Magnolia 2/ Hotel Level 2
Special Feature Presentation
“Hip-Hop and the Politics, Hip-Hop and Race“
Bakari Kitwana –Public Intellectual, assisting what academics are doing; runs “Rap Sessions”, www.rapsessions.org, and organization trying to go back to “old school” – scholars, activists, artists that travel the country
(Note: an interesting conversation about the intersection of hip-hop culture and attempts to engage youth politically. Hip-hop – non mainstream, not what we hear on the airwaves – provides avenues for engagement, ways of talking to youth. Kitwana’s RapSessions are interesting too because these bring together artists, journalists and rap performers.)
• works with hip-hop artists and scholars, a way of changing the equation
• showed clips first, then an interview
Q & A
Q.: Is hip-hop relevant? Commercial hip-hop only pushes people to be sexually active.
BK: Yes, because nothing else has evolved that is not totally controlled by “some” aspect of the mainstream. Hip-hop could be a random way of communicating with each other. Chuck D said that hip-hop is Black America’s CNN. Globally, hip-hop is being used creatively.
Q.: Why do white kids love hip-hop? It’s said that 80% of all hip-hop is bought by white kids — what is their responsibility?
BK: It’s never been documented that 80% is the number. No one really knows. Currently, there’s a rise of hip-hop activism on college campuses. I see it. I visit many campuses year ’round; they’re usurping political action committees. This is a multiracial movement. Hip-hop exists as a political vanguard right now.
Q: The National Hip-Hop Convention, how did it come about?
BK: It started when students began working and protesting against apartheid in South Africa. That’s the era of the Third World Press and the advent of Henry Louis Gates and I knew that I knew more, much more about hip-hop then Gates could ever. It was also the era of Dan Quayle and his “American Values” campaign. When I went to The Source, I began working and writing on closer relations between artists and politics. I wanted — we wanted — to bring a closer relationship and political awareness to the new generation through hip-hop. This was the beginning of an idea about convening a national convention. At first, no one thought the idea good — but then things changed and we sat around a table — journalists, political activists, muscians, and the idea gained traction.
Q.: How is hip-hop used for political activism?
BK: the actual political organizing of youth happened around the Kerry run for presidents and it evolved, 2004-06. The crux of my new book is about this so I went and interviewed young political organizers to see how this is done and where we might go from here. The problem now is that you have a Black man in office and young people might say, “What now?” The time is crucial now and we only have a small window to keep young people’s heads in the game. The questions now are — “where are young people today?” and “how do we keep them engaged?