Sometimes it’s not just about the music, but the topics discussed within the music.
The Hip Hop Youth Justice and Racial Justice event Oct. 24 featured a discussion from local Utah rappers on controversial topics like the war on drugs, youth incarceration and politics. The topics converged together to where artists choose to express their views through music.
“Silence is compliance; we can’t be silent anymore,” hip-hop artist Brendan Hobbz Phillips told the audience in the South City Campus multipurpose room.
Rhonda “Honey” Duvall, Ryan Parker, Mani Eini, Brendan Hobbz Phillips, Weldon Angelos, Em Garcia, and Rollxm Joey participated in the event, which included an open mic.
The event was sponsored by the Salt Lake Community College Criminal Justice Department, Utah Criminology and Criminal Justice Consortium, and Save the Kids. Dr. Anthony J. Nocella, a criminal justice professor at SLCC, hosted the discussion.
“Hip-hop is a culture,” Nocella said.
The artists’ personal and professional experiences provided a unique insight into some of the ongoing issues.
“They’re not just entertainers, they also have a lot of wisdom,” Nocella said.
Each rapper answered five questions posed by Nocella and addressed why they got involved with hip hop, as well as the impact of social and political injustices on their music and in their lives.
Audience members were encouraged to participate.
“Snap if you agree with something they say,” Nocella told the audience.
Angelos, a nonviolent drug offender who received clemency in 2015 for a reduced 55-year sentence, now speaks about the realities of mandatory sentencing for drug offenses.
“Decriminalizing marijuana is the first step on the war on drugs,” Angelos said.
Duvall, who also goes by the stage name “Honey,” is a motivational speaker and SLCC student. She says keeping a positive message in her music is critical at making a difference.
“[I want to make] sure my surroundings are good so I can go out and do better for the community,” she said. “We are [all] artists in our own way. I say ‘we’ because I can’t do this by myself.”
Save the Kids, a volunteer-driven national grassroots organization, focuses on ending the “school-to-prison pipeline” — stricter classroom policies that put more youth on the path to incarceration. The group places an emphasis on supporting youth, in particular youth of color, those with disabilities, LGBTQ youth and the economically disadvantaged.
To learn more about Save the Kids and their initiatives, contact Dr. Anthony J. Nocella, the organization’s national outreach coordinator.