Presidential candidate Al Gore acknowledged rapper Mos Def's "artistry" but said it was important that his latest CD bears an advisory sticker warning parents to listen to it with their children.
The vice president also said, in an e-mail to a University of Michigan student, that he hopes his presidency will result in society having less violence for pop culture to mirror.
"I believe, as you do, that if we can heal the worst wounds and solve the worst problems of our society, we are less likely to see those things reflected and even glorified in our popular culture," Gore wrote in the e-mail to Brian Babb.
[Click here to read the full text of the e-mails.]
Babb, a senior majoring in religion and sociology studies, asked Gore during MTV'S Town Hall Forum in September to listen to politically conscious rapper Mos Def's CD, Black on Both Sides, and discuss it in a
public forum as well as e-mail him his comments. A spokesperson for Gore confirmed the e-mail sent to Babb on Friday came from the Democratic presidential candidate.
The 21-year-old student, who participates in freestyles and writes lyrics, said he wanted to challenge Gore about his criticism of the entertainment industry, feeling that he was targeting hip-hop. Gore and his running mate, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, have claimed the industry intentionally markets violent and offensive material to children. Lieberman specifically has attacked rap music, including the work of MC Eiht and late rapper Tupac Shakur.
"I wanted Gore to recognize people through hip-hop," Babb said Monday. "Hip-hop to me isn't just an 'art form.' It's so much more than that. Hip-hop is experience. ... I think Black on Both Sides is extremely representative of the universal message of hip-hop ... and hip-hop as a proactive response to social injustice."
Gore began his
e-mail to Babb by apologizing for taking so long to reply, adding, "my staff actually borrowed the Mos Def CD from me and have been listening to it back at my campaign headquarters."
Gore went on to agree with Babb that hip-hop is a "reflection of reality," which he called an accurate assessment of all art.
"Certainly, the artistry of the CD you gave me can't be questioned," Gore wrote.
"What I'm concerned about is when music glorifies violence, sexism, racism, hate, or intolerance," the vice president continued. "Yes, it is the right of an artist to write things like that. But it is wrong for parents to have no control over whether their children listen to it. This CD has a parental advisory on it, and that's important. It doesn't censor the music, it simply lets parents know that they should probably listen to it if their children are."
Babb said he had doubts after reading Gore's letter that he had actually listened to the CD. "It's disheartening,"
Babb said. "'Mr. N---a' and 'Mathematics' are two tracks he could learn a great deal from, to see why racism is still a very salient issue." The student said he believed the album could give Gore valuable information about the issues he should focus on should he become president.
Babb e-mailed a response to Gore after receiving his e-mail Sunday night, asking the presidential candidate to rethink some of his statements. Babb particularly objected to Gore claiming that music is "also an interpretation of reality."
"To call hip hop music an interpretation of reality is to divorce your ears and mind [from it]," Babb wrote in the e-mail.
Babb said he hoped that Gore would still consider discussing hip-hop in a public forum, per his initial request during the Town Hall Forum.
"What's a response to me?" Babb said. "I'm a black male in a privileged position here at the University of Michigan. He doesn't need to attend to me; he needs to attend to those
people who are directly affected by savage inequalities. He needs to be talking to them."
Babb would not say whether he plans to vote for Gore in the November 7 election. "I'm not going to vote for [George W.] Bush," he said.
A Gore spokesperson said he was unsure whether the vice president had seen Babb's response e-mail by press time.