Chuck D Challenges Ageism in Hip-Hop
While the average American lifespan is projected to increase, that doesn’t mean that hip-hop is welcoming of performers over a certain age, according to legendary rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy. On the group’s new single, “I Shall Not be Moved” from the album Most Of My Heroes STILL Don’t Appear on No Stamp, Chuck D mentions being relegated to the “senior circuit” in hip-hop. In typical Public Enemy fashion he has no qualms with challenging the status quo especially since this year marks the group’s 25th anniversary.
“Ageism is a real thing. I confronted that since 1994 when I was 34 and they wrote me off as too old,” he says. “To me it is a fun volley back and forth. I might not get a lot of critical mass of young people but I am very clear about who we are. If that happens to appeal to the young then so be it.”
Inspiring fans of all ages was the mission of R&B songstress Meli’sa Morgan and Christopher “Play” Martin of hip-hip duo Kid n Play. The two participated in the “Fame & (Mis)Fortune” series at the Bronx Library Center, where they discussed overcoming their own financial struggles in an effort to empower others with financial literacy. It was a sweet reunion for Morgan and Martin, especially since it was exclusively revealed that the two previously shared a date years ago. “He flew me into Alabama to be his leading lady in a play he was doing,” Morgan recalled. “After a couple of performances he asked me to go on a date and I said ‘Yeah.’ We looked really good together and it was really nice and romantic.” Morgan says that despite a great first date the two failed to grow their relationship due to busy careers.
After the event at a private viewing of the art exhibition “eMerge: Danny Simmons & Artists on the Cusp,” Morgan noted that her career remains just as busy serving as a spokesperson for the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women, writing new songs for an upcoming album, and performing across the nation.
As Morgan travels for her gigs she may want to consider using the site BlackAtlas.com. At a private affair hosted at the Studio Museum in Harlem, BlackAtlas.com/American Airlines announced its newest celebrity travel ambassador, actor Laz Alonso. The evening was highlighted by an endless flow of drinks, food by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, and a performance by Melanie Fiona. Among the Harlem jetsetters in attendance was former Harlem resident, Robert Townsend. Although he now lives on the west coast, for Townsend Harlem still feels like home. “When I think of Harlem I feel at home. It’s always been the center of so much culture. My favorite place to go in Harlem is Small’s Paradise and Rucker Park to see basketball,” he says.
Another Harlem hotspot is the restaurant Billie’s Black, where photographer Ricky Day presented the opening of his exhibition “A Portrait of the Life.” Through images of LGBT community members, Day hopes to shatter stereotypes. “I want to represent diversity by shooting couples in long-term relationships, gay couples that have children and straight parents proud of their gay child,” he says. “I want the gay and lesbian community to see that in themselves and for others to see that we are just like everybody else.”
When it comes to taking a strategic approach to their art practices, emerging artists can surely benefit from the advice of Roger C. Tucker III, an art dealer and director of Tucker Contemporary Art. As part of our ongoing series highlighting tips by art world experts, Tucker stresses that it’s important for emerging artists to be part of an artist community where information is shared such as non-profit exhibition spaces or organizations like Art In General, that among other services assists artists in pricing strategies. “For emerging artists pricing is based on a variety of factors: academic training, exhibition history, if there is dealer/gallery representation, sales history and more,” he says.
However, Tucker advises that emerging artists should remember to value proficiency above price and pursue fellowship opportunities. “The artists that participate in these programs and the resulting exhibitions are closely watched by serious collectors and curators of emerging artists.”
For collectors and art viewers there are a few upcoming events worth checking out including Art Crawl Harlem’s celebration of Romare Bearden; Tucker Contemporary Art’s Let Go, Let Gesture: Abstract Expressionism; and a gallery talk for “eMerge: Danny Simmons & Artists on the Cusp,” featuring a panel of some of the art world’s foremost leaders, a meet and greet with exhibiting artists, live music and the unveiling of a special time capsule project.
And yes, all ages are welcome.
The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.