Shawn Carter – Thoughts for Black History Month
Shawn Carter, Public Enemy’s longtime family member and Director of Song Promotions for SLAMjamz and SPITdigital, sat down with me and gave me some of his thoughts on music and societal issues for Black History Month.
The SPITslam Group (Kate G): February is Black History month. As an African American raised in the Pittsburgh jazz scene with a musician uncle who toured with Count Basie, you have a unique background with African American history.
Carter: Being around my uncle and being in Pittsburgh and also being around such great musicians helped me understand more about music, period. It’s that music originated from mother Africa – it’s the beat, the rhythm – all coming from the soul. From the beating of a drum which started the rhythm and understanding that music that we listen to from rock, to jazz, to country, to the blues, all originated & was given birth from Africa. Chuck always refers to that and the fact that we as black people, started the blues. So that gave me pride in understanding that we are “The Originators” and responsible for the music we listen to today.
The SPITslam Group: Who are some of the African American musicians who have influenced you the most?
Carter: Wow, hard question. In the following order, it would be Al Green, Miles Davis, James Brown, Sly Stone, and Chuck D.
The SPITslam Group: Hip Hop gives artists the freedom to rap about most anything. As director of promotions for SLAMjamz, you must hear lyrics from a lot of new artists. What are your thoughts on the new generation of hip hop lyricists and do you still see their culture expressed through their lyrics?
Carter: Good question. First and foremost, we have to put into context is that I grew up with the rap voices of Chuck, Griff, Flavor, KRS One, X-Clan, Brand Nubian, Poor Righteous Teachers, The Last Poets & Gil Scott Heron just to name a few. Outside of music, we also had at the forefront the voices of Jim Brown, Muhamad Ali, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who were not afraid to speak their minds and to stand up for injustice. The current type of artists in rap music are not built the same way and we can’t expect them to since they have not had the same experiences as their predecessors. When I listen to music from some of the new artists that are very much speaking their minds, I do see the beginning of a new revolution. There are a lot of artists out there that I really dig such as Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Jasiri X, Killer Mike of Run the Jewels, and coming from SPITdigital, I really dig Memphis Jelks and his message in Happiness is Love, and of course the incredible and talented Retina MC. I think we just have to patient with our youth and we can expect them to take control and be the leaders like the greats have done.
The SPITslam Group: Anything else you want to add on the topic of Black History month?
Carter: Let me start off by saying that we as the human race must eradicate the culture of white supremacy and brutality by the police toward young black men and women. Justice for Mario Woods, Justice for Tamir Rice, JUSTICE for all of our young black men and woman and any person that has lost loved ones to police brutality. This is why I stand for and will continue to say until the attack on black people by the police stops, Black Lives Matter.
Kate G is Kate Gammell for Update Reports on The SPITdigital SLAMjamz Recording Label Group