By Jessica Wray – Hip hop artists, activists and an Indiana congressional leader shared the same table Friday afternoon to talk about the role of hip hop music and culture as a social movement for the African-American community.

Washington, D.C. – infoZine – Scripps Howard Foundation Wire – The session, organized by Rep. André Carson, D-Ind., focused on how hip hop artists, rappers and others in the music and entertainment industry affect young people, especially young black men and women. The two-hour session was a small part of a four-day legislative conference sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

Carson said Hip Hop and Politics, the title of the session, is an important forum because music has a significant impact on society.

“Throughout history, music has played an important role in creating a soundtrack to our lives and the soundtrack to many movements, and the soundtrack to relationships – a lot of us were conceived through music,” Carson said.

photo: Darryl
Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, from the hip hop group Run-DMC, poses for photographers before the Hip Hop and Politics session. SHFWire photo by Jessica Wray
Music may be critical, he said, but it’s not the only platform for young people to express ideas and concerns.

“Our activism has evolved to utilizing social media platforms as a way to express discontent, as a way to promote social issues. So the question becomes, as influential as music is, can hip hop particularly be an avenue to increase social awareness?” Carson said. “It has been in the past. We might be able to revisit the same kind of activism we saw in the mid- to late-’80s and early ’90s. Can we revisit the call to justice to create the next Barack Obamas?”

Carson wasn’t speaking just as someone who appreciates hip hop music – but as an artist.

Before his political career began – before his time on the Indianapolis City-County Council and his job as a police officer – Carson was a rapper and a break dancer.

“It was a way for me and others in my community to express ourselves,” Carson said. “It was meaningful. It was Socratic in many ways. And it allowed us to, through winning or even losing, to go back open up the dictionary, try to study, come up with metaphors, similes that was compelling, that would wow the crowd. But it forced us to think. It forced us to be conscious about what we would say.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, popped into the session to talk about music being a universal language.

“People around the world want to hear American music,” he said.

The moderator for the panel, Amos Brown, from Indianapolis’ WTLC 106.7 FM and The Light 1310 AM, fielded questions not only about the hip hop industry and history but also about politics and mobilizing young black people to take an interest in community discussions.

Panelists included the Rev. Lennox Yearwood with the Hip Hop Caucus, Hank Shocklee a hip hop artist and member of The Bomb Squad, the production company for Public Enemy, Michael Skolnik, president of Global Grind, Angela Rye, president of IMPACT Strategies, MC Lyte, a hip hop icon and one of the first female solo rappers, and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, member of the hip hop group Run-DMC.

MC Lyte talked about music and art being a vital part to any social movement and that hip hop needs to step up to promote positive and significant social messages to young people, especially the young African-American community.

She called it an “influence by opinion leaders.”

“This generation, if we’re going to move them at all, it’s going to have to be through entertainment,” she said.

Desire Stanley, 25, a student at Howard University and a Miami native, is studying political science and community development.

She said she decided to attend the session because hip hop and other factors play an important role in developing a community.

“I feel like rappers and other musicians and corporate America needs to be accountable for the effects that this music brings to our community,” Stanley said.

McDaniels said he wants to see the hip hop audience demand more from artists.

“The reasons why I rapped that record is because I understood that a lot of things existing in our community that our young people thinks is cool, isn’t cool,” he said. “It’s not a generation gap, it’s an information gap.”

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