By John Asante
At first, the relation between a Jay-Z lyric and a rather serious topic covered in the news seemed a bit farfetched to me. But the possibility got me thinking recently. While not everyone picks up an issue of Foreign Policy regularly, there is something to be said about pop culture references helping us understand the world around us in more astute ways.
For instance, when George Washington University professor Mark Lynch analyzed last summer's "rappers' beef" story between Beyonce's hubbie and fellow rapper The Game, there was something to be learned -- even more than just the lyrics in the songs used in the feud. He goes on say that with a list of accolades like Jay-Z (all-time best-selling hip hop records,entrepreneur, part-owner of the New Jersey Nets), there's no question that H.O.V.A. is a hegemon of the rap game:
But the limits on his ability to use this power recalls the debates about U.S. primacy. Should he use this power to its fullest extent, as neo-conservatives would advise, imposing his will to reshape the world, forcing others to adapt to his values and leadership? Or should he fear a backlash against the unilateral use of power, as realists such as my colleague Steve Walt or liberals such as John Ikenberry would warn, and instead exercise self-restraint?
The trend only starts there. My friend posted this Wall Street Journal article on his Facebook page about the link between Lady Gaga and Muslim anti-Americanism which caught me by surprise. Lionel Beehner of USA Today started observing these relations of sorts, and I must say, I agree with his sentiments when he brings it all home:
Indeed, the post-9/11 world has become a more complex place of gray areas, messy asymmetric wars and non-state actors. If invoking Batman and Jay-Z can help the public wrap its mind around these difficult issues, all the better. I assume most Americans will not be speed-reading Thucydides this summer. But a book about the rap war and world politics? Now that would be a good beach read.
Or a good beach listen. Check out the the Morning Edition piece in which Lynch waxes poetic on rapper feuds mirroring world politics.