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High-Minded Hip-Hop Any Progressive Can Enjoy

Cornel West teams up with artists like Prince and Talib Kweli to release a rap album that paints a powerful portrait of life in Dubya's America.
 
 
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When it comes to hip-hop I often feel like Chris Rock who once said, "I love rap, but I'm tired of defending it." So much of it just sounds the same or worse, it's degrading and beneath everyone involved. For those of you who the same or wouldn't normally even get near a hip-hop section of your record store, you need to give an upcoming album featuring Cornel West deserves a listen.

It's technically the second album headlined by the acclaimed best-selling author and activist, but this one, called, Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations , boasts a heavier presence of stars like Prince, Talib Kweli, KRS-One and Andre 3000 of Outkast. While West is by no means a seasoned rapper, he isn't a slouch either. Even though a middle aged Princeton professor, he delivers vocals with authority and panache. In a recent Baltimore Sun article West says:

"This is a whole new different level to connecting the spiritual with the political," West says of the album. "I'm bringing to hip-hop that old-school sensibility. Let me try to bring a sense of history. Let's give our younger people a knowledge of their rich history."

The album touches on "Bushonomics" on the first track, September 11th, the environment, the Iraq War, our dependence on foreign oil and a host of other issues and events that at best would only get a passing reference in your typical rap record, or rock record these days for that matter. West recognizes, what so many pundits and writers fail to, that hip-hop, for better or for worse, is the music that is most influential on the current generation of young people today, particularly in communities of color, and to deny its positive qualities or question its influence is not the best way to utilize its power. Here's more from West on this project:

"Black music, my brother, is a reflection and refraction of the soul of black America," says West, 54, calling from a New York hotel on a recent weekday morning. "The music reveals a lot about who we are and where are right now. My calling is as an educator. The text is readable education. The CD is danceable education."

Adam Howard is the editor of PEEK.

 
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