This past weekend I had the honor of moderating a panel discussion on hip-hop and youth activism. The panel consisted of musical artists: Invincible, Rhymefest, Jasiri X, Dana Lynn, Fresco and BBU. The reason I call this opportunity an honor is because I had the chance to have a frank discussion with some of the industry’s most conscious minds about how hip-hop can be used as a tool to mobilize communities. During our panel discussion we debated intergenerational conflicts within social movements, misogyny, and agenda-setting all within the context of contemporary hip-hop.
Panelist and rapper, Invincible, spitting a few bars.
While most “conscious” or “politically radical” hip-hop heads are usually absolutely repulsed by the elementary rhyme schemes and derogatory lyrics of trap artists like Wacka Flocka Flame, Gucci Mane, and Three 6 Mafia, the panelists seemed to have a soft spot in their hearts for them. For many of these panelists, the words spoken by these artists are mere narratives of the life experiences of the respective emcees. However, the panelists were still critical of the perpetuation of misogyny. When asked how to end misogyny in hip-hop, Rhymefest said that women need to stop buying rap albums that spew it. His rationale was that if women stop financially supporting misogyny, rappers would somehow see the light. I don’t know if exactly agree with that, but hey I’m no hip-hop insider.
BYP Blogger and Rapper Jasiri X talking about hip-hop’s political power
Another interesting point of discussion was on the topic of intergenerational conflicts within community organizing. Most panelist agreed that the old way of doing things, was no longer the most effective way to get young people fired up and civically engaged. Yet, they all understood that it is important to learn from elders who had paved they way. Ironically, a brief spat broke out when an older gentleman from the audience accused the panelists of not understanding the totality of what previous Chicago civil rights activists had done. He then began to lecture the group of hip-hop heads on why they should have read “Black Metropolis”.
This incident speaks to a larger, and in my opinion, important issue within community organizing. There seems to be a rift in understanding and lack of respect for young folks from their elders. About 40 percent of black youth indicated in the Black Youth Project survey that they believe that Black people over 40 do not respect them. While I’m not suggesting the gentleman at the forum didn’t have respect for youth, I am saying that it seemed as if he wasn’t fully accepting of the differences strategies youth are now taking to engage in politics and community organizing.
The thought-provoking discussion was capped off with a concert in which all the panelist performed their very political and at times controversial songs. Yet, in a room full activists, leftists scholars, and radical artists the only controversy was deciding who was going take the baton from the old vanguard to lead the revolution.