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World Famous Hip-Hop Family Day nears return

Artist Rakim to headline

This past April, the 8th annual World Famous Hip-Hop Family Day was put on hold as the world stopped for an unprecedented global pandemic.

Instead of gathering 20,000 people on Columbia’s Main Street, Love, Peace & Hip-Hop paused its festival plans until a safer option emerged to deliver its highly-anticipated event to an eagerly awaiting audience. During this time of waiting and watching, an uprising of consciousness and activism in the form of Black Lives Matter demonstrations has swept across the country. Turnout at BLM demonstrations has ranged from dozens to tens of thousands of diverse protesters in over 2,500 small towns and large cities—all during the most devastating pandemic in modern history. “This year, our festival isn’t about big crowds, but it is about big ideas,” said festival director Janet Scouten. “In light of the growing Black Lives Matter movement, we believe it’s more important than ever to share this family-friendly event celebrating Black excellence and hip-hop culture. We also believe it’s vital to share it in a way that allows as many people as possible to celebrate joyfully—and distantly—in a difficult year.” After six months of careful deliberation and consultation with local and state authorities, Love, Peace & Hip-Hop presents a revised version of its annual festival that remains true to its mission of spreading love, peace, unity, and having fun. Love, Peace & Hip-Hop announced this week that this year’s revised 2020 World Famous Hip-Hop Family Day will be presented on Sunday, Oct. 4, headlined by legendary hip-hop artist Rakim. The concert starts at 6 p.m. (with a 5 p.m. door) to a limited-capacity live audience. The show will be filmed inside Columbia's The Senate in front of a small, socially-distanced live audience of 250 people in compliance with the governor’s executive order No. 2020-08. To ensure the health and safety of guests, staff, and artists, this will be a seated only show following all COVID sanitation, facial mask, and social distancing guidelines. To further ensure health and safety, tickets will only be sold by the table to maintain social distancing between personal groupings and/or families. Tickets are mandatory for admission and are available for advance purchase through The Senate. A livestream of the show available free to online viewers. As part of its larger fundraising effort, Love, Peace & Hip-Hop is hosting a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the significant livestream costs of the event, which will allow South Carolina families to enjoy the show online in real time. Donors can visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/world-famous-hiphop-family-day-2020 to learn more and donate. “Since my first conversation with Rakim’s camp at the start of the pandemic, they maintained that he wanted to not only honor our contract, but give Columbia an unbelievable show. This made me hopeful that if an opportunity presented itself, we could still deliver our festival to our loyal and supportive audience,” said Love, Peace & Hip-Hop founder FatRat Da Czar. “Under CDC guidelines and state and local mandates, the safest way to pull that off would be with limited people in a socially-distanced and secure space, which unfortunately adds a ticket price. But with 10 days to go, I’m still hopeful that we can raise enough awareness and money to deliver this show free of charge, statewide, in a virtual capacity.”
[caption id="attachment_45572" align="alignright" width="150"] Hip-hop artist Rakim.[/caption] In addition to performing from his widely acclaimed musical catalogue, Rakim will converse on stage about issues of the day and how hip-hop is uniquely positioned as an important voice on these matters. Hailed as “the greatest MC of all time” and compared to Thelonious Monk, Rakim first emerged onto the world stage in 1986 as one half of the golden age hip-hop duo, Eric B. & Rakim, with the release of their first single, “Eric B is President.” Rakim has received numerous accolades from Billboard, Rolling Stone, MTV, and a host of others. Few hip-hop lyricists are recognized as having as great an impact on the development of the genre as Rakim. He stood out as the first MC to employ internal and multisyllabic rhymes, which was a change from the simple rhyming patterns used in early ‘80s hip-hop Finally, because increased voter registration and turnout are key to fair and equal representation for all citizens, Love, Peace & Hip-Hop will combine the power of music with the power of voting. To support civic engagement by each and every citizen, this year’s World Famous Hip-Hop Family Day will host, for the first time in its history, a non-partisan voter registration drive in partnership with Secure the Ballot and HeadCount. The date of the show, Oct. 4, is the last day to register online to vote in South Carolina, and Love, Peace & Hip-Hop will be promoting online voter registration before the 11:59 p.m. deadline.

About World Famous Hip-Hop Family Day

Presented annually by Love, Peace & Hip-Hop, this multi-day celebration capped by a free, family-friendly festival normally takes place the second week in April each year. World Famous Hip-Hop Family Day has grown from 3,000 in attendance in 2013 to 18,500 in 2019, drawing attendees from across the Southeast and around the country to downtown Columbia, South Carolina. This one of a kind, Black-owned festival gathers the community to enjoy the best and brightest live performers, DJs, B-Boy dance crews, hip-hop visual artists, and craft and food vendors.

About Rakim

Rakim is widely regarded as one of the most influential and skilled MCs of all time. Emerging onto the world stage in 1986 as one half of the golden age hip-hop duo, Eric B. & Rakim, with the release of their first single, “Eric B is President,” Rakim has received numerous accolades from Billboard, Rolling Stone, MTV, and a host of others. Rakim’s recordings, including Paid in Full, Follow the Leader, and The 18th Letter, have sold in the multi-millions worldwide. Paid in Full was named the “Greatest Hip-Hop Album of All Time” by MTV in 2006. Few hip-hop lyricists are recognized as having as great an impact on the development of the genre as Rakim. He stood out as the first MC to employ internal and multisyllablic rhymes, which was a change from the simple rhyming patterns used in early ‘80s hip-hop.
Photo by Isabella Mendes from Pexels

Jason Rapp

A great big music update

Grab your coffee or tea for this one

Though its temperatures got cold in the past 24 hours, South Carolina's music scene is indisputably hot right now. How hot? Oxford American knows. The quarterly literary magazine focusing on Southern literature publishes an annual music issue, and this year's focus is on South Carolina's musical culture. The 21st Annual Southern Music Issue "features unforgettable songs and stories from South Carolina, the issue includes voices ranging from the Upstate to the Lowcountry, highlighting icons like Dizzy Gillespie and Eartha Kitt, as well as contemporary artists such as Shovels & Rope and Ranky Tanky." Pre-order your copy at the link above. Each issues comes with a CD compilation and digital download. But the Oxford American issue is far from being the only highlight. Sip away and enjoy some briefs.

FatRat Da Czar double album out today

You might remember reading about this a month ago. South Carolina’s godfather of hip-hop FatRat Da Czar released his double album TRIBE yesterday, with 25 tracks and nearly 40 collaborators, including 30 features and nine of the state’s most respected producers. Czar’s highly anticipated ninth studio album is now available at all digital music retailers and streaming services. As part of the album release, Czar will perform this Friday, Nov. 15 at Arts & Draughts at Columbia Museum of Art in Columbi, and Saturday, Nov. 16 at The Purple Buffalo in Charleston, bringing on stage some of South Carolina’s most elite past, present, and future hip-hop artists.

S.C. Phil re-imagines Vivaldi

Seasonal changes are top-of-mind in the Palmetto State today, and no music captures the spirit of those better than the iconic The Four Seasons, completed in 1725 by Antonio Vivaldi. In 2012, composer Max Richter (right), claiming to be one of a long list of composers who reworked pre-existing music, notably Franz Liszt, Igor Stravinsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, took on Vivaldi’s ubiquitous masterpiece. The result is a minimalist transformation that leaves only fragments of the original music. Each of the twelve movements contains at least one recognizable quotation from the original, but they vary in length and nature from the famous virtuosic riffs for the solo violin to mere ostinato accompaniments. The fragments also include new, dissonant harmonies, distorted meters, loops and repetitive phrases. The S.C. Phil presents the work this Saturday evening in Columbia. Tickets and information here.

World's No. 1 jazz pianist coming to Columbia

Kenny Barron playing pianoJapan. France. Spain. Italy. France again. South Carolina. That is the travel itinerary for Kenny Barron, recently ranked as the world's premier jazz pianist by the 67th Annual DownBeat International Critics Poll. (That puts Barron ahead of names like Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.) On Nov. 23, Barron's travels bring him to South Carolina for an engagement with the SC Jazz Masterworks Ensemble. He is also an NEA Jazz Master, and Jazz Weekly says he's "the most lyrical piano player of our time" and he's said to captivate with elegant playing, sensitive melodies, and infectious rhythms. The SC Jazz Masterworks Ensemble is comprised of 18 of the finest jazz musicians, soloists, and bandleaders from across the Carolinas with a mission to present jazz concerts at the highest artistic level. The ensemble performs big band classics, music from the Great American Songbook and modern originals by the group's members.

Local groups highlight 2020 Charleston Jazz Festival

[caption id="attachment_42702" align="alignright" width="250"] Click to enlarge.[/caption] Announced this morning! On Jan. 23, 2020, the 6th Annual Charleston Jazz Festival will open with some of Charleston’s most exciting jazz groups: Offramp The Music of Pat Metheny, Cameron & the Saltwater Brass Shake Everything You Got! and Lee Barbour’s Polyverse Art of the Modern Organ Trio featuring Justin Stanton of Snarky Puppy. Tickets are on sale now at www.charlestonjazz.com. Charleston Jazz presents the Charleston Jazz Festival every year, offering a world-class celebration of jazz by presenting timeless and creative productions that entertain audiences, stimulate arts education, foster economic growth and unite artists and audiences in Charleston. Each year, the festival line-up includes internationally acclaimed headliners, the best local jazz bands, and top youth artists performing a wide range of styles including swing, salsa, blues, Brazilian, and the American Songbook.

Unique partnership to celebrate South Carolina’s hip-hop culture

Love, Peace & Hip-Hop and Columbia Museum of Art announce partnership

Love, Peace & Hip-Hop and Columbia Museum of Art (CMA) announce a groundbreaking new project entitled “TRIBE: A Celebration of South Carolina Hip-Hop Culture.” A unique partnership spanning the fields of music, visual art, dance, and live performance, TRIBE celebrates the core elements of hip-hop culture in South Carolina. The initial offering from the TRIBE project is Love, Peace & Hip-Hop founder FatRat Da Czar’s double-CD studio album, also entitled TRIBE, which will release on Tuesday, Nov. 12. The album’s 25 tracks feature artists from across the state and across generations of South Carolina hip-hop and was inspired by the TRIBE exhibition. As part of the album release, Czar will perform on Nov. 15 at CMA’s Arts and Draughts, bringing on stage some of South Carolina’s most elite past, present, and future hip-hop artists. “In the world of hip-hop, the time for the Carolinas is now,” said FatRat Da Czar (right), founder of Love, Peace & Hip-Hop. “It’s a perfect time to celebrate our contribution to the international scene as well as honor the pioneers who paved the way.” “A celebration of hip-hop culture is a celebration of art and people, which is what the TRIBE project is at its core. I’m excited for the Columbia Museum of Art to expand upon the partnership we launched last April with Love, Peace & Hip-Hop,” said Joelle Ryan-Cook, deputy director and director of external affairs for the Columbia Museum of Art. “The upcoming TRIBE album release at the November Arts & Draughts is a great way to invite music lovers into the museum to an event that is at its best when community partners help co-create a dynamic and unique experience for everyone who attends.”


In 2019, the hip-hop scene in the Carolinas has ascended from the underground to mainstream national success, most notably with Charlotte artist DaBaby and Columbia producer Jetsonmade charting with number one Billboard Hot 100 breakout hits twice in a row. In addition, Renni Rucci, who hails from Hopkins, signed with Quality Control in March 2018, releasing her debut album Big Renni in May 2019. Columbia artist Blacc Zacc recently inked a deal with Interscope, the record label for Dr. Dre, Tupac, Eminem, and 50 Cent. For a state and region that has been so far off the radar nationally, this is a prime time to pause and reflect upon the founders and architects of South Carolina hip-hop. The TRIBE album, inspired by the process of assembling and curating the upcoming TRIBE exhibition, was an opportunity for Czar to work with featured artists across the full spectrum of South Carolina’s hip-hop history. As part of his album release, FatRat Da Czar will perform on Friday, November 15 at Columbia Museum’s Arts and Draughts, bringing on stage some of South Carolina’s most elite past, present, and future hip-hop artists. The second phase of the project is a mixed-media exhibition, “TRIBE: A Celebration of South Carolina Hip-Hop Culture,” which will be on view at the Columbia Museum of Art from January 18 through April 12, 2020. This exhibition will feature visual art elements, as well as artifacts from South Carolina hip-hop history. Additional planned elements of the TRIBE project include a documentary film featuring interviews with influential South Carolina hip-hop figures, as well as community dialogues and roundtables, and more. This project is supported by a grant from the Knight Foundation Fund and by a Connected Communities grant at Central Carolina Community Foundation.

About FatRat Da Czar

FatRat Da Czar is a recording artist and producer, entrepreneur, and hip-hop activist based out of Columbia. Czar’s music career has spanned over two decades, and his role as an acclaimed solo artist was solidified with the release of Da Cold War album trilogy (2007-2012). In addition to opening for acts to include Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, and Lauryn Hill, Czar has also recorded and mixed sessions as chief engineer at The Boom Room for national artists ranging from KRS-One to Kevin Gates. In 2013, Czar co-founded World Famous Hip-Hop Family Day, a free annual festival dedicated to celebrating hip-hop culture that has delivered artists such as KRS-One, SugarHill Gang, Kid N Play, MC Lyte, and Big Daddy Kane to crowds of 18,000+ on Columbia’s Main Street.

About Love Peace & Hip-Hop

The goal of Love, Peace & Hip-Hop is to ensure that hip-hop, represented properly, can be a medium through which the community can come together, all ages and races, for a day of peace, love, and unity, and having fun. This is accomplished by combining some of the best and brightest live performers, DJs, B-Boy dance crews, hip-hop visual artists, and craft and fashion vendors to create South Carolina’s most unique and entertaining community experience at World Famous Hip-Hop Family Day. To learn more, visit www.lovepeacehiphop.com.

About the Columbia Museum of Art

The Columbia Museum of Art is a charitable nonprofit organization dedicated to lifelong learning and community  enrichment for all. Located in the heart of downtown Columbia, S.C., the CMA ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and creative educational programs. At the heart of the CMA and its programs is its collection, which encompasses 7,000 works and spans 5,000 years of art history. Established in 1950, the CMA now welcomes more than 150,000 visitors annually and is a catalyst for community creativity and education, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds. It is the recipient of a National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a National Art Education Association award for its contributions to arts education, a National Park Foundation Award, and two Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts for outstanding contributions to the arts in South Carolina. In order to serve even more audiences, the CMA recently underwent a transformation. Funded by a successful capital campaign, the two-year renovation project garnered new collection galleries with a progressive thematic layout, new studios for artmaking, cutting-edge program and event spaces, an entrance on Main Street, and a revamped CMA shop. Overall, more than 15,000 square feet of functional space were added to the building’s existing footprint. To learn more, visit columbiamuseum.org.

Hip-Hop event back in the capital city

World Famous Hip-Hop Family Day is tomorrow

Hip-Hop Family Day is an unforgettable day of fun with the best and brightest live performers, DJs, dance crews, hip-hop visual artists, and craft and food vendors Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The free event is presented by Love, Peace & Hip-Hop and the City of Columbia.

Big Daddy Kane is the 2019 headliner. A Grammy Award-winning artist who began his career in 1986 as a member of the rap collective the Juice Crew, Big Daddy Kane is widely considered one of the most skilled MCs in hip hop and has been ranked on several lists as one of the top 10 MCs of all time.

Kane started out as a Brooklyn battle rapper before joining Juice Crew alongside Marley Marl and Biz Markie. His 1988 debut album, Long Live the Kane, featured the hit "Ain't No Half Steppin'” and “Raw.” His LP, It’s A Big Daddy Thing, featured “Smooth Operator,” “Warm It Up,” and “I Get The Job Done.”

“Big Daddy Kane is of the most profound lyricists of all time—hard enough for the fellas and smooth enough for the ladies, with second-to-none showmanship,” says Love, Peace & Hip-Hop founder and executive director FatRat Da Czar. “We’d attempted to secure him for the festival two other times, but the third time is the charm. He will undoubtedly set the SODA on fire.”

Along with headliner Big Daddy Kane already in place, adding The Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster’s Furious Five featuring Melle Mel to the lineup allows World Famous Hip-Hop Family Day to pay homage to the earliest groundbreaking days of hip-hop.

“With ‘Rapper’s Delight,’ the Sugar Hill Gang took hip-hop music from the streets to the airwaves. Subsequently, the Furious Five’s ‘The Message’ used the airwaves to tell the full story,” said FatRat Da Czar.

Released on the iconic Sugarhill Records label, “Rapper’s Delight” was the first rap single to become a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. The song became an international hit and sold over eight million copies. The Sugar Hill Gang went on to release hits such as “Apache,” “8th Wonder,” and “Living in the Fast Lane.”

The Sugarhill Gang was originally comprised of Wonder Mike (Michael Wright), Master Gee (Guy O’Brien), and Henry Jackson (Big Bank Hank - d. 2014). Wonder Mike and Master Gee later teamed up with Henry Williams (Hendogg) and DJ T. Dynasty, who have both performed with the group for over 20 years.

“We are very excited to celebrate the 40th anniversary of ‘Rapper's Delight.’ As an iconic and global success, it stands as a true testament of the power of hip hop music," said Hendogg. "To see the crowds of people, generation after generation, sing this song and to be able to perform it all over the world is a blessing."

Through the use of turntablism, break-beat deejaying, and conscious lyricism, the Furious Five was significant in the early development of hip hop music. With their platinum-selling classic, “The Message,” the group was catapulted to international recognition and eventual induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“This is history in the making,” said Scorpio. “We've seen the evolution of hip-hop and rap go from a place where there was a lot of naysayers to it being a full-blown respected genre taking over pop culture. It's a blessing to be successful doing what we love and now joining together to continue to make history.”

Black Heroes Matter

Note: Sanford Greene, and Preach Jacobs, author of this article, received Artists' Ventures Initiative grants from the South Carolina Arts Commission in 2011. Letters of Intent for the next grant round are due January 11, 2017. Working with Luke Cage, two South Carolina natives lead an important moment in comics From The Free Times Article by Preach Jacobs Image above: Sanford Greene, an artist in residence at Marvel, sketches at his Columbia home. Photo by Daniel Hare

Marvel’s X-Men comic was first released in 1963 at the height of the civil rights movement. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, the comic focused on super-powered beings called “mutants” being persecuted in a divided country. The mutants themselves were largely separated into two different factions following two powerful leaders with different theories on how to handle regular humans: Charles Xavier was a man of peace striving for mutants and humans to live together; Magneto wanted justice for humanity’s crimes against the mutants. Over the years, people have hinted that Stan Lee’s inspirations for the characters were Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Indeed, Magneto even invokes Malcolm with the phrase “by any means necessary” in the first X-Men film. Stan Lee has never confirmed the connection, but he did mention in a 2000 interview that the X-Men were “a good metaphor for what was happening with the civil rights movement in the country at the time.” Last month, 53 years after X-Men arrived,  Marvel Studios — the comic giant’s prodigious, profit-churning film and television arm — debuted the series Luke Cage on Netflix. The show features a tall, bald African-American superhero who’s indestructible. It features a black writer, director and a largely black cast, along with a score composed by Ali Shaheed Muhammad of iconic hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. Episodes are named after songs by the rap duo Gang Starr. Once again, Marvel finds itself at the forefront of an important moment in the fight for civil rights. Arriving at a time when prominent, authentically black characters have become more the norm than the exception in both comics and television, Luke Cage, based on the long-running Marvel Comics character, is an affirmation of the progress made in both media, trumpeting the merits of a strong and moral black character — and one that just happens to be a wrongly accused ex-con — as racial divisions grip the country. South Carolina is no stranger to such racial tension — from the heartless slaying of nine souls at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church to Walter Scott’s high-profile death at the hands of a North Charleston Police officer, both in 2015, the state, like many, has been rocked by racially charged tragedies. So it’s appropriate that two Palmetto State exports are involved with recent, politically potent interpretations of Luke Cage. Michael Colter, the actor playing Luke Cage, hails from Columbia, where he attended Benedict College and the University of South Carolina. Sanford Greene, an artist in residence with Marvel since 2011, also attended Benedict. The Charleston native now living in Columbia is the illustrator for Power Man and Iron Fist, the most recent comic version of Cage, who sometimes fights under the Power Man moniker. In addition, the upcoming Marvel film Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman (of 42 fame), whose hometown is Anderson. Black Panther, the first black comic book character by Marvel in 1966, was introduced into the company’s film and television continuum, known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in this year’s Captain America: Civil War. The hero is the alter ego of T’Challa, the fictional leader of the African country Wakanda, a nation often abused due to its being home to the rare and nigh-unbreakable alloy vibranium — the stuff used to make Captain America’s shield. Memes circulated the internet this past year with the hashtag #BlackPantherSoLIT, displaying something rarely (if ever) seen associated with a comic book movie: an overwhelming amount of black audience excitement. Anticipated with good reason. Marvel recruited writer-director Ryan Coogler, the mastermind behind the Oscar-nominated Creed. That Rocky reboot had a reported budget of $35 million. Even though the budget for Black Panther, this year’s Captain America: Civil War boasted production costs of $250 million. If Marvel is consistent with their major films, it will be the first time a film with a predominately black cast, writer and director would have so large a budget. [caption id="attachment_28695" align="alignright" width="267"]Columbia native Mike Colter plays the title role in the Netflix series Luke Cage Columbia native Mike Colter plays the title role in the Netflix series Luke Cage[/caption] The unapologetic blackness of both the new Luke Cage comic and show — and, likely, Black Panther — can be linked directly to today’s music. More and more, the buying public for hip-hop wants artists to be socially conscious in terms of their blackness. And — given the success of Luke Cage, which was so watched upon its release that it temporarily crashed Netflix  — people want the same thing from their black superheroes. The first teaser trailer for the series featured the Ol’ Dirty Bastard song “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” as well as a cameo from Method Man. Wu-Tang is all over the show. For the fingerprints of hip-hop to be all over both a comic and series at this level is unprecedented. Greene, for one, isn’t at all surprised about the recent emergence of black comic characters on the big and silver screen. He sat down with Free Times earlier this month after getting back from New York Comic Con in support of the new Luke Cage series and comic. “In 2008, I’m at [the Savannah College of Art and Design] at a Marvel symposium,” Greene recalls, explaining that he overheard someone mention the revered hip-hop producer Pete Rock. “I took a chance, never meeting this man before, walk over to him and introduced myself. I asked the guy what was he saying about Pete Rock and the man responded, ‘He’s my favorite producer of all time.’ I literally asked the man if I could hug him. It turned out to be Axel Alonso, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics.” Alonso, too, sees these current hip-hop influences as inevitable. “With a diverse catalog of characters — from Luke Cage to Ghost Rider — and a talent pool that grew up to hip-hop — like Sanford — I think Marvel has been poised for this moment,” Alonso tells Free Times. “Across all media platforms — movies, TV and print — we are expressing an ever-growing piece of our creative DNA.” In Netflix’s Luke Cage, with Harlem as the backdrop, the title character is falsely accused of crimes, battles with cops and deals with police brutality and wears a hoodie throughout the series, which show creators say pays homage to slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin. Music has recently embraced similar sentiments — from D’Angelo’s Black Messiah to the Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly— and Luke Cage appears to be the superhero most in tune with the conscious hip-hop that’s popular today. Qiana Whitted, an associate professor of English and African-American studies at USC, writes and teaches about race and comics. She is the author of Comics and the U.S. South. She sees Luke Cage as delivering something black audiences desperately need. “While Cage’s show should appeal to audiences of all races, the series is also an acknowledgement of the importance of developing quality programming for black viewers,” she reasons. “But perhaps more significantly, Cage’s relevance as an African-American crime fighter will resonate deeply with the growing outrage and activism against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States. The racism that Luke Cage will confront in this fictional series is very real and very relevant today.” The Luke Cage character was introduced to the comic world in 1972 following the civil rights movement. Whitted says that this timing was significant. “Racism, drugs and urban poverty were urgent problems for the U.S. at the time, and while Cage’s prison background associated with him in the criminality of the blaxploitation films of the 1970s, the pride he expressed in defining his predominantly black Harlem neighborhood [away] from those problems made him the kind of hero that African-American communities could finally celebrate,” she says. “But with Cage fighting against fantastical villains as well as corrupt police, his heroism as an African-American man with bulletproof skin has always carried a distinctive kind of social and political importance.” During a recent interview on the nationally syndicated New York radio show The Breakfast Club, Michael Colter was asked about the show’s focus on social awareness in the black community and issues with social injustice. “It’s funny, we don’t have to do anything. It’s almost like if you want Trump to look like an idiot you let him speak,” Coulter responded “Right now it’s at a fever pitch. We couldn’t have timed it any better. …  So when we put this show out it just happened to be at a crucial time in society where they feel like we really needed this.” Whether it’s on the page or on the screen, in order for Marvel to do these characters justice they have to be willing and interested in portraying the authentic black experience that these characters draw on. When asked if being a black artist working for Marvel comics was ever a difficult thing because of color, Greene thinks quietly before answering. He says that being black didn’t necessarily have “anything to do with difficulties or me working there, but my experiences are ones that are the black experience, so in a way, yes. I’m influenced by hip-hop and that vibe and energy transcends into the art. You see many artists with those influences — like a Khary Randolph, Ed Piskor or even Jason Latour — and you see the hip-hop influence. You see art coming from graffiti. It influenced the way we draw. There was a time that Marvel wasn’t ready for that.” They definitely seem ready now. In addition to Luke Cage and Black Panther, Marvel recently spearheaded a concept called the Variant Covers, allowing artists to reimagine classic hip-hop album covers using superheroes as a backdrop. Sanford did two, recreating De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising cover with X-Men characters and Pete Rock & CL Smoothe’s Mecca and the Soul Brother cover with Hawkeye. Dozens of covers were made and the idea exploded with several big-time recording artists retweeting the covers, flattered by the homage. Sanford remembers speaking with Marvel when the idea was in the infant stages. “I had conversations with Marvel and told them that we had to make these covers as authentic as possible,” he says. “There’s an audience that is ready for something like this but we have to handle it with respect. We have to make sure that the people we are paying homage to support the idea.” For Charlamagne the God, co-host of The Breakfast Club and another South Carolina native, this is nothing new. “This is the thing, it’s always been happening,” he says. “When I was younger, I didn’t even realize Luke Cage was blaxploitation. I just thought it was dope that he had super strength, steel hard skin, and he was set in an environment that I could relate to. Even though I’m from Moncks Corner, South Carolina, I just connected with the backdrop of Luke Cage, not because it was the city but because Harlem was black and his super powers were how black men feel anyway.” Charlamagne also thinks that Luke Cage being bulletproof isn’t an accident when it comes to being black and strong in America. “We have to be super strong and have hard thick skin to survive in America,” he explains. “I think it’s happening now simply because Marvel is successful and if you watch the evolution of Marvel since the first Iron Man, it’s just the right time.” Greene echoes the sentiment, but thinks it’s simple reasoning: Marvel allowed these characters to develop and gave them a chance to be understood. “You can see how with things like black television how shows began to improve showing black culture,” he offers. “Shows like The Jeffersons began to show black characters in a different light and not in the hood. It’s amazing how with Luke Cage you can have a black character that’s a hero for hire and allow other characters to come into the universe like a Thor, a god, and it can actually work. When you see writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates write for Black Panther, you see Marvel’s attention to that detail. Even watching Luke Cage you realize that the show is The Wire with superheroes.” There is an underlying beauty in the Southern — and South Carolina — connection that’s involved with these pivotal black super heroes. It can’t be considered a coincidence that people with such a background are involved in the re-emergence of black Marvel characters. “What is important is the way Cage is presented in the series as a Southerner who runs away from Georgia as urgently as he flees his youth and his past incarceration,” she says. “The South is too often used in comics to convey racism, confinement and conservatism, but I hope it’s also clear that the South is as meaningful as New York in portraying Cage’s complexity as a hero who happens to be black.”

Indie Grits Film Festival features unique films, concerts, food and more

The eighth annual Indie Grits Film Festival, the Southeast’s premier film and culture festival for DIY media-makers, features 10 days of the best short, experimental, animated and student film, music, food and outside-the-box artistic performances to engage a variety of audiences. The festival takes place April 11-20 in Columbia, S.C. Hosted by the Nickelodeon Theatre, South Carolina’s oldest art-house cinema, Indie Grits has been named one of MovieMaker magazine’s Top 20 Coolest Film Festivals in the World for the second time. Organizers received a 30 percent increase in filmmaker submissions for the 2014 festival, resulting in a better-than-ever film lineup. Noteworthy films: • Big Significant Things, which will premiere at SXSW 2014, is a narrative feature directed by Bryan Reisberg and produced by Andrew D. Corkin. At 26 years old, Craig seems to be doing pretty well for himself. He has job stability and a supportive family, and is about to start a wonderful new chapter with his girlfriend. With big life changes on the horizon, what better time to lie to your girlfriend so you can go on a road trip by yourself to the South? • As it is In Heaven is a narrative feature directed by Joshua Overbay. After the death of the Prophet, a man is called to lead his small religious sect as they anxiously await the end of the world they were promised. As It Is In Heaven is a beautifully filmed portrayal of a cult leader’s struggle with faith and keeping his community together after his end-of-days prophecy does not come to pass. Other highlights:

  • of Montreal will headline the festival with a concert on Thursday, April 17 at 8 p.m. at the Columbia Museum of Art.
  • Opening Night Party: A free party from 6-11 p.m. for all ages in the parking lot behind the Nickelodeon Theatre at 1607 Main Street on Friday, April 11. The party will feature Rachel Kate of Nashville and Shantih Shantih of Atlanta. Girls Rock Columbia will host the event and bring a surprise local act as well as live screen printing.
  • Indie Bits, a new video game showcase, takes place Tuesday, April 15. This event will feature films, workshops and speakers that explore ties between gaming and filmmaking and is in collaboration with the USC Center for Digital Humanities.
  • The Weekly Revue a new event, is hosted by the actor, comedian, and master of ceremonies, Toby David. The Weekly Revue exploded onto the Philadelphia scene in 2008 where it dazzled, educated, and entertained its followers for close to 5 years.
  • Indie Camp Remixed, a brand new weeklong workshop for high schoolers, will allow students to mix it up with visiting filmmakers and make some movies.
  • Kindie Grits, presented by the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts, is back with workshops on Saturday, April 12 and Saturday, April 19.
  • Hip Hop Family Day - after 2013’s Hip Hop Family Day, which drew thousands for family fun, music and more, Indie Grits is proud to have the festival back on Main Street on Saturday, April 12.
  • Slow Food at Indie Grits Sustainable Chefs Showcase on Sunday, April 13, features hors d’oeuvres by the Midlands’ most sustainable, talented chefs and potluck dishes by attendees.
For more information and a complete lineup of Indie Grits events, parties, concerts and competition films, visit IndieGrits.com. Festival passes and individual event tickets are available. Via: Indie Grits Festival

Comics + hip-hop = Cola-Con!

Cola-Con - the nation's only comic and hip-hop convention - is back for a third year, scheduled for Oct. 25-26 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Part festival, part “con,” this family-friendly, two-day confluence of hip-hop and alternative culture features live concerts by top national hip-hop artists, as well as comics vendors from as far away as New York, Chicago and Minneapolis. Founded in 2011 by Preach Jacobs of Sounds Familiar Records (a 2011 Artists' Ventures Initiative grant recipient), Cola-Con has expanded each year while keeping its home-grown-in-Columbia DIY vibe. This year's event features two national headliners, Grammy nominees The Foreign Exchange and hip-hop legends Dead Prez, and numerous comic artists and graphic novelists:

  • Steve Epting: artist, Marvel Comics
  • Carl Jones: producer, THE BOONDOCKS
  • Matt Bors: artist, WAR IS BORING
  • Ed Piskor: artist, HIP HOP FAMILY TREE
  • Blue Delliquanti: artist and writer, O HUMAN STAR
  • Eric Darnes: colorist
  • Dre & Sammy Lopez: artists, Piensa Art Company
  • Sanford Greene: artist, ARMY OF FROGS
  • John Pading & Shige Kobayashi: artist and writer, PRINCESS CALABRETTA
  • David Axe: writer, WAR IS BORING
  • Afua Richardson: artist, illustrator
  • Jeremy Love: artist, BAYOU
  • Keith Miller & Chuck Thomas: artist, Tri-Boro Tales
  • Ronald Wimberly: artist, PRINCE OF CATS, Black Dynamite Animated Series
Tickets are $20 for one day and $30 for a two-day pass. Buy tickets online here: http://www.cola-con.com/ Tickets will also be for sale at the door. Find out more on Cola-Con's website, Facebook page and in this article from Charleston City Paper. Via: Cola-Con, Charleston City Paper

Musical ensembles invited to apply for American Music Abroad

Musical ensembles - here's your chance to serve as a cultural diplomat and share your talents with a global audience. American Music Abroad sends 10-12 ensembles on international musical exchanges and is open to ensembles that specialize in hip hop, rock & roll, jazz, country, and other American roots music, including but not limited to Native American, Latin, Afro-Caribbean, blues, bluegrass, Cajun, gospel and zydeco. Applications are now being accepted for the 2013-2014 program. Deadline is Jan. 18, 2013. Up to 40 ensembles will be invited to live auditions. American Music Abroad is a partnership between American Voices and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Through public concerts, interactive performances with local musicians, lectures and workshops, the American Music Abroad program embraces music as a diplomatic tool to bring people together and foster greater mutual understanding. Visit the American Music Abroad website for details and application information. Photos: Act of Congress, a band from Birmingham, Alabama, performed in Thailand, the Philippines, Palau and East Timor in September 2012 as part of American Music Abroad. Via: American Voices American Voices  


Hip-hop, comics and culture at Cola-Con II

Comic fans - get ready to meet the creators of your favorite comics at Cola-Con Oct. 5 and 6 at the Columbia Museum of Art. Now in its second year, Cola-Con is "a masterful mix of comic convention and music festival complete with educational panels and media screenings." Created by hip-hop performer Preach Jacobs and comic book creator Steven Prouse, Cola-Con features creators from the major comic publishers and from independent publishers. The Free Times has all of the details covered in this article. Via: The Free Times [caption id="attachment_1488" align="aligncenter" width="388"] Cola-Con II poster image[/caption]