When the Grammy Awards air later this month, Mr. Marshall Mathers will probably be asked to please stand up at least once; Eminem's quadruplicate nominations seem to guarantee a win or four on February 21. But since The Marshall Mathers LP is just the kind of specimen Tipper Gore types used to bolster pro-music censorship arguments in the late '80s, its embrace by the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences has initiated a lively discussion about separating "music" from "message." On the one hand, it's a relief to see that NARAS has finally loosened up a bit (the Grammy Web site congratulates itself on the "unprecedented diversity and expansive reach" of this year's nominee strata) and included a well-done record with blatant disregard for political correctness; on the other hand, it's pretty easy to argue that Eminem -- even if he is a mastermind, as Jann Wenner might like us to believe -- has done a lot to reinforce negative perceptions of rappers for a bewildered American mainstream.
Denver rapper Jeff Campbell could be the anti-Eminem. For the past year, the MC also known as Apostle has worked to mobilize the Colorado Hip-Hop Coalition, an organization of artists, fans, promoters and producers that currently functions as a subset of the Colorado Music Association. In his music (specifically, Last of a Dying Breed, a full-length album released last year), Campbell portrays himself as a fictional heroic character who rescues the earth -- and the soul of hip-hop -- from the evils of corporate and political parties. In real life, Campbell's quest has a distinct thematic parallel. Hip-hop, he argues, has been corrupted by "a corporate industry without social conscience" and pulled from its original function as a tool of expression. Of course, because young hip-hop heads -- the kind that bump the latest G-thing from their cars on the way to high school -- may not yet realize this, Campbell and his group have taken it upon themselves to provide a little lesson.
This week, the CHHC and several other local sponsors (including the Colorado Progressive Coalition, the Spot, Twist & Shout Records and COMA) presented the first installment of Get 2 Da Point, a mentoring program that places local hip-hop professionals in front of students at George Washington High School. Every Tuesday through the rest of the month, hip-hop will become part of the school's curriculum, with lessons on hip-hop's history as well as the arts of turntablism, graffiti and street dance. (So, honey, what did you learn today?) Although cash-money-motivated hip-hop still dominates airwaves and brain waves, Campbell's program -- aside from being a cool way to spend some class time -- is a step toward legitimizing rap's inherent power as a social tool. Mr. Campbell, we're giving you an A.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.