BP: Moving on from art to hip hop, the ongoing conversation between Generations X, Y and Z, it’s been said that Millennials are destroying hip hop by moving it further and further away from it’s roots. Others will say that there can’t be progression without evolution. So what’s your take on the current state of hip hop?
CK: I think is systematic. I zoom out from hip hop but I’ll talk about hip hop specifically as an example of how this occurs all over the world and how it related to capitalism and all that. Hip hop, born in 1974 in the Bronx and the many story lines that have emerged in the birthing of hip hop – if you take ‘When was hip hop really born?’ – and obviously I don’t want to strip – in no way do I want to strip – the importance of what happened in that time in that context which gave birth to hip hop but hip hop goes back to the Indigenous People. You can’t get to hip hop and you can’t get to that context without looking back at our – as a people – heritage. Hip hop goes back to that Original People and each one of the disciplines in hip hop like b-boying, there was grass dancers in the Indigenous People and dances if you look at the school, hip hop is like a physical education platform.
Music, which goes back to the emcee like the original griots that comes together and story-tell. The graff is like the hieroglyphics, all these things, it goes back to the Indigenous People. You go the context of New York when there’s extreme poverty, there’s all sorts of things going on at the time – the stripping of people of their ancient wisdom and culture because of the movement of people – I will not call them “slaves” because they’re enslaved people, they’re not slaves – that got moved over here and then built into this context, the context which led to that moment – rebellious, youthful, make something out of nothing – because no one’s taking care of this space, let’s write messages on the wall. So the birthing of that and the pioneers and someone like Afrika Bambaataa who was trying to birth and has birthed a community of thinkers and communicators to now.
What happened within that time is that they recognized that this is a powerful art form and a powerful tool that could really influence and change the way people live and change the way people spend money and change the way people interact in their communities and get people to love themselves. People are starting to become liberated and the powers that be at that time start to become very, very scared. The powers are yes, the government but actually the powers that govern the government, the corporations. So the corporations now start to see this being powerful and say ‘Oh no! The Black Man are the most dangerous things that could take down or shut down our operation!’ So what do they do? They start to bring in certain individuals at the same time as injecting drugs into the community so that the women and the mothers start to become more and more devastating in terms taking care of their community.
So they bring in those leaders and pay them money and all sorts of deals and at this time what starts to happen, what is so dangerous is the disconnect between the elders and young people. That’s why I say is systematic. Systematic separation between the elders and young people.
You look at any Indigenous communities, it’s elders that we look to for wisdom, children that we look to for the ideas, the youthfulness in the ideas and it’s mid-aged individuals that kind of help make everything happen. Within our current context, people are listening to the elders and the elders are now looking at the children being like ‘What are you doing? You’re not listening!’ What it is, is there’s a major divide right now. The people that are occupying our airwaves and all these sorts of things and the messages right now that are being shared I think are influenced by that time when everything was co-opted. All of this bravado, machismo and like energy that is occupying and influencing our young people and spreading this ideas that are really not rooted in any kind of spiritual upliftment [sic].
However, I also recognize the great power and I would love to find a way for that submergence of the two. That great dominance in power that the culture now has that’s brought it to the top of the charts, if that could now get re-integrated with the core values of the culture I think that there’s a power because of all the technology and everything that exists to really share a positive messages and to influence a greater population. That then tethered to local community – really supporting it strong – that’s where Manifesto really comes to be. What’s the role in Manifesto and how to build a sort of community that is about local culture and that is connected to the elders and that we are part of a continuum, not building anything new. We belong to this legacy that was born before us, working hardships and beauty that exists that we are tethered to. If those types of conversations can start giving influence to the current contemporary artists in these airwaves which is a big challenge realistically for me to say but if we can have that’s amazing because they’re there like that.