SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
[MUSIC - JAMES BROWN, "SEX MACHINE"]
JAMES BROWN: Oh yeah. Baby-- give it to me, baby. Give it-- give it to me. Turn it loose. Like a sex machine.
Uh! Hey! Come on, now. Baby-- go to, got to, got to, got to, got to give it to me-- hey-- when I want like a sex machine.
Huh! Ah-- ha. Yeah!
MAN (SINGING): [? Put ?] [? the sound. ?] Turn it on. [? Put ?] [? the ?] [? sound. ?] Turn it on.
[? Does anyone ?] [? care-- ?] [? wishes ?] [? to ?] [? my ?] [? prayer? ?] [? Something, ?] [? another ?] [? phenomenon-- ?] [? something, ?] [? another ?] [? phenomenon. ?]
SPEAKER 2: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Bailey Hall. We ask that you take this opportunity to turn off all cell phones and other electronic devices. And please notice the emergency exit nearest your seat. Photography, flash photography, and recording of any kind are prohibited at this event. Thank you for your cooperation, and enjoy the presentation.
BEN ORTIZ: Excuse me. Thank you. Check, check, check. How's everybody feeling?
SPEAKER 3: Good.
BEN ORTIZ: It's a hip hop event. How is everybody feeling?
That's acceptable. All right, so welcome to the Cornell University hip hop Conference. My name is Ben Ortiz. I'm the coordinator of K through 12 outreach at the Cornell Public Service Center.
Yes. We got any Ithacans in the house?
Fantastic, fantastic. All right, so what you heard as you were coming in was the sounds of DJ President Ike, Public Enemy. Give it up for Ike. Where you at, Ike?
Yes, sir. All right. So I'm waiting for my co-host to be back. But until then, we'll get the show started. We want to remind everybody that photography, especially flash photography, is not allowed. Videotaping is not allowed unless you have one of those massive machines over there.
The first thing I want to do is bring up Reverend Kenneth Clarke to the stage. There he is right there. Everyone give it up for Reverend Kenneth Clarke.
KENNETH L. CLARKE, SR: Good afternoon. And welcome to Cornell University for this historic conference, Born in the Bronx, a Celebration of Hip Hop.
We gather here today and tomorrow to interact with and celebrate the architects of hip hop. In the beginning, these pioneers were criticized for being too raw, too rough, too real. But these innovators reflected in their music the harsh realities of a post-industrial America, of massive blue collar layoffs with a profoundly negative impact on black communities coupled with increases in violence and drugs in these communities.
In doing so, they also drew from musical protest and black consciousness traditions that preceded them found in the works of Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and others, from the jazz of John Coltrane, who composed "Alabama" amidst the dogs and hoses of the 1963 Birmingham desegregation campaign to the blues of Sunnyland Slim, who sang, interestingly enough, "Be Careful How You Vote."
Back in the day, these artists were criticized for their innovation. The musical idiom they created was treated as a fad, a passing fancy, something that would go the way of disco, which, in some ways, never really went away. Yet these pioneers and their music have endured as hip hop has morphed into a variety of manifestations.
These pioneering figures will be joined by scholars of popular culture in this conference. The study of popular culture itself has been an area of study in higher education that also came under criticism by academics who didn't think it amounted to real scholarship. Yet popular culture scholars have taught us the need to read other text in addition to books that are bound.
They have taught us how to read the text of popular culture-- music, media, video, Facebook, Myspace-- to understand how they influence actions and world view. The bringing together of the creators of hip hop and the scholars who analyze hip hop reflect the best traditions of hip hop, the promotion of critical consciousness, critical thinking, and community action.
Last year, I heard KRS-One, another hip hop pioneer, on Tavis Smiley's radio show. He was playing the title track from from his then new album with Molly Holl, "Hip Hop Lives." "Hip Hop Lives" was one of many responses to Nas's "Hip Hop is Dead."
In the title track, KRS-One defined hip as being intelligent, relevant, informed. He defined hop as movement to rhythm, movement to music. He said, hip and hop mean intelligent movement or relevant movement.
KRS-One is saying that the much maligned tradition of hip hop at its best, true to its origins, is about critical thinking, intelligence, artistry, movement. It is about what Malcolm X encouraged us to do, to see for ourselves, listen for ourselves, and to think for ourselves.
I invite you over these two days to follow Malcolm's maxim, to see this remarkable hip hop archive assembled by Cornell's library division of rare manuscript collections-- and we give a big shout-out here to our [? rebels ?] [? Erica ?] [? Creed, ?] [? Bonna ?] [? Botcher, ?] and [? Catherine ?] [? Reagan ?] in this regard-- to listen, and, as Sly Stone said, dance to the music, and think critically about the past, present, and future of the music and the movement that is hip hop. With this, we welcome you.
I now introduce Anne R Kenney, the Carl A Kroch University Librarian who will also bring greetings.
ANNE R. KENNEY: Good afternoon, everybody. Can you hear me?
ANNE R. KENNEY: Did you turn this off?
SPEAKER 4: No.
ANNE R. KENNEY: Nope. I just have to shout out, huh? Well, welcome to Cornell University and to the Born in the Bronx conference. I am Anne Kenney, the Carl Kroch University Librarian. And I'm also the mother of a 20-year-old boy-child who, though he loves me, doesn't quite get what I do and has considered my profession not particularly hip until today. One mark of the importance of today is that my son [? Michael ?] is now telling his friends about Cornell University and its library.
Today, we celebrate a landmark event which is equal parts academic conference, oral history, performance, party, and dedication. This event is offered and organized by Cornell University Library in honor of the acquisition of a magnificent, one of a kind, archival collection, a gathering of historical documents and sound recordings, photographs, and party flyers on hip hop's early days, which is unparalleled anywhere else.
Founded in 1865, 200 years after its Ivy League sisters, Cornell was planned as a new kind of university, a place where any person could pursue any course of study regardless of race, nationality, religion, and gender. By the way, of those four, religion was the most controversial of the day.
Cornell was known as the godless university. The governor of New York did not attend the inauguration out of fear, speculates the first president of the university, of being politically tainted by association with this new nonsectarian institution. That progressive spirit of inclusiveness, experimentation, and exploration has continued to guide Cornell's underlying philosophies to this day.
Cornell has produced noted graduates of the hip hop generation, including legendary performer and activist Dr. Roxanne Shante, who is in our audience today, and Rosa Clemente, community organizer--
--hip hop activist, and vice presidential running mate on the 2008 Green Party ticket along with presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. And there are others.
As Cornell's librarian, it is my pleasure to officially dedicate Cornell's hip hop collection. The library has played an important role in the preservation of historical records since its founding. In 1870, for example, the library became the first American institution to pledge itself to preserving the entire history of the abolitionist movement. Cornell's anti-slavery collection, comprised more than 10,000 pamphlets, newspapers, and documents by American abolitionists, is among the strongest of its kind in the world.
10 Years ago, Cornell Library received a $330,000 grant from the Save America's Treasures program to conserve, digitize, and make the anti-slavery collection available to a global audience. This is just one example of the ways in which the library holds rare and archival materials in trust for the benefit of all.
We loan freely to responsible organizations upon request. We bring rare materials before more than 200 student classes and tours each year. And we digitize collections so that images of fragile originals are available for study worldwide.
Cornell's special collections today span from ancient clay tablets to 21st century graphic novels and holds such treasures as one of the five copies of the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln's own hand and the original illustrated manuscript for EB White's Charlotte's Web as well as the typewriter on which he wrote it. Do you remember typewriters?
We are privileged to count the Born in the Bronx collection among these cultural treasures and honored to serve as the instrument for making this historic collection available to all who seek to learn from it. As the number of individuals who have registered for this two-day symposium attest, Cornell University has already embraced its new hip hop collection with wild enthusiasm.
Faculty have begun to integrate the collection into their classes, such as Steve Pond, professor of music, who this spring will teach Discovering Hip Hop-- Research in the Cornell Hip Hop Collection. Predating the acquisition of this collection, Cornell librarian [? Ira ?] [? Revels ?] taught students about library resources through hip hop.
It has been gratifying and humbling to see how the acquisition of a research archive can energize an entire community. And as the University Librarian, I pledge the library's ongoing commitment to building the hip hop collection. And we'll hear more about that soon. I also pledge to ensure its availability to all communities so that hip hop's contributions to history, literature, politics, intellectual discourse, art, music, and dance will endure.
Some people may view the archive as a final resting place for culture past due, drawing a parallel between our climate-controlled vaults and crypts that separate the living from the dead. But those of us who build and provide stewardship for archives, rare documents, and books know that the institutionalization is not akin to confinement. Rather, it is the first step on a journey that will provide access, inspiration, and knowledge for each generation anew.
We can see the archive as a place where cultures are referenced, remembered, resurrected, celebrated, debated, and infused with new life. We turn to you to create that vitality. Although we are proud to serve as the permanent home for this collection, it is not only for Cornell to define and celebrate this acquisition.
It is for you and for the global community of hip hop artists, performers, fans, survivors, journalists, and those who lived it. We dedicate this collection to all of you. And thank you for being with us here today.
I'd like to ask your brief attention while we acknowledge those responsible for making this event happen. Cornell's Hip Hop Conference was funded by a network more than 20 campus and community partners who contributed time and resources so that we could keep the event free and open to the public. A list of those partners and contributors is on the back of your program. Can we give them a round of thanks?
This conference was planned and organized by members of the Cornell's Hip Hop Advisory Board, a dedicated group of faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and staff from Cornell and Ithaca College. They were aided by the hardworking staff of the library's communications office, led by Ellen Marsh. I'd like to ask members of those two groups to stand for a round of applause as well.
Next, I'd like to ask all conference pioneers, speakers, and performers to stand and be recognized.
Some of them have been on the road from the Bronx since early this morning. And others have traveled even farther to join us. A special welcome to the students and teachers from Bronx Guild High School.
I hope you all took the advantage of doing a Cornell tour while you're here. Finally, I'd like to extend a special acknowledgment to four individuals who have worked to bring this event about-- Katherine Reagan, the library's--
Katherine is the library's Ernest L Stern Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, who acquired the hip hop collection for Cornell Library and brought the Hip Hop Advisory Board together to create this celebration. Joe Conzo--
--pioneer hip hop photographer and deputy Cornell conference organizer. Katherine tells me your cell phone has served as Cornell's Bronx office.
[? Christy ?] [? Z ?] [? Pabone-- ?]
Her publicity and production talents have been essential to the success of this event. Thank you. And last, it's my great pleasure to thank and introduce to you the person who, with foresight and care, collected the documents that make up the Born in the Bronx collection and who generously donated them to Cornell University Library.
Johan Kugelberg is an author, curator, and collector. Born in Sweden, he came to America in 1988. His lifelong love of music led him to a career at Warner Brothers. And he later received awards as a producer.
In recent years, he has devoted much of his time to curating exhibitions, bringing them before international audiences, and writing books and articles about popular music and culture. He edited the book, Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop, published in 2007, which draws from the collection he built and is now the foundation of Cornell's hip hop archive.
I'm also pleased that Johan has recently joined the library's advisory council. So please help me in welcoming Johan Kugelberg.
JOHAN KUGELBERG: How you guys doing? Can you hear me all right? All right. Well, the importance of this event and the commemorating of this culture is not that an international multi-billion dollar business has its roots in such humble beginnings. What's truly important is that the events in the Bronx of the mid to late 1970s truly were self-starter culture based on a do it yourself attitude.
There weren't clubs for you. So you'd do it in the park. You didn't have any musical instruments, so you used the parts you liked from your parent's records. You couldn't afford the latest fashion. So instead, you'd rock your street clothes with style and panache.
I wrote a book on the early days of hip hop called Born in the Bronx last year. I donated the collection I gathered to Cornell, who, of all the academic institutions I took meetings with, were the only ones whose mouth didn't write checks that their ass couldn't cash.
They have fulfilled their promises and aspirations big time. This symposium features many of the legends-- Grandmaster Caz, Grand Wizard Theodore, Pop Master Fabel, Charlie Ahearn, Joe Conzo, Tony Tone, Afrika Bambaataa-- all here talking about the culture and the history.
Next year sees the commencement of a curriculum where students can take a course on the archiving and documenting of hip hop history. This is a dream come true for myself and many other people. The obvious goal, through the web and other campuses, is to help a hip hop history curriculum spread across the globe, for b-boys and b-girls in generations to come to have knowledge about the birth of this culture, their culture, and how it was born in a small area in the Bronx.
The beauty of the Bronx of the 1940s and 1950s can be difficult to comprehend if your view of the area is defined by the images of the 1970s of block after block of rubble and burnt out buildings. Back in the years following World War II, the influx of African-American and Latin immigrants settling in the Bronx-- they came to a place with wide streets and formidable houses.
It only took a few years for these comfortable working class neighborhoods to transform into raging, desperate slums. The beginning of the end was 1959 when an expressway was built straight through the Bronx, cutting everything small, nice, and neighborhood-like down in its path towards a progress that sacrificed the small for a diffuse greater good. The middle class population of the Bronx left pretty much overnight, which resulted in the impoverished portion of the population spreading further and further north from their enclave in the South Bronx. Businesses and factories started to relocate.
In 1969, Robert Moses's housing behemoth, Co-op City, was completed. This gigantic complex, situated in the northernmost part of the Bronx and serviced by one of Moses's freeways, meant that the small remainder of a Bronx middle class was now gone.
All the horrors of urban blight came to their acme in the Bronx of 1970. Crime was rampant. Street gangs had mushroomed all over the borough and had made it dangerous to move from block to block on foot even in the daytime.
From circa 1970 to 1975, the gangs ruled the Bronx-- the Black Spades, the Savage Skulls, the Royal Charmers, the Savage Nomads, and others too numerous to mention. You know, contemporary sources estimated the number of gangs as 250 to 300 gangs with a total of over 20,000 members.
They waged turf wars. With the desperation of those who have nothing, they harmed and sometimes killed their own instead of necessarily uniting against the forces that oppressed them. Some gangs, however, grew out of this, people like the Ghetto Brothers who commenced the variety of community outreach programs ranging from free breakfasts for children to chasing out drug dealers from neighborhoods.
As usual, when history is told, things aren't what they seem. And the good do bad things. And the bad do things for the greater good of the community. And into this milieu, hip hop was born.
The many consecutive births of hip hop can be difficult to navigate for the neophyte and old-timer alike. Kool Herc, bringing the power of the Jamaican sound system to the Bronx and providing the Jamaican MC moves of Coke La Rock that certainly echoed back to people like King Stitt on the Jamaican island, were now underwritten by the fattest of drum breaks courtesy of James Brown or the Incredible Bongo Band, the sure shot to end all sure shots, "Apache," being the unofficial national anthem of the Bronx.
After Herc had discovered that the Bronx crowd would not listen to rocksteady or reggae, but certainly to Funk, soul, and Latin, and furthermore being the first DJ to discover that the crowd would go truly apeshit over the break part of a record, he would play those funk, soul, in Latin breaks over and over. Herc was certainly not focusing on extending breaks through duplicate records, but his massive sound system was the first of its kind in the Bronx, playing funky records at breakneck volume and doing parties that were an alternative to the discos and nightclubs of Manhattan that would not have let the b-boys and b-girls in anyway.
Grandmaster Flash was the first to extend the breaks. His original MCs Cowboy, Kid Creole, and Melly Mel took the shout-outs and catchphrases used by Coke La Rock and the radio-style DJ announcements of DJ Hollywood, [? DJ ?] [? Jones, ?] Eddie Cheeba, and syncopated them to the beats, bouncing phrases between the three of them. The MC crew was born. And this invention did spread like wildfire.
Afrika Bambaataa, a member of the Black Spades and a renowned authority figure and peacemaker among the gangs was also a fanatical record collector with a supernatural knack for locating a funky beat in the most obscure of places. On November 12th, 1976 Bambaataa threw his first jam at the Bronx River Community Center. Countless were to follow. And the world changed for the better.
Between Grandmaster Flash and Grandwizard Theodore, the innovations of cutting and scratching were defined and refined. And music changed for the better. Before the great blackout of July 14th, 1977 in New York City, there were a handful of legitimate DJ crews spread over the Bronx. After the looting, you had a DJ on every block.
The jams grew bigger. The crowds grew bigger. Nightclub promoters had dollar signs in front of their eyes. By late 1978, the best acts in the Bronx could draw more than 2,000 people on a Saturday night without a record out, without downloadable MP3s, without being played on the radio, without news coverage, without magazine coverage or TV coverage. There was only the hip hop flyers announcing the shows and the ultimate weapon of community activism, which will always be word of mouth-- and through the record business.
Those few months before "Rapper's Delight" was released in the autumn of 1979 saw a variety of records containing early attempts at rap, small companies flinging tracks against the wall attempting to find a side that sticks. The one that was the first to get stuck on the collective mind of the five boroughs and then the world was the Sugar Hill Gang doing 15 minutes of "Rapper's Delight." "Rapper's Delight" swept the East Coast in the late fall of 1979 and became the kind of hit record that is unstoppable. People could not get enough of this novelty hit.
For the transition from performed to recorded music, rap landed in the lap of lowest common denominator novelty music culture. After the mega success of "Rapper's Delight," when in some instances before, every swinging dick with the means to release an independent record and get it distributed jumped on the bandwagon, treating the music with the same finesse that ham-fisted opportunists of yore had handled the twist, or the hula-hoop, or songs about flying saucers.
As the snowball effect takes place, more labels appear. More records appear. And soon white people get hip to what's going on.
Chris Stein and Debbie Harry of Blondie and the classic New York City hipster mold became aware and recognized something that was amazing, something that was vital, and something that was significant. Their February, 1981 Saturday Night Live hosting brought about the Funky 4 + 1 performing for a national audience. And that was the first time a rap group had been seen on national TV.
Blondie's subsequent 1981 hip hop homage, "Rapture," was certainly the first rap record heard by most white people and certainly much more of an international hit record than "Rapper's Delight." The point with this is that the mass market gobbles it up in the same way as they did in the '50s when black R&B originators didn't have any hits, but white cover versions of their songs became hits. It's possibly a necessity of the mass market that the first mass market success belongs to the imitation instead of the originators.
As always, the people who document the baby steps of a culture force are the cunning businessmen looking for novelty and a quick buck. They sometimes on purpose, and sometimes by accident become the men and women who facilitate these artifacts that scholars like us argue about a few decades later. The people who released these records certainly didn't keep archives, or files, or make discographies, for any kind of eye towards posterity or pop culture history, which means that all of this is a fumble in the dark finding out about this stuff.
As the art form evolved in the '80s and with the mega success of Run DMC, the South Bronx performance-based roots of rap start to become dilapidated. The music changes. Drum machine became king. The breakbeat took the backseat until the mighty Eric B and Rakim brought it back again, but that's another story.
I continue to collect and document the early artifacts of hip hop culture. Recently, through the help of my good friend Marty at Manhattan's Academy Records, I was introduced to the widow of Breakbeat Lenny. She graciously invited me into her home and showed me what she had been safe keeping for posterity.
My eyes almost popped out of my head. Mrs. [? Carol ?] Roberts had kept Lenny Roberts' flyer collection, hundreds of pristine show fliers, including massive amounts of early Afrika Bambaataa and Zulu Nation jams. I was stoked, needless to say.
And then lightning struck twice. A shoe box was brought out. And inside were 16 90-minute cassette tapes. Lenny Roberts, Breakbeat Lenny, the compiler of the ultimate breaks and beats had brought his cassette deck with him to the jams quite often and, with the approval of the artists, had plugged the decks straight into the mixing board and recorded the shows.
For those of you who have tracked down live tapes some battle tapes over the years, you all pretty much know that some truly nasty [? gravel-o-phonic ?] sound quality is the norm. Muffled, gristly sound where the hip hop head feels it is listening with his head in a tin bucket, deducing that the guy who made the recording not only had hid the tape recorder in the water tank of the toilet at the Burger King across the street, but also that the tape was a tenth generation dubbed from an original cassette blank purchase that the Five and Dime.
This is no longer the case. These recordings of the Fantastic Romantic 5, the Cold Crush Brothers, Afrika Bambaataa, and the Soulsonic Force, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, to name but a few highlights, are high-fiving hi-fi of the finest order-- bass in your face, middle like a riddle, and highs from the skies. Thanks to the widow of Breakbeat Lenny, they'll all be online soon. So keep watching the skies for the internet.
I want to take this opportunity to announce Cornell's acquisition of the Lenny and [? Carol ?] Roberts Breakbeat Lenny collection of original show flyers and live tapes. It's been one of my most exciting finds of recent years of searching.
I would also like to announce, courtesy of my dear, dear friend, record executive Jeffrey Weiss, the Cornell University Library acquisition of 6,000-plus vinyl records, 1,500-plus CDs, over 300 press kits, and over 1,000 publicity photos from the golden age of hip hop, circa 1984 to 2000. This collection brings the timespan of the Cornell Born in the Bronx archive all over the USA with hyper-obscure MCs rubbing shoulders with the well-known and with regional African-American vernacular of the last 20 years being preserved for posterity.
And I would like to finish this yak with thanking the following people-- [? Taylor ?] [? Brigode ?] and [? Jeffrey ?] [? Weiss ?] for introducing me to this amazing art form, Grandmaster Caz for introducing me to master photographer Joe Conzo, [? Katherine ?] [? Reagan, ?] whose vision, enthusiasm, and professionalism made the Cornell University Library a natural home for this collection, [? Christy ?] and [? Fabel ?] of Tools of War for their kindness and expertise, [? Michael ?] [? Laird ?] for his work in facilitating the placement of the collection, [? Simeon ?] [? Lipman ?] from [? Christie's ?] for his continuing help with the collection, Joe Conzo, Afrika Bambaataa, Dr. Shaka Zulu and the Zulu Nation for their spiritual guidance, my coworker [? Gabriel ?] [? McKee, ?] and my family, especially my son Sam, who has put in long man hours working on this archive. I want to thank you very much.
And now it's my honor and pleasure to introduce Sean Eversley Bradwell, assistant professor at the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity at Ithaca College. He teaches hip hop and just defended his dissertation from Cornell. Give a hand for Dr. Sean Eversley Bradwell.
SEAN EVERSLEY BRADWELL: Thank you. Thank you. It feels good to be called doctor. I'm not going to lie.
It's my public outing. It's the first time. I'm a member of the advisory board for the conference. And my task here is to provide a brief academic welcome. We've had a couple of welcome's take place, but trying to put this in an academic context and to understand the importance of this from scholars like myself.
So when my good friend [? Ira ?] [? Revels ?] called me about a year ago and said Cornell just bought a hip hop archive, I think I had the same question as many of you did. What is hip hop doing at Cornell?
Now I'm not going to lie. I say this as an Ithacan, right-- a quote unquote Ithacan. I've been here about 15 years, so Ithaca has been my home. I went to school at Cornell. I teach at Ithaca College. So I'm about as Ithaca as Ithaca gets.
But I'm also hip hop. And so I was confused by this notion of what hip hop was doing at Cornell. So we're going to answer this question in a minute.
First, a couple of disclaimers-- one, I want to offer an absolute thank you. I tell folks, I don't usually get nervous for talks. But I am hyped for this talk because of who's here in the front row. So if we can give the pioneers, please, another round of applause.
So who's talking to who? I'm not talking as a member of Ithaca College. I'm not talking as a member of the advisory board. I'm talking as Sean, a hip hop fiend. And I'm talking to hip hop.
It's very rare that someone in my position has the opportunity to dialogue with hip hop. And so I'm excited about this opportunity. Another disclaimer-- the fair use policy-- I don't want anyone trying to sue me afterwards, right?
I will be using some clips and some information that's copyrighted not by myself. And if you want-- I know I'm sure there's probably a couple Cornell Law folks in the audience. I will lawyer up real quick. And we'll have it [? dressed ?] by there.
And so one of my boys, who's a Cornell Law grad, when I asked him about the fair use, he said, just make sure you mentioned four things, right-- to put it in common folk speak. The presentation is educational--
--right? It contains an authorized copyright material, right? The use of this material is OK-- that's his language, legalise, all right? It's OK under Section 107 Title 117 of the USC. And just because I used it don't mean y'all can--
--right? First and foremost.
So for me, this is purely about the love. This is not about labels. It's not about money. This is about the love of hip hop, right?
I come into hip hop 1982, all right? I was 10 years old in 1982. And I recall my first two hip hop tracks. The first was Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, "The Message." Some folks probably know that, right?
The second we'll talk about it in a minute. But if you want to kind what kind of hip hop cat that I am, for the past two years, I have not changed my ring tone. My ring tone has stayed the same.
[MUSIC- PETE ROCK & CL SMOOTH, "THEY REMINISCE OVER YOU"]
PETE ROCK & CL SMOOTH: I reminisce. I reminisce-- uh. Yeah. I reminisce for a spell, or shall say, think back-- 22 years ago to keep it on track--
SEAN EVERSLEY BRADWELL: OK, two pieces-- one, this is a hip hop conference. And about three of you moved, right?
That's one of the all time classic beats ever, right? Pete Rock and CL Smooth-- come on. You got to feel that. Second of all, that gives you the indication, right? It says, I reminisce for a spell, or should I say think back. Isn't that partly what archive tries to do, is have us think back?
And so I was realizing as I was preparing for this talk that I'm already archiving hip hop. Hip hop archives itself in some respects. And so we should appreciate that. And so as I play music clips that are not copyrighted by me throughout the rest of the talk, I expect you all to have at least some reaction, right? Again, this is a hip hop conference.
My second track, with complete and utter humble respect to the man sitting in the front row and others-- Afrika Bambaataa and Zulu Nation-- and this is one of the treats of my CD collection. I'm a crate digger in some respects, or I'm an archivist in some respects. So I have about 3,000 CDs.
And one of my CDs is something that one of my friends gave me. It's an original recording of Bam and the Zulu Nation in 1982 in Fort Lauderdale. So I'd love to have this conversation about what that concert was like. But this is the second track I heard.
BAM AND THE ZULU NATION: Yo, yo-- get funky. We're the Zulu Nation. Yo, yo, get funky. Yeah, just hit me. Just taste the funk, and hit me. Just get on down, and hit me.
SEAN EVERSLEY BRADWELL: Better-- that was good.
That was good. So that's my introduction to hip hop. And we know when we hear that track, there's something about it that just grabs us, right? And we know that hip hop is well beyond just the music. But there's something about those two beats as a 10-year-old child and walking down the street and hear it, that's my music. I know that. I lived that, right? It was something that was real and relevant to me.
So I'm going to give a quick academic welcome. Academics do two things. We talk, and we talk, and we talk. But we also ask questions, right? That's one of the things that we try to do.
And so my question, again, is, what is hip hop doing at Cornell? And this is what I'm going to try to answer in a quick five, 10 minutes. Let me set up a little bit of a scenario. One of my fondest hip hop moments is taking my brothers in law, who were at that point in time 13 and 10, right here in this building, right over there in those seats, listening to Busta Rhymes, right?
Now 13-- Busta's cussing up a storm, right? And they're going nuts, because they can't believe that there's Busta about 15, 20 feet from him.
[MUSIC - A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, "SCENARIO"]
Heel up, wheel up, bring it back, come, rewind. Powerful impact. Boom! From the cannon. Not braggin', try to read my mind, just imagine. Vo-cab-u-lary's necessary when diggin' in to my library.
SEAN EVERSLEY BRADWELL: When diggin' into my li--
SEAN EVERSLEY BRADWELL: Rah! Rah! Right? But Buster says it. When digging in my library, right? So here we are. We're already digging into a library so it makes some sense. So hip-hop's been to Ithaca. It's not new to Ithaca. It's been to Ithaca before. My wife has a memory of going to see this group down at the State Theater in downtown Ithaca.
[MUSIC - PUBLIC ENEMY, "FIGHT THE POWER"]
Don't worry be happy was a number one jam. Damn, if I say it you could slap me right here. Get it. Let's get this party started right.
Right on, c'mon. What we got to say. Yeah. Power to the people, no delay, to make everybody see, in order to fight the powers that be. Fight the power!
SEAN EVERSLEY BRADWELL: Now, I'm a Public Enemy nut. That's my generation. I grew up in that golden year, or that golden era. So again, hip-hop has been to Ithaca. Who's been here? Recent concerts we've had Talib, Mos' Def, The Roots, Snoop, Yung Joc, Young Jeezy's been going on the road. Hip-hop is not new to Ithaca in some respects. And so it does seem to make some sense in that regard.
This is a map that's taken from Social Explorer. This is a map by county of black folks in New York state.
And I know that for many of the pioneers on your way up here you're like, yo, are there that many cows? Are there that many farms? We're a little bit away from the South Bronx or from the GW for that matter. And Ithaca's directly above that brown section, or Tompkins County. That brown section is Elmira where Ernie Davis is from. So we don't have that many black folk in Ithaca. That shouldn't come as a shock to folk.
If we talk about Hispanic populations, same thing. I should point out that that county right next to Albany, that's my county, my home town of Amsterdam, New York. It's got a significant population of Puerto Rican folk. But again, we're not anywhere near Ithaca. And white folk, all over the place, right?
We should question the top one. The top one is Franklin County where Upstate Correctional Facility is and that's the reason why that's dark and we should have some conversation about our prison policy. And I know hip-hop's been talking about this for quite some time and how it changes those demographics. But also right in the middle you can see, right next to the left of New York, is Tompkins County. Ithaca is diverse. Ithaca is not new to music. So this may be a good place for this hip-hop archive to be at and we'll talk about that momentarily.
I'm a policy person. I deal a lot with issues of policy. And I'm also a visual person so maps work for me. So one of the ways in which I teach about hip-hop is through the notion of public policy, and I'm sure you hear a number of folks talk about it, is the way in which things like the Cross Bronx Expressway or Co-op City or the Federal Housing Act or the GI Bill helped shaped residential patterns.
So here is a map of New York City by the percentage of white people in 1920. And so if we trace this throughout the course of history, we see something very interesting take place. 1930 we already see growing populations in Bed-Stuy and South Bronx. We should pay attention to the fact that the Bed-Stuy community began in roughly 1860 when we have the gangs and the draft riots. For those of you who've seen the film Gangs in New York, there's been gangs in New York for a long time.
But as white folks kick black folks off the island of Manhattan, they went to Bed-Stuy community. So there's been a black community in Bed-Stuy for centuries. But we can also talk about Harlem and the South Bronx. 1940, 1950, 1960, and here is this phenomenon that I talk about in my classes about white flight. And so when Johan's talking about this Cross Bronx Expressway creating the conditions where the middle class leaves, here's a visual representation of exactly what that looks like.
And there's a different context when graphic artists are talking about bombing. So let's go back for a quick second, because from 1960 to 1980 is when we start talking about the birth of hip-hop. So what's taking place in this time period? What are the social policies? What are the economic policies? As Jeff Chang writes in his book, if blues were created through the ideas of forced labor, hip-hop was from no jobs. The jobs left.
'70, '80, '90, 2000. That's a graphic presentation of what white flight looks like. It talks about nothing of the people, nothing of the communities, nothing of the culture, just the fact that resources were fleeing New York as never seen before. And so we're left with stuff like this, right? One of Joe Conzo's famous pictures. It's a phenom-- the picture's phenomenal but what it captures is much more troubling as many of us know, right? And so we should be able appreciate what that means.
There were blocks and blocks and blocks, and so I'm always reminding, when we have the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire, literally, the Bronx was burning. The famed 1977 Howard Cosell statement. By 1982, the Bronx wasn't burning, the Bronx had been burned. The Bronx had been burned.
But what I'm always trying to stay conscious of is even while we have this, and as Joe Conzo has done amazingly, one of my all time favorite photos. This is hip-hop. Somebody asks me, what is hip-hop? I just put that picture up and walk away. That's it.
So there's something about this art form that is beautiful, that's resistant, that's about agency and activism. Within the context of struggle, within the context of forced resources being [INAUDIBLE] out of the city. Another one of my favorite photographers is Mel Rosenthal. And so students who have--
Students of mine have seen these clips a couple of times but I talk about this and people make mention of it-- Joe Austin in his book Jeff in his book-- but New York's-- New York City housing was at one point in time entertaining the idea of putting window decals along the Cross Bronx Expressway. They did. There's the picture. And the idea being, as those folks who are going from Jersey to Connecticut for jobs didn't have to pass by urban decay to make their drive much more palatable. So they didn't have to worry about the fact that there's millions of folks who don't have jobs in the South Bronx, they ain't got to worry about the fact there's no health care, no education system, they were cutting social programs. They ain't got to worry about that. We can drive through the South Bronx and see flowers in the window.
Those are the kind of social policies that I'm taking a look at. So when Reagan comes in 1980 in preparation for his run for the White House, he says that he had not seen anything that had looked like this since London after the blitz. So the South Bronx at that point in time, according to Reagan, was a war zone. The way in which I think about it in a 2008 context, this is from a report called Diploma's Count, and I'm wondering why in the country the New York 7th-- was it? New York 7th congressional district has the lowest high school graduation rate in the country at 24%. The congressional district with the highest graduation rate, New Jersey's 5th, connected by the Cross Bronx Expressway. I ask is that happenstance? Is that circumstantial? Or is that hip-hop?
So Born in the Bronx. I'm here to celebrate Born in the Bronx, celebrate the pioneers. I can talk about policy, I can talk about benign neglect, I can talk about the broken windows thesis, I can spend time pontificating on all those ideas, but that's not really what I'm interested in. What I'm interested in is hip-hop as a form of active resistance. As speaking back to power, as saying, I'm going to have a voice whether you see me or not. I'm going to talk to you.
So how does hip-hop come from the South Bronx and what is that spark of genius that creates this? Hip-hop is global, y'all. If you've seen Planet B-boy that Cornell Simmons been running this weekend-- or actually, let me shut up.
[MUSIC - NOTORIOUS B.I.G., "Juicy"]
Remember Rappin' Duke? The Duh-ha, duh-ha. You never thought that hip-hop would take it this far.
SEAN EVERSLEY BRADWELL: Many of us never thought hip-hop would take it this far. We have gone global. So when young bucks are having some protests outside of Paris, they're blaring hip-hop. Folks are tagging the wall between Palestine and Israel. Folks are rocking in Tanzania. Hip-hop is global.
The best B-boys are found in Japan. Hip-hop has gone global. And so I would argue that Bam and the Zulu Nation knew this a long time ago. Right? They could foresee this. They were well ahead of their time in many respects. And so what I'm really here to say is that hip-hop is about peace, love, unity, and having fun. That's right.
[HIP HOP MUSIC PLAYING]
She's the [INAUDIBLE]. Do do it all but Sha-Rock is gonna show you how you get real rocked.
SEAN EVERSLEY BRADWELL: Sha-Rock's one of my all time favorites. All right. And as I close, the real question for me then is not why it is-- is what is hip-hop doing at Cornell, but more importantly, how do we archive hip-hop? The fact that we archive it makes sense. It's a no-brainer. We have to archive it. Hip-hop is quite possibly the furthest and largest social movement in the 20th century-- in the 21st century. We have to archive it because we have to understand it.
So I'm not interested in that question. What I'm hoping that the pioneers will help instruct us in understanding and the rest of the conference is how we make that archive take place. Who is it open to, what does it look like, how does it function? Those are the questions that I want to ask.
And so in my own research-- and as I end-- in my own research, I'm a crate digger. That's what I do. I'm a quasi-archivist, in particular around local Ithaca history. So I spent time going into the Kroch Archives or digging in people's basements or knocking on people's door saying, hey, you got something I could read, you got something I can do? So I'm going to show one of the archives. I'm going to try to act one of these things out so you get an idea of when the epiphany hit me about archiving and hip-hop and their connection.
So this is an archive that I was at about a year ago, just after I got the phone call from Ira Revels. It's not this kind of archive, right? This is the Kroch Archive which does have the climate control room, which just has the preservation, so there's a way in which we're honoring hip-hop documents because we understand that they are for the next generation. I wasn't in that kind of archive.
I was in this kind of archive. And let's bear in mind that, again, for Kroch to be archiving hip-hop makes sense. They already have an abolitionist collection. They already have freedom fighters. We're just adding to that long history.
So as I'm sitting in this archive, I keep getting hit by these things that I'm reading that says, well, there's no black folks in Ithaca. And so I'm reading all these local history books. Well, black folks really weren't here so we don't have any archive about them. But the more I go digging through these crates, the more I start finding pictures like this. Class of 1895. Or pictures like this. Class of 1907. Or pictures like this from 1885.
Black folks have been here. Just got to look for him, got to seek it out. Or pictures like this from the Southside Community Center. So black folks have been here for quite some time, and if we go digging in the archives we know that. So what we know is that archives are for future generations, and because they're for future generations, I couldn't be more delighted that this archive is at Cornell University.
Here we go. As I'm in this archive I'm usually trying to figure out some sort of puzzle, I'm trying to read some stuff because for me it's all sort of a game and I can find the answer to the game in these boxes, in these crates and so I'm digging. So I want you to sort of envision this for a minute. It's dusty, it's hot, there's cobwebs all over the place. I'm pulling through all kinds of binders and I find a leather bound binder that's in perfect script handwritten.
And I'm thinking to myself, one, why is it in this box? But I'm looking through it to see what it says, what can it tell me about the experience of black students specifically in Ithaca, New York? So here's when I realize that archiving hip-hop or archives and hip-hop go hand in hand. I also have my iPod on at this point in time so I'm going to put on my iPod with my mug me white headphones here. So here's exactly how this takes place. I'm looking in this box and here's what it comes up with and here's my epiphany moment.
[MUSIC - KRS-ONE, "STEP INTO A WORLD"]
Step into a world.
Klaka, klaka. Klaka, klaka.
Where there's no one left.
Buku. Buku. Alla de massive.
But the very best.
Klaka, klaka, bo bo.
No MC can test.
Step into a world where hip-hop is me.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE - MUSIC CONTINUES]
Yes, yes, y'all.
You don't stop.
KRS-One. Rock on. Yes, yes, y'all. You don't stop.
BEN ORTIZ: How long does this play? Give it up one more time for Sean Eversely Bradwell.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
Where you at, man? Fantastic job, sir.
SEAN EVERSLEY BRADWELL: Wait for it.
[MUSIC PLAYING - KRS-ONE, "STEP INTO A WORLD"]
All music lovers in the place right now. They never understood the way that KRS got down. Yo, I'm strictly 'bout skills and dope lyrical coastin'. Relying on talent not marketing and promotion.
SEAN EVERSLEY BRADWELL: It is my distinct pleasure to introduce the next speaker tonight-- today-- Jeff Chang. Jeff's first book Can't Stop Won't Stop--
Jeff's first book Can't Stop Won't Stop garnered honors including the American Book Award and the Asian-American Literary Award. This is a book that I use in my class. Hip-hop scholarship has grown so extensively that it's difficult to come up with a course reader. And so I frequently try to select books from a number of folks from Marc Anthony Neal's in the audience and Tricia Rose and a bunch of other folks. But this book, Can't Stop Won't Stop is the only-- it's the full book we read. It's that good and if you haven't read it, I highly recommend. And we also use Born in the Bronx as well.
Jeff was the founding editor of ColorLines magazine, senior editor, writer, 360 Hip-Hop, Vibe, The Nation, you can on and on and on. There's not enough words to say about the literary skills and influence on hip-hop. And so without further ado, please, Jeff Chang.
JEFF CHANG: How y'all doing? Thank you, Sean. That was amazing. Thank you to Johan, thank you to Catherine, thank you to Cornell. Big up yourselves. This is incredible. It's a powerful thing.
Like a lot of folks talk about hip-hop as being about swagger or being official, right? But I actually come to the stage today full of gratitude and humility because I'm not a child of the Bronx like many of you are, but in a lot of ways I'm a child of the child of the children of the Bronx because I'm a child of hip-hop. And hip-hop gave me, as it did millions like me, a voice.
So in this moment on behalf of myself, on behalf of all of you here, on behalf of the millions of folks all around the world that couldn't be here today, I just want to pause, take a second and say to the pioneers, the first voices of hip-hop, for the light that you've given us all, thank you.
And to know that this collection of hip-hop history now has an institutional home here at Cornell is extremely satisfying. Because of the efforts of Johan and the care of the Cornell University Library, we and future generations will be able to have a permanent window into the beginnings of a movement that you the pioneers built, the most important movement of our generation, one in every way as historically as important as any American movement, global movement that has come before. Because hip-hop did not just to entertain, it did not just engage, did not just inspire. It transformed lives, it saved lives.
When these young people of color in the Bronx first came to create this culture, there might not have been more than 300 people at the time, led by DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash. And the women, the women who don't-- who aren't as often highlighted as they should be. Cindy Campbell, Lisa Lee and the Zulu Queens, Sha-Rock and Pebbly Poo.
They did so-- they came together to create this culture amidst conditions of great struggle, amidst the politics of abandonment and the politics of containment that Sean showed you dramatically what the results were. But this movement's goals were very, very simple. It was peace, unity, love, and having fun. So hip-hop is a testament to young people's creativity, and when these young people reached their original goals, they and subsequent waves of other young people came to continue the work of the civil rights movement.
We got to recognize this. Hip-hop culturally desegregated America. I dare say, we wouldn't be talking seriously about a biracial candidate, the possibility of electing a biracial candidate, for the office of President if it were not for hip-hop. For hip-hop is so thoroughly stirred our imaginations that it made all things seem possible, even the possibility of a new politics.
The consequences of the move that birthed in the Bronx resonate anywhere when [INAUDIBLE] in the world. Sean made this point. Wherever there is struggle and hope and joy to be expressed, there's hip-hop to express it. On a planet that's getting smaller every day, hip-hop still reunites people above the Babylonian confusion of languages.
The biggest historical question I think in hip-hop remains this. How did a youth movement that was so local, so particular, so ephemeral, become so universal, so multivalent, and so enduring? We can respond in large generalizations to this question, that it has to do with the love and the theft that takes place any time you have the American mainstream interacting with African-American or Afro diasporic cultures or movements or that has to do with the way that hip-hop sees the world from the ground up, a worldview that's available to anyone. Not just those at the top looking down.
But these are abstract arguments. And now with this collection of artifacts, artifacts from the wrong side of the tracks-- right, I know some of you got that-- the first glimmerings of hip-hop's perpetual dawn, we can ask the question again and perhaps begin a new phase of hip-hop scholarship that starts from the ground up. Let's start with the details.
Joe Conzo, Joe the photographer, going to parties and taking pictures of his friends. Buddy Esquire, remixing Vaughn Bode, Disney, John Byrne, and Art Deco. Aaron Douglas for flyers for the Saturday Jam. Bronx B-boy setting it off at the Executive Playhouse or the Savoy Manor. New superheroes and superheroines who call themselves Afrika Bambaataa or Grandmaster Caz or Tony Tone or Roxanne Shante. From that there's a direct line to the top selling issue of Italian Vogue that we saw this past year featuring black models, to America's Best Dance Crew, So You Think You Can Dance, a pop star who's renaming herself J-Lo or a presidential candidate that we can call B-Rock.
In some ways-- and this is real, right? This is real. In some ways, this collection will be like no other that the Cornell Library has ever held because it's not going to contain dead scrolls. It's only living documents. They're the clues to why we are the way we are right now. They may help us to understand how and why hip-hop has also become a space of mass imaginings where people can if they want to dream big and spread those dreams.
This collection marks a landmark step forward in hip-hop studies in the academy, and I believe that hip-hop belongs in the academy. Now, we often talk about the formation of hip-hop studies and scholarship as if it were recent. The truth is, hip-hop studies in the academy is relatively recent. Those of us who study hip-hop have to thank journalists like Greg Tate, Nelson George, David Tupe, Steven Hager, Michael Hohmann, documentarians like Charlie Ahern and Henry Chalfont who celebrated the genius of a movement when most people thought it was just a fad.
We have pioneers of the academy to thank. People like Tricia Rose and Mark Anthony Neal, both children of the Bronx who had to fight doubters and haters at every step of the process to reveal the far-reaching implications of hip-hop's art and aesthetics. Now if you look around, there's thousands, literally countless, after school programs for elementary, middle school, and high school students that use hip-hop pedagogy. In 2005 the hip-hop archive at Stanford, now back at Harvard, counted 300 courses in the universities. I think it's doubled since then. Howard University's going to offer a hip-hop studies minor and at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the first four-year scholarship programs been offered for those students who practice hip-hop arts.
We're entering a period in which the interest in hip-hop studies at the university level is going to accelerate. But if we're going to be real about this, as we have to be real, it's hip-hop, we've got to recognize that hip-hop scholarship and hip-hop studies precedes the journalists. It precedes the scholars, it precedes documentary-- the documentarians, it goes back to the beginning of the culture.
Let us recognize that what Afrika Bambaataa and Grand Wizard Theodore and Charlie Chase and Disco Wiz and Wanda Dee and so many others were doing when they were loading up their crates and refining their techniques was building a body of knowledge. Where B-boys and B-girls were doing and bringing together movements from across the diaspora and inventing a bunch of new ones was building a body of knowledge. What graph fighters are doing in creating new styles and techniques that advance new styles was building a body of knowledge.
With the herculords and the Furious Five and the Cold Crush and the Fantastic Romantic were doing in writing and trading rhymes and chants and melodies was building a body of knowledge. It didn't become knowledge because we carved out a space in the university. They became knowledge as soon as it was born.
Hip-hop has always gone where power said it didn't belong and then it completely transformed that space. Did it to music, it did it to aesthetics, did it the poetry, did it to visual arts, theater, literature, it's doing it to politics. Why shouldn't hip-hop move on to transform the institution most in need of transformation, the educational system?
So hip-hop doesn't need to be in the academy to be validated. Hip-hop needs to be in the academy because it needs to be everywhere. So the collection here at Cornell will serve as an important foundation but it'll also serve as an important corrective. Because the official history of hip-hop, a lot of the history that we study about hip-hop, is one that's largely been written by commerce. What we know most about hip-hop is what has to do with what commerce has cared the most about. What we know least about hip-hop has to do with what commerce has cared the least about.
Now, as a 12-year-old in Honolulu growing up, the first rapper that I loved was Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight." And up until recently, most accounts of hip-hop began and ended with rap, and began specifically with that story of the first big commercial breakthrough for rap. But now we know that the story is also one of the first big betrayal because the song was based on the theft of Caz's rhymes.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
And now because commercial rap is dying, you look at record sales, it's down 60%-- more than 60%-- from eight years ago, some say hip-hop is dead. But this is a view of hip-hop history through the eyes of capital. We focus on the hip-hop that is product, the hip-hop for sale, the knowledge for sale through global media monopolies. And we have to. We must. Because we need to confront the new structures that can control and manipulate our ideas.
But what about, for instance, the histories of hip-hop dance that are so meticulously documented and taught one to one, person to person throughout the world in the old way? What about the reality that most hip-hop practice today still happens locally wherever young people gather to continue to push forward styles and slang and dance and music? This collection reminds us that hip-hop began as a local movement and still thrives as a network of local movements.
So while hip-hop often looks as if it's been reduced to the sum of its revenues, a fact that can make us despair about its future, it reminds us about what's actually happening with hip-hop-- the majority of what's happening in hip-hop. Parts of hip-hop are dying. Let's be real. But the body doesn't die as long as the cells are continuing to reproduce, and hip-hop reproduces and re-imagines itself everyday locally from its birth in the Bronx to current movements in East Oakland or Seoul, South Korea or Dakar, Senegal or Santiago, Chile or Auckland, New Zealand, on the res in South Dakota, in the Favelas in Sao Paulo.
Connect the dots, do the math, and it's not hard to see that hip-hop is as vital as it ever was. Our work now is to be critical about the bodies of knowledge that are privilege what is sold and to recover the bodies of knowledge that have refused to be sold. Our work is to listen closely to the silenced voices, voices silenced by capital and all the -isms that still affect us-- racism, sexism, homophobia, classism-- and then to turn up the volume so everyone else can hear. Our work is to overstand the fullness of the past in order that we may better confront the struggles that we face in the present.
I kind of want to close here with a more personal take on the importance of the collection to me. So let me start by saying that in my own work I've come to understand that every single piece that I've ever written is not mine alone, it's the work of the community. So even though my name might be on the byline, my work can only come out of the generosity and the goodwill of the community. And it was certainly the case with Can't Stop Won't Stop.
I literally came to hip-hop from half a world away, from a chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean in the middle of the sea, and I was just an eager student when I first began writing about hip-hop back in the early '90s. In my process, my community, these individuals who are both living and have passed on, numbers I can no longer count, they took me by the hand. People like Afrika Bambaataa, like Lucky Strike, like Richie Perez, like Fabel, like Christie, like Rita Fecher, Henry Chalfant, Benjamin Melendez and Carlos Suarez, Bill Adler, the Ego Trip crew, the list goes on and on. They opened their doors, their archives and their minds to me.
The deeper one gets the more crucial every detail becomes. The deeper one gets the more responsibility one feels. When you begin to engage in serious hip-hop scholarship, it's not an intellectual exercise, it's not about getting music and swag, it's not about making a name for yourself. Or should I say, if it is, it really quickly moves well beyond that because you learn that it's not about you. You're just a conduit, you're just a vessel for these stories. You learn this or you fail.
It's about a process of recognition, a recognition that these stories are of lives being lived and must be deeply respected. That these stories are not trivial, they are central to our national identity. That these stories are central to who we are becoming as a generation globally.
So I want to ask all of you who remain eager students of hip-hop as I still am, that you approach your work with this sense of importance. And it's very important because the stories that have been half told or never told are the key to understanding who we are and who we can become, who we be. I ask that you approach these pioneers, these first voices and their work, with humility, with respect, with responsibility. They are the elders in our community who shine the light back for the rest of us who are following.
The charge that we have is to do our part to help carry forward these stories that have been half told or never told, to carry forward these stories that must be told. That's the one way that each of us can repay those who came before us. That's the one way we can shine the light back for those who will come after. Thank you very much for your time. And may all of you have a wonderful weekend.
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A panel of speakers featuring Jeff Chang, hip hop historian and award-winning author of "Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation," opened a two-day conference marking Cornell University Library's acquisition of the collection, "Born in the Bronx: The Legacy and Evolution of Hip Hop." The welcoming remarks were made on Oct. 31, 2008, in Bailey Hall.
Other speakers at the dedication included: Reverend Kenneth I. Clarke, Sr., director of Cornell United Religious Work; Anne R. Kenney, Carl A. Kroch University Librarian; Johan Kugelberg, collector and author of "Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop"; and Sean Eversley Bradwell, assistant professor at the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity at Ithaca College.
Cornell's Born in the Bronx collection documents the early days of hip hop with recordings, photographs, posters and more. Events on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2008 included music, performances and lectures by several of hip hop's founders, and roundtable discussions led by prominent speakers from the hip hop and academic communities.