Midwest Hip Hop Summit convening in Ann Arbor
Note: This story has been updated to correct panelist information; MC Lyte is not part of the event and will not be featured on the women in hip-hop panel.
All things hip-hop will be the topic of conversation on U-M’s campus this weekend as the U-M chapter of the nationwide Hip Hop Congress presents the 8th annual Midwest Hip Hop Summit. The two days of concerts, panel discussions, workshops, a film, and a mobile museum will take place at the Michigan League and the U-M Student Union Feb. 3 and 4.
In the greater scheme of history, hip-hop is a newer art form. However, it has been around long enough to have ‘classic’ hits and a progressive history of influencing culture. This summit places hip-hop within the playing field of academia, adding a couple of good live shows.
President of the U-M Hip Hop Congress Zach Kendall, a sophomore (informatics), first met his vice president, fellow sophomore D. Korbin Felder (history and Afroamerican and Africa studies), in a “Black Culture in America” seminar.
“Our class talked about the birth of hip-hop in the '70s Bronx. Now you have professors teaching courses about it. It’s becoming incorporated into academia and being supported by a lot of grassroots movements like the Hip Hop Congress,” Felder says.
“Often, there is a negative aura around it. The hip hop you hear on the radio and hear about on the news is often related to this extremely negative, misogynistic kind of music. But we are exposing people to the type of hip-hop that is all about empowerment and positive thinking,” Kendall says.
“Hip Hop Congress is a national organization for social change through music. That’s what the summit is all about. The artists who are performing and doing panels and workshops are doing something in their community, and they’re speaking about it,” Felder explains.
At the very end of the packed weekend, on Saturday night from 9 p.m. to midnight, Tree City, Progress Report, Nae Smiles, Naeink, and other performers will give a free ‘after-party’ concert at the Michigan League Underground.
“All of the performers in the shows are socially conscious. Big K.R.I.T’s lyrics definitely talk about social issues, like poverty and the kind of stuff we don’t always learn about in mainstream America. He’s able to speak about the government. Narcicyst, as a professor who talks about hip hop in the Arab world. And OneBeLo uses hip hop as an educational tool,” Felder says.
Their hope is that the concert on Friday night will get people interested in attending Saturday’s more educationally oriented offerings and after-party-style concert in the evening.
The cross-country-traveling Black History 101 Mobile Museum will visit the summit this Black History Month to share materials from the era slavery to the era of hip hop, Friday and Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. at the Michigan Union, Room 2202.
On Saturday, three “Women in Hip Hop” will ask the question, “Where Do We Go From Here?” during a two-part panel discussion at the Pendleton Room in the Michigan Union, between 1:30 p.m. and 3:35 p.m. Friday night performers Maimouna Youssef and Foundation All-Stars members will talk about what it’s like being a woman in hip hop.
Also being offered from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Michigan Union's U-Club, The Narcicyst (Professor Yassin Alsalman) will present “The Diatribes of a Dying Tribe,” a seminar about Arab youth “trying to find their voice at a time when their history is being silenced,” with personal reflections on his own career path, according to the official release. At the same time, panelists will discuss “Spirituality and Hip Hop,” in the Pond Room of the Union.
At 2:35 p.m. to 3:35 p.m. One Be Lo will talk about his concept for his newest album release, L.A.B.O.R. (Language Arts Based on Reality), at the U-Club. And the Cincinnati Chapter of the Hip Hop Congress is present a “Non-profit 101” on “Building Capacity in an Urban Environment Using the Arts,” in the Pond Room.
Between 3:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. a series of hands-on workshops on the four elements of hip-hop (MCing, DJing, break dancing, and graffiti art) will be held in various rooms of the Union. These sessions will give participants experiences in the different art forms. “DJ/Turntablism” will be led by DJ Sicari, co-owner of 5E Gallery in the Pond Room from 3:45 p.m. - 5:15 p.m. Mahogany Jones will lead two “Emcee/Freestyle” workshops, from 3:45 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. and then again from 5:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. in the Pendleton Room. Two sessions of a “Break dancing (B-Boy)” workshop will be led by Haleem Rasul of Hardcore Detroit Breaking Crew, from 3:45 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. and then again from 5:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. in the U-Club. Between 5:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m., Riku of Youngnation will lead a “Writers/Graffiti” workshop focused on doing graffiti in a responsible way and learning artistic techniques of the trade.
Saturday evening, the summit continues at the Michigan League’s Underground with a free dinner, movie, and another hip-hop concert. A screening of the ground-breaking film and social commentary “GhettoPhysics” happens from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Stay or come late to see performers Tree City, Progress Report, Nae Smiles, Naeink, and TBD performers.
When Kendall and Felder came to U-M, its chapter of the Hip Hop Congress was on a break. It had lost its status as a registered student organization and a lot of its funding. The summit almost didn't happen.
In Ann Arbor, it being a college town, “people graduate and move on,” Kendall says. “The group had fizzled out a bit, even though our student adviser Amer Ahmed made sure to keep students interested,” he explains. Kendall was inspired to keep it going, and he enlisted his friend Felder to help get it back off the ground. They re-registered the group and started appealing to other student groups and community partners for funding, volunteers and outreach to school-aged teenagers.
They were successful. Partners include U-M Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, Central Student Government, 5E Gallery, the Black Student Union, the Office of Academic Multi-Cultural Initiative's GEAR UP!, the U-M Center for Educational Outreach, U-M's Residence Halls Association, and U-M's Division of Student Affairs, AAPS Rising Scholars, and the Neutral Zone.