By Cong Michael Le (aka INDOLESTIC)
I gotta hit em wit soliiquoys
Just to start off the show – hope you feelin me
I’m tryna broadcast my thoughts and enlighten
empower the youth so these cats could stop fighting
it’s so audible
open minds with the culture, we unstoppable
so if you sit back relax, listen up, maybe we go
(just understand) this start of my show
And you are tuned into YORK’s one and only hip hop podcast on campus and RHOZELAND MANIFESTO PRODUCTION: THIS IS HIP HOP.
I’d like to give a special thanks to one of the members in the group: ROO$EVELT for supplying me with all the dope instrumentals for the podcast.
I’m your host and fellow RHOZELAND SIGNATORY, DJ INDOLESTIC and you are now entering, THE MANIFESTO EXPERIENCE. We’ll be talking more about that later in the podcast.
And now with all that out of the way, today we are going to move on to the long awaited topic everyone has been waiting for.
The wait is over…
Today we are going to be talking about…
WHAT IS HIP HOP? a TOOL TO REACH THE YOUTH? OR STAGNATE SOCIETY?
Today’s episode is about how the culture of hip hop can be a tool to empower the youth. It is beyond just music but simply an art form and way of expression which has been able to speak to many.
I’m not here to tell you what to do with hip hop. That’s not my job. That’s on you. I’m here to spark the minds with what hip hop can accomplish. The rest is up to what you choose to do.
There are clearly negative connotations and roots which hip hop can bring. It’s evident with just some searches on the internet. But if we are able to focus on the potential in what good it can bring, why stop?
Nelson George talks about the environment of the Bronx during hip hop’s initial stages of growth in his book, Hip Hop America. He describes it as:
“Behind the decay and neglect of the place was a cauldron of vibrant, unnoticed, and quite visionary creativity born of its racial mix and its relative isolation. It was within its boundaries that the expressions we associate with hip hop- graffiti art, break dancing, MCing, and mixing – all have roots.”
I believe you can find a correlation between New York and Toronto. Toronto or the “6” as popularized by Drake is the biggest it’s ever been. All eyes are on Toronto as it has exploded into a hotpot MECCA by embedding a diversity of cultures together.
Mean Streets: Youth Crime and Homelessness, a book John Hagan elaborates on the ethnicity of Toronto, calling it:
“One of the most ethnically diverse cities in North America, and much of its prosperity has been fueled by immigration.”
If New York is considered a melting pot filled with diverse cultures, Toronto is clearly next in line especially with the rise of the internet and technology. It’s the multicultural diversity which fuels hip hop expression as it expands as a culture.
Though, I would say the word that stuck out to me the most in Nelson’s statement was, “unnoticed”. That may have been then, but what about now? How unnoticed is hip hop these days compared to before?
Hip hop isn’t going anywhere for a long time, and some may even argue: it’s only getting bigger.
Jeff Chang talks about this precisely. In his book, “CAN’T STOP WON’T STOP” he elaborates on the culture of hip hop, stating:
“Hip hop is the voice of this generation… But the hip hop generation is not making the best use of the recognition and the position that it has. Do we realize how much power hip-hop has?”
Good question Jeff. I believe the general consensus may know that hip hop is relevant in society, but do not realize how apparent it really is.
In fact, we can see that Hip hop has not only evolved across borders to an international appeal but as a clear front runner which is evident to the chart hits.
Today, one of the biggest artists is none other than Toronto-bred superstar, DRAKE.
Views, his fourth and newest album makes history by becoming the first album to reach 1 billion streams on Apple Music. Breaking records held by Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston in leading both the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200 for 8 weeks.
These achievements are just another reason why: Hip hop has become a global force in the industry of art. And because of that, it’s time to use hip hop to impact the lives of those who need it.
“Hip hop has always been about having fun, but it’s also about taking responsibility. And now we have a platform to speak our minds. Millions of people are watching us. Let’s hear something powerful. Tell people what they need to hear. How will we help the community? What do we stand for? What would happen if we got the hip hop generation to vote, or form organizations to change things? That would be powerful.”
Change ends his statement, reminding us that: It ain’t about keeping it real. It’s about keeping it right.
I believe what Chang doesn’t elaborate on is hip hop’s ability to diversity audiences. This new found diversity in hip hop has the power to attract the attention of different audiences which can connect to the individual and impact them.
So let’s talk about IMPACT. Let’s talk about RHOZELAND.
Today, I’ve brought in a guest-speaker: My close friend and an up and coming musician, DIZZY D. Dizzy is a rapper from Weston & Eglinton working on an upcoming mixtape called: 89/32 set to launch sometime mid-2017.
89/32 is a perfect example of combining narrative and quality to create a conceptual project.
Let’s introduce the man of the hour, Dizzy-D.
Dizzy: Ayyyy, what up thanks for having me
I: Yeah no prob. It’s my pleasure, thanks for helping a brotha out and coming on to the show to inform the audience about hip hop.
I: So let’s get into it. Tell us. What is RHOZELAND? And how has it been impacted by hip hop?
D: RHOZELAND is an emerging Toronto Art Collective which came up through hip hop inspiration, and at the end of the day, that’s where hip hop came from: inspiration. Whether from the environment or from other people. Every member does different things in the group for example photography, music production, writing, all of that. Hip hop was really that art form that connected all of us.
I: I see, very interesting. What made you want to become a rapper and choose music as your primary focus?
D: Well, growing up: music was always there for me. It was like that big brother or big sis that I never had. Hip hop was just that genre that I related too. I listened to all the big names growing up. Eminem, Pac, Nas. I just took it in one day: these guys are doing something I love. I wanted to be apart of it. I wanted to share my story.
I: I see. Talking about music, it looks like RHOZELAND is in the early parts of establishing itself as an entity. There has been some buzz about your upcoming mixtape you are working on. 89/32, what is that all about?
D: 89/32 is an upcoming mixtape me and another RHOZELAND signatory is working on: Lopz. Or personally, my brother PJ Lopez. We grew up in Weston & Eglinton, which is why we called it 89/32. An intersection of the TTC busses.
89/32 is our come up story: together. We talk about the environment and both sides of how we came up. PJ, or Lopz tells his story which involved a lot of negatives. He grew up rough, and literally had to deal with the adversities of gang violence, drugs, and other street difficulities.
For me, I was more sheltered. My parents were very protective. I wasn’t around all the time, but that’s the beauty in it. There are different perspectives to hip hop and that’s what hip hop is. A telling of perspectives.
I: That’s whatsup. I feel like a lot of new hip hop coming up, especially those trying to be established follow what’s primarily seen in the mainstream. Hip hop needs more of this. A narrative. A story. Something to inspire others.
D: Forreal. That’s what RHOZELAND is all about. 89/32 is just one of many projects we are working on. Everything is original content.
I: Cool cool. Well, We’ve luckily been given the permission by Dizzy D to show off a snippet to the audiences. So if you’re tuning in, you are getting the a VERY LUCKY sneak peak of what is popping off in 2017.
Let’s hear one of the songs. DISTANCE.
I: I feel like hip hop doesn’t have a lot of these songs charting. What was the inspiration and meaning for DISTANCE?
D: It’s about the community. We wanted to make a sound that the youth can be proud of.
I: That’s awesome. Well, thanks for coming in Dizzy. Any last words for the youth?
D: Keep doing what you’re doing. Be sure to check us out at: www.RHOZELAND.com to see what we’re all about. Peace.
I think we can take a lot from what Dizzy is saying. At the end of the day, music spawns from an individual’s perspective of environment. Something that struck out to me was Dizzy’s statement on Lopz. His story is much more different that Dizzy’s as he grew up facing the negatives in which is commonly talked about in hip hop.
People always seem to talk about the negative connotations hip hop brings as a culture.
In relation to this, I’d like to correlate that to more recent news, with Atlanta rapper, T.I. who was interviewed on talkshow, The Dailyshow by Trevor Noah.
Unfortunately, once again: due to copyright issues: I cannot play the audio from that interview but I heavily recommend spending some time to find the interview online and watching it.
When asked about the content of hip hop, T.I. defended the culture by simply stating: People need to take into consideration that: hip hop traditionally has always been a reflection of his environment of who he was. If you want to change the content of the music, change the environment so he won’t have such negative things to say.
Hip hop is simply, at best, a culture, or genre that is a product of its own environment. Hip hop has evolved as a culture, where although the same subjects will occur, new topics and subjects have spawned and developed as wider range of audiences grew. People are able to touch upon subjects and talk about topics which were unheard of.
We can see this in Drake. Just 10 years ago, a Canadian mainstream rapper was unheard of. As was, iconic “white” rapper, Eminem in the early 2000s.
Hip hop goes beyond race and border. There are songs that everyone is able to relate too from the styles of production to what the artists subject matter is about.
Relationship just ended? Kanye West’s 808 & Heartbreak may just be the remedy.
Do you feel like your backs against the wall? No one able to relate to you? Me Against The World by 2pac Shakur has been out the last 20 years!
Want to step into the shoes of a female from relationship to pregnancy? The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is guaranteed to touch your soul.
What makes hip hop so great is that it is simply the retelling of someone’s story, perspective, and environment. What they’ve learned, their journey entailed, and the hardships overcome. Chang talks about hearing something powerful. Well, there are definitely levels to what powerful and reliability are.
It’s this diversity which can connect to the individual in many different ways. Depending on what the “mood” is, they are able to choose and be selective with what they want to embrace. There is a choice, and hip hop offers that.
But don’t get it twisted. Although music may be a big thing, that’s not what hip hop is just about. It’s a way of expression which include other mediums in dance, graffiti tagging, etc.
inspiration from any hip hop medium can be recycled into other mediums within the culture through its own rendition. A song can be taken and inspired to create a dance out of it.
You can see that with Soulja Boy.
Whether with one medium or multiple, each medium is able to have an impact on other mediums. They are able to feed off each other which create an even bigger platform to touch a broader audience depending on the subject.
One can argue, the more important the issues, the more of an affect it will leave to audiences. But it is up to us, as the people, to get these issues out there.
That’s what UNITY is all about.
UNITY is a charity founded by Michael Prosserman, a breakdancer which goes by the name Bboy Piecez. Its goal is to empower youth with confidence and skills for success through the hip hop arts.
Unity offers help in art forms such as: breakdancing and hip hop choreography. Spoken word and emceeing. Urban art, graffiti. And beat boxing.
Prosserman started UNITY as a grade 11 project and talked about how hip hop affected him by stating:
“I used to dance to relieve the stress and anger I had in my teenage years. After having dance really help me get through some of the toughest times in my life I realized it can be a tool for other young people. This was when I decided to dedicate my life to sharing this outlet of hip hop in its various forms with youth.”
For Prosserman, it is beyond just the arts. It is a lifestyle. And this lifestyle has impacted many.
Statistics Canada defines youth as anyone between 16 – 28 years. In 2014, Statistics Canada found that:
There is a youth crime rate of 4,322 per 100,000 per youth ages 12 to 17 while for ages 18 – 24 there is a rate of 5,428 per 100,000. Those aged 25 and older, 2,048 per 100,000
It was interesting for Stats Canada to mention that the youth aged 12 to 17 accompany for 7% of the Canadian population. they accounted for 13% of individuals accused of crime by police.
Last year, in the 2015-2016 season, UNITY reached over 41,000 teens within the year of its programs.
It’s evident to see the impact that UNITY has had as its focus on hip hop has been able to garner much attention to those interested. This is just another reason why hip hop has played a huge roll in the lives of youth. Hip hop, as a culture can be used as a platform to speak to others. UNITY targets youth that may be susceptible to crime as it is an alternative and positive path.
I believe this influence is only going to grow bigger. UNITY aims to reach out to 150,000 youth a year by 2019 according to their annual 2015-2016 report. And I think they’re going to be able to achieve this goal. Why?
Let’s thank the Canadian superstar himself in DRAKE.
The “Drake Effect” as coined in SoCan Magazine’s article of the rap star is described as: Drake’s impact on the worldwide hip hop scene which has affected the fortunes and opportunity of his team and arguably the next generation of Canadian hip hop.
“Drake has almost single-handedly created an entire industry that has blossomed in his wake, and inspired the next generation of Canadian hip-hop in the process.:
As mentioned earlier in the podcast, Drake is clearly at the upper echelon of the music industry. His influence in music is nothing short of hard work and dedication. And it is this influence which has rubbed off on the city.
Whether you like him or not, Drake has put Toronto on the map. And because of this, hip hop in Canada will never be the same. Drake is a household name in the streets and has made hip hop the modern day rock and roll. The opportunity to take hip hop and make it a tool to impact the lives of those in a positive manner is the best it’s ever been.
Anthony N Doob in his book, “Responding to Youth Crime in Canada” states:
“Clearly many people understand that crime generally and youth crime in particular are largely a product of the society in which children develop.”
Now wait! There’s a connection there. Youth crime, a product of the society? Hip hop? A product of the environment?
If we are able to make the environment positive through the means of hip hop as a voice to reach those, the integration will be much easier. Instead of pushing away and condoning what hip hop’s negative connotations are, we should embrace its positive features and focus on the benefits which it is able to bring. After all, it is the biggest the genre and culture has been in the 21st century.
Hip hop is no longer a “niche” but can clearly be taken in the commercial, mainstream, and general audience. Hip hop can not only just be used as a tool of expression but a tool to speak out and make a difference.
Chang, Jeff. Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005. Print.
George, Nelson. Hip Hop America. New York: Viking, 1998. Print.
Hagan, John, and Bill McCarthy. Mean Streets: Youth Crime and Homelessness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print.
Doob, Anthony N., and Carla Cesaroni. Responding to Youth Crime in Canada. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2004. Print.
4 Non scholarly
"The Drake Effect - SOCAN Words and Music." N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2016.
“Our Work.” UNITY. N.p., n.d. Web.
UNITY Charity Empowering Youth through Hip Hop." UNITY Charity: Empowering Youth through Hip Hop Arts. N.p., n.d. Web.
“Manifesto Is On A Mission To Give Voices To The Hip Hop Community.” MANIFESTO. N.p., n.d. Web.
2 Industry publication
“T.I Defends Hip Hop.” Billboards. N.p., n.d. Web.
“Drake's 'Views' Is the First Album to Reach 1 Billion Streams on Apple Music.” Billboards. N.p., n.d. Web.
Stats Canada, Youth crime in Canada 2014: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/160217/dq160217b-eng.htm
Youth Policy for Canada: http://www.youthpolicy.org/factsheets/country/canada/