Many words were exchanged at our This is Hip-Hop! event on September 26. Here are some perspective-shifting and inspirational insight from the panel discussion.
Our This is Hip-Hop! event, which took place on September 26, drew an audience of 500, and for good reason! While hip-hop – the polarizing genre that has as many fans as it does haters – can transform lives, shed light on personal experiences and even be a form of conflict resolution, it’s not often the subject of panel discussions, much less one that brought together artists from around the world.
The spirited discussion – which powered on for almost 2 hours! – was led by Jonzi D (UK) who was joined by panelists Amber Galloway-Gallego (USA), Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli (Canada), Saykoji (Indonesia), Sparsh Shah (USA), Tamura King (Japan) and Wheelsmith (Singapore). Each brought their unique perspectives from diverse generations, cultures and backgrounds.
If you missed it, check out the full replay of the event in the video above. In the meantime, what can hip-hop be? Read on!
Across boundaries and barriers
“I rap in my own language. Poetry and rhyme, it’s actually nothing new here (Indonesia), we’ve had that in our culture from way back. And when I start writing lyrics, in my own language, I can tell that it works for me, because I don’t have to try to write lyrics that copy whatever type of storytelling…I hear from American hip-hop. I…write songs that relate to Indonesians…just daily life stuff.”
“My father is from Ghana in Africa and my mother is from Japan. And we were born and raised in Japan. In Japan, we’re in a kind of special situation, because there are not many people like us and this experience inspires our creation. We try to express our own experiences living in Japan and the differences between most Japanese people and us. Our unique experience encouraged us to explore hip-hop.”
– Mana of Tamura King
“It’s the one culture that brings people of all ages, all races, all genders, all abilities together, in one room, celebrating life’s adversity and successes…right now, this is hip-hop, and what we are all doing and the fact that being different, becomes your strength.”
– Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli
“I’d like to put out this call to all artists everywhere, that if you could be proactive and involved with this community, and make your music accessible, it would mean so much, because once you the artist provides access, you’re not only delivering that to this group of people, you’re also sending a message to your fans, and you inspire others to provide communication access. And the more and more that we do that, and we’re part of the solution and part of communication access, the more it will happen. And we’re really elevating each other in that process.”
– Amber Galloway-Gallego
“A lot of humans do not like to accept the truth about what’s happening out there, and hip-hop serves to bring to light things that we only had knowledge of on the surface. So that story and that experience of oppression, if you haven’t lived it, if you haven’t seen it, then you don’t actually know what’s happening. And I think that a lot of white people don’t understand why they’re talking about drugs, why they’re talking about shooting each other, why these things are being discussed. Although it’s real world, this is what’s actually happening out there in the community. That was the start of it, because for many years that culture had experienced so much oppression for generations upon generations and hip-hop finally gave them the opportunity to tell their story and more people were listening. So we have that power now, as a community, as humans. We have that ability to recognise the struggle and recognise the oppression that’s been happening through the medium of hip-hop.”
– Amber Galloway-Gallego
“If you’re doing something, and you’re representing your community, make sure you do that well. In 2019, I performed at the National Day Parade, and I was the first disabled artist to perform in the main segment. So I feel like I probably have given someone hope that, hey, if Wheelsmith can be out there, it could happen for me because we’re kind of the same. Seeing me on stage gives them relevance. If they see Wheelsmith doing this, Wheelsmith doing that, then it makes it a lot more possible for them. Make sure that your community hears you and that they’re aware you’re representing them.”
“Ultimately, I think one of the beautiful things about hip-hop, is that we’re really good at making connections and pulling together what may be seen as very different and separate ideas. We’re very good at making those ideas.”
– Jonzi D
“…in the beginning, it was just me trying to find a way to express myself. And it’s not boxed up in a way that you only see hip-hop through the eyes of the industry—it goes back to your own definition: How can you shape your own narrative of hip-hop that fits you, wherever you are in the world right now? Having that mindset has helped me to innovate; to always learn something new. Hip-hop itself has changed through the years. There’s ‘80s hip-hop, there’s ‘90s—the golden age of hip-hop—there’s hip-hop today. …even in these COVID times, having that hip-hop mindset helped me adapt and push more and not just be stuck in one position. I asked myself, “How can I see hip-hop work for me, how can I use my own energy to innovate and find new ways to create?”
“When I was little, hip-hop was very taboo for me. But then I started realising that hip-hop is not the devil’s music, if you use it the right way. If you’ve used it the right way, you can make some lasting positive change in this world. And hip-hop has shown that to me, it’s been my therapy, whenever I’m going through a situation that I can’t talk to anyone about, I write it in a rap or a song. And that’s how it relates to me and also it’s poetry at its finest. And it really expresses the heart of who a person really is, despite their struggles, despite their disadvantages, despite their oppression.”
– Sparsh Shah
A full body experience
“…this is a diverse world that we live in. And access to music, for that reason, is so important. It’s more than just being about hearing music. Sometimes we get so focused as hearing people we think about the ear, and what the ear does, and how that contributes to us experiencing music. But music is really a soul experience. It’s a full body experience, and it doesn’t depend on the ears alone.”
– Amber Galloway-Gallego
These excerpts have been edited and condensed.