25 Tweetable Quotes About Hip-Hop

"Hip-hop doesn't enhance society, it degrades it." That was the topic of a 2012 debate by a group of pundits and artists in London.

Organized by Google and Intelligence Squared, the format was somewhere between a court trial and a debate contest. Speakers included everyone from Jesse Jackson and Jason Whitlock to KRS-One and Slaughterhouse. Some argued in favor of the motion. Others argued against it.

People clapped. Some booed. In the end, everyone agreed to disagree.

It lasted two hours. I watched it so you don't have to, and I did you one better and compiled 25 great quotes from the debate. They're all tweetable, in 140 characters or less.

25. "Tony Morrison said, 'Can't I love what I criticize, criticize what I love.'" — Michael Eric Dyson

24. "Hip-hop saved my life." — ?uestlove

23. "If black people talk about killing black people, why would everyone else not do it?" - Shaun Bailey

22. "If we have power to degrade an entire society, then we also have the power to uplift it." - KRS-One

21. "Hip-hop is the lobby of the prison industrial complex." - Jason Whitlock

20. "Hip-hop is merely speaking about the situations that we have been dealing with for the last 20 to 30 years." - Toure

19. "Commercial mainstream hip-hop responds to and exacerbates and glorifies violence." - Tricia Rose

18. "To question whether rap is poetry is parochial and idiotic." - James Peterson

17. "I have a question: What the f-ck am I doing on this panel?" - P.J. O'Rourke

16. "The language of poetry is ugly. Poetry is not greeting card shit." - P.J. O'Rourke

15. "What are we gonna do? Say, 'No, you can only rap about puppies? You can't tell us how you feel?'" - P.J. O'Rourke

14. "Hip-hop teaches a respect for rhetorical genius, for oratorical wizardry, for the invention of words." — Michael E.


13. "Hip-hop flips the language. Poor people lie, rich people prevaricate. Poor people steal, rich folks embezzle. — Jesse Jackson

12. "There's some b----es in this universe. I know a couple of them. I can direct them your way." — Joe Budden

11. "N--ga is a very complicated word." — Q-Tip

10. "When we talk about b----es, we're talking about b----es." — Joe Budden

9. "I'm comfortable with people raising their children and not blaming hip-hop for a certain type of language." — Estelle (In response to the question, "Are you comfortable with b----es and hoes?")

8. "It would be unfair to reduce hip-hop to three words." — Jesse Jackson

7. "Rap is performance. When rappers get onstage, they perform." — John Sutherland

6. "Hip-hop speaks to and speaks for the oppressed. It gives us a voice." — Isaiah Thomas

5. "In 20 years, Tupac Shakur will be ranked with Walt Whitman as a great American poet." — John Sutherland

4. "Rap comes from the oral tradition. The oral tradition gives voice to those who would've otherwise been voiceless." — Benjamin Zephaniah

3. "The argument that hip-hop doesn't empower people is void in my region." — Deeb, Egyptian rapper

2. "There's no one-to-one correlation between a hip-hop lyric & a subsequent material condition that leads to criminality." — Michael E.


1. "The flaws in hip-hop are the flaws in us." — Jaron Lanier


There were other great quotes that I couldn't squash into 140 characters. I've highlighted some of those below. This portion of the list was sponsored by Twitlonger.

"If the society that we're talking about is a society that starts wars all over the world, degrades indigenous cultures, is misogynistic in itself, if that's the society we're talking about, then it's not a bad thing if hip-hop did degrade that society." — KRS-One

"Now's the time to have a snooze. I'm the oldest person on this panel. I'm white. And I know less, I suspect, about this distinctively African-American music than 8% of the audience." — John Sutherland

"Self-criticism is built into hip-hop and is more true than anywhere in the black community.

I certainly can't go to my pastor and check him about all the b----es and hoes in the bible the way I can go to with Too $hort or Dr. Dre." -- dream hampton

"Hip-hop is a culture of rebellion, born in pain, on street corners, garages, and sometimes in jail. It exposes contradictions." — Jesse Jackson

"We are still -- as black people in this country -- licking our wounds from slavery. We're still dealing with how we view ourselves, and we do that through music." - Q-Tip