Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Hip-Hop in the news:

Can Asian hip-hop cross over into the US market? The New Zealand Herald investitgates., looking at MC Solaar and Punjabi MC as examples would-be emcees might want to follow (ie. find a US rapper to collab with)

Is John Kerry the first hip-hop friendly President? Clinton may have been the first "black President," but his dust up with Sista Souljah showed he had a while to go before truly understanding hip-hop. Kerry's comments suggest a more positive and nuanced view: "I'm fascinated by rap and by hip-hop. I think there's a lot of poetry in it. There's a lot of anger, a lot of social energy in it. And I think you'd better listen to it pretty carefully, 'cause it's important."

Heard from the some friends about the enthusiasm on display at the recent Chicago Hip-Hop Summit -powered by Russel Simmons and his Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (and funded by Clear Channel Comm., Anhaesur Busch and Mercedes Benz). Loads of people registered to vote, people heard from the stars and even got a live version of "slow jams" by Twista and Kanye. Sorry if I am a bit cynical about all this, but the issues being discussed at these types of things disappoints me. The main issues were "police brutality, 'rap profiling,' freeing U.S. political prisoners, raising public awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, self-improvement as a basis for family and community development and using hip-hop to promote social change."

Fair enough, these things are problems but their framing reminds me of when I was in a teenage Christian group and the Church lady would translate our concerns for the blackboard. Yes, brutality by police is endemic (as a white middle class victim of a violent fascist power-tripping episode a while back i can only imagine what goes down nightly in the hood), and we have a few political prisinors (including Susan Lindauer) but come on - "rap profiling" - we are playing ourselves. And I don't think the problem with AIDS is awareness... maybe in the developing world but not here. Here the problem is lack of health care, housing and social supports for those already infected and the poverty of those at risk. And to say that "self improvement" should be the basis of community development is straight from the Republic Party platform. Why does the hip-hop community feel like it has to map out its OWN issues, and not just talk about conditions in our inner cities - exactly what hip-hop has done most eloquently throughout its history. We should not be afraid to admit that hip-hop doesn't have all the answers - taking America to the streets is our strongpoint... as agendas like those of the HH Action Network show. (and trust me, I was one of those most happy when I heard about this thing... and i think there is still loads of potential and necessity in merging hip-hop with social change.)


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