Where is Twin Cities' Hip Hop Community?

One week before ago to the day, three days following the birthday of one of the most influential leaders of the Civil Rights Movement— we celebrate the federally instated holiday of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. During these times many take an opportunity to reflect upon our achievements and forthcoming. Children are reminded by their parents and grandparents of an era not-so-long ago when segregation was in the forefront of every day life across the nation. Although it may not been as transparent over the last few decade as it has come to be with YouTube and Facebook, the difficulties we face may be even more challenging than ever, and we are standing as a generation working to purge white supremacy and systemic racism from the soil of this land.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King’s work has trickled down into education systems and so-called “higher education.” Being often decimated and interpret in many different lights, and otherwise. As for everything we have gained from his life and efforts we must also consider what may be lost and what impact we’ve

 

seen through the direction our country has taken more recently— from the late 80’s to early 90’s specifically. Following the horrific cold-blooded murder of Malcolm X on February 21, 1965, it was only three years later that Dr. King was assassinated as well (April 4,1968). His lessons and life has allowed many to move forward from a dark place hardly represented justly in our history books, becoming more faint with every passing year and revision of history books (his-story, who is he again exactly?).

Proceeding the killings of two of the greatest civil rights leaders ever to surface there was a new inception of revolutionaries called the Black Panther Party. The Black Panther Party was responsible for many positive efforts to help grow and stabilize communities of color. One example is a Breakfast Program providing free food to school children in various areas across the country including Oakland California, and all across Chicago under the leadership of the honorable Fred Hampton. Another is the door-to-door medical services testing for Sickle-Cell Disease and encouraging individuals to donate blood. Many revolutionaries are to credit forthe success of the Panther Party including Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the parties founders, as well as members including Mumia Abu-Jamal, Assata Shukar, Bobby Rush, Geronimo Pratt, Tim Hayes, Lee Brant, H. Rap Brown, and Calvin Lewis, just to name a few. Although I am not intending to outline anywhere near a comprehensive outline of the progress and downfall of the Panther Party— the downfall technically being the United States Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO)— it is important to point out the significance of their impact on birthing a generation responsible for Hip Hop.

 

 

 Hip Hop has always been a political instrument of power with the potential of exerting revolutionary force. The Universal Zulu Nation (UZN) has been credited as an important organization helping to unite gangs within New York amongst it’s inception, and also being arguably a driving force unifying Hip Hop as a collective culture. When Hip Hop became recognized as a music it became a powerful platform, and although it was not often exercised politically commercially one pioneering group stood at the front of the era leading a movement to fight the power and liberation. That group was Public Enemy, and the founder and lead MC of that group is none other than Chuck D.

 

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day Augsburg College brought Chuck D out to speak alongside Madiba (Sha Cage and E.G. Bailey) accompanied by Truth Maze (UZN Omega Chapter President), Dahia Jones, Malick Ceesay, DJ D-Mil, and DJ Francisco (UZN Omega Chapter Vice President), who was also responsible for reaching out to request Chuck D’s appearance.  The insight and wisdom of all of the performances representing a spectrums of vantage differing by age and various dynamics all paralleled a consistent perspective offering insight to the difficulties faced by communities and people of color. Madiba's beautiful wisdom and insight projected through a very clear Hip Hop sense of spoken word, rhythm, and knowledge accompanied by the one and only Truth Maze on vocal percussion. While Malick's experiences were projected through his soul Dahlia Jones moved the hearts of the audience covering Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On, lighting up the soul of her listeners. Mohamed Salam, Director of the Pan-Afrikan Student Services, spoke of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and represented the spirit of progress and inspiration. The afternoon's Duina Hernandez spoke with heart and conviction ushering motivational transitions and introductions, while President Augsburg Prinbenrow opened the floor with an uplifting quote of MLK. My good Ahki (brother), Reies Romero, introduced Chuck D. with a selection of heartfelt words that connected his passion with the lives of every person in the room.

 

Chuck D’s speech helped to bring all of that together and communicate the important of finding “like-minds” and organizing with those individuals collectively. The importance of collectivism has been expressed timelessly again and again throughout political movements successful all throughout the world. Another recurring theme that has been revolving around the music scene is our “Hip Hop Community,” in the Twin Cities specifically. By default one may assume there must be a Hip Hop Community, but is this continuity real? In order to understand if we have the collectivism that is inclusive enough to be considered a “Hip Hop Community,” we must first look at the culture of Hip Hop and what it means to be a community. Although this is reflective specifically of the Twin Cities this perspective applies to all of America, and ultimately the world. Hip Hop is a black culture. If you don’t like or respect that you may voice your opinion and scream your distress to the abyss but the fact of the matter stands. I say this fully aware that I am a white male serving as a vocal artist many may consider an MC rapping in this black culture, and I am not saying that I believe it is inclusive to blacks only, but what I am saying is that it is important to represent the lineage and culture of Hip Hop as it is.

In this regard I can only speak of my own prospective. I believe we have all the ingredients to the cake, but until we haven’t even set the oven to preheat. The culture of Hip Hop can be summed up by it’s five elements of Hip Hop culture, as defined by Africa Bambaataa (UZN Founder) being break dancing, graffiti, DJing, MCing, and last but not least, knowledge. It is important to confront exactly the question of how many MCs come out to support break dancers jams? On that note shout out to Jake Riley and House Of Dance for showing love and support creating the cypher/jam! There is disproportionate imbalance within our collective communities and a very tragic lack of continuity. Everybody wants to come out and support at shows similar to the festival Soundset, the biggest outdoor Hip Hop festival in America, and possibly the world. No disrespect intended to Soundset or Rhymesters Entertainment, the record label responsible for the festival, but it is important to note this point: the lack of continuity described aides the projection that these different sects of Hip Hop represent entirely different

cultures. This misappropriation takes away from the culture and foundation that the sound and movement rest on. People tend to forget that Hip Hop is a political movement, and the perfect example was the archive of outraged tweets following Rhymesayer’s artist and Universal Zulu Nation member Brother Ali’s support of Black Lives Matter at the Rhymesayers 20th Anniversary show (RSE20). Appropriation is important to take into consideration within this context. Often it is suburban kids who feel that supporting Black Lives Matter “isn’t Hip Hop.” They also tend to miss the fact that saying “black lives matter” isn’t saying other lives don’t, it is saying “black lives matter” because far too often it seems that it is forgotten.

 

Although on a grand scale many Americans take this time to celebrate our achievements in Civil Rights, demonstrators and activists continue to use these opportunities to apply civil disobedience and other protest tactics to effectively project the voices of the often unheard. Chuck D reminded us that the real hero are the artists working to support our city by communicating the voices of the people, often unheard. We must stand in solidarity No Justice No Peace.