Phone A Friend.
Manny Faces of Hip-Hop Can Save America!
Summary: You’ve heard him on the pod. You know the magic of his sound design. But do you really know “Manny Faces?” Long-time, award winning Hip-Hop journalist and activist Manny Faces joins Max in studio to talk about Hip-Hop culture and its underreported influence on education, the criminal justice system and activism. If you listen/watch you’ll also be introduced to the coining of the phrase, “pimping off the Old Testament.” (Patent pending.)
Max: Hey, Unf*ckers, it's your boy Max. I have a very special edition of Phone a Friend today. Didn't even tease it in the name of the show, because it's that special. This is big. What's even different than most other Phone a Friends is I actually have the guest right here in the studio with me. Didn't think I'd actually get to meet this person in person, even though I've known this person for more than 20 years. This is my brother. This is my dear friend. We're there for each other's children, but not all of his. It's the great Manny Faces. What's up, Manny?
Manny: Air horn noises.
Max: Will you put those in afterwards?
Max: This is sort of meta, huh?
Manny: What's up, man?
Max: How you doing?
Manny: I'm doing okay.
Max: Just okay?
Manny: These days, okay is great.
Max: Okay, so you're in Nueava, Nueva York.
Max: You're here for us.
Manny: I am.
Max: Tell me, first of all, what are you doing here? To what do we owe this unbelievable surprise that we had to do a Phone A Friend?
Manny: Well, I appreciate it. We should just have phones. We should be holding a phone.
Manny: Yeah, it'd be good for the aesthetics. I'm here for a few reasons, but I produce another podcast called Hip-Hop Can Save America.
Manny: Yes, I love you've heard of it. And apparently, the Signal Awards, the big podcast award organization, felt it was worthy of being selected as a finalist in the music category for their big yearly event.
Max: So we put that out in the newsletter, so Unf*ckers should be familiar with the fact that Manny just won not a Signal Award, another Signal Award.
Manny: Right. So last year, News Beat won the politics and news category. We were bronze, which was basically third, but certainly with all the ones being entered, that's fantastic. We were up there with Al Jazeera and I think, some NPR outlet, so quality stuff.
And then this year, for Hip-Hop, Can Save America in the music category. Again, up against some NPR-affiliated show and pretty high praise for the outfits that I work with and work on.
Max: So what I thought was really cool about Signal Awards is that it's the Listener's Choice Awards. The only part of it that was actually voted on.
Manny: Right, but they do both. So we got a bronze award in the category. So on its merits, there are judges, and we actually won that. So we won an award. Tied for third, it was weird. The winner was silver, but then the other two were tied for bronze. There was no gold. It's weird.
Max: I call bullshit. I smell a rat.
Manny: I just say we're tied for second. So which is great. And then on top of that, each category is they basically do a vote, a listener's choice award. I know some of the Unf*ckers voted, some of the "HHCSAs" voted. I don't have a cool saying for my listeners like you do [laughing]. I got to figure that out. "H H C S A" is the acronym. It doesn't work as well as Unf*ckers.
Max: It's going to be a long hour.
Manny: Yeah. So anyway, so I'm here for that. They're doing a gathering of finalists and winners, and I want to show my face. Shouts to my eternal consulting producer, Summer. She's from up here, so figured, hey, let's go to this thing and dress to the nines and flaunt about our bronze prize in the music category.
Max: Well, I love it, man. I'm so happy. I'm always happy to see you. It's been weird not having you in New York, even though you were in New Jersey for a little while. I don't count those years. I still call them New York years because everybody knows how I feel about New Jersey.
So, I think we have a couple of areas of intersection between Hip-Hop Can Save America and what we're doing on Unf*cking the Republic and certainly what you've produced with News Beat as we've been able to collaborate with them a few times.
I have actually a lot of political-oriented questions and topics that I want to get to with respect to Black culture as seen through the lens of hip-hop. So I think that we can have kind of a spirited dialogue there.
Let's just start with this concept first and foremost that hip-hop can save America. You had a great response to a listener that had written in about, 'I know you say hip-hop can save America, I don't want to cast everything out about the entire platform, but, you know, rap music contains so much homophobia and misogyny. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that.'
Your response to that, not only was it wonderful, wonderful enough that, you know, the listener wrote in and thank you for it.
Max: It actually got to something that I conflate all the time. And I was wondering if you could start with the premise that hip-hop as culture, rap music as a piece of that culture, and just sort of unpack some of the, not misunderstandings, but some of the misconceptions that are misconstrued between the two of them.
Manny: Yeah, I mean, that's at the core of it, right? The confusion is that, for those not familiar with the culture, you know, hip-hop as the genre. It's the same name, right That's the weird thing about it, you know, because it has the same name. So they often get conflated.
Hip-hop, as I explained in that response, hip-hop is a culture. It's not because I want it to be one, right? This is something that's basically been defined by the dictionary, what culture is: a collection of social norms, a collection of traditions that are passed down. All the things that are culture, hip-hop has has these things.
So if you look in the dictionary, if you go to academia, you know, Cornell has a wonderful collection, an archive, a hip-hop collection. If you look at their wording and it's that we archive artifacts from within the culture of hip-hop. Yale University, all these academic—The Smithsonian calls it a culture.
The U.S. Department of State has a program called Next Level where they send hip-hop artists, teaching artists, basically an emcee, a DJ, a dancer, a graffiti writer, a visual artist out to different parts of the world as cultural ambassadors.
the city of Paris, France has a funded a giant hip-hop culture—in French, le cultural bleh beh beh—but it's called the Hip-Hop Culture Center.
So all of these institutions, these legacy institutions, which on one hand, who cares what a legacy institution says about hip-hop, we could talk about that. But on the other hand, OK, this is a culture. It's recognized as such. Most importantly, by the participants or the citizens of that culture.
If enough people get together and say 'We have a culture, we have a culture.' So within that culture is everything culture would have, you know, traditions, language, stories, different kind of cultural attachments, fashion, style and ways of doing things. These things get passed down just like any other any other culture.
But we also have an entertainment aspect, just like any culture would. If you think about your ethnicity or, where your background is, you all have traditional songs, traditional dance, traditional ways of poetry or speaking. Well, hip-hop has that, too.
The fact that that entertainment aspect of hip-hop, and more specifically the rap element of it, has been so commodified and so front and center; that's all people think of when they think of hip-hop and/or rap: the rap music that they know, either that was on the radio or that they knew in college or growing up or whatever.
Max: So anybody just even remotely familiar with rap culture has an idea of the origin stories in and around the boroughs of New York and a little bit out in the West Coast.
But we all have some sort of idea of the origin stories of where it started with, let's say, Kool Herc and, you know, stealing electricity off of the pole to have dances and had set DJs up like, I mean, really cool origin stories to the music part of it.
In the scholarship of hip-hop today, is there is there an understanding or a consensus that hip-hop that rap was born within hip-hop culture or, rap is the genesis of hip-hop culture?
Manny: Yeah, that's a good question and it's a good debate. You know, chicken egg in a way, what came first, what came—in fact, the Kool Herc story, the origin story is widely acknowledged, but nothing as large as a social movement, a genre of music, a culture could have a single point of origin.
There can't be a big bang that hip-hop was invented in the basement of Kool Herc's apartment.
Max: I don't know, man. I'm going through the history of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, and they all have like really specific ideas of when shit started.
Manny: They got a guy.
Max: I'm getting kind of fucked up here [laughing].
Manny: [Laughing] They got a guy and he was it. True, I guess. But Jesus' whole thing—and I'm not the best expert—tou know, there was a bunch of stuff that happened, ans—
Max: No, let's not. I'm begging you. I'm so deep into it [laughing].
Manny: But there's an Old Testament that led up to to him.
Max: Yes, yes.
Manny: So without all that, he's pimping off the Old Testament a little bit, you know. So in the same way that hip-hop is an amalgamation.
Max: Has anybody ever said the phrase pimping off the Old Testament? I just I need to know because if not, we're making shirts.
Manny: It's quotable. So in the same way, hip-hop is absolutely sort of an amalgamation of all these different cultural influences worldwide. Kool Herc was Jamaican, and they love to say that there was a whole Jamaican sound
clash, and DJing was Jamaican culture.
But you got to look at the American influences when you go back to The Last Ooets, you go back to, Cab Calloway, you go back to James Brown, and then you go back to Africa; the place, the cradle of civilization, and the griots from back in the days, the drum circles, all that stuff.
So we're talking about hundreds of years of coalescing, diasporic influence that then flash pans in New York City in the '70s, again, over the course of some months and years that is recognized, because you need a birthday, as August 11, 1973. Kool Herc does a party—actually, his sister, Cindy Campbell, organizes the party, it's back to school jam. So give credit to the women, right?
That's the real origin story. She put together a party, her brother DJ'd it, and that became sort of the spiritual or the emotional touchpoint where music was being played, Kool Herc was playing the breaks. There were dancers. There might have been someone on the mic kind of hyping the crowd at that party, and that became sort of the symbolic genesis.
Max: Is that one of those parties where there were in reality, like 250 people there, but like 3500 people have given an account of being at that original party?
Manny: I've heard such things. I've also heard that it got so big that it was too big for the rec room inside and it spilled out into the streets. You know, so, that's part of the problem, you know, and it's a longer conversation about, as you said, hip-hop scholarship.
Max: Did anybody ascend to heaven that night that we know of?
Manny: No, but I think there was a baptism of some some sort [laughing]. No, you know, it was just again, in history, there was a flyer that everyone's seen—this kind of handwritten flyer that if you look into it, and I'm speaking from memory here, but it's not the actual flyer. It was something that was created later, but now attributed to it.
So there's a lot of things happening in this culture that are now being archaeologically investigated and not taken as fact as you might have suggested.
Max: Okay, so let's let's have the conversation of the obvious intersection there, to ask about race, perceived race and then whose culture ethnically/nationally is aligned with hip-hop culture. So how do we put the Black experience in the United States into that context?
How do we talk about if a white person coming into this culture is a participant in that culture; is that co-opting it or is hip-hop inviting of all perceived ethnicities, races, nationalities into the culture?
Manny: Right. Which was my point that was being not, contested, but, you know, saying I called it a very inclusive, perhaps the most inclusive culture, social movement in the world ever. We'll come back to that.
So first and foremost, and again, this is currently being debated, or I don't say debated, argued, investigated. So hip-hop is a Black American creation. There's some discussion as to how much—
Max: Are you talking about the music now, or the culture?
Manny: I'm talking about both, generally speaking. So when you talk about the music and how the music evolved from soul and disco and then the rapping from these parties; these were for the most part Black New Yorkers in the '70s, you know, late '60s, early '70s.
Now, there's some debate as to—because certainly Latino, Puerto Ricans, they were there rocking, doing their thing too, obviously. A lot of people early breaking.
You would think of, you know, you think of—
Max: Electric Boogaloo?
Manny: Right. You think of Hispanic folk, you know, Latinos getting down.
Absolutely. They're early and involved in the beginnings of the culture.
Max: The way that I interpreted it is if you were willing to get on the floor, then you were part of the Black hip-hop movement. But if you just popped or locked, you were probably from the from the Latin expression of it.
Manny: [Laughing] Right. So there's actually sort of a little bit of a heated debate, and it's a little bit divisive within—all these things have little things within them—whether to basically to give credit as co-creators to the Latinos, Hispanics that were in the area as well.
Max: Makes sense.
Manny: And so there's arguments, 'We were there from the beginning.'
'You were there from the beginning, but we were the beginning.'
So there's a whole thing. What I usually say when I do talks or whatever is, 'And must not be forgotten, created by Black and Brown Americans.' Has to be said. Because in this in this country, we have a wonderful history of whitewashing everything that Black and Brown people have made artistically, from rock and roll to everything else.
Max: I think part of the conflation in the minds of people that are just observers and not part of the culture is, it's the same co-opting of a music culture such as jazz or the blues or what have you. And that's why I think, like I said, even I get lazy about my interpretation and conflation of rap and hip-hop. So breaking it out as a culture is really interesting.
But trying to understand the intersection between, this was something thats origins are in the Black and Brown people of this country specifically, but not all Black and Brown people are part of hip-hop culture.
Manny: That's right.
Max: That doesn't necessarily have to be that either, right? Am I thinking about that correctly?
Manny: Yes. I think now because it's evolved—So we're talking about 50 years now. Hip-hop's been around for 50 years in some form or fashion again, from this this origin point; there were some hip-hop elements that were coalescing before, some that didn't come 'til later.
You didn't have commercial rap. I mean, "Rapper's Delight" was 1979. So you have this wide gap of time before. It really has this arc of coming together.
Max: Is that considered the first pop hit? It's first crossover hit.
Manny: Yes, well, it maybe—I don't know if it's the first recorded like actually like rap album. There's been rap in music. If you go back to The Fatback Band, they had a song called "King Tim III." There's Pigfoot, I can't remember the name, you guys can Google it. But there's been other rap-ish kind of raps.
Max: Expressions of rap.
Manny: Sure. But as a record, that's just rap. And certainly the one that obviously—
Max: Like Gil Heron?
Manny: —took off. Yeah, Gil Scott-Heron, that's more like spoken word. Last Poets were spoken word. But so, 1979 "Rapper's Delight" was the next sort of genesis, the next launching point.
But I say all that to say, to me, there's this sort of Venn diagram. Black culture, actual Black culture, right, which is a separate thing, and hip-hop culture.
And most of it is kind of intertwined. We get hip-hop culture from Black culture. All the sayings that you hear, it comes from there [and] kind of either evolves into the music and it's amplified.
So every saying you get, you know, 'It's all good,' 'Yes, queen,' all that stuff; whatever you might hear that's a Black expression, usually gets amplified through the music or the musicians.
Like I say, now we've got reality TV stars who are rappers, but you get Cardi B from Love & Hip Hop, you know, and then you get Cardi B's music. But it's still hip-hop culture, but it's still Black culture. It's still Hispanic culture.
So there's this mixture of all things. But on the other part of that hip-hop side of the Venn diagram are people who are not Black, who are not Hispanic, who are not of the communities from whence hip-hop came traditionally.
And they are participants—sometimes—monetarily, business people, their execs that kind of run the music business—but they're not the real people in that diagram. The real people are people like me, people that, come from different demographics, different backgrounds, and they authentically connect with the artistic, linguistic, stylistic, all the things that make that culture a culture. And they connect authentically.
Now, if you pick me up as a baby in America, I'm born here and my family lives in Japan. We live in Tokyo for whatever reason. And as a baby, I grew up in Japan and for 20 years, I'm in Japan. As a 21-year-old, I'm in Japanese culture. I'm immersed. I don't know anything else. This is my life. This is what I'm connected to. I'm not Japanese by heritage, by blood. But I'm pretty Japanese culturally.
Manny: Now, I could abuse that. I could, you know, misappropriate that. See, cultural appropriate, we use that term cultural appropriation, but I always think it should be cultural misappropriation, right?
We all appropriate culture, everyone does.
Max: Cultural assimilation.
Manny: Sure. So, but so, in the same way, if you're culturally aligned, immersed, as I would be in Japan, if you're immersed in hip-hop culture, if you're really authentically connected to that, then you're a part of this culture, regardless of your skin tone, background, ethnicity. Proof of this is that it's worldwide. There's hip-hop everywhere.
So how can we discount cultural citizens, participants, that live in France and Germany and Peru and Australia? There's literally, I looked at it, there's a whole list of all the countries in the world, and there's one I never heard of, and I didn't even know this is a country. I couldn't even tell you right now. It starts with a V. That's all I remember. And it's like somewhere in the South Philippines, all the island nations.
Max: There's a lot of countries. It's like asking, 'Can you name every Congress person?' No idea.
Manny: So I find when I never heard of it, I Google 'Hip-hop in, you know, Vernautishnu,' [laughing] and I get a video.
Max: Be careful what you say about the Vernautishnu.
Manny: I'm sorry, all love to the Vernautishnu squad. I don't want no beef. And Google pulls up some guy breaking out in Vernautishnu, like in the street. So by definition, it's a culture, and by definition of expansion and by electricity—I'm gonna say by electricity because it's connected—by electricity, you can be part of that culture, no matter who you are, where you're from.
And I don't know that there's anything else that really welcomes everybody in the world, depending irregardless—regardless of, I know you hate that—regardless of your nationality, your background, your skin color, your language, your religion, your ideology, your thought process, whether you're disabled or not; there's a whole movement of, you know, of disabled folk doing hip-hop that's absolutely in its essence. Doesn't always work this way in reality, but on paper, nothing more inclusive.
Max: Okay. So beyond just a—
Manny: Now I'm preaching.
Max: Beyond just a clever title, beyond the fact that you're tapped into something that is pretty universally understood, I think now way more appreciated than it used to be, and people now having an idea that this isn't just music, it's an expression of culture. And now there's a heritage attached to it because it's been 50 years.
Max: So you are tapping into something, but you make a pretty bold statement just in the title of the show that it can also save America.
So as we are—this is a great intersection for us because we are Unf*cking The Republic.
Manny: Unf*cking hip-hop was not available.
Max: No? All right, so maybe I registered everything under the sun.
Manny: I wonder how that happened.
Max: But, you know, to the extent that you have your thesis statement within the title of the show—
Manny: Right, right.
Max: —what was the genesis for that? What was the idea behind doing that particularly? Because you could have just done a hip-hop critique show, you could have done a historical show. And I've seen you lecture on a pretty vast array of topics, but you specifically wanted to lean into the sociopolitical aspect of hip-hop and how it can, I guess, influence events.
Can you expand, for Unf*cking The Republic audience, can you expand on the general thesis of the show?
Manny: Yes. So it is a lofty idea, right? And I often say we may need more than just hip-hop, certainly. It's not like this is the panacea.
Max: The panacea indeed.
Manny: Pangea... Anyway. A quick step back, when, as an independent journalist covering hip-hop in the New York area for many years, I ran a Birthplace Magazine. I was kind of this self—not kind of—I was this self employed savior of music, hip-hop music culture, music and culture in New York City.
And the traditional outlets, the mainstream hip-hop outlets had gone to other parts of the country that were exploding at the time, Houston, Atlanta, et cetera. And New York hip-hop—New York being this Mecca, as it's known, of hip-hop—wasn't getting the attention it deserved.
Yet there were still great things happening in New York, just like there is anywhere. There's a great indie scene in every city in the world. But New York has some pretty formidable, exciting talent. Things were happening.
So I was covering it for a while. But I started realizing—
Max: I saw you talking to the great Silent Night about [not sleeping] on Long Island, too.
Manny: That's right. 100% right.
Max: That's pretty cool.
Manny: Your little subsections. He's from New Brunswick, New Jersey. New Brunswick has a has a historic music scene. Like they're known as a college town, Rutgers is there. My mother's hometown is New Brunswick. They have a music scene there and they have a hip-hop scene there. And it doesn't get a lot of credit. But if you, as he said, if you're traveling from Philly to New York, you're probably going to have a stop in New Brunswick. So in the '90s, all the artists were rolling through New Brunswick.
Manny: And performing at Rutgers. And these regions get unsung sometimes. But what I was running into were folks that were artists. They were performing. They were going to Freestyle Mondays, shouts to them. They just celebrated a 22 year anniversary of what once was a weekly, then a monthly, now a yearly showcase. But a fantastic, long standing historic showcase series in New York that was built on freestyle rap battles. And people who are in that show are brilliant, you have to actually freestyle on stage in a battle.
So there's a there's a live band, they spin a wheel and it'd be a topic. Food group, like, 'Okay, you're a shark. You're a plankton. Go.'
Max: That amazes me.
Manny: And then off the top of the head, you'd be like, you know, 'You're a shark. Yeah, everyone's scared of you. But I'm a plankton. I feed all the ocean creatures. You're just a feature.'
Max: With that stuff, I mean, I'm always amazed.
Manny: Like I can do it, but these I've said this without without equivocation: some of the most brilliant people I've ever met are freestyle rappers that have been on stage at Freestyle Mondays. I just saw some of them yesterday.
Max: It's an art man. It's a different level.
Manny: It uses a different part of your brain, it's a whole thing. We could have a whole talk in that.
What I find is that some people at that show, because they're really smart, happen to be teachers.
Max: Oh, wow. Yeah.
Manny: Or they're working in a juvenile detention center and they go in and on the weekends, they have workshops, poetry or rap writing with young people who are kind of locked up for whatever reasons, and having these workshops, self-esteem, self-confidence, storytelling, expression, verbalization, all these side benefits that you get from rapping, which people don't give a lot of credit to. Less anxiety. All these things are improved by being—I always say like, every failed wanna be rapper is a better public speaker, can lead meetings that work better because they've been in front of people. They've lost that that fear that all of us have, you know, being in front of people.
Anyway, so I find people that are doing those things and I'm learning those things that I just talked about by watching them or talking to them. And I'm like, 'Oh.' Then I come across programs like Fresh Prep, which is a test prep. In New York we have the Regents exams and every year the kids have to take the Regents exams, and you have these troubled kids and these underfunded school districts that [are] under resourced and under loved. And they're having trouble passing these tests.
So they start it, this is a New York City program. It's defunct now, but at the time they brought in an artist—teaching artist—rapper to construct songs about the material. And because we learn by memorizing and we learn songs, we memorize songs better than we memorize paragraphs, these kids that had previously failed sometimes multiple times. 88% of them ended up passing.
Max: [Sarcastically] I mean, I'm thrilled the program's defunct.
Manny: Yeah, it's a longer story, but there are other programs like it. Science Genius exists and does the same thing through science classes and they actually battle. So not only do you have to really be into this, you have to—you can't just do a song about science and, 'You know, I made a rap about science' and then, okay, here, turn it in here.
You have to get on stage and perform it, which means you better know it, which means you better have a command of the content, which means you really know your science. In eighth grade, ninth grade, come on. We were like, 'Uh, mitochondria. I don't know.'
But they're putting it into it. And I could talk forever, but I'll just give you one quick anecdote. And then so and you said, how do I think that it can save America, it's all leading up to it.
In the Science Genius program—shouts to Dr. Christopher Emdin, who's a brilliant educator he's been a face of this hip-hop-ed movement, if you go. on Twitter #HipHopEd, they always have a weekly chat on Twitter/X and there's teachers all across the country that kind of subscribe, ascribe to this idea hip-hop education. Science Genius says, 'Okay, you gotta battle, you do all these things, you get on stage and then your class battles the other science class in the school and then the school battles the other school down the block.
So imagine at the end, it's an auditorium filled with students, teachers, friends, all cheering on kids on stage rapping about science. I mean, like, 'Yeah!!'
Max: It's incredible.
Manny: It's incredible. Now, here's the greatest thing. I said, ;What was the one that stands out to you,' and they tell me a story. They said this young lady, her rap was about biology, human biology and what happens when you're poisoned.
Okay. So in rap form, she describes how you first, you know, you have this feeling and you're unwell and then, you start having these symptoms and different things happen. And then what's happening to your organs, as each organ starts to fail and it's connected to the other organ and then your heart.
So she goes through this great whole thing about what happens to the human body. So it's brilliant on its own. And then they come to find out, they said, 'What is this all about?' Or somewhere in the song, she's using it as a metaphor for having broken up with her boyfriend and how it makes her feel.
Max: That's incredible.
Manny: So I'm like, 'What?!' I'm like, 'Okay!' So not only does she obviously have a greater understanding of the subject matter, this whole point of this was to do better in science class, but she was able to get something off her chest, out of her chest—you know what I mean? I'm trying to be metaphoric too—that she may never otherwise had had the opportunity to do so.
So then I start meeting mental health professionals that are saying, 'Oh, we use hip-hop all the time. I built a studio in a room half this size in the Bronx; in this high school, they gave me a little grant money, and now kids come and they work out their trauma because they live in the middle of the Bronx where the people are fresh, but where there's a lot of stuff going on. And they're able to come in and make songs and put their feelings out. And I'm a trained therapist, so I'm able to work with them, work out their drama. They love coming to the studio. Everyone loves coming to the studio and everyone likes to rap or pretend they can rap. So we turned that into something and that's a heralded program.'
So I'm meeting all these people doing this right here in New York. Then I realized this is happening everywhere. So I had to sunset my New York focus and start the Center for Hip-Hop Advocacy, which is an organization I wanted to build to house some of this information. So as a journalist, I was writing stuff, the next obvious thing to do was a podcast, and call it this because, well, what does America need?
I mean, if you look at it from a progressive angle like we always do, well, we need equality and equity and better education and more opportunity for poor people and for people who haven't had resources.
So I'm saying if your school is underfunded and I could bring in educational programs, I will take your underfunded, under-resourced and under-loved students and propel them because all of this stuff has the receipts. You can see it. You can see their better grades, 86% passed. You're seeing their advancement. Their engagement is up. Their grades are up. And that's just in this one test pilot title one school that they got a grant to do.
Well, number one, that can help every kid because whether you like it or not, your kid likes hip-hop, America. Whether you like it or not. That's the thing. They're like, 'I don't want hip-hop in the schools.' Hip-hop's in the schools! It's in your students. It's already there.
Manny: But by ignoring it or pretending that it's—or not pretending, sometimes you do pretend, but sometimes you're not aware of all of its positive attributes. You're doing a disservice at best and at worst, as Chris Emdin will say, you're harming your children. You're committing violence against your children. If you say you love them and you're not exploring these avenues that takes their culture into consideration.
Max: You're denying their culture. You're denying a huge part of who they are.
Manny: Right. Which again, that's harmful. And when I have mental health professionals that are saying, 'Oh, I've saved, I've probably—'they won't say it because there's no way to measure this necessarily, but they're like, 'You know, kids have come up to me or, you know, my patients have come up to me and say, you know, you changed my life. You've saved my life.' There's a saying that goes amongst the hip-hop community: hip-hop saved my life.
And it's a thing that organically you'll hear from different people. It's not like a slogan.
Manny: So, okay. And I could give you 400 more examples. So if that's the case and all these things lead to more opportunities, people who teach financial literacy to kids through hip-hop, something you're not getting in your school, and you talk about politics. So Dr. Bettina Love has a program called Hip-Hop Civics Ed, because we're not getting civics taught in school anymore. You're certainly not getting it in Black and Brown or poor communities. So here's a program that if you wanted to, you could purchase the curriculum, start up your own workshops, invite kids from your locale and teach them civics through hip-hop through this program that she developed.
Max: I remember you and I went to a seminar in the city, you introduced me to friends of yours in Rebel Diaz.
Manny: Yes, right.
Max: And they gave a seminar, it was a civics seminar through the lens of hip-hop. [It] explored redlining, redistricting, funding political structures within an urban environment, all through the lens of hip-hop and how the culture developed through that time.
Manny: They can teach you all of that and it can give you—
Max: It was so eye opening and it was so well done and so well constructed. So let me ask you this, when you're when you're asked to—so you you go all around the country, you speak at colleges and you speak at seminars and events and stuff like that. When you're speaking in a university setting, let's say, what's the what's the thing that you know, having done this and been pretty practiced at it, where do you know you're going to get them, and finally hook them when you're in front of them. What resonates with with your university audience between where the faculty looks at you and the kids look at you and they're like, 'Oh, oh, wow.' What's the hook?
Manny: It depends on the situation. Sometimes we're in an academic conference. If it's a hip-hop conference, a lot of preaching to the choir goes on at these things, unless you're like debuting research and you've actually done like a real research survey, which there's more and more of that happening, which is great. The literature now has a lot more actual hip-hop scholarship and research. But a lot of it is also, I'm investigating something. They're not always so opinionated.
So in a hip-hop surrounding, I try not to rehash what everyone kind of already knows. So the for that audience and part of the work that I do is that the things I'm saying to you and to the Unf*ckers today might be eye opening. 'I never thought about hip-hop in all these different way. I've never, never heard of this. I've never heard of this.'
So part of the work is obviously getting this out to the general public because we're not in positions of green lighting. If we're in a school setting, we can't sign off–someone's there signing off on this project that could help kids, but if they have a negative perception of hip-hop, then they're not going to be the ones—so we're not there. So, okay.
The problem is that a lot of people that consider themselves hip-hop don't know these things either. So if I'm in an academic setting and we're talking about—a lot of them are historic, especially this year, everything's been history, history, history, history, history. The history of hip-hop.
And as we talked about the heritage and these discussions about who started what, where, when, and how, and there was a seminal book, Jeff Chang's Can't Stop Won't Stop, which is a great book, great primer and has been the book. But there are others who say, 'Well, now we're now we have podcasts, now we can get the—and the elders and pioneers are still alive—so we can get a lot of them to tell their stories that maybe when Jeff wrote the book (and Jeff's great), you know, didn't have access to.'
So there's a lot of that this year. So where they're doing history, I'm doing future. When you're talking about hip-hop 50, I want to talk about hip-hop 51. I want to say what's happening. What are we doing collectively, or what do we need to do as a society, as a hip-hop community to move forward? Because we could talk about this, and we could have these arguments about today's music versus yesterday's music. It's ad nauseam. It's ridiculous. You're 40 years old and the best you can do when you talk about hip-hop is 'I don't like Ice Spice.'
But my thing is, what do you do for a living? 'Oh, I'm a, you know, whatever.' How can you incorporate hip-hop into your work environment?
Manny: 'What do you mean?' What do I mean what do I mean? Are you, first of all, if you're an educator and you're not doing this, then do you really love this culture? But you don't know, they don't know either.
So when I put some of these things that I just talked about today, these intersections that they know are happening, but they don't always know are happening. I think academic circles generally are not surprised by it, but you also have to tell them, 'You know, a lot of the knowledge comes from folks from the culture that went through the educational process, but a lot of it lives outside of the walls of academia.'
I'm no less intelligent about hip-hop or versed in it than any of those PhDs. I don't have a degree. A person who's been involved in the culture, who has been a performer, a mentor, but never in an academic setting is just as vital to preserving, protecting and promoting the culture. And that's the thing that I want to get across.
We have to analyze historical records. Now there's archives, there's museums. Great. We have to protect and move forward. And a lot of that has to do with how we spend our time in these institutions. So I think for the academics, it's always like, yes, study, go back, dig up, archive and all that. But also, are we bringing students up to understand that there's more you can do? It's forward thinking with the culture.
Manny: So shouts to Dr. Lauren Kelly at Rutgers. She does a yearly—I', part of this program, she got a big grant for it, I'm a mentor. It's called The Hip-Hop Youth Research and Activism Conference. Happens every year. It's first and second year college students that run the conference. We just sit back and kind of mentor and guide, and then we come and do a couple of things. They call in for proposals by college students and they put together the panels and the discussions and the performances and they do it all. With the idea that research and activism, not just historic archiving, you know, recorded history, research and activism for the future, for the betterment of A. society as a whole—because I make this argument that hip-hop can save rural white America too, because again, these are tried and true practices that work across the board. But most importantly, to help rectify the disparity in the communities from whence hip-hop came. I don't know if I answered the question, but I hope I shared some insight.
Max: Yeah! But it's evolving. It's new.
Manny: Yeah, 50 years is not a long time.
Max: It's something being designed. So there is no specific answer to it other than, you know, seeing what resonates the most with people and where you're going to get these touch points.
Manny: And then when it's people who don't know anything about hip-hop—
Manny: —then my guess, well it's from what people told me, that their minds get blown. But I do a hip-hop and technology talk and I've done it in front of technology companies and or conferences where, you know, that that industry is not very filled with a lot of hip-hop heads. Let's just say, right.
And I do this whole presentation about the intersection throughout history of hip-hop and technology and all the advancements that have come not just in music, but in digital media, in in streaming, in all that stuff. How it evolved from mixtapes to now these sites and to SoundCloud and to now streaming services. I connect all those dots to hip-hop.
Guerrilla marketing in this new digital landscape. I do a whole thing about how hip-hop's always been the remix, right? The remix culture. We take something that's made for one thing and they either don't give us access to it—and I'm using the royal us, but certainly, folks from these communities—you don't get the access, Yyou don't get the resources. I mean, hip-hop was built off of these things. You don't have any of the resource. You don't have music programs in your school, so we don't have instruments. So we have record players.
Manny: And we find the break in the middle of the record where there's no singing so that we could sing over it. And we create impromptu instrumentals because we don't have access. So they're like, 'Oh, yeah, you're sampling and you're stealing other music.' Yeah, right! Necessity is the mother of invention, right? So hip-hop does this all over the place.
And that intersection happens all through with technology. It's a brilliant, it's like an hour and a half keynote. And at the end, the revelation there is, now, let's go back to why aren't there hip-hop heads in this industry? Why aren't you hiring them?
Manny: These are geniuses that have upended every industry. Turn on your TV! I was watching—I forget what commercial it was—oh, Angie's List. Today in the hotel about to come here. 'Angie, you can do this when you Angie that. You can do this when you Angie that.' And it's like the people are hanging out while the Angie workers are working on their house. It's advertising. If you turn on TV and don't hear rap influencing advertisements—it's upended that industry. It's upended fashion. The music industry is on its head.
Max: And how many of those tech geeks have been sitting there coding with their headphones on, listening to hip-hop all these years?
Manny: 100%. But when you make the connection, when you say 'What do they resonate with the most?' When I've done that talk, I've had people say 'We need more talks like this. You've got to listen to this.' And I hope that then they go back and say, 'Well, you know, we need to expand our talent pool.'
And, the other problem is that there aren't a lot of people, [who] again, don't have access to become programmers. So they're geniuses, but they're not coding. So hip-hop helps with that. Shouts to Summer again, the consulting producer for this show, who has an organization Called Hip-Hop Hacks, which arranged hackathons.
So when you say you learned all this political/socioeconomic/historical stuff from Rebel Diaz, we could teach you anything through hip-hop. And we teach computer programming through hip-hop. Another organization called Breakbeat Code that I've seen in four hours in one afternoon, a 14 year old kid who never even thought about computer programming as a thing, didn't even know it existed. It was like they're geeky and nerdy and they like computers, and someone says, 'We're going to teach you programming through hip-hop.' And they're like, 'I like hip-hop. I like computers. Sure. Let's go.'
And in four hours, this kid is using Python, which is a programming language. It's a whole workshop bunch of kids. Again, no experience. And they're building beats. Loops. And they're pulling beats, these loops from a repository. And they're stacking them and, you know, go for four bars, go for eight bars, bring in the guitars, bring in the bass line. But it's not drag and drop, they have to do it by programming.
Max: That's awesome.
Manny: And in four hours, these kids have built beats.
Max: Because they want that answer.
Max: They want to figure that out.
Manny: They want to figure that out.
Manny: And they're all like, 'When are we doing this again?' So through hip-hop, we can use programs like that to give the kids the skills and the interest. And through hip-hop, I can inspire the tech companies and the executives and the people that are hiring to look for them and make that connection.
So when you say there's disparities—racial, economic—in the country, where people don't have access to x, we can do that through hip-hop. If we don't have education standards that are up to the level of the world, we can do that through hip-hop. If you want, and we won't talk about it because I don't know if you've heard there's a conflict going on in the world, but those folks at Next Level that I talked about earlier on that work with the U.S. State Department and they go overseas as cultural ambassadors, they purposefully go to conflict regions. And they're not going there like, spreading democracy all across the world, you know, like butter. (Your Bush is better than mine. Pause [laughing].)
Manny: But they're actually in that working together, that collaborative, 'You teach us about your the way you do hip-hop. We're coming from America, this is where you do hip-hop. Tell us.'
And there's a whole bunch of tenets in their in their work that teach you how to resolve conflict. So we maybe can save the world. And people say, 'Hip-hop can save the world?!' I know, that's the next podcast. Will you give me a break? Can you support this one first. And if you support this one at my Patreon, Patreon.com/MannyFaces, maybe we'll get somewhere and do the other one. But yes, I actually think it can save the world.
I've got to compete with Buy Me A Coffee. But listen, when it comes to—and again, I'm now I'm preaching, but if if you give me a societal ill, I'm looking to be able to connect the dot directly to how hip-hop can help alleviate, and in some cases eliminate that societal ill.
Max: It would be unbelievable to resolve conflicts through rap battles. That would be amazing.
Manny: It's one way to do it. That's what hip-hop started as, if you go to the origin story, the gangs and the violence and the things—and then it's Afrika Bambaataa who is problematic, but also has this historical relevancy—they brought together opposing crews. And this is how they started handling their beefs.
Max: Let me move to politics because you and I, in Show Notes, crossed over and and touched on something that is relevant to this upcoming election. And this will not be artfully crafted, because I want to be careful with my language. So bear with me trying to get through this question.
One of the first areas that I was concerned about and am now more concerned about with RFK Jr. for example, coming as an independent, is that the the Kennedy name and specifically Robert Kennedy's name still has a lot of resonance within the older Black community.
That name is very, very vital because they were a seminal force during the civil rights movement. And I think there is an understanding, that way more than JFK, RFK was the one that actually wanted to move things forward and progress. But he's also been able to tap into—we we had a lot of back and forth about Chappelle's specials, right?
Right before the controversial specials on transgenderism, he had the special that came out when Trump won the election. The 'We've been on that special.'
Max: And when he talks about a lot of the things that I think white Americans were waking up to, he had his comedic refrain through it, it's like 'We've been on that.'
Max: Like, 'You're just now seeing this? We've been on that.' So some of the more, I'll call them conspiratorial elements, because that's how I think a lot of white Americans are phrasing the things that are important to to RFK's movement specifically.
Max: Vaccine hesitancy. 'We've been on that.' So in Black culture, there's been a tremendous amount of literature about hesitancy because Black people in this country have been experimented on. I mean, we talked about the birth of gynecology. I mean, it came specifically through through trials on enslaved people.
Manny: Tuskegee and all the other things.
Max: Yeah. The Tuskegee Trials and also even just the different outcomes within hospital systems when a Black person is admitted for something versus a white person. There's vastly different outcomes. We had a great guest in a prior life on a different show that talked about the concept of weathering—it was it wasn't me. It was it was your show...it was on News Beat.
Max: They talked about the concept of weathering.
Manny: Weathering, yeah.
Max: And I think it was a sociological concept that was developed in the 1970s. It said that Black people in America specifically, different than Black people anywhere else in the world, had higher levels of anxiety and stress that led to hypertension, led to diabetes, earlier onset of diabetes, incidents of heart attacks and all those kind of things, because of the pressure of being Black in our society versus being Black somewhere else in the world. So the idea that there would be vaccine hesitancy which is just a reflection of the mistrust that's in the healthcare system is something very real, and that's why I hesitate when I say conspiratorial, because it's conspiratorial in the generalized white culture, but it's not conspiratorial because the Black culture has evidence to back up that the outcomes are different within the medical system and the healthcare system.
Manny: Very fair.
Max: Mistrust and distrust of law enforcement.
Manny: I was just about to say like it's so funny, now you want to defund the FBI? We been on that. We've been saying the FBI is corrupt, which obviously is a blanket statement and all that, but Black people are like...
Max: So that was the purview of Black and progressive circles, that there would always be overreach whenever there was a consolidation of power, and, I mean the racist roots in particular of the FBI, as it relates to the indigenous population, as an example.
Max: But then turned, I mean, early, early on to attack the Black community. The ATF, again, there's another seminal News Beat episode interviewing Johann Hari, talking about—
Manny: Oh, the war on drugs.
Max: The war on drugs, right? Starting with a slight from Billie Holiday.
Max: Like, you know what I mean? I mean, this stuff has deep, deep roots. That is conspiratorial in white culture, it is very real within Black culture. So the long and artful introduction to this question is, you and I have spoken off mic about, what is happening in the Black community as seen through the auspices of rap artists specifically, who have expressed this through art and through music. All of the things that we just talked about are known within the Black community bec ause they've been able to amplify it through music and through song and through dialogue, right?
So vaccines might kill you. Doctors are gonna treat you poorly. If you're not wealthy, don't trust the law. This is how you have to act in front of law enforcement. That has spread throughout a culture through the auspices of rap music and hip-hop. And now I think we're just beginning—we, you know, I'm taking white culture, as the royal we here—are just beginning to understand that there are prominent members of the rap community that are, not just newly coming into this type of talk, but here's my question.
There's an intersection now with the far right that has accepted hip-hop culture to a degree.
Max: And those, what they consider, not conspiratorial elements, they have a fundamental mistrust of the government. It's a very libertarian mindset that plays out all throughout rural America, and hip-hop is 50 years old and they don't have the same disdain for rap music and hip-hop. As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon to see images of people riding around in pickup trucks listening to fucking hip-hop, right?
Manny: There's a whole sub genre of "Hick Hop."
Manny: Right, so yeah, sure.
Max: So now we have this mess, right? Where it was so much easier to identify white people, Black people, I'm a Democrat, you're a Republican now. I think it's healthy to a degree because in a way it's parliamentary, right? But in another way, it's really kind of confused all the angles and the lenses and the prognostications you can make. So now you've got Dr. Cornel West, and one of the most progressive, and considered one of the brightest lights in the intellectual progressive movement, running as an independent.
You've got RFK with that name and all of this other stuff that does appeal not just to this white contingent of libertarian right-wingers, but he's saying a lot of stuff that resonates with the Black community that they've been saying through the auspices of rap music for a long time, and he's a fucking Kennedy.
Max: So, you know, when people are saying, 'Oh, he's gonna steal more from Trump,' I'm like, I don't know, man, because you've got Dr. West out there, you've got a lot of people like me that are like, 'Fuck yeah, let's go,' right? I've gone into that enough. I don't have to talk about that, sweep state and all that kind of stuff.
Manny: And he's not stealing your vote from Trump.
Max: He's not, and I'm voting for Cornel West because Biden's gonna carry, if he lives, New York. So the long question is, inside right now, how are people talking about politics through hip-hop?
Because one thing about you that I love among thousands of things, one thing that I love is that—
Manny: Only thousands?
Max: I have a limited amount of time.
Manny: There's a few millions, no? Okay, go ahead. I mean, if we just talk about kids, it's thousands [laughing].
Max: [Laughing] I do love all your kids, and that's about a thousand.
One thing I love that you're always careful to express is, there's a lot of great hip-hop happening today. I get it with the past, but look at this underground artist. I mean, you've unearthed so many independent on-the-ground hip-hop artists that are breaking new ground every single day. What are they saying? So your ear is to the ground. What's happening out there?
Max: Is that even a fucking question?
Manny: I mean—
Max: It's a thesis with that.
Manny: What's happening out there?
Max: What's going on? What are you hearing?
Manny: It's like saying all these things and saying, 'What do you think?' And I'm like, 'Ah, is there a question?'
It's a very interesting thing happening, and part of it, and honestly, as you know, I've given you and the work we do here a lot of credit, because it helps me see these things in a different light where I might have not noticed a pattern before.
So when you say the people on the right like hip-hop, they might, to a degree, right? As Black folk like to say is like, 'You love the culture, but you don't love the people.'
Max: Oh, without a doubt. Yeah.
Max: So the same as they would have listened to jazz, or they would have listened to blues, right?
Manny: 100%, right.
Max: They don't have to like who's playing it, but they would invite them to come play for them.
Manny: Right, but not to dinner.
Manny: Yeah. So there's a lot of that.
The way I came into this, to look at this intersection—and okay, so certainly, there are two things in your question. The one is, all the great hip-hop that's being done now, and all this stuff, and maybe I'll come back to it, but I do wanna say that there are; hip-hop gets this new reputation of not having its old reputation, of, it was once this counterculture, this go against the man, go against the system. Again, we just talked about earlier, how hip-hop [was] created was totally come in the back door, and do things differently, do it our own way, you can't stop us, we can do it anyway, and that's at the DNA of hip-hop.
Max: It's like when I was lamenting, 'Where's the soundtrack to the revolution when we were doing Occupy together,' and you're like, 'It's hip-hop.' And I'm like, 'Oh yeah.'
Manny: Yeah, exactly. And look, you're not the only one. Questlove, who is much admired, and we love Questlove, I have to preface this, I have no problem with him, I will call people out in the culture. Questlove, right after Ferguson, right after Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, it was some time after that, I think it was later that year, four or five months, and he put out an Instagram post, basically saying what you said, 'We need more protest music, we need more emphatic anthems, because it doesn't have to be fight the power, but I need to see our artists doing things. I know when the Dixie Chicks did it, they were blacklisted,' so he's bringing up all these things, and he goes, 'I'm talking to all musicians, but specifically to my hip-hop—'
Max: t's an unbelievably mainstream take.
Manny: Yeah, well, that's the thing. So here's my point, this is very interesting you say that. So then he says, 'But I'm speaking specifically to my hip-hop artists, like that's us, that's our lane, why aren't we doing that? We need new Public Enemies, we need new da da da da.'
So I said, oh, that's interesting, to your point, that I know of a bunch of people that are doing a bunch of things. So I responded, I use it in a couple of my talks, and I say, 'Well, here's the problem, Quest, from the point that Michael Brown got killed, to the point that you released that Instagram post, here are eight songs released by mainstream artists. I'm talking about Diddy, The Game, De La Soul featuring Chuck D, from the old Public Enemy. They put out songs about Michael Brown, and what you just did is give them no love.'
Max: [That] they're not good enough, yeah.
Manny: That you don't even know. Now what happens is a million people who follow Questlove are like, 'Yeah, man, that's right, yo, hip-hop used to be about that, yo, yo, hip-hop doesn't do that anymore, man, that's why I don't even listen to new hip-hop.'
And I just gave you eight. And those were known artists, and I did that purposely, because I could give you a thousand that are not known. Rebel Diaz was still making music about Ferguson, and Tef Poe, from St. Louis, was doing protest music before, during, and after, and he's right there. He then went on to get a fellowship, the Nasir Jones—named after Nas the artist—the Nasir Jones Fellowship at the African American Research Center at Harvard University. He went out to become a fellow there, and Questlove—
Max: I've heard of it.
Manny: And, well, I mean, I've spoken there once or twice, but you're discounting all of that—
Max: Do you all just catch the humble brag?
Manny: —by saying it doesn't, we don't do that anymore. So, I do wanna say that, obviously, there are artists, some of them mainstream, but my personal take is, if you jump on the protest bandwagon and put out a song protesting somebody. No, I don't care, you weren't doing that before, that's not your lane. Stay in your lane, you know what I mean? I don't need Jay-Z to make a song about something that's happening. I do need him to continue funding Kalief Browder documentaries and bailing people out of jail, and doing some of the criminal justice reform stuff that he may or may not be doing, longer story, but I don't need to make a song that's not impactful. What's impactful—go ahead.
Max: So, what's happening today, though?
Manny: Okay, right. I wanted to give credit and say that all that stuff is ongoing, and there's still these things happening. So, when I talk about the hip-hop civic ed program, these things are still in existence. There are small grassroots organizations in every place, probably in every city, that are hip-hop oriented. So, you remember, it's not just music, it's a culture, right?
And so, if we have a young, kind of with it organization that's on the ground—there's a huge one called the Hip-Hop Caucus, which is going around, and their main focus is environment, climate change, and they're very focused on merging those two worlds. They speak at panels, they speak at entertainment panels, they bring artists who are into the cause, into the movement, they get funding, they send out newsletters, they ask you to sign this pledge, write your congressman, right?
So, this is happening all over the place. I actually shared the stage in front of the Capitol Building with Representative Sydney Kamlager-Dove, she's from California, she put in a United States House resolution declaring the 50th year of hip-hop. So, it was like a celebratory kind of resolution. But at that press event was the Hip-Hop Caucus, and they were there, and they're doing these things in DC. So, these organizations exist, they're trying to get the political message out, they're trying to get people involved, to be involved politically, civically.
But, what we're fighting is the same thing that progressivism is fighting. You have social media, misinformation, disinformation. You have these conspiratorial elements. Kyrie Irving was pushing the same vaccination stuff, and Black folk were, 'Yes, yes, Kyrie's right,' and I'm like, 'I mean, I see where you're coming from. Traditionally, these are things that you have to worry about.' I don't think, in this case, he's right.
I think because that, then we see greater damage in the Black communities from people not getting vaccines, and during COVID, that was tragic. We did stories about that at News Beat, and how worse off Black communities were. because they come in with all these preexisting, weathering PTSD-caused conditions. So we're battling that. And I think the answer, the way to save, or to educate, or to inform or to involve, or to inspire, is the grassroots small organizations.
Max: But let me ask this even tighter, because, there's two ways that the Black electorate in the United States impacts the outcome of elections, and they do.
Manny: Yeah, absolutely.
Max: As a bloc—
Manny: Black women especially.
Max: And you could say that, you don't wanna treat the Black vote as a monolith. I get it, except that by the numbers, it's as monolithic as it gets, right? So, I mean, we're talking about upwards of 90% figures within the Black community, voting Democrat. But, how many is typically how the vote is really exercised.
Max: Turnout is everything.
Max: I guess my fear right now is, I don't know that the Biden administration has done enough to connect and any—man, I just said I'd ask this in a better, tighter way.
Manny: No, I'm agreeing with you in advance, cause I know where you're going with it and I agree.
Max: Anybody that wants to understand—you know, I'm a fan of Briahna Joy Gray, right?
Manny: Yeah, sure.
Max: Watch her debate with Krystal and Kyle. It is so illuminating because there's so many parts of what Briahna is saying that they can't hear. When I say that they can't hear it, it's like she's saying words and they're like, 'But that's just wrong.' Much like the vaccination argument where people are like, 'No, it doesn't. The medical community doesn't hurt you, it helps you.'
Max: They can't hear it because of a place that I don't come from, but I can appreciate if I listen carefully and I've listened the way that you've taught me to listen to certain things. Like if you pick up these things and you can pick up on the language of it, she was expressing something that they simply couldn't hear. And it's the same expression that I feel that the Biden administration can't hear either, right?
Manny: And certainly can't relate. If you can't hear it or understand it, you don't know how to address it.
Max: Certainly not.
Manny: No, they're not doing anything.
Max: The Obama administration also couldn't hear it.
Max: Sorry. There is no administration—you would have to go back to Robert Kennedy to find somebody who heard it. LBJ knew the political advantages of it, but he couldn't hear it.
Manny: Okay, got it.
Max: So anyway, what I'm saying is like, I think it could be a combination of, listen, if it's 2% that peels off and goes for RFK Jr. because he's on the ballot, a Kennedy's on the ballot, and then if it's just X amount of people who stay home, I don't think that—you see, the Democrats are sitting back right now and they're licking their chops for the same reason that Krystal and Kyle sat there and couldn't hear Briahna's argument because they don't understand. There's a whole other thing happening out there. This isn't go up and have the barbecue late October to get all the Black vote lined up and then do nothing for the next four years, right?
Manny: And great thing was all the contestants that went on The Breakfast Club during the primaries, the Democratic primaries, and Charlamagne was really partial to Pete Buttigieg, and then he said, 'We love you,' and then he went to South Carolina, and got 0% of the vote. So it's like, no. And we're talking about hip-hop, but—
Max: That won't be the case for RFK.
Manny: No, no, I agree with you. In fact, as you know, this is kind of what triggers it because I don't know how much of it is purposeful, because we talk so much about the right seeding sentiment, and two weeks to turn a 19-year-old radical. Remember?
Manny: What was it, the PragerU episode? So I hear about that stuff and I learn all this stuff, this great stuff that we do. And then I see DJ Akademiks, he's a provocateur. He's, I don't know how to explain this guy, he's a media figure, but he loves to troll and to dabble in the negativity of hip-hop, right? And listen, I haven't said it, we haven't gone there, but of course there's all the things that you don't like about hip-hop in hip-hop. Of course. He feeds off of that and amplifies it and creates an audience for that. And there are thousands and thousands and thousands of people that watch his little online commentaries.
He was banned from Twitch, he was big on Twitch. Just talking, just talking about stories and talking about all the beefs and people who are using the music to attack other people, threaten them, the violence that comes out of that feeds off of it, which then perpetuates it. So when we talk about culture vultures, longer talk. But he was banned from Twitch and—
Max: You gotta be pretty fucked up to get banned.
Manny: You gotta be pretty fucked up to be banned from Twitch. And like more than once. And when he was, he was approached by Rumble.
Max: Sure, free speech platform.
Manny: Right, and Rumble said, Come onto our site. We'll give you a bag, we'll give you money, come onto the site. You can host here.' And he's like, 'Yeah, so cool.' Now, his audience isn't on Rumble. Like in other words, he's not gonna get more people—
Max: Not yet.
Manny: Right, right. He's not gonna get more people by being on Rumble. He's not gonna increase his numbers. In fact, they'll drop because not everyone's gonna come over to Rumble. But the ones that do are now in the Rumble ecosystem. Now your digital footprint is captured and I could target you with all the seemingly innocuous, PragerU type things to try to sway your opinion to a group of people that we couldn't previously touch: Black folk. Through hip-hop, through this dude—
Max: Should I go get a bag of money from Rumble Unf*ckers? And then just use that to fund us.
Manny: They could do it, go to Rumble. So now, I'm thinking, now anyone who goes to DJ Akademiks show on Rumble is now in the algorithm, and we can serve you, we can retarget you—I know about digital marketing, I know how you can retarget and hit them on other platforms and follow them around the web and start serving the all this stuff like, oh, I don't know, vaccines don't work, right?
Boost Kyrie Irving's post in the algorithm so that when—probably a right wing, I don't think they'd plan exactly that RFK would be the guy—but their right wing, Ron DeSantis runs and says, 'Hey, vaccines, am I right, Black folk'
Black folk have now been [targeted]. So I don't know how purposeful that was to bring him, but there's somebody at Rumble who's like, 'Ooh, we could get Black people's attention? We couldn't get that before.'
So then I see RFK appear as a guest on Math Hoffa's podcast called My Expert Opinion, which is a very widely watched podcast, and they normally interview rap personalities from the past, great conversations—shouts out to my boy Mecca, he's one of the co-hosts on the show, I know him, I don't know Math—but it's a good show, but RFK's on there, and I'm like, that's weird because—
Max: That was the one thing that was pretty widely publicized.
Manny: Yeah, absolutely. Now, I don't think Math Hoffa and him, I don't know, my guess is that they didn't reach out to RFK. My guess is that RFK reached out to them, and they, not being a politically oriented show, and I'm not saying their political IQ isn't up to where it needs to be, but if Robert Kennedy—
Max: That's not their lane, yeah.
Manny: Right, it's not their lane, but if Robert Kennedy says, 'Hey, I'd like to be on your show,' and they're like, 'Yeah, hell yeah, Robert Kennedy, bro, come through,' and the first 20 minutes was him growing up in the White House, or wherever he was when he was a kid, and this legacy, the Camelot extended.
So now you get this favorable opinion to this guy who then goes off and it doesn't matter what he says, because you're only gonna take sound clips anyway, no one's watching the whole interview anyway, but you got Robert Kennedy now on a hip-hop podcast, and so anyone who's vaguely aware of that thinks that, he's aligned.
Max: So in a different way, because you and I were talking about this during the Bernie campaign, about how Killer Mike had attached himself, and it didn't matter, it didn't resonate. Bernie really never pulled from the Black community in the way that you would hope a populist progressive message would pull from the Black community, right? But here now we have, not one, two. We've got RFK. Jr., and you've got Cornel West, who is as divisive in the Black community as pretty much just anybody else.
Manny: Well, everybody is. We could talk about Will and Jaida, and you'll have people, and you could decide that argument all day right now in the Black community. [Laughing] There's no consensus, that's why, there's no monolith, trust me, I know my friends, you know what I mean?
Max: Yeah. But when it comes to Dr. West, he went after Obama so hard that you see he even had that huge split with Ta-Nehisi Coates, which was so devastating for people in the progressive movement, because you're like, these are the two voices that we now wanna amplify going forward, this is great, this is Black scholarship, this is at the highest level, and then there was a fracture there. But there's a thousand other fractures that are, again, to us, we can't see them, we can't hear them, they're unseen.
But I have this sense now that it's not being built into the democratic calculus of what's about to happen over the next year, and that the Black vote may actually be more fractured than at any other time, save for Jesse Jackson being in the mix. Right? Had Jesse Jackson run as an independent, holy shit.
Manny: That's right.
Max: What percentage of the vote would that guy have gotten?
Max: Oh my goodness, right?
Manny: Because the numbers in the primary, right?
Manny: That's formidable.
Max: That was a horse race. I think it was, the electoral count in the primary was like 1,400 to 1,000. And they had to pull out all of the fucking stops to get him off the ballot. And they didn't go after him for vice president after that, they just snubbed him entirely just to kind of quash the entire movement. Black people have a long memory.
Manny: Oh yeah, I know that.
Max: They know what the fuck happened there in a way that we don't. Again, I keep saying the we, the royal we, representing the white part of society in America. I just don't think that the pollsters are gonna tap into it. I don't think that people understand the level that again—so when I hear hip-hop can save America, in a lot of ways, I really agree this year because how else?
Manny: It can also damage America.
Max: Well, it could if it propagates some of the theories that we know to be harmful to these—
Manny: That's what's happening.
Max: But then again, the fuck are we to say? Because lived experience and lived reality is more real.
Manny: Fair enough.
Max: Your personal reality, whatever your experience was that informs your worldview is reality. And we all have our own one. So that's why I say hip-hop really could save America this go around, if not those big names that we all know about on the ground, if there was a different chatter.
Max: And they started to coalesce. But what are they gonna do, start rapping about Biden?
Manny: No, no, no, no.
Max: Start having lectures and conferences about Biden? I mean, we're missing the boat.
Manny: Well, the furtherance of the work, my work is that. So yes, I was stumbling to find who's doing what now because it's all small, it's all grassroots, it's some organizations, it's the Hip-Hop Caucus, which is big. I don't necessarily endorse them. They're a big organization, they do some work, but I don't know, I haven't investigated big.
Hip-hop nonprofits, Hip-Hop Public Health is a great nonprofit. I've interviewed them. They put on great galas, they raise a lot of money. They bring public health awareness to the communities through hip-hop. I don't endorse them. I don't know how much money they're spending. I don't know the real effectiveness of their work. I have to investigate that. So when I say like the small, generally those are the ones I trust. Rebel Diaz had a thing in the Bronx called the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, when they were in the Bronx, and it was a small community organization. They brought in kids and they taught them how to do music, but they also taught them, you know, it's Rebel Diaz, they're gonna teach you about revolutionary politics.
Max: Oh yeah.
Manny: They're teaching you that. So what Rebel Diaz did in the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective was more effective to raise civic awareness and raise the next generation of at least progressive, if not revolutionary thinkers in the world. Their rate of effectiveness is better than any of the big names, anything that they could do. I think they probably had more people registered to vote than Diddy's entire Vote Or Die campaign, which was all over the media for years.
So I know we're getting long in time. Nobody is doing it in the political spectrum. They're not, I don't wanna say using, it's a terrible word. Because again, you can't use hip-hop in a way for positivity unless you're authentically connected to it. So you'll see a politician grab a killer mic, Keisha Lance Bottoms did this in Atlanta. T.I. and Killer Mike, fine, that's cute. You know, no one's gonna change, no one's gonna become politically involved because you brought Killer Mike on stage.
Max: Oh no?
Manny: Because if you're there at the rally, you're already politically involved. You're not bringing anyone in. So they're not doing it. It is the grassroots on the ground organizations, but there's no coalition, there's no database, there's no talking to each other. I'm finding them like throughout the country, I'm learning of them. And I'm interviewing them, trying to amplify them. But are we putting them into a coalition? No.
I have a campaign in mind, that I'm talking ahead of time, to literally ask every politician of note in the country, what's your hip-hop policy? Like how are you working hip-hop into your campaign, into your messaging? Because no one is. Here's the other thing that I was gonna say, no one cares, like young folks, I don't care about Cornel West.They don't care about RFK, but they saw RFK on Math Hoffa. That take, immediately he's winning the hip-hop crowd over Cornel West. Because Cornel West isn't on Math Hoffa.
My oldest son is a good, bellwether for this because I'm sure he knows who RFK is. Because he saw him on Math Hoffa. He's a target audience. He's 30 something, he's right in that kind of lane. But he probably doesn't even know who Cornel West is. Or doesn't, 'Ah, yeah, I know him, but.'
Max: 'Yeah, I heard of that guy.'
Manny: 'I heard of that guy.' But RFK, man, Kennedy, Math Hoffa. Well, my fear is that the right's figuring this out. That was my thesis of The Far Right Infiltration of Hip-Hop piece that I wrote. And I'm doing some more. So now Ice Cube is on Tucker Carlson. Why? Why? Why would Tucker Carlson go for Ice Cube? Because someone, one puppet master somewhere.
Max: Oh, but that wasn't the question, Manny. The question, no, I'm saying, 'Oh, why would Tucker go for,' the question wasn't that. It was, well, why would Ice Cube go to Tucker? And it's like, again, you're not listening. You're not paying attention if you don't know the answer to that question.
Manny: It makes sense. It makes perfect sense. You could be a Black rap artist in America and be on the right. Of course you can. You could believe, and honestly believe that that's the better path for you. I don't know if Candace Owens is performing or not, but there are a lot of people who agree with all of these things.
Max: I think there's a very big difference between the Black conservative who is still considered, I believe—so like I watched F.D. Signifier, I think it's one of the better channels. Talking about the Black conservative movement is entirely different than talking about a libertarian oriented Black vote.
And if the Democrats don't understand their constituency, that they have absolutely taken for granted since forever, if they don't understand where that constituency is landing right now in the moment, they're gonna miss certain obvious cues.
Manny: They did it with Hillary.
Max: And that's where I go back to Bannon. That's where I go back to. There are people on the right who know the algorithms, who are figuring this shit out, and who understand, I think in a much deeper way, how to tap into sentiment and extract what's valuable from there to get an RFK on the right podcast. Whereas the Democrats are gonna keep running the same playbook, the same playbook. What was really—
Manny: They'll put them on the breakfast club, which did nothing for them.
Max: Exactly. So what was extraordinary and new during the Obama years, because that's who's still running everything, is the Obama campaign playbook. That's still what's running everything. It worked for Obama because Obama was a Black man, and also got the youth involved to run the campaign.
And that youth that ran the campaign, they're in their 40s now, they're in their late 30s and 40s. They're not the young people anymore. They don't know how to tap into sentiment. They're still running the same fundraising emails. They're still running the same ads on the same algorithms, and they're still fighting that. If we don't recognize that the reason Donald Trump got elected in the first fucking place but lost the majority is because the majority of people fell into, algorithmically, the shit that he was pushing.
Max: And it's those guys that made the difference. It's the Bannon's of the world. Bannon is so far ahead with understanding where the Black culture movement is today.
Manny: Yep, that's funny, yeah.
Max: And that's, so I guess that's my biggest fear. All right, so we gotta wrap.
Manny: I was gonna say one thing, I was gonna say, there were so many people that didn't like Hillary Clinton because of Haiti.
Max: And ask anybody on the Democratic side if—
Manny: If they thought about that.
Max: And they'd be like, what does that even mean, right?
Max: I thought it was the hot sauce in the purse. That was so offensive, right?
Manny: Right, that's what I'm saying. They don't think about this. They don't think about it. Yes, you're right, they don't know their constituency. They're losing probably every time.
Max: Also her emails.
Manny: Butter emails, butter emails. Anyway, so yes.
Max: Listen, we gotta wrap.
Manny: I know so long, it's like a Show Notes.
Max: Because we got meetings here, but also you gotta get into the city to get your award, which is so well deserved.
Max: So what I wanna close on is just to again say thank you for being such an extraordinary producer, but I'm so happy that we could have these moments together as well so that we can introduce some of the other lanes. I'm always amazed at the intersections that we're able to find in the work that's being done. And I would encourage every Unf*cker to obviously download Hip-Hop Can Save America to your podcast app. Let's get those subs up as well, because tide lifts all boats, as I'm some fond of saying. But I do think that we need to start cross pollinating the feeds in this way and cross pollinating our understandings.
I would like to link to your far right infiltration article. We'll obviously put up all the things. And just wanna say, I love you. The Unf*ckers love you. You get a lot of love on this show, as you deserve. And thanks for coming in, brother.
Manny: I appreciate it, I appreciate you. I appreciate the Unf*ckers, thank you so much. I appreciate the love. And I do appreciate the work that we do here. And it's funny, I look at everything through this, hip-hop lens, so my plumbers at the house. I'm like, 'Oh, how could plumbing, how could you big up plumbing in a way that, you know, how could we, you know, put a hip-hop style into plumbing.' Everything.
But politically, you know, economically, sociologically, the stuff that we cover here, I do find a lot of inspiration and knowledge from and ways to connect these dots that I think can help both movements. And I think that that, though that tide, you know, can actually help lift both. So I appreciate it.
Max: All right, Unf*ckers, we will catch you. The next thing you'll see from us is probably the part one, it's really part two, it's the part one of the Israel/Palestine series that we're doing.
And yeah, a bunch of new stuff after that. So don't forget to like and subscribe to what's happening on YouTube for us. Don't forget to give us a review. If you haven't left a review yet for the show, that really helps it get found in the algorithm. And while you're at it, download Hip-Hop Can Save America, leave it a review, make sure it's five stars, okay?
And yeah, we'll catch you when we catch you. Thanks so much for tuning in. Manny, thanks again.
Manny: Peace and love.
Max: See you later.