(Yes I Still use words like dope)
Omi’s note: this particular post is dedicated to those who think that hip hop is dead. It isn’t. I have the wonderful opportunity to witness dope instances where I have witnessed hip hop at it’s finest. Pretty much, we can either sit there and complain about it or go out there and do something.
Continue reading Dope personal hip-hop moments
Already a hit in Europe, the rest of world now has the pleasure of discovering the Detroit duo on their debut release, Triple P. It may have a throwback-soul vibe, but with friends such as Jay Dee and SA-RA contributing, this is a futuristic hybrid of sound. Waajeed is a founding member of Slum Village and Saadiq is nothing short of a master musician, making their works full, warm and satisfying. The improvised, yet calculated beats and rhymes bring a shiver of essential energy that is addictive. Act like you know.
Jeff Chang is a powerhouse. He is a hip-hop activist, father, proud male feminist and author of the authoritative book Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation. Can’t Stop is a must-read—with an introduction by the legendary DJ Kool Herc, and chapters spanning from the history of Bronx street gangs all the way to Ice Cube’s “Death Certificate” LP—once you pick it up, you can’t stop reading and you won’t stop learning.
Continue reading And It Don’t Stop: Documenting Hip-Hop’s Power and History
There are quite a few people who feel that music that is created to raise the consciousness of a particular community is irrelevant in the age of what William C. Bansfield calls the post-album age wherein the music created is commercially driven and marketed to a specific segment of society. Wise Intelligent, the front man for the influential hip-hop group Poor Righteous Teacher, always felt and continues to feel that he was galvanized by the spirit of the people to take up the mic to educate the masses. It is a tragedy that Wise Intelligent, who penned one of the best odes to Black women with “Shakyla,” is forgotten when it comes to bringing knowledge of self beat up and compressed into hip-hop form. “My thing is to touch through all your books and right into the heart of the man,” Wise Intelligent explains when asked what his mission is, “the natural law is in your heart. Love is the law and mathematics. All teachings are internalized and this is what I try to point out in my music.”
Poor Righteous Teachers (PRT) came on the scene in 1990 with the classic single “Rock This Funky Joint.” These Trenton, New Jersey natives dropped jewels made available from the teachings of Clarence 13X (affectionately known as Father Allah in the Nation of Gods and Earths) behind sparse and head nodding tracks. During the 1990s, PRT remained consistent with four albums which provided heavily needed knowledge and calls to uplift the Black community. What made PRT and Wise Intelligent so digestible is that they did not come off as preachy. Their aim was not to reach the college heads, but to reach the sisters and brothers on the corner. “I was locked up as a young man,” Wise explains, “this experience provided me the understanding of freedom. Freedom is very necessary. Crimes we were committing we were inflicting on our own people. We realized we were part of a problem because we were not helping our people. Then I came upon the lessons which gave us a black nationalistic foundation to begin to love our people. The state of the people today is what makes a group like PRT or Wise intelligent possible. When you have lawlessness, you need righteousness.” With this motivation, Wise Intelligent has written timeless joints that can be played for the young bloods and the grandparents as well. In his lyrics, Wise Intelligent has challenged, loved, inspired, and fought for his people.
Ironically Wise Intelligent, whose skill is matched by few, is never mentioned in the several questionable lists put out by numerous publications. “I guess I was the 51st MC,” he chuckled, ”the Source had 110, I must’ve been number 111th. It’s hard to understand why but I don’t dwell on it. I don’t force it. I write according to the time I write. The people need more. I am writing to that 19 year old whose mother is in jail. I’m writing to the sister who has to feed her children.” For Wise Intelligent, commitment does not stop at the mic. Currently, he is working on a book about brothers on the corner who decide to use their street prowess for revolutionary means in the same vein as Sam Greenlee’s Turk Freeman in The Spook Who Sat by the Door. He is also developing a youth organization that promotes everything from knowledge of self to literacy to savings and investment centered around the concept of LOVE, LIFE, LITERACY. In the meantime, Wise Intelligent will add to his discography with his upcoming album, “The Talented Timothy Taylor.”
Zori4 (Crews: KD, OBW, MI, TDS) is a true mistress of the graffiti language. Hailing from the warm tropical island of Puerto Rico, with its colorful sunsets and reggaeton riddums, the island has secretly influenced the New York hip-hop scene since the birth. Zori4 is like no other born-and-bred Puerto Rican first lady; she reigns with original styles that move on the wall and into your mind. She is extremely polite and sweet with a brilliant sense of humor, progressing the standards of the “female graffiti writer” through superior can control.
Zori and I first met after she won the 2002 Pro Am’s Black Book competition in Miami. We wrote back and forth for two years until finally meeting up again in New York to paint at the Harlem graffiti hall of fame in 2004. Afterward she flew to Paris to be part of the Kosmopolite Festival, which gave tribute to female graffiti writers.
After years of dedication and accomplishment (and a long list of press from her graffiti career), she is a sculptor, an honor student and a graphic designer. She reflects on her struggles, stating, “In the beginning it was hard because I was introducing myself into a man’s world, like a girl trying to enter the NBA. They didn’t think I was going to last in graffiti, but I survived.”
Zori’s focus is strictly piecing, which is a term for a graffiti writer whose only focus is on the lettering. She admits, “I honestly don’t paint characters because I want to focus on the pieces. For me, letters are the more important point in graffiti and the characters are the complimentary element. A graffiti wall can be a graffiti wall without characters but not without letters.”
Always with wise words, she encourages originality. “I want to make my pieces strong and to show the feelings I have, to express how I am. To be stable, stylish, with the hidden strength and power our feminine intuition has – our fury inside, the red and fire.”
Rappers often publicize the fact that they sleep around, but rarely mention using protection. AIDS is beginning to take a major toll on our community, so twenty-seven year old Deesha Dyer decided to change all that when she created Cover Your Lover (CYL) in October of 2003. “I started CYL because hip-hop is my love and I was always at shows and concerts where sex was a focus through lyrics or dances or whatever, so I felt the need to just give out protection and inform people of the disease – let them know it’s still out there.” An activist and journalist, Dyer’s CYL program encourages young fans of the hip-hop community to practice safe sex. However, Deesha feels that writing about AIDS is not enough. “My focus in reaching the community is through physical contact. I know that I’m most effective through my program, not through writing about it.” For the past two years, Deesha has attended hip-hop concerts and passed out “protection packets” which consist of two condoms, lube and information about diseases, as well as places to get tested. “It inspires me and other people to do more, not only in the realm of HIV, but throughout the entire community.” Outside of the party scene, CYL goes to high schools and juvenile programs across Philadelphia to talk about safe sex, STDs and abstinence. Nevertheless, Deesha is realistic about current attitudes surrounding abstinence. “I encourage abstinence 100%! But I also know that most of my demographics are having sex, so I’m not going to waste the precious time I have with them preaching abstinence.”
Since CYL started, there have been a few changes in the hip-hop community. Now BET is using the “Knowing is Beautiful” slogan, and although Deesha believes CYL had nothing to do with those slogans, she feels there is a need for more change. “Could you imagine if they had a show dedicated to safe sex?” This is why she plans to push CYL so that bars and clubs have condoms in their facilities at all times. She also has plans to start a scholarship fund for students whose parents are HIV positive, a teen testing program and even has aspirations of embedding CYL in different cities. “More young people are getting tested, using protection. I’ve got our name out there as an organization that people can depend on for information. I just want people to be aware. It’s what I was called to do.”
Until those industry suckas get it right, Jean Grae is gonna keep pushing LPs and pushing the limits of what exactly classifies a “female MC.” The underground rap prodigy has been gradually leading up to her next album by releasing numerous mixtapes—her latest, Hurricane Jean: The Jeanius Strikes Again, a compilation featuring a horde of guest MCs cosigning Grae’s lyrical capabilities.
Continue reading Hurricane Jean: The Jeanius Strikes Again!
In this dimly lit nightspot, an intimate setting jam-packed with a crowd anxious to hear their favorite underground emcee rip the mic, two individuals await. One is a female waiting to perform and the other is her male manager, who listens intently backstage. As if being with a female weren’t difficult enough, these men must also undertake the struggles their women endure trying to penetrate the rap game as a serious artist. Added to that, a female rapper’s relationships with men are often the emotional root of her music.
In a relationship where the female is involved in the male-dominated profession of emceeing, the affiliation can be a case of role reversals. Rap has always really been a man’s world, where rappers revolt aggressively and declare their manhood – marking their territory and stressing loyalty to the streets in the name of masculinity. When females take on this role or try to enforce a different position, problems arise. “The love in hip-hop is over men, crew love, brotherly love. It’s very sort of ancient Greek. It really doesn’t allow a lot of room for women,” states Toure, a hip-hop writer and former co-host of MTV’s Spoke N’ Heard. “Hip-hop is, at its essence, is boys, not men, but boys talking about what they do for and with boys.”
Jean Grae’s fiancé Colin also plays manager to the indie femcee who refuses to compromise her style for the mainstream. He is no doubt frustrated as Grae attempts to penetrate the Rap arena on a major scale. Eve’s ex-boyfriend of two years, producer Stevie J, was seen frequently wrapped on the arm of the Philadelphia bombshell, always in the shadows of her celebrity despite his own musical success. Prior to their mutual separation, Eve told MTV News, “Our relationship is great…I’m behind him all the way. I pray to God it doesn’t mess us up. We feel as if we have a strong bond and strong love. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. I think we’ll be all right.” But was Stevie J as committed to the relationship? On her sophomore LP Scorpion, Eve raps in “You Had Me, You Lost Me,” (which Stevie J produced) “Sneaking numbers out my phone / calling bitches on the cell / what the hell / clunky bitches one on the scale.”
What about male rappers who get involved with female rappers? Doesn’t happen often due to the lack of female emcees to pick from. But the most known male emcee/female emcee relationship would probably be between the deceased Notorious B.I.G. and Lil’ Kim. The two secretly (and later publicly) romanced each other in the 90s, after which Kim admitted to being in a relationship with B.I.G. while he was still married to R&B singer Faith Evans. Either way, one certainty is that being the significant other to a female emcee is not an easy role, whether in or out of the business.
Continue reading My Woman's An Emcee
Sometimes listening to music takes you back to a moment in your life that you can taste, touch and even smell. What three songs would definitely be in the soundtrack to your life?
Eric B. Is President takes me back to Bergtraum High School talent shows. I was a funny freshman chubette. Never had gear or was the cute, but on stage I redeemed all the chubby broke chicks by dancing my ass off! Everyone screamed my name and that was like crack for me. Now you can’t keep me off stage or the dance floor. Georgia Ann Muldrow’s Worthnothings EP is some of the richest, most honest music I’ve heard. If Bjork was southern fried, raised on hip-hop & soul, that would be Georgia. She’s the modern Stevie Wonder. Her song “Demise” is my life right now, “Dying would be easier than stepping up to the plate.”
If you could have a dinner date with one person who has transcended this life who would it be? What would you talk about?
I’d talk about biscuits and catfish with Madame Zora Neal Hurston. Her vision was so grand, and her work so ballsy that it inspired the greats: Hansbury, Morrison, and Walker. I’d say, “Zora, how’d you do it all and not go nuts? Did you have to forsake love for your art?” She loved hard too. I’d also apologize for us letting her die broke. Then I’d butter some biscuits for her.
Jeans, pants or skirts? T-shirts, tanks or blouses?
Good fitting jeans are like crack. But I love my energy in flirty circle skirts, with Converses or flip-flops. I feel femme power in them joints…throw on some big earrings and I’m good. Oh, and tanks baby! Provided I’ve hit the gym and I ain’t jiggling like Ethel Merman.
Greatest hip-hop quotable?
“You’re like a hip-hop song, ya know,” Q-Tip, Bonita Applebaum. What a great fucking compliment!
Radha Blank is a writer, teacher, comedian and actress from New York City.
Continue reading Radha Blank
Over the past two years, a group of women from St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota gathered together weekly at Intermedia Arts to develop the idea and concept for B-Girl Be. By the winter of 2004, they had finally raised enough money to produce a first-of-its-kind women in hip-hop summit.
From April 22 to June 11, 2005, the doors of Intermedia Arts opened for the Twin Cities community of all ages and cultures to celebrate women’s accomplishments in all elements of hip-hop.
B-Girl Be: A Celebration of Women In Hip-hop was a place to make connections, build confidence, sharpen skills, and to gain access to the tools to create music, film, poetry, rap, aerosol art, and dance.
Outdoor Graf Exhibit