FNV NEWSLETTER #106
October 28 2002
In this week's issue
*Hip Hop News Headlines:
*Editorial: Hip Hop Children of a Lesser God by Min Paul Scott
*Hip Hop Tip of the Day
*Rhyme of the Day: Benzino Takes on Eminem
*An Interview w/ Hip Hop Activist Kevin Powell
With The Threat of War upon us-Don't Forget to Vote November 5th.
The FNV Newsletter c 2002
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HIP HOP NEWS HEADLINES:
**Philly-Baltimore-Maryland Rappers Come Together
to do a Tribute Album for Sniper Victim Ken Bridges.
In the aftermath of the tragic sniper shooting death of Philly native
Ken Bridges, a consortium of Philly and Maryland based rappers decided
to come together to do a tribute album for this fallen community hero.
The proceeds will go to benefit his family. For those who don't know,
Ken Bridges is one of the co-founders of Matah-an African American
**Coolio and Outkast Set to Do National Lampoon Movie**..
Coolio and utkast are set to do a low budget straight to video movie called
'Hip Hop Party'. It will be done in the tradition of the slapstick
National Lampoon movies.
**KRS-One and MC Lyte Set To Perform at Compton Community College
Sat Nov 2 2002 2-6PM for Rock the Vote..****
Last week it was UCLA, this week its Compton, KRS continues to give
back to the community to help raise awareness about us being more
politically engaged. He'll be joined by MC Lyte and The Poetess of
KKBT.. http://rockthevote.org [events listings]
**Sista Souljah Set to Appear at 'Turning the Tables of Hip Hop Summit
' in Wash DC Oct 31-Nov 3
[Also at Summit -Toni Blackman of FreestyleUnion****
If you're in DC this weekend be sure to check out this Hip Hop
conference which will be dealing with the History, spirituality, and
politics of our culture. Sista Souljah is scheduled to be one of the
keynotes. Yours truly Davey D will also be in attendance..
***Angie Martinez Set to Join American Idol as a Judge***
The First Lady of NY's Hot97 has been on a roll as of late.
She just recently got her shine on in the movie 'Brown Sugar'.
Now she's about take it to the next level by joining Paula Abdul,
Randy Jackson and the evil Simon Cowell as a judge for 'American Idol II'
**Controversial Publication The Booty Crack Returns to San Jose***
Before magazines like FEDS, or Don Diva came along, Bay Area cats
checked for the San Jose based BC... It was one of the most over the
top, in your face publications we have ever seen. It took a hiatus
for a while but now its back.and ready to bring it to new levels.
***Bay Area Beats Central Cali in Emcee Battle***
We may have lost the World Series, but at least we won the emcee
battle.. San Jose's best emcees squared off against their Hip Hop
brethren from Central Cali and won.. Who's Next?
HIP HOP EDITORIAL:
Hip Hop Children of a Lesser God by Minister Paul Scott
In this essay Minister Scott of North Carolina wants to know why 'MC
Pull-a-Trigga' thanks God for helping him write the song 'Kill Em All
Tilll They Fall'. How serious is Hip Hop about its Spirituality?
HIP HOP TIP OF THE DAY::
The best Hip Hop movie to come along in years is 'Brown Sugar'. Don't
sleep on this flick.. It's compelling and will definitely move you..
Props to Queen Latifah and Mos Def for their stellar performances. I
would describe this movie as...Wild Style minus the Graf-20 Years
RHYME OF THE DAY:
This is off the new Benzino mixtape.
Look like he's ready to bring heat to Eminem.
"The only M&M I know is Made Men
and by the way, he aint never gonna play me (NEVER)
Ill show this b!tch really what it is to be Shady
I don't care how much records you sold
You can't walk through the hood without the men in black
Disrespect your moms b!tch you deserve a smack
Its not a black or white thing, that sh!ts in the past
I got some white boys in Boston that'l bust yo a@@"
AN INTERVIEW w/ KEVIN POWELL ON
HIP HOP, RACE AND POLITICS.
This is an interview with writer, long time activist and Hip Hopper
Kevin Powell. Many of y'all know him for being part of the original
cast for the first season of MTV's Real World [New York]. Still many
more of us know Kevin as a writer who came in on the ground floor at
Vibe Magazine where he interviewed and wrote compelling stories on
everyone from 2Pac to Biggie. Still others know Kev as a poet,
community activist and talented writer who has penned or edited three
books including 'Recognize', 'Keepin' It Real: Post-MTV Reflections on
Race, Sex, and Politics', and 'Step Into A World'. His lastest work
is Who Shot Ya which is a collection of 3 decades of Photos from Ernie
Paniccioli. Kevin edited the text of that book....
This interview first ran in the Wednesday, October 16, 2002 edition of
the DAILY FORTY-NINER (Cal. State-Long Beach newspaper) questions
were submitted by Monica Levette Clark to Kevin Powell.. I hope you
enjoy this article..
1)- Why is this book of photos of various people and events so
important to hip-hop culture?
KEVIN POWELL: First off, I think Who Shot Ya? is important because it
is the first major pictorial history of hiphop dedicated to the work
of one rap photographer, Ernie Paniccioli. Paniccioli is 55, Native
American, and was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and literally
absorbed Black culture from his childhood on. And he has been
shooting hip hop images since the early 1970s. So what the book
represents is a look at hip hop over three decades. This is important
because a lot of folks still don't feel hiphop is a culture, that
adults are into hip hop, and that hip hop does not have a history.
Ernie's work, and the text we have in the book (my intro and a
narrative of Ernie's life and take on hip hop's development and
evolution) dispel those myths.
Second, and just as important, is that it is clear that hip hop music
and culture is at a serious crossroads. That hip hop is in a state of
arrested development, and has been for some time. Five record labels
now control most of the music on the planet. There is a corporate
radio monopoly dictating what songs will get played and how often.
The major music channels play up the videos that depict young Black
people drinking alcohol, degrading and objectifying women (or women
participating in their own objectification), and being addicted to
material things like platinum chains, all makes of automobiles, and
Now we know that our music has always talked about sex, violence,
material things, all of that. The difference today is two-fold: there
was not music videos around back in the day to reinforce and
perpetuate the images being sung or rapped about the way it is today.
And there was balance. There was diversity to the music. And you
genuinely felt that the music was there to empower you, to make you
feel good about yourself in the face of oppression and all the
insanities of the world. There are a few songs that do that today,
but, by and large, rap artists who are trying to be creative, who are
trying to push the art form, are not encouraged or supported or
marketed properly, if at all.
Now don't get me wrong: I was born and raised in the ghetto and
appreciate the rawness of hip hop. No question. But what is missing
are these labels encouraging artists to grow, to push the envelope, to
see long-term careers instead of hit songs for the moment. Which is
why someone like Snoop Dogg is interesting to me. I have always dug
his music and I don't expect Snoop to be anything other than what he
is and to rap about the environment he comes from there in Long Beach.
But, by the same token, I was reading this profile on him in a recent
issue of The Source, and dig the fact that he seems to be maturing,
and grappling with his role in the music industry, that he does not
want to take the publishing rights and money of his artists the way
his were taken way back when.
I dig that fact that Snoop has publicly stated that he wants to stop
using the word nigga, and is referring to people as "cousin," instead,
as much as he can. And, finally, the fact that he is trying to stop
the weed-smoking because he now recognizes the importance of being
sober, especially if he is trying to be a player in the music game.
That is growth, and that is what is missing from hiphop, by and large.
So Who Shot Ya? is about reminding people where this culture came
from, all that we've created up until now, and why we are at such a
2)- What events, people, etc., specifically, prompted you to want to
do a book like this?
KEVIN POWELL: Ernie and I both just have a deep love and appreciated
for hip hop culture, and realize that hip hop has empowered so many of
us, put so many of us on, and that we have an obligation to understand
and preserve this culture, and to share what we have seen and learn
with others, especially younger people coming up in the culture and
the game today.
As an African American, I am also very aware of the fact that, for a
variety of reasons, that we have not always taken seriously the study
of our cultural creations, be it spirituals, the blues, jazz, rock and
roll, or soul. We generally have created something, it gets ripped
off by the White majority/White power structure sooner or later, and
we keep it moving to the next thing. I am an activist as much as I am
a writer and I absolutely refuse to stand by and allow folks who did
not grow up where I grew up, who don't know hip hop the way I know hip
hop, to dictate the history, how I should be responding to it (or
not), or what is happening with it today.
So there is no one event or no one artist or group that inspired this
book. It was really about making sure Ernie, a photographer of color,
had his work documented while he is still alive to get the respect he
deserves, and making sure that young people of color (and young White
supporters of hip hop and Black culture in general) see that people of
color can be, and are, qualified to document this lifestyle, from our
3)- Aside from this project, what other things are you currently
working on and plan to do in the future?
KEVIN POWELL: Well, as I have said, I am a writer and activist. That
means that I am always working. I am now working on my sixth book,
Who's Gonna Take The Weight, which is a collection of essays, and
which will be out in the Fall of 2003. This essay collection will
deal with where America is at the beginnning of this new millennium,
in terms or race, gender, class, and the aftermath of September 11th.
My two favorite essayists are James Baldwin and Dr. Bell Hooks and I
am trying to bring the noise the way that do.
I am also nearly finished my second poetry collection. And I am about
to start on a childhood memoir, my childhood, very much inspired by
Richard Wright's Black Boy. The way Wright's book had a blues motif
running through it, mine will have hip hop up in it, since this is the
era I grew up in. Then as far as my activism work, I do over 100
speeches a year around the country, I run a nonprofit community-based
group called Hiphop Speaks, which is a series of forums and MC battles
geared toward using hip hop as a tool for social change.
In 2003, we plan separate summits on Black womanhood and Black
manhood, as well as setting up a mentoring program here in Brooklyn,
where I live. It is clear that Black leadership, on a national level,
has let Black America down, has no national Black agenda, and is
ignoring all the things destroying our communities right now, like the
HIV/AIDS pandemic, the crisis in public school education, the on-going
issue of institutionalized White racism, Black self-hatred, sexism and
gender oppression, the prison-industrial complex, and more issues than
I can list here. Hence, my life work is dedicated to telling the
truth as I have lived it, and as I see it, and to helping my people,
Black people, and all people, really. The slogan for Hiphop Speaks is
"the leadership we are waiting for is us," and that is exactly how I
4)- This semester the Black Studies department at Cal. State
University, Long Beach, brought a new course focusing on hip hop
culture into its program. What are your thoughts on the relevance of
hip-hop culture as an intellectual study? And how important is it for
KEVIN POWELL: To me, Black culture in general is an intellectual
study, the blues, jazz, slave narratives, our dances ranging from the
Cakewalk to the Harlem Shake, our visual arts, our language and
vocabulary. We short change our humanity and who we are, what we have
been through in this country, and our future, by viewing our culture
as anything less than genius against all odds.
Hip hop is just the latest manifestation, and the really sharp
teachers and professors understand that, which is why you see hip hop
classes popping up all over the nation. The other piece is this: if
you are a leader, be it an educator, a journalist, a religious or
spiritual figure, or whatever, you have to have a working knowledge of
hip hop music, hip hop culture, the history, all of that, if you are
really trying to reach people under 40, or 35, or 30, since most of us
grew up with this language, this energy, and since it permeates so
much of what we do, and how we think.
Hip hop is a lifestyle for younger people today. When I say I am a
hip hop head, I mean that I speak hip hop, I dress hip hop, I walk hip
hop, I think, out of the box, like hip hop, and that, as KRS-One
famously said, I am hip hop. And I understand that hip hop, really,
is a reaction to the failures of the United States government to help
poor people, since it was poor people who created hip hop in the first
place, and that hip hop is also a reaction to racism and oppression,
the failures of Black leadership, a reaction to the absence of Black
fathers, healthy and holistic Black families, all of that.
Hip hop is really, at its core, a call out for help, us making
something out of nothing, of us trying to be seen, heard, felt. Now a
lot of folks don't like hiphop and I feel them. A lot of things have
been commodified, again, by these corporate record labels, so some
things seem like a minstrel show, straight up. But I also say this to
folks: you may call hip hop foul, obscene, garbage, etc. But there is
nothing more foul, more obscene, nothing that makes you feel more like
garbage than being born and raised in an American ghetto. The music
and the culture is merely a reflection of all of that, whether we like
it or not. And I am not feeling folks who criticize hip hop,
criticize young people, but do nothing to change the material and
spiritual conditions of young people. They are armchair critics and
hypocrites, as far as I am concerned.
5)- What effect has hiphop culture had on you personally?
KEVIN POWELL: Well, I just feel proud to have something that belongs
to my generation, to my era, the way Motown belongs to my moms. And
since I am now in my 30s, I feel proud to have seen this thing from
the early stages, before it was even called hip hop, and to have been
one of those kids out there trying to pop and lock and spin on my
back, one of those kids tagging my nicknames on walls, one of those
kids who was at the clubs, in the gear of the day, just loving all
that energy. And I feel blessed to have made a living because of hip
hop, as a journalist at Vibe, as a curator of the first major museum
exhibit on hip hop at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York City, as
the editor of Who Shot Ya? and in so many other ways.
I always ask myself this: What if hiphop did not exist, would I have
had all these opportunities? It, to me, is the same as asking what
would America look like if the Civil Rights Movement had not happened?
Would White racism recognized it was mad foul, and opened up its doors
to us? I don't think so. Without hip hop, a lot more of us would be
unemployed, thinking there are no possibilities at all. That is real.
Everywhere I go in the country some young person says to me "Hip hop
saved my life."
6)- What would you like to say to aspiring young African American
writers in college today, (like myself)? The African-American youth
KEVIN POWELL: I tell young Black writers to read everything you can
get your hands on, Black writers, White writers, Latino writers, Asian
writers, Native American writers, every kind of writer you can get to.
But it is important that your foundation is the tradition of African
American literature, because that is who we are. We do ourselves a
disservice, I feel, to absorb other writers, other cultures, and not
be familiar with our own. I grew up reading Shakespeare, Emily
Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, John Keats... Ernest Hemingway, all the
so-called masters of Western literature. And I loved those cats
because I have always loved reading. But I hated myself as a Black
person because the public schools I attended in Jersey City, New
Jersey, where I was born and raised, NEVER really brought up Black
contributions to history, Black writers, none of that. Not knowing
about yourself means, more than likely, you are not going to
appreciate yourself, that you will, in fact, hate yourself, because
you don't think that you and people who look like you are relevant.
So young African American writers must dive into Black literature,
Black music, Black art, Black history, all of it. When I first read
Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, for example, I felt
like I was reading the stories of my mother and her sisters and, for
the first time, I saw that the dialect my mother spoke, from her
native South Carolina, was a beautiful language, not broken English.
And I saw that all the stories my mother had given me was oral
history, oral poetry, not some random, obscure tall tales.
Same thing with reading Richard Wright or Malcolm X's autobiography:
everyone I know from the ghetto thinks no one has it as bad as we do,
that no one gets what we are going through, how life in the 'hood is a
series of domestic terrorist acts being waged against our minds, our
bodies, and our spirits. That we are alive only because we are not
dead. Wright and Malcolm spoke to me as a Black boy, as a Black man,
in a way Shakespeare had never spoke to me. Those books changed my
life, and young African American writers have to understand that the
most important writing should strive to change lives, make the world
better, empower people. And that writing is not about being rich or
famous; it is about telling the truth. If it is meant for you to be
rich and famous, it will happen. But you gotta love writing the way
you love life, and it has to be as natural to you as breathing.
7)- Where were you on September 11th and how did it change your views
on society? After over a year, what are your views, feelings, today?
KEVIN POWELL: I was in Syracuse, New York, on September 11th. The
night before I had lectured to incoming first-year students.
Ironically, that night I talked a lot about young people understanding
the importance of knowing history, present-day events, the full
history of America, all of that. While what happened on September
11th certainly affected me emotionally, spiritually, it did not change
my views on this society. As I have said, I am a political activist,
and have been one since I was 18, which means I have always been into
critical thinking, into raising questions about the world we live in,
in challenging myself and my thinking every chance I get, in learning
constantly. So while the human being that I am was deeply affected by
September 11th, I am equally affected by the mental terrorism that
ignores poor people, homeless people, the disenfranchised and
marginalized in this country. While I hear a lot of folks talk about
how badly women are treated in certain Arab countries, which may be
true, I wonder why people don't talk about the fact that Black women
are now the largest recipients of the HIV/AIDS virus right here in
America. Or why folks are so quiet about how women, right here in
America, are raped, daily, beaten, daily, commodified and objectified,
daily, in the popular culture, to sell music, products, all of that.
So I did not jump on the patriotism bandwagon. How could I when I
know really well the history of America, how the Native Americans were
literally slaughtered and had their land stolen, how Africans were
turned into niggas and made to work, for free, all those years as
slaves? How those same Black people, even after physical slavery
ended, had to endure another 100 years of second-class citizenship, of
dodging the insanities of their White brothers and sisters. And how,
even after the victories of the Civil Rights Movement, the majority of
Black people remain poor, marginalized, stuck in America's ghettos, so
where is the progress, really?
And I think about slow, domestic terrorism, in the form of racial
profiling, police brutality, the dropping of drugs in our communities
(and no one seems to know where the drugs came from), the number of
Black people who are marched off to jail for chunks of their lives,
even though they are nonviolent drug offenders. And why are they
selling drugs? I am not condoning drug dealing because I understand
we are ultimately selling death to our people, but where are the jobs
in the ghettoes? And, as Marvin Gaye asked a long time ago, who
really cares? So I had two reactions to September 11th: one,
spiritual, because I am human and am connected to other human beings
so I feel things deeply, I mean, I am a writer, an artist, and we just
are mad sensitive, hypersensitive. But the other reaction is equally
important: a political analysis, a political take. Like if 15 of the
19 hijackers on September 11th were from Saudi Arabia, why was
Afghanistan bombed? Or, why did Osama bin-Laden matter a year ago,
and why is Saddam Hussein the biggest enemy now? Why was Hussein not
dealt with 10 years, during the Persian Gulf War, if he is such a
menace? Why was Iraq an ally of the United States in the 1980s, what
role did the American government play in the creation of the Taliban?
Or, why is America viewed, by many countries in the world at large, as
an aggressor, and not the bastion of democracy that we portray
ourselves as? If this country is really a democracy, if we really
believe in freedom, and not that knee-jerk stuff of waving a flag or
learning a few patriotic songs because someone told you to, then you
would ask the hard, critical questions. Unless you are a complete
8)- How do you think the hip hop generation of today can bring about
change in society, thought, views, what needs to happen?
KEVIN POWELL: The hip hop community, the hip hop generation, or
whatever we call ourselves, has got to grow up. I think it is
embarrassing when you see heads in their late 20s through their late
30s still acting like children. Not being serious about anything.
Not owning up to any level of responsibility.
Again, I speak all over the country. Imagine that I go speak and I
come in their, unprofessional, cursing up a storm, disrespecting
women, disrespecting the men, disrespecting the opportunity, because
of my ignorance. And it is ignorance, so I have a level of
understanding and compassion for that. Some of us only know what we
have been taught and/or given and really are like children who need
direction, guidance, a helping hand to get us to the next level. But
those of who are socially conscious, who have lived long enough, and
been around the culture and the game long enough, have an obligation,
I feel, to see the big picture, way past hip hop. That our people are
literally dying out here, that I can go to a prison and see TONS of
young Black males locked up, then go to a college campus and see 5, 6,
7, 10 Black women for every Black man on that college campus.
We need to see the struggles today as a war on our minds, our bodies,
and our spirits. People think just because we can now vote freely,
sit next to White folks on buses, in restaurants, go to historically
White colleges and universities, or because there are now acceptable
Black icons like Tiger Woods, Oprah Winfrey, or Michael Jordan, that
racsism does not exist any more, or that it is not as bad as it once
was. That is absolutely untrue. We live in a country where Black
voters were disenfranchised in Florida during the 2000 presidential
election. We live in a country where the conservative response to
horrible public schools is to give a few vouchers to a few students
while the rest of the students are stuck in those horrible schools.
We live in a country where more money is spent on building prisons in
most states, than on the public school system.
In New York State, back in June, an appeals court said New York State
was only obligated to make sure New York City public school students,
most of whom are Black or Latino, get an 8th grade education. An 8th
grade education! What are you going to do with that other than work
at a fast food restaurant, or some other low-paying, low-level job?
The hip hop generation has to grow up, read, study, travel, even if it
is just to the next town or city, or the next state, and resist being
duped by the pop culture machine that makes us think life is just one
big party, complete with liquor, weed, unsafe sex, and name-brand
goods. That is mental slavery, and that is where we are at. Ain't
nothing wrong with having nice things, or wanting nice things. Most
people who are struggling feel that way. That is real. But there is
something wrong when those things become more important than being
intelligent and critical thinking, being spiritual (not religious),
and being rooted in your history, who you are, so that you can begin
to develop a game plan on where you are going.
Whether we like it or not, hip hop is led by the rappers, in spite of
hip hop having three other core elements: the dj, the dancer, and the
graffiti writer (artist). The rapper has a huge influence over young
people today, moreso than teachers, politicians, any of the so-called
traditional leaders. I actually hate that it it is this way, because
it puts an unfair burden on the rappers to be role models, and many of
them just don't have the emotional and political maturity to be
responsible to themselves, even. But, by the same token, I say to
rappers all the time, when you get out there you need to think about
how you are affecting young people, are you selling life or are you
selling death, do you even care, and does it matter to you that you
may not even be hot, or around, in a couple of years? This is not
just for the rappers, really, it is for all of us. How many of us,
today, actually care enough about ourselves and our people to work to
stop all this madness before it is too late?
On Wednesday October 30th at 8:00 PM
"A Conversation with Kevin Powell and David "Davey D" Cook" will take
Powell and hip-hop historian, journalist, and Hard Knock Radio host
Davey D explore how artistry and politics influence their journalism
and how their work impacts larger cultural issues. For more info send
an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
you can reach Kevin Powell at email@example.com
The FNV Newsletter c 2002
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