And here we are, here we are with people as gifted as Lil Wayne rapping about the same three subjects. It's like farming without renewing the land. If it's not bitches, it's some other version of that. If it's not bling, it's some other version of that. If it's not getting stoned, it's some other version of that. If it's not buying a car, it's some other version of that. It's like, hello? I can't believe that we're still in this situation.

EVEN AS THE CULTURE AS A WHOLE BECOMES MORE CORPORATIZED, AS YOU'VE NOTED, OTHER FORMS LIKE BLUES, JAZZ, AND ROCK HAVE ARGUABLY MAINTAINED SOMETHING OF A POLITICAL EDGE. WHAT MAKES RAP DIFFERENT? One is blues and jazz garner no space in the corporate market. They have no radio airplay. Jazz is something like three percent of all record sales. The main point is: nobody cares, at the level of commercial concern and political impact.

Number two: radical political consciousness from black people is much more threatening than radical political consciousness from whites in American society. So if a rocker has a political consciousness — unless he's extremely left, unless he's just revolutionary, "blow up the White House," unless he's going that far, it's not going to be understood as a threat. There's more room for that in rock because of the power and acceptability of whiteness, the normalcy and so-called presumed rationality of whiteness.

Blackness is attached as an image in society as a perpetuation of fear — it trades on it both positively and negatively. So that's why the culture is driven by criminality as entertainment. So when you turn that constituency — which is unjustly incarcerated, economically deeply marginalized, all the statistics are stunning and no one has anything to say about that either in our fabulously post-racial society — when they get mad, and have something political to say, now there's a fear factor, now the police feel threatened.

ROSE ON . . . Public Enemy (“nobody cared”)
BUT PUBLIC ENEMY WERE ABLE TO SELL RECORDS. Yeah, but not for long. That was before hip-hop was a mainstream commercial enterprise, the way it is now. Nobody was bigger than Public Enemy, so nobody cared. You didn't think you could be the new Elvis or the new Beatles, there was no possibility of having a Jay-Z-level artist in hip-hop, so there was nothing to give up. But now, your politics and your commitment to a fair, just society, have to be bigger than your commitment to money and self-aggrandizement. That's where the rubber meets the road, and frankly I've not seen anybody make that choice.

WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF JAY-Z'S BOOK,DECODED? It is a creative effort, and he is talented. But I am stunned just how much of a pass he is getting for his incredibly profitable legacy of gangsta, pimp and ho lyrics. In several interviews he repeats old worn answers (excuses) about the content (says he has no regrets about them!) and no one challenges his nearly absurd defenses. These interviewers might have benefited from reading Hip-Hop Wars before engaging on the subject.

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