Is the Bay Area Ready for Our Hip Hop?

root - Posted on 31 December 1969

Maybe the Liberal Bay Area is Not Ready for Diversifying Hip-Hop & Spoken Word

by Leroy Moore/Illin n Chillin

After more than five years of researching, writing and interviewing in the hip-hop & spoken word arena covering artists with disabilities, it was time to bring some of them together. However, was the liberal Bay Area ready for it? Bay Area, home of many hip-hop artists from independent stars like Paris to mainstream 90’s hit group Digital Underground all, had a chance to really see diversity with hip-hop and spoken word artists from all types of backgrounds from artists with disabilities, Latino hip-hop to jazz spoken word etc.. Sadly the liberal custom of the Bay Area also blankets the artistic arena, hiding them from making a stand and supporting their fellow artists!

In organizing this event I had a big vision with small and tight pockets. Placing all of my hip-hop\spoken word CDs from disabled artists (almost all of them I had to get from the artists because records stores do not carry them!) I had to lasso my vision in because the reality of the day by day struggles of people with disabilities to travel and my lack of funds. Many of the artists that I wanted to be apart of this event would have been coming from the East Coast and all around California. From my experiences putting on events, press conferences and workshops, I have learned the hard reality of what the term “disability” does to the size of an audience. Not to mention the weekend was MLK Jr.’s birthday. But I had my secret ace that screamed in big bold letters on the flyer, C.R.I.S.I.S, Zambia Hip-Hop artist.

C.R.I.S.I.S who has a hip-hop party song dedicated to people with disabilities was the key to draw a bigger crowd but I had one problem. Who will be his sponsor? We came so close to landing a sponsor but at the last minute it just didn’t work out. Like in Hollywood the show must go on and it did. The vision of the event was reshaped to more local disabled poets, hip-hop artists, a Latino spoken word\hip-hop group, LA PAZA, and a quadriplegic DJ from LA. Some gigs dropped out because the news of C.R.I.S.I.S leaving us with two gigs.

With all the ups and downs, Diversifying Hip-Hop & Spoken Word events broke new grounds at LA PENA Culture Center and San Francisco Main Library on Jan. 12 & 15 by displaying on the same stage real diversity. “ron daniella” set the mood with her revolutionary message of race, disability and queer to the mainstream, Noemi Shon had some political spoken word SOS to our President, Lee Williams took us on a journey through Phase Five, his new spoken word and soulful CD and LA PAZA put the hip in our hop as we pull back the chairs and got down to their LA Latino hip-hop swing from their new CD, The Bakery. DJ Quad had to be on CD in an exclusive interview. While all of this was going on, the first and only Black Disabled Art History 101 power point was playing on the wall in back of the performers consisting of pictures of blues, hip-hop artists, painters, actors, authors and comedians all with disabilities.

Although the crowd was small at both events, Diversifying Hip-Hop & Spoken Word broke the ice and started to build a bigger stage. The liberal costume of the Bay Area is off and now it is up to you and us to continue to diversify the artistic arena from hip-hop to visual arts. Hopefully next time you will be apart of implementing the original vision..

Listen to Pushing Limits on KPFA 94.1 FM Fridays at 2:30pm. April we will interview disabled hip-hop artists i.e. DJ Quad, Fezo DA MadOne, and more..


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