Kevin Powell Speaks Hip-Hop And Leadership

In front of an audience of students, parents and community members, hip-hop historian Kevin Powell delivered the keynote address at the Fourth Annual Youth and College Leadership Summit held in Baltimore, Maryland this past weekend. The speech titled “The Essence of Leadership” featured Powell, who chastised today’s black leaders and called Eminem the Benny Goodman of hip hop.

“I’m tired of black leaders that are only out for self,” Powell said without naming anyone specific. “They go and protest Barbershop, but none of them show up at Jam Master Jay’s funeral. None of them address molestation, education or AIDS.”

Powell even specifically cited male leaders lack of credibility to handle the job, as he alluded to a certain adulterous leader for impregnating a woman then putting the blame on her. “Most of what I have learned about leadership has come from women such as my mother and Dr. bell hooks,” he said.

As he went on to paraphrase Common stating, “I’m not hating, it is just that I don’t like it,” Powell questioned why rap labels would not choose to name their businesses after prominent members of the black community like Marcus Garvey, rather than a group of hired assassins such as Murder Inc.

He also said it was important for the hip-hop generation to think critically as he compared Eminem to Benny Goodman, the controversial Caucasian jazz player, and and Nas to African American jazz great Duke Ellington. Powell reasoned, “[Eminem] is privileged to go places where others [rappers] can’t.”

New Light Leadership Coalition sponsored the summit and co-founder Pharajil Muhammad, 23, said Powell was selected for the second year in a row as a speaker. “After last year’s speech, we asked him to become a member of our advisory board,” Mohammed told “He’s able to bring his knowledge to us and we keep in touch with him on a regular basis.”

Powell closed his speech challenging the audience to be leaders by demonstrating consciousness, spirituality and ownership. “The government is not gonna’ save us. Bill Clinton is not gonna’ save us. And Bush is certainly not gonna’ save us. It is up to us in this room,” He said as he received a standing ovation.

Powell has just released a book titled “Who Shot Ya?,” with photographer Ernie Paniccioli. The book chronicles three decades of hip-hop photography. Powell serves as the book’s editor.