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tv   Discussion on Race in America  CSPAN  January 10, 2022 8:00am-8:33am EST

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that's available at c-span's app, c-span now, or wherever you get your podcasts. ♪ >> and you've been west virginiaing -- watching booktv. every sunday on c-span2 watch nonfiction authors discuss their books, television for serious readers. and watch them all online anytime at you can also find us on twitter, facebook and youtube at booktv. .. this is about half an hour. >> hello, and welcome to "washington post live." i'm robin givhan, senior critic at large for the "washington
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post," and today as part of our race in american series we're talking about the smithsonian anthology of hip-hop and rap, which will be released tomorrow. my guests today are kevin young, director of the national museum of african american history and culture, and dr. dwandalyn reece, associate director for territorial affairs. welcome to you both. >> thank you. >> thanks for having us. >> i thought i would start with you, dr. reece and if you can just give us a sense of why the smithsonian felt it was important to put together this anthology. what was the impetus for it? >> well, the impetus of it, it ties a lot to the philosophy smithsonian folklore records and the national museum of african american culture, and our museum
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is about the past but also about the present and the future. and hip-hop is been around with us for 40 plus years and so it's a natural outgrowth of looking at the african-american experience through contemporary lens. smithsonian folkways, a lot of desire around r this project is really seeing hip-hop as community, music, looking at its birth and its origin stories, really coalescing around the idea of community and finding a voice to express joy, sorrow, anger about the current circumstances. >> the anthology consists of both essays, photography, and also the music itself. and in many ways it seems like putting it together would be the ultimate task and the result
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being something people would argue over for m generations to come. what was the process of being able to winnow down decades of music and culture into something that while not quite manageable because it is quite quick but at least compact? >> a project like this like you need list or any anthology is very difficult. how do you make those choices? we were very intentional from the beginning to really make this a a grassroots project so wasn't the smithsonian coming up with the idea and making the decision. we had a community of advisors, then we had an executive committee u made up of scholars, artists, journalists, industry folks who made that decision. the advisors selectedar i beliee some 900 900 songs and frome 900 songs, in one meeting in november 2014, the executive committee sat through and went
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through that entire list to choose the tracks that would, like i said, this list is not the definitive hip-hop but it is a story of hip-hop. selections are based on tracks that help illustrate the story of hip-hop ass it evolves, the critical moments, the critical stories and issues. so you could replace any of those tracks with other things but this is a story and a place to get the dialogue going. >> before we get into the specific tracks that are there, director young, i wanted to ask you sort of more broadly, we talk about hip-hop and the poetry of hip-hop. how does that fit into the broader mission of the institution? how do you connect the dots to the other elements that are part of the museum?
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>> thanks for having us and thanks for featuring this, such an important anthology. i think itt very much that's ina long story we tell starting in the museum if you've been there, starts from the bottom and things about history but also connects to culture. you can have one without the other, and to me hip-hop really illustrates thaton connection between history and culture. it names the times, chuck d who is one of the people who helped us think through these tracks said that hip-hop was cnn, provides to people. if we think over time the issues from the message to the moment where in now, speak to what's happening in everyday life. i love there's an organic quality both chubby anthology was created but also how hip-hop was created. in many ways the museum comes about, things that people
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broaddus, people kept close and treasured and hip-hop is one of those things., they kept the great eightball jackets and the great outfits and the radios and things that made hip-hop, the mixers, and we've also been collecting that material. it's an important moment as we look back toward hip-hop and look back in the fifth anniversary of the museum and think about the way that culture is still happening. history is a a living thingnge need to chronicle that as well. >> one of thevh really interestg elements is the idea that the choices really reflect the ways in which the music and the culture was moving forward as the impact was happening at any given moment. you go from sort of the origin of hip-hop, we do get to a point where dr. young, you thought of
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public enemy and that was a moment when it seemed as though hip-hop was really starting to speak very directly to issues, social issues, political issues. can you talk a little bit about the impact that public any really had and our understanding of what hip-hop could be? >> i think dr. reece can describe it butut i think it's a sonic ad a social mix your what's beautiful about public enemy is that layered sound they had. i remember dancing to it myself but it's dancing and thinking at the same time which is a kind of thing that hip-hop offers us. we have to remember hip-hop is one in a long line of black music inventions, innovations that i think are central to us thinking about american culture but also world culture. soul music also was social and major move.
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blues thought about expressing individual feelings through this what i like to think of as a kind of eye that is also a wii. when betsy smith is singing you start to feel the connection to her, and to that experience. i think in a long tradition hip-hop makes a lot of sense, and public enemy seems like it's pretty much connected to other music whether it's soul music or folk music or however you want to think of it. of course hip-hop is made up of that music. a little sample -- the long tradition that is alsoo a jazz tradition is really powerful, and that layered sound i think is a way of thinking about our layers of responsibility and thought as we move about the world and maybe move on the dance floor. >> dr. reece, would you like to add to that? >> the only thing i would add is sometimes a a discussion about hip-hop is generational, and
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just all the interviews we've been doing and conversations were having, i really think there's something to hip-hop as a movement just like any other movement in time. started as a grassroots effort and just blew up. but i also think of that post civil rights generation as you know, after the legislations and accomplishments in the '60s as the country still trying t itself that hip-hop developed as another tool, just as director young mentioned, of fulfilling a long tradition of how to address issues, how to innovate and create new sounds. i see hip-hop as pulling us forward not only african-americans but all people who listen to it, from the philosophies behind it, the sound, the experimentation, the fluidity of it, the message. i think it's arguably somewhat argue that if we start to look at it after these 40 years that
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it is a cultural and social moment that has not only shaped america but the global community as well. part of this sense is not only for the aficionados but it's also for those people who may not understand what hip-hop is all about, and we all know there are preconceptions, all ideas of what hip-hop is and it may continue in some corners, so the box set itself with the music, with the essays, with images and the notes really hate hip-hop just as any kind of historical cultural social movement that has existed over time, and transit from a variety of perspectives. one of the hopes we have is that people start to understand thatt and appreciate john roth and the culture for what it is and what it has contributed too society. >> how important is it that this
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is something that is rooted in the museum and that gives it, that automatically gives it a a sense of history and legacy? because i thinkel a lot of peope think of hip-hop as something that belongs to the youth when, in fact, there is this incredible history. a lot of the people who were there at the beginning are not really quite that young anymore. how important is that to recognize that multi generational aspect to hip-hop? >> well, real quick. i think you see and just this past year when we lost bismarck and dmx and all these artists how important it is to appreciate and collect and retain this history. sometimes find i out from the sources themselves having to that history. i i think it's important we do this now and we look ahead to the future but also look back. i think our collecting rent is airy has been so fruitful
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because we dedicated ourselves to thinking aboutlt it in this g context of black culture and global culture, which is an largely influence. but i think you're right, it's really a moment to reflect on how long hip-hop has been with us and what it has given us. >> one of the wonderful aspects of the anthology is the emphasis that is placed on the women who were instrumental in founding hip-hop and moving it forward. that's a terrific essay in the anthology in which it's noted that without those women who were sort of the foremothers in hip-hop, there wouldn't be a her, alyssa, i'm making the stallion. we've got some great pictures of some of those women rappers but, i mean, how difficult or how challenging was it to make sure that these women were included
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when there was a time in hip-hop history when they were kind of the race from public view? >> well, it was intentional to make sure women were included, because we have to make that extra effort because the dominant popular narratives do tend to erase women and we have to be intentional to make sure that they are included as part of the story, not an add-on but as part of the story. it's also an exercise to remind visitors and our audiences and people who love hip-hop that women are involved in hip-hop in every shape and form, whether it's photographers, entrepreneurs, regular executives, artists, designers and the like and part of our mission as a museum is to make sure that these stories are really complex and represent the
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breadth of the african-american experience, giving voices to the unvoiced. we take thatfo very seriously ad i think went to make that extra effort because so much of the journalism and the history that's written still does not include women. ideally, in some great world, next time somebody do something like this women just instantly come to mind. we have to make an effort to make sure people know and remember and elevate those people who may not be as famous and well known as others. >> how did you wrestle with some of the cultural aspects of hip-hop, the sexism that is a bear with the homophobia? you know, with the abuse that was in many ways part of the culture which is sort of part of the broader culture.
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did you debate whether or not certain people should be included? how did that work? >> that's an interesting question. at the end of the day people are complicated and complicated stories, but when they are telling a story, a historical story, it's very difficult to leaveha someone out to west influenced and shaped other people or shaped the music. we don't distance ourselves of the changing perceptions and how one's image mightan have changed due to incidences or past situations. and i think a lot of that is explored in thess telling. i am mindful that the anthology can't be all things to all people and all the themes and topics. we couldn't possibly address,
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but we do address that in other ways through our program, through our website so that we really get visitors to engage with some of these other issues, which don't have easy answers, but our museum is not very shy about confronting these things and having really constructive conversations about them. >> dr. young, or director young, i'm curious because there was a time ticked with the lights lives of like gangsta rap where the emphasis really became on a very particular kind of masculinity, a very particular kind of black masculinity. as you sort of look at the way that was reflected in hip-hop, do you draw connections between that and o the ways black masculinity is reflected in other aspects of the museum? >> that's an interesting question. i think i think of it as a
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conversation, you know, and i think that the anthology is having a conversation itself. rappers rapping back to each other, rap battle but also something like roxanne roxanne i remember speaking about in college as roxanne cycle any idea that was like an epic cycle to that. i think it's really important to say there's these different voices sometimes contesting each other, and hip-hop itself has a history of people having those arguments sometimes backstage, but often on stage. i think there is a long conversation about gender and equity, all these kinds of questions. a good museum like our museum and the smithsonian as a whole thinks about that with you, help you think about it, shows you the story and tells it over time. i think the context is really important. that conversation and the context is what ion try to help
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people focus on. and see it for themselves and see it inherent in this case up close and first-hand, and if you know the music, you know it is layered, and how do you experience it. how do we see it in relation to each other, i think that's important aspect of the music and the anthology. >> dr. reece, can you talk a little bit about the point at which that there's thisow incredibleen broadening of hip-p and emily becomes the popular music, and you start to see, i'm presuming you start to see this with the arrival of someone like vanilla ice who makes an appearance in the anthology, and that it moves on. i will you defend the presence of vanilla ice. [laughing] >> well, let me say this, and we tease out part of the play list a couple years ago and there were still a lot of responses
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about that. but i like to quote in see light, we spent maybe an hour, this is our to do, i don't how to make a choice. she said something at the end of the day, if they track moves the story of hip-hopme forward, it s a critical part of the overall story. so we are not making judgments on chart placement come number of grammy awards are things like that. like, we all know when vanilla ice came on the scene there was a lot of conversation -- a lot of conversation about it. you know, from the track itself, from white artist doing an african-american art form, all kinds of issues come out and that's, i like to say, it's the beauty of it. there's so much to think about it, the implications. a person may not put -- the track may not hold up 30 years from now but if it moved the culture, moved the story, then
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it is a critical movement in the overall picture of its evolution. >> is there another moment in recent history where you, where the advisory board really felt like this track moved hip-hop in a completely different direction? i'm wondering if that conversation came up with someone like kanye west or kendrick lamar? >> it did. it did but we had this got off at 2013 for a variety of reasons, not only the size of the box set but licensing issues and trying to have a critical distance. because even as we are doing that, there are moments in hip-hop occurring. kendrick lamar wins a pulitzer prize. there are all kinds of things we could do another set for the last seven or eight years. but we did think about that, in making the choices and how it's
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presented. we even talked about doing a precursor cd to show that hip-hop did not evolve out of a vacuum, that there are precursors and every musical genre particularly in african-american music, rebuilding on one thing after the other. so what's important to me is not only to explore the importance of hip-hop but to place it in the continuum of african-american cultural expression. >> sort of a little bit of an aside but i i was curious about thinking about the music being presented on cd. like, why that particular format as opposed to sort of old-school vinyl or digital? >> purely economics. the cost of producing on vinyl set with all these tracks would make the box it really prohibitive, expensive to a lot of our audience.
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and we wanted -- it's not cheap but we wanted it out there. we want people to be able to purchase it. we spent a lot of time talking about that and it would be really neat, but it's a much more expensive project to put together if we went that route. >> it's also pretty heavy as it is. i can't imagine all that vinyl. >> i think it's also, at the end of the cd, traditionalists like me have my cd collection, but the package is really thehe whoe thing. you can put together a list and string all on spotify but it is the combination of the tracks, of the essays, of the images. when you start to juxtapose those things you start to get different kinds of stories. i know you mentioned gangsta rap. we could bring out 3000 new challenging versions of
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masculinity. so thesese whole things are in conversation with each other. this is really an object that we've created for our audiences to engage with the time and time again in plotting a foundation and really engaging with the music in newer, different ways. >> as you think aboutut that audience, i'm curious, depending on, you know, what do you think sort of the diehard hip-hop fan a take away from the anthology versus someone who really knows very little about the music and the culture? i mean, can they find sort of an meeting of the minds there? >> i think so. and i think we've all racing versions of that online and it was a kickstarter campaigned around this and people's enthusiasm was really palpable. 4b is someone whose first record i ever bought with my own money
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was run dmc king abroad. i was blown away, 129 tracks, the real breath of the collection. that's important and having done paper anthologies of poetry and other things come it's really hard to pick, and to pick out of 50 50 years really of this music, i think it's so dynamic and powerful. and the essays alone are worth the price of admission. so do have that music and the essay in conversation with each other, too, iser really importat and do something forha everyone. i think you don't know hip-hop that well you might hear songs that you actually knowla more tn you thought. i think that's the other thing, is hip-hop is so broad. it as such broad aspects and someone like lauryn hill has such a rich range of sound that we call hip-hop but in another world we mighten call soul music or something like that. there's really a combination of sound and also aspects and points of view that a think
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peoplele would be really enrichd by whether they know the music well or not. >> and when you think about the moment that we are in now, directoror young, how would you describe the kind of conversation that hip-hop is having with the culture at large in this moment? >> i think sometimes it's direct, sometimes it's very topical but sometimes it's also escape. i think both are validid forms f reaction to our current moment. and i think if you look back at what black music has always provided to black folks, it's been that outlet of expression sometimes a banker but sometimes coded anger, and sometimes of joy, and joy as a poet reminds us as an active resistance and that kind of resistance and joy, the song happy for instance, is a way of thinking about the ways
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that happiness is something revolutionary. and so i like that the music isn't all serious are all one thing, and i think right now is a moment of that we use women rappers rappingu about pleasure and their bodies in the future and you see people rapping about whatever they want, and daily life. i think that's really important. >> my last question to you, director young, is you sort of mentioned the poetry and the protest and the joy. are you finding that there is a better understanding of that link betweenen the music and poetry? you know, the artform as we see someone, the enthusiasm behind someone like amanda gorman. >> i think poetry is having a moment which is great, and i
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think hip-hop in some ways paved the way for it, makes as politically aware. i think of those two different things. if i could wrap i would but i may portside think about it as power. i don't think went to pick one or the other, but it's true especially if we think about antecedents and the people who helped bring hip-hop into being, some like dell scott iran, the last poet, these are poets who crossed over from poetry into music and into hip-hop in some ways and were inspirations. so there is this long tire of history but poetry isi its own art and sows hip-hop. i think that's important to remember that hip-hop as its own power, passion, connection to the past and you know, i wouldn't trade anything for those layered tracks that you get to hear and think while you dance. >> well, i think weth have to leave it there.
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hopefully, maybe you will come back and you will rap for us, i don't know. [laughing] >> like i said, i'm notno a rapper. [laughing] >> i thank you both so much for being with us this afternoon. and i want you all to know that if you're interested in upcoming interviews, please go to where you can register and get all nd the information for what's coming up. and i'm robin givhan. thanks for joining us. >> c-span asia unfiltered view of government. we offended by these television companies and more including charter communications. >> broadband is a force for empowerment it that's why chr has invested billions building infrastructure, upgrading technology, empowering opportunity in communities big and small. charter is connecting us.
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