Does rap have the musical, political chops?

Thaddeus Russell suggests that some day critics will hold rap in the same esteem as jazz (Opinion, Aug. 16), which once was vilified for its “immorality” even as rap is now. His comparison of the lyrics of jazz and rap songs sheds some useful light on their similarities, but my concern is for the music itself.

In my opinion, there is no rap musician who can hold a candle to Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker. Rap may be many things, good and bad, but is it tomorrow’s jazz? Not from a musical standpoint. Not in a thousand years.





Although rap started out as a powerful political voice for black Americans, it has been hijacked. Author Trisha Rose’s research shows that rap artists now lack artistic control because they are expected to cater to their 70% white, mostly male, consumers.

Americans dedicated to racial equality should ask why prevalent images of violent black men and hyper-sexualized black women in rap appeal to many young white men. The Take Our Music Forward campaign that Russell criticizes is not a conservative movement against rap and hip-hop. It is a multiracial effort by rap music lovers to diversify the images of black Americans in this powerful cultural medium.



Assistant Professor

Whittier College

The writer co-founded the Take Our Music Forward campaign.