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

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Write Us Off

I’ve certainly lamented in recent days of the quiet that seemed to overtake the once robust Hip Hop and politics frenzy. As recent as last week, some exciting and enriching things have been happening on that front – some in my own back yard and I’m hearing little about it. The cameras aren’t as invasive as they were when this sort of thing was a sexier news item – i.e., pre-election hype. The Hip Hop voting and activism sector will not be overlooked after the next two years and we can expect more of the same old thing: a so-called unified collaboration to get folks in line with being participants in democracy. 2000, 2004, 2008; get used to the cycle of media attention, folks.

It is a shame I missed the 2005 TransAfrica Annual Foreign Policy conference held at the University of Maryland this past Saturday. I wish I knew this was happening as it is the sort of activity I need to be around in order to make sense and order of what’s happening within the confines of political activism and Hip Hop. If they’re to be conjoined, I want to know every how and why as to how it’s faring. I do recognize that those of us who have the ability to reach wide audiences are usually celebrated for our prowess – many seem to think we’re pontificating braggarts defending a non-culture and farce of a musical genre. Even as influential as Hip Hop is and how attractive that is to those who want to promote sincere grassroots messages through the culture and music, there are many critics who live to depict Hip Hop as a vehicle for societal demise.

This is why the story of Lavie Raven’s University of Hip Hop in Chicago is precisely the kind of story those critics need to witness. Mr. Raven, the minister of Hip Hop, teaches inner city Chicago youth the beauty and creativity of Graffiti art – and Chicago has many famous Graf writers who have crafted amazing pieces on some of the abandoned (and sometimes active) trains on their local transit system. Sure, it’s not high-brow stuff to some but these kids are learning about an important start to the culture that currently dictates what’s fresh and hip to nations abroad.

And then there are the efforts of the L.I.F.E. group at the University of California in San Diego which students can come together and learn about Hip Hop culture and all the many facets that exist within it. There are so many of these small collectives and units across the country – each with their own unique spin but common goal of using Hip Hop for more than a way to brag about their gains to a beat. There are educational merits and positive social mobilization present in these groups. There’s always this doom and doldrums discussion about what Hip Hop has become but I truly believe that these groups showcase successfully what Hip Hop should and will ultimately be. No, this change will be far from sudden but everything indicates that we’re moving in the right direction.


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