Brampton born hip-hop artist, Noyz, facilitated a Hip-Hop 101 Café at Oscar Peterson Hall on October 22. The session was the second of seven Hip-Hop 101 Cafés set to take place this Fall.
The series started at Hart House, but the coordinators expanded it to be available across all three U of T campuses.
Hart House, in partnership with UTM’s International Education Centre and Student Housing & Residence Life held a Hip-Hop focused roundtable discussion for students interested in learning more about Hip-Hop.
This week’s topic was about Hip-Hop and global issues.
Noyz came prepared with a brief history of the origins of hip-hop, as well as several sample songs that illustrate each of the topics he planned to cover in the discussion.
Although only a couple of people who didn’t work with one of the partnering organizations were present, the turnout didn’t stop the talk from being full of depth and insight.
Since each student came from a different level of experience with and attachment to Hip-hop, Noyz began the discussion with a history lesson.
According to him, Hip-hop’s roots formed in New York City in the 1970s. The city was verging on bankruptcy and experiencing an uprise in gang activity. There were more drugs, more violence, and less funding for schools.
When kids realized school wasn’t of benefit, they took to the streets, and to Hip-hop.
The Ghetto Brothers in particular were a non-violent gang that shared music and community in a time of struggle for what was mostly Black and Latino youth. They would MC in public spaces during the 1960s.
When the art form began to get picked up by radio stations, people seized an opportunity to speak out about the lack of services and opportunities for themselves and their families. Hip-hop emerged as a platform for social justice; a tradition that lives on to this day.
With a broad understanding of where Hip-Hop came from, Noyz explained the dominance of the genre throughout history.
“It’s not just a dope beat, it’s a relevant discourse at the same time,” Noyz said.
He went on to discuss the appeal of Hip-hop’s low barrier to entry. Noyz explained that Hip-Hop evolved from the long tradition of oral storytelling, and that “all you need is a voice.”
Because of its accessibility, Hip-hop has gone from a subculture of music creation in New York City to a worldwide inciter of change.
As the topic of the night was Hip-Hop and Global Issues, Noyz introduced the participants to rap produced by artists from Latin America, Russia, and those descended from immigrants, like himself.
Participants in the roundtable also discussed the different ways that Hip-Hop can bring social change within different cultural contexts.
In Latin America, female rappers like Rebecca Lane who has stepped onto the scene and rapped about their circumstances are paving a way for women to feel accepted in the Hip-Hop space. Not only do her lyrics reflect on political issues, but she becomes a political figure through her music.
A question that was explored during the session was: can you be a political artist without explicitly political lyrics?
Noyz answered this question by showing Baby Tape, a Hip-hop artist from Russia. Russia imposes strict regulations on popular culture. As a result, Russians have found a counterculture in Hip-Hop. Baby Tape loads his music with vulgar language and cuss words, which isn’t inherently political until you put it in context as art that breaks the rules.
As the session came to an end, we heard about the power of telling stories from the past. Noyz played Shad’s “I’ll Never Understand,” a song about his mother living through the Rwandan genocide and his own song “Keep Moving On” about his father’s life as a migrant worker.
“Just by sharing a narrative, you’re taking a stance and sometimes, these stories only exist within the sphere of Hip-hop,” Noyz concluded.