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Straight Outta Chevy Chase

Tuesday, April 01, 2014 - 07:59 PM

Peter Rosenberg

From boom bap to EDM, we look at the line between hip-hop and not, and meet a defender of the genre that makes you question... who's in and who's out.

Over the past 40 years, hip-hop music has gone from underground phenomenon to global commodity. But as The New Yorker's Andrew Marantz explains, massive commercial success is a tightrope walk for any genre of popular music, and especially one built on authenticity and “realness.”  Hip-hop constantly runs the risk of becoming a watered-down imitation of its former self - just, you know, pop music.

Andrew introduces us to Peter Rosenberg, a guy who takes this doomsday scenario very seriously. Peter is a DJ at Hot 97, New York City’s iconic hip-hop station, and a vocal booster of what he calls “real” hip-hop. But as a Jewish fellow from suburban Maryland, he's also the first to admit that he's an unlikely arbiter for what is and what isn't hip-hop.

With the help of Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest and NPR's Frannie Kelley, we explore the strange ways that hip-hop deals with that age-old question: are you in or are you out?

Special thanks to The New Yorker who let us do a radiophonic version of their piece. If you've got a New Yorker subscription check out Andrew Marantz's stellar written version here. If you don't, well you should get one, but you can also watch Rosenberg crate digging and spinning records here

Guests:

Frannie Kelley, Andrew Marantz, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Peter Rosenberg

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Comments [130]

Jojo from chicago, illinois

I love Radiolab and think it's a brilliantly constructed show. I especially admire the way it juxtaposes voices, vignettes, and points of view in a way that invites critical thought. The listener has to mull over the takeaway; it's not handed to us. But for this one...well, let's say the p.o.v. was too mono and too familiar and I was disappointed. A whole show on the integrity of hiphop, and the main voice isn't a hiphop artist? and/or a black one? The couple of asides that "yeah, we all know white culture has been co-opting black music forever" felt like a sop. It felt like a way to cover up that this piece was doing something very similar in providing a white voice of authority about something integral to black culture. Also...the Nicki Minaj treatment. I liked hearing her rebuttal to Rosenberg firsthand. But then glossing her comments with a reference back to whether a piece of fruit "feels" like fruit...Haven't we been told enough that women "feel," while men think? And that that's what makes men the better experts? I'd like to hear more about how Rosenberg "feels" his way to knowing what's hiphop and what's not.

Jul. 23 2014 03:20 PM
John D

This podcast is ridiculous. In a bad way.

Jul. 02 2014 12:44 PM
David Shlasko from Oakland, CA

In the intro of this show one of the hosts commented that it's well known that people think about categories mostly in terms of exemplars rather than criteria. Can you provide a citation, please? Not razzing on the show, just could actually use a citation to that effect for an article I'm writing. Truly.

Jun. 28 2014 06:54 PM
Nathan

I related the main point of this podcast back to a book I have read called "Thinking, Fast and Slow", by Daniel Kahneman (http://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman/dp/0374533555), in that a lot of our judgement decisions that are made "on the spot", rarely answer the question asked, but answer the most similar question our mind already understands the answer to.

May. 30 2014 09:44 PM
il

well, here goes a bit of good ol' internet pedantry. as a long time fan of both hiphop and electronic music (and radiolab), i'm slightly disheartened and rather surprised by the shoddy historical research into electronic dance music, which in the program considers it european in origin when in fact, it is american in origin and specifically african american in origin (as so many american music are). it originated from detroit and chicago and were influenced by both american music (disco/funk/soul) and european (krautrock, particularly kraftwerk). speaking of which, early hiphop/breakbeat records were not only influenced by disco funk but were also heavily influence by the same avante garde early german electronic music. in other words, both electronic dance music and hiphop have similar roots and are both born out of creative hotbeds of late 70s early 80s inner city america. i hope radiolab and rosenberg both understand this. as a matter of emphasis, here is a dance-pop-rap hybrid predating nicki minaj by like 20+ years. pretty sure rosenberg would consider jungle brothers "real hip hop" considering he's down with tribe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7_1Xb5Uc8U

May. 29 2014 01:56 AM
Jon

Not sure if someone else commented on this already... The Hot 97 DJ talked about white people liking Eminem because he's white... I don't totally agree. Maybe that's true in some cases, or with people the DJ spends time with that are closer to the music industry, but I've found most people's taste in music isn't that complex or well thought out. A lot of people just like music because of how it sounds. I like to listen to lyrics, but find a lot of people aren't paying attention to the words, so they don't care about what Eminem (or anyone else) is singing about and don't worry about whether or not the song or artist is something or someone they can relate to. Seemed funny he made a racial remark out of that topic when he shared his experience with racial bias from Nicki Minaj. I feel like we, as a people, over think things like this sometimes... of course, maybe this is an example of me doing the same (over thinking) right now. :)

May. 28 2014 03:55 PM
emmiewinks from New Jersey

Would like to hear a bit focused more on the subject of corporate hip hops effect on quality of the genre

May. 28 2014 11:52 AM
MC Ertem from md

This is the only existence proof (that I am aware of) to the hypothesis 'It is possible to have a boring Radiolab episode.'

What were you guys thinking?

May. 25 2014 01:57 PM
MG

I'm with the majority of commenters below. The general topic of the episode, i.e. what constitutes "real" hip-hop, and how race, gender, class and age play a role, would have been incredibly interesting.

Instead it was a self-advertisement by some random guy who has little of interest to say about any of this. I personally would have loved to hear a variety of different people's opinions - or that of Jay Smooth, that guy is a genius :)

Also, if you need to put so much focus on a personal conflict, at least give the other person a chance to tell her part of the story!

I think you don't need to be in academia to have something valuable to say about a topic, but this guy was a terrible choice.

May. 25 2014 08:54 AM
tishattar

FYI - Gala apples are not the "red shiny" apples, those are called "Red Delicious"

May. 23 2014 03:57 PM

Rosenberg's comment that Nicki Minaj could be the best *female* hip-hop artist ever (before she dared to do what Jay-Z, Kanye, and many other men before her had done and make a commercial pop-sounding song) reveals what the rest of the episode makes clear: that he puts women and girls are in a separate, lesser category. Letting comments like this go unchallenged was disappointing for RadioLab.

May. 13 2014 03:10 PM
Jonsey

A pretty good episode, particularly if you like Hip Hop or are just interested in music culture and how it changes.

Ali Shaheed Muhammad's quote towards the end summed it all up nicely.

also, It's more interesting to listen to the actual interview between Rosenberg and Minaj with out the edits from Radiolab.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7KC4kL5CE8
Whether you agree with her music or her reasons, it gives a better view of both Minaj and Rosenberg.

May. 13 2014 02:33 PM
charlie

well i'm a self-proclaimed expert on blowhards with an inflated sense of entitlement and i decree Rosenberg to be one. so there. Shmosenberg...

May. 11 2014 02:16 PM
Cathrine from Denmark

Hi,

Great show! Does anyone know were I can find the research on the fruitiest fruit (and is Fruity Fruit taken as a hip hop namesake?)

May. 09 2014 09:12 AM
Natasha

All the times I heard Starships, I NEVER knew it was by Nikki Minaj! I think that song is awful. Great show as always.

May. 06 2014 02:47 AM
P W from Oakland CA

Really, Radiolab? Please get more women and people of color on your show! You're embarrassing yourselves with tonedeaf treatments of gender and race, and certainly losing female and Black listeners.

May. 05 2014 04:40 PM
Phil P. from San Diego

Anyone who makes Hip Hop an important part of their life is a simpleton. This genre of music is tired. Forget about race, people. It is relevant because you make it so. Nobody is making anyone use a different bathroom or sit on the back of the bus. You can even be President if you apply yourself. Grow up and take responsibility for yourself. Or, don't, and listen to the rhyming skills of your favorite Hip Hop 'artist'. Here, have a juice box while you are at it.

May. 05 2014 11:00 AM
David Streever from New Haven

This was a horrible episode. I've listened to--and loved--nearly every episode of RadioLab, but the level of racism and white entitlement in this piece killed me.

When the DJ is going on and on, about his expectations for Minaj, and how disappointed and let down he is, I wanted to say--man, get over yourself. She doesn't owe you ANYTHING.

You had a nice, cozy childhood with supportive parents in Maryland. She actually grew up in NYC, living hip-hop, surrounded by men who told her she wasn't good enough and needed to stop.

Sure, Starships is a pop song. Sure, I don't even like Starships. Fine; say "I don't like Starships. It's too pop. It doesn't have the beat structure and lyrics of the hip-hop from the 80s that I love."

Daily bash sessions, where you whine and moan about it, is just ridiculous.

I have to say, part of me thinks he cleverly picked this fight to advance his own career, and his non-apology mixed with his insistence that he was 'owed' something just made me mad.

Why didn't the RadioLab team have more black voices? They cut off and talked over every black voice they played. It was incredibly off-putting, and incredibly disappointing.

They didn't even mention his entitlement, or the irony, of a man working for a 'sell out' station talking about how white people are co-opting music criticizing a woman from the streets and instructing her in what is/isn't hip-hop.

Does hip-hop need a 'gatekeeper'? Are people too stupid to know what music is? He isn't providing a meaningful service at all; just making money and getting popular for himself.

May. 03 2014 12:48 AM
Hillary Kobernick from Atlanta & Chicago

I was disappointed with this story. It's presented largely as an apologetic for one white man and doesn't take seriously the intersectionality of race/class/gender. Two things particularly bothered me:
1) Rosenburg says he told Nicki Minaj he was going to hold her to a higher standard because she's more talented. This statement is riddled with White Male privilege. EVERYBODY holds Nicki to a higher standard because she's a black woman in a predominately black male business (increasingly dominated by white men). I get this all the time as a woman in a male-dominated profession (pastoring)--it's not a compliment when I'm held to a higher standard, it's an underhanded way of letting the men get away with inappropriate comments. Like the old saying, "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels." If Nicki does crossover pop, that doesn't reduce her talent in hip hop.
2) Rosenburg says he has EARNED the right to criticize black artists and he's more qualified than a gaggle of 13-year-old girls to determine "real hip-hop." I'm not a huge fan of "Starships," and I spent a summer listening to 13-year-old girls rave about it when it was at the top of the charts. BUT. Those were 13-year-old black girls from the projects in Atlanta. Who's to say they're not equally (or more) qualified to be gatekeepers? Why? Because they're uneducated? Because they're IN the struggle? Rosenburg's statement was densely classist and ignorant.
If Rosenburg wants to do something useful for hip-hop, he should be a better ally. This means when someone calls you on your s*** for being ignorant with your privilege (as Nicki rightly did), you back up, listen. He blew a chance to be a better ally. And RadioLab needs to do better in calling white men on their s***.

Apr. 28 2014 10:35 PM
Hillary Kobernick from Atlanta & Chicago

I was disappointed with this story. It's presented largely as an apologetic for one white man and doesn't take seriously the intersectionality of race/class/gender. Two things particularly bothered me:
1) Rosenburg says he told Nicki Minaj he was going to hold her to a higher standard because she's more talented. This statement is riddled with White Male privilege. EVERYBODY holds Nicki to a higher standard because she's a black woman in a predominately black male business (increasingly dominated by white men). I get this all the time as a woman in a male-dominated profession (pastoring)--it's not a compliment when I'm held to a higher standard, it's an underhanded way of letting the men get away with inappropriate comments. Like the old saying, "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels." If Nicki does crossover pop, that doesn't reduce her talent in hip hop.
2) Rosenburg says he has EARNED the right to criticize black artists and he's more qualified than a gaggle of 13-year-old girls to determine "real hip-hop." I'm not a huge fan of "Starships," and I spent a summer listening to 13-year-old girls rave about it when it was at the top of the charts. BUT. Those were 13-year-old black girls from the projects in Atlanta. Who's to say they're not equally (or more) qualified to be gatekeepers? Why? Because they're uneducated? Because they're IN the struggle? Rosenburg's statement was densely classist and ignorant.
If Rosenburg wants to do something useful for hip-hop, he should be a better ally. This means when someone calls you on your s*** for being ignorant with your privilege (as Nicki rightly did), you back up, listen. He blew a chance to be a better ally. And RadioLab needs to do better in calling white men on their s***.

Apr. 28 2014 09:39 PM
FreddieFreeloader from Pta, South Africa

Ermahgerd, where can I find that Lee Morgan Sidewinder hip hop mash up played in the end??? WOW!

Apr. 27 2014 07:52 AM

It was kind of cool to hear how a white kid could grow up in a music era dominated by black influence and fit in. It was funny to hear how he responded to taking to T.I. and hear his response and how he got to where he was. The 80s were all about hip hop and black music and the way he applied himself to it was really interesting.

Apr. 25 2014 09:11 PM
RyanNn from Florida

It's cool to hear about a white kid that grew up to love hip hop when it was almost a culturally unacceptable thing to like as a white boy. It's funny to think about how this sort of event happened to me when I was little because my best friends on my street just happened to be African American and loved this sort of music. I adapted and now still enjoy hip hop and some of the songs from this radio lab.

Apr. 25 2014 08:52 PM
therealmarcos

Rosenberg has been alive in seeing all those really good rap groups like A Tribe Called Quest which are hands down some of the best rappers I have ever heard in my life. They are the best compared to music like Niki Minaj's music. Rosenberg is in the right in the way that he feels niki selling out is an insult on rap. Because the guy has lived and drank rap for all his life he gets mad when a rapper comes out with a song like Starships. That is how music is nowadays in rap. The rapper gets big then said rapper starts doing weird music or sell out typical pop crap. I thought it was cool they did a shout out to A Tribe Called Quest because they made really good hip hop that everyone should listen to because it is what inspired everybody else to start doing rap.

Apr. 25 2014 08:19 PM
Goose from straight outta compton

"Theres never been a music genre that wasn't invented by black people and taken over by white people" thats a powerful fact and one that i can see being extremely controversial. White people in the rap industry has always been an issue but its only an issue on the surface, for example Mac Miller white rapper, people who just hear about him first thing they say is something regarding race, he does not act black or "deny his whiteness" he is an influential name in the rap industry these days and is friends with blacks and whites alike, not black people or white people, but rap people. Rap is its race its on community.

Apr. 25 2014 12:23 PM
Doug

Radiolab is going down, down, down. One bad episode after another.

Apr. 24 2014 06:37 PM
TheAvenger from Florida

As human beings we psychologically categorize or make schemas of everything we are exposed to in our everyday world. For example what they mentioned in this case is the generalization of hip hop as a music of black peple or hispanics, which actually appears to be gradually becoming a familiar part with many members of the white society today. When we're driving down the road and we hear sound waves vibrating off our vehicles from someone jamming out to rap, one probably initially believes it to be a car full of blacks or "ghetto" people. Then they're suprised to find out it's a couple of white guys, maybe their friends. It's amazing that even radio stations, as they mentioned, one naturally stereotypes as a Black station. With the world constantly changing by the minute, one needs to accomodate new information to adjust their existing schemas.

Apr. 24 2014 06:00 PM
Sarah from Nashville

Wow, this was the hardest Radiolab episode ever for me to finish. It was basically a space for Rosenberg to further preach his casual sexism and self-importance. Hard to hear everything over the sound of his ego. Also, way to make it sound like Nicki Minaj diva-ed out and wasn't told by her label (Lil Wayne) to pull out, along with others...If you listen to the entire confrontation they had on air, Rosenberg comes off as condescending, insecure, sexist, and self-obsessed. Maybe that's the view of "hip hop" he's looking for, even more than the "aggressive" ideal that the show proposed.

Apr. 24 2014 02:26 PM
Wrath

It's funny though that Rosenburg's critique of Nicki is seemingly now justified as she has recently decided to return to her "roots". Hair and all...

Apr. 24 2014 10:18 AM
Sloppy from Sweden

I love how these episodes often bring out things that aren't exactly what the theme may seem to suggest. This has less to do with racism than it does the perception of racism which often becomes racist in compensation. And this story also takes you into the dark side of nerds. That whole "I know about this stuff so go listen to your top of the pops and if you like anything good it's an accident" bullshit.
The one thing that alludes the above two is that the media determine the popularity of music. People don't like Eminem because he is white but he was strongly promoted because he was white.
And who is to say that an artist can't venture out of the box that the fans place them in. In all forms of art it is known that good art comes from the struggle to live. A wealthy artist will usually lose that connection eventually. That is simply one way an artist could change the style of their art. Those who don't are usually the disingenuous ones.

Apr. 24 2014 08:41 AM
Nat Kane from San Francisco, CA

I found the lack of black voices in this episode shocking. It's incredible to me that in a show where the topic is the authenticity of hip hop, the vast majority of time went to white people. Fully ten minutes went by before the listener even heard a black voice, and even then, Ali Shaheed Mohammed got only two short quotes.

Does radiolab not trust its listeners to hear black people discuss hip hop? Did the producers simply not think to ask any black artists, djs, record label execs, or or critics what they thought about authentic hip hop or Rosenberg's role as gatekeeper? I would be interested to hear those perspectives, and they would have made for a stronger show.

But more fundamentally, the lack of black voices in the episode implies that black perspectives aren't important. This is a subtle and probably unintentional form of racism, but racism nonetheless.

Apr. 23 2014 07:06 PM

To all the people saying that Rosenburg is telling her what music she can and cannot create, all he is saying is that her music is NOT Hip Hop, because it is NOT! If you knew anything about Hip Hop you would agree. You may not care what Rosenburg says but I guarantee real Hip Hip artists like Tribe Called Quest would agree with his stance. It has nothing to do with gender or race, it's all about the music. Hip Hop does not evolve into Pop. There is still tons of real Hip Hip being made today.

Apr. 22 2014 11:37 AM
Christina

I just want to thank Radiolab for making this podcast on this subject area. It was different from the regular science topics they cover, but I really enjoyed it.

Apr. 21 2014 03:45 PM
Jordan from Trampa

Rosenberg has the right to voice his opinion on whatever platform that is at his disposal... as Nicki Minaj can produce whatever music she is capable of. The galvanization of "pro-" or "anti" camps in this discussion just feeds into the "controversy sells" moral of this story. Black, white, female, male, real, fake... all of these descriptive precursors server what purpose? There is no tragedy here... just those who wish profit trading off the idea there is. Both Nicki and Peter are at the pinnacle of the respective professions... I do not empathize for either, but respect the work they did to get there.

Apr. 21 2014 12:38 AM

Like that this guy actually called it like he saw it rather than kissing up to the star like every other artist. Sounds like actually encouraged her to not just produce more pop too. Radiolab is the best.

Apr. 20 2014 03:13 PM

prequel -- Beastie Boys

Apr. 19 2014 09:58 PM
Diana from San Mateo

What's a sexist comment by Rosenberg,"you (Nicki) could be one of the best FEMALE hip hop artists?" Could he be one of the best white suburban middle class hip hop radio hosts? I wish the main narrator had been the female pod aster, not the white dude narrator.

Wow, Radiolab, is this story a meta message that if hip hop can mutate, so can a "science" radio show?

Apr. 19 2014 08:36 PM
Olive from brooklyn

Nicki Minaj is a young woman at the start of her career - she can do anything she wants - if you don't like it don't her music don't buy it, give it a bad review, ignore it - but trashing her as an artist overall or trying to tell her what kind of music she can produce is WAY out of line - SHE decides what she wants to do - good for her for standing up to an overbearing 'tourist' in a culture he will never truly understand from the inside. A black female artist is fighting incredible odds to have a career and make a living in the United States. Leave her alone and let her work and mature and support her - even if she wants to do music for kids - whatever - it is her choice.

Apr. 19 2014 12:13 PM
airwoman13 from Florida

Well, as a white, suburban, teenage girl most would ask, what the hell would I know about hip hop? Well, I grew up on hip hop. In the years since it was first out, it really has changed so much. But thats just it. Things, not just music, change as times change. Things adjust to new times and new interests. Coming from someone, who for the last 5 years has listened to EDM, I honestly do not believe it constitutes "hip-hop". Quite actually, a lot of music now does not constitute hiphop. Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainzz and others similar to that, does not even sound like what hip hop should be. They rap about such stupid mindless things that arent even music. There are rappers and artists out there who live the original hip-hop meaning but have evolved their sound to match today's interests. I think those are the people who should be recognized as true rappers and hip-hop artists. Just my opinion.

Apr. 18 2014 10:42 PM
Muffinstuffers123

Hip-hop is an incredibly interesting subject. I think that their negative talk about nick minaj is unjust. I think that all rappers do what they have to do survive. The fact that they change there music to fit the trends is not something to be looked down on. People have to do what they need to do to survive, and these artists change their hip-hop to fit these new trends.

Apr. 18 2014 05:35 PM
Chris

Its very simple. Whats going on now is that we have a lot of rap and hip hop artists and producers putting out pop and EDM tracks because thats what sells right now. The fact that the successful people of one genre have migrated to another genre does not for a second put into question the boundaries or definitions of those genres. When a producer in one genre tries their hand in another, the producer has changed genres, not "the genres have changed their definitions."

I hope nobody out this actually didnt already know that.

Apr. 18 2014 05:31 PM
Chris

The fact that Nicki Minaj song is in absolutely no way a rap or hip-hop track is not up for dispute. Its not a matter of opinion any more than mammals are vetrebrates is a matter of opinion. It's squarely in the dead center of the definition of pop/EDM. Just because Nikki is predominantly a rap/hip-hop artist doesn't mean that everything she ever does by definition is rap or hip-hop.

If Kenny Chesney releases a death metal track you don't get to call it a country song simply because Kenny Chesney is the writer/producer.

Just because there is a large overlap between EDM, pop, and rap/hip-hop does not for a second confound the defintition of "real hip-hop." 130bpm 4/4 beat with autotuned vocals, heavy synth lines, and big build ups and drops, BY DEFINITION is not real hip hop. It doesnt matter if the person who made the track is David Guetta or Jurassic 5. If it fits that description its an EDM track and thats just an objective fact not open to interpretation.

Apr. 18 2014 05:23 PM
Olo Hooro

Well, also, that those artists don't want to be dirt poor even as they're taking huge amounts of time to compose albums. 'Selling out' is a very contentious issue in the artistic community, but you'll find that a good deal of artists have 'sold out' once or twice during their tenure in whatever medium they happen to be involved in.

If music is your job, and you're not pulling in enough cash to support yourself (or your investments, in the case of the upper echelons), you're going to look for ways to do just that.

Apr. 17 2014 10:24 PM
PeterWill from Seattle

Huh?

Apr. 17 2014 04:33 PM
Tara from VA

@Mike from Atlanta: The historical answer to your question is that Hip Hop originated from struggle. The music started with experimenters who couldn't afford instruments constructing break beats from rock and jazz records. Graffiti, another element of Hip Hop culture, started with kids taking spray cans and making art on the canvasses that were available: walls and trains. Hip Hop is all about making something out of nothing; it came out of struggle. Emcees tell the stories of folks still in the struggle. Also, understand that selling out- in any art form- is usually about "artists" abandoning their personal creativity and creating something that is commercially viable (i.e. family/radio/television-friendly). The pressure to make money overwhelms the drive to be authentic; usually the "purists" are vocal, but not profitable and are therefore ignored. Some people think art shouldn't be about what the masses want to hear/consume/buy, but about what the artist wants to express.

Apr. 17 2014 11:32 AM
Mike from Atlanta

1)Why is hip hop always paired with struggle? What does someone's childhood have to do with the "legitimacy" of their music? People of all upbringings struggle. (2)Why do we call the music artists if we aren't giving them the freedom to perform what they want? "You're a sell out if you make music based on what people want to hear, so make this other type because it's what I want to hear."

Apr. 17 2014 10:36 AM
Joyous

I appreciated the story and what it was saying about the roots and contemporary trends in Hip Hop music. However, I really didn't like the negative way you discussed EDM. If you look into it, the different genres of EDM do have history and geographic culture associated with them. True, the current trend of EDM on the "charts" is something that's been pushed and backed by commercial interests, but that happens in EVERY genre - and the hugely popular acts like Krewella are more like pop music than true EDM. By portraying it as mass-marketed, lowest-common-denominator dance music, you fail to recognize that there is a lot of variation and sub-genres and different influences in the genre - and you make a similar mistake as people who classified "Starships" as a hip-hop song rather than a pop song.

Anyway, just food for thought, I usually love your show but I also love a lot of (less popular) EDM musicians that I feel have a lot of character and style that is not represented in the "Popified" top 40 artists.

Apr. 16 2014 11:58 PM
Casey

I still think Rosenberg and this story are both taking the wrong approach to Nicki Minaj. Yes- she can be one of the best rappers. But she said before she released this album with Starships that it was going to be half pop, half rap.

"You can't rap and sing on the same CD, the public won't get it, they got A.D.D."

This story is just off base... and out of character for Radiolab.

Apr. 16 2014 02:39 PM
Joe D from Lexington, KY

Jad, what happened?

As a hip-hophead who listens to old school and underground, I do not think this was a very good story. I liked that the issues hip-hop faces were brought up, but they were not represented well. It was totally unnecessary to complicate the story with race. The greatest hip hop artists are all extremely diverse. Also, the comparison between "old school" and "hip-pop" is only part of the story. Why was underground hip hop not talked about at all?

This story should almost entirely be about the commercialization of hip-hop, or, the divergence of old school into hip-pop and underground. Is the commercialization of hip-hop the same as "whiting up" hip hop? Is EDM "white" and hip hop "black"? I think those just might be confused, confounded, racist assertions. WTF.

Apr. 16 2014 02:14 PM
Li

This show gets more and more offensive. First questioning who a person is based on their last name ( "berg" ). Then giving artists and radio DJs a pass on their blatant bigotry. "Purity" ? Wow. Well, I guess its like they say, there is nothing new under the Sun. I am sure no matter what, that they will continue to draw artistic lines based on where you live, what your last name is, the color of your skin, and your gender. Our kind of people. We should all judge based on the color of your skin, not the content of your music. The real question is: why didn't RadioLab call them on it?

Apr. 16 2014 01:29 PM
Manny Faces from New York

Rosenberg means well, but he is ultimately at the whim of the station, and the larger controlling hand of the corporatizing and commercialization of hip hop music. As such, his gatekeeper status is largely figurehead. There have been plenty of similarly minded individuals who have been as deserving as he to be in such a position, white, black and other, but he was at the right place at the right time. However, the larger picture isn't whether or not white people are co-opting hip hop (though it is definitely an issue), it is how GREED has co-opted hip hop. The "great white takeover," while something hip hop needs to be wary of, is largely fearmongering by those who are unwilling to explore the entire hip hop spectrum, focusing only on interesting sub-stories, as was the case in this podcast. A straight profile on Rosenberg, that would have been fine. A look at race and hip hop, would have been fine. Combining the two gives a very narrow perspective.

Apr. 16 2014 11:53 AM
Listener from California

Peter talks about having to defend hiphop. Well, after the digs against edm by three different people in this segment- one warranted perhaps, as Peter Rosenberg sees the pop edge of edm fusing with his pure hiphop- I just have to say that edm/electronica is not just soulless corporate music, it is a dynamic, creative genre with a long history. True EDM fans dislike the whole Pitbull/Nicki Minaj hiphop+edm hybridization phenomenon as much as Rosenberg does. Although actually there is nothing wrong with good pop music, of which "Starships" is a good example.

And you know what, as an EDM/electronica fan since the 90s ( and a dance music fan since I was a little kid), if people want to go straight on misunderstanding EDM/electronica, that's ok, although I will tell them to go eff themselves.

Apr. 15 2014 07:23 PM
Alyssa

Has anyone related what Rosenberg describes as happened to hip-hop to what has also happened in country music? i.e. Country-pop and now this "country hip-pop". I believe the real music is starting the make a come back with the emergence of Americana but the stuff they play on mainstream radio about beer and girls in cut off shorts makes me wish the big wheeled truck they're driving would run me over.

Apr. 15 2014 04:25 PM
Angel Gonzalez from Florida

The science aspect of it is left out, but the culture aspects that affect everyone, including those who don't even listen to hip-hop.

Apr. 15 2014 11:34 AM
Angel Gonzalez from Florida

The science aspect of it is left out, but the culture aspects that affect everyone, including those who don't even listen to hip-hop.

Apr. 15 2014 11:34 AM
Nedan from Long Beach

Brilliant episode. This being a comment section, I shouldn't be surprised to find people complaining. But RadioLab is, and always has been about interesting stories. And this was a very interesting subject. "How can an outsider become so immersed in something that they become a gatekeeper?" I was also happy to hear someone passionately talk about old school hip hop and how it became the voice for a generation, a culture really. Keep doing what you're doing RadioLab. Keep looking for interesting stories from all walks of life, not just our own!!

Apr. 14 2014 12:57 PM

I appreciate Radiolab's willingness to venture into this arena. However, I was disappointed that they chose to present the white male perspective as the default voice narrating this story. I am glad that race and gender issues came out at the end - wish they would have included more of this, because I think that's the real story here.

Apr. 14 2014 11:37 AM
Luke from Cambridge, USA

This has got to be one of the least interesting Radiolabs ever. I kept hoping something science related would come in... such as how the brain makes categories, or something like that. But nope, it's just about a Jewish dude and a Black woman arguing about hip hop. Boring, and ultimately meaningless.

Apr. 14 2014 06:48 AM
rick from Oregn

What is funny, is Radio Lab listeners discussing this. Can we get much whiter as far as a listening category?

Apr. 13 2014 11:23 PM
Mike Patterson

I absolutely loved this episode! As a black kid from suburban Queens who became a rock expert, I understand completely the struggles with perception of one's expertise by the prevailing demographic in an art form and how difficult it can be when you voice a legitimate, informed criticism of a piece of art in the genre. I felt this was a very Radiolab-like approach to a story that on the surface seem sun Radiolab-ish! That made the story itself that much more powerful. Radiolab stepping out of its comfort level to explore a subject that was similarly "fish out of water".

Excellent piece!

Apr. 13 2014 03:15 PM
Zack Lamoureux from Canada

I feel I have to stand up for this episode against the onslaught of people commenting that they have a distaste for an episode about a guy's distaste for something else. We get it. It's not Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, but, if you care about music, i think there's a lot of valid questions. I am white, like Rosenberg, and am a club DJ playing mostly black music. It's in your job description to pick favorites and to judge. You get paid to do so. And Rosenberg has a good track record of doing so. Hip hop is a polarizing thing at it's very core. It commands you to choose a side.

EDM is a stupid blanket term to commercialize electronic music and make it palatable to a mainstream audience. I don't think they're wrong to dismiss EDM. That doesn't dismiss the driving force behind it, which is the years of obscurity and progression that has taken place in clubs, studios and bedrooms for over 40 years to bring the Tiestos and Skrillexes to arenas worldwide. Like anything else, there's good stuff and bad stuff, and then there's stuff that is put in front of you so much that you have no choice but to at least acknowledge it. I feel that the term EDM disconnects the modern, popular phenomenon from the history and culture that so many worked to hard to progress. For instance, Daft Punk heard the term EDM and thought it was a new dj or producer. To the Led Zeppelin of dance music EDM is a meaningless term.

Apr. 13 2014 08:54 AM
Stephen Webber from Valencia, Spain

Should Herbie Hancock be called out for making a pop hit with John Mayer or making an album of Joni Mitchell covers because that's not where he came from?

If Nicki Minaj wants to make a pop record, is it mature or enlightened to condemn her for it because it's not what we expected or wanted her to do?

It would be interesting for Radio Lab to follow up on the larger issue that is the logical extension of the question Peter's situation raises - shouldn't anyone who loves something, immerses themselves in it and learns about it be allowed to participate?

It's ironic that Peter feels he had to fight discrimination and then he turns right around and feels it's ok to discriminate - - that's the truly interesting part to me.

Peter sees his job as discriminating - but isn't discrimination almost always a slippery slope? It's funny that he makes a disparaging comment about 13 year old kids, who are probably among the people who argue most passionately about about the "purity" of the music they love. Not only is he in a job where his race is an issue, but his age will become an issue more and more as he matures. I know a lot of kids who talk about "selling out" and feel discrimination is a good thing, but way fewer adults.

Wisdom promotes civility. So does considering the big picture.

I'm a bit disappointed that RL let stand without any examination an uneducated analysis that lumped all of EDM together and then condemned the whole thing - - the show is usually more open-minded and rigorous than that.

Apr. 13 2014 05:36 AM
Jon from California

What happened to the radiolab i fell in love with? Radiolab used to deeply move me. Not as of late. I'm sad.

Apr. 13 2014 02:18 AM
m

After listening to this episode, I had to wonder: did I somehow miss the part about science?

I actually thought the episode was very interesting; I just didn't think it was very Radiolab. And as a Radiolab lover, well... That's not a good thing,

Apr. 12 2014 07:25 PM

Is this an April fool's joke?? I kept waiting for them to drop some science shit on this! Some sociology research explaining how a straight white man can come to perceive himself as part of an oppressed minority? An anthropological examination of the intricate cultural dance that Americans have to do in order to avoid the subject of race or gender? This is not just snark! I would legitimately love to see this explained with SCIENCE.

I actually did find this episode thought-provoking and interesting. I'd never heard of this scandal with Nicki Minaj before. I would have loved for someone to call Rosenberg out on his accidental sexism- I can bet you that he would never think to compliment a MALE hip hop artist by calling him "beautiful," equating talent and worth with physical beauty. I got the impression that he really doesn't understand that he's saying these potentially hurtful things and it would have been cool for someone to call him out kindly.

With that said, I have seen Radiolab twice (and loved it!) but I have never been more aware that this show is hosted by two white men. Or more uncomfortable about it! Y'all are normally really good at tackling sensitive issues, but you really let this one slide by!

Apr. 11 2014 04:27 PM
5u7ch from San Francisco

I grew up in Suburban Maryland as well and was exposed to early hip hop by listening to AM radio, WEBB. "Roxanne Roxanne" Really enjoyed and related to this story.
thanks,

Apr. 11 2014 03:59 PM
Lindsey

I mean.... I'm dumbfounded at the race issues and white privilege in this episode. I'm a pretty regular Radiolab listener AND a hip hop fan so I was excited when I stumbled across the description of this episode. Halfway through though and I'm not even sure if I can finish. Really - the one person you choose to interview on the genre is a white guy that basically full-on admits that the reason he likes rap is because (he thinks) it basically makes him a trailblazer? The quote "I've always liked things that needed to be defended" and his denying that race should have anything to do with the criticism of Minaj? You're not colorblind, bro, and neither is the rest of the world... IT MATTERS. He's an outsider whether he thinks he has "cred" or not, and he should be respectful of that. I expected better, Radiolab. I really did.

Apr. 11 2014 03:15 PM

O M G was this really an April Fools Joke?

Apr. 11 2014 01:14 PM
Brad Brown from San Diego

This episode was ridiculous. The only sexism and racism involved was when Nicki Minaj pulled gender and race into the matter. He dissed Nicki's music because she did in fact sell out and she got butt-hurt about it. Unbelievable. I eagerly await Nicki Minaj's inevitable fade into obscurity.

Apr. 11 2014 11:21 AM
albino francisco-bibe from chimoio-Mozambique

hi it's my first time "here" and i think it's amazing!

Apr. 11 2014 05:21 AM

I find Rosenberg's show interesting and how he came to where he is today. The fact that he had to fight for his position and it took him until Hot 97 got a new boss is interesting, as in he didn't get it the first time when he was obviously a fantastic choice for the job.

Apr. 10 2014 06:32 PM

This episode really fell flat. The sexist nature of the gate keeping is completely glossed over. There is also a HUGE parallel that goes unexamined. Just do a bit of research into 'geek girls' and 'gatekeeper'. All the buzz words were in this episode with zero acknowledgement.

I also got really tired of hearing about this persons 'street cred'. I grew up in Detroit as a white male. I'm in my 40s and EVERY kid listened to rap. It wasn't a white/black thing. Do we really think that Eminem and his white friends didn't listen to rap before they started doing it?

So in short. Sexist, and please read up on 'gatekeeping' and the connotations this already has in our society.

Apr. 10 2014 08:06 AM
AK from London UK

You're all idiots! This is an April Fools joke!

Apr. 09 2014 08:26 PM

I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE this episode!!! I know most of the stuffy people who took the time out of their day to point out the obvious have made there snide remarks (that this is NOT a science episode...which, in truth, the fact that so many people are so annoyed by ONE episode that isn't strictly science-based could be a science experiment within itself....just saying)...but as an avid listener of the program, I am also a HUGE hip hop head...I have been listening to Peter Rosenburg for quite some time and I am a huge fan...and after he put Minaj out on front street for her sellout song (which really was just the first of a whole new avenue for her apparently), he became one of my top authorities on "real" hip hop..(although to be honest, I don't like her AT ALL, I think all her songs suck...) I'm sure most of your listeners have ranted about not liking this episode but I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!!!! Hip hop has become universal and it bothers me that a lot of black people still make it a white/black issue, when hip hop has attracted a variety of people from different cultures from the beginning...most of the hip hop culture (aside from JUST the lyricism) has been developed and perfected by Caucasians, Latinos and Asians...there have ALWAYS been whites, Hispanics and Asians involved in the behind the scenes processes of the hip hop scene...thank you for giving me something a little different to listen to today...you guys rock!

Apr. 09 2014 02:14 PM
JNyame

Besides the fact that this episode lacks science as many people pointed out, I just want to say that this discussion is on Nicki Minaj is simply ridiculous. Many people who listen to Hip Hop also listen to pop. Nicki Minaj never claimed that Starships was Hip Hop (she calls it commercial), so the claim is just dumb to be blunt. How is it okay, for a White man from the suburbs to grow up to be a hip hop DJ, but not okay for a Black woman highly qualified in a variety of performing arts to make both hip hop and pop music? Right because black people are only capable of "aggressive" forms of music that allow them to fit a stereotype. Annoyed.

Apr. 09 2014 01:31 PM
Rob from San Antonio

I'm a huge Radiolab fan. I think you have the ability to go down as the best science based radio show of all time so I'm going to hold you to a high standard and I might say some things you might not like. That was a shit episode. It was a total sell-out job. It really had nothing to do with science. Fuck that bullshit, I want to hear more classics like the "time" or "memory and forgetting" episodes. This was the Nikki Minaj "Starships" of Radiolab. I hate to say it guys, but the show has been noticeably worse since Lulu left. You've been slipping. Please get back to your old ways.

The earlier episodes made me tear up they were so enlightening. Now you're doing a 30 minute show because some dj said he didn't like a song and 13-year-old girls got mad? Really? There's a lot going on in science right now. Pick up the MIT Technology Review if you're out of ideas. Don't become This American Life part deux. Public radio has enough content dealing with bs race and cultural issues, don't fall into that trap. Keep it real. You guys did an ep on the Godel Incompleteness Theorem for Christ's sake, this episode was pond scum compared to that. Do an episode on Euler's Theorem and how it influenced modern cryptography, anything but this bull. I hope you know I only say these things out of love. Peace.

-rob

Apr. 09 2014 11:30 AM
mike janowski from Frank Lloyd Village, IL

Who cares? It's music, you love it or you don't. "Sellout" don't matter, Rosenberg.

Apr. 09 2014 10:52 AM

OK reading through these comments:

This is not NPR's history of Hip Hop! It's radiolab's version of a New Yorker profile of what is being billed as the first white guy to like hip hop "authentically."

Radiolab just randomly (according to the piece's intro) happened into the story because the writer wandered into their office.

There are problems with the man-on-moon tone and rewritten history -- and gross out factor that a white hat lover of hip hop would ever forgive Nikki Minaje for anything! But let's not rewrite anything ourselves as hip hop lovers and presumably radio lab fans. Radio lab's contrite, wide eyed tone largely makes up for a lack of fact checking, think "TAL" 1998.

Apr. 09 2014 08:06 AM

@Caitlin nah that's code for a "Jewish guy."

Apr. 09 2014 07:27 AM

In the "White Boy" category, Beastie's "Licensed to Ill" (1987) is pretty much the beginning and the end of that subject.

But I'll be tuning into Hot97 this morning, refreshing to hear a DJ so fully about the music, not the hype. A lot of reinventing chronology in this piece but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

Apr. 09 2014 07:25 AM
Jake from Australia

Yeah this was a really disappointing episode. It was suppose to be a discussion about defining one genre of music, but in the same cast you let a self described hip hop fanatic authoritarianly define EDM as basically a mishmash of trash. If you define the baseline for your argument subjectively you are always right. You could have found more educated, less biased opinions to at least frame the episode. The whole thing effectively devolved into a he said she said. With a bunch of other randoms pushing their own agenda in between.

C'mon guys.

Apr. 08 2014 10:06 PM
Matt Henehan from Seattle

Remind me why we need "gatekeepers" again? Kids listen with an open mind, which I'm sure is infuriating to Rosenberg and the genre "experts." Love your music, just don't trash everyone who doesn't agree with your TASTE. It's like criticizing people who don't like broccoli for not having vegetable cred. Just go eat your broccoli and put a cork in it.

Apr. 08 2014 03:05 PM
Tara from VA

I am a huge Radio Lab fan and an even bigger fan of (underground) Hip Hop. AND I'm a woman... AND I'm black. How's that for credentials? LOL. I was so delighted listening to this story until the question of race and gender was brought up regarding Nicki Minaj. Let's be clear: Nicki Minaj perpetuates an idea of women as Barbies, plastic brainless sex dolls. It's exactly the way in which sexism in commercial Hip Hop tends to limit women. The woman in the story was way off when she claimed that Rosenberg's comment about 13 year-old girls who like Minaj was sexist and reflective of Hip Hop's valuing authenticity as code for "aggressive" and "male". The comment proceeded Ali Shaheed Muhammad, whose Tribe Called Quest is the epitome of revered Hip Hop. Tribe is notorious for their positive message, and they very notably did NOT exploit women in their lyrics and on stage during their heyday. Like Tribe, most contemporary non-commercial Hip Hop tends to be more diverse in a lot of ways (gender, race, lyrical content, etc.), and it usually offers a safer space for women to participate in more ways than being sexually objectified. I've been to plenty of shows where the host hypes the crowd with calls for "real" Hip Hop and dismisses the one-dimensional commercial pop music that focuses on sex and money. That's a pretty standard mantra among the non-commercial Hip Hop subculture. Race and sex is complicated in Hip Hop, but Nicki Minaj is not a good example: she perpetuates sexual exploitation of women in commercial rap as well as a plastic Eurocentric oversexualized beauty ideal. I find it perfectly acceptable for ANYONE to call her out on that.

Apr. 08 2014 10:12 AM
Scott from London

Hi, You should have got Tim Westwood (UK) in the mix #HipHop

Apr. 08 2014 09:02 AM
Olo Hooro

Follow-up to the last comment: I should clarify that I am absolutely in love with EBM, not against EDM at all, and still am largely confused in regards to how the interviewees DJing underground shows has something to do with the evolution of the genre, aside from the fact that they had a small part in spreading it around.

Seriously, if ever an episode called for a do-over, this'd be it, starting with who got interviewed at the beginning. Hell, Technotronic, Culture Beat, SNAP, or anyone who was even in breathing distance of them would've been better candidates, and they weren't even hip hop. You guys have enough credibility to talk to the actual artists, honestly, and enough know-how to dig into the rave scene that brought people together during really turbulent times.

A couple radio DJs seems a bit fairweather in comparison to your usual.

Apr. 08 2014 05:26 AM
Olo Hooro

I'm hugely into electronic music in general, and when I saw this as a headliner, I was really curious. I used to help out an eBm DJ for a while, so I heard a lot of weird flack about 'EBM' when I should've been hearing EDM. Either way, uh...

Your '!' moments fell really flat. It's not really a big shock that white guys are into hip hop, and it seems like you really missed the mark on what that whole musical movement was all about by failing to interview the black artists. It's understandable if you couldn't get a hold of them, but, really...

This is one of the first times where I turned it off because your usual 'digging deeper' format really didn't happen in the introduction, which is unfortunate, especially considering the fact that there was a lot going on in the underground scene, at the time.

Apr. 08 2014 05:09 AM

You thought Rosenberg was "maybe like Whoopi Goldberg" but then he turned out to be "just a guy." What the heck is that supposed to mean, Jad? Black guys aren't just guys? White guys are the default "guy" setting?

Apr. 07 2014 09:16 PM
Charles Mann from US

Very meh episode. I think it would be best if Radio Lab stuck to the "hard" sciences.

Really, as long as you like it, who cares if someone deems a certain artist "authentic" or not? Who died and made Rosenberg the arbiter?

I like what I like. Life's too short to worry about what other folks think.

Apr. 07 2014 07:24 PM
Leon Loucheur from San Francisco

A perfect synthesis of elucidation and irony. Thoroughly entertaining. Great job!

Apr. 07 2014 05:32 PM
Marcela Carmona from Los Angeles

HUGE radiolab fan here (like ginormous). A day doesn't go by that I don't find a way to bring up a Radiolab episode into any conversation I'm having. That being said, I have to say that as much as I enjoyed this episode, I was shocked and appalled by how you grossly misrepresented EDM. Why? What was the point? EDM had no business even being brought into the conversation or discussion at hand. Not only that, but one of my favorite things about Radiolab is how carefully you research and look at all sides of everything, and so to hear Jad, someone who actually studied music and whose musical opinions have always been well thought out and presented, round up EDM as "an amalgam of synthy dancy technoey euro poppy stuff" is offensive to ALL music genres and subgenres.

Technically, the same can be said for almost ANY genre INCLUDING hip-hop and rock. To say that the "boom bap" aka kick-snare is any better or different than the "untz untz untz untz" aka 4-to-the-floor kick aka instead of a bass drum on the 1 and 3, you get bass drum on all 4 beats (a percussive technique that has roots in jazz [see "feathering"], reggae and dancehall, and disco, is downright ignorant. Take a good look at EDM - electronic dance music. It's not synthy poppy euro pop crap. So much of it is highly intellectual with complex production values that run the gamut from minimalistic soundscapes to great big walls of sound, something I always find in Radiolab's production value. Artists like Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, and Underworld are only the microscopic tip of the highly respected mainstream EDM iceberg. I can't even begin to dive into the indie and underground EDM scene that is ripe with polyrhythms and counter-melodic elements.

Jad, you do a disservice to yourself as a musician and a disservice to your fans when you don't take an extra minute to research any genre of music or topic that is somewhat foreign to you. I love you guys immensely so please take this comment not as "hate" but as constructive criticism. Thank you again for all of your amazing episodes (including this one).

-A classically trained musician, music teacher, singer/songwriter, and radiolab nerd.

Apr. 07 2014 05:29 PM
geekoid

Hip Hop is just Hip Hop. Race is irrelevant and only brought into it to create controvers

It's like saying the first astronaut was white so black people can't be a real astronaut. Ridiculous.

Apr. 07 2014 04:44 PM
Felix from Sweden

Michael from Roanoke, VA:
I'm quite sure it refers to "Prototype theory", which (in its simplest form) is word association experiments. In the same way, a robin is more "bird-y" than a penguin or an ostrich etc. Conversely, people will be able to answer the question "Is a robin a bird?" faster than they can answer "Is an ostrich a bird?".

Here's a short introduction with some references: http://www.formazione.unimib.it/DATA/Insegnamenti/8_1754/materiale/lettura_integrativa_2_prototype_semantics.pdf

Apr. 07 2014 03:32 PM
Simone Parker from Chicago

There is something off about this episode and the way it handles the subject of hip-hop and race. For example, while Nicki Minaj was speaking there was somebody "translating" what she was saying as if she was incomprehensible and that kind of treatment towards her has a lot of disturbing undertones. Another example is the fact that they kept on talking about how intrinsically tied to African-American culture hip-hop is but they didn't interview ONE hip-hop expert that was African-American.
I usually love the depth that Radiolab brings in its shows, but this episode mistreated a genre of music that has so much meaning behind it and they also exemplified the exact white-privilege that they were attempting to talk about in the show.

Apr. 07 2014 03:17 PM
Mary Dean from Boston

How was Rosenberg's statement to the artist an apology? All he did was make an observation. "I'm sorry things went the way they did." Just because he included the word "sorry" doesn't make it an apology. No different from if he had said "I'm sorry it rained today."

Then he told the artist he had nothing against her personally. What a relief for everyone!

Rosenberg is way too self important to be passing judgement on real artists. And way too shallow to be conversing with them.

Apr. 07 2014 02:44 PM
Chuck

This episode was sort of miss for me. Why didn't you guys call these guys out on their total non-sense. There was no explanation of what it means to be "more rap" vs "more pop"? Beyond that, you let your guest introduce some framework of a hierarchy of musical taste without questioning it. (i.e. Catchy music=bad, gritty music=good). In general, you just gave legitimacy is a wandering, unstructured, unthoughtful debate about rap.

If you had dug a layer deeper, you would have found out why people think apples are the "fruity-est of fruits" or Tribe Called Quests is the "rappest of rap". I bet you would have found that "Hip Hop" is composed of not only a common musical structure, but also a cultural heritage (e.g. class, race). You can then pick apart those reasons in there historical and evolving context. You hint at a couple criteria (e.g. race of the artist), but over all missed the mark. You would have likely exposed that there is differing opinions and a struggle over which criteria defining rap really matter.

I'm not saying I want a music theory lecture, but you could have used the same narrative story with a tighter logical thought process to make the story more informative.

Apr. 07 2014 01:21 PM
Fernando from Texas

This story was awesome. all the 13 year-old haters can go listen to their sub-informational podcast. I am the gatekeeper of podcasts. I am the arbiter of innovative shows on American radio. I

Apr. 07 2014 12:55 PM
Combat Jack from NY

Good to hear my voice when they introduce Ebro.

Apr. 07 2014 12:50 PM
Michael from Roanoke, VA

Completely off the rest of this topic, does anyone know the research they refer to in the opening of the episode about people thinking about apples or oranges when they hear "fruit"? It only seemed thinly connected to the rest of the episode, but I'd really like to know where to find more out about that.

Apr. 07 2014 12:33 PM
Kayla from Seattle, WA

Really excellent. I absolutely applaud Jad's, Robert's and the entire Radiolab team's ability to traverse such widely varying topics while managing to reach the heart of the story.

This is certainly a detour from other Radiolab topics, but as a white woman who DJs and produces techno and house (and values the deep cultural history from which these genres came) I have spent a lot of time mulling over these issues, and they hit every one with finesse. I wish an entire hour had been devoted to this topic because I feel like there is a broader story here: the story of almost every genre that has been popularized and ultimately incorporated in the pop-music-money-making-machine (which is mostly controlled by white men).

For those who believe this is off the spectrum of appropriate Radiolab topics: 1) open your mind a fraction of an inch 2) realize that this was probably done as a short because it diverges from topics that they generally devote an entire hour to.

Apr. 06 2014 10:40 PM
Craig from SF Bay Area

I'm a big Radiolab fan, but this episode was very disappointing. The casual racism was bad enough, but there were no stakes to the story. I mean, who *cares* what's "legitimate Hip-Hop" or not? That's a tempest in a teapot, and all this "in or out" stuff is just tribalist posing. I mean, someone's going to get "othered" because they sang the wrong song?

Art doesn't advance because of gatekeepers, but in spite of them. If Niki wants to sing one kind of song instead of another, more power to her. If someone doesn't like her music they can listen to something else or, better yet, go make some of their own.

But, hey, not *every* episode can be golden. Keep up the (generally) great work!

Apr. 06 2014 10:03 PM
Bob from LI, NY

I am not a fan of hip-hop. Even though I will make a point of avoiding listening to it, I still accept it is a valid art form. That being said I have to strongly disagree with Frannie Kelley's statement about 13 year old girls. It is not a gender issue. Having taught high school for 12 years, I don't think 13 year olds, girls or boys, are sophisticated enough to make clear distinctions about art.

Do they know what they like and don't like, sure, but that does not mean they really know the difference between genres in art.

I don't want teenagers to the be the arbiters of our culture. Our culture is already too strongly influenced by teenage decisions, take movies for instance. I trust someone who has been passionately involved in a style of music for 15+ years compared to anyone who has barely left childhood.

Apr. 06 2014 07:08 PM
Evan

To follow through on my previous comment, a list of the most influential (IMO) groups/artists in hiphop from the mid-90s to present (* for those who include white guys)

Freestyle Fellowship (Aceyalone, Mikah 9, PEACE, etc)
Company Flow and El-P*
Aesop Rock* (the first Aesop...)
MF DOOM
Dose-One (Them, Themselves, Subtle)*
Buck 65 and 6ix-2wo (Sebutones)*
Living Legends (Mystik Journeymen, Grouch, Eligh, Scarab, Asop, etc)*
Abstract Rude
Subtitle (Giovanni Marks)
Dave Dub (w Persevere, Tapemastah Steph)*
Atmosphere*
Luke Sick (Sacred Hoop, The Disturbers)*
Sole, Jel, Eyedea, Abilities (Anticon)*
Kool Keith (and his 50+ alter-ego side projects)
Blackalicious, Latyrx, DJ Shadow*
Sage Francis*
Madlib, Quasimoto
Del and Heiroglyphics

AND SO MUCH MORE!!!

Apr. 06 2014 06:52 PM
Evan

I'm so disappointed in this story and its comments. As someone who has been very much involved with rap/hiphop since the late 80s, zero people are talking about how the mid to late 90s was almost entirely known (in the non commercial circles) for large conglomerates of artists from Anticon, Living Legends, Def Jux, Project Blowed, and more. These groups were equally white/black, and represented the most advanced forms of hiphop ever created. People like El-P, for instance, is probably one of the most advanced hiphop artists in circulation today, and has been prominent since the mid-90s. Atmosphere, Dose-One (Themselves, Subtle, etc), The Grouch, Eligh, Luke Sick, Buck65, Sole, and so many more. Dozens and dozens of white guys that were absolutely emblematic of all things hip hop and in terms of production and lyrical content - were light years ahead of the artists that were clinging to some nostalgic assemblage of old-school hip hop. Of course, artists like Subtitle (Giovanni Marks), Dave Dub, Mystik Journeymen, MF DOOM, and others were making equally advanced rap since that time and beyond.

Hiphop and rap doesn't live on the radio or on television. But unfortunately, that's how most outsiders formulate their views on this diverse genre.

Apr. 06 2014 06:35 PM
Ted Michelini from PDX

As far as divergence from a previous science focus, maybe $25k every 3 months is a little distracting to someone who doesn't really fall into any of the following categories: "scientists, historians, poets and novelists, artists and composers, and people working in public service" Maybe Mom and Dad stopped sending Jad papers? Or maybe its an ongoing project to clone the "This American Life" hipster wank fest? Either way the poor subject choice and preponderance of "shorts" shows recently has been disappointing. Hope nothing is amiss below the surface.

Apr. 06 2014 11:48 AM
Peter Sisson from San Francisco

Great reporting, great story. Bought me back to NYC when I was there and these songs were new. What's up with the anger, some of you commenters? If you weren't there, don't hate.

Here's a playlist. I think I got most of em.
Award Tour - A Tribe Called Quest
Biz is Goin' off - Biz Markie
Do the James - Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud
Fight the Power - Public Enemy
Straight Outta Compton - N.W.A.
Oh My God - A Tribe Called Quest
Monster - Kanye West feat. Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z & Bon Iver
Starships - Nicki Minaj
Dynamite - Taio Cruz
Kraftworks - The UMC's

BTW I like Starships too :)

Apr. 05 2014 08:32 PM
Rodney Welch from Elgin, SC

Fantastic story -- although I must admit that it wasn't until I checked in at this site that I saw it was also a brave one. Here's hoping Radiolab can withstand the combined forces of science puritans and EDM enthusiasts. (Clearly, not people you want to mess with. Robert and Jad -- you have stirred a sleeping giant!)

Apr. 05 2014 05:34 PM
tedmich from PDX

Wow a white jewish guy makes it to an authority position in a sub genre of the recording industry, I had no idea there was such opportunity for minorities in the hip-hop industry!

Apr. 05 2014 03:41 PM

I have no idea what your aside about EDM was all about, rather than to take a dig at EDM. The statement "a lot of the criticism about EDM is that it is all about money, the corporatization of a genre" is absolutely absurd. Airing this statement shows your utter lack of knowledge about this genre of music. VERY VERY disappointed in you!
- a multiyear Radiolab listener and supporter

Apr. 05 2014 01:51 PM
PhilMo

Can we just replay the conversation we had about punk in the 90s? It's the same discussion.

Greenday and Blink 182 were to punk as Akon and Chris Brown are to hip hop. Take subculture, water it down, leave out the angry bits, sell it. Rinse and repeat.

Apr. 05 2014 12:27 PM

EDM is a broad music genre, with many sub-genre's under it's umbrella. I'm an EDM fan myself, and I too was very annoyed how it was blown off in this podcast.

Apr. 05 2014 01:32 AM
sarah from Portland

I only started listening to radio lab because my boyfriend told me it was cool. Actually, I have never been able to choose anything for myself, I rely on the men near me to direct towards the appropriate choices for my frail mind.

What's awkward is that weren't any men near me this morning when I 'decided' (can a woman decide?) to listen to the straight outta Chevy chase episode... (Or Compton or white privilege? Cis privilege?) It was great! Nicki is just like me, only making good art at the suggestion of the men in her life. 13 year old boys have impeccably developed taste. It's inherent that 13 old boys are up to greatness, discovering unknown things within our culture at large, but girls? Bah! Girls have terrible taste at any age. Some lady from a podcast said that there is a space for woman to make cultural choices. Blah blah blah. It's obvious women need to ask more men for help.. I am glad we have a culture full of men that are ready to support my inability to decide anything.

Thanks for keeping misogyny real!

Apr. 05 2014 01:29 AM
Dustin

Nicki's point is hypocritical. Is telling Rosenberg he's not a hip hop authority because of his race any different than him saying the same to nicki because of her gender?

But honestly this episode is as much of a sell out as nicki's starships song... Please don't compromise integrity by producing/contriving science-irrelevant, pop culture-related episodes because you might only lose followers.... Tough love from a loyal listener and donor.

I miss the stories surrounding neuroscience. I've explored an abandoned asylum in Rhode Island (the Ladd school) and I did a lot of research on the place; the history of mental health institutions in America is fascinating, disturbing and heart-breaking. I'd like to hear a story related to the gray area that is mental health.

Apr. 05 2014 01:14 AM

This episode was celebrity gossip thinly veiled as a discussion on race. What happened radiolab? My best guess is that the show is branching out to attract more listeners, given the $ situation in public radio. Interesting that an episode that brings up culturally selling out was broadcast by a program doing just that. Really disappointed.

Apr. 04 2014 09:50 PM
md from Atlanta, GA

bigmikebrooklyn!! You made my day. I didn't know about whosampled -- what a great resource. Thanks endless!

[btw it's UMC, "Kraftworks," from Fruits of Nature (1991)]

Apr. 04 2014 08:12 PM
Andy

This was the most worthless episode of radio lab to date. Dont know why I even bothered to finish it.

Apr. 04 2014 05:25 PM
Kira from New York

Some of the songs in here: NWA's "Straight Outta Compton" and Tribe Called Quest's "We Can Get Down" and "Oh My God."

Apr. 04 2014 04:02 PM
bigmikebrooklyn from planet rock

MD from atlanta georgia,
go to whosampled.com and you can see most songs that have sampled the sidewinder, and go from there if you're hard up. or you could use shazaam or sound hound during a replay of the episode and thye might catch it as well. once i get the chance to listen to the episode, i may be able to post it here.
word.

Apr. 04 2014 03:47 PM
k23 from Brooklyn

Loved hearing Niki Minaj's takedown of Rosenberg!

Apr. 04 2014 01:08 PM

Nicki Minaj and Eminem are both god-awful.

Apr. 04 2014 12:53 PM
Anon

Could you please include a direct download link in these posts?
Or get the web developer to include it in the header.
They only appear on the podcast list:
http://www.radiolab.org/series/podcasts/

It is quite annoying if you want to download an old episode or use the RSS feed.

Apr. 04 2014 12:43 PM
Jesse Creed from Los Angeles

This was an utterly fascinating episode of RadioLab. As a white suburban kid, I fell in love with hip hop back when it was gangsta rap, when the battle between east coast and west coast, Biggie and Tupac, raged. We had long discussions about what was authentic hip hop, true to the genre. I always argued that Mobb Deep and the talented Prodigy made pure hip hop; it was dark and "hard"; it was NOT even close to pop.

I think that Rosenberg called out Nicki Minaj because she was a woman. I hate to say it, but I think it's true. There are tons of "hip hop" artists out there who went from making rap to making pop songs with pop lyrics -- Jay Z, Kanye, Pharrell, even Eminem (The Monster?). True, these artists might not be as blatant as Nicki Minaj by singing pop themselves, but they make pop songs by inviting pop stars onto their albums (e.g. Rihanna, Beyonce, etc.). They are all selling out by departing from their "origins" of hip hop. I don't mean to say this as a judgment against them, like it's a bad thing. Every artist evolves, but the artists need to be truthful about it.

It is funny to me that, 15 years ago, the paradigmatic sell out artist in hip hop was Masta P. He changed the music by shifting the genre from "gangsta rap" to "money rap." We all made fun of listeners of Masta P as "sell outs." Listening to Masta P now, that debate seems quaint. Masta P was definitely rap compared to the pop sell outs of today.

Apr. 04 2014 12:26 PM
Mara from Washington, DC

Things have been on a steady decline for a while now... such a shame.

Apr. 04 2014 11:32 AM
Bobby

I think Radiolab was way off base with this story. The role of white people in hip hop culture is controversial? Wow, very original. It really annoyed me when they blew off EDM as some sort of purely commercial genre that represents the death of all so-called "authentic" music. EDM, like hip hop, has counter-culture origins. Like hip hop, it covers a wide spectrum from underground to commercial.

This guy thought Nicki Minaj was more "real" when she was working with kanye and Jay-Z? If Kanye and Jay-Z are your idea of "real" hip hop in 2014, then I find you to be highly suspect as a hip hop critic.

This story just rubbed me in all sorts of wrong ways.

Apr. 04 2014 11:15 AM
HunterJE from Seattle, WA

Had to turn this off. Radiolab is usually about unexpected, fascinating stories you wouldn't hear anywhere else, and I can think of few more dog-bites-man stories than "self-appointed genre police whine about what kids these days are doing to the music."

Apr. 04 2014 11:13 AM
t47 from FL

I guess you can say I grew up in the "watered-down" era of Hip-Hop but I can definitely see the evolution of the genre. I feel lyricism is is undermined with emphasis on beats. Very few rappers today exemplify all of original aspects of Hip-Hop - maybe quite a few do, but those artists are not getting top priority on the radio. I think now (2014) Hip Hop is coming back around.

Apr. 04 2014 10:30 AM
md from Atlanta, GA

No songlist with links?! You people are killing me! I need to know what that last song was -- the one that sampled Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder." I need to put that in my ears every day. Somebody help!

Anyway, I thought that was great. I'd read the New Yorker piece (which I also enjoyed very much) but you guys did a lovely job with it. I particularly liked how you focused on these issues of categories and gatekeepers. And you kept complicating the story by bringing up questions of race and ethnicity, and gender, and class ... tremendously thought provoking.

And the music was great!! I was a teenager (white, suburban) in the late 80s-early 90s, and my tastes were formed by De La Soul, Tribe, PE, early Beastie Boys. I feel like I've never really been able to open my ears to much hip hop that wasn't boom-bappy. It's made me feel old. I'll seek out Rosenberg's show now -- I think I'll learn a lot from him.

Apr. 04 2014 09:53 AM
Glenn from Florida

I found it interesting in the incident where Nicki Minaj cancelled at the summer jam because of a comment that Rosenberg said in passing, that no-one called her out on being a spoiled diva and unprofessional performer. I'm sure people performing at the concert event had CONTRACTS, did they not? She's a professional artist and as such had a responsibility to fulfill her obligation to the event. If I had organized the event, I would have immediately called her lawyers about breech of contract. And the next year, she would not even be invited, for being unreliable. It's called the music BUSINESS for a reason. I'm sure more than a few bucks were lost because of her "hurt feelings". Get over it, put on the best performance you can and prove Rosenberg wrong. THAT would have been the professional way to handle it.

Apr. 04 2014 09:27 AM
Uli from London

I've listened to every single Radiolab episode twice. Except for the Lucy one, that one is a wrist-slitter. Anyway, why is it that Radiolab is suddenly concerned about hip hop. And that they bring in a 'white' expert to talk about it? I like the points being raised but is it more valid if a white dude speaks of these issues? Why not ask black experts and give them an equal chance to weigh in? Now the story becomes about the poor white man who's just trying to keep it black and poor. Hmm - Yeah, least fave show for now.

Apr. 04 2014 03:54 AM
Kevin Sheppard from Alberta Canada

Gotta comment on this,

What a great listen,
Being a white suburban kid who fell in love with Hip-Hop in elementary school in the late 80's this certainly struck a chord with me, Although I didn't get swallowed up by my interest an passion in Hip-Hop, (I think Being canadian and growing up in culturally insulated small towns limited my exposure)

Its hard not to shake your head at how muddy the water has gotten on the genre, to witness the emergence of a few "sub-genres" of hip-hop and then the whole EDM/POP/HIP-HOP conglomeration of top 40 bullshit. Is it wrong that I've become more drawn to 'white' hip-hop (aesop rock, sage francis, atmosphere, apathy, celph titled, eyedea etc) and feel that it is more "hip-hop" then alot of the "urban black" music I am being exposed too on the airways?

Apr. 03 2014 10:31 PM
mary from manhattan

strange no one commented yet? do radio lab fans not listen to hot 97?

Apr. 03 2014 06:53 PM

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