Lessons We Learned From The Chican@ Hip-Hop Nation

Categories: Hip-Hop, politics

What can the Chican@ Hip Hop Nation add to the remix of the United States of America? For Chicago State University professor Pancho McFarland, the question is more than worthy of examining and he does just that in his latest book, The Chican@ Hip Hop Nation: Politics of a New Millennial Mestizaje. As a self-described anarchist hip-hop head, McFarland, an Irish Chicano, takes a look at what raza rappers are and aren't saying on the mic about themselves and the world around them. He's principally preoccupied with the music's expressions of identity, potential for liberation politics, and limitations--mainly its sexist mindsets. McFarland teaches hip-hop in his sociology classes and sees it as an avenue to engage students in a form that's responsive to their interests.

The Weekly thinks profe Pancho is on to something. As Orange County has its raza rap enthusiasts--count this writer among them--we asked him to speak on five key artists featured in his new book and what they mean to the Chican@ Hip Hop Nation.

5. Los Nativos

Pancho McFarland: "I begin with the sonido indígena chapter because this trope of indigenousness as part of the Chicano/Mexicano identity flows through most of what we see in Chicano hip-hop and out in our communities. People often understand themselves often to be indigenous or a mix of indigenous and Spanish heritage. Los Nativos are indicative of how young people understand themselves and what they're going through. They are interesting in that way, in part, because their music is really good. They have a good understanding of rhythm, elements and hip-hop. Los Nativos also understand their indigeneity not so much as this 'romantic Indian' but more of what it means to be contemporarily a Native Mexican person. That's their major contribution. They are indicative of the best of what hip-hop can be and the best what we can be as indigenous-identified people."

4. Akwid

"Akwid represents that 1.5 generation that is so important today to a lot of the political discussion about immigration. Akwid are those people born in Mexico but came over at a relatively young age. When we look at the debates on DREAM Act or immigration legislation, we don't get into these detailed stories about what it means to be a person born in Mexico living in the U.S. today. If we had that, the conversation would change quite a bit. Akwid is so good at being descriptive at telling stories in an entertaining way. The music is a hip-hop banda fusion of those two sounds that goes together so well. It shows the 1.5 generation: Mexican-based banda with U.S.-based hip-hop coming together. That's the experience. They help us understand it as good organic intellectuals do."

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