This hour, two stories about very different boundaries and how we patrol them. From policing the borders of 'real' hip hop to how the Founding Fathers started a fight about where local law ends and federal law begins that still reverberates today.
No one has ever played “World of Warcraft with people in Yugoslavia” (19:22). Yugoslavia as it is now understood dissolved in the early 1990s, and the name was officially discarded in 2003. World of Warcraft was released in 2004. But that's not really my point.
I know this seems pedantic, but calling a place by its former name suggests that that area of the world is so insignificant that no one even knows a major war took place there over twenty years ago. It suggests that those people in that faraway land are the Other.
For me (an American who lives in the Czech Republic, which is often referred to as Czechoslovakia by my family and friends), this sends one of two messages: (1) Americans are too lazy and ignorant to know world history, or (2) Americans are too arrogant to care about any place in the world that isn't a popular holiday destination.
I'm a little disappointed by the glibness with which Radiolab covered the jilted lover segment. There was lots of mirth and chuckling and very little condemnation of the poisoner's actions. In fact, there was greater condemnation of the adulterous pair's actions.
The whole thing stinks of puritanical morals, where the consensual actions of responsible adults are seen as being a more repugnant thing than serious crimes. And there I was, hoping America had left those attitudes in a previous century.
Talk of arsenic-based poisons, capable of killing people in teaspoon quantities, is then watered down by saying "the woman only got some burns on her hands". Was that the limit of the intention? Could poisons on that woman's hands not have made their way into her or her acquaintances bodies through food preparation? Could a completely uninvolved paperboy have been harmed by accessing her postbox?
To me, this case is more serious than a crime of passion. There have been many poisoners over the years who have been charged for their targetted attacks, but this chemical attack was relatively untargetted and could easily meet the description of "terrorism".
As a 62 year old white guy who has NEVER listened to hip hop probably nobody would have been surprised if I had turned off the second 'Juristiction' segment. But the story was artfully presented and truely interesting. I really enjoyed the Peter Rosenburg rant about white people and Eminem. I will let other, more knowledgeable, commentators worry about the editorial quality.
How disappointing to get my kids to listen to a really interesting segment about the creation of the US Constitution, only to hear an *extremely* offensive word roll right out. Sunday morning, just driving with the family to Costco, and this is what my family hears? You Ave proven your programming to be untrustworthy and offensive.
I agree with Susan from NJ. Religious profanity is offensive.
Why was Nicki Minaj's dialogue interspliced with explanations, almost line for line? This was not done for anyone else on the show. It felt like the producers were attempting to translate her speech. This was completely unnecessary and I was unnerved that her comments were constantly interrupted, edited, and explained. Why do the white men producing this show feel the need to speak for women of color? Can their voices not be enough? Are their points of view not valid without the commentary of white men? This is too reminiscent of their treatment of Kao Kalia Yang on the "Yellow Rain" episode.
The really funny thing is that I always hated Nikki until Starships. I can now appreciate some of her older stuff. But I think, being a white older male that actually loves EDM and pop music, actually proves his point...
I LEARN SOOOO MUCH FROM RADIOLAB, SOOOO MUCH FROM PUBLIC RADIO. THANKS! JUST NOW I WAS LISTENING TO A PROGRAM ABOUT TREATIES AND BIRDS AND MORE. A WOMAN TOOK GOD'S NAME IN VAIN. I WAS SHOCKED! I AM DISAPPOINTED. I AM DISTRESSED. THIS IS N O T ACCEPTABLE. I AM HOPING THAT IT WAS SOMETHING THAT WAS JUST NOT 'BLEEPED' AS IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN.
PLEASE SEE THAT YOUR HIGH STANDARDS ARE MET WITH EACH BROADCAST.
THANK YOU.SUSAN IN NJ
My friend told me about your podcast. This is my first one but was really impressed and excited to listen to more.
I was waiting you were going to get into the politics and history of hip hop a bit more. Why Rosenberg said that, basically because Nicki Minaj sold out. Politics and history of hip hop is a whole other story in itself. Real hip hip, benign neglect in Brooklyn, break dancing, emceeing, deejaying. The passion of public enemy and NWA. Tupac and the black panthers. Gets so deep and interesting.
I don't know if the "besides your white" comment was as much of a nonchalant, lighten the mood comment as was suggested. It have been a little more indicative towards what a white person really knows about "real hip hop". It is not the same as it use to be and that is what stems the question of whether hip hop is dead.
In any case, great podcast and interesting story. Cant wait to hear more.
About that Rosenberg segment. I hate it. But I still love you, radiolab.
Ok, so... Hearing EDM creeping into hip-hop was/is apparently "scary" for people because it represents the "corporatization of a genre with a long history" by a style of music "without a history on purpose." Yeah. It was ubiquitous and annoyed me, too.
But what I really find most interesting about this whole narrative is that although hip-hop is actually the actor here and doing the appropriating, EDM and corporate interest are designated the agency. What if it isn't EDM creeping into hip-hop, but instead, hip-hop is adopting EDM because it works on any dance floor and that's good for business? It's mentioned in this piece that "black" music has occasionally been co-opted by "whiteness." If this can be the case, hip-hop must also be capable of appropriating and profiting from whiteness in similarly ways, right? Of course it is. And that's how we all learned that Starships were meant to fly-y-y-y-y. Everyone wins. Except not because unfortunately, hip-hop was on that starship which apparently disintegrated upon reentering the earth's atomsphere and hip-hop is dead. Again. Oh but wait... It's back because I just said it was and hip-hop is actually just an abstract concept that can't reeeeally die. Its varying degrees of "realness" are always arguable and everyone is always right because what are we even talking about here?
Frankly, it sounds like this protective boundary Rosenberg seeks to draw around "real" hip-hop effectively just isolates it from market success. And all because of some weird beef he has with a crazed 13 year old straw man with bad music taste. I mean.. I get that he looooves hip-hop, but it kinda feels like that overbearing, paranoid kind of love that's actually NOT love because it's subconsciously about ownership and possession. It kinda feels like Rosenberg and hip-hop are married and he doesn't want hip-hop to pursue its career goals. lol. If you love something, let it go, brother.
Whatever. MOST important in all of this is that the following quote has never felt more appropriate than it does at this very moment.
"And I’m all up all up all up in the bank with the funny face.And if I’m fake, I ain't notice cause my money ain't."-Nicki Minaj, Monster
I am a huge Radiolab fan but this episode was disappointing. The Minaj story felt very superficial. It was obvious this was way out of Jad and Robert's wheelhouse. And I always cringe whenever someone says that there's no American music that wasn't co-opted by white people. While that is mostly true, it totally ignores country music which whether you like it or not, is a pretty significant genre.
The United Nations badgers nations into signing drug war treaties and than threatens the US when Colorado legalizes Marijuana. I can see this being an example of the Feds using a treaty to supercede a State law.
It's painfully obvious that Jessica O'Neill and others like her have never heard of Rosenberg before and automatically assumed he's an interloper just because he's white. Well, I know who he is and respect him for his knowledge and passion, which I could have sworn were made clear in the segment. Ironic how some people who complain the loudest about racial stereotyping don't think twice about stereotyping caucasians. Besides, Rosenberg's Jewish so it's not like he doesn't know what it's like to be an outsider. And no, I'm not an Eminem fan.
That said, though, this whole episode was something of a disappointment. Not much exploration into the science of things, which I'd been led to believe Radiolab was all about. If they were trying to stretch themselves I can appreciate that, but I think they might have torn something.
I LOVE Radiolab!! Some of the topics discussed on this show have opened my eyes to much of the hidden world around me and intrigued my curiosity regarding subjects I had never thought twice about. However, the segment on Rosenberg was atrocious and exists as a severe digression from the quality programming Radiolab typically delivers. If I wanted to know about the Nikki and Rosenberg feud I would be watching TMZ or listening to the drivel broadcast daily on the HOT97 morning show. I am severely disappointed that you guys chose to do this segment. It is by far the worst Radiolab piece ever released. Please revert back to your old ways like when Lulu was a producer.
Only thing I disagree with is the idea that Nikki Minaj is talented... other than that this was a very interesting episode.
The hip hop story was interesting (very interesting), but I wonder if the producers also asked Nicki Minaj if she wanted to be interviewed. She probably had other things to do, but just having Rosenberg on seems a little bit skewed and I feel like there was a bit of a white focus to the hour.
Frank Zappa: "Jazz isn't dead, it just smells funny." My observations: Any fringe music genre will persist and grow in two opposing directions. First, it will grow edgier, pushing the boundaries in it's underground realm. Second, it will grow towards homogeneity. The edge will continue to thrive in it's realm and the homogenous will get absorbed into the mass consciousness. This is natural and not a bad thing. Sometimes the homogenized product leads a listener, or group of listeners, to explore the roots and then the cutting edge of the sound, which is ideal. This I believe. P.S. This post was inspired by the Rosenberg vs. Nicki Minaj debate, as told to me by Radiolab. (Great show, by the way).
I never thought about how open the Constitution is to interpretation before. It's interesting how the country functions despite a multitude of interpretations of the Constitution.
The Rosenberg piece gets into the "White expert" problem. For one thing, to say rap has gotten poppified, and to say that the Starship song is sold out, isn't exactly a deep bit of cultural exegesis. That said, it's clear that Minaj (like most well-known Black artists) is responding to the economics of the music industry, because White kids have always had the disposable income to be the taste-makers in this country. One could argue, that insofar as Hip-Hop is a major cultural force, it no longer responds to the logic of Black cultural development. Artists come up through authentic channels because "realness" and "credibility" are still the primary commodities being sold to suburban White kids, but once they get that stamp of "otherness" which can only come from Blackness or being approved by Blackness (See: Eminem) then they're free to "crossover." The White expert problem arises because White people want to enter Black culture and have credibility in spite of being inexorably tied to their Whiteness. In other words, to be White is to be "in" to be Black is to be "out" or "other" White people want to enter our "outness" despite the fact that they can't shake their "in-ness" nor can we achieve it. Hence why Minaj (despite their apparent conciliation) said that Rosenberg criticizing her "felt wrong." Rosenberg's a White man, with all that entails and the wages that pays, attacking a women who's Black, with all that that takes out of you, no matter how successful you are. This is why I'm not terribly comfortable with him being a "gatekeeper." One, White people have a tendency, in my experience, of never being able to enter another cultural space without arrogating expertness to themselves.(Because part of being White is being entitled to authority vis a vis non-Whites. Two, the academic/knowledge based understanding of a culture is different from the cultural experience of one's own culture. While I don't have nearly the knowledge base Rosenberg does, my relationship to the music (as it has originated and exists for the time being) is different than his, it speaks to me differently, because I live everyday with the experience of being one of the 40 million "nobodies" that the music spoke too before it was a multibillion dollar industry, when it was just "ghetto trash" and "jungle music." The hip-hop consciousness is my consciousness because the history and experience which produced that consciousness is my history and experience. Not because I went to a record store one day. But, as long he's stating the obvious, I'm not gonna criticize.
@Jessica - You're not the only person who questioned the so-called journalistic integrity of this piece; too little was made of a deeply nuanced context. The weak effort to glance at the inherent racism and misogyny only served to highlight a lazy attempt at dialogue. It was like looking at the skeleton of a body but nothing else, and overall a disappointing segment.
@Jessica - it's racist to think that only black people have a stake in a musical genre. Rosenberg celebrates it loudly and unabashed. He's VERY aware of the foundations. His being white doesn't matter. He knows the material and the history better than just about anyone. He's a hip-hop historian.
Am I the only one who finds it incredibly problematic that a white man has deigned himself as a "gatekeeper" as to what is and is not hip hop? Why have Jad and Robert not questioned or problematized this a lot more? Rosenberg has to tread lightly, because when he as a white man slams black people for not being "authentic" enough, he has the weight of history and hundreds of years of racism behind him - it is more than a teenager having a "feeling" that they identify with hip hop. This needed to be much more heavily questioned and explored.
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What a fascinating story! I found it interesting as some aspects of it reminded me of the conflict in Gaza ...
Radiolab Extra: Henrietta Lacks
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