The Evolution of the Hip-Hop Revolution

More than 40 years after hip-hop’s start in the Bronx, industry voices gathered in Chicago Oct. 19 for dynamic performances, intellectual discussion and more at the Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) Talk Hip Hop: Movement Beyond the Music.
Cartoonist Ed Piksor discussed the hip-hop inspirations for his comic 
strip with Reggie Osse, host of The Combat Jack Show.

Although Ed Piksor, the cartoonist behind the semi-weekly comic strip Hip Hop Family Tree, noted that “[h]ip-hop is now driven by money and fame,” the seven performers all spoke to a wide range of cultural motivations behind their work, none of which included money.  The diverse group of speakers—which included Piksor, hip-hop artist Brother Ali, Duke Professor Mark Anthony Neal, Hip-Hop Ambassador to the U.S. State Department Toni Blackman and many others—believe hip-hop holds the power, as Brother Ali put it, to bring “people together from all walks of life”.

Before taking the stage, Ali elaborated on his goals for the future of hip-hop culture.

“I am here to challenge the audience to engage in [hip-hop] culture on a deeper level,” Ali said.  “There is a lot of flowery language about music, but we have to get beyond the idea of only standing together in a room to change the world.”

Blackman, who has traveled to 34 countries as a cultural ambassador, echoed Ali’s view of hip-hop as a unifying cultural movement.  According to Blackman, peoplemake music about what is important to them, from political freedom and social justice to the ever-pressing need to feed one’s family.  

“Hip-hop radiates an idea of serving,” Blackman said. “There is more right with hip-hop than wrong with hip-hop.”

The audience left the talk with an idea of hip-hop that extends far beyond the Top 40 hits that play on the radio.

“Hip-hop is multi-faceted,” attendee Melody Waller said after hearing Dr. Neal’s academic account of hip-hop.  “I love how he talked about that in a way that wasn’t above people’s heads.”

Waller said she finds it frustrating when people generalize hip-hop culture and was pleased that CIW provided a forum for discussion the many facets of hip-hop.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Waller said. “I liked attending CIW last year, but this year was a whole new level. [The CIW staff] really brought their A-game for organizing such a great week.” 

Written by: Julie Stavas

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