chapter  5
25 Pages

Rap (in) the Academy: Academic Work, Education, and Cultural Studies

Public Enemy asks if it can get a witness as it stands for the rights of post-industrial capitalism and against modernist rules of copyright laws. In the recent past, academia has come to rap’s defense. We are not just talking about Henry Louis Gates and his testimony at the 2 Live Crew’s trial in Miami-Dade County, Florida, but also about the flourishing publishing industry on rap/hip-hop culture(s). Yet, when Public Enemy shouts out for a witness, all we give them is Donna Haraway’s modest witness. Their cries for passion, emotion, noise, and radical change are meet with cool reason, scholarship, and strange looks. The problem is while Public Enemy and other rap groups are responding to the crises of our postmodern society with their hybrid mix’n, unsolicited sampl’n, and radical mess(age), academics can respond to these crises only with modernist retorts limited by the artificial disciplines and stifling methodologies they have created. The academy comes to the scene as a modest witness who knows how to construct human subjects, probe these subjects, analyze their conditions, respond with moral panics, frame rap with distant prose, and package all of this by denying that they are constructing, framing, and panicking in the first place. The academy cannot respond in the rhythmic, scratch’n, mix’n, and flow’n way in which rap demands to be treated. Yet, the academy purports to be a bastion of diversity and academic freedom.