Saturday, December 22, 2012

New articles from the communication discipline

In the most recent issue of Critical Studies in Mass Communication (Vol. 29, No. 5), Bryan McCann (Department of Communication, Wayne State University) has published, "Contesting the Mark of Criminality: Race, Place and the Prerogative of Violence in N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton" and David C. Oh (Department of Communication, Villanova University) has published, "Black-Yellow Fences: Multicultural Boundaries and Whiteness in the Rush Hour Franchise."  Both articles may be of interest to you fine readers. 

McCann's abstract:
This essay reads rap group N.W.A.'s 1998 album Straight Outta Compton as a parodic enactment of the racialized discourses of law and order during the late 1980s, or what I am calling the mark of criminality.  Its release constituted a watershed moment in black popular culture that coincided with the devastating consequences of surveillance, containment, and spectacular scapegoating associated with Reagan-era crime control policies and rhetoric.  I argue that the album and its reception by the law enforcement community of the late 1980s functioned as a confrontation over the meanings of race, place, and crime in the twentieth century.  In addition to revealing the contingent meanings of criminality in popular and political culture, the legacy of Straight Outta Compton provides insights into the role of criminality in processes of social transformation.

From Oh's abstract:
The Rush Hour films disrupt the interracial buddy cop formula largely by erasing whites from the films.  Despite the unconventional casting, the franchise has achieved "mainstream" popularity, which I argue is at least partly because the films construct Carter and Lee in an oppositional binary as a multiracial "odd couple," converting Carter and Lee, the two lead detectives played by Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, into physical embodiments of blackness and yellowness, fencing in the perimeters of whiteness.  Thus, whiteness is able to remain protected and undetected in the normative center.  Like a physical fence, however, the boundaries are semi-permeable, creating narrative openings to challenge whiteness.  Therefore, the Rush Hour franchise protects white normality but leaves it somewhat vulnerable at the margins.

Both articles are available at the journal website or on EBSCO. 

-- Nick J. Sciullo

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Public Enemy and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Public Enemy live favorite Chuck D and Public Enemy will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.  When Chuck D provided the keynote address to the "Hip Hop and the American Constitution" course in April 2012, offered collaboratively by Drexel Law and WVU Law, he spent the first portion of his address sharing with our law school students and invited guests, the induction speech he had written for 2012's R&R HOF inductees, The Beastie Boys.  Now Chuck and PE will have the opportunity to craft their own acceptance speech for their own HOF induction.

Public Enemy's Hall of Fame induction is important for many reasons:  First, PE will be only the fourth hip hop group inducted into the R&R HOF (following on the heels of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, RUN-DMC, and the Beastie's), but PE will become the first overtly political and socially conscious hip hop group to be inducted and recognized for the movement that they inspired.

Second, PE was not just controversial at launch, but they unabashadely critiqued (a) the criminal justice system in the United States (in "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" and "Can't Truss It," amongst many others); (b) continuing and festering racism in America (in "Fight the Power" and "By the Time I Get to Arizona," amongst many others); and (c) police brutality and inner city neglect (in "Get the F Outta Dodge" and "9-1-1 is a Joke," amongst many others).  Public Enemy inspired listeners to write, protest, rap, and actively engage in fighting against injustice and promoting education and intelligent criticism.

Third, PE, certainly Chuck and Professor Griff,  viewed themselves as educators AND entertainers, not simply entertainers.  With a strident message to deliver, Chuck, Griff and PE were relentless in their lyrics and their delivery.  For this, PE was annihilated by critics when they emerged in the early 1990s.  Still, PE knew that their target audience was not the establishment nor their critics, rather young people that needed to be educated in a way different than was being delivered by most U.S. public schools. "Messages" delivered below:

In rewatching Can't Truss It, one is reminded just how controversial and edgy PE was when they came out in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  The choice for induction in the R&R HOF is certainly deserved as this groundbreaking group paved the way for so many others to follow.  Congratulations to Chuck D and Public Enemy on their selection for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Happy Holidays from DMX

DMX recently stopped by New York City's Power 105, and gave a stirring rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  His new album, Undisputed, is in stores now. 

Video Courtesy of Power 105.

-- Nick J. Sciullo