A dangerous time indeed. We are plagued by a surge of government and corporate corruption, human rights abuses, massive natural disasters, environmental destruction and seemingly endless war. In these dangerous times, how can we channel our anger, pain and confusion into something productive? How will we remain strong? Music and art have always fueled the fires of resistance and change. Great art can unite us with a common vision. It can also allow us to escape for a moment, take a break and just enjoy the world we live in, however harsh it may be.
Interview by David Barsamian.
Rap music and hip hop culture have achieved influence and popularity with youth across the globe. Rising from the inner cities of LA and New York, the music has given birth to an entire generation of charismatic street poets. But with the current glorification of the "gansta" image by the music industry, hip hop's once vibrant political edge is now portrayed as materialistic, misogynistic, shallow and violent. Tupac Shakur, murdered in 1996, remains a powerful presence and influence on the hip hop scene. The son of a former Black Panther Party member, he is considered one of the greatest hip hop poets of his generation. With haunting lyrics and the freshest beats he challenged the political system and captured the complex and frustrated realities of African-American youth.
Mass media are owned by huge corporations that have a definite ideological agenda. Yet it is a staple verging on dogma that the mass media are independent, objective and liberal. This is repeated like a mantra and never challenged. Detailed studies and documentation refute the liberal label. Nevertheless, the charge of liberal bias persists and has become part of the political culture.
With over 25 albums to his credit, Bruce Cockburn is one of Canada’s greatest singer/songwriters. His music and words have had a profound influence on generations. His political and environmental consciousness and his respect for human rights and world cultures make his music unique and inspiring. His latest CD is: Circles in the Stream
Michael Eric Dyson is University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, teaching courses in theology, English, and African American studies. A dynamic speaker, he lectures widely. Among his many books are Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip-Hop, April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King’s Death and How it Changed America, The Black Presidency and Tears We Cannot Stop.
Mike Marqusee wrote a number of books on politics and popular culture, including Redemption Song, an acclaimed study of Muhammad Ali. His book on Bob Dylan is Wicked Messenger. An American, he lived in London for 30 years. He died in 2015.