By Julie Thompson
STUDENT CENTER — Woodruff Library exhibited a collection of Tupac’s notebooks and lyric sketches at the Readings, Writings and Rhythmic Hits and Raps Hip Hop event at GGC. The Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection was exhibited on loan from the Atlanta University Woodruff Library.
Sarah Tanner, a Woodruff archivist, represented the library at Readings, Writings and Rhythmic Hits on November 3. The event was one in a series of events celebrating Hip Hop History Month. It was a collaborative effort of Black Student Union, Wize Tribe, Greenlight, Get Involved, and the Asian Student Association. Tanner prepared a grouping of Tupac’s composition notebooks, which she referred to as the “gem” of the collection. The exhibit was a replicated portion of the original collection.
“Tupac was involved in all aspects of his music,” said Tanner. The exhibit enabled GGC Tupac fans to see the deceased hip-hop idol in a personal way, and allowed a glimpse into his creative thought processes. Some of the pages had crossed-out words, showing the early stages of Tupac’s 90’s hits. One notebook contained entrepreneur ideas — plans for the Palmeca Cafe. These plans provided phones in the booths, so patrons could request songs.
“It’s hard to move around, so we can only bring reproductions of the material. [The original] is open to the public; you just have to come to the Atlanta University Center Library to see it,” said the archivist who was a Student Involvement guest. Tanner has also shown the exhibit at Emory, and other schools who have requested the exhibit. Tanner explained that even a replication is under strict copyright, and the Woodruff Library needed permission to display for a month-long the exhibition.
“The desire is to have the collection on exhibit until the end of the month; we have to get permission from the estate, and we’re waiting to hear back from him. If we get the okay, we’ll have it installed and we’ll leave it up until the end of November, but I have to take it back tonight,” said Tanner.
Editorial Note :The Woodruff Library did not loan the Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection for the entire month, it was again displayed in the Student Center on November 12th.
“We have a piece of the Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection; this is a historic moment for GGC,” said Clarke who emceed the event in the Student Center Lounge. He opened the event at 5 p.m., with a discussion of the burgeoning hip hop academe, and said this study demanded an increased attention to lyrics and to the power of words.
“I think hip hop gets a bad rap, no pun intended,” said Clarke, who also raps from time to time. According to Clarke, words are meant to elevate, but unfortunately, many artists’ success can be attributed with marketing schemes and jingles. He read the lyrics of Lauryn Hill’s “The Final Hour.” Hill’s lyrics often pertained to Christian themes: “You can’t capsize this ship, because I baptize my lips every time a take a sip.”
Clarke displayed a picture of the 900 hundred year old Ethiopian church the rhyme described. “Women don’t always get that love, so I’ll give her a shout, and Lauryn’s in my top ten.” He continued to describe Hip Hop’s religious affiliations—the roots often traced to Islam, but Lauryn was Christian, and so was the grandfather of her 5 children — Bob Marley — the reggae icon and Rastafarian Christian. Matthew Micheaux (Cashew), A Wize Tribe member, performed an animated rendition of Vic Mensa’s “Yap Yap.”
The compilation combined onomatopoeia with hand-clapping rhythm. The lyrics described police violence, youthful angst, and theocratic doubt. Michael Blakey, a.k.a JR, was the next performer with “Pain.” The raps and melodic riffs portrayed the emotional distress Blakey experienced at his grandmother’s passing. “In this pain, is a morning light,” the melodic riff carried over the audience. Next, Clarke read one of his own original works, “(B)earth Chronicles.”
The scholar of Africana Studies continued to read his lyrics, which described his own struggle to escape of his mother’s womb and progressed to life ultimatums he faced as a young adult. “They say they want me to go to the University, so they be saving and making sure I ain’t misbehavin’,” Clarke read his original work. The sun set as Clarke began to read pieces on darker subjects. Music, Clarke said, often described the realities rappers live. He listed big names in Chicago hip hop scene — Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa.
“This is your music but, it’s also the documentation of your history. Over twenty five hundred people have been shot this year in Chicago, and that’s mostly poor people — we are hopeful that music can provide a change.” One of hip hop’s negative aspects — one Clarke had witnessed since his adolescence — was the industry’s misogyny. Clarke continued on the subject “Unfortunately, we called every brother, the ’N -word,’ and every woman, the ‘B -word,’ but I know the power of my words,” Clarke said. Sex sells in any music industry. Clarke elaborated, “It was called drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll long before sex, drugs and hip hop.” Unfortunately, the sex market delegates women to perform for men, and not the other way around.
Clarke proceeded to conduct an interactive discussion of hip hop’s basic elements. Among these elements he listed, the emcee, the DJ’s, dance — usually break dancing, and writing — graffiti writing. “Today fashion has become one of the elements too,” Clarke said. These elements linger in the sensation that hip hop it is today. Hip hop has become a multi billion dollar business and many bemoan the changes that have accompanied its success.
With so many music formulas, hip hop audiences are accustomed to the generic, but Clarke urged the gathering “to untrain [their] ears” and learn to appreciate creative, cutting-edge music. “Sometimes I feel like we are losing the culture, so value it; love it,” Clarke said.
He admitted his generation “didn’t do enough to elevate” with their lyrics. Young rappers need mentoring, the emcee concluded. Clarke encouraged the audience of performers and writers, ”Your generation is making a good art.” He praised Drake’s creativity and a phenomenal freestyles. Clarke said the industry had changed Drake, but sometimes that’s what one has to happen to follow a dream and to survive, he admitted.
Black Student Union had spent ‘several weeks’ planning the Readings Writings and Rhythmic Hits. “It feels like the work paid off,” said Quinn Mayes, BSU’s president . As Mayes observed the Tupac Collection, he said, was it was a great addition to the event. Mayes commented on Tupac’s legacy and the artist’s irreplaceable contributions to Hip Hop. “I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.” Tupac Shakur June 16,1971- September 13, 1996