In honor of Black History Month – the shortest month of the year – I thought it would be fitting to put out a public service announcement that would save a lot of people on this campus the possibility of feeling awkward or confused – or making others feel that way.

If you are in a social situation with someone of African descent and would like to strike up a conversation with them, please do not automatically start talking about rap music.

I remember sometime in the Fall 2004 semester, I was heading back to Towers with some friends and friends of friends after a night on the Frat Quad. I was having a good conversation with this guy about a place he worked at over the summer. I’m not entirely sure how, but the conversation we were having jumped from him loading stolen beer into his car to the Notorious B.I.G. – may he rest in peace.

While this guy went on and on about how Biggie didn’t or couldn’t really rap about cars in his lyrics – I can’t really remember the reason he gave why – I just nodded and feigned interest while looking at him blankly. During this whole exchange, I was trying to figure out why he felt the need to start talking about rap to me and hoping he wouldn’t ask anything that would expose the probing holes in my rap knowledge. Let’s just say I was happy when the beer pong was set up and our conversation revolved around that instead.

It is wrong and stereotypical to assume that all black people like rap music. It is true that a majority probably does, but it still isn’t right to classify. It’s like me assuming all white people like country, all Hispanic people like salsa music, all Indians like bhangra and all Asians like manga. It could possibly be true about one particular person, but that conjecture shouldn’t be applied to all.

For example, I listened to some early 90’s rap. I could possibly talk to someone about Public Enemy, Naughty by Nature, Dr. Dre and Snoop – as in Doggy Dogg because, yeah, I remember his whole name from back in the day. However, I only listened to it when I was with my cousins at my grandmother’s house.

I mostly grew up on R&B and funk because that’s what my mom listened to. During those formative years in elementary and grammar school when you are starting to develop your tastes in music, I was at an all-white school. I was in sixth grade when both Tupac and Biggie died – and I was sad when it happened – but if I wanted to fit in I needed to know about Madonna’s “Ray of Light,” not Tupac’s “All Eyez On Me” – may he also rest in peace, if he is actually deceased. While I did eventually get back into rap in eighth grade, and I enjoy it to this day, up to a certain point – but that is another article – my musical background is old-school R&B and alternative music. I can talk to you about Kanye West and Common, a requirement of all Chicagoans, but I can just as easily talk about Linkin Park or P!nk, my favorite artist.

Former WWE superstar and current action movie star The Rock will be the first to admit that he loves country music. The closest Lenny Kravitz has ever gotten to rap were songs with Jay-Z – “Storm” – and Diddy, Loon, and Pharrell – “Show Me Your Soul” – and he still wasn’t rapping himself. There are plenty of black artists who aren’t rappers or clamoring to be musically involved with rappers. If you want to really impress me musically, you’ll talk to me about Cody Chestnutt.

Many black people indeed like rap music, and there are those who listen to nothing but that. There are plenty of non-minorities that love rap and know a lot more than me. It’s a global phenomenon that won’t stop anytime soon. I remember talking about rappers with some friends I made while studying abroad in Italy. There are so many interesting things in the world happening all of the time – like Dick Cheney accidentally shooting someone – that rap shouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind. If it was, then that gives others the impression that you are one dimensional and I doubt the intelligent person you are would want to be seen as one dimensional by others.

Miller can be reached

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