In part three of this series I continued my examination of the relationship of hip-hop and comics. I also took a look into the role of one prominent female emcee and how both cultures have had an influence on her life. In this final chapter I’ll focus a bit on the genesis of hip-hop and reveal the sharp thoughts of one panelist on the subject.
The vibrant culture of hip-hop and its central elements (DJing, emceeing, break dancing and graffiti) have been in existence close to forty years. What was once deemed as a desperate cry of help from the urban decay created by decreased funding to community programs and eminent domain projects which had disastrous results is now a virtual cornucopia of sound and vivid imagery. However, there are two questions that constantly batted around with regard to hip-hop. The first is what’s real hip-hop? The second is to loosely quote the seminal 2002 film Brown Sugar is “has hip-hop lost its way?”
“Honestly. The beginning of hip-hop it wasn’t all inclusive,” stated legendary Public Enemy producer and Bomb Squad member DJ Johnny “Juice” Rosado of the cultures origins. Rosado knows what he speaks of, is one of the cultures many curators and in many aspects of his life a true veteran in more ways than one. In addition to serving the hip-hop community he served our nation as a member of the Navy during the Gulf War. Juice is not only a survivor of the mean streets but should also be considered hero because of his years of proud military service.
“That whole romantic stuff, you’ve got poor Negroes and Latinos going to the park and plug in (a boom box) that’s nonsense! We were gangs. The Black Spades which was turned into Zulu Nation was a gang. These guys were in gangs. You saw The Warriors, right? The Savage Nomads and the Ching a Ling’s, they were gang’s. So all that it was all nice, they break danced so they wouldn’t fight. No! They break danced then they fought. I was there. That stuff is romanticized. That’s the same thing with superheroes. The Avengers always found a way to fight another superhero group. They always had the same thing in mind but they didn’t always have the same method,” Rosado asserted to the packed room about the true nature of hip-hop’s genesis. And what he spoke of is not inaccurate in the least. However, it is often minimized or completely ignored by today’s media thus providing a portrait of a culture to the masses that lacks depth and detail in reference to its formative years.
As to how the story of hip-hop is told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee had this to say while adding a comic book twist, “If you want to go back, go back and tell the story right. One thing about comic books is there’s a time line and you can always find out when something happened and where because it’s annotated. Hip-hop is not annotated correctly because we don’t write the history, other people do. So until we do we’re never going to be able to tell the real story. So hip-hop is still trying to become a hero to itself.” These are a set of statements that should be taken in to careful consideration in Cleveland when it comes to the hip-hop world that was created in the Bronx.
I want to take the time in this last paragraph to thank everyone involved with this panel. It was an absolute pleasure to be there but most importantly an honor to be in the front row while in attendance. And a special shout out goes out to Patrick Reed, Adam Wallenta, the aforementioned Mr. Rosado, Pete Rock, Jean Grae and Darryl McDaniels for putting out the word on this series via the Twitterverse. Thank you all for signing my limited edition Marvel poster. I’ll never forget how Pete’s face lit up when he saw it. A full grown man expressing the sheer joy of a young boy is absolutely priceless.