Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Hip Hop Project

In recent news, Hip Hop has been sentenced and convicted of a litany of crimes. The rap sheet for Hip Hop runs long and is accused of everything from corrupting the 'innocent' minds of suburban youth by inciting a misogynistic, big-baller mentality, the rape and assault of good, clean American social values, to the drugs, death and violence in our neighborhoods. Hip hop has been blamed for CBS's and MSNBC's former cash cow/golden boy, shock jock Don Imus's recent ignorant, racist and uninspired comments about the Rutger's women's basketball team.

With handcuffs jingling, and with the Chair and wet sponge waiting, more than a few activist groups are ready to pull the lever on Hip Hop and toss it into an early and unmarked grave. I am not the biggest fan of Hip Hop. I loathe how women are portrayed and I have to tune out the stuff that relies on the much overused 'bitch 'n ho' formula in order to make the cash register ring. But nor am I a fan of the disingenuous blanket of blame laid at the feet of a genre that is being accused of everything from shooting Aunt Nellie's cat out of a tree to the drilling down of America's social mores.

Every now and then though, something comes along to demand that we take another look and remember that every story has two sides. The Hip Hop Project, produced by Queen Latifah and Bruce Willis takes a look at Hip Hop and the lives of a group of New York teenagers who have used it to transform their lives. They tell their lives through their music. This documentary is the antithesis of the messages normally hyped in mass media. It is a message of hope, dreams and self-realization. The Hip Hop Project, debuted to rave reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival and is scheduled for nationwide release on May 11th. 100% of the net profits of the film will be donated to organizations that work with youth.

The Hip Hop Project an independent film, also tells the story of Chris 'Kazi Kharma' Rolle, formerly a homeless teenager, who created The Hip Hop Project during his time in Art Start, a program started in 1991 by a group of artists who got together to create art with homeless children in New York City. Kazi was born in Nassau, Bahamas, abandoned as a baby and grew up in orphanages.

Kazi created The Hip Hop Project in 1999. This intensive program connects its students with music industry professionals to record and promote their music. The program helps them to realize who they are and gives them skills that they can use from now on. Kazi now tours the country inspiring and motivating his audiences through lectures and live performances. He is also the co-founder of A.P. EX., an organization that hosts college prep classes and ends with a tour of HBCUs.

It would be very naive to think that Hip Hop is blameless. Over the past ten years or so, it has done nothing to help its case. Nor has it done much to elevate and inspire people beyond gripping a new set of spinners or 'tappin a piece of a**. If it were a defendant in a court of law, it would probably spend some time in jail for aiding and abetting or contributing to the delinquency of a minor, if the judge is very lenient.
At the end of the day, we can blame Hip Hop for everything or we can remember there are two sides to everything. Real Hip Hop, love it or hate it, has something to say we all should be open to hear. Real Hip Hop is the reflection and the lyrics of the lives of real people. And while I grant that there are many who have bastardized and commercialized this art form solely for profit, it is not ready to die as many of its detractors would hope. Hip Hop gives Mr. and Mrs. John Suburbanite, and little Buffy and Jeffy the vicarious luxury of visiting America's inner-cities to see how people live for real and not feel they have to clutch their purses and briefcases for dear life as they run back to the 'safety' of their homes. Its been called everything else, now call it a social studies lesson.

"Entertainment" TV has been celebrating the life for the last month or so of a perpetually drug-induced, former playboy bunny whose only talent it seemed was to demonstrate how far you can go with big tits, blond hair and no self-esteem . To lay blame squarely at the feet of Hip Hop for the social ills we face is the ultimate WTF moment in American social history.
Here's a call to action: Go see the movie. Not only for what it is but for what it can do.


Anonymous said...

Although not a Hip Hop Fan, I can respect there are two sides to every story and will probably see the Hip Hop Project to get the other more positive side of Hip Hop.

Hell said...

I am a hip hop fan.
Thats why i can honestly say that the crap, and i did say crap, on the radio today is not hip-hop. Its not gangsta rap either, its just watered down bullshit that artist's are trying to pull-off as real music.
Hip-Hop is dead and without the real MC's( Common, Outkast, Talib Qwali, Kanye West...) getting the credit they should hip will stay gone.
Thats the sad fact.
I am glad though that someone decided to show the beauty behind the music so that people can actually see how much good the music has done for so many. Even though quality isnt so predominant it still has motivated and inspired some of the masses.
Kudos to Queen Latifah and Bruce Willis.
Thanks For the hard work in putting the project together.

Luke Armour said...

As a follow up, Bruce Willis, star Kazi Rolle and director Matt Ruskin of “The Hip Hop Project” will be on live internet radio today!

Legendary actor Bruce Willis joins BlogTalkRadio show The Social Lyfe with host Lana Sunshine this Thursday at 9:30pm ET / 6:30pm PT. Willis will be talking about his involvement with the multiple-award-winning film “The Hip Hop Project,” which Willis co-produced with Queen Latifah. Willis will be joined by director Matt Ruskin and Kazi Rolle star and inspiration of the project.

Sunshine and Kazi will open the call line to discuss the film and the project with interested parties. The Social Lyfe is a live, interactive Internet broadcast hosted on BlogTalkRadio. It’s free to listen and participate via chat room (registration required) or by calling (347) 205-9209. The show streams live from the link below on BlogTalkRadio. Archives of the show are available by download or via RSS subscription at

LISTEN LIVE: Thursday @ 9:30pm ET / 6:30pm PT

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