A lesson from the ghosts of hip-hop past, present, and future

Rap vs. violence dept.
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  April 22, 2011

This past March, Hub peace advocate and longtime hip-hop supporter Cindy Diggs called on the local rap community to unify and help calm Boston's most tumultuous streets. With two beloved rap artists murdered in the first few months of the year, Diggs, who has earned the nickname Mother Hip-Hop through her activist efforts, reinvigorated the anti-violence campaign that she's been pushing one way or another for two decades.

In practicing what they preach, this Saturday Diggs and her Peace Boston comrades will present Hip-Hop 9.1.1. — an interactive play at Roxbury Community College Media Arts Center that will feature contributions from more than 80 teens, teachers, parents, youth workers, city employees, and voices from the Bean rap scene. The production will examine the history of hip-hop — from a New England perspective — and, as importantly, will highlight the fractured relationship between rap music and social activism.

"A lot of the roots of the culture have been lost as hip-hop has become more industry," says Diggs, who plays the lead character, Ebony Scrooge. "People are taking less responsibility and giving back to their communities less, so we're re-instilling that original purpose."

Hip-Hop 9.1.1. is a contemporary interpretation of the play Hip-Hop 2010, which was written and staged by Boston Zulu Nation delegate Queen Vivian in 1998. For this run, she updated the script and soundtrack with a Dickensian flair, telling stories of the ghosts of hip-hop past, present, and future. Vivian's original show illustrated what would become of hip-hop if artists abandoned progressive values to chase commercial carrots. The new version pays dues to the old school as well, but also covers what's happened since Vivian first wrote the play. Finally, by revisiting heroic moments — like the Can We Talk 2U? peace-and-music summits that Diggs brought here in the late '90s — Hip-Hop 9.1.1. is geared to inspire scenesters to pay forward the work of those who cared before them.

"We believe that hip-hop culture is youth culture," says Vivian, who describes the production as an intergenerational affair. "In my experience as a youth worker, the biggest challenge is that young people feel like they're not being heard . . . so here, they have a voice."

"The big message is that people really need to get involved," says Diggs, who will also host a meeting to discuss future action on May 15 at Club Choices in Somerville. "You can't just make a song and keep it moving. The violence won't go away by itself."

Related: Spitting a fierce hip-hop cover, Karmin use YouTube as a launching pad for success, Zion I & the Grouch | Heroes In the Healing of the Nation, Losers of the Hot 100, More more >
  Topics: This Just In , Music, hip-hop, music news,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   THE TRIALS OF NADIA NAFFE  |  March 04, 2013
    Young, attractive, ambitious, conservative, and black, Nadia Naffe should have been a right-wing operative’s dream.
  •   HIP-HOP TRIVIA GROWS UP  |  February 26, 2013
    In their fourth year of operation, the Hip-Hop Trivia squad is finally taking the night (somewhat) seriously.
  •   OCCUPY DENIED DAY IN COURT  |  February 22, 2013
    It took more than a year for Suffolk County prosecutors to come to their senses.
  •   CZARFACE SOARS ABOVE THE CLOUDS  |  February 11, 2013
    This week 7LES and Inspectah Deck drop Czarface , a full-length work of adventurous genius revolving around a metal-clad protagonist who feeds on destruction.
  •   THE BPD ADDS INSULT TO INJURY  |  February 05, 2013
    At times, this kind of decision makes you wonder whether the BPD is saving its best awards for officers who've been involved in the death of civilians.

 See all articles by: CHRIS FARAONE