Of all the shows competing for attention during SXSW 2010, the one show I knew I couldn't miss was the female emcee showcase organized by Ilana Invincible. The show featured legendary Philly artist Bahamadia, emerging talents Eternia and Perseph One as well as Invincible and a dozen other artists. Invincible was so hoarse from producing and performing at half a dozen different shows, we had to do our interview via e-mail.
SXSW was a huge success for the simple fact that EMERGENCE was able to showcase both the women in Hip-Hop and Detroit Hip-Hop movements we are rooted in. My performance highlighted brand new material from me and Waajeed's new album and was one of my favorite shows to date.
Whenever I tour I also do community accessible events and workshops separately from any music industry or college events. SXSW is a great festival but many youth and community groups in the area are unaware of it or can't afford to attend so we made sure to leave downtown and go into the neighborhood to connect directly with local people. The show in San Antonio was called Road To Detroit and it was a benefit for organizations traveling to Detroit this June for the US Social Forum and Allied Media Conference so I was ecstatic to be a part of that effort.
There was an impressive roster of hip hop artists at SXSW this year. As more people discover your music, do you see your material changing or do you see your material changing the people?
I am constantly growing and learning as an artist, especially as inspired by people who listen to my music and and give me feedback or go on to create their own masterpieces. One of the coolest things that happened this year was that last time I was in Austin I led a workshop for local youth about gentrification and displacement using my film Locusts. As a result one of the youth participants went on to direct a 30 minute documentary about gentrification in Austin. The greatest thing I could accomplish with my music is not just express my perspective in a way that resonates with people, but also inspires them to tell their own story.
Your name is associated with Detroit Summer and Allied Media Conference. How did EMERGENCE get started?
Detroit Summer is a youth organization I've been working with for a decade, and the Allied Media Conference is something Detroit Summer is deeply involved in and attends annually. EMERGENCE is a fair trade and cooperative economics based label that grew out of my experience with both of those organizations as well as the Detroit music community as a whole.
Over the years I have been offered dozens of record deals which I turned down to avoid exploitation and misrepresentation. The focus of EMERGENCE is not just to build myself up as an artist, or necessarily even sign other artists, but to actually develop a new model to share with other artists to "teach them how to fish" not just feed them a fish fillet sandwich from McDonalds.
Are there other models of community organizer record labels to follow? Explain the EMERGENCE Travel Agency. There are three key videos on that site now, what's next?
I learned most of what I know from Underground Resistance/Submerge which is an independent Techno label and distribution company out of Detroit. They also support many community groups and have one of the most innovative approaches I have ever seen or heard of.
EMERGENCE Travel Agency is an online media art installation which highlights resistance to displacement and obstruction of movement, or in other words, people's "agency" to '"travel". ETA also shows the deep connection between people and places. The main videos already displayed in the installation focus on Detroit and Palestine. One of the "travel agents" and co-founders of the site is iqaa the olivetone (director of "Locusts" and "People Not Places") who is releasing a new short film about cluster bombs in south Lebanon in the near future. We will also be highlighting "affiliated travel agencies" which are basically other artists and organizations who use media and music as part of a community process in relation to displacement or obstruction of movement. For example, the documentary I mentioned earlier created by youth filmmaker Gabriel Padilla about Austin gentrification will be posted soon as well.
What would you say to people who are unaware of how many women are making good hip hop music?
I would smack them out of their slumber and yell "Wake up!!!!!" like in the film "School Daze". We are a movement that has been here since the day Hip-Hop started, as a direct result of Kool Herc's sister Candy deciding to throw a party in the project rec room and inviting her brother to DJ. We are growing daily and that is the point of the ongoing documentary series I'm directing called "The Revival". I think women and all non-hetero-male gender's perspectives are missing from most people's Hip-Hop collections so it is long overdue to bring a balance.