D.L. Chandler's frequent thoughts on the world of hip hop and beyond

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Crunch Time: The Hip Hop Youth Movement Has Legs

My PC has been giving me a few problems so updating has been the pits for me. I hope to continue bringing my best forth to you all.

As the time winds down before we involve ourselves in probably the most hotly contested decisions in many of our lives, it goes without saying that the mission to get the youth vote out has been mostly successful and hopefully continues beyond what we’ve witnessed thus far. Friday night, I was working the MfA table for the Cali Comm tour stop in Washington, D.C. featuring Del the Funkee Homosapien (with a surprise guest appearance wit Opio), Bukue One with EMC and T-Wiz (I’m sure that was his name), Zion I and Aceyalone, Mikah 9 and Ab Rude appearing as the supergroup Haiku D’etat. It was a fantastic set from all involved and surprisingly packed given that it was near Howard University – which was celebrating its homecoming weekend. I’ve worked a show before but this one had a feel of a lot more informed folks than the last one I worked. Many of the folks who approached the table knew about MfA or were involved in similar efforts with other like-minded organizations. Those who didn’t know about us stopped and listened to what our mission is and how important this coming election truly was. It was, as Opio stated while on stage, the face of a movement and the face of Hip Hop. Opio stated that being in the nation’s capitol during such a pivotal moment meant there was a unified front forming. It was, as he said, Hip Hop at its truest and its best. Music brought people of varying hues and backgrounds yet with the same tastes and goal that should be deserved all of us: the ability and freedom to choose. Perhaps you had to be there but I knew I was witnessing something I hope to be a part of again.

The comfort I take in knowing that many of the organizations that ushered in the new voter consciousness amongst the youth – especially the black youth vote – won’t just stop there. In this article from David Jacobean, Asad Jafri of the Chicago chapter of the Hip Hop Congress seems to recognize the need for this effort to go beyond getting folks to the polls. Education is still the key focus in all of this. If we can get the entertainers and moguls to get involved on that end as well, we will have transcended the already worthy greatness of the movement. I’m not cool with the term “hip hop vote‿ because it is too vague. Hip Hop is international, multi-cultural, multi-generational and constantly evolving. It is still, by many measures, a young and growing entity. We have to continue to recognize how inclusive Hip Hop has become and not forget that the spread of its popularity and influence will not be quelled anytime soon. Educating people on the intricacies of policy matters and political processes won’t be an easy task. If we expect to advance from this happy feeling of unity and participation, we must go forward from this point. Let’s just hope we don’t forget the fervor in which we’ve done so thus far.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Voter Apathy: How Do We Combat It?

The election is just nine days away and I’ve found that I’m having a hard time reaching people on why this election is so critical. It’s been a big shift from the concerts and media blitzes from the summer to the cold, hard reality that apathy still reigns supreme amongst young people – especially those youth who come from underprivileged backgrounds. I’ve found that I’m running out of creative ways to encourage the kids to get to the polls. In an interesting turn of events, however, I was on the back of the bus after midnight headed home. I usually try not to travel in the area late – especially since I was a recent victim of a stabbing incident. Not that I’m shook or anything, but I’d rather be at full strength if I’m going to be out as I’m still healing (on a horrible side note, adequate health care in this country is not an obvious priority. I had a horrible time in an area hospital’s ER section).

There was a young guy sitting across from me and he was rolling himself a blunt – and if I have to explain that, you can stop reading. I didn’t stare at him as he was rolling as to not make him uncomfortable for doing something highly illegal in such a public forum. It dawned on me to ask him was he registered to vote. The tension was thick at first because he seemed as if he was already high but as it eased, he did answer me.

“Yeah, I did it because some girl pressed me to do it plus she was cute."

So I asked him, “Do you think you’ll be at the polls this Election Day?"

“Maybe I will and maybe I won’t. I ain’t decided yet - It’s not like it matters, right?"

That’s pretty much where I’m left when trying to reach out to the so-called Hip Hop and Y generation. This same pitiful but understandable apathy existed when I was doing voter registration drives and outreach in 2000. I tried explaining to him the power of his choices, and what we as a nation went through in the late sixties to achieve that right. The uncanny thing is that I can recall having numerous conversations of the same tone in the fall of 2000 with the so-called Gen-X kids (of course, we’re the old heads now). As you can tell, I’ve never been fond of the whole generation titles. I cannot do this again in 4 more years, this constant repeating of myself. I’m going to try and implement new strategies by the time the next election cycle comes around. By then, I’ll be in my mid-thirties and as comfortable as I am with that I hope that apathy’s stronghold on the minds of America’s youth is lessened by the power of information.
As the bus ride nears an end, I give the kid the address to our website as he did say he’s able to get online. I told him that if he ever wants to talk about anything of a political nature to take my e-mail. He did so, although he was as responsive as a snail. I’m hoping that he takes me up on my offer – even if at the end he still finds himself not at all interested in the process. But where do we help them turn the corner and show them that this inaction is precisely what many expect of them? How do we get them to realize they have power in their numbers?

It has become my own personal Rubik’s Cube of sorts – my own frustrating puzzle that I’ve come to almost despise. However, I will not allow this to be a defeat. I believe all of us at MfA and similar organizations are doing the best we can. The only thing we have on our side is the ability to teach and the advent of change.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Voting Is Cool, Learning Why Is Even Cooler

"I urge hip-hoppers to vote on Nov. 2, but we don’t have anyone to vote for, yet" – KRS-1 at the State Of Hip Hop and Politics forum in Detroit, MI

I apologize to readers and crew but I’m recovering from a knife wound and I haven’t been able to sit in front of the PC to deliver the goods. I’ve been playing catch up on the news and I came across the above quote from the Blastmaster from his visit to Detroit . Interestingly enough, it is a common refrain amongst the apathetic and disinterested. For the latter, I can assume where that feeling stems from: lack of connection. The presidential debates had little connective power with the politically-charged youth movements across the nation. And to be frank, Kerry and Bush gave off about as much heat as dying bonfire. Many of the active Hip Hop heads couldn’t possibly feel as though the president and his opponent are considering their involvement in this November’s critical election. It’s distant and esoteric banter, void of any semblance of passion or measurable focus. This shtick will not fly in four more years; I hopefully dream that many of our more astute minds will have passed on those nuggets of political knowledge to the generations to come.

Well, it’s apparent that not everyone follows Russell Simmons’ flute blindly. A Wisconsin group of protesters was steadfast on holding The Mogul responsible for his newfound political passion and questioning the sincerity of the efforts. Good points are definitely introduced in this article from Dustin Block of The Journal Times. There is an overwhelming national agenda with many of these Hip Hop/Black/Youth voter movements. But there is little discussion on how to maximize the grassroots efforts and resources. As I’ve heartily maintained all my life, politics is much more exciting – and tangible – on a state and local level. That’s where we need to turn all this focus on – the times after the big election.

Is Hip Hop bigger than politics? Sean “P Diddy" Combs seems to think so . I’ve been impressed at how quickly Puffy has followed the footsteps of The Mogul and has made himself at the very least sound like he knows what he’s doing. There will always be a hesitation on my part with Combs (does anyone remember in 2000 when Combs was at a Hamptons voting drive party yet not registered himself?). In fact, I’ll have a decided amount of doubt with any public or famous figure who involves himself in the political process for the rest of my years. This isn’t to say that I don’t want Hip Hop political organizations or youth-centered movements to flourish. What we do at MfA is very much about that so I support the notion. But we cannot be taken for granted in this and every upcoming election from here on out.

As dour as I may sound, I think this piece from Michael Arceneaux shares a sentiment I often echo (and I’m glad I’m not alone): voter education. Even I could stand to brush up on that part of deal so it should be equally stressed as the voting. The bottom line is that we need to involve ourselves totally to this process. Just as we are committed to wearing slick slogan t-shirts and put on concerts, we need to make sure that dedication materializes beyond November 2nd.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Young People & Voting: Reaching Them Where They Are

It seems like our good buddy Hans Zeiger is showing his true blue colors again. In this column from the conservative super-boy (who seems to relish bad press so I won’t go shining him up too much this go-round), we’re invited yet again to his twisted philosophies and ideals. This whole “voting is a privilege‿ deal that our boy Hans is stuck on is mired in the same divisive and unilaterally snobbish conservative mindset that has set back many of his fellow conservatives for decades now. How can you place worth on a person based on what they may or may not know? Not everyone is as plugged into politics as many of us who write about it are. And it’s for good reason because much of what we report and discuss in our columns and articles is of a very esoteric nature. It seems in Mr. Zeiger's twisted utopia, no voter would’ve ever committed a felony and they’ve been exposed to the political rat race at an early age. Zeiger is a rarity – a young person with a sharp, if dangerously narrow, vision. He is certainly not a mainstream person and seems to be quite proud of it.

His worship of this lauded “republican government‿ is frightening. His high order of morality is equally as frightening. Now I do agree with him on one front: There is an hidden emphasis on all the wrong things that this democracy has to offer (freedom to do whatever, it seems). However, he articulates an almost perverse need to toss all of these singing MTV kids into the fire and brimstone. It mirrors a sort ethnic cleansing in some way.

I’ve often groaned at the academic approach to Hip Hop (although I too am about undertake the same path albeit I pray to do it differently). There is yet another book that attempts to do just that. That’s The Joint! The Hip Hop Studies Reader features previous works from writers who capture the essence of Hip Hop (more or less) from an educated person’s standpoint – and it’s exactly what we need less of. I’d like to hear more from hardcore participators who don’t have twelve letters after their names. The culture is embedded in me enough as it is – and for other supporters of the culture, academia is not where our culture thrives and grows. It’s the kids in the street we need to reach and they are not going to read any of this, I’m sorry to say. The problem with most movements of a headier nature is that it isn’t realistic to the strugglers – the people who live haggard lives and aren’t as enlightened as others. That doesn’t mean they should be put aside and not catered to. From political activism to Hip Hop education, there is never enough focus on the people that need to be brought along slowly. We sometimes forget that our passion for music and activism isn’t shared commonly.

In Oakland, a Hip Hop summit was held at Laney College this past Sunday featuring former members of the Black Panther Party as speakers. The Bay Area has always been a political hotbed and judging from the article, the security measures were perhaps unnecessarily excessive given the fact that many Panther members are not as dogmatic as they were in the 70s.

Check out this heartfelt piece from Panama Jackson – perhaps a good counter to the ultra-conservatism of Hans Zieger. I’d like to see these two face off in a public forum. Hell, I’d like to see myself square off with Happy Hans. We’ll work on that.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Time Keeps On Tickin': Voting Deadlines, Hip Hop, Politics & You

I don’t want to bog down my week’s blog with discussions of the already heavily discussed Presidential Debate. However, just moments after the debates started I happened to enter an apartment lobby where a heated discussion between a female Kerry supporter and an apparent fan of Bush, a young man. I was never clear on the gentleman’s angle as he was leaving as I entered, but the woman (an attorney, she said) vehemently discounted Bush to anyone within earshot. She raised an interesting point of tracing the transmission of terrorist websites and why they haven’t been located using our “vast IT resources and skills‿. I’m sure, as I said last night in that brief conversation, efforts of that sort are certain to be made with immediacy. I cannot imagine, as this attorney believed, that Bush and the rest of his party leave these sites up as a form of wartime propaganda. What agenda would it serve to torture the public with these beheading websites that taunt our so-called incompetence? Why would anyone use that tactic to insure votes or galvanize troops and the public? As much as I support anyone’s right to voice his or her views, I can’t say I agreed with that at all. Living in the D.C. area, you’re bound to any number of these types of political firefights. It’s good fodder for discussion at the bar at any rate.
With the voting deadlines all but passed, the movement now is focused on insuring voter turnout. We’ve had a number of national and local summits – a summit is taking place today at the University of Pittsburgh – that seem to have gathered the number strength necessary to make a difference. The Hip Hop and youth political movement is now a weekly news item in many papers across the country. Just as it was in 2000, the melding of movements and cultures is a hot topic. There was even talk of a month-long event kicking off in D.C. today but I can’t seem to find any links on the subject. It’s encouraging, it’s exciting and it’s definitely necessary.
But it’s nearly not enough.

I try so hard to not sound like a broken record but I was right in the midst of the media hype in 2000 surrounding this new Hip Hop and politics movement. I was a part of it as well and I’ve been let down by the lack of sincerity shown since then – even by people who know are the main voices representing the movement. I’m a big skeptic, I realize it now more than ever but I have to be in order to keep myself aware of what is to transpire. I’m not sure what’s going to happen next month but form here on out, I’m making sure everyone I know isn’t just satisfied with sending in those registration cards. I’m going to annoy the hell out of them to get to the polls and finally make a change. After the election, I intend to check up on all these Hip Hop political fusions and PACs to see if they’re really serious about empowering people through the power of voting and democracy. Focused political education and awareness shouldn’t just be a necessity; it should be an expected right.

It’s not about the numbers anymore. It’s preparing future generations to understand it’s more than just picking one over the other. Educate yourselves and inspire others.