Tag Archives: worldview

Bonus Cut Films Presents: An Interview With Jahshua Smith


via blatpack.com

When Jahshua Smith (FKA JYoung The General) is on stage, he commands it. He makes you listen to his words and what he has to say. When he’s in front of an audience, he doesn’t hold back and you can tell that he’s doing something that he loves. As an audience member, it becomes impossible not to move your feet, throw your hands up in the air and nod to the beat. After seeing how polarizing and energetic he is on stage, you might assume he would be the same way off it. However, when you sit down and talk with Jahshua, he is one of the more quiet and retrospective artists we have spoken with. As one of the founding members of the BLAT! Pack, Jahshua Smith uses hip-hop as a worldview and applies it to the work he does within African-American history, teaching literacy skills to youth and the music he makes.

We held the interview at the Record Lounge, an independently owned record store on Division Street in East Lansing, Michigan. The store is exactly how you want a record store to be: there are crates of vinyl everywhere, and hidden gems lurk within the stacks as posters, stickers and flyers are plastered on every corner of the space. It’s the kind of place that you could spend hours on end. Having grown up in Detroit, Jahshua eventually left for the Lansing area to attend Michigan State University. He chose the Record lounge for the interview because as a student, it was a place he went to discover new sounds and hangout with friends.

We cannot thank Jahshua enough for his interest in sitting down with us and we look forward to our next encounter.

Many thanks to Heather Frarey, the owner of the Record Lounge, for allowing us to do the interview in her place of business.

Directed by: Gus Navarro
Production: Daniel Hodgman, Gus Navarro and Phillip McGuigan
Camera:  Phillip McGuigan and Julian Stall
Editing: Phillip McGuigan and Gus Navarro
Songs: “Obvious” and “Censored” by StewRat


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The Tragic Killing of Queens’ 5 Pointz: A Personal Reflection


By: Daniel Hodgman

It has taken several weeks, but after a long battle in court, a federal judge has declared and refused to issue an injunction against the land owners of 5 Pointz that would have prevented them from bulldozing a graffiti mecca in order to build luxury high-rises. Last night, a whitewash went up, and nearly 30 years of New York City’s most prominent graffiti art was destroyed.

The 5 Pointz Art Center, which is named as such because it’s a symbol for NYC’s five boroughs coming together, was an outdoor art exhibit in Queens, which is often cited as the world’s premier collection of graffiti art. Covering over 200,000 sq. feet of factory walls, 5 Pointz was a beacon for graf artists, global murals and it was a New York City staple. Most importantly however, it was one of the strongest beacons for hip-hop.

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You Should Probably Listen to “Heart / Break in Lo Fi” by Mumbai If You Want Good Feels


By: Daniel Hodgman

Eoin Nordman and Taylor Cunningham call themselves Mumbai, a duo with much more on their plate than a lot of artists in their prime. Grappling an arsenal full of sounds, from all spectrum’s of this world, Mumbai dishes a hip-hop hybrid of sorts that insists we all must accept change. From ukelele introductions, intricately spit bars and well-placed samples, to melodic trombone and trumpet breakdowns, Heart / Break In Lo Fi is a swelling mass of diverse mastery rarely played these days. This record makes us think, not only about ourselves and how we perceive every facet of life, but about the future. With the numerous guest contributions and variety of instrumental input, this record shows us that coming together as one isn’t a farfetched goal, and by the sound of this record, it’s actually pretty damn fun.

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A Reaction to Lord Jamar and His Inaccurate Take on Hip-Hop

By: Gus Navarro

This past week, Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian, offered up some provocative statements regarding issues of race, power, homosexuality and ownership in hip-hop during an interview with Vlad TV. His comments provide us with the chance to think critically about how hip-hop can and should be defined. There is much that goes into this definition and it is worth thinking long and hard about. As I began to reflect on this interview, it became clear to me that Lord Jamar’s comments are doing the social movement of hip-hop a disservice. Lord Jamar is simplifying hip-hop down to a black and white issue and I wholeheartedly disagree with this line of thought. Lord Jamar is taking away from understanding hip-hop as a worldview, how it has grown and what it can do for people. On top of that, he is slighting every hip-hop artist involved in creating what it is today. In light of these comments, we must break down what he is saying because of hip-hop’s significance around the world.

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Hip-Hop and the Happenings in Brasil


By: Gus Navarro

Two weeks ago, Daniel Pellegrine, a 20-year-old funk singer known as MC Daleste, was shot in the stomach in front of more than 4,000 fans while performing at a free concert in Campinas, São Paulo. In a YouTube video that has gone viral, he is seen performing a song entitled “Apologia,” that contains a particularly violent tirade about killing police when suddenly two shots ring out. Almost immediately, his lifeless body crashes to the stage. The camera quickly loses focus as the person filming flees the scene.

As I watched the video, I expected a burst of gunshots to ring out following the first two. However, there is nothing. It is extremely likely that a hired gunman connected to the police carried out this execution (there is much money to be made as an ex-cop in the “private security” business). It is possible that this was gang-related although Daleste’s father has been cited as saying that Daleste wasn’t involved with gangs. Adding to this, Daily Mail reported that, “Police have since retrieved the first bullet from the scene of Daleste’s murder. It allegedly matches the .40mm ammunition issued by the military police.” MC Daleste is not the first artist to be gunned down at a concert in Brasil; there have been six other rappers gunned down since 2010, including MC Primo and MC Duda Marapé.

In June, Brasil hosted the Confederations Cup (a soccer tournament viewed as the dress rehearsal for the 2014 World Cup). When the Confederations Cup began, mass protests broke out all over the country. The initial unrest began in São Paulo as a response to an increase in the bus fare across the city. However, the protests quickly became a nationwide movement denouncing a range of problems such as government corruption, poor education and health care. Trade unions were also active, demanding a 40-hour work week and better benefits. Over the years, the people of Brasil have suffered due to a lack of infrastructure and corrupt politicians that abuse their positions of power to no end. There are numerous accounts of generously paid legislators who have been charged — and sometimes even convicted — of crimes like money laundering, bribery, drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder.

While a few of these politicians have been convicted, a majority of these crimes go unpunished while there are people in Brasil struggling to provide for their families, obtain an equitable education and receive proper medical treatment. The Confederations Cup presented the ideal opportunity for Brasilians to make their voices heard as the world turned its attention to this South American country. Day and night there were people demonstrating all over in cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Thousands demonstrated in front of the National Congress in Brasília. There were protests in Recife, Fortaleza and Maceió in the northeast of Brazil, Belém in the Amazon and Florianópolis in the south. The majority of the protests were peaceful.

Brasilians have a legitimate beef with their government that through a corrupt system has denied them the resources needed to live with dignity. Given the nature of these demonstrations it is critical that we examine the social, economic and political context within Brasil that has led to an overwhelming amount of political corruption and social injustice. If this were not a serious issue, the people would not be driven to the streets during a soccer tournament, the country’s passion. With that in mind, we must also take a close look at what has happened to the artists—and in this case hip-hop artists—that have attempted to address some of these problems through their music.

In the case of hip-hop, there are MCs in Brasil that use their music as a way to speak on the corruption they grew up with and see around them. The music of hip-hop, something that began as an outlet for the young people of New York City to take ownership and resist racist policies, has become an international phenomenon. This is because there are communities all over the world facing hardships that are engaged in the struggle for humanity. This is no different in Brasil where there have been multiple MCs slain for the political implication within their music that are a part of the Sao Paulo-centered “Ostentatious Funk” scene, a bling-obsessed and violent brand of rap over looped beats. Also called Sao Paulo funk, the club genre is an offshoot of Rio’s Funk Carioca, rooted in that city’s impoverished favelas and known for its empowering conscious messages and sexy groove.

Music and art are inherently political and will always be a medium with which to defy the repressive forces in societies all over the world. For example, protest songs brought people together and served as a rallying cry for those engaged in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. With the current situation in Brasil, this is no different. MCs in the Funk scene have used their music to get the word out about sub-par living conditions and corruption that is occurring across the country. The terrifying thing is that right now, the situation is so testy that if you step out of line and criticize authority, it is possible that you will be killed for doing so. Is it even possible to imagine going to your favorite artist’s concert only to have them gunned down in front of you and thousands of other fans? In Brasil this has been happening since at least 2010.

It is beyond time that the international hip-hop community comes together around this issue. Activist MC’s such as Dead Prez, Immortal Technique, Blitz the Ambassador, Talib Kweli, Pierce Freelon, Invincible, Yasiin Bey and hip-hop heads from around the world are needed to use their influence to spread awareness about these executions. It is imperative that musicians in the spotlight are willing to use their sound as a way of challenging the status quo and creating consciousness. It has been done in any successful social movement because when it happens it gives the people a catalyst with which to oppose the varying forms of political corruption and domination. Given the circumstances, hip-hop music can be that rallying cry. The government of Brasil is facing a serious problem that is more important than international notoriety that must be addressed immediately. The international hip-hop community has to get the word out and come together in opposition of these senseless deaths.

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Hip-Hop and Its Influence: An Interview With David Kirkland (Part Two)

By: Gus Navarro

This is the second half of a two-part interview with Dr. David E. Kirkland about hip-hop and its educational impact. Dr. Kirkland is a professor at Michigan State University and one of the coordinators of ULITT and directors of CAITLAH. In this part of the interview, Dr. Kirkland comments on the transformative power of hip-hop education. For additional context, check out the first half part of this interview which can be found here.

Excerpts taken from an interview with Dr. David E. Kirkland on February 26 th, 2013…

GN: In what ways does hip-hop manifest itself in education and educational circles?

DK: Right, so let me just say there are two things in education. You can talk about hip-hop in education. Some of us have talked about hip-hop in education, ways to use hip-hop to teach other things. And so you can do that. We call it scaffolding or bridging. You can use Tupac in order to teach the classics if you will. You can use Tupac in order to teach literary devices and elements like chiasmus, consonants, and other types of rhetorical literary ideas or entities. You can use rap in order to create a mnemonic device to memorize mathematics, its been done. I call that hip-hop in education. But hip-hop education is the type of education or pedagogy that hip-hop is established in. Hip-hop teaches. It works in the tradition of the African Griot. It works in that oral tradition, it works in the oral tradition of the street press where individuals would come together and they would collect stories and they would collect histories. It works in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History in the sense that it has its own pedagogy, its own moment. So the cypher becomes this space where everyone is equal but at the same time in order to be elevated within that cypher, the cypher is trying you. Its like a cauldron, it invites you in, but it doesn’t let you remain the same, you have to put your energy out there; you have to be vulnerable. So, hip-hop education suggests a vulnerability, it has its own language, its language is rap. And rap isn’t just the science of rhyme; it’s the science of truth. So when we hear hip-hop artists talking about rap, the thing that makes rap significant isn’t just a rhyme, it’s that it gets close to truth. It’s saying things that people realize. This is hip-hop education. Hip-hop education is the element of pedagogy, the element of education that exists within the hip-hop idea. And it’s not necessarily the traditional education that we understand or know.

GN: So going off of that, can hip-hop education or hip-hop pedagogy exist in mainstream schools?

DK: I think hip-hop in education can exist in mainstream schools, but hip-hop education is a school in and of itself. I think schooling should and can be informed by hip-hop. We should do school more like we do hip-hop. We should have cyphers break out that invite people, we should break down the walls of schooling and construct education and the education imagination based on how people understand and live life today. And hip-hop gives us a glimpse into that. So if we think about education and how it’s constructed today we have to go back to history. We have to go back to post-industrial history where you had labor laws that prohibited youth from working. So we needed some repositories to place these kids so we constructed these entities and the architect of these entities were usually the architects of prisons and factories. We also had this really interesting agrarian culture; what to do in the winter? So we set up this thing where you go to school in the winter and in the summer you don’t. So the imagination around how we look at schooling today isn’t necessarily the most effective way to do school for now because it was based on a society and culture that is long past. So there is an argument to re-think education anyhow. But hip-hop gives us this third space, this site of really interesting creation, both pedagogical creation as well as performative creation coming together to inform the ways that people learn; the way that the mind is impressed upon. And I think that’s important.

GN: I think it is too and off of that, what do you do at Michigan State to carry these things out? Is it just in class or are there other programs that you’re involved in within MSU? And what is the approach to these programs?

DK: Well Michigan State University is a hegemonic space. It’s a fairly traditional space with really good people in it pushing against traditions. But there is one thing about dominant hegemony is that they have gravity to them. We can pull up, but we can only pull so long before the thing gets heavy and it falls back in its place. But I have done some things at Michigan State University within my classes because I think it’s important. This goes back to the question of why teach hip-hop? I don’t want to teach hip-hop because it engages youth, that’s important. I can give the youth candy, that will engage them too and it will hurt their teeth. I teach hip-hop because it’s smart to do so. We teach Shakespeare, we teach Dante, we teach all these other people I called “hip-hopgraphers.” We teach them because it’s smart to do so. If in the days of written technology we used print in order to transmit meaning and in the day of digital technology we use music, sound, and visual multi-modo moving imagery to do it. Why don’t we teach that? Why don’t we understand that as a new way of capturing our humanity? I teach it because it’s smart to teach hip-hop. I’m not going to wait until Tupac is dead a hundred years to say, “wow, lets reflect on this.” We need to reflect on it now. Because by reflecting on it, it gives us a way to understand ourselves in powerful and important ways and to re-shape the world that we live in, so that it can be more inviting and more beneficial to more people. So I say that to say, I teach it in my class because I have to, because its what makes us smart by studying and examining hip-hop today. I also created a set of interventions. One intervention is our Urban Literacies Institute for Transformative Teaching (ULITT). It is a hip-hop pedagogy retreat that I brought to Michigan State University. This year is our second year into that, and we’ve seen transformative results. I got an email today from a teacher that told me that one of her participants told her that the event changed her life. That she found healing as well as strategy through it and for me, that’s important. So I’m trying to open up spaces at Michigan State University. I don’t know how long those spaces will be open before the powers that be close them, but for as long as we can keep them open, we’re going keep them open.

GN: Thank you very much, I appreciate you sitting down with me and talking.

DK: Thank you.

It is important to reflect on the purpose of schooling and education. The public school system as we know it comes from the Technological Revolution of the early 19th century. Schools were modeled after factories that were essential to the United State’s economy. Kids get union breaks too, its just called recess. As students move through school they are indoctrinated into the “American Way” and are prepared to enter the work force by the end of their education. Having the skills to find a job is in no way a bad thing, but it may be time to approach this in a different way. With the continual push towards globalization our world cannot function without things such as computers, the Internet and smart phones. Nowadays there are so many ways in which we can express ourselves and connect with people. Using hip-hop as a worldview, as a way of reading the world and interacting with others allows teachers and students to collaborate and learn together. Hip-hop education gets away from the one-size fits all educational model of testing and standardization. Hip-hop education creates a space where students are encouraged to create and learn using multiple disciplines such as writing, music, film, photography, art and dance all while pushing students to develop the agency to navigate the complex society we live in. When we focus on testing, we are not supporting students to be curious and ask conceptual questions about their communities. If we want to use hip-hop education, we have to be willing to change how we do school and how we teach students. To build off Dr. Kirkland’s statement, he is not talking about using lyrics to teach the 50 states. That is hip-hop in education and super status quo. Instead, he is talking about using the worldview of hip-hop to teach students to be curious, critical, vulnerable and to use their experiential knowledge. As Dr. Kirkland explains, “In the days of written technology we used print in order to transmit meaning and in the day of digital technology we use music, sound, and visual multi-modo moving imagery to do it. Why don’t we teach that? Why don’t we understand that as a new way of capturing our humanity?” This is not a traditional model of education, but it is time that we at least consider what this could do for our students as they grow and learn about the world around them.

*You can check out Dr. Kirkland’s blog at davidekirkland.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter: @davidekirkland.

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