Hip-hop is losing its meaning, panel says

Steven Bushong

Ace Boogie, an Akron-area poet and performer, started drawing graffiti and rhyming during a panel discussion about Malcom X and hip-hop last night in Oscar Ritchie Hall. Boogie said, to him, “hip-hop should make you wanna do something.”

Elizabeth Meyer

Credit: Ron Soltys

Don’t call hip-hop “rap” around Ace Boogie — he’ll beat-box you.

Panelists last night at Oscar Ritchie Hall said rap — referring to 50 Cent, Chingy and others currently taking top-10 Billboard spots — is the misguided and misconstrued ugly sibling of hip-hop.

Traditional hip-hop doesn’t degrade women or condone violence, they said.

In fact, the words of hip-hop, the rhyming that makes up today’s aggressive rap, is the least significant aspect of the hip-hop art form, Boogie said.

More important than the words are “dee-jaying,” “b-boying” and “graf art,” he said.

That is: DJing, break-dancing and graffiti.

He opened his statement by conjuring a beat, drawing a picture of himself on the board and finally rapping about how hip-hop is “begging to be accepted by the masses.”

“Hip-hop is a way of life,” said Boogie, who has been an Akron-area artist since he was 12 years old.

Others joining Boogie on the panel included Kelly Harris, a poet and Kent State alumna, and Ismail “Big Ish” Al-Amin with Donovan “Don Juan” Rodgers, who host a weekly hip-hop show together on 91.3 WAPS.

The panel discussion, hosted by Pan-African Studies assistant professor Mwatabu Okantah, was titled “Malcolm X, Hip-Hop and the 21st Century.”

When Okantah originally approached Rodgers with the panel’s topic, Rodgers said he found himself perplexed and interested by the connection between hip-hop and Malcolm X.

The connection Rodgers discovered was self-determination.

“That’s what Malcolm X was all about,” Rodgers said. “When I talk about self-determination, I’m talking about kids who came together and created an art form to change the world,” he said.

The music that came from this art form included that of Mos Def, The Disco Three and Black Star.

But someone — later recognized as music industry’s “suit and ties” — took traditional hip-hop and packaged it like the Deer Park water bottles that sat on the table in front of the panelists, Rodgers said.

“Corporate America has latched onto it like a parasite,” he said. “We have to be careful. If we don’t have more venues like this to talk about (hip-hop), we’re going to turn around and it’s going to be gone.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Steven Bushong at [email protected].