Bringing Margins to the Center: Krip-Hop and Homo-Hop

root - Posted on 10 October 2009

By Chloe Auletta-Young / Race, Poverty and Media Justice Intern

by Leroy Moore and Chloe Auletta-Young/PNN-ReVieWsFoRtheReVoLuTion

“It’s like the CEO’s at Chevron,” hip-hop artist Miss Money said in response to a question from the audience, “they are all white.” She was referring to the record executives that control what is popular in the world of hip-hop, what is centralized in society’s perspective on hip-hop culture. On Saturday, April 11th, I learned there is much more than meets the eye. I attended, “Diversifying Hip-Hop: Krip-Hop and Homo-Hop,” at the Worth Ryder Art Gallery on the CAL campus, the first symposia ever dedicated to the two movements of hip-hop artists with disabilities and hip-hop artists who are queer. I came to the event carrying my own perspective. I gazed upon the artwork with my own eyes and listened to the panelists with my own ears, processing it all with my own mind. It was a room full of varying and distinctive viewpoints. Some folks were able-bodied, some were not, some were gay, some were not, some were black, white, Asian, Latino, and some were somewhere in between, outside, or a combination. The common thread that wove between the audience and panelists, artists and organizers, was difference, the desire for artistic creation and human connection to supersede difference. The two smallest minority groups within hip-hop uniting to inform, discuss, perform and inspire. “We are individuals,” said Great Scott, disabled rapper and panelist, “but we all do Hip-hop. It’s not a monolith, it’s diverse, a community of unlike minds.”

The event was hosted and coordinated by Leroy R. Moore Jr., writer, poet, hip-hop music lover, disability and race scholar, and founder of Krip-hop, an organization aiming, “to get the musical talents of hip-hop artists with disabilities into the hands of media outlets, educators, hip-hop, disability, and race scholars, youth, and hip-hop conference coordinators, with the goal of raising awareness and disseminating the latest news on musicians with disabilities.” Added to the bill was Homo-hop, a broad movement of Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgendered rappers, DJ’s, and hip-hop artists who have grown in the public eye through the PeaceOUT World Homo-hop Festival and the powerful documentary Pick Up The Mic: The Homo-Hop Revolution. “I found out that the stories of rejection to Hip-Hop artists with disabilities was shared by another group of talented Hip-Hop artists,” explained Moore, “they had been speaking out since 2001 and had formed their own movement…It feels so good when you know that there are people that can relate, and have provided a path of support, knowing that we have our differences but share the same goal.” Bringing the two movements together for this event was an effort to “bring the margins front and center,” as it was explained on the press release, “to expose the struggle of difference, as has always been the legacy of Hip-Hop.”

I brought the Krip-hop mix CD home with me. It’s good music, and it can be for everyone. The lyrics are pulled from everywhere, founded in the realities of the artists. “Music is a reflection of society,” said panelist and hip-hop artist Tru Bloo, “you can’t talk about it as if it was created in a bubble.” Hip-hop can be angry because society is angry. Disabled and homosexual artists are creating from their own unique perspectives, inspired by their own experiences, viewpoints which are just as valid and important as any other ‘mainstream’ creator. “We are beginning this dialogue now,” said Tru Bloo, “eventually we will be able to recognize the power in difference.”

As the symposia began, the audience, in all our diversity, slowly began to crowd the small space, spilling out into the hallway, and negotiating spacing with one another, encouraged to yell and clap as loud as we could. There was a contact and honesty about the event that opened up the room and allowed for the revealing of the raw, the roots of the subject matter. I felt this most powerfully during the open discussion with the panelists, as the pleasantries were unwrapped and the multitude of complexities embedded within these communities were revealed. Are you a gay rapper, or a rapper who is gay? A disabled MC or an MC who happens to be disabled? Is hip-hop negative or positive? Do hip-hop artists have a responsibility to make it positive?

Moderated by the incredible Anita Johnson of Hard Knock Radio on KPFA, all of the guests spoke from their own viewpoints, their own lives. The panelists were Miss Money; a singer, DJ, producer, and rapper from Houston, Texas, who happens to be both gay and disabled, Great Scott; an underground MC from Atlanta, partially paralyzed from a gunshot wound, B-sick; a rapper from Las Vegas rendered blind from a degenerative eye disease, Nyla Moujaes (Tru Bloo); is a public interest attorney, community organizer poet, musician, and MC, hailing from Lebanon and Las Vegas who happens to be lesbian, and Juba Kalamka; a recording artist from Chicago, founder of Deep Dickollective and the label Sugartruck Recordings, Director/Curator of PeaceOUT from 2002-2007, and pioneer of the Homo-hop movement in the bay area, who happens to be bisexual. They truly were a representation of the diversity within Hip-hop. “Part of the function of mainstream media is to distill people into little boxes,” said Kalamka, “we are more complex than that.”

The conversation opened the boxes and revealed these some fascinating complexities. “Hip-hop, at its root, is kind of a culture of angry young men,” says hip-hop artist Dutchboy in Pick Up The Mic, “it’s also a culture of people saying what’s on their mind regardless of whether it’s appropriate or not. In one sense there’s something very beautiful about that, because our society is really afraid of our angry young men, and what they have to say.” That’s also what the industry pays for, what society promotes. “We live in a society that rewards petty tyranny,” commented Kalamka, “mainstream gay culture is racist and classist, at every level of society there is racism and classism. Hip-hop didn’t create homophobia and misogyny, but the industry will allow you these crumbs of privilege with you sign-on and perpetuate it. It’s rewarded and then reflected in hip-hop culture.”

So how do you deconstruct this ideology and reclaim an art form that is being repackaged and fed to the masses? By making great music. “I’m not reclaiming it, I’m making it mine,” Miss Money powerfully responded, “If it doesn’t want me, fine...It’s about ability…Nobody wants gay great, or disabled great. You have to be extraordinary.” Great Scott followed with commenting, “I grew up listening to Elton John, George Michael, never knowing they were gay. When I found out, I didn’t care.” “That always has the most impact,” responded Tru Bloo, “when you make the human connection first.”

It was this theme of the human connection between all of us, able-bodied or otherwise, that kept recycling throughout. Hip-hop is a rope that ties and tangles diverse communities together with the common goal of creating great music. These two communities had a second goal, uniting on April 11th to make the rope a little more flexible and inclusive of all the minority communities. “We need to create a context where people don’t feel tyrannized for who they are,” stated Juba. All too often the voices coming from the angles are silenced by the center. As soon as internalized this, I wanted everyone to start yelling and crowding and spilling and touching far more. Turn the music up, turn the mic up. This is revolutionary. The event was revolutionary. The movements are revolutionary.


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