May 23, 2006

Politically Conscious Hip-Hop from an Unlikely Source

I may be way behind the eight-ball on this one, but I didn't know that Amartya Sen, famed economist and Nobel Laureate had a son named Kabir who was about my age... who lived in the Boston/Cambridge area... who was a teacher in third grade... who is also known as MC Kabir and has put out three albums of politically conscious hip-hop... and teaches a class on hip-hop in a local middle school!

Big up to the brother. He name checks Blackalicious, Jurassic Five, Dilated Peoples, and Public Enemy in a short piece about him in this week's New Yorker. I haven't heard his stuff, but I'ma definitely gonna keep my eyes peeled for it. Not just because he's brown, mind you, but because politically conscious and positive hip-hop is awesome, no matter if you're Japanese, French, or whatever.

Yeah, and it does get on my nerves when folks jump on a musician's bandwagon just because they feel some kind of co-ethnic attraction, especially if it's particularly clear that they don't care about the music much. I'll have to come back to this one, because in one way, it's cool for folks to support the artists, and who knows, the avant-garde jazz musician who happens to be desi may get a few folks into a scene that they wouldn't have approached otherwise. But it just gets on my nerves when someone becomes the darling of the hipsters but the genre or tradition that the music belongs to isn't explored or even given much respect. M.I.A. is a good example - how many folks jumped onto her stuff without giving a rat's ass about where Diplo was coming up with the music, or how she herself was getting influenced?

Anyway, my fave quotes from the article:

“Hip-hop was not created based on hatred,” he said. “It was created at giant block parties in the Bronx and Harlem, based on a very innocent notion of urban creative expression.”

"Hip-hop has a great lesson to teach young people: it doesn’t matter if you’re a little bit nerdy, or if you’re not from an urban area—you can still speak, can’t you? You can be tone-deaf and you can do this—there’s a space for you here.”

And from a song off his first album...

"Brother please be careful what you write for public consumption
’Cause I personally work with little kids that be bumpin’
To the sounds of “gun clappin’,” “bitch slappin’.”
And money-having values
that to me bring shame to rappin’."

Check out the rest of the article here.

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