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05-16-2008, 06:25 PM
LARRY HALES INTERVIEWS JASIRI X
Conscious hip-hop to revive 'golden era'
Published May 15, 2008 10:00 PM


Jasiri X
Jasiri X, who started rapping in 1990, says artistic culture “springs from our experiences and spiritual connection and is a tool for change.” He sees it as a “survival mechanism.”

Any student of the history of the Black musical tradition understands the value of song, stretching all the way back to the field hollers during the times of chattel slavery. While the rhythms and other aspects of the Black musical tradition do indeed come from Africa, the content itself is rooted in the desire of an oppressed people for freedom.

Jasiri uses his music to teach, but sees in it the possibility to make positive change. He works with youth in Pittsburgh and is one of the founders of 1HOOD, an organization “created to promote unity among young men, to strengthen and support each individual member’s programs and to promote peace in local Pittsburgh neighborhoods.”

Jasiri started listening to hip-hop music in the late 1980s—what’s known as the golden era, a time when many popular artists were conscious. Now, Jasiri says, “I listen to everything except country, from Rage to Phil Collins to Stevie Wonder.”

It was hip-hop music that drove him to be politically active. He wants to connect with other conscious rappers and to usher in a new golden era, where content means something and reflects the conditions people are faced with.

His newest protest song, “Enough is Enough,” was written after the three cops that killed Sean Bell were acquitted. The song begins with media coverage of the acquittal, as the music builds with protests in the background and Jasiri chanting, “Enough is Enough.” He yells, “We will not surrender!” followed by the lyrics:

In the war of cops and robbers, the cops are robbers

They on the block with product, filling slots for lock up
You’ll get strong armed by the long arm of the law
His small arms were too small to box with em
Shots to them, glocks spittin hot ammo
You’ll get the mop handle
You’ll get Dialloed or Louimaed
Or even locked up like Mumia
Waitin for that same man who put ya in prison to free ya
See the Bell tolls and if you see a cop wearin jail clothes
I’ve bet hell froze

Jasiri recorded the song “Free the Jena 6” in two days. The song was awarded “Hip Hop Political Song of the Year” and “Single of the Year” at the Pittsburgh Hip Hop Awards.

He first heard about the six young Black men, who defended themselves and their community from racist attack, from the Final Call newspaper and e-mail alerts. His urgency in making the song, which became a clarion call, grew from his understanding of culture.

Jasiri says the problem with hip-hop now is that it has been taken over by corporations that use it to make profit, and that a lot of the musicians have to fit a model made for them that has no basis in actual reality.

He says that while many mainstream artists speak of “keeping it real,” the images shown in videos and the content of the lyrics reflect a lifestyle that many of the artists who tout it can’t even afford to live.

“Reality is hard enough without our youth being bombarded with negative images,” especially considering that many young people “internalize the conditions and turn on one another.” Ultimately, Jasiri believes that the system itself needs to be thrown out and replaced with one more humane that will put an end to oppression.

To find out more about Jasiri X, including the lyrics to “Free the Jena 6,” visit http://www.myspace.com/JASIRIX.


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