Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Marc Lynch, Hip-Hop, and Foreign Policy

Hip-Hop and law took a new direction recently with some astute analysis on hip-hop and international relations theory. In the most recent Foreign Policy, readers will find an article by Marc Lynch, a professor of international relations at George Washington University. You can find the link here. In this article he applies international relations theories as diverse as "rogue nations," "hegemony," and "unipolarity" to the Jay-Z/The Game feud. In my experience with the literature on hip-hop, this is an exciting new direction for scholarship.

Prof. Lynch's work isn't a complete tome on the subject, but does move hip-hop scholarship forward. He provides insightful commentary on the beef between Jay-Z and The Game, while perhaps providing an opening for those who might be interested in international relations to read up on hip-hop.

Lynch's work isn't without fault or beyond inquiry, however. One wonders if the theory could be applied to other artists and if it should. One also wonders where message-oriented rappers fit into the puzzle. Is Common Canada? An important ally of mainstream hip-hop (the hegemonic US), but with a soulful introspective stance (perhaps akin to Canada's environmental and social welfare policies) that often positions him at odds with mainstream commercial success (US hegemonic discourse). Do countries that veer toward more socialistic or environmental policies equate with message-oriented artists? If we take Lynch's analysis and apply it to early hip-hop does it still hold true?

You can listen to Marc Lynch's interview on NPR here. The theory might not be complete, but Lynch has the ball in his proverbial court. It will be interesting to see what develops from this new discussion.


  1. GM/Conrail4022/Sarah PalinJuly 29, 2009 at 6:06 AM

    It is very much time to inject some realism here: First and foremost, in Mr. Lynch's commentary he neglects to mention that hip-hop is a form of entertainment produced for the purpose of making money for the artists and their management. Granted, both the artists and managers might have ancillary reasons for producing the music--from personal prestige to access to women--but all of those are subordinate (and rightfully so) to the profit motive.

    The acts of nation-states on the other hand do not always have a correlation to profitability and therefore cannot be viewed through the prism of hip-hop music. A conflict between one Muslim group and another (though it might make as much sense as a "beef" between Trick Daddy and Dr. Dre)cannot compare to a record producer directing his charge to add a few negative lines about another rapper for the purpose of boosting sales.

    In short, the minutiate of the hip-hop world is not real. True, some of the artists may have a dislike for each other--just as we all might in the normal course of our daily lives. But rap "feuds" are no more real than Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Starship Enterprise. Thus, I truly hope that most people here, at George Washington, and throughout the United States recognize the sheer stupidity of taking a genre of music as an example for international relations.

  2. Bull Shit!
    I don't buy it.
    Nice try, hip hop is not that deep.

  3. Thanks for the comments folks. It looks like the jury's still out on the interesections of hip-hop and foreign policy. Let's follow Professor Lynch and see where his research leads him.


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