The Google Versus Debate: Hip-Hop on Trial

Tuesday 26 June 2012, 7.37pm | Video now online

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Talking Points



This event took place on June 26th

The first ever global debate on hip-hop: is hip-hop the authentic voice of the oppressed that turns anger into poetry and political action? Or is it a glorification of all that holds back oppressed minorities and hinders them from mainstream assimilation?

In the third of our Versus series of debates with Google we brought together some of the biggest names in hip-hop to debate these questions. Some of the speakers were on stage at the Barbican Centre and others appeared on the big screen via the Google+ Hangout technology. We had rappers such as KRS-One, ?uestlove, Q-Tip and Estelle, and renowned US hip-hop intellectuals such as Touré, Michael Eric Dyson, Tricia Rose and dream hampton. We brought over civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson, once a critic and now in the hip-hop camp.

Hip-hop and all it stands for has moved well beyond its black American roots. We heard from  John Sutherland, Victorian fiction expert, who is a hip-hop aficionado, and we brought over the Egyptian rapper Deeb who was involved in the Tahrir Square uprising and thinks hip-hop has fostered revolution in North Africa.

Also flown in for an exclusive London appearance was Jaron Lanier, computer scientist, virtual reality pioneer, composer and one of TIME’s 100 most influential people of 2010; and there were critical voices from Shaun Bailey, David Cameron’s adviser on youth and crime, and Hattie Collins, music editor of i-D magazine.

In our new quick-fire courtroom format, two brilliant advocates grilled our panel of hip-hop fans and critics and built a case for and against the motion. Hip-hop is a state of mind, an attitude of defiance that has been adopted by the oppressed all over the world. But does it help or hinder society?

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  • Emily Maitlis

    BBC Newsnight presenter

Web host

  • Jemima Khan

    British writer and campaigner, associate editor of the New Statesman and European editor-at-large for Vanity Fair

Advocate for the motion

  • Eamon Courtenay

    Attorney at Courtenay Coye law firm in Belize

Advocate against the motion

  • Michael Eric Dyson

    Hip-hop intellectual and professor of sociology at Georgetown University


  • Shaun Bailey

    Special adviser to the Prime Minister’s office on youth, crime and welfare issues

  • Deeb

    Egyptian “Arab Spring” rapper

  • Estelle (via Google+ Hangout)

    Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter

  • dream hampton

    American hip-hop journalist, cultural critic and film-maker

  • Jesse Jackson

    Civil rights activist, Baptist minister and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition

  • KRS-One

    Hip-hop pioneer, record producer and activist

  • Jaron Lanier

    American computer scientist, virtual reality pioneer and musician

  • James Peterson

    Director of Africana Studies and Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University and founder of Hip Hop Scholars LLC

  • P. J. O’Rourke (via Google+ Hangout)

    American political satirist and author

  • Q-Tip (via Google+ Hangout)

    American rapper, producer and frontman of iconic hip-hop act A Tribe Called Quest

  • ?uestlove (via Google+ Hangout)

    Co-founder of Grammy Award winning band The Roots, DJ, music journalist and producer

  • Tricia Rose

    Brown University Professor and author of the groundbreaking books on hip-hop: Black Noise and The Hip Hop Wars

  • Tony Sewell

    CEO of the charity Generating Genius

  • Slaughterhouse (via Google+ Hangout)

    Rap supergroup made up of Joe Budden, Crooked I, Joel Ortiz, and Royce Da 5’9

  • John Sutherland

    Emeritus Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London

  • Isiah Thomas (via Google+ Hangout)

    Former top 50 NBA basketball player and Chairman and CEO of Isiah International

  • Touré (via Google+ Hangout)

    American TV presenter, novelist, journalist and cultural critic

  • Jason Whitlock

    Columnist for

  • Benjamin Zephaniah

    Dub poet and musician

Speakers and participants subject to change.