Even with PR groups keeping back-in-the-day artists busy and with some academic intellectuals carrying the activist torch, hip-hop has been facing a crisis of conscience lately, skirting its history and political commitment. Recently in these pages, Greg Tate eloquently lamented these gaps in rap, but now a string of lectures, “Street Style: Hip Hop Music and Culture Series,” neatly covers this ground. Advocating for a new generation of activists in her book Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership, and Hip Hop Culture, Yvonne Bynoe (February 16) should invigorate anyone tired of bling-bling and gangstas. Since writer Jeff Chang and photographer Martha Cooper (February 20) already chronicled the field extensively, it’s no surprise that their multimedia collaboration Back to the Old School: The Roots and Rise of Hip Hop is a nearly definitive account of the music’s early days. Covering style specifics, Bobbito Garcia (February 23) embraces footwear in his book Where’d You Get Those? New York City’s Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987, which is no joke if you remember Run-D.M.C.’s Adidas and Russell Simmons’s building a marketing empire on them. It’s naive to think that one conference can engage the conscience of the entire rap community, but at least it’s part of an important, ongoing dialogue and a dope way to celebrate Black History Month.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 8, 2005