Saturday, March 28, 2009

"...if you want more class struggle in hip-hop, you need more class struggle in society first."

We're not going to add our own commentary on this as we think it speaks for itself. What stood out to us was UK rapper Comrade Malone's perspective on the very dialectical connection between hip-hop and reality.

"Class struggle and hip-hop: interview with Comrade Malone, 2009" from libcom.org.

Hip-hop has seen artists with social and political awareness. Rarely, however, has there been hip-hop fused with unashamedly class struggle, libertarian politics. 22-year-old Comrade Malone attempts to buck that trend with his album The Spontaneous Revolt LP.

Ed Goddard from libcom.org caught up with him to talk about life and politics in music.

Tell us a bit about your life growing up and how you got into politics.
I grew up on a council estate in north-west London and lived there for the first twenty years of my life. I’m not from a political background and didn’t really pay attention to politics until my late teens. In 2003, when the invasion of Iraq began, there was a massive walkout at my school with students blocking roads and making their way to go and protest outside parliament. At the time, this was just a day off school which let me go and get stoned with mates in the park. But it did have an effect and I started thinking a lot more about how shit things are. I questioned things a lot more after that, to the point where I was questioning the overall nature of capitalism, which I started to see as the root cause of all these problems.

When I was 20, I left home and lived in a homeless people’s hostel for a year. Throughout my time there, I was unemployed, on benefits and getting more pissed off, as were the boys I shared facilities with.

That hostel was a trap. The only way you could leave and get into social housing was by being referred by the staff there, which meant submitting to their rules and keeping up to date with the weekly service charge you'd pay from your benefits. My money would go fast on food and transport I'd use to look for work. When I got into service charge arrears I was threatened with eviction twice. Serious bully business from a housing 'charity'! You could get on the council list, but it’d take a few years to build up enough points for a flat and even then your chances are ultra slim.

Why did you call the album The Spontaneous Revolt LP?
We made the album in about two weeks and I wanted that to be reflected in the name, as well as reflecting it’s political content. Spontaneous Revolt refers both to the nature of the album and the way in which it was made.

Tell us about your experiences so far within the UK hip-hop scene.
I got into the scene by grabbing the mic and turning up for free studio time any time I could. I recorded a cheaply made track at a music college which got passed around on copied CDs and ended up on pirate radio. I got invited to do live shows on air and eventually got a phone call from Kemet Entertainment Records, who I signed a recording contract with in 2006. Whilst on Kemet, I worked with some quality producers such as Baby J, Joe Buddha, and DJ Flip, and was getting a lot of shows.

Sadly, UK hip hop had its own little economic collapse, with nights like Kung Fu in Camden and Speakers Corner in Brixton closing, Itch FM shutting down, Low-Life records closing, and Kemet as well. There's no green shoots here and no one’s bailing us out! We're all redundant rappers now; last year I was in a quality studio off Harley street, and now I'm in DJ Downlow's flat eating fried chicken with ghetto-flavoured mayonnaise.

As a class struggle anarchist, you’re quite different from a lot of other socially conscious rappers. What are your views on the prevalence of nationalist, religious or pro-Obama views in hip-hop?
They’re just a reflection of opinion in America. Politically, some of those opinions might be to the left, but if you want more class struggle in hip-hop, you need more class struggle in society first. Hip-hop reflects what’s already there, whether its street violence, political consciousness, or ‘Vote Obama’ feeling.

What radical traditions/movements do you take inspiration from?
The movements that inspire me most are always working class grassroots ones, and often, but not always, those with libertarian principles. Learning about what the CNT-FAI achieved in the 1930s, contributed to the confidence I have in the possibility of a self-managed society on a large scale. Hungary 1956 is another good example. It's hard to hear conscious American hip-hop without reference to the Black Panthers. What's inspiring about them is that they were a street-level organisation and their survival programs made a big positive difference to the lives of people in the community. These days, there's often focus on organising in the workplace, but not enough on dealing with community issues. Right now, I'm also inspired by all the shit kicking off in Greece.

What do you think of the anarchist movement's ability to engage working class youth such as yourself?
The anarchist movement needs to start holding Skins parties with free booze and drugs, and a strict dress code of hoodies, caps, and trainers only! But on a serious level, it’s about communicating with people in the right way. People in political groups might be experienced and knowledgeable but young working class people often feel they lack that experience and knowledge to be active. Most people don’t know the definition of anarchism. The anarchist movement has got to let people know what it’s all about and show people that there are no intellectual entry requirements.

What are your plans for the future?
I’m gonna be recording and releasing more free material. For most of the time, I’ll be working alongside DJ Downlow, my partner in crime in studio and pub. I’d love to do a tour across Europe and I’m thinking about the possibility of doing that, but it won’t happen this year. As for now, I’m just gonna keep releasing free music.

Spontaneous Revolt Free Download - www.sensei.fm
Comrade Malone official myspace page - www.myspace.com/comrademalone

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hip Hop Congress reposts Kitwana op-ed on Obama cartoon

This editorial by Bakari Kitwana and reposted on the Hip Hop Congress website got me thinking about the discussion on Obama and race. While the immediate context is the cartoon printed in the New York Post and rightfully dubbed racist by Kitwana and a host of others, it should serve as a basis for talking about the way Obama has chosen to respond to questions of race in America.

I want to point y'all to a couple of other blogs where we've taken up this question. The first is a contributing blog from Matt Hamilton called "Hip-Hop, Obama, and Black Power" and the second is an interview we did with Alex at Rebel Frequencies.

We oppose the cartoon, but we also oppose Obama's own justification for white supremacy. I explain this a bit further in the comment I left and I encourage others to chime in as well.

Shout out to the HHC.

I wrote:

"Does Kitwana really believe that Obama isn’t a champion of post-race politics, despite his lip service in that speech about not ignoring racial problems? The fact is, Obama intentionally “ignored” that he was being attacked during his campaign (and obviously still is) for being a black man and for having an Arab name. And what is remarkable about that is the degree to which white supremacy has shaped the discussion on race. For if Obama had called it out for what it was, he would be “divisive” or “playing the race card.” Meanwhile the American ruling class owns the deck.

Obama’s reluctance at pointing to the prevalence of white supremacy in our society surely makes him a post-race black politician. Black candidates who rode the waves of black power in the 1970s and into the 80s and who became the basis for the Rainbow Coalition would have never ignored it. In fact, they drew there validity by embodying the language, dress, and some of the ethos of the period.

The problem with the RC, though, is that they served as a break on popular energies. They promised to tame the black nation in exchange for creating a patronage network that was supposed to give black folks a slice of the pie. But they never did. What they did was to actually serve as a more advanced justification for white supremacy.

Obama is not beholden to any popular movement the way the RC was. And because of this, he doesn’t have to talk about white supremacy. But Obama like the RC will continue to prop up white supremacy as police departments continue to attack and murder youth of color, as community colleges scale back on funding that educate black youth, and as local black politicians oversee the destruction of black communities.

We agree with Kitwana that white supremacy prevails, but aren’t so naive to think that Obama and his ilk can substitute for the only thing that can effectively challenge it; a mobilized people of color. Obama won’t be defeated or hamstrung by racism, he’ll serve as a new means for it, whether he sees it or not.

Thanks for posting this."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Catch Dat Beat"

Just wanted to plug an event that we're real excited about that's being produced by a homeboy of ours and fellow Delgado student, Lucky Johnson. It's called "Catch Dat Beat" and it is being touted as the first ever Bounce play. The play will feature Lucky, 10th Ward Buck, and one of my favorite hip-hop artists Big Freedia.

Here's the details:

Ashe Cultural Arts Center; April 2-4 at 6PM.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

From Brooklyn Beats to Beirut Streets: Upcoming N.O. Events

If you're in the N.O., check out these upcoming events -- this Friday and Saturday, Palestine Hip-Hop and Spoken Word, and next Friday, 3/27, "Return/Recover/Resist/Rise Up" Liberation HipHop Concert as part of the Patois: New Orleans 6th Annual International Human Rights Film Festival.

Palestine Hip-Hop and Spoken Word

Please don't miss the exciting Palestine Solidarity performances this Friday and Saturday, at 5:00pm by Nizar Wattad, Omar Chakaki and Mark Gonzales. These performers are legendary founders of Palestinian hip-hop in the US, and their performances have captivated crowds around the world.

Friday's performance is a short set, where they will be performing as part of a series of many performers, and Saturday is a complete show.

Omar Chakaki is an architect/Hip-Hop artist born in the Middle East, and the founding member of N.O.M.A.D.S., a Syrian-Sudanese-American hip-hop group.

Mark Gonzales is a poet, educator, and organizer. He has traveled from the refugee camps of Palestine to the streets of Havana to Def Poetry Jam on HBO. He was awarded a fellowship at UCLA to bring hip-hop into the university curriculum.

Nizar Wattad is a screenwriter and hip-hop artist born in the Middle East. He is a producer of Free the P, first nationally distributed Arab hip-hop project.

See more information about the performers at at http://humanwritesproject.org.

State of the Nation Performance Festival
http://www.sonfestival.org

1) Spoken Word | Friday, March 20, 5:00pm
St. Roch Market Neutral Ground of St. Roch Ave. at Marais St.

2) Performance | Saturday, March 21, 5:00pm
The Studio at Colton 2300 St. Claude Ave.

Brooklyn Beats to Beirut Streets by Human Writes Project
Spoken Word
Saturday, March 21
5-6 pm


An energetic, informative and often startling presentation in spoken-word and rhyme, 'Brooklyn Beats to Beirut Streets' traces the artists' development alongside the birth and growth of Hip-Hop, in a reading of the world through their words. This poetic performance is an intersection of cultures sharing space on a stage that gives voice to marginalized histories, challenges the audience to re-examine worldviews, and indicts individuals and institutions for historical atrocities committed in the name of democracy.

Human Writes Project is poet and educator Mark Gonzales (an Alaskan-born Muslim Mexican-American) and hip-hop artists Nizar Wattad and Omar Chakaki (hailing from Palestine and Syria, respectively). Sparked by the demonization of Arabs and Muslims after September 11, Chakaki and Wattad began performing hip-hop and spoken word across the USA in an attempt to counter widespread media bias. They met Mr. Gonzales at an awareness-raising benefit concert, and the three realized that despite vast differences in their upbringings, they were united by a particular world-view, informed by the emerging and rapidly evolving art from known as Hip-Hop.

"Return/Recover/Resist/Rise Up" Liberation Hip-Hop Concert

Friday, March 27, 9:30pm
Ray's Boom Boom Room
508 Frenchmen St
$10


The sound of liberation, from New Orleans to Detroit to New York to Gaza. Featuring: Wise Intelligent (from the legendary hiphop pioneers Poor Righteous Teachers), Invincible (Detroit hiphop star and Jewish anti-Zionist activist), Mohammad Al-Farra (From Gaza's first hiphop group Palestine Rappers), Sabreena Da Witch (The First Palestinian R&B Singer), Truth Universal (Trinidad born, New Orleans based, Afrikan liberation), and Dee-1 (New Orleans conscious hiphop), plus films and guest speakers.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

“This city here, They eat off the backs of the poor”: Breakdown FM Interview with Sess 4-5

This is an older interview, but a good one, that Davey D did back in August 2007 with local New Orleans rapper Sess 4-5, a cat who has been involved with organizing against the demolition of public housing and the lack of affordable housing here. He discusses the recovery efforts in N.O. over the previous two years and how hip-hop has been impacted by and had an impact on that process. He asks some key questions: how is it that such devastation and racism against black folks could happen in a city with a black police chief, black mayor, etc.? What kind of city is the local, state and federal government trying to rebuild? In whose interests? How are everyday folks dealing with and resisting the plans to exclude people of color from returning and rebuilding? Important perspectives on these questions have been discussed elsewhere, including here, but for the sake of this post we’ll let the interview speak for itself.

The Republican Party Needs More than a ‘Hip-Hop Makeover’

I’ve been pretty entertained recently by the “Hip-Hop Makeover” going on in the Republican Party. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve been missing out. It seems like a faction of the Republicans, in crisis mode since the presidential elections as they attempt to rebuild the party and redefine the party’s vision, has been studying Obama’s popularity among young folks and think hip-hop holds the answer. Michael Steele, the recently-elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, has donned the cape and promises he is the man that will help the party in its soul-searching.

Steele plans to apply the party's principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings” and invoke hip-hop to win over young people and people of color to a party typically known for being lily white. So what does Republican hip-hop look like? Some highlights:

- Steele told a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) audience that they should ‘fess up for their Party’s sins: “Tell America: 'We know the past, we know we did wrong--my bad.’”
- At the same conference, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann cheered for Steele, telling him, “You be da man! You be da man!”
- Steele offered Bobby Jindal some "slum love" for doing a "friggin' awesome job" as governor of Louisiana.

Horrifyingly out of touch, to say the least, but I suppose that’s what passes for diversity among those circles. That’s not all, though. Other recent efforts to merge hip-hop into the Republican Party include the “Hip-Hop Republicans” and the Republican Rapper.



I feel pretty strongly that the Republicans will never be able to fully hijack hip-hop – because of the racist character of the party itself, but also because the political content of hip-hop is diverse enough and rebellious enough that it cannot fit the narrow confines of official society without a serious overthrow of those very elements that make hip-hop what it is today. But there’s another reason why this “Hip-Hop Makeover” merits some attention.

These attempts among the Republicans actually represent a wider tension that is also facing the Democrats. Both parties are at an impasse because of the economic and political crisis. The old methods of “fixing” the economy (lower interest rates, pile on more credit to reinflate consumption, etc.) are not working. More importantly, the old ideas of justifying the neoliberal economic order have rapidly lost whatever legitimacy they once held. For the Democrats, they have been pretending to be the party of Civil Rights, the party that cares for people of color and labor. Yet it - alongside labor union bureaucrats and a new layer of people of color elected officials that arose out of Black Power and the upheaval of the 60s and 70s - demobilized that very constituency over the past 3 decades so that today, any pretense to having a base rooted in social movements is mere rhetoric. Further, the Democrats have been complicit in implementing neoliberalism on a global scale; Clinton completed the Reagan Revolution and Obama is (for now) following in his footsteps.

The Republicans, on the other hand, do have a base, and the recent presidential elections showed that it can be mobilized around a white supremacist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric. At the McCain/Palin rallies towards the end of the campaign, there began to appear serious elements of white supremacist mobilization with people shouting out to “Kill Obama!” But a funny thing happened: McCain, being pressured by other officials and leaders in Washington, had to pull in the reigns on those rallies. The party leadership didn’t want those angry crowds to turn into angry mobs. This wasn’t out of any genuine anti-racist sentiment among Republicans, rather it seems the Party wasn’t ready for, nor did it want, a truly mobilized base. It only wanted a base that was sure to turn out to the polls. It is this rightwing of the party, represented by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, whose own racist visions for the party are running up against Steele’s (still racist) vision for a hip-hop makeover.

Today, with the deepening of the recession, grassroots forces on both the left and the right are moving in ways that may quickly go beyond the confines of either party. The Democrats and the Republicans are not blind to this, but neither has been able to offer a coherent vision that can climb out of this crisis and keep in check the anger and frustration from below. The enthusiasm and historic turnout in the recent presidential elections indicate that across the U.S., people recognize the stagnation of the old ideas and are seeking a change, a new basis for society. Hip-hop is in a unique position to reveal that very impulse and what a new basis could look like, which is why it makes sense that both the Democrats and Republicans have sought, in different ways, to coopt elements of hip-hop. Luckily, the hip-hop generation is not so easily impressed as to buy into the nonsense of a Republicans “Hip-Hop makeover.”




Music Break

For your listening pleasure.