I am DevRock the Minister of Culture for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle and I’m …
Da Political Poet
Doing Poetry Patna
Doing Poems Precisely
Like they do at the opera
My lyrics singing to people
Ranging in all different octaves
And my melodies massage
Black Style like the Chakra
Those who have witnessed a spoken word performance of mine know that what you read above is one of my most beloved set intro’s. For those of you that have not have been to a DevRock show and/or encountered a video of my performance, it’s nice to meet you! And maybe after reading this you’ll be intrigued enough to do more research or attend a show. Anyways, I am writing to introduce you to something far more important than myself. This article is purposed to catch you up on about 5 years of work that I’ve been doing since the inception of LBS, and to begin to create an active community dialogue around such work.
As the Minister of Culture for LBS I have been tasked with the passion to disambiguate the political think tank work that we do for all that may find it more natural or comfortable to understand and support this work through art. Fashioned after the likes of grassroots icons like Emory Douglass of the Black Panthers, it is my job to transform political jargon and distribute abstract ideas through spoken word and hip hop. Emory Douglass used his talents to create imagery through portraits and drawings featured in their newspapers that explained to community folk who, what, why and how the Panthers were trying to affect change in their community.
Before I go any further I’d like to give much respect to brother Emory Douglass and thank him for being an example for me. I mean think about how much sense what he was doing makes. Imagine it’s 1958 and you look out of your window to see organized Black men, dressed in all black, carrying heavy weaponry. You’d be intimidated and probably not believe that they were there to help. Or more importantly, you probably wouldn’t be willing to converse with them to figure out what they were doing and why. But art has a way of distilling intimidating ideas, people, and situations so that we can gain perspective and understanding. By no means do I compare to the OG but DevRock is to Emory Douglass as the art of rhyme is to the art of illustration.
With that being said I have been the poet performing at the rallies, before it was cool. The poet who opened up for countless forums, debates and other politically charged events with the purpose of sparking interest in a young women’s mind or translating abstract theories for a young man. As a poet and hip hop artist, I have performed and networked all over Baltimore City and the DMV in an effort to promote the work of LBS. In my travels I have encountered three issues that face most of the artist and other participants of Hip Hop Culture. The first is that artist who choose to focus on making socially conscious and responsible art find it hard to become financially stable as an artist only. The second is that consumers feel like the art of the hip hop culture forces death, destruction and misogny onto our children. Lastly, and most importantly, many music lovers and artists feel a lack of Hip Hop’s effect on politics for the advancement of those most affected and consumed in the culture. No matter where I have performed, there is almost always people who have come talked to me afterwards about one of these issues. As I mulled over these issues for about two years the answer hit me like a ton of bricks.
During a recent interview for a Curators of Hip Hop documentary about Hip Hop and Social Activism, my ego got the best of me as it sometimes does. Slightly frustrated with the influx of “conscious artists” I began in true hip hop form to distinguish myself. I explained that there are levels to this. And while I’m thoroughly grateful for artists everywhere who see themselves as now having a duty to be more responsible and conscious, there’s a difference between making a Freddie Gray song because its trendy and connecting artists to organizations in order to create systems and institutions that can provide for, educate, and protect those who Freddie is no longer here with. There are activists and there are organizers. Activists are reactionary – they agitate and they protest. Organizers are revolutionary – they aggregate and they produce. Organizer is to plug as activist is to hitta. Then it hit me. I’m actually Organizing Hip Hop.
As LBS embarked on its fifth year of service in the community, having dropped 3-4 policy briefs on issues facing people of Baltimore, participating in countless community events, publishing The Black Book, and working with legislators on passing Christopher’s Law, I felt like even with my performances we were not reaching those who most needed to know what we do and why. More importantly, we were finding it extremely difficult to get funding for the work we do. From these problems was born the idea of The Foundation, a compilation album dedicated to engage current events. We also wanted to produce a product that we could increase our revenue with the intent of avoiding the Non-Profit Industrial Complex. I believe that music is the most consumed art-form and has the highest potential to make jargon and abstract ideas less intimidating. So I began to work my network. Before I knew it we had 13 tracks featuring 40 plus producers, songwriters, singers, rappers, poets, and artists. These artists primarily represent the DMV but also represent Delaware, North Carolina, New York, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Sacramento and Tallahassee. Each artist donated their talent to this effort to support the work of LBS and in turn are having their talents shared nationally through folk just like them in their own respective cities.
To name a few artists, we have been blessed with the talents of: Olu ButterFly, Eze Jackson, Martina Lynch, Grim Jackson, Mary of Watoto of the Nile, Fire Angelou, Neffertiti Femcee, E The Poet Emcee, and Kariz Marcel. The majority of the artists featured on this album fit into the bracket of those either already making socially conscious art and whom are knee deep in community work.
The most commonly discussed issues in the culture are: financial stability, socially responsible art and hip hop’s effect on politics. Since I have already been doing the work to find these like minded artists and have been spending significant time building and getting know them as partners in this work, this article is intended as a launching point for a series of articles. It is my deepest prayer that these articles will put you on to good music and spoken word that is good for our children and that motivates you to become a sustained supporter of these artists. I pray that this series is able to create a system of support that may be used politically to create the changes that we want to see in our own communities across the nation.
In closing, if you are excited about this new initiative please stay tuned. For now I will be dropping an article once a month highlighting artists that I believe you should support, updating you on my travels of the #OrganizingHipHop Tour and work in the community, as well as calling you to action on specific issues. If you would like to financially support this work, you can purchase a hard copy of The Foundation here or download a copy on iTunes and Google Play.
You can also become an Community Sustainer of LBS. I understand that times are hard and if you would like to support but monetarily isn’t an option, please go hard sharing this article through social media. For all other levels of support please email us at email@example.com
And I’m out!
Deverick Murray is a Baltimore City public School System graduate.He’s a Towson University alumni and is currently pursuing his masters in African-American studies, at Morgan State University. At Towson, he was a pioneer of infusing spoken word and hip-hop in collegiate policy debate. He has developed music infused curriculums for urban youth enrichment, with the Baltimore Urban Debate League and KarizKids Youth enrichment services.