I was at the Barbican yesterday for the Hip Hop on Trial debate. The motion: “Hip-Hop Doesn’t Enhance Society, It Degrades It” in itself was annoying but I thought this should be fun. Once I got over the fact that the panel was an imbalanced representation of global Hip Hop (okay to be honest I meant legit UK representation) I went there with an open mind. I missed the first 20 minutes or so but found it quite interesting listening to people like Dr Eric Dyson, KRS, Dream Hampton, Questlove, Q-Tip, Benjamin Zephaniah and too many to mention. Dr James Peterson, Prof John Sutherland and Prof Tricia Rose made some brilliant convincing arguments, but overall there was way too much rhetoric and simplifying of complex issues. PJ O’Rourke via satellite cracked everyone up by asking the host, “What the f*&$ am I doing on this panel?” Joe Budden got cocky, then frustrated and left early. Estelle and Q-Tip were very passionate. Sean Bailey made some good points although he wasn’t getting any love for most of the negative things he had to say. KRS surprised me a little, I think I wanted more from him. There were too many discussions on semantics, the n word, the b word, this took up way too much time. Jason Whitlock (who was on the side for the motion) said Hip Hop had been taken over by prison culture. Which to me means Hip Hop therefore isn’t what should be on trial. Man of the night though goes to the man whose mum calls him Stinky. He’s got 99 problems but his name ain’t one, hit me!
During the debate I realised two things 1) Hip Hop wasn’t on trial, rap music was. There was no talk of the other elements of Hip Hop (unless I missed it earlier on) and 2) The motion itself was like asking if someone was either good or bad. All this debate was set up to do was to have us go round in circles. At best this was a Hip Hop pantomime that was enjoyable at times but I couldn’t take it too seriously. I had a blast afterwards though, catching up with peeps and meeting some really interesting people. I must say some fascinating convos kicked off in the foyer. I think we need more debates like this but more relevant ones and solution seeking ones too. You can watch the debate below.