Saturday, March 11, 2006

From Gone Wild!! Stanford Hip-Hop Conference Goes Awry Under Weight of Unchecked Egos

Many people dismissed a movie about a Memphis pimp going through a mid-life crisis who turns to rap for his salvation. It was called ‘trite’, ‘exploitative’ and corny. But it was one of the best movies of 2005. The film’s title song “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” had heads boppin’ in movie theatres, but no one would’ve guessed that the song, by Three 6 Mafia would’ve won an Oscar.

I know I didn’t.

In recent years “Crunk” and all aesthetics attached to it have been the Willie Horton of modern day hip-hop. Black intellectuals and hip-hop purists alike have singled this sub-genre out for being the cause of everything that is wrong with hip-hop today. The grillz, the bling, the tats, the white tee’s and the country slang have all been made symbols of everything that ails the hip-hop movement. In a lot of corners the mind set is: if they would go away we could have our hip-hop back.

In a perfect world maybe, but we live in a world that is far from perfect.

Hats off to Three 6 Mafia they did their thing, they represented their hood in the best way they knew how. Hip-hop is all about expressing who you are to the greater world. Whether it’s Crazy Legs kicking his legs around at 60 miles per hour, or D.J. Roc Raider on the cross fader, or an MC from Tennessee spittin’ a hot verse into a microphone, or Futura 2000 tagging a wall; it’s the artists way of expressing the following mantra: I AM. I BE.

Whether or not you agree with the subject matter of the song, you still have to take off your hat to those brothers, they didn’t start rappin’ last week, these are some guys that have been on the grind, for many years now, they deserve that award.

But what’s sad about all of this is that while Three 6 Mafia were being celebrated on one side and dismissed by the other, a whole other scene, a truly sad scene was being played out on the campus of Stanford University.

Hip-hop pioneers Busy Bee and KRS One hijacked a recent panel discussion on hip-hop to the shock and awe of all that attended. They called journalists and scholars to task for not really representing the culture. They angrily questioned the legitimacy of a panel that discussed hip-hop, but without the presence of any Bronx pioneers. They constantly uttered the refrain: “I am hip-hop”, as if no one else in attendance had any connection to the culture as well.

What was more shocking than KRS One’s repeated outbursts were his threats against my colleague and brother journalist Adisa Banjanko. To everyone’s surprise he threatened Adisa with bodily harm, called him a “FBI agent”, “a traitor to the movement” and “a fraud”.

I know Adisa and I’ve known of Adisa’s work for many years now, if there is a pioneer hip-hop journalist, Adisa - among a few others, is surely it. I remember when the brother used to write into The Source magazine, you could find his comments, religiously, on the ‘letter to the editor’ page. It would always say “The Bishop of Hip Hop”. Speaking of those days, here’s a mission for you true believers, find the The Source cover with Ice Cube on the front in 1991 and look at the letters to the editor page and tell me what names you find there. If you look hard enough, you’ll see the first scribblings from yours truly.

Adisa is a guy who loved hip-hop and Black Nationalism and found a way to carve out a niche for himself in this culture of ours. None of us that write about hip-hop do it out of anything less than a total and complete love for the culture. It is hard to do something for little to no money when you don’t love it. I’ve told many a young and aspiring journalist that if you’re going to write about this thing of ours, the man you should look to for inspiration is Adisa Banjanko. To call Adisa a ‘fraud’ and an ‘enemy to our movement’ is not only counter-productive, but its as wrong as the day is long.

At one time KRS One was the standard bearer for what a hip-hopper could be.

For Busy Bee and KRS One to dismiss the journalists and scholars who write about and study hip-hop is counter-productive. We all need each other in this thing of ours. Without writers who are passionate about the culture artists stories go undocumented. What many people don’t know or forget is that before the Internet, Source magazine, XXL or any other media outlet, hip-hop got poor coverage. You could count the number of media outlets on one hand that accurately reported on hip-hop music.

I can understand why a guy like Busy Bee would be frustrated, beyond his appearance in the movie “Wild Style”, and being the first brother in hip-hop to be lyrically ambushed on stage in 1980 by Kool Moe Dee, the only other noteworthy credit in his career was a hot record he did back in ‘88 called “Suicide”. Before 1990 guys like him were luckier than a four-leaf clover if they got two inches of column space on a page.

KRS is a different story all together. He has graced every magazine cover in hip-hop for the last 20 years. Throughout his career KRS has made statements to reporters that not only left writers speechless, but readers as well. Like many of us, he is a study in contradictions: Afrocentrist, Humanist, scholar, poet, teacher, scientist, hard rock and many other things.

Kris Parker, the man, the artist grew up in public. I’ve heard him on numerous occasions say things that baffled me to no end: “George Bush is a great president”, “I am a scholar”, “Don’t vote”, “I am the God of Rap”, “I was a seminary student”, ‘I am the living embodiment of hip-hop”, “@#%$ education” and so many other things that I’ve walked away in disbelief each time.

This latest public outburst is helping to destroy the credibility of a man who once lectured at prestigious universities all over the country. It’s like standing across the street watching a reckless driver and a voice inside your head says, “Yo, he’s about to crash.”.And then it happens. As a fan and as a brother in the struggle I think it’s time for KRS to take a break and take stock of what’s going on around him.

With all of the passion we all have for hip-hop, we often times come off, individually and together, as if we had divine ownership of her. Many of us act like because we heard or were into the music before someone else, that it means that we somehow love it more than anyone else does. Hell, I tell people all the time that the music found me in 1978. God reached down out of the clouds and said, “Mark, you are hip-hop…”

It’s kind of like sibling rivalry, the oldest brother feels like he is inherently closer to the mother because he was born first, that makes him somehow or another more special that the rest of the children. The middle children always feel like they have to fight for attention and the younger ones, forget about it, they’re spoiled.

It’s time we all grew up and got passed our beefs over who’s real hip-hop and who’s rap, who’s living it and who’s not. There are more pressing issues that we as adults have to confront that affect our community than something as trivial as who loves hip-hop more. Hip Hop belongs to the world, not to one man, or one city, or town or borough; but the whole world. We are all hip-hop.

MarkSkillz[at] from

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