, 2007

    "Rap is poetry"

    So is "There once was a man from Nantucket" and "Jack and Jill." Comparing rap to poerty is like comparing Snoop Dog to Maya Angelou or Langston Hughes. Admittedly, neither of those two managed to rhyme the last word in every sentence...

  • casper Apr 26, 2007

    kieskies= this is about race dont be nieve. If a rapper was on Imus's show and said the exact same thing no one would have said a word. Not singing just sitting their talking to Imus.

  • casper Apr 26, 2007

    The same people that fired Imus are playing the rap music that has the same words in it, ( Parent company )