"On February 16, 2007, Wade Waters took over the University Neighborhood Middle School on the Lower East Side of Manhattan for the day. We spoke to the 6-8th graders about a variety of topics, including education, hip hop, and the creative process. At the end of the day, we put on a show for the whole school in the auditorium.Though "Movement Music" isn't the most revolutionary or well produced video we've ever seen, it's an interesting look at hip-hop in light of all the negative publicity the industry has received of late. In fact it's the description by Wade Waters that accompanies the video which really sheds light on its value. While Anderson Cooper and Camron' discuss the depressing realities of inner city America, it's equally important to recognize the progress and hope that still exists. What we see in the halls of this Manhattan middle school are posters questioning the use of the "n" word and children who seem genuinely happy, not to mention artists who take a real interest in inspiring these kids.
As much as I've personally lamented the condition of the American public school system, my experience at UNMS really gave me hope for the future. The faculty at UNMS is passionate and dedicated and the students were remarkable. In many cases, the students steered our conversations in directions we would have never thought to go, and I think we all took something away from the interaction."
- Wade Waters
Anyone whose experienced life in inner-city America firsthand or seen season four of HBO's The Wire (maybe the greatest single season of television ever), knows that kids who grow up around crime and violence are indoctrinated into a mentality of fear from an early age - and changing that way of thinking can be near impossible. Just watch these kids talk about "snitching" on 60 minutes, and you'll see how deeply they buy into the "code" of drug dealing - via hip-hop. But both The Wire, and to a lesser extent "Movement Music," realize that the education system plays just as vital role in the lives of these young people as the music they listen to.
Suppressing the influence of the misogyny and fear that we find in some hip-hop music is no doubt a near impossible task (and one has to question whether suppression is really the answer), and forcing rappers to switch to a more positive message will prove even harder (let's face it, Wade Waters isn't nearly on the level of T.I. or Lil' Wayne). It would also be contrary to their artistic spirit - the appeal of many of the best hip-hop artists is their ability to convey the harsh realities of their lives; which often involve misogyny, fear and violence. The key is not to pretend that everyone grows up in the same cookie-cutter way, but rather provide a hopeful counter to the paranoia and despair we find in most "offensive" hip-hop. Snoop Dogg may say "ho" and "bitch" a lot, but how many of our classes teach positivity towards women? Suddenly the American patriarchy cares about its black women?
It is possible to express growing up on the corner in a creative and positive way - many artists already do so - but it takes self-confidence and a belief that things are actually capable of changing. Imbuing society with that hope is not just the responsibility of a few musicians - it's a far more universal and difficult task. But the occasional hip-hop video does remind you that real hope still exists, no matter where you live. Now imagine MIMS making this video and airing it on MTV and BET - that would be "hot."