Oprah Winfrey's Emmy-nominated Master Class has been running on her OWN Network for the past two years and has highlighted the stories of some of the most well-known and beloved people in the spotlight, whether they are musicians, poets, or sportsmen. For the month of January, the Master Class episodes will interview iconic masters who share their stories and insights into the American Civil Rights Movement, and the special Jan. 4 episode of Master Class welcomed superstar Jay Z. The rapper comments on many things, but in what may be a shocking revelation, he notably said,
I have a very interesting take on the cultural impact of hip hop and it's a strong one, so I just want to prepare people at home... I think that hip hop has done more for cultural relations than most cultural icons.
This interview comes on the heels of a recent few months of racial tensions concerning the unfortunate deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York, and many fans have accused top hip hop stars — including Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Beyoncé and Jay Z himself — for not being a stronger voice when it comes to the public's call for equality. It does strike me as interesting that given the boldness of these comments, Jay Z and other fellow hip hop stars have not used this cultural pedestal that they stand on to have an even more positive influence on racial relations.
Jay Z continued,
And I say save Martin Luther King because his "Dream" speech we realized and President Obama got elected, but the impact of the music, this music didn't only influence kids from urban areas; it influenced people around the world. People listen to this music all around the world and took to this music.
He goes on to comment on how racism is taught to young children as they are growing up in the home, but that hip hop has allowed racism to be diluted further in our culture, because if these same kids are listening to hip hop, they are exposed to black culture in a positive way. He continues,
It’s very difficult to teach racism when your kid looks up to Snoop Doggy Dogg. Before people partied in separate clubs. There were hip-hop clubs and there were techno clubs. Now people party together, and once you have people partying, dancing and singing along to the same music, then conversations naturally happen after that.
As much as we absolutely do not and should not undermine the accomplishments of some of the legendary leaders in Civil Rights, it is an undeniable truth that pop culture had an enormous effect on society.
Unfortunately, there have been too few hip hop stars who have actually made it a point to use their standing to promote more equality and progress outside of their music, because they have a unique opportunity to reach millions of people from all cultures and combat prejudices that have been present for decades, which is something that Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks didn't have access to in their time.
While I do see where Jay Z is coming from, it's strikes me as easier for someone like him to believe since he's, you know, a multi-millionaire mogul who has a large and diverse fan base. I won't take away what he has fought for and all that he has accomplished as a black man in entertainment, but I will say that we'd love to see more hip hop stars in the spotlight speak out and educate more because of their huge impact on culture.
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