April 28, 2005

Mixtape Friday: Dorm Room Griots' Flow From Above
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

For my little brother's 10th birthday, I sent him The Giver by Lois Lowry. The story follows Jonas through his apprenticeship under the Giver, an old man who serves as his community's Receiver of Memories.

Like the Giver, West African griots have served for centuries as keepers of memories. Griots are oral storytellers who use poetry and music to teach their village about its history. In America, griots became rappers, but somewhere between Senegal and the South Bronx, these rappers forgot the history they were entrusted to protect.

Today, the village of hip-hop suffers from a serious ignorance of its own past, which extends past New York in the 1970s. Modern-day spoken word poets like Saul Williams are hip-hop's true storytellers, but griots are not supposed to be celebrities; they're supposed to be functioning members of every village.


Myran Hunter "We Have Forgotten"

At Boston College, a group of poets called the Dorm Room Griots have recorded Flow From Above, an album of spoken word poetry. They will be performing with musicians and DJs at the record release party on Friday at 9 p.m. at The Perch in McElroy.

On "We Have Forgotten," Myran Hunter, BC '07, speaks about the African musical and social history that hip-hop has sold out. "You can purchase an alternate ego, a lavish lifestyle, worldwide recognition, or even a whole new identity. All of this can be yours for three easy payments of your past, your present, and your future," Hunter says.

Noah "The Conflict"

"We are the BC '06, on this track from his upcoming rap album. Noah brings variety to the poetry album, rapping about the inherent conflicts involved in struggling to succeed in a country that was built on slavery.


Martine Russell "Moonbeams"
Griots are both men and women, but hip-hop refuses to pass the mic to females. On "Moonbeams," Martine Russell, BC '06, sings her ode to the urban village, the "birth-mother to b-boys and b-girls." Her poem celebrates the persistence of a battered, but not beaten, metropolis, "survivor of Nixon and drug wars / all the while she continues to smile."

Sean Dwyer "Woodrow Wilson"
Time for some American history. "It's no wonder to which demographic democracy reaches / it's been since Woodrow Wilson when a president wrote his own speeches," raps Sean Dwyer BC '04.

More than guns or drugs, hip-hop promotes consumerism. Rappers are like commercials, encouraging listeners to buy, buy, buy. On his track, Dwyer explores how blind consumerism leads to global injustice: "I need to purchase more dead weight, my clothes have more pockets / Am I purchasing death? Wait, how'd they pay for those rockets?"