Over the past four decades, hip-hop has evolved into an international social phenomenon. In spite of the culture’s influence, the level of enthusiasm surrounding its documentation within American literature for “popular music culture” is incredibly low. Even more disappointing is the myopic telling of its unique relationship to the African-American experience. Nearly thirteen years after the publication of Nelson George’s landmark book, Hip Hop America, I – as a fellow journalist and cultural critic – feel compelled to express my frustration with the progress that has been made in the wake of its publication and offer a promising “stepping stone” towards its improvement.
The next time you visit Amazon.com, conduct a search for definitive publications that critically analyze the life, times and musical accomplishments of Gil-Scott Heron, RUN-DMC, Queen Latifah, LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys. (What do you think you’ll find?) Such glaring omissions are also present within the nation’s academic texts, university course offerings and various media platforms. Case-in-point: the limited number of critical studies revolving the career Gil-Scott Heron should be cause for alarm due to his recent passing. If Heron’s creative energies fail to be legitimated and memorialized, then what does this say about the possibilities for the current generation of artists whom he inspired?
With similar concerns in mind, I began outlining a blueprint for the research and development of “The Beat of My Heart: A Music Memoir” – utilizing 180 of my definitive interview features. Past and present superstars represent the world of hip-hop, from Chuck D and KRS-One to B.o.B and Wiz Khalifa; they also stand alongside mainstream pop icons, like Clive Davis, Simon Cowell, Lady Gaga and Adele. Through this singular creation of what Nelson George calls “books of memory,” it became a top priority to include elements of these primary sources to blend, straighten and perhaps redefine the real and imagined divisions between the two.
As is the case for most “artistic” endeavors, funding is the primary hurdle that must be overcome for the completion of this project. So it is with extreme humility that I ask the ALLHIPHOP community to help me get this MASSIVE ball rolling, in order to authoritatively preserve and safeguard the multi-cultural inspirations that shaped and continue to define America’s contemporary music landscape!
My diverse body of candid, clear-eyed revelations give tremendous scope and breadth to the dawn of the digital era, the demise of the album, the globalization of hip hop, and the music industry’s never-ending battle with ageism, sexism and racism. In the breaks and silences, I also give sociological examinations of the Third British Invasion, the “slow, unfortunate death” of R&B, and the competing legacies of Motown, Stax and Philadelphia International Records.
Check out the official project page on Kickstarter – which has an “all-or-nothing” fundraising goal of $7,500. (Simply put: if this target is not met by July 13, 2011, then the project will not receive a single dime.) All of the project details can be found here – including an A-to-Z listing of the 180 artistic voices that will be brought to light.
PROJECT (“THE BEAT OF MY HEART”) DEADLINE: WEDNESDAY, JULY 13, 2011
Thanks, in advance, for your time and consideration!
Last but not least, I would be remiss if I ended this letter without acknowledging AllHipHop’s co-founder Chuck Creekmur, who gave an aspiring journalist a significant media platform to distribute his work. I would also like to thank you, dear reader, as a member of AllHipHop’s online community for any financial contribution that you are willing to make.
As a call to action, I urge everyone to consider Kickstarter for use on all future creative projects. With the organization’s support, artists, filmmakers, musicians, designers, writers, illustrators, explorers, curators and performers can bring their dreams to life.