Hip Hop and Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason

By Derrick Darby; Tommie Shelby | Go to book overview

2
Ain't (Just) 'bout da Booty:
Funky Reflections on Love

TOMMIE SHELBY

From blues to country and rock & roll to neo-soul, popular music is replete with love songs. And hip hop is no exception. Although it is generally associated with illegal drugs, vulgar language, gratuitous violence, and raunchy sex, those schooled in the culture know that the music also speaks to the mysteries of the heart. Whether we're talking old school—Whodini's “One Love” (Back in Black) and LL's, “I Need Love” (Bigger and Deffef)—or new school—Lauryn Hill's Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and OutKast's The Love Below—there are reflections on love in hip hop. But are any of these funky ruminations on love philosophically profound?

Let's go back, way the hell back, to Plato's Symposium, one of the oldest inquiries into the meaning of love in the Western tradition.1 Plato is to philosophy what Public Enemy is to political rap; he didn't create philosophy, but he perfected the craft, brought it to a wider audience, and deeply influenced future lovers of wisdom. Plato's writings, Symposium included, take the form of dialogues between fictional characters, all based on well-known personalities in ancient Athens, and often featuring Socrates, the famous philosopher and Plato's teacher.

The real-life Socrates only freestyled: he never wrote down or recorded his philosophy. Like Supernatural, he kept it all in his dome, letting it flow spontaneously against anyone who

1 Plato, “Symposium,” in Plato: Complete Works (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997),
pp. 457–505.

-14-

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