Touré to talk hip-hop, racism and life

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There were approximately 432 million hot takes on Kanye West's puzzling performances on the Sept. 29 episode of "Saturday Night Live."

The world-famous hip-hop recording artist appeared thrice throughout the show, and his wearing of a "Make America Great Again" hat and statements during the closing credits made some SNL cast members flee the stage. Social media posts afterward only fueled the talk.

Few takes were more authoritative than those of Touré, a New York City-based author, journalist, culture critic and professor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University. West's antics weighed heavily on Touré's mind during a phone interview on Monday.

"I was dismayed to see him in the MAGA hat again," said Touré, who hosts "Bingeworthy" on the People/Entertainment Weekly Network. "I was upset with him when he wore it before his last album. The maelstrom that happened should have told him that this was not the fun and edgy statement that he thought it was. It was a seriously problematic thing. It showed he doesn't understand reality and what's actually going on in the country or what's going on with the majority of brown and black people."

Touré will appear at IUPUI Wednesday, Oct. 10, for two talks as part of IUPUI's Diversity Speaker Series. "What We Can Learn About Life from Hip-Hop" is a student-only event at 3:30 p.m. in Room 104 of the Multicultural Center. "How Racism Functions Today and Ways to Deal With It to Get Success" is open to all at 6 p.m. in the Campus Center Theater.

While hip-hop dominates today's charts, playlists and often headlines, Touré mines the genre's substantial history -- 40-plus years of artists with something to say. The music transcends culture, style and activism.

"I'm speaking in a more intellectual sense, far more than just the music of the last year or three," explained Touré, who counts De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and Ice Cube as some of his favorite hip-hop artists. "There are larger themes to touch on."

Touré's most successful music commentary came in the form of one his books, "I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon." Published in 2013, the tome received a second boost in the months after the Purple One's death in 2016. As fans mourned, they consumed new and old material on the legendary artist. Touré's book was in the wave of the Prince resurgence.

"A lot of people looked to that book to tie their feelings to him," said Touré, a former co-host of MSNBC's "The Cycle" show. "It was an honor to be in that moment for a lot of people."

Touré has published articles in Rolling Stone and Time.com as well as another book -- "Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?" -- while hosting the popular Touré Show podcast. Yet he believes getting out and talking at universities and other venues in different parts of the country is essential to his career. He says he encounters many different points of view, which fuels his writing and commentary.

"I like to spread my ideas around and get out and talk to people directly about what I think," Touré said. "The more you're talking to people, the broader you are -- it's where you've been and where you're able to go -- the better you're able to understand reality.

"Everything doesn't happen in New York, but also Indiana, and also Texas, and, and, and ... ."

IUPUI's Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is bringing Touré to campus.

"Touré gives everyone something to think about," said Karen Dace, vice chancellor for the division. "Critically thinking and interrogating materials is essential to a well-rounded education, and providing opportunities for IUPUI students, staff and faculty, as well as community members, to engage in this critical thinking exercise together is one of the reasons we launched the Diversity Speaker Series.

"It's not about changing minds but about opening them to different perspectives for exploration, discussion and increased understanding."