Thursday, April 30, 2009

Picking an Atheist Battle in Hip Hop

Greydon Square gains traction among atheist crowd on strength of Dawkins endorsement

Seasoned Richard Dawkins watchers may remember "Beware the Believers", a rap video parodying Richard Dawkins.

They may even remember a briefer follow-up to the video in which its creators revealed it as a mutual mockery of both Dawkins and some of his most diligent detractors -- notably Expelled creator Ben Stein.

The video was particularly hilarious due to the hysterical notion of Dawkins being bothered to even look at a rap CD, let alone actually listen to one.

That stodgy impression of Dawkins may not have been entirely accurate. Dawkins has recently taken to promoting a rapper by the name of Greydon Square.

Greydon Square admits freely to having a confrontational style. That naturally has to be a given, considering the aggressive and confrontational nature of hip hop.

"I'm confrontational with people who are, by nature, confrontational with their ideology," he says. "You can't run around and tell people that they're going to hell because they don't believe in the same sky God as you. Are you serious? I will confront you over that."

Greydon Square wants to approach hip hop in a way that's rarely been attempted before. He wants to approach hip hop as a debate -- an interesting take on battle rap, one that's rarely been embraced.

"See, what I did was I looked at hip hop beefs and noticed that it deteriorated when people started calling each other bitches and ho's and basically stopped formulating arguments," he continues. "They stopped showing the ability, the skill, and just started talking shit. I brought it back to presenting a position. Now you can call me whatever you want, but until you argue a position, you're wack."

But Greydon Square's approach has one singular fatal flaw: in hip hop, winners and losers are normally decided not based on who produces the best argument, but based on who is lyrically superior.

Rappers are starkly divided between two main religious camps -- Christianity, and Islam. Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam has often sought to establish leadership over the hip hop community. In fact Farrakhan has called hip hop summits and has convened personal meetings between rappers in order to squash potentially violent beefs.

Greydon Square would have a difficult time competing lyrically with many rappers of religious faith. DMX, Kanye West and Reverend Run are not only deeply spiritual Christians, but are also dominant battle rappers.

KRS-One, Common and Mos Def are dominant battle rappers who are Muslim.

Any rapper would have difficulty standing against any of these performers in a battle rap. But even so far as dogmatism goes, Greydon Square is unlikely to find suitable targets among the hip hop community.

Many deeply faithful rappers have come from a background that doesn't grant them the luxury of being self-righteous or dogmatic. Due to the very nature of the lives they've lived, these people are sinners who have sought, and continue to seek, redemption -- the most powerful promise of religion.

As a result, the religious beliefs of rappers by their very nature have to be considerably flexible.

If Greydon Square is itching for an opportunity to promote atheism by beefing with other rappers not only is he not terribly likely to win, but he's unlikely to find a target that suits him.

Whether or not Greydon Square will embrace the atheist tactic of inventing a dogmatic opponent where one may not actually exist remains yet to be seen.

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