You can listen to the songs played during the NPR interview below, but first…
I want to let you in on the conversation I had with Colin McEnroe off the air, along with Jaeme McDonald and Brandon Sarafino. The off air conversations are as memorable as on air. Sometimes even more, because there’s less of a scramble to speak within time limits.
1. Hip-Hop provides multi-generational, multi-ethnic sampling and collaboration more than any other genre.
Noone is given carte blanche (authority to to whatever they want) based on age, money, race, gender, etc. And the goal isn’t necessarily to come to an agreement either… as much as the goal IS to come to a RESPECT for being together in the same space, REGARDLESS of differences.
KRS-ONE although being the greatest legendary MC ever, being willing to battle a newer artist named Nelly (who wasn’t considered influential at all).’
Eminem performing with Elton John in the midst of controversy about Eminem’s lyrics being offensive to homosexuals
2. Hip-Hop doesn’t avoid what is taboo, inappropriate, or traumatic
Many cultures either assume what is traumatic to one person is traumatic to all, or believe that it’s just not okay to restimulate the trauma of others, even if you don’t share their pain. The shortcoming of those approaches is that suppressed or unexpressed trauma doesn’t resolve, heal, or disappear.
Hip-Hop doesn’t mind seeming unsophisticated in the process of airing grievences, bringing up trauma, and releasing the energy of trauma.
So Jay-Z can make the claim that his generation took the power out of the N-Word, and Oprah can sit next to him and say that it’s still not okay to say… and both of them can sit next to each other. While disagreeing, each person is compelled to realize that their experience with words and images isn’t exactly like someone elses. That’s how Hip-Hop does it. In other words we don’t just value Knowledge and Wisdom, we require UNDERSTANDING too.
Next time you see a rap battle or people engaging in the dozens (snapping), don’t dismiss the fact that the challenge of the individual being dissed is to hold their composure and let their opponent say whatever they want to without reacting violently, or taking the commentary too personally. This allows us to deal with trauma without suppressing it, but also without letting it control us.
Similar approaches where used by SNCC activists preparing for non-violent protests in which police and dogs would bring physical harm, as well as by Bill and Hillary Clinton in preparing their daughter Chelsea for the heartless comments she would receive due to a physical handicap.
3. Hip-Hop values the Authenticity of Spirit over the authenticity of materialism
To the untrained eye, Hip-Hop glorifies materialism and excess. In fact, much popular Hip-Hop does exactly that because it is “Blind to the Fact” that we’re not glorifiying the actual material, but the process of “Making something out of nothing”.
As DJ Toney Tone mentioned during our interview, Coke La Rock is was the first Hip-Hop MC. As crack had begun doing damage, while providing a means of fast income, to inner-city communities at that time… many MCs mentioned coke, ski, and other references to crack (LL Cool J was going to call himself J-Ski), even as early as the first MC, Coke La Rock. However, this was Hip-Hop speaking on what was relevant, NOT CONDONING IT
The Lo-Lifes were a crew known to rock the flyest Ralph Lauren gear, although coming from the most impoverished areas of Brooklyn. They weren’t officially endorsed by Lauren though, or any retailers… because they were boostin’ (stealing) all that fly gear. Here again we see the Hip-Hop culture enabling inner city youth, SEEING a way to be just as flashy as the richest suburban kid, EVEN WITHOUT FINANCIAL WEALTH.
Dapper Dan for years adorned rappers in hand printed and embossed leathers with Gucci, LV, and other brands. Fast Forward to the present, and we see an article about Rick Ross being caught wearing fake LV shades. Supposedly they actually were LV frames, but were customized by “The Sundglasses Pimp”. As Brandon Serafino noted, when you tell a joke too much it can become a reality. Hip-Hop culture would never care wether LV actually made the shades or not. Yet again, the untrained eye only counts the number of explitives, drug references, and expensive brand names. So they can judge Hip-Hop as “good” or “bad”.
But Hip-Hop doesn’t condone any of those things, it makes the point that we have to deal with them, even if we DON’T WANT TO, and since we’re going to deal with them as a diverse community, we’re going to deal with them from a diverse range of strategies. “Don’t Believe the Hype!”
Here’s a playlist of songs spun during the NPR Interview on the International Hip-Hop Festival