Celebrating the Ninth Annual Trinity Hip Hop Festival

Apr 2, 2014

Credit Angie Schwendemann / Wikimedia Commons

When I say "hip hop," do you think about an art form the exalts bling, consumption, excess, decadence, and vulgarity? What about all the other hip hop artists, exploring other kinds of truths?

Hip hop also has a public relations problem. A lot of you probably think you don't like it, because your primary exposure is something on the radio, or something blaring and booming from a passing car. Thematically speaking, you may have decided that the whole genre is about ostentation and vulgarity.

But it's not. In fact, one of the wonderful things about hip hop is the way it blends seamlessly with other music. One cut you'll hear on this show is from Sergio Mendes, the 73 year-old Brazilian musician, working with Pharoahe Monch, an intensely thoughtful rapper in his early 40's, with jazzy vocals laid down by Justin Timberlake. At its heart is the poetry of Monch, who is talking about the impact of foreign wars from Vietnam to Iraq, on American inner-city people sent overseas to fight.

It's so much more than "bling".

On the eve of an international hip hop conference at Trinity, we visit with artists, organizers, and historians of the still-young art form to talk about how hip hop has evolved, how the messages have changed, whether or not it has a public relations problem, and what the future might look like for those producing the beats and thinking up lyrics.