Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Reggaeton in "Tha Global Cipha"

Yesterday, I walked into my classroom at Columbia to find a greatly pleasant surprise: James G. Spady and Samir Meghelli came to visit!

James and Samir are two of the co-editors (the third is H. Samy Alim) of the newly-released book Tha Global Cipha: Hip Hop Culture and Consciousness, a collection of interviews with artists from all over the world—from U.S.-based MCs and DJs, to dancehall, rai, shaabi and reggaeton artists. Ivy Queen, Tego Calderon, Yaga & Mackie speak from these pages right alongside Jay Z, Eve, Talib Kweli, Trina, Pitbull, Fat Joe, DJ Kool Herc, Lady Saw, Sean Paul, among many, many others. Even Sonia Sanchez, George Clinton and Rick James!

I have my copy and can't wait to dig into its pages.

It was perfect timing for James and Samir’s surprise visit, given that Carlos “REC” McBride had accepted my invitation to come speak about his work as the Director of The Teen Resource Center in Holyoke, Massachusetts—particularly about the ways in which he is integrating hip hop and reggaeton into his programs. To top it off, REC brought one of the young members of the Center, Juan a.k.a. Knowledge.

Juan and REC gave us a very focused picture of the way reggaeton and hip hop play out in an economically-depressed, largely Puerto Rican town in the U.S.’s Northeast. Meanwhile, James and Samir took us on a global tour, exploring many of the “children” and even “foreparents” of hip hop.

I have yet to get feedback from the students (which I will be sure to ask for during our next class session). But judging by the way they enthusiastically interacted with our guests, I suspect they might agree with me that it was the most dynamic class all semester.

Juan, REC, Samir and James: I can’t thank you enough.

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