Where You’re At – Notes from the Frontline of a Hip-Hop Planet, written by a Brit, Patrick Neate, in 2003 and 2004, had been on my to-be-read list for a long time. I finally devoured it last week. Incredible information and great thinking on this new and growing culture, pervasive around the planet.
As Neate sees it, hip-hop, created from African American male alienation and despair here in the US, is now the language of the favelas in Rio, the Harlem Club in Tokyo, the townships in South Africa. But not just of the poor. “Hip-hop is now a globalized culture that is locally used to articulate protest.” The language of that protest is from the African American ghetto – and yet right now perhaps the most stagnant hip-hop area in the world is its original and true home – the Bronx in New York City, due largely to corporate control and simply greed.
Neate’s mantra of what hip-hop is doing and needs to do around the planet: act locally, connect globally, think glocally. Construct your own identity, use that identity to impact your community, learn about and connect with others around the planet who are using hip-hop to solve their lack of opportunities, think about how to use those connections (glocally) to create freedom, opportunity, new stories of the future.
As an Afro Reggae practitioner in Rio says, “These days, if you really want to change a situation, first you have to change the self-image of the people in that situation.” Kids (teens and twenty-somethings) are imagining their own identities, rather than taking the failure identities often ascribed to them by their mainstream cultures. (Think of what we teach our young African American boys – that they will be in jail at least once before they’re 20. No wonder they try to create another identity, no matter what the risks.)
This is a rich book, good strong original thinking derived from conversations and stories told by B-boys around the planet: kwaito musicians in Jo-burg, Mr. Fat in Cape Town, Taro and Yuko in Japan, Def Yuri in Rio. This good thinking will be resonating in me for quite some time.
I found this book to be optimistic and powerful, another indicator of the paradigm shift we are experiencing now. Stay awake, look around. The new world will come fast when it comes. Keep meditating, keep healing yourself and the planet, and we’ll all come through it fine.