By Dylan Deprey
Chants rang across Cleveland State University, as a 14-year-old boy was arrested during a Black Lives Matter Protest in July 2015.
The crowd persisted and pleaded that the boy was not intoxicated, as the police had arrested him for. The crowd was later pepper sprayed for blocking a police cruiser transporting the young protestor. What could have turned into riot shields and chaos instead became a group united.
“We gon’ be alright, we gon’ be alright, we gon’ be alright,” the group rang across the plaza as they continued to peacefully protest.
They were chanting the chorus to Kendrick Lamar’s song “Alright,” one of the politically charged cuts from his Grammy award-winning album, “To Pimp a Butterfly.”
Just like N.W.A’s “F*** tha Police” gave Black youth facing police brutality a strong message to send to the L.A. Police Department back in 1988, Lamar amplified the protestors voice the same way.
While Songs like Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” will never hold the same amount of political punch that had the FBI knocking on YG’s door for the song, “F*** Donald Trump,” Hip-Hop’s powerful message can turn heads and focus on issues at the source. In part of a series of discussions, UWM’s Sociocultural Department held Black Lives Matter? A Multimedia Conversation on Hip Hop, Violence and Systemic Racism, on Oct. 3 2016.
Panelists Tyrone Miller aka DJ Bizzon, UWM urban education doctoral candidate Monique Liston and Nation of Islam’s Dr. David Muhammad all gave an in depth look into Hip- Hop’s power of delivering messages to the masses about the systemic racism and structural violence black people face daily.
“The power of Hip-Hop is not just to make some money, not just the ability to show off. But its the ability to say a negative story told about us and with the power of Hip-Hop transform it into a positive picture,” Liston said.
Liston explained that Hip Hop music stems back just as far as the systematic racism ingrained into society today. She noted that the art of DJing, Emceeing, B-Boying and graffiti art were born in the heroin infested project complexes in the Bronx, NY, but the struggle goes back further.
The crime ridden projects were meant to house the influx of African Americans moving North during the Great Migration, post- Emancipation. So, as racism was born with Europeans filling cargo ships with innocent African men and women, the same struggle sparked what would later become the flame that is Hip-Hop.
“The ability to tell your own story is defining your reality, asserting that power is the space Hip-Hop has created for Black people, especially in response to systemic violence,” Liston said.
As a highly sought out DJ, Miller has earned an eclectic ear for Hip-Hop, whether its conscious introspection music or speaker shattering party music.
“I’ll never apologize for Hip Hop,” Miller said.
He said that as much as he listened to more conscious rappers and groups like A Tribe Called Quest, there would always be an even medium for trap rappers like 2 Chainz and Lil Yachty.
“Hip-Hop can be uplifting and built around empowering the community, but it can also be hyper masculine, sexist and degrading,” Miller said.
Miller explained that artists and audiences needed to shift the media’s lens from the trendy artists and focus on the culture of where artists are from.
Milwaukee rapper El Shareef said that “he lives life then raps.” As a black male he has felt some racism growing up in Milwaukee. He is not a political rapper, but instead a firm believer in sticking to telling his stories and keeping it 100 percent real.
“When they listen to my music I want them to not learn something or take in some wisdom, but to take it and make something better with it,” Shareef said. “I’m living out my rhymes and I just want everyone to be more genuine and realistic when they do things in life.”
Miller said that in order for artists to stay true to themselves and Hip Hop in a dying music industry, just like El Shareef, have to be genuine and not give in to conforming to the industry’s standards.
“There were many people lynched in their Sunday’s best, and spoke the most eloquent English,” Miller said.