Headed by director Brandan “Bmike” Odums, the juggernaut crew of juggernaut of fertile minds minds that is 2-Cent continues to create thought-provoking videos and community events. Following up on their Listen! Literary Fest on Bayou Road, the collective returned last night with the launch of “2-Cent Sessions,” an ongoing series of lectures.
The inaugural 2-Cent Session brought rapper Lupe Fiasco to the Xavier University Ballroom last night (Aug 2) for an interview and panel discussion centered on his single, “Bitch Bad.” More than 200 people listened as the Chicago-based artist and several homegrown thinkers debated the genesis, usage, and future of “bitch.”
DJ RQAway opened things up, with several emcees paying tribute to the guest of honor. As the crowd filled in ( cover star Dee-1 was in the building), Brandan “BMike” Odums of 2-Cent introduced a special guest moderator, “our big uncle, Mannie Fresh.” Fresh took the mic, shouted out all the young students in the room and brought out Lupe.
The ensuing interview covered a variety of topics, from the state of commercial hip-hop (“Bad vanilla,” according to Fiasco) to Lupe’s own future (“I’m about done”) to several references to the influence of the Scarface film on urban culture. In a theme again revisited in the panel discussion, both artists lamented the confusion between fantasy and reality — how the outsized investment in the former could damage the latter. Fresh tied this to the idea of street cred in hip-hop and the way artists are or aren’t allowed to invent themselves.
Once again, remember not to underestimate the pivotal moment that is Rick Ross. Also, give Fresh his own TV show already!
Attention turned to the screen to the right of the stage, where the of “Bitch Bad” flashed as the song played. Though the sound was a bit off, this proved an effective way to explore the content and move into the panel discussion. Along with Kevin Griffin and Manda B of 2-Cent, educator Rashida Govan, rapper Mia X, Dillard University President Dr. Walter Kimbrough, and contributor/Smoking Section editor David Dennis joined Fresh.
From this diverse collection of minds, a few highlights:
–Mia X on the two ways she learned bitch: “My grandmother would say, ‘Lil bitch, you better sit your ass down.’ Then when I got all As at school, she’d say, ‘See that lil bitch there? She’s smart.’”
–David Dennis noting that, even at age 10, he looked at rappers like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: “I knew my favorite rapper wasn’t rapping, then going and murdering someone, then coming back and rapping some more.”
-When Govan mentions first hearing the word “bitch” in a hip hop song and realizing a line was crossed, Fresh smiles sheepishly and RQAway cues up “Project Bitch.”
–Kimbrough admits that “bitch” and the n-word might have positive and negative connotations, yet “brother” and “sister” definitely work better. Govan suggested “queen.”
–Lupe responds to an audience member’s question about inspiration by repeating his earlier statement about fading out of the industry, possibly in a home in Jamaica.
Throughout, the people on stage were concerned with the power of language. While hip-hop often defends itself against charges of violent life imitating violent art, most of tonight’s commenters admitted that negative terms had an effect on listeners’ self-image and respect for others. At the same time, Mia pointed out that in the 80s when hip-hop was dominated by “party rap,” the city [New Orleans] had more than 350 murders a year.
Lupe closed things out with the observation that, as intended, “Bitch Bad” provoked conversation. Rather than offering all the answers, he made the song so that “better qualified” people like those onstage could talk out the issues. As the panelists and audience proved, Lupe hit his target.
Here’s hoping 2-Cent and the rest of us keep the dialogue going.