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The People’s War – Episode 25: Hip-hop, politics and Black Power


Hip-Hop is a cultural movement that was formed following the defeat of the African Revolution of the 1960s.  Its poetics, aesthetics and politics reflect African life under the U.S. counterinsurgency.

The conditions that define the moment hip-hop arose were: increased privatization, mass unemployment and poverty, increased colonial violence and a decrease in mass mobilization. Hip-Hop shares these conditions with other African art forms such as the blues and calypso, of an earlier period, and reggae music of the 1970s.

Hip-Hop’s enduring character is attributed to its origins in the African working class.

Hip-Hop and rap music has, at times, offered political prescriptions to the African working class.  More than often, rappers and other cultural workers have reflected the revolutionary upsurge among the masses.

Historically, the most remarkable rap group was Dead Prez. As this episode’s guests noted, Dead Prez did not just rap about political topics, they had excellent skill and production but were also African Internationalist organizers.  This year is the 20th anniversary of Dead Prez’s album Let’s Get Free.

In 2020, rappers and African cultural workers have entered into political debates over police violence and electoral politics.  As we see in this episode, their conclusions are not always what we expect but, as our guest Professor Fanon Che Wilkins notes, we should continue to engage rappers and Hip-Hop as an arena of struggle.

In this episode, we do just that.

Hosts Dr. Matsemela Odom and Muambi Tangu talk with:

Fanon.jpegFanon Che Wilkins, PhD, a professor of American Studies at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.  Named after Frantz Fanon and Che Guevara, Wilkins was born into black revolutionary struggle. He co-edited the 2009 anthology of essays, From Toussaint to Tupac: The Black International Since the Age of Revolution and is the author of “A Line of Steel”: The Organization of the Sixth Pan-African Congress and the Struggle for International Black Power, 1969–1974.”

image0.jpegAnthony Blacksher, sociology professor at San Bernardino Valley College, in San Bernardino, California, with a doctorate in cultural studies from Claremont Graduate University.  Known as Ant Black, he is a spoken word artist and a founding member of the spoken word group Collective Purpose and co-hosted “Elevated,” a nationally renowned open-mic that ran for over 10 years in San Diego.  Blacksher is the author of the doctoral dissertation, “A Matter of Life and Def: Poetic Knowledge and the Organic Intellectuals in Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry.

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