At historically black colleges and universities, hip-hop is part of the culture. On Thursday, N.C. Central’s campus was exposed to the culture’s many deficiencies. Hip-Hop: The Summit, presented by the Student Activities Board, and the departments of Student Engagement & Leadership and History, brought two music figures to speak on a panel about the evolution of hip-hop: Grammy Award-winning rapper Big Daddy Kane and former K97.5 radio personality and powerhouse Shena J. The event was hosted by Domo, an alumna of NCCU and on-air personality for The Pulse FM, 102.5, who asked questions about the two panelists’ views on hip-hop’s transformation.
“With hip-hop being a culture, it’s a way of life – it’s a way that you live – it’s much bigger than the music,” Big Daddy Kane said. He believes the downfall of artist integrity and creativity began with a lack of effort on the artists’ part. “Hip-hop is at a state now where, I guess anybody feels like they can do it,” he said. “If they feel like they can make ‘what’ rhyme with ‘butt’, ‘kilo’ rhyme with ‘steelo’, they can be a rapper.”
Kane became famous after meeting with legendary artist Biz Markie over 30 years ago, and he said he had it easier than most artists at the time. While Kane was able to get a deal with major label Warner Bros. Records early on, he believes artists working independently is a viable option. “I think that’s a great thing, from a creative standpoint,” Kane said, emphasizing that no one is hunched over the artist’s shoulders to tell them what they can or cannot do. He also said it’s great financially because it cuts out the middle man.
Both Kane and Shena J had opportunities to reminisce about the beginning of hip-hop. “You would see cats at block parties lining up to rhyme on the mic. And what they were lining up to rhyme to were songs like ‘Good Times,’ ‘Got to be Real,’ which are disco records,” he said. ‘Walk this Way,’ – that’s a rock n’ roll record.” The rap legend’s point was that there is no such thing as original hip-hop music because it derived from an unsuspectingly amazing cacophony of genres. Shena J was very critical of the turn that hip-hop has made.
“Nowadays, I don’t know – it’d be 20 people on stage—I don’t know which one is the artist. It looks like they just came off the street half the time because they don’t put no effort in their performance,” she said. Domo asked Shena J for her female perspective, as she believes modern artists “no longer love us. They now want us to be their ‘thots,’ want us to be part of love triangles; that we’re everyone’s ‘trap queen.’” Shena J said back in the old hip-hop days, artists may have been talking about the objectification of women “but they were smooth with it. You had to dissect the lyrics if that’s all they were really trying to say.” According to Kane, hip-hop’s problems didn’t just start recently.
“Back in the day, this was a situation we used to run into a lot with bootleggers – people who made the fake cassette and fake CDs and sold them for a lot cheaper. People would buy those instead of buying the actual product,” Kane said. “We have to support one another…when some new Italian designer or somebody new comes out with something, you’re quick to spend your last, you’re gonna break yourself to cop that because it’s the new, hot thing. Well take your money and put it back in your community,” he said.