Lifting up Azealia Banks, and Artists Defending the Integrity of Hip Hop

Statement of the Hip Hop Congress

Over the last couple of weeks, a lot of controversy and discussion has swirled around Azealia Banks and the positions that she has taken along with how she taken them. We, as artists, educators and community leaders would like to recognize and honor our Sister Azealia and Brother Q-Tip as they work to clarify both the current state of and historical struggle of Hip Hop. While many are turned off by the raw nature and passion of Ms. Banks, we find her position refreshing, enlightening and illuminating important conversations around cultural ownership, appropriation and exploitation. We stand in solidarity with Azealia Banks, Q-Tip and all those who defend the integrity of Hip Hop and Black Culture.

Last year, Hip Hop Congress in association with Move to Amend launched a campaign called, “What the Bleep Happened to Hip Hop?”  (Short answer—The corporate commodification of what began as a liberatory art form happened to Hip Hop).  This campaign was launched only moments before Ferguson, Eric Gardner and the ever timely #blacklivesmatter campaign. The purpose of this campaign was to lift up Hip Hop’s roots, original purpose and potential, as well as identifying the poisonous and ruinous effect that corporate capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy has had on this cultural manifestation. It was also to identify and address the continued intentional whitening of Hip Hop by often white, wealthy, male corporate executives.

Move to Amend, as an organization dedicated creating a broad, deep and multi-racial social movement strong enough to amend the US Constitution to abolish the legal doctrine of corporate constitutional rights has identified clearly that a small predatory class have used the legal instrument known as a corporation to corrupt industry after industry, and are threatening the very life of our planet. It comes as no surprise then, that the impact they have had on Hip Hop has been nothing less than poisonous, destructive and gravely misleading on the real state of Hip Hop in the streets, in the communities and the hearts of producers and fans all over the world. Over the last 30 we’ve slid slowly but surely into the increasing whiteness of Hip Hop. This has come with ever decreasing set of options for independent artists and without any form of accountability to the communities from which Hip Hop emerged and where it is still being created, innovated and reinvented.

We also recognize that this is bigger than twitter exchanges and gossip circles, and that real culprit here are the corporate fat cats and industry bosses that profit off of the conflicts, lack of information and control of the mass audiences. In an effort to broaden their market appeal and continue to stifle dissent and creativity, the whitening of Hip Hop has served to drown out the many Black and Brown voices that helped to create it. In our work as organizers in industry, movement and cultural spaces, we recognize that the spectre of exploitation and white supremacy can appear anywhere at anytime. We lift up our sister, however she express herself, as well as the Black Women and young people who are currently leading the country in the #Blacklivesmatter movement. We recognize the leadership of our elder statesman Q-Tip, who stepped in to bring issues into focus. And we recognize and honor the humility and honesty of Macklemore, who continues to shed on a light on the role that privilege has played in career and the reality of Hip Hop’s relationship to struggle of Black and Brown people in the United States.

We should not forget that when the country exploded into racial and social turmoil, some artists who claim the highest levels of authenticity were more concerned with their tour dates than realities that people were facing. We find this kind of willful ignorance distasteful, disingenuous and disrespectful to the legacy of Hip Hop that some artists claims to uphold. Further, this is a clear gap in the role that Hip Hop has historically played which Chuck D referred to as a “Ghetto CNN.” How can one report the news they are not even plugged into the information flow. When confronted with this gap, rather than be open and willing to learn, there is an insistence that folks are in alignment with real knowledge which comes across as dismissive and disrespectful.

In Azealia Banks interview with Ebro, she exposed, with raw emotion, the true feelings and reflections of millions of people who have watched Hip Hop be systematically stripped away from their grasp, and replaced with images of Black Stereotypes and white mimicry that verges on if not outright displays blackface. As technology and industry consolidation have been successful in obscuring not only Hip Hop’s origins’ but it’s current output and production in communities all across the United States, Hip Hop Congress stands behind Azealia Banks and all of those people who stand steadfast in recognizing the importance of culture as more than an exploitable resource. Q-Tip and they work to create a positive dialogue about who we are, where we came from and where we need to go from here.

Ms. Banks, Hip Hop Congress, and a wide network of artists, organizers, activists and educators supports you in bringing these issues to the table how you see fit. If you are looking for an ongoing dialogue, grassroots support and continued discussion and understanding, we will be here building along side of you. Your choices are as an artist should not be in question in regards to these topics. We hear you and appreciate your strength.
Hip Hop Congress
RonDavoux Records
Global Fam
Rap Force Academy
Regenerative Lifestyles
The Multi-Media Center
GRC Radio Union
Microphone Misfitz
TheTruthAboutTupac Movement
Russel Takeall
Roshann Bliss
Move to Amend

D Blair Theater Collective will be hosting What The Bleep/ Detroit March 28-29, 2015 at the Cass Corridor Commons and other venues of the city.