A host of Hip-Hop’s
top music journalists gathered Tuesday (October 26th) at New York University
for a roundtable discussion focusing on the role and impact of Hip-Hop journalism
on the culture.
When Hip-Hop journalism
planted its seeds in the early 90s, many of the panelists said it was difficult
to distinguish Hip-Hop writing from other music.
“In the 90’s,
we stopped using racism, all the isms that affect our community, and started
using Hip-Hop to help define us,” said Raquel Cepeda, former editor-in-chief
of Russell Simmon’s One World magazine and editor of the book "And
It Don’t Stop: The Best Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years."
She also mentioned a piece
by writer Steven Hager called “Afrika Bambaataa’s Hip-Hop,”
as the first time the term “Hip-Hop” was coined in an article.
Dream Hampton, co-author
of Jay-Z’s upcoming autobiography "The Black Book" and former writer
for The Source, added that in the 90’s, she and The Source were attempting
to define Hip-Hop journalism outside of being reactionary.
“Often what was happening
in mainstream media was that [Hip-Hop] was the circus,” said Hampton.
“NWA was a circus act who had come to town. It was a side act."
The Hip-Hop magazines and
critics at the time, Hampton added, took up the task of creating Hip-Hop’s
own voice. "We were actually coming to it as fans," said Hampton.
"As people who actually loved the music, who didn’t look at the people
who were making it as aliens, thugs, gangsters or criminals."
Sacha Jenkins, part of the
Ego Trip braintrust and former VIBE music editor, made the bold statement, “In
America, Hip-Hop is dead,” referring to the proliferation and commercialization
of mainstream Hip-Hop in the country.
Cepeda also commented that
instead of Hip-Hop being a niche genre, as it was in the 90s, it is now globally
covered to the point of saturation.
Among the other topics the
panelists touched on, was the responsibility of women rappers and women journalists
When the issue of misogyny
came up, Cepeda and Hampton spoke on the precarious position many women journalists
are placed in when interviewing rappers who are known for their misogynist lyrics.
According to Hampton, as
a strong women’s activist, she feels obligated to raise issues about offensive
rap lyrics when speaking to these rappers. Hampton further expressed her frustration
with male writers who fail to do so.
The roundtable, moderated
by NYU professor Jason King, highlighted the release of the new book "And
It Don’t Stop: the Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years,"
edited by Cepeda.
Other panel members included
Village Voice critic and editor Robert Christgau and Nelson George, a film producer
and the author of Hip-Hop America. Bill Adler, former publicist for Def Jam
and author of "Tougher than Leather," and Village Voice critic Ta-nehisi
Coates also participated in the discussion.
The panel was presented
by NYU’s Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music.