Panel explores issues behind hip-hop

Monday, February 18, 2008 | 10:36 p.m. CST; updated 10:16 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — What are the current issues in hip-hop culture?

“It depends on who you ask,” said Nathan Stephens, director of MU’s Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center. “Hip-hop is a reflection of some of the best and worst parts of our society.”

On Tuesday night, these concerns were tackled during “The History of Hip-Hop,” an event sponsored by the Black Culture Center in commemoration of Black History Month.

The panel presentation featured four speakers: Stephens; hip-hop artist Universal Warrior Khan; Jessie Adolph, a doctoral student in English at MU; and Tyree Byndom, a local deejay.

A video of “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang started the evening. “This is hip-hop in its early, elementary stages,” said Stephens. “Before 26-inch spinning rims.”

Speaking one by one, presenters addressed the room of about 60. They discussed contemporary problems within the hip-hop community such as misogynistic lyrics, violence and the uniformity of mainstream hip-hop.

“There is violence in the very communities that hip-hop emanated from,” Stephens said. “These people are telling you, ‘this is how it is where I come from.’”

Misogyny in hip-hop reflects the misogyny of greater society, Stephens said. “Let’s just not make hip-hop a scapegoat for mistreatment of women.”

On the positive side, Jessie Adolph discussed the empowering virtues of hip-hop and the group Public Enemy, who taught him at a young age, “In spite of coming from the community that I come from, I can be someone, that I can make something of myself.”

Understand hip-hop’s predecessors, Universal Warrior Khan advised, to better understand the lineage of the genre. “Know who Bob Johnson is. Know who Chuck Berry is,” he said, citing early blues and rock artists.

A love of hip-hop and hip-hop culture led Stu Becker, 19, to the event.

“They made some really good points about how today’s rap is dominated by big time corporations,” he said. “I thought it was really interesting what they said about how we need to get more socially conscious rap out there.”

Khan suggested that the audience speak with their wallets, shirking records and programs that promote industry-driven hip-hop.

Of mainstream hip-hop he said, “Until we demand more, they’re going to keep putting out the same garbage.”

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