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Home » à  Montréal ..., First Nations, Justice sociale, Les jeunes, Musique, Programmes, Urbain

Hip Hop No Pop!

1 April 2009 No Comment




“Hip Hop sans la Pop!” (“Hip Hop No Pop!”) – a series of 4 workshops created and facilitated by Nantali Indongo and Maryse Legagneur  –  look at slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, identity, language, symbols, social constructs and ultimately, the non-violent origins of this urban-art culture.

The workshops, as Nantali Indongo writes, “focus on making young people better critical thinkers, helping them to understand the true intent and purpose of this culture with which so many choose to identify.”

Here is an article written March 10, 2008 by Nantali Indongo for the Community Contact. She reflects on cultural resistance in Quebec and empowerment of youth through artistic expression after offering a workshop on the origins of hip hop to a group of 100 Atikamekw high school students from Wemotaci:


(link to website with Communty Contact article)

By Nantali Indongo

“Don’t give the Black Man food, give Red Man liquor.

Redman: Fool; Black Man: Nigger.

Give Yellow Man tool, make him railroad builder.

Also, give him pan, make him pull gold from river

Give Black Man crack, glock and tings

Give Red Man craps, slot machines”

These are the words of Chicago rapper, Lupe Fiasco. And as I returned from a 4-day visit to a Native Canadian community, where I had been instructing youth on the history of Hip Hop, those lyrics from his song “American terrorist,” proved to me how Hip Hop culture speaks so many truths that we blatantly ignore.

With a 7-hour train ride back to Montreal, my mind pulsated with thoughts, memories, and questions about how this culture of resistance is changing Quebec and Canada – whether we like it or not. For the past year, filmmaker, Maryse Legagneur and I have been presenting an educational project called “Hip Hop sans la Pop!” (“Hip Hop No Pop!”) in local high-schools. In a series of 4 workshops which look at slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, identity, language, symbols, social constructs and ultimately, the non-violent origins of this urban-art culture, we focus on making young people better critical thinkers, helping them to understand the true intent and purpose of this culture with which so many choose to identify.

To commemorate Black History Month, we decided to present the introductory workshop from our project in four communities where Hip Hop has developed, or is developing its niche. In addition, Maryse screens her documentary “Au nom de la mère et du fils” (“In the name of the mother and of the son”).

The film chronicles the lives of two Haitian young men in St. Michel, whose experiences as artists and sons of immigrant women in a disenfranchised neighbourhood draw many parallels with the story of Hip Hop. During our presentations, both young men answer questions about the film and the influence of Hip Hop in their lives.

Lovard Dorvilier or “Le Voyou,” is an emcee with a powerful message of survival, and James Arnold Similhomme is a craftsman who creates figurine warriors out of twist ties, electric wires and whatever else he finds in the alleyways of his borough. Heritage Canada agreed to support us financially.

Winnipeg was our first city, where we presented at two Franco-Manitoban schools. Two days after the flight from Manitoba, we were on a train headed north to a French-speaking, Aboriginal community called Wemotaci, where the Atikamekw reside. The Atikamekw are one of the 11 First Nations people of Quebec, and are exclusive to the province. The majority of their community lives within 3 “reserves” north of the Saint Maurice River, of which “Wemo” is the most developed. French is their second-language and they are committed to maintaining their native tongue (Atikamekw). And spend their first years of education learning all subjects in their own language.

We presented our workshop and film to the 100 students at the Wemotaci high school;

most students are in the lower grade levels and there are only 2 students in grade 11. The teachers we met said that their biggest challenge was getting students to believe in themselves, not as scholars, but rather as valuable human beings. In addition to the standard Quebec education, the students take classes in Traditional Art, which is segregated between girls and boys – the girls make jewelry and learn to weave, the boys carve wood and design drums. By North American standards, that’s a sexist way to educate, but for the Atikamekw it’s a part of preserving their culture.

Suicide is not uncommon. 16-year-old girls becoming mothers is considered a part of womanhood. And Hip Hop somehow has served as a liberating force for a few of the young people in Wemotaci.

Much of the historical content in our presentation was new to the audience; some even expressed anger at the site of naked slaves piled into the infamous ships.

However, during our presentation we make a point to say that our intent is not to rehash bad feelings between descendants of the colonizing nations and the people who are still victims of that era; rather, our goal is to inform all those who rock the hoodies, listen to Pac and use the lingo, to understand why and how this culture came about.

At the Maison des Jeunes, during a rhyme-writing workshop, we met rappers decked in the popular “blingy” attire, but loaded with a passion for the power of rap music. One rapper, Bobbi, explained to us that instead of venting his frustrations on his family and his community through violence, he wrote rhymes.

Another emcee had us listen to a cd of his music. Although the art of sampling is completely lost in his music, and the beats are all digitized, the lyrical content stays true to the origins of rap music and is used as a vehicle to transmit a message. In all of their songs, the rappers used themselves as examples as a way to discourage their peers from turning to alcohol, violence, or suicide.

Their authenticity, desire and excitement to create sometimes surpassed their rapping skills, but after explaining how to keep a 4-bar tempo, teaching them the 4 basic rhyming patterns found in standard poetry, and encouraging them to write in Atikamekw, they were well on their way.

The impact of the trip was far beyond rap and Black History Month but, as with the lyrics of Lupe Fiasco, it reinforced the power of Hip Hop.

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