Thursday, July 9th, 2009

On Hip-Hop, the New Depression, and the Creativity Stimulus


Here’s an interview I just did that focuses largely on the role of the arts and culture in the current economic crisis. Huge thanks to Jasmine Mahmoud, editor of the fantastic new magazine and webzine The Arts Politic.

The inaugural issue features work from and interviews with other people who were at the White House briefing in May, such as Judy Baca, Dudley Cocke, and the great Arlene Goldbard. Bonus: Mayda Del Valle!

Check out and if you dig, support them.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview w/your boy:

The inclusion of you and Davey D, among other arts activists, seems to be a big step forward from the 1990s when political wars waged on hip-hop, and culture wars waged on the arts. Would you call this progress?…

Yes, I do think this is progress. At certain points in history, change seems to accelerate and I think we’re in the flux of that kind of moment right now. We witnessed an outpouring of art, culture, and creativity around last year’s elections. People like Tom Brokaw compared it to the Velvet Revolution. In other words, politics and creativity seemed to converge to bring about a societal leap. Into what, I’m still not sure. But we all have a hand in guiding where we will land.

I work among artists and community organizers daily, and the thing we’ve all noticed is that we have a great urge to convene, to share, to talk, to try to puzzle out the moment. Liz Lerman likes to joke that “artists aren’t afraid of living in Depression-like conditions because that’s our lived reality.” Right now, there’s a sense among everyone that there isn’t much to lose, and that’s liberating. What I think many of us are coming around to understand is that creativity is at the heart of community sustainability and renewal. Hip-hop is the perfect example—here’s the picture of forgotten, abandoned kids hard at work defining how to play amidst chaos. Out of nothing, they literally forge the conditions for their own breakthroughs. They created a new language for a new global generation.

In this country, the debates over the arts are still haunted by questions of individual freedom raised in the culture wars. These are rooted in President Kennedy’s founding Cold War-era charge for the NEA (articulated best here) in which artists were positioned as the social outsiders an enlightened U.S. democracy was happy to bring into the fold. Communists in Russia and China, by comparison, were oppressing dissident artists. (This logic ran its course by the end of the 1980s, when anti-arts neocons took up—quite seriously—the role of Kennedy’s cartoon communists. The irony escaped them, apparently.)

But what if we looked at arts and creativity as society’s key to collective survival? In this re-imagining, artists and creatives—like community organizers—are not outsiders, so much as those who experiment and test and prod, but within the heart of the community. Their risk is indispensable not because it comes from the fringe, but from the center. When they succeed, they strengthen community and move it forward…

Catch the entire interview here.

posted by @ 2:37 pm | 0 Comments

Comments are closed.

Previous Posts

Feed Me!






Come follow me now...


We work with the Creative Commons license and exercise a "Some Rights Reserved" policy. Feel free to link, distribute, and share written material from for non-commercial uses.

Requests for commercial uses of any content here are welcome: come correct.

Creative Commons License