FNV In Today's Issue: April 19 2000
MADISON! THE AFTERMATH OF A DOPE CONFERENCE
*CHUCK D & AFRIKA BAMBAATAA WERE GREAT ADDITIONS...
*BAMBAATTA'S GLOBAL CONTRIBUTIONS....
*WOMEN RULED THE NIGHT IN MADISON...
*GAYS IN HIP HOP? PLEASE BELIEVE IT!
*AL MAILIK, GEOFFREY WARD, RUSSELL SHOATZ AND OTHER DOPE PANELISTS...
Send comments, questions and concerns to
The FNV Newsletter
written by Davey D
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If you should happen to be in Madison Wisconsin and come across folks like David Jamil Muhammed, Greg DL, Ben Runkle, Zack or any of the other people who devoted their time, money and energy in putting together last weekend's Hip Hop conference, be sure to bow down and tip your hat. The Hip Hop Generation Conference in Madison Wisconsin was off the hinges. It was absolutely incredible and left me feeling totally inspired. I have often said that I feel Hip Hop conferences on a college campus are more suited then the regular music industry conventions which wind up being one big commercial or an expensive excuse to party. Far too often we come together and never build or forge viable coalitions that will reshape and define Hip Hop and all the issues concerning it. Such was not the case in Madison. In most conferences, the record labels are asked to pony up thousands of dollars to sponsor a showcase, luncheon or some other event. This results in them taking steps to get a return on their sponsorship dollar by making sure their latest release is seen and heard by all the attendees. No wonder we see kids hawking tapes, posting up stickers and bombarding us with a constant stream of material.
In most conferences folks are hit with a three or four hundred dollar registration fee. The end result is a lot of ordinary folks except those sponsored by record labels being excluded. The Hip Hop Conference in Madison was free to the public. That made for a much more well rounded event. There were no throngs of people gathered in a hotel lobby complaining about how wack the conference was because it didn't address Hip Hop. There were no prima donna artists or suped up radio DJs running around chasing women, getting high or freestyling in a hotel lobby. The organizers of the Madison conference succeeded in taking Hip Hop to the next level by bringing together a good cross section of 2000 activists, educators, journalist, artists and Hip Hop pioneers like Afrika Bambaataa and Crazy Legs. It was culturally diverse, intergenerationally mixed as well as sexually diverse. Men, women, gays, straight, old, young, professors, students, artists and fans-you name it, they all came out and got busy in Madison.
The highlight of the Madison Hip Hop conference were the indepth panel discussions. Organizers understood that Hip Hop does not exist by itself and that it is part of a larger community. Hence they made sure to invite people who were doing the work and creating solutions to many of our societal problems. There were no endless discussions about Commercial vs Underground, East vs West or anything like that. At Madison, panel discussions like 'Political Empowerment In Hip Hop', 'Organizing With Hip Hop', Sexuality & Homophobia In Hip Hop', 'The Juvenile Justice System', 'Islam &Afrocentrism In Hip Hop', 'The Prison Industrial Complex', 'Cointel-Pro & the Attack on People of Color', 'Hip Hop Culture vs The Music Industry' and Racial & Cultural Diversity in Hip Hop were a few of the many well attended panels that existed.
CHUCK D & AFRIKA BAMBAATAA WERE GREAT ADDITIONS...
Topping all this off were keynote addresses from Chuck D and Hip Hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa. Chuck D's keynote entitled, 'The State of The Hip Hop Nation Address', was slamming as he addressed more then 2000 headz. A long line of people were turned away because the hall reached capacity. He focused on how corporate interests and big business set up shop, co-opted and later began dictating Hip Hop culture. He outlined how the industry pushed back and rooted out the Afrocentric/socially conscious era of Hip Hop in the late 80s early 90s only to replace it with what we now call 'gangsta rap'. Chuck skillfully pointed out how even 'gangsta rap' became a tool of the music industry. He then concluded by clarifying the misconceptions and common falsehoods that many people hold about Hip Hop culture. From weed smoking to gang culture and modern day thuggism-Chuck addressed it all and finished his hour long speech with a rousing standing ovation. So powerful was his presentation that it even made the local papers the next day complete with a positive assessment and his picture. Chuck's speech no doubt set the stage for Afrika Bambaataa and Crazy Legs who were due to speak on Sunday nite. Unfortunately I had to leave town before the speech. look for Chuck's speech to be featured on http://www.Rapstation.com real soon. We'll keep you posted as to when that happens.
Having Afrika Bambaataa on hand playing a prominent role was truly a blessing. It's amazing how we can go to 'traditional' industry driven music/Hip Hop conferences and not one person will bother to invite the pioneers to sit on panels, or be an active co-chairs etc. Chuck D pointed this out during his state of the Hip Hop nation address. He noted that everyone claims to be true to Hip hop and down with all the elements, but very industry heads ever reach out and offer the Bambaataas, the Grandmaster Flash's or Kool Hercs a remix project or an A&R job. They're not invited to be in videos, host radio shows etc. Even sadder they are not called up and consulted or asked to be spokesmen for many of the issues surrounding Hip Hop. At a time when every University under the sun is developing a Hip Hop class or curriculum, very few have reached out to have these pioneers consult or help develop the lesson plans etc.
I recall being at one conference in New York several years ago when DJ Kool Herc unexpectedly walked into the room during a panel discussion on the meaning of Hip Hop. The moderator oblivious to who he was gave a courtesy nod and quick acknowledgment and continued with the discussion on how we should define Hip Hop. Kool Herc eventually spoke, but only after he raised his hand and some one from the audience insisted that he be given the opportunity to speak. The moderator was arrogant and reluctant to yield the floor. It's amazing how we have all these seminars and gatherings about Hip Hop but very few reach out and bother to actively incorporate the wisdom of pioneers who laid down the ground work for the seminar in the first place. It's not like they're dead and inactive. Far too many of us have taken a attitude of non-concern when it comes to such matters. To quote one promoter who scoffed at the suggestion of including any of the pioneers on his Hip Hop event; 'Bambaataa and Flash is cool and all, but I'm trying to make money. These niggas ain't gonna pack my house or pay my bills so I ain't paying for them to come out...'.
BAMBAATTA'S GLOBAL CONTRIBUTIONS....
Bam's wisdom and understanding of Hip Hop from a global perspective was much appreciated. I often hear people speak about how Hip Hop is on every continent, but very few people make the connection and give credit to Bam for spreading the word and the culture. From the early 1980s to now, Bambaataa was going to far off places establishing Zulu Nation chapters and teaching folks about Hip Hop. He was one of the first Hip Hoppers to make the pilgrimage back to Africa. he was the first Hip Hopper to step foot into South Africa and meet Nelson Mandela. It was Bam who was traveling to places like Italy, Germany, Sweden and numerous other places where he set up Zulu Nation chapters. He was also collaborating with numerous artists on foreign soil. Remember the Artist Against Apartheid Project? Bam's travels took place at a time when Hip Hop was still having trouble being accepted here in the US. As far back as 1984 Bambaataa was talking about how widespread Hip Hop was and folks weren't seeing it. He was ahead of the time. Bam has been speaking on a whole lot of other topics centered around spirituality and some heads still aren't trying to connect. Based upon his track record it was probably be in our best interest to pull up a chair and listen.
He just recently finished doing a project with 22 emcees in Cape Town South Africa. It was done about two months ago and should make its way to the states sometime soon. He spent all day Saturday talking with people, granting interviews and offering guidance when asked. For me personally, when I look back and take into account Hip Hop's uncertain and humble beginnings and see where it is today-a world wide phenomenon. , my appreciation for Bam and our pioneers is that much greater. It was really a comfort to have him there as he help set a tone of respect and help keep everyone on point. When Crazy Legs arrived things got even better. How can one engage in meaningless debates about Hip Hop when the folks who put it down are there and can end all speculation? Pay your respects and reach out to Hip Hop's Grandfather Afrika Bambaataa at mailto:ZULUS@ZULUNATION.COM
WOMEN RULED THE NIGHT IN MADISON...
During the Hip Hop conference in Madison there were two screenings of Rachel Raimist's 'must see' documentary about women in Hip Hop called 'Nobody Knows My Name'. This is an excellent flick that I highly recommend to any one wishing to get a good understanding of Hip Hop and the gender issues surrounding it. Rachel has been on the road showcasing her film and following it up with a panel discussions. Her 'Women in Hip Hop' panel at the conference was standing room only, as the women featured which included Medusa, Bahamadia, DJ Shortee, DJ Kuttin Kandi and The Anomalies brought it home with conversations about empowerment and self sufficiency. They gave up a lot of game about how to navigate the inner workings of an oftentimes treacherous music business. Currently, Rachel is hard at work putting together a sequel to this documentary. Be sure to reach out to her at mailto:email@example.com for info and a schedule as to when 'Nobody Knows My Name' will be in your city.
Later that night many of the women featured on the Women In Hip Hop panel participated in what was one of dopest shows I have seen in a long time. 'The Ladies First Showcase' was hosted by Medusa who continuously delivered strong impromptu performances and freestyles. She has got to be one of the most talented emcees in Hip Hop today. her new album 'Medusa Live' was selling at a brisk pace during the conference. Joining her were the New York based crew the Anomalies and Neb Luv of the LA based group The Five Footers.. Remember when Warren G introduced this group? He should've followed up and worked with them more, because Neb Luv showed she has incredible mic skillz. Also on point was a spoken word artist named Angie 'B' Beatty out of Michigan. She left the crowd screaming for an encore as she did this wicked poem about the slave and slave master relationship within the music industry. If you ever see her name on a flyer be sure to check her out...
The highlight of the evening came when Philly's First Lady, Bahamadia took the stage. Her flow was flawless as she ripped some of her classic jams like 'Uknowhowwedo' and 'True Honeybuns' over a crystal clear sound system. She also dropped some gems off her upcoming new album called 'BB Queen'. That should be out sometime in July. The crowd went bananas when she brought all the female emcees who were in the house upon stage to get wreck in what was the ultimate freestyle session. The energy in the room was incredible. At one point Crazy legs and a crew of dancers was busting break moves in one corner of the room while the emcees was droppin' dope rhymes. It was truly a Hip Hop party.
Not to be outdone by their emcee counterparts, the crowd was treated to some nice turntable performances from DJ Shortee out of Atlanta and DJ Kuttin Kandi of the Anomalies. if there was ever any doubt about the ability of women to throw down on the one & twos, that line of thinking was put to rest. These women were dope and absolutely off the hook. Shortee who is down with the Citizen Crew has just released her debut album of beats called 'The Dreamer'. Hit up Shortee at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
There's no words to describe the skillz of DJ Kuttin' Kandi. She was juggling beats, scratching up a storm and when things got really heated she grabbed the mic and flipped a mesmerizing poem about being Asian in America. DJ Kuttin' Kandi is definitely one of those folks you want to have in your corner especially if you have to do some battlin'. there ain't nothing like having a slammin' DJ with nice mic skillz. Kuttin' Kandi will be making her way to the Bay Area within the next couple of weeks. When she does we will make sure to get her on one of my radio shows so you all can hear live on the Internet.
GAYS IN HIP HOP? PLEASE BELIEVE IT!
The Hip Hop Generation conference embraced important topics that are often overlooked at traditional conventions. For example, the conference addressed the issue of Sexuality and Homosexuality within Hip Hop. The discussion did not degenerate into an endless meaningless debate about who and who may not be gay, although there were a few prominent names tossed out. Instead it confronted the types of contradictions that exists within Hip Hop as well as explored whether or not Hip Hop was any more homophobic then the rest of society. I tend to think not. The panel also raised the issue as to what are respective responsibilities are to help bridge the gap and heal rifts. One of the panelist was this Hip Hop artist out of Michigan called God Dess. She explained that she does what Hip Hop has always done-speak to a particular audience. In her case she raps for the gay audience. If folks outside that circle can relate and dig her music, then great. But she is focused on making sure that those who are gay will find her open presence in Hip Hop a welcome addition.
That night at the woman's in Hip Hop showcase God Dess blessed the mic and got the crowd open. Her back up was a trained male opera singer named Tukes who left the crowd spellbound with his vocal skillz and his melodic hooks. No one seemed to care that she was spitting lyrics that reflected her sexual orientation. Folks were simply feeling her rugged beats and hard hittin' rhymes. If God Dess gets a deal or releases her product real soon, Hip Hop will have a trail blazer who can truly represent on the mic from the gay community.
AL MAILIK, GEOFFREY WARD, RUSSELL SHOATZ AND OTHER DOPE PANELISTS...
At Madison there was a spirituality workshop that focused on the War Against Youth given by Minister Abdullah Muhammad as well as an Anti-Violence Youth Organizing workshop from Al Malik Farrakhan of Washington DC based Cease Fire-Don't Smoke The Brothers Inc, and former gang banger turned activist Luis Cardona of Barrios Unidos. Because these workshops occurred after I left I can't give you a first hand account of them. However, I did get a chance to sit down and chop it up with Al Malik who is indeed a powerful figure who has been through it all. He has been instrumental in orchestrating gang truces and has dedicated a once troubled life to getting brothers to drop the guns and find another way.
His activism has not come without a heavy price. Years ago he was critically beaten by LA Sheriffs which left him paralyzed from the neck down. This robust and powerful man had attempted to bring to light connections that the Sheriffs department had with the Ku Klux Klan. Fortunately for us, this handicap has not stopped his activism, spirit and his commitment to the Hip Hop nation. During the conference he took some time out and talked one on one with individuals. He spent some time with myself and Medusa gave up a lot knowledge to myself and Medusa about the inner workings of prison as well as insight behind the activism of political prisoners like the late George Jackson and others. Reach out to Al Malik at 202-882-9882
One of the keys to the success of the Madison Hip Hop conference was the lack of egos and the respect given to all the participants for the work that they do. Just because there were 'unfamiliar names' on the some of the panel did not take away from the richness of their contributions. For example on the Juvenile Justice Panel there was a cat out of Michigan named Geoffrey Ward. Not only was he able to eloquently break down the history of juvenile justice in this country he is also a member of two viable Hip Hop organizations to watch out for. One is called 'The Mic Institute', which is a community center designed to empower urban youth. The other is the 'Hip Hop and Cultural Studies Collective'. The later organization has been hard at work, quitely collecting and archiving any and all materials and publications dealing with Hip Hop. Soon we will have in our midst a valuable Hip Hop Library of sorts where we can track down back issues of now defunct magazines and publications as well as any article ever written in major newspapers. The Hip Hop and Cultural Studies Collective will soon be an invaluable resource for the Hip Hop community. For more info hit up Geoff at mailto:email@example.com.
Another individual who stands out is Russell Shoatz III who is the music editor of BLU Magazine was on hand to share knowledge. For those who are unfamiliar with this excellent publication that focuses on a wide variety of issues ranging from police brutality, political prisoners, women's rights, youth activism and the plight of indigenous people. This is complimented on articles about our favorite Hip Hop artists which extend beyond the usual hype and talk about their upcoming album or latest video. If that's not enough, each issue of BLU comes with a compilation CD that features thoughts and rhymes from progressive artists. This month's issue deals with 'women in the struggle' as it spotlights folks like Delores Huerta of the United farm Workers, Angela Davis, poet Sonia Sanchez, former Panther Assata Shakur who is exiled in Cuba and rap artist Medusa. Its a healthy alternative to the usual publications that are out on the market. Hit up Russell at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Big props to all the panelists including Jim Prighoff and his incredible collection of graffiti pictures. Folks may want to peep out his books 'Spraycan Art' and Street Gallery:Guide to Over 1,000 Los Angeles Murals. props to attorney Baye Adofo who represents dead prez and has helped organize Hip Hop concerts in Cuba with the program Black August. Props to J-Love who's Hip Hop political writings 'Flip The Script' can be read at http://www.rapstation.com. Props to Andre English and the good folks from the October 22 Coalition. They drove 16 hours from New York to Wisconsin to represent. DJ Sake 1 of the Bay Area's Local 1200 DJ crew was on hand to drop bombs of knowledge. His organizing efforts with groups like Third Eye and STORM were well received. Also putting it down for the Bay was Khalil Jacobs-Fantauzzi who despite dealing with an impending trial for his political activism managed to come through and represent on the Hip Hop Culture vs The Music Industry panel. The list of panelists goes on and on about all the people who came through and clearly took this Hip Hop Generation conference to a new level.
Again, kind words just barely scratch the surface in terms of describing the good feelings I came away with after the conference. Hip Hop is at a critical point where we should be building and laying down the foundation for a strong viable institution. Hip Hop should not be a tool or an off shoot of the music biz. It should not be a convenient scapegoat or an ugly step child to an over zealous mainstream press or a campaigning politician. Hip Hop is all of us.. and its important we take time to groom ourselves, educate ourselves and make a difference in the world that is before us. This was one of the first conferences I've been to where Hip Hop was truly used as a tool for organizing and bringing about societal change. If Madison or other college campus choose to do similar conferences, I would like to suggest the following.
1-Do not turn it into a music industry convention where the bulk of your money comes from major record labels, radio stations etc. If you're not careful your conference will become their event and not yours. It'll be there agenda that needs to be followed and not yours.
2-Keep it grassroots and be sure to involve community organizations, churches and youth centers who are out there making a difference. Hip Hop is not exclusive property to the music industry-Its part of the community.
3-Make sure your panel discussions are relevant and the main attractions. Show cases are great but creative panels and discussions is where we do all our building.
4-Invite folks who are down for the cause, involved with the work at hand and free of prima donna egos and attitudes. Just because they have a big name and are seen on radio and TV does not mean they make for good panelists. Far too often as many promoters can attest to, some of our biggest and brightest are the biggest pain in the asses to work with. I can't begin to tell you all the horror stories. Star making heros out of the behind the scenes people doing the work.
If you come across headz who aren't feeling the conference or they don't appreciate your efforts, let them go.. There are tons of other folks from all over who can come through and help build.
5-Try and include some of the old school pioneers and community elders. We often forget our history and hence we wind up constantly reinventing the wheel. there are a lot of older cats out there who have much game to give up... If you think that they are old and have 'fallen off', understanding the reasons behind that is game onto itself..
6-Include a spiritual element to your conference. Everyone likes to thank God on the back of their albums and at award shows. Maybe its time we invite him into our circle and include him in the mix. It help keep us all grounded and on the path to doing the right thing..
Peace to the folks in Madison for a job well done...
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