Why Macklemore’s awards—and Kendrick Lamar’s shutout—caused such a fuss

Oh, the Grammys.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took home four awards, including Best New Artist and Best Rap Album, while Kendrick Lamar went home empty-handed. Observers on the Internet, as anticipated, unleashed a collective raspberry; Macklemore responded with an awkward display of white guilt.

What I find most interesting about the reaction to Macklemore’s wins is that it illustrates hip-hop’s persistent chip on its shoulder. It belies any contentions that the Grammys are irrelevant to the genre. …

Are the latest efforts at greater inclusion in Silicon Valley just a surface fix?

The lack of diversity in tech has been a persistent issue well before I began my career in journalism, but it seems discussion of the topic has lately reached a fever pitch. Right now, I’m doing some research on the rise of startup hubs and its impact on diversity in tech, so I was interested to read this post at the New Yorker about Silicon Valley’s “race problem.”

Among other things, the New Yorker article details how the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz has made several steps to heighten its sensitivity to the issue of diversity. Tristan Walker, the African-American founder of one company featured in the story, was previously an entrepreneur-in-residence at Andreessen Horowitz. And the firm recently brought on Allison Munichiello, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Lean Startup Conference, as a partner focusing on “communities and diversity.” The firm’s efforts have already yielded some successes: it has invested in Walker’s consumer-goods company (aptly named Walker & Company), as well as a company called Proven, co-founded by a Chilean immigrant, which makes a mobile app for recruiting restaurant workers. …

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Pete Souza (Official White House Photo)

Why the president’s commencement speech was more than just “finger-wagging”

On Sunday, President Obama addressed the graduating Class of 2013 at Morehouse College, which also awarded him an honorary doctorate. (You can find a transcript and video of his speech here and here, respectively.) His speech, while seemingly well-received by his audience at Morehouse, has drawn criticism from several commentators, including Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic, whose work I greatly respect. He and others argue that Obama’s Morehouse speech reflects a tendency of his to scold black audiences on personal responsibility while failing to address flawed policies that harm black communities. I’d like to submit a rebuttal to their claims.

It’s true that in many of his addresses to black audiences, President Obama discusses the importance of personal responsibility. I have no problem with this: there’s much value in getting “real talk” from someone who has shared experiences (e.g. having to overcome personal adversity and discrimination). This is why Obama’s address to Chicago in the wake of Hadiya Pendleton’s murder is different from his address to Newtown after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting: inner-city Chicago, like inner-city black America at large, deals with drugs, gangs, and gun violence on a regular basis; suburban Newtown does not. But I also believe that “real talk” must be balanced with a recognition of the institutional obstacles black Americans in particular still face. …

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The Dream Series. (Courtesy Designs By Dash)

One new company aims to bridge the two disciplines.

In judging people’s talents, we often make a rigid distinction between the “right-brained” (the creatives) and the “left-brained” (the geeks). But those labels are artificial, and nowadays, those boundaries are as blurred as ever.

Durell Coleman hopes his new company, Designs by Dash, can thrive in the margin between art and tech. So far, he’s off to a promising start. Coleman has raised more than $10,000 on Kickstarter for his company’s first product, the Dream Series: a set of laser-engraved wall maps, inspired by his travel to Nicaragua as a mechanical engineering student at Stanford.

Coleman says the reign of smartly designed tech, first championed by Apple but now evident in products from Google Glass to the Pebble smart watch, prompted him to start his company. “There’s been a shift from engineering to art,” he explains. “There’s a lot more thinking about how to make things more aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly. Designs by Dash is the reverse: taking art and moving to incorporate more engineering into it.” …


April Joyner

Business and tech journalist. Previously @Inc. I like to read (and post, occasionally) musings on business, music, sports and TV/film.

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