By Karen Flores, Asst. Features Editor
Is hip hop dead? That’s the question the Multicultural Center set out to answer, in hosting this annual event with guest speaker DJ Chuck Chill Out on March 9, in memoriam of the death of hip hop artist Biggie Smalls.
The “Is Hip Hop Dead?” event began with a short history of hip hop given by Hayden Greene, director of the multicultural center, followed by a Q&A with DJ Chuck Chill Out. Hip hop was first created in 1973 by DJ Kool Herc at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue here in the Bronx. Since its creation, hip hop has taken multiple routes with famous artists such as Smalls, Nas and Tupac being pioneers for black and brown communities trying to share their culture, struggles and ideas with the world through music.
Greene shared that he decided to hold this event annually to give two different generations a chance to reflect on the growth of hip hop, and have a chance to talk about why it is that they believe the hip hop they have grown up with is different than that of a different generation.
“Every culture has a soundtrack to it. Every culture has a way that their people express themselves and tell their story. And for black and brown people in New York City in particular, hip hop has always been that, and over the years and over the decades, hip hop has changed drastically,” said Greene. “Every year on the anniversary of the Biggie’s death, I like to have a conversation about where where the culture is, where we’re going, is it important to talk about old hip hop, or should that be just in another realm or do the [the two different generations] need to talk to each other.”
Greene believes that music is a language, a way in which people of different ages and cultures can communicate and connect past a superficial boundary. However, he pointed out that the current generation knows very little about where their music comes from, and how it was born and created which in turn makes communication with the past generation a bit harder.
“What I have found is that this generation tends to have a vacuum of knowledge for only a certain period of time,” said Greene. “So they’re like, we listen to our stuff, but we don’t listen to any stuff before us. And we don’t know any of that stuff. There’s the old saying, if you don’t know your past, you’re doomed to repeat it right. So if you don’t know what came before you, if you don’t know some of the things that went into the music that you are listening to right now, then you’re just spinning your wheels and you’re not really understanding the heritage of the music that you’re singing to.”
DJ Chuck Chill Out hopes that students were able to understand and learn from his perspective on what hip hop means and what he believes true hip hop is.
“Well, you know, I hope they got a little knowledge of hip hop, which started during my time,” said DJ Chuck Chill Out. “I’m like a dinosaur. But you know, I hope they picked up some of the stuff I said to them when they learned some of the real essence in the foundation of hip hop. That these guys [students] don’t know much about the foundation [of hip hop], it kind of hurts. But that’s why I do things like this. To try to let them know where the music they love came from.”
Stephanie Seubert, a senior psychology and sociology double major who attended the event, felt that the topic of the event as well as the structure of it made it more interactive and made it easier to talk to other peers about hip hop.
“My favorite part of the event was the discussion that was able to happen because sometimes I feel that the structure of these kinds of events the guests speak first then it is followed by a Q&A, but it seems that being able to jump in and converse throughout the event made it way more interactive,” Seubert said.
Seubert believes that talking about different cultural aspects like hip hop and its creation allows for there to be a sense of connection and understanding between cultures and the music they all enjoy despite being different.
“I normally don’t really go to too many events on campus. I was a little shy about going beforehand, but I ended up going and I had really enjoyed it,” Seubert said. “It’s just cool that Manhattan College is kind of recognizing the importance of hip hop academia. I’ve written like 30-page research papers about hip hop and I feel like it’s such an important topic.”
Greene hopes that students realize the importance of knowing about the history of the music they listen to, as well as the history of many of the things they enjoy doing.
“I think that the more we share music, the more we can share our stories. I think that music is really the way that different cultures express themselves and really communicate. And I think that if we keep on looking at the way that different people utilize the vehicle of music, that it’ll broaden the way we appreciate the world.”