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Occupy the Airwaves: an interview wit’ the rap group Rebel Diaz

December 24, 2011

by Minister of Information JR

Dj Illinoiz, G1, Rodstarz and Minister of Information JR were in North Oakland on 55th and Market right under the stoplight that the Panthers put in the Black community in the ‘60s. Rebel Diaz was in Oakland on their #OccupytheAirwaves Tour.
Since the initiation of Occupy Wall Street in New York, there have been a lot of different well needed conversations coming to pass on buses and planes, in restaurants, barbershops and hair salons, and at work centered around race, class, white supremacy, capitalism and imperialism.

The automatic reflex of many in the mainstream media is to insulate and protect their corporate bosses from all grievances, complaints and critiques. On the other side of the game, you have “Occupiers” whose self-righteous stance makes them believe they can lead people without having to answer to the community critiques on how they’re running their “ship.”

Mental growth is occurring when there many questions in people’s minds, dying to be answered. The England-born, Chicago-bred, Bronx-based rap group known as Rebel Diaz is one of mediators of this conversation through their music. Where political differences break people apart, music brings them together, and that is why the music of groups like dead prez, the Coup and Rebel Diaz are essential to this discussion.

Check out Rebel Diaz, as they speak in their own words about the Occupy Movement.

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell me about your new mixtape and why you chose to call it that?

G1: We chose to call our new mixtape “#OccupyTheAirwaves” because we feel it’s important to support the current global movements, and as Hip Hop artists, our context is culture and music.

The hood has beeeeen in a recession! So we know and understand this energy of rebellion and feel our views are not being played on the radio, so we felt it was important to #OccupyTheAirwaves. The corporations that run the rap music industry are also the 1 percent. If you haven’t noticed, they impose values on our community of consumerism, capitalism, misogyny, individualism and violence – all values which in nature are forms of social control.

M.O.I. JR: What are your thoughts on the different Occupy movements that y’all have been a part of?

Rodstarz: Well, we are currently doing our last shows on this tour. We were able to visit and show solidarity with Occupies all over the West Coast and Midwest. In Seattle, we built with Hip Hop Occupies with MC Julie C. In San Diego we linked with Dj Kuttin Kandi, who has formed the All Peoples Revolutionary Front, which is a nationwide group of people of color who are pushing the idea of “rise and decolonize.”

There’s a strong sentiment across the country that the Occupy movements aren’t addressing the needs of the most marginalized communities. The term “Occupy” itself comes from a perspective of power. The hood is already occupied by police departments, gentrification etc. Palestine and Puerto Rico are occupied.

There’s a strong sentiment across the country that the Occupy movements aren’t addressing the needs of the most marginalized communities.

That is why we see Occupy the Hood and these other groups popping up. However, we feel it’s important to be a part of this conversation. If there’s a national and international conversation going on against capitalism and imperialism, we need to be a part of that. But folks also gotta undersand that racism needs to be talked about and that white privilege still exists.

M.O.I. JR: Now that the encampments have been shut down all over the country, what do you want to happen next?

G1: While the encampments have been shut down, we feel they will come back stronger. My gut feeling from being around these encampments is that people aren’t going anywhere. They are in it for the long haul. Communities have been formed at the encampments. Folks lived there for two months in some places. In New York City, they are well funded, so they seem to be ready to stick it out through the winter.

Rodstarz: Personally, I think if folks want to talk about Occupy, we need to start occupying condominiums and buildings in the hood. There’s problems with housing; there’s no community centers for and by the people. Well, then take a building , occupy it, put 200 folks outside to defend it and get to work.

There’s problems with housing; there’s no community centers for and by the people. Well, then take a building , occupy it, put 200 folks outside to defend it and get to work.

Also, what are the demands? In Chile, where we are from, hundreds of thousands of youth are demanding free education. Not education reform – free education. High school students have occupied their schools for months at a time. Now that’s gangsta right there.

We need demands and clarity. A good friend of mine brought up a great question: Are you really against slavery or just mad you aren’t the one holding the whip?

We need demands and clarity. A good friend of mine brought up a great question: Are you really against slavery or just mad you aren’t the one holding the whip?

M.O.I. JR: How does political music in general and your music specifically play a part in socio-political and economic movements?

Dj Illanoiz: Historically, movements have always had culture and music as a strong component. That’s why corporations are quick to want to co-op culture. The Nueva Cancion movement in Latin America was very important in social movements, with artists like Mercedes Sosa, Victor Jara and Silvio Rodriguezo. To us, our Nueva Cancion is Hip Hop. We have been told that our music inspires folks to organize and resist. We also hope that folks learn through it.

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell the people a little bit about the work that you do with youth out in the Bronx?

Rodstarz: Well, three years ago we occupied an abandoned candy factory and turned it into an autonomous Hip Hop community center – for the hood and by the hood. With 20 of our friends and crew from Hunts Point, the poorest neighborhood in the Bronx, we built a music studio, performance stage area, with walls full of graffiti – the main piece was actually done by Oakland-based artist Desi from WOME crew.

Three years ago we occupied an abandoned candy factory and turned it into an autonomous Hip Hop community center – for the hood and by the hood – with 20 of our friends and crew from Hunts Point, the poorest neighborhood in the Bronx.

Basically, it was a community effort. The idea is that we don’t need folks to come and empower us. We found out we already had power. Everybody in our community has value. We learned that.

Folks volunteered with skills we didn’t know they had: unemployed electricians, carpenters etc. Now we have summer and winter programming. We teach Hip Hop classes, music production. We are teaching youth to do their own media – high school kids learning to use Final Cut, Pro Tools etc.

We got some super dope MCs also coming out of the camp. It’s fresh ‘cause there’s a lot of young leaders in the crew. So here we are on the road for like three weeks and the classes are still going. The youth are teaching the youth.

M.O.I. JR: How do people keep up with you online?

Rodstarz: Www.rebeldiaz.com – that’s our website. Folks also can follow us on Twitter @rebeldiaz @illanoiz or become a fan on Facebook. For info on the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, you can check out www.rdacbx.org.

The People’s Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe,” both available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He also hosts two weekly shows on KPFA 94.1 FM and kpfa.org: The Morning Mix every Wednesday, 8-9 a.m., and The Block Report every Friday night-Saturday morning, midnight-2 a.m. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.

 

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