"Read a Book" Video Provokes Strong Reactions PDF Print E-mail
By Ashley K. Washington - Black College Wire   

"Read a book," "take a bath" and "buy some land" are among the messages in a viral video phenomenon that has many people on edge since its airing on YouTube and Black Entertainment Television.

Hip-hop artist Bomani Armah says, "I love that everyone has dramatic feelings about the song, no matter if they love it or hate it."

Hip-hop artist and poet Bomani %e2%80%9cD-Mite%e2%80%9d Armah%e2%80%99s "Read a Book" has generated varying opinions about the explicit way the messages are delivered. Some call the video vulgar.

The Washington, D.C., native uses attention-grabbing beats by converging Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 with catchy lyrics typically associated with crunk music, popularized by artists such as Lil%e2%80%99 Jon and Three Six Mafia.

The Washington City Paper says the video has been viewed more than 650,000 times on YouTube.

Denys Cowan, senior vice president of animation for BET, told the Los Angeles Times that he was "a little surprised" that the video has elicited such a strong reaction. "We were doing it from the point of this being a fun, profound song," he said. "We didn't know it would take on this life."

Although Tennessee State University students say they have mixed feelings about the song and its BET-animated video, Armah said the song%e2%80%99s purpose outweighs any negative response.

"As an artist, it is not my job to make people feel good, it's only my job to make people feel," Armah said. "I love that everyone has dramatic feelings about the song, no matter if they love it or hate it."

Brandie Ricks, a junior health science major from Cincinnati, said that although she can relate to the song%e2%80%99s message, its use of profanity and repeat of the "n-word" numerous times obscures the message for some.

"The concept of the video makes sense because it is true, but the content of the song is unnecessary," said Ricks. "He didn't have to use that video or use those words to get his point across."

Junior Tiffany Currie, a business marketing major from Detroit, also criticized Armah's method.

"I disagree with the way he brought the message to the community," Currie said. %e2%80%9cPersonally, I would have read it if it was still a poem."

However, not all students found the song distasteful.

"It's funny to me (because) I think it's crazy," said Kevin Howard, a freshman architectural engineering major from Chattanooga, Tenn. "The kids today like videos with the booty-shaking.

%e2%80%9cThe creators of that video simply took that concept and added a twist.%e2%80%9d Howard continued. %e2%80%9cThey took the things we like and added an educational song to it."

Armah said he feels that the use of profanity in the song isn't negative because he isn't using the words to disparage.

"As far as the language, there are no such things as bad words, only bad intentions," he said. "For example, the word 'love' is not positive or negative; it all depends on the context. If you say 'I love to kill people,' that would be profanity."

With all the controversy surrounding his innovation, Armah said he will continue to keep his creative juices flowing. Armah's new album, "Ear Banger," is available online and the poet says he has no plans to stop what he's doing.

"I haven't gone platinum yet, but I got people listening. At the very least, I wanted people to be aware of someone doing something different with hip-hop music," Armah said.

Ashley K. Washington, a senior speech communications major at Tennessee State University, writes for the Meter. To comment, email This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Posted Sept. 4, 2007

Posted Sep. 02, 2007
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