Although I posted this piece on the Connecting Memphis website and FB page, I’m posting it again here. Marco and I spent some time in conversation yesterday, and he really helped me understand some things in a way I hadn’t before.
“People hear the lyrics in rap music and automatically get turned off, but systemic racism and inequality are more vulgar than any language in my songs. As an artist, I’m responding to what I’ve seen growing up in north Memphis; the lyrics reflect what’s actually happening. If we’re not aware of the vulgarity out here, we can’t address it. Yeah, I could do Kumbaya songs about blacks and whites all together and make people feel good, but that’s not the reality. Those kinds of lyrics shelter people and lie to them. They make people feel like there is no racism in the world. If you’re offended by what you hear in rap songs, then work to change things.
“You say you care about the city? Then get out in the neighborhoods and talk to people. Don’t just go in and pick up trash or paint a mural. That doesn’t change what’s underneath. Don’t just take field trips and go back feeling like you’ve really done something. Listen to people, ask them what they need, get their input. Partner with them and help them get connected to resources. Empower them. Ask them: ‘What do you want and how can we accomplish it together?’
“When those with power and resources talk about helping the city, they don’t ask community members for input, so they’re not invested in what’s being done. They buy up buildings and open coffee shops and boutiques, but those are not for the neighborhood. The people who live here don’t even know about them. They’re here so white people can feel comfortable coming to this area, but white people can’t float these newly gentrified businesses forever. They can’t sustain them. The neighborhood needs to have input into what’s being done.
“People living here don’t have the resources or the ability to get the resources to make their dreams come true. A kid in Silicon Valley has an idea for an app and has access to all the funding and help he needs, but a kid here with the same idea has no way to make it happen. That’s why kids give up, get angry, and then take it on other people. We need to connect people with resources and figure out ways to work together.
“I want to encourage kids to hold onto their dreams. That’s why I’m mentoring at East High School where I graduated. And that’s why I created the ‘Books on Beale’ benefit concert: we donated 500 books to a community library and raised $20,000 for literacy the first year we did it. I want to give back to my neighborhood. Yes, my career is coming along well, but volunteering and helping out my community are more important to me than a paycheck.”
Website for Marco Pave, Hip-Hop/Rap Artist: http://marcopave.com
There’s an interesting interview with Marco on the ilovememphis blog.
Excellent interview with Duke University students: http://readcontra.com/2014/11/rap-as-a-community-tool-marco-pave-speaks/