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Hip hop has touched countries worldwide since its inception, and the REVOLT Summit x AT&T in October discussed that impact in the “The Global Influence of Hip Hop” panel.
Apple Music and Hot 97’s own Ebro Darden led the conversation with English artist Stefflon Don, Chief Marketing Officer at Endeavor, Bozoma (Boz) Saint John; Director of Urban Music at Youtube, Tuma Basa; and CEO and Publisher of Okayplayer, Abiola Oke. From the moment he walked on stage, Ebro commanded the crowd and got straight to it.
“We about to get a little deep,” he forewarned. “I want to take this to another level today cause now it’s about bringing it full circle. It’s about connecting our diaspora as black people, as indigenous people of the world.” To make the connection, panelists laid out where they were from and their personal history with hip hop.
Stefflon of Jamaican blood, but born in London, shared who gave her the spark to get into music. “I felt like [Lil’] Kim and Foxy [Brown] always brought it, so that really inspired me,” she said. While Stefflon had been engulfed in various music types her whole life, the other speakers had stories of their awakening to the culture.
Boz, the Ghanian “woman of the world,” shared her first taste was when she bought a Public Enemy record that her mother then threw out. “She was worried about the message,” she explained. “But, they were just speaking the words I felt in my soul.”
Abiola of Nigeria grew up in Brooklyn and although he managed to live in the state that birthed hip hop, it wasn’t until his return to Nigeria that he connected with the music, specifically Tupac. “He gave you a wide spectrum of what it means to live in the black context in America,” he said. Tuma, who’s from Rwanda, chimed in on the topic of arguably one of the best rapper in history by stating that he first learned of Pac while living in Zimbabwe and asking, “What is this?”
Like America, Stefflon shares Afrobeats has gained major popularity in the UK over the past few years. “Afrobeat has made people pay more attention to Africa and the real roots of Africa,” she said. “We are more proud to say we are African than we were before.” Abiola touches on the topic by stating, “We’re not looking for white validation anymore.” He credits the rise and global push of Afrobeats to hip hop. “Hip hop is the vehicle that has been used to unite all Africans,” he added.
On validation, Tuma said, “We don’t need the validation anymore, but still need the dollars right now.” Ebro connected his point by explaining how nearly every nation relies on the resources Africa provides. However, today with black billionaires who own corporate businesses, we can now put our money back into the motherland for our benefit. “That’s the important thing I want you guys to digest in this conversation,” Ebro declared “is our connection as black folks in America, back to Africa, and the economics of that exchange and opening that corridor.”
In doing such, the main thing, according to Boz, is actually consuming the content of Africa. He said, “We have to support the continent.” Quoting the president of Ghana, he added, “Until Africa is respected as a continent, no one of African descent anywhere in the world will be respected.”
However, we can thank streaming services that make the consumption of media much easier. Abiola detailed that just five years ago in Nigeria, the main source was caller ringback tones. But, now with lower data costs in the country, Apple Music and Spotify are popping up on the scene, and changing the experience for everyone. Tuma said, “Pay attention to what’s happening overseas because the game is changing,” as artists in other countries are now mastering all types of platforms.
Ebro comes back to connect the dots regarding the gift of music, saying, “Here we are in 2019, 400 years since the first slave ship landed on the shores of America in 1619. They call this the ‘Year of the Return.’” As the crowd cheered on his sentiment, he pressed the issue again, “What we’re really trying to convey is reconnecting with our people in a real way.”
An energized Abiola hyped the crowd to give the man behind the REVOLT Summit, Diddy, a standing ovation, he stated, “Talk about the year of return.” He then talks about our ancestors and Pan-African theory that we are all connected to Africa, adding, “It was theoretical, but this is practice!”
Before closing out, they welcomed questions from the audience. When asked how would someone get a job with the panelists, Boz answered, “You gotta get your foot in the door.” Instead of worrying about the big-name job or final position, her advice was to “get in and work your network so you can climb.” For clarification, she added, “Get any job in the right company, don’t worry about the title first.”
The final question regarded code-switching and Stefflon spoke her mind about it. “Never switch up on your culture,” she said. “In the corporate world, they need us. Without us, they can’t do anything, they have no movement.” Tuma also answered by clarifying that adaptability is necessary, but highlights why things like the REVOLT Summit are also important. “So that you can build businesses where you can keep it real,” he stated.
As this was the last panel, a surprise onstage moment from Diddy himself stunned the crowd. “This isn’t something that just started. This is our culture, this is our history,” he affirmed.
“It don’t matter where we living at or where we from, we got to be together and build a strong black nation,” he went on. “Pay attention, love your culture, love your people, love the way it is, love the way we rock.” After thanking the crowd, the mogul closed with an affirmation to live by: “We on our way.”