Did you know that, in an effort to improve the international image of the nation, the U.S. Department of State has been sending hip-hop artists overseas to perform and teach since 2001?
It sounds like a strange idea for the government to use hip-hop (of all artforms) in this way, and also odd to think that the – usually anti-establishment – hip-hop artists would be willing to work for the government.
Mark Katz’s new book uncovers how this relationship has worked, at times existing covertly in the Department of State, and how hip-hop has not only helped to foster better relations between the U.S. and other nations, but also how it has been used to bridge the gap between cultures, races, and religious beliefs.
With interviews with over 150 artists, students and diplomats from over 30 countries, this book reveals the tensions that exist between art and the government, as well as the complex cultural issues that these overseas visits create.
However, there is also a great degree of positivity to be gained from these unlikely diplomatic collaborations between the state and hip-hop. Building connections through the shared culture of hip-hop has the power to overcome divisions as people connect person-to-person to make music, create art, and dance together.
‘Build: The Power of Hip-Hop Diplomacy in a Divided World’ is both interesting and informative, even if there is at times an academic tone to the writing that some readers may struggle to adjust to.
However, for all that (and it is published by the Oxford University press, after all), this book remains an eye-opening read for scholars and hip-hop fans alike.
Check out this book to find out about a cultural and diplomatic collaboration that works despite not always sitting well with either the government or the artists they employ…