What Can Hip-Hop Beef Teach Us About International Relations?

While it’s not completely indigenous to the world of hip-hop, warring rivalries (also known as beef) is a fantastic part of the vibrant musical genre that couples a mutually-beneficial marketing bump with soap-opera scandal. But can the way high-profile rappers express their resentment towards one another give us a glimpse into how the tangled international web of nations operates?

It’s a bizarre link that is made convincingly by Marc Lynch, an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Relations. In a recent post at NPR.org, the Middle Eastern politics expert made a compelling comparison between the United States and rapper Jay-Z. Citing his proficient album sales, formidable street cred, respect as an artist, and marriage to singing superstar Beyonce, Lynch portrays Jay-Z as an undisputed hegemon in the rap world, not unlike the United States’ place in today’s international system. After rap’s hegemon was verbally attacked by brash upstart rapper the Game, Lynch began identifying the interactions and how they related to America’s place in the world. “[My take] As a professor of international relations, was to start thinking about how this could be turned into a story about the nature of hegemony and the debate over the exercise of American power,” he said.


By tracing Jay-Z’s responses to verbal attacks from rival rappers over the years, Lynch shows the icon’s constantly-shifting balance between “realist and liberal logic” and “neo-conservative impulse.” Remind you of any country in particular? The connection may seem like a stretch, but while the parallels between hip-hop beef and international relations are intriguing, there’s no denying the awesome political force that hip-hop has become.

When 31-year-old Kwame Kilpatrick swept into Detroit’s mayoral office in 2002, his campaign was filled with hip-hop influences, whether it be citing particular lyricists or playing music at events. Since then, hip-hop has exploded as a political force, from Sean “Diddy” Combs’ 2004 Vote or Die campaign to the University of Chicago’s Tanji Gilliam’s study gauging the effects of hip-hop on youth politics in the United States.

With the link between hip-hop and politics defined, does that make the Game the Ahmedinejad to Jay-Z’s Obama?

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Why avoiding logical fallacies is an everyday superpower

10 of the most sandbagging, red-herring, and effective logical fallacies.

Photo credit: Miguel Henriques on Unsplash
Personal Growth
  • Many an otherwise-worthwhile argument has been derailed by logical fallacies.
  • Sometimes these fallacies are deliberate tricks, and sometimes just bad reasoning.
  • Avoiding these traps makes disgreeing so much better.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less