Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Hip-Hop: Taking Over the World
Last night I had the extreme honor of being in the presence of hip-hop legends: Kurtis Blow, his son Kurtis Blow, Jr., and Common as they joined forces to celebrate the release of a new book that examines the poetic background of hip-hop lyrics. The Anthology of Rap was authored by co-editors Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois who led discussions with the rappers about their start in hip-hop, sources of inspiration, and their vision for the future of the genre.
For me, the most refreshing element of the evening was hearing the methodical ways in which these men approached their careers in rap. Yes, they all rap because the passion for it courses through their very beings. But it is bigger than that. It is bigger than just writing down every thought that comes to mind. It is bigger than simply grabbing a microphone. It is about a certain level of scholarship needed to be well rounded rapper and performer. For Kurtis Blow, studying speech communication in college helped him organize his rhymes. He was able arrange his raps into categories similar to the categories of speeches—political, extemporaneous, etc. In doing so, he was able to produce a debut album that he considers very well-rounded in subject matter. Literary greats such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston provided Common with the drive necessary to write his own songs as well as an overall appreciation for the written word. Growing up with a father who was increasing his stardom in the world of hip-hop, Kurtis Blow, Jr. learned firsthand the techniques needed to become a powerful performer. Rapping from the diaphragm and knowing the proper way to hold a microphone may seem simple, but they can make or break a performance.
As the evening came to a close, the overwhelming consensus was this: Hip-hop is a lot like a human. It is constantly growing and evolving into something different every day. It may not be perfect but it has the power to take over the world. With men such as Kurtis Blow Sr. & Jr, Common, Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois at the helm increasing awareness and advocating hip-hop education, there is no doubt that hip-hop can continue reaching new heights every day.
Left with a renewed sense of appreciation for hip-hop, it would have been completely acceptable for the evening to end at the conclusion of the panel discussion. Fortunately for everyone in attendance, this was not the case. We were told to stick around if we wanted to experience something special. Kurtis Blow and Kurtis Blow, Jr. took to the stage for a mini concert! With an energy level expected from a pack of teenagers, they took us on a musical journey through some of the classics from hip-hops early years. From Rapper’s Delight to The Breaks and everything in between, we were transported from The Lincoln Theater in Washington, DC to a block party in New York City! Everyone was dancing around and rapping along. At one point Kurtis (yes, after last night I feel confident that we’re on a first name basis now) even started break dancing! It was all a reminder that by acknowledging the past and working tirelessly in the present, there are no limitations to the future of hip-hop.
Hip-Hop…taking over the world—one artist at a time.