Musicians educate locals on history of hip hop

Aja Black (left) and Samir Zamundu conducted a Hip Hop Culture 101 workshop at the C.L. Hoover Opera House as part of the Celebration on Seventh Street event.

Two musicians made a weekend visit to Junction City to teach locals about hip hop and the cultures that embrace it.

Junction City’s C.L. Hoover Opera House and the R2B4 Bramlage Family Foundation held the first Celebration on Seventh Street event at the opera house. And while attendance was not quite at the level event organizers hoped for, those who did attend activities were able to learn a lot about the hip hop genre.

The Reminders served as the event’s musical act, as well as its educational resource. The Colorado Springs musical duo features Aja Black and Samir Zamundu. Black and Zamundu hosted a Hip Hop Culture 101 workshop prior to their music act. During the workshop, Black discussed the origins of the hip hop music genre. She said some school systems diminished various platforms for creative expression in the late 1960s and early 1970s. To encourage creative expression, Afrika Bambaataa — a disc jockey, rapper, songwriter and producer from the South Bronx in New York — began working with other artists to develop music. Utilizing this new form of music, youths then began competing in dance battles, which served to deter some of those youths from engaging in gang activities, Black said.

“If I saw you on the street, we would probably fight, but now we’re going to dance,” Black said. “Afrika Bambaataa created the Zulu Nation, so all the gangs became one gang. It was to get rid of violence.”

Black noted that some negative themes — including violence, drug use and harsh language — can be heard in some hip hop and rap albums. But those themes are usually a response to what that particular artist is experiencing.

“A lot of references to substance abuse in rap is due to what they’re going through,” Black said. “It’s reflecting what’s going on in society.”

Zamundu said 2pac serves as a good example of a rapper who tried to draw awareness to the challenges his people were facing.

“On his second album, he was talking about his community,” Zamundu said. “But by rapping about it, people thought he was glorifying it.”

Another rapper who works to portray his community through music is Kendrick Lamar, particularly in his song “The Art of Peer Pressure,” Black said.

“He created an entire community with his words,” Black said. “In (“The Art of Peer Pressure”), he’s talking about where he lives. And people can identify with that.”

Hip hop artists also strive to create unity, which can be witnessed in several different cultures. The Beastie Boys played a significant role in introducing rap to a new culture, Black said.

“They were white, Jewish kids, but they liked the way the music made them move,” Black said. “They come out, and you have this whole generation of kids that feel represented by them.”

Hip hop can include other styles of music as well. Carlos Santana has found much success by mixing different styles of music, Black said.

“He combined all types of music with his own; rock, country and hip hop,” Black said. “You can only learn by consuming the cultures of the people around you.”

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