Updated: Nov 13, 2020
It's easy to get stuck in my local community (not that I mind it), but last week I had the opportunity to travel to Riverside, CA for the Show & Prove Conference, and it was so refreshing to get a full weekend of vibing with conscious Hip Hop heads from all parts of the country (and the world)!
The Show & Prove Conference was founded in 2010 by Dr. Imani Kai Johnson, and focuses on the field of Hip Hop studies. The conference incorporates various formats to promote dialogue such as panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and performances. It is held every two years through a co-sponsorship with various UC Riverside departments, and is free and open to the public. The attendees & speakers range from Hip Hop scholars, practitioners, activists, students, and anyone interested in engaging in discussions around Hip Hop studies and its development as a field of study.
What I found especially powerful about this conference was being able to participate in discussions around Hip Hop and academia, as they are often in conflict from a cultural standpoint. This was obvious in the way that speakers presented their work; the more traditional academics read their paper aloud to the audience with little to no visual elements, while the practitioners or more Hip Hop-engaged speakers presented through interactive elements, using call-and-response for example. The former style is to me one of the ways you see the struggle between Hip Hop culture and academia, and where it loses some of its authenticity. Especially when you imagine it being presented in other academic settings outside of this conference, where most participants often do not have a Hip Hop-related background at all.
Then you had presenters like Tasha Iglesias, Kid Freeze, and Travis Harris, who used a soul train line for the workshop participants to introduce themselves in the "From the Streets to Academia" roundtable & workshop. Or Bboy J-Sun who used a re-imagined six step to demonstrate "Skills Versus Bills: Commodifying Resistance" on the topic of capitalism in Hip Hop. These type of presenters kept the audience engaged, and facilitated discussions within a Hip Hop frame of reference, while diving into deep, analytical questions on the state of the culture. They also challenged the typical panel/classroom hegemony by moving everyone into a cypher.
I often find myself in internal conflict when it comes to Hip Hop and academia. I've seen great intersections of the two (shout out to Professor DEF and Davey D's Hip Hop Workshop at SFSU!), and I've seen academic settings where Hip Hop was exploited to its core. Couple that with institutional racism and we find a significant issue that needs to be discussed. And who better to discuss it than Hip Hop heads themselves? This is where Show & Prove did a great job at opening up room for both the embrace of and criticism of the academic world. I'll return more to this topic as it keeps finding its way to me and there's a lot to be said that is often not said enough.
On the topic of conference, stay tuned for info on Beats & Minds Hip Hop Conference held in Oakland, CA in June 2019!