Monday, July 23, 2007
Michael Eric Dyson And Black Public Intellectuals In The Hip-Hop Era

Photo by Shawn Brackbill

He's appearing at the East Bay Church of Religious Science in an event sponsored Marcus Books on Tuesday and at Barnes & Noble in El Cerrito on Wednesday. Check here for all the information.

Below is an excerpt from my piece in today's Chronicle. I'd also recommend this great piece from Mark Anthony Neal.

At a recent town-hall discussion sponsored by the television network BET, newly appointed Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson found himself sitting next to the chart-topping rappers Nelly and T.I.

Squaring off over sexism in rap, Dyson objected to Nelly's explicit, late-night-viewing-only video for his song "Tip Drill." The video features a man swiping a credit card through a girl's behind. Dyson charged that, whether he realized it or not, Nelly had commercialized the trafficking of black women's bodies in a way that had recalled slavery's auction block.

With a cocked eye, T.I. asked Dyson, "Is it really that serious?"

Dyson retorted, "Of course it is."

"Wait a minute," Nelly said. "What was you doing watching my video?"

Dyson, 48, said, "I'm a cultural critic. That's my job!"

That moment of levity illuminated the continuing debate over the role of black public intellectualism. Should scholars engage themselves in the no-holds-barred world of talk shows, shock radio and pop culture? Or are they better off dispensing wisdom within the confines of the ivory tower?

Read the whole thing...

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