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lyrics versus anthems

During some conversations at the hip hop arts club recently, quite a few of the blokes I was chatting with about hip hop lyrics were quite nostalgic and sentimental about the ol' lyricists:
the KRS-Ones, Chuck Ds, Rakims, Bustas, Biggies, Jean Graes, Kwelis, Nas, Black Thoughts and Kendricks.

And, of course, I love those peeps; it's why I put the damn workshop on.

They have ways of telling stories, painting pictures of our lives, our words, our worlds - even if the only attachement to those lives/worlds is through a feeling, a reminiscence.

They're master craftsmen. They can flex their vocabulary, their wordsmithery, their technique - virtuosity is impressive and we awe at their skills. Hip Hop Legends.

But in the club or at carnival, even in the cars cranking past, the music that goes live is not the lyrical or poetic.

It's the anthemic.

It's what lifts the whole damn room. And that's the kind of stuff that makes your day sometimes. The whole crowd going up.

To the bass lines, trap beats, the cheap shots and ear candy.

Chief Keef, A$ap Rocky, Odd Future, YG, Young Jeezy - all those kush, money, cash money kids.
Just like the one-liners in art - the sight gag, the cheap shot and irony crew (most of Frieze 2013), tacky TV, most musical theatre,  'entertainment'.

They lift people quickly, unite them simply, like a smile or a round of sweets.

And whilst I wouldn't want that as a staple in my diet, it's not 'bad', per se.

But have the fortune of being quite clear about it: it is about balance.

The depth of songs with lyrics at their core are full of metaphor, form, subtext and a depth of meaning. They are an excellent platorm for being able to listen to and imagine a story deeply. To understand complexity - mostly the complexity of the (ultimately flawed) human condition. They contribute to my character.

Same goes for similar kinds of art - lots of painting, post-war sculpture, durational performance, theatre, dance - a way to talk about difficult things* and often it's not easy to digest.

And it's often super SERIOUS.

But who wants to just have fiber all day? You gots to have ice cream once in a while.
You have to just let things be a bit fucked and just have a good time with what you got. Sometimes, you just have to let a smile lift you, even though you know it's not really the deepest or the kind of message you want in your life all the time. They contribute to my lightness.

Of course, the slightly disturbing aspect is when they're the only message you hear, or when you base your whole life on Bang! When all you see are cheap shots at the money and simplistic talk a dem hoes.
And when all the money in various industries goes that way.

I don't think it's helpful to just say 'all that crap is crap' because it sets it up as the ONLY option that's available to people. I think it's about foregrounding what is amazing and knowing that candy dissolves eventually over time.

*(which i think is going to be the name of my next business or novel or full-length mixtape).


when oppression spreads: why racism and feminism are absolutely linked

tonight i spent a good 30 minutes taking a couple of young dudes to task about this tweet that ended up in my feed, thanks to an ignorant RT:

on the back of a couple of general WTFs, stupidly, i tried to 'educate' a little. even though that's a problematic tactic. and i think i know why*.

one of the examples i gave them was -  that attitude was similar to the idea that dressing puffer and being black justified being beaten by police.

to which they both responded/agreed:

which shocked me.
it shocked me that they believe that to be OK and they're not angry with that. at all.

they have, thanks to a white supremicist system and the racism within the media (not just the police force), come to believe that the key to not being beaten by police is to not look like hood yute.

they are so conditioned to believe that a young black man deserves to be harrassed by the authorities because of the way he dresses.

and so they believe that a young woman deserves to be raped because of the way she dresses.

and they are so conditioned to these ideas, that they're not angry about them.

they're fact.
ways of staying safe.
and a reason to castigate others for not adhering to the codes of staying 'safe'.

despite the fact that young black men from the hood in puffers are no more likely to stab someone than angry young white men in the suburbs.

despite the fact that women are raped regardless of being as sexually bared as possible, or as modest as full niqab.

and that rape is not punishment for social disorder.

and this is why white feminists need to study racial oppression.
because the conditioning is comparable. and each one supports the other.

*i've blocked one - who doesn't care about [my] opinion' and monitoring the other (the guy i originally was following).




Hip Hop Arts Club at Culture Blast

Backing up after the exhibition in Dublin, my very first Hip Hop Arts Club is kicking off as part of this weekend's Culture Blast at Wimbledon Library.

Organised by Ash Akhtar from the Arts Development (and amazing actor/film-maker in his own right), it's going to be a super fun event that gets high on the mashup of art and words and music.

Inspired by Busta Rhyme's verse on Scenario by Tribe Called Quest (and that crazy video) Hip Hop Arts Club is something that has been brewing for a while, first kicking off at the Collingwood Housing Estate, chatting with the young people as part of their input into the Everybody's Favourite Song CD.

Everyone has a favourite Hip Hop lyric* - something that sticks - a click of poetry or beats or the particular flow that can paint an image that resonates. yes, even with all those mixed metaphors.

And for young people, hip hop is a genre that speaks very clearly to their actual experience (rather than an abstract one). These lyrics, these styles, a certain beat, the way a set of 16 will just capture a time and a place - they're meaningful.

And that meaning isn't always easy to articulate and sometimes it's just a feeling, and that's why it grabs.

The Hip Hop Arts Club uses that as a basis for making art - images from lyrical imagery, picking up on the cycle between poetic rhymes of rap and the feelings and states of art. It's an opportunity to give words to pictures and vice versa.

Ash has organise Culture Blast along similar lines - connecting music and words, books and technology, public places of knowledge and enjoying tunes together.

WrongTom, Sam Underwood, Graham Lawrie and a couple of others are all making work that overlays sound, art and words. And we're taking over the old Wimbledon Library! How cool is that!

I'll be commandeering their Internet Space, surrounded by an old frieze done by the Wimbledon Arts School years ago, so I feel pretty privileged.

It'll be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Anyway, I know that some of you are into hip hop or art, so if you're in London and can get to Wimbledon, come on down.

*OK, not everyone, but most people my age and younger do.


...and he jiggled to the beat in his black and blue tracksuit

On Thursday night, the exhibition Implicated opened at MART in Dublin. Curated by implicate collaborative, the show "aims to investigate the boundaries of privacy" and I am one of the 7 exhibiting artists; which is pretty grand (to get local with my lingo).

I'm showing an extended remix of an earlier work about headphones as mobile privacy units.

Starting from a twitter feed based on the search term 'headphones', the work has two branches about their place in society and the way we use them to manage our engagement with public space to create an idea of privacy.

The first investigates a recent occurrence - i feel like it's a legal precendent -  which occurred in Ireland. John Dundon, charged with murder, wore headphones and listened to music whilst being sentenced. The work features a court sketch done by Ireland's one-and-only court artist of him giving two fingers to the system (literally). This questions what our role as citizens is in accepting the nature of being one. There is no legal requirement, clearly, to listen to our punishment. Dundon pushes the boundaries of privacy all the way into the law.

The other branch features a range of headphones 'branded' with the words we say to the world when we wear them (above: a small detail)

Also taken from the twitter feed, these are the unspoken codes of headphones as fashion, headphones as units of privacy, headphones as contemporary objects.

In speaking with people at the exhibition's private view, there is a clear generational split of those for whom headphones are 'standard' and those who aren't. BH and AH. People of my generation and younger are all pretty-much raised on them and either choose to wear them or not. We take them for granted and are the ones who read them as a social 'norm' for delineating privacy.

The responses to the work have been great so far, including props by Jimmy Deenihan, Irish Minister for the Arts in his opening speech - that's pretty great. Not to mention the great conversations about privacy, my work and multiple references to Elizabeth Throop's book Net Curtains and Closed Doors.

There is a fantastic catalogue for the show, including an essay by Dr Paul O'Brien from National College of Art and Design. He will be speaking at the Artist Talk on Friday 11th October, which you should attend if you're anywhere near Dublin.

4th - 20th October, 201
MART Gallery 
190A Rathmines Rd Lower
Dublin 6