If you open a textbook and read the history of
the Black Panther Party, you will see how prevalent they were in the social
For almost 40 years, they have been on the frontlines,
tackling and confronting America’s most important issues with action as their
This elite group of black men and women have
time and again stared in the face of adversity and laughed hysterically. This
isn’t to say that there have not been many mountains to climb along the way.
Primarily known as an organization of action
and resource, the Black Panthers have begun to utilize music as an alternative
tool to get their message to the public.
With the inception of Black Panther Records,
they are finalizing several projects, most notably their debut album, "All
Of Us," which features the three-man group, Black Panther Fugitives.
Allhiphop.com had an opportunity to speak with
CEO Dorion Hilliard and BPF member Jamiel Calhoun about continuing the legacy
of the Black Panther Party and the challenges that may lie ahead.
Allhiphop.com: First and foremost, let’s talk
about Black Panther Records. Who came up with the idea, who is in charge of
the operation, etc?
Dorion Hilliard: Basically, what we are about
doing is representing the legacy of the Black Panther Party. Music is one of
the vehicles that we utilize to do that. Me and my father had been talking about
it for five or six years. He encountered Jamiel at his mother-in-law’s bookstore
looking at a CD Jamiel had put out. We talked to his wife about the project,
and come to find out, Jamiel was a Panther child. So, we’ve been doing our thing
ever since then. It’s really a proud time for us to just come together as former
Panther child members, sharing our wits with our generation, because we are
Hip-Hop. This is putting that revolutionary twist, coming from the bloodline,
on Hip-Hop. We are bringing that real perspective. Me and my father had been
playing with ideas and trying to come up with more effective ways to get this
history to the generation that seem to have lacked politics in their action,
and to give them the opportunity to embrace the Panther legacy that was proven.
One of the broadest mediums was this Hip-Hop culture that has taken this world
Allhiphop.com: I’ll always believe that Hip-Hop
is the final relevant voice of Black people, and the most powerful tool to make
an impact, whether it is positive or negative. With that said, how challenging
is it to bring a strong message in a time where strong messages are lacking
in the music industry?
Jamiel Calhoun: The studio aspect is really not
that hard, because it’s our diet of ideas, it’s the way we sing, and it’s the
way we get down anyway. The hard part actually comes in trying to implement
to the mass media, the public, and those who are too busy shaking booties and
popping Cristal. We’re not preaching to you, but at the same token, there’s
so much more going on around you, and the decisions and the things that you
are doing are now affecting how it’s going to be brought about. We use music
to gather them around and get them feeling the beats first, and then we try
to loop them back in with some content.
DH: It isn’t to say that commercial Hip-Hop is
bad, because through commercialism, you gain a level of success. It allows you
to convey your message, your product, or whatever your constituent base is.
So, we are OK with the commercial aspect. We are trying to bring some level
of respectability and responsibility. Hip-Hop has influenced a couple of generations
of our youth. We as former Panther children give ourselves to the youth. We
are not trying to go out there and pretend to be hard; we are just who we are.
We are former Panther children that have become adults and have been a part
of this Hip-Hop generation. This is what you call the true essence of revolutionary
music. We are the blood of that struggle.
DH: We are looking to galvanize some Black pride
and some cultural pride, and create some ideas for this generation through our
Allhiphop.com: With the images that you have
chosen to bring forth over the years, do you think there will be any sort of
backlash that can come from that? Over the years, the image that was set of
the Black Panthers was Black men and women wearing dark shades, sporting big
Afros, and toting even bigger guns. Are you going to bring back that image or
are you bringing forth the Black Panther Party in a lighter sense?
JC: What we are doing is in no way what Nike
would do or is in no way what IBM or Apple has done. We ain’t changing nothing.
Ain’t nothing about our history that we are ashamed of, and if that’s the image
that they want to portray, we can’t stop that. That was a part of the Panther
history, but if you’re going to know Panther history, know it all. The guns
were just a self-defense phase, which was first. Then we had the program and
community building. We had the international connection going on with 47 chapters
going on across the country. We are going to make sure that it’s understood
on all levels.
DH: What’s important is that you and the public
understand that we are not posturing no image. It wasn’t about posturing; it
was about solutions and finalizing things by action. It ain’t about those images.
That’s what this generation of Hip-Hop has been about. Taking images and old
music, sampling and not utilizing their inept creativity, their God-given creativity.
So, we are not pushing images, we are pushing ideology and practices that show
a greater level of success as individuals.
JC: I also want to point out that the term "revolutionary"
doesn’t mean nothing anymore. You got all these cats running around claiming
it, but it doesn’t have the same weight that it used to. We are not here to
put down those cats. We are here to do what we’ve been doing for 37 years.
DH: Revolutionary means to bring change about.
In order for change to come about, there has to be action. These are the practices
that we began to take because we stand on the back of that legacy that is one
of practicality. Our thing is to first become a part of Hip-Hop. It’s a process,
and this is the revolutionary process that we can take Hip-Hop to by our bare
existence within Hip-Hop. We have a legacy to uphold and some integrity to stand
on, and that’s what Hip-Hop has missed out on. It hasn’t had a collective foundation.
It’s had a "me, me, my, my" sort of deal. Therefore, there’s a decisive
edge put forth for those who’s simply been in it for personal aggrandizement.