For my African American History class, I’m trying to decide if it is better to show “Hip Hop Beyond Beats and Rhymes” by Byron Hurt, which interrogates the idea of masculinity being portrayed in hip hop music (from a black man’s perspective) or “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” which is much more about black culture and the enjoyment of hip hop (but the musicians are more conscious artists than gangsta rappers). Chappelle goes back to his small Ohio home town and talks to white folks about coming to his block party in Brooklyn in a way that is both poignant and shows some of the cultural differences between rural whites and urban blacks–and it’s funny.
I’m leaning towards Chappelle. As my ethnomusicologist friend just noted–students can identify the misogyny in Hip Hop pretty well on their own. Although Hurt does do a nice job of connecting hip hop’s masculinity with the American masculinity of Westerns and other popular culture that make heroes out of violent men. But I think it would be better to show something that illustrates hip hop culture in a broader way, which recognizes its strengths as well.
We will also be discussing black conservatives through Ta-Nehisi Coates’ exploration of Bill Cosby’s speaking tours, “This is How We Lost to the White Man.” I’m wishing I had done more black power in this class. Black conservatism and black power have a relationship, but they are not the same thing. I will modify my syllabus in the future to spend more time on black nationalism and black power.
Added 9:50am CST: These are the questions I will have the students answer during the film.
- What aspects of American life does Chappelle share during his Block Party movie? What does it mean to be black to him (there can be many answers—think creatively)?
- In Chappelle’s film, what are the possible meanings of the “n-word?”
- Thinking about Ta-Nehisi Coate’s article on black conservatives and Bill Cosby, do you think Chappelle is a racial liberal or conservative? Why?