Hip-Hop Appreciation Week (May 13 – May 19), founded by legendary MC KRS-One in the late nineties, might remind Black cultural nationalists of historian Carter G. Woodson’s Negro History Week circa the late 1920s. But while one eventually grew into the internationally celebrated Black History Month, the other remains largely unknown, even within the five boroughs of hip-hop culture’s birth. For those who would celebrate, the theme of this year’s 15th annual Hip-Hop Appreciation Week (HHAW) is renewal. “HHAW is the perfect time for a renewal of the consciousness that allowed hip-hop to become a worldwide cultural force beyond the mainstream entertainment industry,” reads a statement from organizers.
KRS-One, known throughout the summit of his rap career (roughly 1987-1997) and beyond as the Teacha, is always full of ideas. In 1996 the 46-year-old MC founded the Temple of Hip-Hop, essentially kind of a preservation society to safeguard the original spirit of hip-hop culture from being abandoned as it mainstreamed into pop. The organization’s Hip-Hop Appreciation Week came the following year: seven days of concerts, lectures and movie screenings dedicated to the aesthetic of hip-hop that pervaded in the halcyon era of block parties, Wild Style and “Planet Rock.”
This year, New York City HHAW events include a Bronx ceremony honoring hip-hop founder Afrika Bambaataa, and a panel discussion on the teachings of Malcolm X, presented in tandem with Bambaataa’s respected Universal Zulu Nation. Nationwide, other major HHAW happenings will take place in Louisiana, Rhode Island, Nevada, Minnesota and elsewhere. (See the HHAW Facebook page for details.) But as hardcore hip-hop aficionados know, these sort of old-school cultural events tend to be overpopulated with aging, grey-haired B-boys who never listen to any rap music post-Tupac and Biggie. Why would any Howard University freshman who spends all day with Jay Electronica in her BlackBerry bother celebrating Hip-Hop Appreciation Week?
“One of the best things that can be done to teach the younger generation is to bring true awareness,” says HHAW advisor Minister Server. “Young artists like Wiz Khalifa, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Gucci Mane, hopefully when they really understand what HHAW is really about, they’ll become involved and spread the word to their fans worldwide.”
Hip-hop culture is spread over at least three generations now: those who started it; those who evolved into maturity alongside it; and those who take it for granted as just another element of their shuffle culture. Hip-Hop Appreciation Week has an uphill battle appealing to Generation iPod with its staid agenda to “decriminalize the [hip-hop] images shown in the mainstream media.” But there’s always a segment of the youth for whom going retro is a badge of cool. For anyone young or old(er) celebrating Hip-Hop Appreciation Week, take note of the Temple of Hip-Hop’s following nine “renewable suggestions”:
- Review, study, teach and/or practice the pioneering wisdom that laid down the foundation to establish hip-hop culture.
- Remind people of what hip-hop culture has accomplished in less than 40 years; share our best music, videos, documentaries, influences, books, etc.
- Renew the love and respect that hiphoppas had for each other before we got involved with the entertainment industry.
- Recommit yourself what hip-hop culture means to you; decide how you can contribute to its development, growth and preservation
- Reproduce and conduct workshops, lectures and creative presentations that teach the youth about the origins, elements and history of hip-hop culture.
- Remember to tell people about artists, individuals and organizations that are actively doing good works in hip-hop communities around the world.
- Reserve some time to volunteer with non-profit organizations, schools and community centers; share your gifts, talents and experiences.
- Restore the diversity of hip-hop culture with HHAW events; include artists, parents, youth, educators, spiritual leaders, politicians and community stakeholders.
- Reestablish May 16th as our “Hip-Hop Independence Day,” the day that the Hip-Hop Declaration of Peace was presented to the United Nations to establish hip-hop as an “international culture of peace and prosperity.”