What's good Hip-Hop heads! So apologies for this rather sporadic posting - been extremely busy. Just to keep you update, I'm working on some Interviews and trying to finish off "The Evolution of Hip-Hop Volume III" Mix-tape so look out for that and before I post the link anywhere you guys will get it first! I have some real Club-Bangers on there and then some Hood- Classiks and I hope that you do all enjoy it.
My very good friend Hired Gun did an Interview with Cornel West. Now for those of you that don't know, Cornel West is a Civil Rights activist, Actor, Philosopher, Author and Critic. He often delves into topics that are not freely discussed and is a very interesting man.
Peep the exclusive and enjoy this amazing Article:
A brand new theory on the shape of Hip Hop….A sit down with the Cornel West Theory
By Mikal Amin Lee
Most of the time (probably 99 percent of the time) when you think about Washington D.C. you think of one thing, Politics. If you do happen to know the rich history of D.C.’s cultural and musical legacy, you may drift to Punk (Bad Brains), or maybe Jazz (Duke Ellington) or GoGo (Chuck Brown). But Hip-Hop? Not really. Despite technically being a part of the “East Coast” and “Down South” as well as being the home to noted artists such as Asheru, Oddisee, and now Wale, D.C. hasn't been acknowledged for its rap music.
On the rooftop of a Sheraton Hotel nestled on the crossroads of SoHo and the West Village I spoke with the group that could change all of that; The Cornel West Theory. Most of the group, (minus Yvonne Gilmore) including Dr. West were in town to promote their second release, “The Shape of Hip Hop to Come” and perform later that evening at the famed S.O.B's. The group founded in 2004 consists of Sam Levine (Drums), Rashad Dobbins (Vocals), John Wesley Moon (vocals/production/percussion), Tim Hicks (Vocals, Composition), Katrina Lorraine Starr (Vocalists/percussion), Yvonne Gilmore(Vocals) plus their friend, mentor and muse Dr. Cornel West.
Their name ultimately was co-signed as Dr. West tells it when Tim Hicks approached him at a book signing in D.C. and asked him if it was ok to use the name. “I said I'd be honored, humbled, delighted and full of joy for such a group, if in fact that group preserved the dignity of poor people, working people, oppressed people, and was sensitive to the struggle of black folk in America. Then he preceded to lay out a group that met every possible criteria I could have had”. Problem solved. The group's sound can't be labeled or named, (an often overstated claim of music nowadays...but in this case, the truth) which makes sense as they rattled off influences that ran the gamut of human existence, from the Wailers to Ornette Coleman to Eric Dolphy to physics. “What if (Sam) Beckett Rapped? What if Frederick (Douglas) Rapped?” were questions Rashad Dobbins asked himself in his own personal journeys as a lyricist. John Wesley Moons broke it down further, “Its not just musically inspired. We're inspired by literature, film , dance, it all just kind of leaks in, it starts with us having great conversations about things, and then that unites us to say, let's try that musically”.
All in all, the make up of the group while being diverse (I'll let you look up which one is an ordained minister, and no its not Dr. West) is not only bonded in their eclectic taste, but their tough love relationship with their hometown of D.C. .The group having grown up inside the beltway has experienced all of its many phases, and perspectives. It is a place that is misinterpreted, misunderstood, and underestimated. The seat of power for the country is what Katrina Starr calls “The Eye of the Storm” where multiple worlds and language codes exist. To simply survive in D.C. you develop a new double consciousness not simply to defend yourself but also to thrive. “The Shape of Hip Hop to Come”, their second album reveals that consciousness to the world in their own way, and the group wants to make sure they get it right...”Suffering is not a secret and it is not a celebration” she continued “I want to be very careful with the music I'm putting out, I don't want to celebrate that I'm coming from a low place, because that's not necessarily true. Coming from a low place even if that is true doesn't validate your perspective over someone else. Its not something to be celebrated but its not something to be ignored” . “D.C. is a big illusion, it is a beautiful coffin” added Tim Hicks “We're trying to reflect that D.C. is not just the white buildings that you see with the Roman Greek architecture its not just Capital Hill, its people's waking up every morning figuring out how am I going to survive.”
“We Love D.C., its the city that made us” John continues “Our families are there, its where we went to school, there's a lot of love there. We want to be a part of the legacy that comes out of that city. We want to show that D.C. is not dead that it is alive, it is vibrant, it has beautiful people in it and we're a part of that.” Its within this crucible that you begin to understand the drive of this group whose first record was as Dr. West puts it, “Hip Hop's first album in history about America as an empire”.
The answer to that album (Second Rome), is why we were all sitting atop the Sheraton looking out over the skyline of a Post 9/11 New York City. A city in its own right that has multiple personalities, with a degree from the school of hard knocks as well. The look and feel of the individuals in front of me was as powerful as their sound; warm, inviting, but all business. If their first album, “Second Rome” was a critique of the American Empire, their latest offering, “The Shape of Hip Hop to Come” could only be encapsulated by Dr. West's description, “You have an album that is a critique of the imperial state of mind ”. The group's self awareness, the challenge of coming out of D.C. as a sonically innovative, socially aware hip hop group while offering up gemstar sharp commentary on the most powerful city in the most powerful country in the world isn't putting them under pressure. John puts it in his own terms ”For me, no one is taking chances, there is such a lack of courage, this is how I want to say it, this is how I want to present it, regardless of the audience. Taking chances, being courageous, spreading out the spectrum of what things can sound like, what can songs be about, where can songs actually go.”
In a time where what passes as “revolutionary” often is dressed up in high end designer brands, or whittled down to thirty second vulgar shock value sound bites (like screaming rape in a crowded women's dressing room or eating bugs) The Theory wants to give you that weight. Soul by the metric ton with an eye on the future, an ear to the past and their foot on the gas (and the other foot probably in a politician's ass). None of this is lost on Dr. West, who sums up The Cornel West Theory profoundly “As an Older Brother for me it was what Marvin Gaye explained from the depths of his soul. Save the babies. And What's going on. We're not going to save the babies unless we bridge the gap”.
The Shape of Hip Hop to Come was releaed in July, 2011. For more info on the group check out http://www.thecornelwesttheory.com.