During a recent panel for True Colors Festival, Indonesian rapper Saykoji, Singapore’s Wheelsmith and other international hip-hop innovators discussed breaking stereotypes associated with rap music and the genre’s empowering potential.
On September 26, eight global representatives from diverse backgrounds in the hip-hop community took part in This Is Hip-Hop!, a True Colors digital event facilitated by UK emcee and spoken word artist, Jonzi D. Alongside Saykoji and Wheelsmith, the hour-long discussion also featured Ghanaian-Japanese sibling rap trio Tamura King and Canadian breakdancer Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli. American Sign Language interpreter Amber Galloway-Gallego and New Jersey rapper Sparsh Shah rounded out the list of panelists.
During the discussion, each artist shared how they’re using their platform and skills to help change the negative perceptions of the genre. “A lot of people, including me, thought that hip-hop in the beginning was nothing more than money, sex and violence because we only saw hip-hop glorifying that,” Sparsh said. “We need to amend [those misperceptions]. I feel that we need to focus on the fact that music is not just physical, but a spiritual gift.”
Patuelli, on the other hand, said that the beauty of hip-hop is its ability to connect with people of different skill levels: “Hip-hop is all about peace, love, unity and having fun. In [breakdancing], for example, it’s not about taking a dance class where a teacher teaches you moves. But you’re gonna go and some learn moves and you’re gonna be in a room surrounded by people of all different skill levels. Everyone just wants to see each other succeed.”
For Tamura King, Saykoji and Wheelsmith, they want to take down these stereotypes by remaining authentic and making people smile. “You always have the option to create something different,” Saykoji said. “People are looking for music that can relate with daily life. If we are there to provide this type of music, I think it’s the opportunity that we can change the world. We can show them a different side of hip-hop.”
Galloway-Gallego added that another important way to ensure change is to provide accessibility to minority groups with disabilities. “If we’re providing access to all of those groups and we are inclusive, it’s just amazing what can happen,” she said, via a translator.
Watch the full panel with English subtitles below, or check out the Japanese translated version here. The discussion begins at the 7:34 mark.
This Is Hip Hop! concluded with a music video premiere of a collaborative track from the guest speakers, which also featured a performance by dancers from Jakarta, London, Singapore and Tokyo. The beats used in the clip were supplied by Wheelsmith.
Check out the segment here:
True Colors Festival is a performing arts event organised by Japanese philanthropic non-profit The Nippon Foundation. Since 2006, the festival has been staged in various parts of the world, including Cambodia, Myanmar, Singapore and Japan, presenting thousands of international artists to a global audience.