Tomorrow, Google is sponsoring a debate in London called “Hip-Hop on Trial” to consider the proposition that “Hip-Hop Doesn’t Enhance Society, It Degrades It.” The event will be streaming live on YouTube from 7-830 pm GMT+1 (1-2:30 pm EST) on June 26th.
Why is the Prevail Project interested in what promises to be a loud-spoken affair? (Jesse Jackson + Touré + KRS-One = loud-spoken) Because Jaron Lanier will take the witness stand!
That’s right. Jaron Lanier, champion of the Prevail Scenario and owner-operator of one of the largest collections of ancient music instruments in the world, will be called to the stand – literally – as a witness. For the prosecution or the defense? The press releases do not say; we will have to watch and listen for ourselves. My guess is that Lanier will share many of the same sentiments as The Roots drummer ?uestlove, and legendary producer-lyricist Q-Tip: hip-hop is culture, this culture is complex and complicated, and hip-hop “mos-definitely” has a bright future.
The Google event was sparked, in part, by the role of hip-hop in spreading the protest sentiments of citizens in Egypt and Tunisia. In February 2011 when NPR covered “The Songs of the Egyptian Protests”, hip-hop was a prominent feature of the protest fuel.
In January 2012, the New York Times covered a wider swath of revolutionary hip-hop in a piece titled “The Mixtape of the Revolution.” Hip-hop’s influence in the Arab Spring extends from Libya to Algeria, “from Guinea to Djibouti.”
One of those rappers, El Général, will take the stand Tuesday in London.
Hip hop is often recognized in English departments as the embodiment and progression of the personal essay form, sharing affinities with the best of American poetry from Walt Whitman to Bob Dylan.
As an avid hip-hop fan, the idea that hip-hop in toto “degrades society” is the sort of patently absurd claim that only a lawyer’s guild would make. The question in my mind is not about which side of the isle will win the case, but rather which hip-hop artists Jaron Lanier finds inspirational.
In an age when hip-hop records tend to be tightly controlled by major record labels, perhaps Lanier appreciates the initiative shown by Ghana’s Blitz the Ambassador, who managed to reach the top 10 most downloaded list on iTunes, for a brief spell, without a record deal? Perhaps Lanier fancies the futuristic strain of hip-hop, exemplified by Deltron’s 3030, with Dan the Automator’s vintage lo-fidelity soundscapes?
Tune in to find out, and share in the discussion online at the Google+ YouTube site. Tell them the Prevail Project sent you!