They sat in a Georgetown lecture hall. The moderator is a professor there. Dyson teaches there. Nas referenced going to “Harvard and meeting Skip Gates” as measures of “progress.” None of the panelists represented a Black institution (record label, school or otherwise).
Power, of course is always measured, harnessed, and utilized via institutions, not individuals. So although three “successful” Black men poetically postulated on a university stage, what does that mean? Y’all at Georgetown? Ok.. and? Does that translate into anything meaningful or substantial related to the very people (Black people) who make, disseminate, re-make and consume hip hop culture? (Be clear, some groups are only consumers.)
Of course, Dyson is sharp. A wordsmith. Some excellent points. Nas is undeniably brilliant. But again, the audience = kids at Georgetown and others with access! So, then what’s the point? It’s always intriguing when public intellectuals and media create opportunities to speak about popular topics that convey a concern for society, but don’t have such conversations in spaces that include the primary subjects of the dialogue, the spaces that matter, the spaces that could actually transform the conversation. Imagine a conversation about the education of Black boys had in the hood.
Your local hood. Imagine that discussion being led by Nas and Dyson. Same points shared at the Georgetown panel, different space. Imagine Rich Homie Quan in on it. Imagine Lil’ Boosie contributing to a discussion on incarceration. Imagine this interaction as a regular phenomenon.
Useful power, real power, and sincerity of concern with the state of hip hop would allow for such a conference to happen. There are HBCUs centrally located in Black neighborhoods across the southern region of America that could work well as host facilities. It’s a simple matter of ownership versus freedom. One cannot possibly believe he is free if his people rarely benefit from his talent (be it intellectual or otherwise) while others reap well consistently. O… and why not talk to women about hip hop? Women maintain heavy influence in the industry as artists, managers, publicists, vixens, consumers, etc.
Here is the state of hip hop: It’s a thing. A product. Something cool to pontificate about as long as there is no real transformative benefit to its producers. When that changes, hip hop will be a revolution… again.
Kimberly D. Brown, Ph.D.
Director of The Blackberry Preserve:
Counsel on Historical Interpretation, Cultural Relevancy and Marketing