The University of Connecticut’s Center for the Study of Popular Music hosted a conversation yesterday with longtime hip-hop journalist and founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation Adisa Banjoko. University professor Jeffrey Ogbar led the conversation held over Webex from 2 to 3:15 p.m.
“I really hope that they [attendees] walk away knowing that hip-hop is much more than the catchy beats we hear in the club,” Ogbar said.
“I really hope that they [attendees] walk away knowing that hip-hop is so much more than ccatchy beats we hear in the club”Jeffrey Ogbar, Professor at the University of Connecticut
Ogbar and The Center for the Study of Popular Music have hosted other popular music-related events such as a discussion earlier this semester with jazz saxophonist Javon Jackson.
During the event, Banjoko spoke about his life growing up in northern California and about his early days as a journalist.
“He’s calling me all the time, I’m calling him all the time.” Banjoko said, regarding his relationship with late rapper and former NWA member Eazy-E.
Banjoko first met Eazy-E when he was in high school, after the rapper called him from his house in Los Angeles in response to Banjoko’s request for an interview at his label. Banjoko and Eazy-E’s relationship continued until Eazy-E’s death in 1995.
Banjoko also explained how he got involved in politics.
“I was a rapper at the time and I met one of the first ladies of the Black Panther party,” Banjoko said. “Her name was Kiilu Nyasha, she was wheelchair bound. She became a mentor of mine.”
“I was a rapper at the time and I met one of the first ladies of the Black Panther party. Her name was Kiilu Nyasha, she was wheelchair bound. She became a mentor of mine.”Adisa Banjoko, founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation
Banjoko said he learned about 2Pac — a late rapper connected to the Black Panther Movement — by attending meetings hosted by Nyasha.
Toward the end of the conversation, students were allowed to ask Banjoko questions.
One student asked how Banjoko thinks rappers in Chicago like G Herbo and Lil Durk reflect the pain of the Southside of Chicago and what it’s like to lose people at a very young age.
“If you just look unfortunately at Chicago, it’s like a White paper on Black misery. It’s very sad what’s been happening out there,” Banjoko said.
Banjoko continued his response by saying, “Younger people have access to more money than they ever had” and “they’re not always really clear and have people around them to coach them until this type of stuff happens.”
One of the final questions that was asked was from sixth-semester student Jalen Green who asked Banjoko, as we head into the 2020s, what is your outlook on how hip-hop is going to change?
“We’re about to see a new explosion of young rappers that were not saying the things they were, they’re gonna change,” Banjoko said when responding to Green’s question. During his response, Banjoko mentions Memphis rapper NLE Choppa who prior to a couple of months ago, was best known for rapping about violence and scamming. Now Choppa is committed to not rapping about violence in his songs and Banjoko mentions how Choppa is “a vegan” and raps about “Black queens.”
“We’re about to see a new explosion of young rappers that were not saying the things they were, they’re gonna change.”Adisa Banjoko, founder of the Hip-Hop Federation
After the conversation was over, Green was asked about what his favorite part of the event was. “The conversation and discussion itself was a great listen and Mr. Banjoko spoke very well with emotion and joy, making the listening experience that much more enjoyable,” said Green.
If you are interested in learning more about Banjoko and his work, he hosts a podcast called “Bishop Chronicles” which is available on platforms such as YouTube and Spotify. He has also continued to write articles for publications like Complex and wrote a book titled “Lyrical Swords: Hip-Hop and Politics in the Mix” in 2004.