Author: Edward Vogel
Date: March 20, 2012
Tags: , ,

Hip-Hop: Rhyming & Reasoning Justice

There Is a Reason to the Rhyme

Jasson Perez and his daughter, Nisa

Organizer and hip-hop artist Jasson Perez and his daughter, Nisa

Toward the end of 2011, a new blog hit the web. Its name: Rhymes and Reasons. Its purpose: to provide a series of interviews with hip-hop heads who discuss their lives in the context of the songs that matter to them. Its creators: Edward Vogel and Eric Roberts.

Rhymes and Reasons tells the stories of hip-hop. Being born out of resistance, hip-hop is in many ways an act of solidarity in and of itself—the music, an oral history detailing why and how people struggle to survive in a society that marginalizes them. It is an attempt to document a history that our society is structured to ignore. It is the story of the poor, the imprisoned, the beaten down, as well as a story of the Beatitudes and the Works of Mercy.

Organizing to Keep Ya Head Up:
Interview with Jasson Perez

Rhymes and Reasons opened 2012 by interviewing community organizer Jasson Perez. Chicago born and raised, Jasson Perez is a community representative for SEIU Local 73 (representing more than 27,000 workers, primarily in public service and publicly funded positions including school districts and social service agencies), as well as one of the members of the rap group BBU. Listen to selections of that interview now:

Jasson Perez: How 2Pac’s “Keep Ya Head Up” raised me to a level of consciousness; why I care about racial and gender justice

Jasson Perez: 2Pac taught me why feminism matters in context of sexual violence; “I give a holla to my sisters on welfare / 2Pac cares, don’t nobody else care”

Jasson Perez: How I became a youth organizer; the point of hip-hop is not hip-hop but social activism; what we needed were more Ella Baker’s not 2Pac’s

Jasson Perez: Hip-hop allowed me to have a voice, told me I mattered; source of cultural pride surviving Reagan economics and the Clinton era when prison populations quadrupled

The power of hip-hop: “I would not be the father I am if it were not for hip-hop, that’s real.” The message: “you’re going to make it, you can’t let the system win.”

Listen to Jasson’s entire interview on Rhymes and Reasons. Watch 2Pac’s “Keep Ya Head Up”:

I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can’t make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you’re fed up ladies, but keep your head up…
And in the end it seems I’m headin for tha pen
I try and find my friends, but they’re blowin in the wind
Last night my buddy lost his whole family
It seems tha rain’ll never let up
I try to keep my head up, and still keep from gettin wet up
You know it’s funny when it rains it pours
They got money for wars, but can’t feed the poor
We ain’t meant to survive, cause it’s a setup
And even though you’re fed up
Huh, ya got to keep your head up…

Listen to other interviews on Rhymes and Reasons. For instance, HB Sol, in his interview, clearly articulates the solidarity of hip-hop when he discusses Nas’ ability in “NY State of Mind” to communicate the exact struggles that were occurring simultaneously all across the country in different cities with his lyrics. Shannon Matesky discusses hip-hop’s ties to human rights when she discusses Eve’s “Love is Blind” in the context of her own rape: how hip-hop helped her not to be ashamed of being a survivor of sexual violence in a society that wants to treat her like she is at fault.

Unbound would like to thank Rhymes and Reasons as it continues to tell “the stories of hip-hop, of rap music, the stories of a million MCs who inside of them the words are coming, the words they need to make sense of the world around them.”

Keep ya head up.

5 Responses to Hip-Hop: Rhyming & Reasoning Justice

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  2. Profile photo of Josh Newton Josh Newton says:

    I love this! I am a white man who grew up in Southeast Texas. I was never allowed to listen to rap music (except for the one time that my dad recognized Puff Daddy rapped to the music from Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir). My inexperience with rap music would not last long as I married a Latina from Southern California. My knowledge of rap coincided with my knowledge of matters of racial justice, gender and sexual justice, economic justice, environmental justice, etc. Because my wife is from the West Coast my first experience with rap was Tupac Shakur. It’s funny because the first time I heard “Keep Ya Head Up” was while I was taking a class on Feminist and Womanist Theologies. I remember thinking “wow…Tupac the Feminist.” So much of what I was unpacking and uncovering in that class was addressed by Tupac in a single rap song (much like what Jasson said).

    I think Tupac is a good place for anyone looking at social justice in hip-hop/rap to start. His idea of “Thug Life”–which stands for The Hate U Give Little Children, Fucks Everyone–as a way to survive but also fight back against a society that has marginalized people groups to the ghetto in order to forget them is profound. Also, his critique of the carceral system in the U.S. is one of the most deep I have seen in rap music to this day. I also like to say that Tupac is my favorite theologian. In 16 on Death Row, he says “They tell me the preacher’s there for me, he’s a crook with a book…that muthafucka never cared for me, he’s only here to be sure I don’t drop a dime to God ’bout the crimes he’s commitin’ on the poor” is an indictment against the Church and clergy that should be taken seriously. Also, Tupac commonly referred to the “pen” as being across from hell, or hell itself. What does this mean for our theological thinking? When hell is a physical site on earth that is overwhelmingly housing black and brown men. How should the church be addressing this in its preaching, activism and theology?

    Anyway sorry about the ranting and reminiscing. I love talking about social justice in the context of hip-hop, and particularly Tupac.

  3. Pingback: Hip-Hop: Rhyming & Reasoning Justice | Unbound | Literature for the ESL classroom |

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