On Sunday night, social justice emcees Third Root host a DJ gig remembering the legacy of MLK and the unmatched contributions that African Americans have made to our culture. Over the phone, we spoke with Easy Lee of Third Root, discussing social movements in hip-hop, civil rights in 2015 and his passionate work in Third Root with Marco Cervantes and DJ Chicken George.
Since the beginning of the genre, there's been a thriving history of activism in hip-hop. What makes the medium ideal for the message?
I think it has a lot to do with the amount of words that go into a rap song opposed to a rock song or R&B song. Much more opportunity. I think the genesis of hip-hop was the frustration of the youth of New York not having an outlet for their art or confusion with poverty. The birth of hip-hop came from angst and social commentary. It was made to do that. It's done many different things since then but I think at the root, hip-hop is about getting shit off your chest.
On your 2014 album Revolutionary Theme Music, what sort of issues do you address in detail?
We speak to third world liberation, gender equality, mass incarceration, the work of Michelle Alexander. We also speak about taking the initiative to gain knowledge on your own. We have a song called "Own Gun" that's literal and figurative. In these days self-defense is a lesson when you talk about resistance and being unable to defend yourself from a police force and country that's becoming more and more militarized. But also, you have to arm yourself with knowledge and dig up information and search for it—get your own gun, get your perspective on what's going on in the world.
What can we learn from MLK and the civil rights movement in 2015?
These communities were much tighter, they were centralized in churches and community centers where the whole community could get the word. Technology, racial immigration, all of that has spread the margins out so even if somebody is revolutionary-minded or they want to stand up to make a difference, mobilizing those people has become harder and harder. I think that's the challenge now, to find ways to unite. I love what Ferguson and the Eric Garner situation has shown us that social media is a form that can be used to inspire and incite thought.
From Joan Baez to John Coltrane, what can we learn from the civil rights music of the '60s?
When it was time to stand up, there was a soundtrack for it. And I feel that's also being made right now. In the music of Run the Jewels, J. Cole and D'Angelo. We're going to look back at the soundtrack of this transition period. We are in the midst of a revolution socially and culturally, but also musically.
$5, 9pm Sun, Jan 18, Hi-Tones, 621 E Dewey, (210) 785-8777
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