Evening Exchange; Post-Soul Black Culture
A misunderstood cultural phenomenon, a rap star, some filmmakers, and more next on Evening Exchange. Good evening, I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Welcome to Evening Exchange. In the last two decades, we have witnessed a tremendous evolution in black urban culture. Music, literature and film have mimicked and chronicled an era that has kept the over-35 crowd kind of reeling and the under-35 crowd, well, rocking the house, so to speak. Trying to keep tabs on and understanding these changing times is no small feat. Tonight we have a man who's been chronicling black culture for nearly 20 years. You've no doubt read his columns if you get the Village Voice newspaper in Washington, or you may have read one of his books. They vary from basketball to hip-hop. I'm talking about the prolific writer and producer Nelson George. He's just written a new book entitled Bucky's, B-boys, Baps and Bo ho's:
Notes on Post-Soul Black Culture. Nelson, welcome to Evening Exchange. And please first explain what is meant by post-soul black culture. Well, I guess what I'm arguing or suggesting is that since the obvious triumph of the Civil Rights Movement that is the Voting Rights Act, those kinds of obvious barriers that we've had a change in the relationship of black Americans to themselves, in fact. We've had new opportunities we've had new abilities. We've had blacks in the film industry in ways you never had them before, et cetera. At the same time, we probably had more reverses in terms of the community in terms of the drug problem and crime etc., than we've ever had. So you have sort of what I might say is uh both diversification and fragmentation. And black America the same time. You used to be a writer for Billboard magazine in the 70's and you described how the term post-soul, in your own view, came about because there was an evolution of music that simply could no longer be called Soul.
Yeah. It's around1982 actually. And I come in there I was a couple years out of college, and I looked at the idea of soul music in the era of Prince when he was just coming out with Dirty Mind, when Kurtis Blow was still a big rap artist and when Run-D.M.C. was coming up and I looked at the chart and it didn't reflect this reality. Did soul seem to me to mean, a certain approach to music, a certain sensibility about music which no longer was totally encompassing all of black music and you know, you could've called it the funk disco crossover hip hop cop chart and I opted for black at that time, because I thought that was a more all-encompassing philosophical phrase and I got a lot of flak for it. Both because a lot of white retailers did not want to have the sign black in their record store and a lot of artists at that time were in it this was the era of remember of the universal black man. You never want to be a universal artist, and I wanted to deal with blackness as an entity it was like we were rejecting that out of the 70's. Um what's so ironic is now it's 1993 and we've come full circle. And you talk about "ghetto-centricity," which is a term we'll get into later but let us now explain what is meant by the terms in the title of your book. We know the title Bucky's and what that
means and if you don't, we're not going to explain it. Who and what are B- boys give us some examples. I think a B-Boy is a product of the urban culture of the last 15-20 years. A b-boy is best epitomized by a rapper, someone who's a product of this urban culture that has emerged, out of you know this is like this very troubled 20 years um the bap I Before we go to bap, you have, you used to describe yourself as an intellectual B-boy. Why? Uh Because I felt like I came out of I came out of the projects I came out of Brownsville, which is right now best known for Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe, uh not a garden spot in America. But at the same time, I was always a bookworm kid, I was a kid who went by the Started smoking joints and stuff I would sneak upstairs and read a book. So I-I-I understand a lot of where that culture comes from. And you eventually went to St. John's University, what is it that inspired your writing career as a professional? Wow. Um Well as a music critic, it was inspired by reading reviews in Rolling Stone magazine in particularly of a Brothers Johnson album, I'll never forget. And it was and I think it was the Blam
album and it had-. That that specific review. Yeah - inspired to some extent - yeah - of your review because it was about the I just remember reading it and saying he doesn't understand what the Brothers Johnson are coming from. He doesn't understand how Louis Johnson is getting down on the bass, he doesn't under- stand how the records on this album are utilized by black people. He's writing about the Brothers Johnson if they were Bob Dylan. I just felt like his whole criteria for understanding the music was wrong, and I just felt like if someone from my experience who'd gone to parties and danced to the music had a better sense of the music. And you also had an inspirational experience when, as a young man in 1968, you went to a model cities program, much of your writing is analytical and you give credit for that to one gentleman you met doing that model cities program. Yeah, I'm definitely a product of that of the of those programs that now are in such low regard by conservatives. But the model cities program for those who don't even remember or know was a program funded by the federal government in the summer, paid kids a small stipend to attend classes and we had a I had this brother who came in a Afro,
the Bohemian brother, and we go in to late in the day we all were kind of scratching our heads, and he played Coltrane for us. He introduced us to a lot of different concepts, and one of them was the idea of analyzing newspapers. uh One day, he came in and I forget he came in with the Post the Daily News and the New York Times. Three different newspapers and we all read the same story I believe about a robbery or some event. And by looking at how each paper presented the information we got a sense of the political slant of the paper. What facts were withheld what facts were minimized and it was like wow you know just like a blind in the right - and revealed itself unto you. - Yes that that there was more than this thing this objective journalism that I talk about didn't mean anything and I never believed in objective journalism ever sent. There is no such animal. And you have never forgotten that incident. Baps who and what are baps? Uh children of I guess "entitlement" - people who believe black American princes and princesses who have come out of a fairly privileged background to believe they're supposed to have things are supposed to
have, and don't have a real strong sense of the struggle it took for us to get it. I think Whitley, on a different whirl, is a perfect example of the bap. Bo ho's? Ho's? Bo ho's comes out of bohemians and we've always had a Bohemian strain in African-American culture I just feel like the amount is in there and their acceptance is wider. When you have a Tracy Chapman, you have a Vernon Reed in living color. When you have, for that matter, John Michaud Bastiaan, the famous painter who died a few years ago - they lead an alternative kind of lifestyle. They had an alternative view, I think, of a black America black life that wasn't as if the stereotypes were of either white people or black people. Where would Keith Jarrett, the piano player, fall in that? Huh. I think he's I think he's bo ho myself. Keith Jarrett you would consider bo ho. Absolutely. Now buppies b boys baps and Bo ho's is a collection of articles written by you over the years on a variety of topics, anything that that came across your path or into your mind you were allowed to write about for the Village Voice. Some of these were also from their board?
No, no, I'm using but there's a couple from Musician magazine ah - in fact, the first piece in the book is about Curtis - about rap in 1980. Uh huh. And uh that was a musician that was the first piece that I know of that was written in a national music publication about rap. There'd been other pieces I think in some of the trades. [Host]: And how has the writing and the music exploded? Since that's a subject we'll explore more deeply as this discussion goes on. But I was fascinated by what you described as the article you wrote that received the biggest response ever and it was an article um because you were angry. Well actually it's funny. I wasn't angry when I wrote it but it's about angry. It read angry to me. It's called "To Be a Black Man" and in fact there is a section of the book that is titled that and it would be hard to paraphrase other than to say it's about the little daily aggravations of racism that sometimes make you so mad as a black person. In fact one of things that happen to me - I've been on a book tour. I've been in San Francisco, Seattle, a few cities and it's happened to me in three different cities. I've come early to a radio station before the receptionist is in. So I'm going in and a security guard comes up to me and in three different
cities. They haven't said good morning. They haven't said how it may help. They've said do you have a package for me? Woah - this happened in San Francisco. This happened in Philadelphia. It happened in Seattle. So that's the kind of thing that - I read I read this in Philadelphia and talked about this white guy got so mad at me. How dare I say that. This happens to me too. I said Look come on. Certainly not as frequently as it would happen to _____ Georgia or me for that matter. You also mentioned in that article - one of the things I find interesting about your writing is how you seem at times to find in yourself different views of the same phenomenon. In that article you mentioned as a black man being played by what you call the gargoyles of womanism which, as you know, is a kind of ideological formation that Alice Walker and others subscribe to as distinct from feminism. Yet, at a later point, when writing about the prospect of a New York high school that would be for black males, you wonder if the works of womenist writers would be taught in this school because you feel that they ought to be. Tell us about what
appears there, to be a kind of feeling of uncertainty about women. I think that - I think that black women in terms of literature, and I get a lot of flak from this from some of my voice colleagues, have had an unprecedented run of success. Um, I guess M_____ would agree with you on that. It's been amazing since the mid 70s and I think that some some of that success is based on black women writers, some of whom have made white people feel very good about their views of black men. They've confirmed views that I think would submerge what they were afraid to say. At the same time, there are things that are said in those books that need to be discussed by young black men and understood by young black men. I don't think that I would condemn every book that Alice Walker or every worker or any particular group. but I would say that, as a general group. there's a problem I have with a lot of views of black men but I think black men do have a problem with black women, particularly young black men right now.
Do you think in part that was why the response to that particular article was so great? Because not only did it attack white people but it implies - because he ended the article by saying essentially I'm having a bad week here and that it implied that a lot of black men feel that they have bad weeks all year long and that a part of that has to do with black women. What is no question that the tension between- as a black writer, I mean it's amazing to be uh in discussions and realize that black male writers are not from the days of writing more. We're a long way from that. If you ask someone who leading black writers are it's is going to be women for the most part right now - McMillan, Walker, Morrison. What black male novelist has the kind of prominence that they've had? None in quite a long time. Maybe even a Charles Johnson, who had a tremendous book the "Middle Passage," never received the kind of a claim of publicity as these women. You are, I guess. what they would call "down with the scene." That is a part of hip hop culture. And you talk about how you grew up going to see blaxploitation
movies with your friends and the influence that in your view [it] has had on hip hop culture. Do you feel that that is, indeed, a very strong influence on hip hop culture? Oh yeah, it's one of the things that's so funny - when blaxploitation was around, people used to say "It's going to change the minds of our youth. It is going to affect the minds of our youth." And I guess they were right. Because on some level they have. I mean, I have a story where I used to wear my black leather pants and my leather jacket and my black turtleneck, and I was doing my Shaft number for a long time, and I think that in hip hop directly you see an Ice-T, especially in the L.A. rappers - a direct influence. Samples, I mean verbal samples from black exploitation movies are used in these records. So there's a direct correlation I think between a gangster image that was ___?? in some of those movies and what goes on now in the music. As a writer who has been in the business of working with Spike Lee, you've co-produced your own movies "Strictly Business" and you're now involved with a new movie called CB-4 or Cell Block 4. Have you found that you have turned to the medium of film and video because a lot of the young
black males to whom you would like to get, don't read. I've got to tell you I think the future of black education in fact, is in visual media. I think that the challenge of a station like this or BET or any, is to begin to utilize the tools that we have. In black film we are still embryonic. We are still not far from the level we are in music, far from a level we are in literature, I believe. But I think as we go into the next century, the way to bring the excitement to bring the information to the black community will be through TV, through films with visual medium that intersect with literature - that you might have a book, a home video, and a film in a classroom. And in order to do this in his latest film CB-4, Nelson George has combined his understanding of rap music and his writing skills and his understanding of film. What you're about to see is a clip from CB-4. [rap music in background as clip plays] All my life I wanted to be a rapper.
But nothing seemed to work. Then I got a new idea. Let's turn ourselves into gangsta rappers. Are you aware that your band might be arrested for indecency tonight? Cell Block Four is not afraid to go to jail Cell Block 4 is from jail. It'd only be like sending them home. And under no circumstances are you to perform sweat of my (police siren). God, I just love that I don't give a damn hip hop attitude it's so so real. You brothers have created something so nasty we had the concert You Die. Now, CB-4 is one of the hottest hip hop groups to come on the scene in a very very long time. Straight outta lopez a crazy young brother named Gusto I'm MC Gusto, but in prison I'm known as nine seven dash. CB-4 is misogynistic and I don't think they like women. L,M,N,O,P dash fourteenth. This is not just a movie about rap music it's about much much more. And the world's most notorious subject. Fellas what are you doing? We are filming. That's my chart. Give that back. That's mine. [sounds of a struggle]
Dash 7 dash fourteen to the third power. I thought I was hardcore man. You aint tough! There are some real kids out there who are going to kick your narrow (bleep) Any person who defile America's past time by wearing a baseball cap backwards, well that's an evil that speaks for itself. Tonight city is full of hate. Straight outta lo cal (automatic gun shots) It's my first drive by CB-4 featuring new music from Dead Mike. (singing): I'm black y'all and I'm black y'all And I'm blacker than black and I'm black y'all. [?]I'm blackidy black black blackidy black Because I'm black and I am back. I can dance [Host] and wacky beats. [singing]: in your face yeah my rappin scream but I can dance. [Host]: CB-4 starring Chris Rock Allen Payne, Bill Hartman and Chris Elliott. "You replaced me as a role model in my son's eyes." ?? [Host]: CB-4 Nelson George, you also express acknowledgment to your homeboy Chris Rock Oh Got to 'cause it was Chris' idea and
he's the one to had bring the noise. That was courtesy of Universal Pictures it's a comedy about gangsta rap obviously which is some of the one of the.. one of the most controversial aspects of hip hop that we'll be talking about during the course of this program will be back in a little while with Doug E. Fresh and much more, stay with us. us. [music] [music]
People ask us a lot about that music, that's Bobby McFerrin And now that we have the human beatbox here with us maybe we'll hear a little bit of that. In the 80s black independent filmmakers broke new ground in an industry that neither welcomed nor understood their films. Today several black directors are making major strides towards inclusion in a once old white fraternity, but they still have a long way to go. A new independent film company is taking on Hollywood in name and deed. The company is called Screw Hollywood Productions it's a distribution company and is distributing a new film called "Let's Get Busy." Carr Clay is the award winning director and writer of the film. He's here to discuss it. And joining him is the star of this film Doug E. Fresh. Welcome to evening exchange. [Carr]: Thank you. [Host]: Carl what made you decide to avoid Hollywood? [Carr]: Well it wasn't a matter of initially trying to avoid Hollywood it was it was a matter of trying to take something that you consider to be important to
the community and take it to Hollywood, in the hope that Hollywood would embrace it. Unfortunately, from the script level you know you take a script to Hollywood, it's well, you know...look if you can get this--raise some monies--and get the film and they can come back and work with you. So you go, you raise the monies, you come back and it's in the can, and they say well, you know, if you can just finish it then maybe we can work something out and then you go back you finish the movie and everything and then they start running all these formulas at you know how many how many sex scenes do you have, you know how many helicopter shots, how many how much blood spat splatters on the screen so with all of that kind of confusion, you go back to your roots you know my roots are from theater. [Host]: Black Spectrum Theatre. [Carr]: There you go. And after 20 years of that which, it's a theater. It was born of the community, you look back and you say well how do you do what you've been doing and make that true so you know the words cross the lips which was; Screw Hollywood.
hey, here we are. [Host] : The Black Spectrum Theater in Queens New York and you've won a lot of awards for short films and videos that you have done in the past, yet Hollywood still wanted to see some more blood on the screen. [Carr] Yeah. [Host]: Doug E. Fresh: Here's a guy who was avoiding Hollywood. You are a gentleman who has achieved international fame and nevertheless you decide to go with this production. Why? [Doug E. Fresh]: Well because when I met Carl, Carl seem like a [inaudible] that had a good script from when I read it and where it was coming from was real strong. The script caught me and I seen different things in it that you know I can relate to on a major level. So I said that I would, um, get involved with it and make it happen because it seemed real positive and I've never seen a movie presented like that. I've always seen movies presented in a way where the guy has to be this certain type of person you know to come across in a certain way to, you know, to get get this little response like yo he's the gangster, he this or he that, but I've never seen
somebody come from the perspective he came from. So I said I'd work with him to make it happen. [Host] And before you came on the scene a lot of people had never seen the kind of perspective that you came from We'll discuss that later but let us now take a look at a clip from Let's Get Bizzee. [movie clip] [croud] I love myself! [film character] I can't hear you say 'I love myself'. [beatbox sounds] [croud sounds] [film character] You won the school rap contest, but you barely ever came to school! I don't understand. [film character] I took my ass out of class, you know what I'm sayin'?. Because my mind wasn't motivatin'. Teachin' us [inaudible] while in South Africa they perpetrate. [film character] What are you guys going to do with your lives? [film character] Politicians, on self-centered missions while others hold onto to old traditions. Drug dealers dealing in fancy cars and I quote it's time to vote, I'm a [inaudible]. [film character] Two thousand dollars? [film character] After that everybody's gonna know about Sam's son. [Rap] Why should I have to stoop to that
level? Kick a [inaudible] and I'mma rap it to the devil. [Song] Have I ever sat in wonder [music] [film character] In order to get the best for the community well, sometimes we have to say things we don't really mean son. [film character] First of all I'm not your son. And I'm gonna kick your old [audio gap] to let you know... [music] [music] [music] [film character] I'm here to represent myself. as the new Assembly man of this district. [film character] Who're you voting for? Who's she voting for? [film character] Those twelve hundred signatures that you collected are not valid. [crowd cheers & applauds] [inaudible] [film character] If either one of you ever cross my path again, not only will you
wish you was dead, you will be. [music] This is a warning, keep your dog away from me. This is a warning [film character] Now tell me all about that big, big, election you've been working on. [music] This is a warning [film character] Get the fuck up! Get up! [film character] Any last words baby? [film character] First, throw one finger in the air. Tap your friend [inaudible] stare. And as you stare, And say who isn't, go to the polls and let's get busy. Okay, that's a clip from Let's Get Bizzee starring and Doug E. Fresh and it is the work of Carl Clay, Carl, You take a group that apparently lives in an inner city community and move it away from gangsta rap into a more responsible community oriented kind of role. They challenge a black politician in the community.
were you trying to tell your viewers that gangsta rap ain't happenin'. Well I think it was more a question of trying to communicate the fact that rap is a very viable communications, you know, method it's how kids communicate today. And I think the question is, is that when we look at, you know everybody talks about the future and we talk about being at the edge of the 21st century. We look at ten... five, ten, 15 years from now we'll find that many of our leaders are going to come from the ranks of today's rap artists, OK. They're communicators and, um,Nelson George mentioned earlier about how the visuals are ultimately going to play a very important part, well music is going to play a part of that also and I think that the idea simply was is to show what the possibilities are. I think that youth today are you know a disenfranchised group as a whole in our communities, they suffer more from every type of social ill you can talk about but
they're the most disorganized and I, what I was simply trying to do is say that for young people that here's a compass that, you know, that's possibly usable in your every day about how you work and how you're represented as a youth in America. The reality,however for Nelson, is that gangsta rap still sells and your movie is apparently a comedy about a group of young people who turn to gangsta rap in order to make money. Can you expand on that? Well just the thing about gangsta rap that makes so, so such an issue it really does crystallize a lot of contrast in the film that we did it's a matter that these guys are looking for their own self image. They're very the middle class working class guys just want to be guys who think that by being against it by having the accouterments of the gold and the guns they get some kind of self esteem and it obviously is not true, and in fact they find the reality is that you cannot be what you're not. I think you know that's why gangsta rap I think is such an issue because it crystallized the heroism in a sense a need for heroism I
think in the black community and a lot of guys go through the gangsta rapper, for Harold because he looks like a hero, the fact that he sings and has a gun. He's doing violence etc etc. [Host] And you're say you cannot be what you are not and it's interesting the role of Doug E. Fresh plays in Carl's movie because Nelson wrote of you in the Village Voice in 1987. The wholesome Doug E. Fresh is still more human beatbox than rapper, yet when you combine his rhyme, sound, fx, harmonica, dancing and Cheshire cat smile it's clear Fresh is one of the music's most versatile live performers. No question. Doug E. Fresh is the Sammy Davis, Jr. of hip hop. Have you ever thought of changing what you get? [Carl Clay]: Well you know I've known Nelson a long time you know his, his, his viewpoints on me is, is cool you know. I mean I respect him because I believe he's an honest person that says what he feels, so you know that.
That right there is cool I don't have no problems with that in reference to me changing my style. I don't believe I have to because I believe that I can do whatever I want because I'm real. You know if I feel like making a record about violence, I make a record about violence. If I wanted to make a record about stopping the violence, I make about stopping the violence. And my audience don't. My audience is geared up from that because that's the way that they was that I came out. You know what I'm saying? I always took chances and I always try new things and I've always been an innovator of my own star, I created my own dimension and a game that that people classified as gangsta rap, see because the thing is this: Most people only have the wrecked viewpoint of rap music. I have the depth of rap music because I came from the streets of rap and I learned from the masters that most people never heard about like the guys like Kurtis Blow used to bite the guy's
rhymes that I know that I learnt from. So you know I'm not saying Kurtis Blow is not good but I learn from the people that originated it, and it was always based on saying something that was powerful whether it was about a gun whether was about ?? has all different styles you had ?? styles, you had styles where people call themselves Mr. Ness because Iraq's the best, ?? he's a lady's dream. You see what I'm saying. And it was it was always different style so it was never no one particular style only reason why gangsta rap is is on a level where it seems like that's very strong right now is because the youth is looking for that strength. You know and they see the strength in the gun. I got to take a few telephone calls because I know there are people anxiously waiting to talk to all of you, gentlemen. It is now your turn caller. You're on the air, go ahead, please. Yes, ???. This is Director Nelson George. First I want to say first that I've read it ?? rhythm blues ??.
Nelson George writes something I think is brilliant and on-point. What I want to ask you though specifically for instance is the CB4, and I've seen some of the I guess what are they called trailers? and I also saw what you've just shown and what I'm trying to find out is sometimes a positive message is sometimes overshadowed by the visual image you projected and filmed, and this would pertain to the other the other two gentlemen. Now what I've seen though I get some feeling of some of the same stereotypic stuff that I and I know many other folks don't want to see. So I'm just trying to get an idea, for instance, have you considered showing other trailers or you think those are the trailers that are going to be most significant to get an audience because I don't like what I see in terms of that. OK thank you. Well I got a feeling probably not to like the movie too much then. It is not it is a comedy is a broad comedy. It is in the tradition of Naked Gun, tradition of I'm Gonna Get You Sucker. If you like Living Color, you'll like it, if you don't like living color which a lot of people don't, you might not like it. It's, we make fun of gangsta
rappers. We also make fun of black nationalists is one of the characters. We make fun of Republican congressmen as played by Phil Hartman. Everyone in the film is taking a piece out of and it is a very big comedy is very broad and it is a raunchy comedy. I'm not I'm not going to try and say it's not that was a conception that Chris Rock had about the film and I backed him up on it because I believe that there was a way to look at this culture in a way that hasn't been. Most of the films have been done about rap have either A lot of them have dealt with the hardest elements of it in a very direct way. And we tried to take sort of a satirical look at it and the world surrounding it so. It is definitely film that could get you ??. [Host] Let me get back to the telephone, it's your turn called good evening you're on the air. [Called] Ah yes good evening Kojo. Good evening to your guest. I guess first of all I just want to say that I sort of sense a ghost there. of Greg Tate's not there. So I miss Greg this evening from the conversation. But I'd like to ask Nelson George a question about the apparent misogyny that is present in hip hop. One of the favorite songs one that my son particularly likes is 'I Want A
Gangster B' and I think you know the song I'm talking about and you know I want to sort of talk about that because I think some of the problems that black men and black women have, dates back to that the whole inability of brothers to protect black women during the slavery period so it's a lack of protection I think that the anger sort of comes out of so dealing with that ancient root, how does the present misogyny sort of help to deal with that and then the lack of female directors, Nelson George. Have you been looking for any sisters to direct any of these features that you've been producing? Well thank you. I can address the last one first and that is I was involved with a film called 'Just a Another Girl in the I.R.T' which is directed by a young woman named Leslie Harris and it's the film that I think will be coming out in April on Miramax and is a film a sister did in Brooklyn though much like Carl, the independent production and she raised money on a grassroots level and it's a film about a 16 year old black girl coming of age. So that is something that I've been involved in but I just wanna address the wider issue about misogyny. [inaudible]You know there's bad, there's something going on in the black community with young men and women that
needs to be addressed directly by black adults in terms of dealing with them the way they we're brought up because the idea of the gangsta B being the kind of woman guys want is a growing one. It's not something that's in remission... like femininity is not very respected. We'll talk about that a little bit more, I know Doug E. wants to say something, I wanted to get something. Doug You're staying with us so let me ask Carl this question right quick when can we expect to see Let's Get Bizzee in the Washington area? Well it opens February 26 over at the Capitol Hill Cinema. And it's a premier opening here in D.C. And again we're going to have a premiere and we're gonna get busy. And good luck to you, when we come back more Doug E. Fresh and we'll be talking with the organizers of what has become the annual hip hop conference here on the campus of Howard University Stay with us. [music] [music] [silence]
Welcome back. This week, the third annual hip hop conference will take place here on Howard University's
campus the initiated and those distracted by hip hop may say why a conference? April Silver, one of the founders of the cultural initiative incorporated, a sponsor of this conference. Will fill us in about the whys later. First meet our other guests, David Mills of the Washington Post is here and David is significant because it was on this program that David Hurd, then member of Public Enemy Professor Griff makes some anti-Semitic statements that caused David to slightly change the orientation of an interview he was doing for the Washington Times. And we all know how that interview with Professor Griff led to his later suspension and then expulsion from the group Public Enemy. David, glad to have you back you are now with The Washington Post of course. Kenneth Caroll, is with one magazine which is a new monthly coming out here in the Washington area. I think it is published by Eric Easter whom we all know and Kenneth has a piece in the February issue in which he predicts the demise of gangsta rap, staying with us in this segment,
Doug E. Fresh and Carl Clay thank you both for joining us. And April could you tell us what the focus of this year's conference is? The focus this year as in every years just to give respect to hip hop, the true art form. In a nutshell we always want to gather artists to talk about social responsibility. We want to talk about artists and their responsibility as leaders in the black community. We have a very particular emphasis toward black youth with the conference. We understand and we're trying to promote that artists like this would say that at the first year they're Leaders first and artists second. You know and because there's so much attention and energy that surrounds our artists they need to be more responsible in that they need to share that information and we need to definitely come together as a collective you know black youth and artists to empower our communities economically, socially, and also politically so we have a lot of different facets that we try to address political
education so on and so forth. [Host] Part of the economic emphasis is trying to get artists to understand how best to deal with the business aspects of their business, and a part of the emphasis this year in terms of the art, is you're talking about the impact of dance hall roots and reggae and the entire hip hop culture. [Silver]: Right. Exactly Every year we highlight. Aspect of black music last year was go go. If you remember our opening, opening panel. This year it's the relationship between hip hop and dance hall. You know next year to be something else because just as the name of the company indicates we are The Cultural Initiative so we even look to expand beyond hip hop music but that is our concentration because that's where most of the energy is right now. [Host] The dates of the conference [Silver] Starting today. [Silver] February 18 through the 20th, Thursday through Saturday. [Host] At Howard University and one of the things that will definitely come up Doug E. Fresh is what we were talking about earlier and that is gangsta rap but a lot of people in the public who are not a part of the hip hop culture culture especially parents in particular don't know rap music and hip hop like you know it, don't
know its origins, don't know its varieties what they hear and see mostly in these days is what we are referring to as gangsta rap. Could you tell us where in your view that falls within the whole hip hop culture? [Doug E Fresh] Well the first thing I wanted to say was the person I call for the first time in reference to the trailer. I believe that he's right about the trailer because me a caller was talking about the trailer before and we was gonna have another version but what he seen that trailer does not show the depth of that movie and he's right about the visuals sometimes clout, the underlyin' meaning of what something represents and I believe that you know when he or if he does take the time to check the movie out he'll see that the movie carries much more weight than this trailer. But the lady that called and said something about the, uh, calling the woman hating thing, misogyny she called it. [Host] In gansta rap, right. [Doug E Fresh]: Right well, see this is the thing about
gangsta rap right, or rather, street. I just call it street. The street has a whole 'nother set of rules than the way the world goes. The world looks at things in one way, the street looks at things in another way in the street you might say, you know, yo, this is how brothers might talk on the street 'so wassup so wassup, yo' and they might say, 'yo wassup so what you want nigga' and that's their way of expressing in the street because it's it's hard, it's it's real, it's it's what everybody says it's it's something that they say behind closed doors and something that they try to hide and they take it and in a sense they they look at it as well you know this is what it is and it's very raw. And when you have a record like the one by ?patching the gangster racket? what he's what he's saying is that he had a lot of girls that he met. That was Hollywood, you know they had the long hair you know the
perfect shape fingernails, you know I'm saying, eyes are all this, and they came out to be very phony. So the one that he wants is a girl that's a gangsta B but the B word that he's using and he's saying it on a street level like he was say 'nigga' whatever like that because they're street. [Host] You mean the word bitch is what he's talking about Right right, you know I didn't want to curse on the show you know I mean, I mean if you give me the lane I'll go all out. You see I just said that to you like if you give me the lane, I'll go all out because now I'm talking slang that's how the street talks. [Host] But it seems that that's what has been selling lately and Kenneth do you... [Doug E Fresh] Because the kids can relate to that. They can relate because it's not about the proper diction, the proper language, the proper all of these different things, because I think it's kind of like a rebellious thing of the way America is structured, as a world within itself. [Host] so that it seems that that's what white kids in the suburbs want to hear, it seems that that's what black kids who lives and who live in Long Island want to hear. [Doug E Fresh] They want to hear because the white kids want to hear because now they want to be down now because
and because what because what America was afraid of is that rap would blow up like it did. And then it get on MTV and all of the white children want to come on down and say 'so what you want nigga, so what you' you know what I'm saying? [Host] While holding their crotches like [Doug E Fresh]: Yeah put it put it and doing all of this. Now I'm saying that each person has an individual style. That's not my style. But at the same time I understand why it's that. You understand. [Host]: Kenneth Carroll you have written saying that you see the demise of rap, that you see that groups like X clan and others will be coming to the forefront in the 1990s or the latter part of the 1990s Why do you think gangsta rap is going away? Not rap, gangsta rap. [Carroll]: Well in the article I was doing something and I'm also a creative writer actually I was sort of writing with a vision a sort of a more hopeful vision of what you wanna do gangsta rap is as large today as it probably it will ever be. I mean it's probably at its pinnacle now and if you just look at Ice Cube album comes out and rushes quickly to number one. NWA releases their album, it runs to number one,
Dr. Dre releases his album it runs the number one. Gangsta rap is at its height. What I was building against is that that I was coming out of certain kind of idea about struggle and about where black people are in the struggle for liberation. And I think that gangsta rap a lot of it especially the west coast gangsta rap and Doug is important to have here because if you remember like in 86 when KRS-one came out with Criminal Minded there was a certain honest, you know, talk about being a gangster and what it took to be on the street. A lot of the now is Hollywood despite what you might think about Easy-E him being a great...he's no gangster and that's part of what I was saying in an article was that most of these guys is just another extension of Hollywood, the record industry and that that's where these guys are so. Is this honest on the part of a lot of these guys to sit around and talk about the way to do it is with guns. Easy-E and NWA and Dr. Dre they're in court with lawyers. See the gangstas take each other out with guns, right, you know, these are like niggas with lawyers you know. [host] Carl Clay- Is that a part of what you were trying to do with Let's Get
Busy to say that all of the anger and all of the fury can be turned in a more organized direction to do something for communities? [Clay] Exactly and I think that you know rap is a very palatable form. And I wanted to basically use it as a communication tool and showed it can be used that way and I agree there's a lot of things being said by rappers sometimes that are not really them. And one of the reasons why you know I think the collaboration between a Doug E. Fresh and a Carl Clay occurred, you know I really respect Doug because he's always been about what he's what he's rapped about you know and what he's what he's been about has been about a community about bringing people together. And I and to me that's what the movie needed and that's what I wanted to write about in that respect.
But I think that you know I think rap can be used in a lot of different ways than. [host] well Nelson George talks about quasi-nationalist gangsta rap but go ahead. I'd like to make a point about a lot of the hardcore gangsta rap. They may sell a million albums but the stuff doesn't get on the radio. One thing that's curious is that last year a couple of the biggest crossover pop hits by rap artist Chris Cross's 'Jump' and 'Jump Around' by House of Pain. You wouldn't classify them as gangsta rap but there are elements very subtle in that song - in those songs that reflect the style and the aesthetic of gangsta rap. The break down in 'Jump' where you get these two kids go or the one go "oh oh", see people listen I don't know that's about going to gangsta [Doug] see but what I'm trying to say is that I believe that a lot of black people and a lot of white people and a lot of older people don't understand the youth and by them not understanding the youth They make false, you know, they see things in a false way, it's not
what you think that it is, I mean, even when they go bo-bo like that that's a sign of you enjoyin' something because in Jamaica when there's a big event that goes on the the guys on the outside take their guns and 16s and shoot two, three times in the air because they love the performer that's on stage. So when a young audience is on ?inaudible? bo-bo! that's me, like I like it instead of going like this [claps hands] They go, bo! So in a way see America has their blueprint on the way they do things like I said but rap and the kids in the street have a whole new blueprint [host] a lot of people however will say that that may be true when it comes to some of the demonstrations of gunshots or other apparently macho demonstrations having to do with violence when it comes to do with how a lot of rap artists talk about women, then there's definitely an element of hatred involved. 1. how do you feel that should be addressed? and 2. is the conference going to address any aspect of that?
[Silver] Yes as a matter of fact we have a panel entitled sexism in exploitation in hip hop that definitely deals with you know those two particular aspects and beyond, see rap music or hip hop always reflects what's really going on that never really gets talked about, you know in our community. So before we can address it like in the artists arena it has to be dress addressed behind closed doors in inter-personal relationships and we have to always define how, what are the parameters of our relationships [host] do you feel the conferences have an influence on the artist themselves after they leave? [Silver] I think so. One because I think that the artists respect that there are people coming together that are trying to take a stance in the music industry in amongst artists and that's really unusual to people trying to put pressure on artists to be more conscious and more responsible, you know, towards the community because we have certain principles that we don't compromise on you know and I think that that's well-respected, so [host] On the other hand you have the lure of record companies coming to artists who are saying "If you're hard the harder you are the
more money we can probably make for you the better your distribution". How does an artist try to strike the balance between what is said at a conference such as this and the lure of the big money to just do anything hard? [inaudible] [Silver] I didn't go into it though. You know what they want out of the industry. [Doug] And what April's saying is right because I always work with April in reference to, and what my position is like she always said you know you have a relationship with with your people first you know because you have to teach them through song but I'm going to tell you that with a lot of artists that sign, they don't care about what she's sayin', and what we're saying. They only care about, I want to blow up. I want to get mine and I want to make people know that I'm here. And sometimes they sacrifice themselves because the people that's in control of the outlets that they have, They do things because they want to be accepted. Just like around the block. [Clay] Well in that regard I think one of the most important recent rap albums was probably
Arrested Developments album, which went counter to all of those A lot of the messages that are out there and particularly gangsta rap [Doug E.] and the radio loved that yeah, radio loved that type of rap you know but the radio won't play a lot of see the radio is a funny thing see they try to destroy rap. I mean on radio they said no rap you know what I mean you no rap and I don't understand how, well you don't, we have no radio and that's why everybody started watching videos and and the videos is what sells rap music. And they tried to stop that but they can't. [host] To what extent should reporting on hip hop culture reflect the kind of discussion that is taking place at this conference the kind of discussion that we're having and what Doug E. points out as the various strains that exist within the music because most of the reporting we see is on gangsta rap or hard rap. [Clay] One of the great things about hip hop too is that it has brought with it a whole generation of black writers and cultural documentarians and analysts, people like
Joan Morgan and Scott Poulsen Bryant and Kevin Powell and ? Malone, you can run down a list of them and you can read them in The Source and you can read them in Rolling Stone and Spin. [host] is that one of the things one magazine wants to do? [?] Well I don't know I agree that with this new rap thing that you bring a whole lot of different writers and a lot of younger writers who do understand who come from hip hop culture. I still think that there are some fundamental issues in our respect to Doug E., I still think if you put out a song like Gangsta Bitch that you can analyze the song to determine independently of where you are whether this is positive or negative and I don't think if Doug has a daughter he wants her to be a gangsta bitch, you know [host] and I'm afraid we're out of time in this segment but the conference at Howard University February 18th through the 20th. [Silver] Yes. [host] And the Nelson George movie, CB4 opens March 12th and the Carl Clay, Doug E. Fresh movie Let's get busy Opens February 26. We got to take a break we'll be right back. [music] [silence]
[host] Welcome back we're talking about hip hop culture and April Silver had a comment to make. [Silver] Yeah I was commenting on the last item that was brought to the table about the writers and the different ?inaudible? of hip hop now and I would really question whether or not everybody advocating hip hop now understands the depth of it which is a point that Doug brought up earlier. Just like the classic discussion between hip hop versus rap and the commercialism of hip hop and I think that that is really what is going on in a lot of the circles. People are supporting hip hop to make money. [host] But Kenneth has said that some of the critics want to be so down with the culture that they are afraid of criticizing anybody also. [Carroll] Exactly and that's a problem. You know I think there's there's a lot of times there's a too much of an effort to understand I think you know some things are negative they're just negative and we gotta' call them out sexism, misogyny, violence [host] Does any of that happen among rappers themselves where people criticize each other in private discussions about stuff like that?
[Doug E.] Yeah rappers rappers don't like certain things other rappers say. That's real. You know but like I was telling you when you said the thing about you know Gangsta Bitch is that it's like when when the word came out that's 'the joint'. The joint was considered jail. When I say you 'Yo, that's dope'. Dope was considered something that's bad for you. And at the same time now [host] so it's whack huh? [Doug E.] yeah, whack, you know what that is, you know what i'm sayin' well that's a gangsta, gangsta bitch or whatever like that. Now those words right there something that I don't use to describe any woman because that's not that's not my style but I understand what they're saying and where they're coming from. You know this image of being you know cosmetic you know he's sayin' strip away all the cosmetic stuff. Let me see the real person. And that's his way of saying it. Now everybody might not understand his way of saying it. And it might sound very harsh to the ear, but that's where he's coming from as I see it. [Nelson] You know what I was going to point out is that it's funny because this same conversation
occurred in another era also when we talked about jazz and the origins of jazz and the language of jazz. [CARL CLAY]: And people talked about, "Well, what are they really talking about?" and this and that. So, a lot of things come back, and I think that it's really a question of the culture... [KOJO NNAMDI]: And now it is, arguably, America's only classical music -- its only original art form. [CARL CLAY]: That's right. And that's why I'm saying today it's rap, you know, and...[OFF CAMERA VOICE]: Tomorrow...who knows? [DOUG E. FRESH]: Do we wanna be, uh, initiating..? I believe...one thing I want to say, is that the parents -- you have to take time out to understand your children, and let them show you what this music is about, because... [KOJO NNAMDI]: Exactly right. [DOUG E. FRESH]: You can not look at it, and think that just because you hear "bitch"... [KOJO NNAMDI]: Excuse me, Doug E....excuse me, Doug E...We're out of time. [GUESTS LAUGHING] [DOUG E. FRESH]: Six minutes? Six minutes? [LAUGHING] [KOJO NNAMDI]: That's our show for tonight. Our thanks to all of our guests and to you for joining us this evening. We would like to tell you about a jazz concert, and as soon as they show me it on the teleprompter, I'll tell you exactly what we would like to tell you about. The Hip-Hop Conference is not the only music in town this weekend, the annual East Coast Jazz Festival starts three days of the best music this area has to offer.
The playbill includes Ronnie Wells, the Winard Harper Quartet, and Keter Betts. After you leave the hip hop conference head to the Silver Spring Holiday Inn on Georgia Avenue for some great jazz. Tickets only $15. [MUSIC] [MUSIC]
- Evening Exchange
- Post-Soul Black Culture
- Producing Organization
- Contributing Organization
- WHUT (Washington, District of Columbia)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- The phenomenon of the "Post-Soul" movement in African American music, literature, and film is discussed by representatives of each field. Writer of "Buppies, B-Boys, Baps, and Bohos" and director of "CB4" Nelson George talks about the simultaneous diversification and fragmentation of Black America with the rise of "ghetto-centricity". Writer/director Carl Clay of the film "Let's Get Busy" from Screw Hollywood Productions talks about challenging politics and internal communications within the African American Community. Rapper Doug E. Fresh brings the internal dialogue of the gangster rap community to the table. The responsibilities of African American artists to their community as leaders first and artists second is discussed by April Silver of The Cultural Initiative, David Mills of The Washington Post, and Kenneth Carroll of "One" magazine.
- Episode Description
- This record is part of the Music section of the Soul of Black Identity special collection.
- Episode Description
- This record is part of the Film and Television section of the Soul of Black Identity special collection.
- Broadcast Date
- Asset type
- Copyright 1993 Howard University Television
- Media type
- Moving Image
Host: Nnamdi, Kojo
Producer: Jefferson, Joia
Producing Organization: WHUT
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
WHUT-TV (Howard University Television)
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Evening Exchange; Post-Soul Black Culture,” 1993-02-18, WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 26, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-293-31cjt22h.
- MLA: “Evening Exchange; Post-Soul Black Culture.” 1993-02-18. WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 26, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-293-31cjt22h>.
- APA: Evening Exchange; Post-Soul Black Culture. Boston, MA: WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-293-31cjt22h