Even though it’s 2011, we’re still litigating whether rap music in and of itself is a societal corrosive or an artistic expression that channels raw experience and expurgates emotions in the form of a catharsis. It’s really the old Plato versus Aristotle rap battles over the artistic merits of tragedy — at least we can dance to it, so there’s that.
But the news today is that Michelle Obama is having some poets over to the White House to read some poetry, and that one of those poets is Chicago rapper Common, and OH MY GOD did you know he’s rapped about violence? It’s true, and the Daily Caller is beefing about it.
As always, it’s important to remember how stories like this come together. Some political figure likes some artist. If the artist is worth his or her salt, then chances he or she has probably done something outre or controversial. And, wow, a rapper? That means there’s probably a chance here, to anger up the anger-prone, and manufacture some ire, and suggest that art or music was much more refined and non-controversial back in the 1950s or something.
There’s also an element of partisan payback here. Apparently the George W. Bush White House had to scuttle a poetry event of their own in which “the work of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman” was to be performed. It was cancelled because “left-of-center poets protested,” the DC reports.