Look, forget what you heard about the Power Summit, that annual hip hop industry elbow-rubber which maps out the course of mainstream rap music and hip hop culture for each year. That’s kid’s stuff, a staged professional wrestling event in comparison to the National Hip Hop Political Convention. Organized in part by Jeff Chang, co-founder of Quannum Projects and author of the definitive history of the hip hop generation, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, the National Hip Hop Political Convention is above and beyond deciding whether DJs should use the Rane Serato instead of CDs and vinyl, or whether hyphy and reggaeton will get more airplay in 2007. It’s a discourse between activists from the hip hop generation with the rest of the world, and my spine can’t help but tingle as I think about the implications.
The convention features programs conducted by not only conscious hip hop luminaries such as the legendary MC Lyte (one of the first female emcees to really get her shine on the mic), M.1 of dead prez, Doug E. Fresh and Chang himself, but also non-musical social activists, with representation coming from The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, The New Black Panther Party, and governmental bodies from municipal, state and federal levels. What does the baggy pant brigade talk to these shirts about? Here’s a sampler: a talk entitled How To Take My Life To The Next Level. An exhibition called Art and Resistance. Another round table discussion titled California’s Prison System Needs Rehabilitation. Heavy stuff for a rapper to be thinking about, right?
Nah. The hip hop generation, like it or not, has been around for more than 30 years, and the people under its banner arrived in times of turmoil, and are now working their own way through the bleak, violent issues that gave birth to hip hop culture in the first place. Hip hop culture and its proponents have always been confronted with issues that dodge most other artisans on a daily basis, and it’s only natural that the National Hip Hop Political Convention is what it is. Don’t believe the hype. It’s bigger than that CD you’re holding, and MTV’s got nothing to do with this.
Throw your fists up!