Contents; DJ Kool Herc DJs his first block party (his sister’s birthday) at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, Bronx, New York; 4/9 Hip-Hop Is Resistance Against The Inequalities In Society; 10/15 Inside the Early Days of the Hip-Hop Scene in the Bronx; 15/23 How the Black Panthers Influenced Today’s Music & Fashion Culture; 24/31 The New Anthems of Resistance: Hip-Hop and Black Lives Matter; 32/35
Revisiting the Golden Era of Hip-Hop with Photographer with Lisa Leone; 36/45 Hip Hop: Living Culture or Commodity; 46/49 Hip Hop as Global Resistance to Opression; 50/53 Walk This Way; The Commodification of HipHop; 54/57
DJ Kool Herc DJs his first block party (his sister’s birthday) at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, Bronx, New York
13 August 1973: Number 1 in our series of the 50 key events in the history of R&B and hip-hop music Article by - Angus Batey
Considering the event is thought to be the birth of a globe-spanning, music-based culture almost half a century old, the ambitions that lay behind it were endearingly modest. Cindy Campbell just wanted to raise a bit of money before the new school term began to buy some clothes from boutiques on Delancey Street, 10 miles south on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, rather than wear the same clothes as her classmates who’d be shopping nearer home. So she hired the first-floor recreation room of the 100-unit apartment building
they lived in, at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, and threw a party. The main attraction? Her 16-yearold brother, Clive - his height and muscles earned him the nickname Hercules - and his record collection. The flyer was hand-drawn, on lined index file cards. “A DJ Kool Herc Party,” it read, in a quick pencil approximation of the elaborate spray can slogans then appearing all over the Bronx: “Back to school jam.” The 9pm-4am party wasn’t going to break anyone’s bank: admission charges were 50c for “fellas”, 25c for ladies. Clive and Cindy’s
dad got the drinks from a local cash-and-carry; their mum made some food. Clive’s friend, Coke La Rock, decided to shout out names of other friends over the drumheavy introductions and instrumental breakdowns Clive had decided to play. The room held 300 people; they all had a great time. No one had heard of DJ Kool Herc before that night: the next day, he was famous across the Bronx. Soon, he’d be hailed as the architect of an entirely new music. Herc’s playlist was eclectic, and paid little heed to the trends of
the day. A recent not-quite-hit such as It’s Just Begun by the Jimmy Castor Bunch became an anthem for what was soon a large and growing audience. He’d play James Brown, but not the singles – rather, raw cuts from live albums. And when he came across a record with the right ingredients, it didn’t matter what genre it came from - English prog rockers Babe Ruth and the Edgar Winter Group’s Frankenstein got spun in Herc’s sets, too.
By 1974, Herc was playing outdoors in the summer – in Cedar Park, where the decks and sound systems drew power from streetlights. But he was also getting booked at Bronx clubs, and one night he decided to spin the percussion breakdown from two copies of the same record one after the other, effectively replaying the break and extending it. The record was either Bongo Rock or Apache, by the Incredible Bongo Band. “And when I extended the break, people were ecstatic, because that was the best part of the record to dance to, and they were trippin’ off it,” he said in 1997. Part of the reason Herc’s innovations had such impact was that they happened amid a wider cultural explosion. The promoter and scenester Fab 5 Freddy would later codify DJing, MCing, breakdancing and graffiti as the four elements of hip-hop – proving, Freddy argued, that this wasn’t just a craze, but a fully fledged culture. Herc says that the dancers he dubbed B-boys were inspired by James Brown – “That’s the king, the A-1 B-boy; way back, in ‘68 or ‘69, whenever you went to a party there was always some
good dancers” – and graffiti tags were widespread in New York by 1971. The DJing came next, with Herc vying for pre-eminence mid-decade with the other two members of hip-hop’s founding holy trinity, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. The rappers were the last to emerge, so Coke’s innovations on 13 August only hinted at the style that would complete the cultural cypher. Never a showman on the decks, never a rapper or producer, Herc missed out on the money. His innovations created an art form that brought fame and fortune to the thousands who followed him, yet in January 2011 he was forced to seek donations from friends, fans and well-wishers to pay his medical bills. In 2007 he campaigned, successfully, for 1520 Sedgwick Ave to be officially recognised as hip-hop’s birthplace; today he campaigns for universal healthcare, this first street party was the catalyst for may more Bronx street parties to come. Whether he knew it or not, this small step kickstarted the ball rolling of what we know as HipHop today.
Hip-Hop Is Resistance Against The Inequalities In Society
From Uprise to Downfall
five Boroughs of New York, o when I tell people and in other places around that hip-hop can save the country, other people and the world, I am usually groups were experimenting met with confused with mixing records, speaking looks, blank stares or people rolling their eyes. But it’s true. over songs, usually during break beats or instrumental Hip-hop can fight against portions of the songs (which racism, sexism and other would later be known as injustices. First step is to rapping). forget everything you think Hip-hop’s origins were a direct you may know about hip-hop. result of many socioeconomic I want you to clear out all the factors during the harsh 1970s top billboard hip-hop hits in urban, poor New York City, from your iPod. Delete all the especially in Jay-Z, Eminem, YG, Drake, Kid “Hip-hop’s origins were immigrant Ink, Tyga and a direct result of many AfricanAmerican all the other socioeconomic factors and Latino autotune, mass during the harsh 1970s communities. produced, in urban, poor New York Hip-hop was overpolished, born out consumerist, City” of a lack of mysoginistic, opportunities for poor black mindless, heartless, cultureless dance beats sold to and brown young people. The reality of a lasting you as hip-hop. white supremacist legacy, Hip-hop did not start with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre in the shutting people of color out of unemployment and in 1990s. Hip-hop began in the to incarceration. Hip-hop South Bronx in 1973 when DJ concretely gave these people Kool Herc and his sister coorganized a birthday party and opportunities of financial/ cultural creativity and what DJ began spinning records. This Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, was, arguably, the beginning Grandmaster Flash and of what would later be called countless other pioneers of the music and culture of hipthis new culture created was a hop. Now, throughout the
way for people to make, enjoy and potentially financially survive off of throwing shows, playing gigs, selling records and becoming artists. Since its creation, hip-hop has not just been about survival. It has been a culture of resistance. Artists from the very beginning such as Melle Mel, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run DMC, Public Enemy and X Clan have always focused on challenging the status quo and raising awareness on racism, mass incarceration and oftentimes capitalism itself as a devastating political economy. Hip-hop as a form of cultural resistance continues till this very day with groups and individuals such as Lauryn Hill, Cihuatl Ce, Dead Prez, Lupe Fiasco, Blue Scholars, Low-key and many others whose content range from much-needed reform to flatout revolution. The late-great cultural theorist Stuart Hall spoke critically on the fluidity, the â€œconstant transformation,â€? of culture. Hall often spoke on culture not being a static thing but something that
exists in a state of constant change. Fast-forward 41 years later and much has changed in hip-hop since its birth, which is to be expected. Certainly hip-hop challenged the traditional way of doing business under capitalism but it most certainly did not dismantle it, or want to and it is precisely because of hip-hopâ€™s ability to survive, to teach survival, to unite people, to give an expression for oppressed people, that it can be used as a culture of challenging oppression while raising consciousness. In this way, hip-hop is a gun, and in the right hands, it can be a tool for liberation. But in the wrong hands, like the uncritical mass media, it can be a tool of destruction. Instead this once great means of voice and expression for the oppressed has now transformed in to a capitalist commodity where change is no longer important, money is the sole aspects that drives the majority of artists.
Hip-Hop is not the music of resistance that is once was. These claims are outrageous? Not exactly, deconstructing mainstream hip-hop begins with understanding how hip-hop culture has been appropriated and turned from a force that challenged the status quo of traditional mainstream music into another product of capitalistic sedation. It is no apparent surprise that hiphop music and artists, like all celebrities, are used to massmarket products. Check out 50 Cent and his ad for Vitamin Water or how about Kanye West and his endorsement of Ciroc? Not only that, P Diddy is actually Ciroc’s brand ambassador. Jay-Z even went as far as
creating his own brand of vodka, Armadale. Jay-Z’s marketing doesn’t stop with his vodka brand. Jay-Z has a song titled “Tom Ford” in his latest album, “Magna Carta Holy Grail.” Now that’s some blatant but smart advertising. Essentially, hiphop has been commodified. A culture that once challenged mainstream culture and capitalism became another cog in the machine. A hip-hop artist using their power and status to market items is just the beginning. Artists themselves are perpetuating a culture of ignorance. Look at Nicki Minaj’s recent marketing scheme. In order to sell her new single, Lookin’ Ass Nigga, Minaj decided to use a historic image of Malcolm X on the song’s art
cover. While some may argue that itâ€™s not a big deal for Minaj to have pulled this stunt, it is quite offensive for those who understand the story behind Malcolm Xâ€™s picture. The image depicts Malcolm X looking out of a window while holding an assault rifle in his hand. The history behind the iconic image was that Malcolm X and his family were in danger of being attacked because of numerous death threats. Malcolm X was in fear of his life; he was in danger because he was standing up for the right to self-determination of African-American and Minaj blatantly ripped off the picture as an unofficial single art cover. Adding insult to injury, the song itself has next to nothing to do with promoting awareness of
Left - Armadale Vodka Owned by Shawn Corey Carter
the African-American struggle. The Malcolm X picture was just being used as a sad marketing device. Hip-hop evolved from a counter-culture against a racist society to some monstrosity that is a slave to the machine of capitalism. But thatâ€™s why it is necessary to read on in order to understand why hip-hop can still be a weapon against this oppressive system.
Inside the Early Days of the Hip-Hop Scene in the Bronx Sophie Bramley - Photojournalist
During the early 80s, on Saturday nights at the Roxy in downtown Manhattan and at the Bronx River Center, acts like Run-D.M.C., Afrika Bambaataa and Fab 5 Freddy created a totally new scene in New York. French photojournalist Sophie Bramly moved to New York in 1981, when she was just 21, and began photographing it all - when no one else was paying attention. “I guess I was a spoiled brat,” she says. “I was working at top magazines like Paris Match in France and I didn’t realise how rare an opportunity that was. I wanted a change.” After a few months in the city, she saw the New York City Breakers at a party in Union Square - “this bunch of guys took the stage and started spinning on their heads, shoulders and backs. I was just, like, “Wow! What is this? I had to photograph this thing and nothing else
mattered.” For four years she hung out with some of hip-hop’s most legendary pioneers. Her photos, though, look more like snapshots of friends; she shot in artists’ houses as well as in clubs and on the street. They capture all the wild energy of the scenes early years, as well as many of its freshest looks. “My approach was different because we were friends or had friends in common, so I could be trusted,” explains Sophie. “Also, there weren’t a hell of a lot of people who cared about them and what they did. The fact that I was a girl, coming all the way from France, probably helped too.”
Did you know immediately that something important was happening in New York? What was the energy like?
a year to Bambaataa’s Bronx River parties, especially for the anniversaries of the Zulu Nation.
I don’t think I did. And I don’t think many people can analyse a new artistic movement and figure out that it’s going to be important. It had more to do with my instinct. The energy in NYC was mad back then. It wasn’t only the music itself, but also - for me at least - it was the fact that it was a bit transgressive: this was music played in the streets by renegades, outlaws. I probably felt like I was rebelling, too.
There was such a strong look then - how important was what you wore?
Where did you hang out back then? What were the best clubs? I went to the Roxy religiously. I was there from the minute it opened to the minute it closed. It was a huge roller disco in downtown Manhattan that turned into a club once a week, and every hip-hop lover from all five boroughs would be there. It was wild, with incredible DJs (Bambaataa, Red Alert, Jazzy Jay, D.St.) and live acts. It was basically our main spot. Then I would go at least once
Looks were of major importance. They were a form of social status. Everyone had lots of sneakers and they had to be immaculate white (the idea was “I’m rich enough to have new shoes”). They were mainly Adidas and Puma, as were the sweatpants and jackets. Then I think it was Dapper Dan who came up with the genius idea of creating fake monogrammed Gucci and Vuitton fabrics to make custom clothes for artists. And everybody was wearing large 14-carat gold chains, and the girls had gigantic earrings. Was hip-hop affecting social conditions in the Bronx? What role did these artists play in the community? From my perspective, I would say that Bambaataa’s idea of telling kids to stop killing each other and direct that energy into whatever talent they thought
they had turned out to be magic: to this day, the Zulu Nation has an impressive amount of members around the world, who are all still following that idea. So he was probably a major influence in helping kids find better options than becoming gang members. How involved were women in the scene? There were plenty of women in the clubs and at block parties, but very few on stage. The Double Dutch girls were part of the scene, but they were never at the forefront and I don’t believe that any one group ever reached fame. One girl, Peaches, was a pretty famous dancer and appeared in the movie Beat Street. Another one, Pink, was a famous graffiti artist and she was a lead character in the cult movie Wild Style. The Sequence was the hottest girl group, but girls were definitely a minority in the scene. The way men used to see them as either “sisters” or “hoes” probably didn’t help. Women probably felt more comfortable somewhere in between. It took time for women like Mary J. Blige, Salt n’ Pepa, MC Lyte and
others to cut their own paths. How were your images received when you first brought them back to Europe? In Europe, we never had segregation, so instead of looking at black people doing something interesting, people here saw a bunch of kids doing interesting things who happened to be black. That made the whole difference, and it was the main reason why the scene was recognised first in Europe and only much later in the US. I surfed that wave: magazines like The Face in the UK or Actuel in France and Wiener in Germany were happy to show photos from inside the scene, by someone who could also help them understand more about it. After having kept my archives in a drawer for over 30 years, I’m more sensitive to the way people look at the photographs now. Before it was all about being sensational, and now people are moved by the sweetness of it all, I think.
You’ve done so many interesting things since these pictures were taken. What are you focusing on now? And how does it feel seeing the photos in a book over 30 years later? I’ve never had career plans, instead I get moved by things and get carried away by them. In the early 90s, I was all about the Internet, and in the past 10 years it’s been all about women’s sexuality, and now it’s more about transhumanism. After all these years, I can finally see a pattern: empowerment
and intimacy are my main subjects. This book is very important to me because I’ve always wanted to give back the hiphop community some of what I took. I can’t not share their own souvenirs, not give them back the emotion of that moment, when everything was possible and on the verge of changing so many people’s lives.
How the Black Panthers Influenced Today’s Music & Fashion Culture; Hip-Hop & Black Panther Ideologies Article by Houman Zavareh
The reach of the Panthers’ influence did not end in the ’70s nor did it stop at fashion; it was much, much, more powerful. At its core the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, brought forth by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, was a movement that mobilized people of color against the governmentcondoned brutality and social inequity ravaging their communities. Sadly, many of the issues the Panthers combatted were a direct result of deepseeded institutionalized racism, which, on the West Coast, in many ways acted as a surrogate
for the oppressive Jim Crow laws of the South. Though mobilized, resistant and strong, the underhanded tactics of the FBI dealt several near-fatal blows to the Panthers. At one point the party all but scattered and the frustrations felt by the communities that Newton and Seale had sought to defend felt their outlet slipping away. However, there can only be so much pressure behind a levee before it breaks. In one instance, this frustration culminated with a group of young men from the very same region the Panther party had
its roots. These men brought their outrage and pain into America’s living rooms; they called themselves N.W.A and they screamed, “Fuck tha Police!” from the forgotten neighborhoods of Southern California. The Panther’s unbreakable spirit of resistance was not lost on N.W.A, their chosen attire clearly echoed that of the Panthers. Now, black hoodies and toques with Compton hats replaced black berets, while the black shades remained, along with a leather-gloved fist raised defiantly in the air. For
all of the ways the Panthers inspired N.W.A. it seemed that it was iconic moments like the Panthers bearing arms in the Sacramento legislative assembly that influenced N.W.A’s musical output the most.
Meanwhile, groups like Public Enemy and KRS-One made their mark on the East Coast, keeping alive the legacy of the Panthers with music that espoused the party’s core values. Public Enemy, for instance, revived the Panthers unifying message with anthems such as “Fight the Power” and “Power to the People.” Additionally, songs like “Fear of a Black Planet” and “9-11 is a Joke” echoed the problack and resistance-oriented messages associated with Panther rhetoric. KRS-One, who at first embraced a more gritty style, rebranded himself as “The Teacha” after the fatal shooting of his longtime friend and producer Scott La Rock, after which his music became more reminiscent of the socially conscious perspective of the Panthers. Both KRS-One and members of Public Enemy openly credited their politics to the Black Panther Party while also exemplifying the Panthers’ sense of fashion and imitating their style right down to the headwear. The influence of N.W.A, Public Enemy and KRS-One on culture is undeniable. Their body of work in many ways
influenced the development of particular sub-genres within hip-hop. Groups like A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, and Brand Nubian continued in an arguably more “conscious” tradition, while Ruthless and Death Row Records continued the grittier sonic traditions that came to be associated with West Coast gangsta rap. So in some ways, the splintering of hip-hop into different distinctive sub-genres has connections to the varying mythologies surrounding the Panther party. Though Panthers themselves, in their heyday, were able to recognize the importance of equality across the board – be it gender parity, socioeconomic equality, or Civil Rights – certain Pantherinfluenced trends in hip-hop were sometimes less successful. One MC that is often celebrated for his ability to embody several of the mythologies associated with the Panther party is Tupac Shakur. Perhaps his success came from the fact that their influence ran deeper and was much more personal to him than it had been to some of his predecessors. One emcee that is often celebrated for his ability to embody several of the
mythologies associated with the Panther party is Tupac Shakur. Perhaps his success came from the fact that their influence ran deeper and was much more personal to him than it had been to some of his predecessors. Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother, was a prominent member and organizer in the Black Panther Party. Assata Shakur, a woman who Tupac referred to as his auntie, was another prominent member of the party. Assata in particular later became known for her eventual forced flight to Cuba due to a violent encounter with law enforcement that was compounded by a string of other accusations. Today artists like Kendrick Lamar have transcended the label of “urban artists”
and become influencers and challengers of culture as a whole. Kendrick, like Tupac, has the uncanny ability to fuse the fiery resistance-based rhetoric of the Black Panthers with their forward-facing awareness of social issues. Alongside Beyoncé’s seemingly newfound politicism and that of countless other artists and creatives who are taking a stand as activists, the seeds planted by the Panthers a half-century ago are coming to fruition again. But make no mistake; there is nothing new about their influence. What we’re seeing now is merely the continuation of a well-known and longstanding tradition, and we welcome its resurgence with open arms.
“Hip-hop can be a very powerful weapon to help expand young people’s political and social consciousness. But just as with any weapon, if you don’t know how to use it, if you don’t know where to point it or what you’re using it for, you can end up shooting yourself in the foot or killing your sisters and brothers”
The New Anthems of Resistance: Hip-Hop and Black Lives Matter Article by - Alexander Billet
It’s been a year since the death of Michael Brown, a year since the rebellion in Ferguson, a year since the Black Lives Matter movement began to shift the conversation in just about every avenue of American life. That shift can be seen in politics and economics. It can also be seen, perhaps most obviously, in our culture - and in music, in particular. Not surprisingly, hip-hop has led the way - not just through a predictable barrage of tweets by musicians and artists, but a sustained, meaningful wave of creativity and outspokenness engaging with a bold, sometimes-chaotic movement. The examples are many: Run the Jewels’ second album, recorded months before the verdict
letting Officer Darren Wilson off the hook, which tapped into the profound anxieties of “post-racial” segregation, surveillance and police brutality. Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly is being hailed as a masterpiece and is even being taught in college courses. Jay-Z and Beyonce even paid bail for several demonstrators arrested during the Baltimore rebellion. It is no coincidence that performers like Killer Mike and Talib Kweli have emerged as de facto artistic spokespeople for this moment. Those with an awareness of hip-hop history might answer such observations by saying that there are always artists in rap and R&B seeking to distill the spirit of the time down to something poignant
and fresh, if one simply looks beyond “what the radio is playing.” These commentators are, of course, correct. But the context of a movement in the streets has put all of this on a different level. Black Lives Matter has taken the ever-present tensions percolating from centuries of American racism and put them into the center of mainstream consciousness. The same has happened at several key points in modern music’s history (with hip-hop, in particular). Popular artists make themselves meaningful again—not to the
directives of a profit-hungry music industry but to the logic of a movement. That movement, in turn, has engaged with music in a conversation. First came an incident of heavy policing at the Black Lives Matter conference in Cleveland. When police bore down on attendees in response to an alleged incident of public intoxication with pepper spray and handcuffs, demonstrators chanted back the refrain of the most recent single from Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly: “We gon’ be alright! We gon’ be alright!” The incident was more than
a simple act of defiance. The Single “Alright” is something of a keystone on the album, bringing together the album’s tropes—the pain, inner turmoil and rage of American racism— and inverting them into a declaration of uncertain hope. The surreal video follows suit: Lamar and his friends in a car carried by LAPD officers in place of wheels, the artist balancing atop a streetlight before being shot down by a surly cop. The performance of the single at the BET Awards pushed further in that same direction, with Lamar performing in front of
Jumbotron footage of a waving American flag while stomping on a graffiti covered police car. No matter what anyone says about modern day hip-hop artists they still display the same fire and power needed to create change.
Below - Kendrick Lamar Right - Run The Jewels
An Interview With...
Lisa Leone Revisiting the Golden Era of HipHop with Photographer Lisa Leone Lisa Leone witnessed Nas recording Illmatic, the rise of The Fugees and many other key moments of the golden age of Hip-Hop in the 1990s, and she documented the whole era through photograpy.
Interview by - Oliver Lunn Photography by - Lisa Leone
Lisa Leone Bronx, NY
No one who grew up in the 90s knew just how beloved the decade would be to those coming of age some 20 years later. No one thought, “Hey, two decades from now, I bet everyone will be wearing denim jeans and flannel shirts, and talking about Clueless and Kids.” No one knew just how much nostalgia the very sight of a T-shirt with a picture of TLC on it could induce. What we didn’t know back then was just how high we’d be riding the waves of 90s nostalgia in the year 2016. It’s the same for photographer Lisa Leone. She was smackdab in the middle of that era, photographing decade-
defining artists like Nas, The Fugees, House of Pain, Snoop Dogg - yet she had no idea how important her photographs would be as time capsules of the period some two decades later. In her photobook Here I Am, she lassos a selection of these together, capturing the faces that now encapsulate hip-hop’s golden era. I called up Leone to discuss witnessing the genius of Nas first-hand, the energy of New York City in the 90s, transitioning into cinematography and working with the legendary Stanley Kubrick on Eyes Wide Shut.
Back in the early 90s you were photographing artists like Nas and Snoop Dogg. Was there something specific about those artists at that time that you wanted to capture? I think when you’re in a time you don’t realize how important the time is. You’re just kind of like, ‘oh, hey, this is cool!’ In the Illmatic sessions [with Nas] there was definitely a vibe in the studio that something special was going on. You could just see as Nas was rapping, it was like, ‘wow, something special is happening.’ He was like 19 at the time. Were you a big fan of Nas then? Well no one really knew who Nas was, because it was his first album. So I wasn’t a fan yet. I grew up as a B-girl with Rock Steady, with Fabel -- so it was kind of like I was involved in hip-hop before it hit the world, I guess. It was more like a community back then, everyone knew each other, it wasn’t so guarded, it was really open to a creative flow like, ‘hey, what are you doing? There’s a studio, there’s a music video set, could
you do this, could you do that?’ There was an excitement about what was happening. So you were you in the studio with Nas during the recording of Illmatic, what was that like? You could just feel something magical was happening. It was the usual studio thing where people were trying to figure stuff out and whatever, but when he was having those moments where he was on the mic, everybody was just quiet, like, woah, this is just insane. Something was happening and people knew right away. Did the artists you worked with have their own ideas about how they wanted to be portrayed? No. People were a lot less aware of image at the time, I think because there wasn’t all this social media, it was a lot more organic, because it was film, you couldn’t even see the picture. There wasn’t this immediate need to see the image. That feeling hadn’t been born yet. Sure, Grandmaster Flash and Furious 5 had their ideas about
outfits and their image that they wanted, but that’s something different. Did he say much to you? I was there for the day and I remember having a conversation with him about the record company or something. Because he was so young, I remember saying something like, ‘do what you want to do, don’t let anybody tell you…’ not that he was gonna let anybody tell him what to do, but I felt like because I was older, the feeling of seeing this artist and wanting them to do their thing without being parented. In the studio situation, I was taking pictures and once in a while we’d have a quick conversation. You have to remember, at that time there were no phones, there was no digital, it was all film, there were no other cameras, so it was like one person. Now it would have been like ten people and iPhones and constant photographing, you know. It was different back then. Did the artists you worked with have their own ideas about how they wanted to be portrayed?
No. People were a lot less aware of image at the time, I think because there wasn’t all this social media, it was a lot more organic, because it was film, you couldn’t even see the picture. There wasn’t this immediate need to see the image. That feeling hadn’t been born yet. Sure, Grandmaster Flash and Furious 5 had their ideas about outfits and their image that they wanted, but that’s something different. Tell me about the shoot with The Fugees up on the rooftop? We were all up there, and behind me were 25 people running around a rooftop. We were up there filming the “Vocab” video and there was a moment where there was just quiet and I captured the moment. That’s the other thing about the difference between digital photography and film: with film, it’s not about shooting every second and figuring out what you have later. It’s about being in the space and feeling what’s happening at that moment and trying to be a part of that and capture that.
Were music videos or films ever an influence on your work back then? At that point my influences were photographers like Arnold Newman, Cartier-Bresson. I was very interested in reportage, street photography, the work that Arnold Newman was doing photographing artists. Music videos were so new at that time that they weren’t an influence at all, because I feel like we were making them and starting the influence. But then, later, cinema became a big influence for me. Your book Here I Am brings these images together. How do you feel about that time now, looking back? It’s kind of unbelievable. Like I forgot a lot of the pictures I’d taken -- the fact I was in the Illmatic sessions. I’d forgotten that! That’s crazy. My friend who’s younger than I am is a total hip hop head -- and I was just like, let me see what I’ve got. And he was looking over my shoulder and was like,
‘Are you kidding me?! What are these images? WHAT?!’ And I was like, ‘oh I forgot about this.’ That’s cool. Seeing the photos again, there’s all this other stuff -- memories of that time, the energy of New York City -- this nostalgia that’s kind of gone from New York now. And you’re a cinematographer too? Basically I started shooting music videos and then, because I went to work with Stanley Kubrick for four years on Eyes Wide Shut, I stopped shooting music videos. And then when I came back later, music videos were completely different; all of a sudden the budgets were $2 million. (When I was around I shot a TLC video for $250 thousand and that was a huge budget.) So after working with Stanley I started to get into directing. And from there I just went into independent features, documentaries and so on.
Behind Bars Literatue Programme
Hip Hop: Living Culture or Commodity The Proâ€™s & Cons of the Hip-Hop Movement Giving people behind bars an opportunity to write about the topics that mean a lot to them, while doing so providing them with the means to better themselves through creative outputs.
Article by - Inmates at Metropolitan Correctional Center,
here are four main elements that make up what hip-hop culture really is: Break dancing, DJ’ing, MC’ing and Graffiti art. Each element plays a major role in hip-hop. This beautiful culture originated in the Bronx, NY from the oppressed proletarians. The music from this culture was diligently expressed through MC’ing about oppression and the conditions the oppressed people were going through in this capitalist decadent society. It was not about money, cars, jewelry and negativity but as the years went by and white capitalist businessmen saw a fortune in this culture that they could exploit the voices that created hip-hop were greatly silenced. The objectification and commodification of culture often signifies the end of its existence as a culture. However, in the height of imperialism, where the capitalists have learned to fashion their products to niche markets, all cultures will be commodified, and yet the oppressed still need a culture to call their own. Today hip-hop is pretty much considered synonymous with oppressed nation youth culture
even as that culture continues to evolve in many different ways. This is true in the United States, but also true to an extent in many parts of the world today. We put our hope in the oppressed nations because of their objective interests in progressive change. That interest comes through in hiphop culture, as much as the white corporate media and its white consumer audience do to discourage that. Hip-hop developed as a living, dynamic life of a people; oppressed people in North American ghettos. As we’ll touch on below it is still a living evolving culture that has been both adopted and adapted by people around the world. But before going global, hip-hop culture was commodified by white record owners for white consumers. They sold this exotic culture to white youth looking for rebellion and excitement. With hip hop, corporate America could sell a much more sanitized and safer version of Black rebellion to whites and while there were benefits in terms of the building of public opinion around the struggles of the oppressed, this was soon
drowned out in what became a new form of reinforcing racist ideologies.
years of hip hop was a reflection of the conditions that the MC’s saw around them. These images were influenced by machismo Commodification of Hip Hop and other viewpoints that were part of the survival techniques Hip-hop culture began in the of those coming up in that late 1970s, but it wasn’t until environment. As survival also the middle to late 1980s that the required recognizing that the cultural life and expression of system does not work for us, hip hop grew to influence youth this Reality Rap was a reflection throughout America and the of the mass revolutionary spirit world. During the late 1980s and that had fueled the Black and early 90s, the culture continued Brown power movements of the to thrive. In this era, Black previous generation, but this youth further only came with “Black youth further developed their criticisms from developed their voices voices through the state and through hip hop to hip hop to interest from express their anger, fears, higher white express their anger, fears, ideas, art and frustrations consumer ideas, art and powers. within the dominant frustrations White-owned within the dominant whitecorporations saw a profit to be oppressor culture, with its police made and stepped in to co-opt brutality and poverty. the movement. They became Hip hop culture isn’t just about owners of record labels and put the music, it’s about a lifestyle up money so these impoverished - from the clothes we wear, and oppressed people could sell style of hair, taggin’ rail cars their soul and music for crumbs and walls with radical art and while these CEO’s got millions graffiti, unity and more. It’s a upon millions of dollars. culture of resistance. With the help of the rappers, the As Immortal Technique wrote in record labels promoted a onehis article, “Gangsta Rap is Hip sided image of oppressed youth, Hop” a few years back, what was an image that has been pushed called Reality Rap in the early on the oppressed for hundreds
of years - one of uncontrollable libidos, violence, substance abuse and general barbarism. They did this through lyrics about smoking crack, robbing and shooting other Blacks and Latinos in oppressed communities, misogynist raps and raps with no substance. We started to stray away from the four elements and this type of hip-hop started to negatively influence the youth and poison their minds. While culture reflects life, it also influences it. And arguably, the corporatized thug image contributed to the thousands of deaths that plagued south central Los Angeles and other American ghettos in the 1990s. Hip Hop is Dead Until It Takes Up Revolutionary Politics So with this contradiction in the culture of the oppressed came total destruction of the originality and with this concrete analysis there must be change. We must regain the true culture of hip hop, which is based in the real struggles of the people and helps to teach, empower and unite the masses. This culture can be used to ignite the proletariat to support
the revolutionary cause. Culture is an essential element of the history of a people, and itâ€™s social development. Culture in general, and hip hop culture in particular, plunges its roots into the base of the material reality of the environment in which we live in the hoods and barrios and it reflects the organic nature of society, which is more or less influenced by the dominant white society and culture of our oppressed communities. Currently the revolutionary side of hip-hop is not the dominant aspect of the contradiction with the corporate/oppressor side. If hip hop is to transform into a true vehicle for social change, we must demand that our artists keep it a hundred and give us more analysis in their music. Stop promoting the use of addictive narcotics, that they become more active in our communities, and give our youth the encouragement to study, unify, and resist oppression. Hip-hop needs to reflect the struggle, and push it forward. If they fail to do this, hip-hop remains sterile and dead but with this Hip-hop could change the world.
Hip Hop as Global Resistance to Opression;
How Hip-Hop is still to this day a means to fight for your rights, but in places that you wouldnt expect it... Article by - - Iara Lee Activist and filmmaker
In making my documentary film about electronic music, Modulations (1998), I learned a great deal about rap music. The genius of hip hop emerged first as party sport — the urban poor salvaging musical parts to create something entirely new — but soon morphed into an expression of grief and outrage as Ronald Reagan, crack cocaine, and gang violence sewed misery among African American communities, and ghettos from Harlem to Compton sprouted up on the map as MCs defiantly chronicled the uncensored history of Reagan’s America. Now the cat is out of the bag, and hip-hop has since expanded beyond our borders to give voice to the muted masses of places like Gaza, Lebanon, and
Iraq — places suffering from racial inequality and foreign occupation, and the likewise negative fallout of ill-conceived US policies. “Fuck the police coming straight from the underground/ a young nigga’s got it bad cause I’m brown/ and not the other color/ so police think/they have the authority/to kill a minority.” These lyrics spoken by Ice Cube, for instance, could just as easily have been uttered by DAM (Da Arab MCs), a Palestinian hip-hop trio forced to live as “Israeli Arabs” in an Israeli slum. My current film, Cultures of Resistance (out Fall 2010), is an exploration of the variety of activism in a world plagued
with war, oppression and poverty. I pay special attention to creative action, specifically, and in my travels throughout the Middle East I encountered a hip-hop reborn through artists like the Ramallah Underground and Shadia Mansour, both Palestinian, as well as Londonbased Iraqi rapper Lowkey (who are all part of a larger collective known as the Arab League of Hip Hop). Their flows cut deep against the tyranny of Israeli and US occupation of their lands as they call for equality for all people, and reaffirm their Arab identity despite brutal attempts
at cultural erasure. The goal, Shadia said, was to tell the world â€œPalestine is on the map,â€? and always will remain so.
Below - NWA 1989
Fortunately, Shadia and the Mavi Marmara ship and Lowkey are not a rarity. I had the Egyptian government was the opportunity to meet many, pressured to ease the travel many other hip-hop artists ban on DARG and they are now in the region; all of who had touring in Europe and will be stories of a life where to simply coming to the US this Fall. breathe is an act of resistance against cultural obliteration. It is interesting to see how Like Katibe 5. Members of the American policies and their group, consisting of Palestinian calamitous effects have bred youths who grew up in refugee vibrant hip-hop cultures both camps in Lebanon, mused here and abroad. Although philosophically to me on the hip-hop in America has become interconnectedness of the largely dominated by consumer world, and how culture, the roots people everywhere â€œIt is interesting to of the form remain must understand see how American strong and have how their actions, policies and their spread abroad, from or inaction, might ghetto to ghetto, calamitous effects affect others in as a common have bred vibrant far-away places tool of resistance hip-hop cultures both and cultural like Palestine. Another popular here and abroadâ€? affirmation. Will hip hop crew I rap music alone met in Gaza was Da Arabian save Palestine, end the war in Revolutionary Guys who had Iraq, and end colonialism once been unable to tour abroad and for all? Probably not. But since the illegal blockade began. hip-hop has presented itself The blockade, which has long to Arab youth as one of the kept necessary supplies from few tools available to them to reaching the people of Gaza, remind the western world, in its was also designed to keep the own language, that they are still people of Gaza from exporting here, and that they will not be their story to the world. This silenced. has of course changed since Israeli commandos massacred nine humanitarian workers on
Walk This Way; The Commodification of Hip-Hop; Article by - Quentin B. Huff
“I’ll never have dinner with the President,” was one of O’shea “Ice Cube” Jackson’s insults in his song “No Vaseline” against former NWA band mates Andre “Dr. Dre” Young, Lorenzo “MC Ren” Patterson, Antoine “DJ Yella” Carraby, and Eric “Eazy-E” Wright and their manager Jerry Heller. It was 1991 and Ice Cube, citing financial and management issues, had split from the group to launch a solo career. “No Vaseline” was return fire for NWA’s lyrical shots, including the warning on NWA’s Niggaz4Life album that the group would cut Ice Cube’s hair off and sodomize him with a broomstick. Eazy-E had received, and accepted, an invitation to a Republican fundraising luncheon at the White House, during President George H. W. Bush’s term. Apparently, an effective way to discredit those taking an antiestablishment stance is to link
them with the norm, the status quo—the dreaded establishment itself. Therefore, pointing out that a “gangsta” rapper had a meal with the President of the United States was a way to tarnish said rapper’s street cred. It was a diss. Fast-forward to the 21st century and the election of Barack Obama as the 44th US President. There isn’t a hip-hopper around who would diss you for having dinner with that President. Well, maybe Immortal Technique would. Even when we take into account the things that make President Obama distinctive as a president—his ethnicity, the historical and symbolic nature of his election, the rap artists he says he has on his mp3 player—a president, any president is still the president, still part of the government, still a component of what we conspiracy theorists like to call “The Powers That Be”. Somewhere between 1991
and 2008, something changed, something dramatic that made hip-hoppers feel like “insiders” instead of outcasts. Rappers are “players” now, no longer “rebels” or “revolutionaries” who weren’t invited to the game. Some argue that hiphop has deteriorated. Where the “positive” and “uplifting” side of the art once balanced its excesses, the argument is that it has been riddled with violence and moral decay precipitated by its commercial and corporate annexation. First, there are no filters for the products hip-hop can be
used to promote, you can find a rapper to help sell it. As such, the naysayers would argue that hip-hop no longer operates as an art form that serves an underrepresented community. At one point, it provided a mode of expression for the politically voiceless, now it is a vehicle for selling. Becoming spokespeople for a multinational corporation, on the other hand, changes the game considerably, and it’s this type of “change” that warrants this whole discussion. How could a once rebellious art form become the corporate commodity it is today?
How Hip-Hop Got It’s Political Voice Back From N.W.A to M.I.A, Lauryn Hill to Lupe Fiasco, hip hop has long been one of contemporary music’s most politicized genres. But in a landscape once littered with prominent socio-political thinkers like Public Enemy, Mos Def and Dead Prez, in recent years, rappers have stayed a little too late and a little too long in the club. In the wake of the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner and Michael Brown, the times, though, are finally a changing; Game, Common, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar are beginning to make their voices heard… As Chuck once said, It’s time to fight the power! Eric Garner’s last moments echoed the fate of Trayvon Martin, another unarmed black teen, killed two years earlier. Ferguson, the town name now synonymous with these injustices, has sparked international outcry. At demonstrations in Chicago, Toronto and London - 4,000 miles from Ferguson - you’ll see the same thing; Eric Garner’s haunting last words written on placards and clothing: “I Can’t
Breathe”. As well as protests, there’s been a massive creative outpouring from poetry to documentaries, photography to podcasts - this kind of commentary, I expected. But what I didn’t see coming was the protest songs. To me, music hasn’t felt this vital in a long time. “In the late 80s / early 90s, it was widely felt that part of ones duty, if you were a black MC, was to address issues that concerned the black community,” Dorian Lynskey explains, author of 33 Revolutions Per Minute, which documents politically motivated music in the last 50 years, “but taste changed; that fell out of favor. What happens,” he continues “is that something will come along, like Hurricane Katrina, or Ferguson, where the people who are being hurt by racist acts… look like rappers, it’s too close to ignore… They feel obliged to step up and be counted, and actually do a protest song.” Last summer, Roots drummer Questlove wrote an Instagram post, which challenged musicians to “push themselves to be a voice of the times that we live in.” “I really apply this challenge to
ALL artists,” Questlove said, “We need new Dylans, New Public Enemies, new Nina Simones. New De La Rocha’s. New ideas! I mean real stories,” he urged, “Real narratives. Songs with spirit, songs with solutions, songs with questions. Protest songs don’t have to be boring or non-danceable or ready made for the next Olympics. They just have to speak truth.” His call was met. Alicia Keys, Run the Jewels, J Cole, The Game, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Diddy and countless others released protest songs off the back of what happened in
Ferguson. It’s a testament to every artist involved. Protest music might never have really gone away, but it has refigured itself into songs that inspire and excite more than ever. Up-and-coming artists are writing Songs - you want to stream and share them because they’re listenable and they’re cooler than they’ve ever been before. ‘Cool’ won’t bring back victims any more than a song will stop a shooting. But if nothing else, it might just get us to turn up the volume on a subject that we can’t afford to mute.
Editorial by - James Feehan