Leroy F. Moore, Jr.
KRIP-HOP NATION IS MOORE THAN MUSIC
Krip-Hop Nation came from my experiences as a young Black disabled boy growing up in the late 1970's and 80's in a White suburb of Connecticut. Always being the only Black disabled youth in almost everything I did from special education to being mainstreamed, from playing with White non-disabled kids in my neighborhood to my early days in activism with my parents, to my many years of volunteering in disability non-profits to college classes In all of these experiences I always had the same question: Where were the other people who looked like me as a Black disabled young man? With this continuous question of race and disability along with my love of poetry and music, I started to question the arena of music and performance around the representation of musicians with disabilities, especially disabled musicians of color.
From my father's record collection and love of music, I learned that the Blues had a number of Blind musicians, and when I fell in love with Ray Charles at an early age it really taught me that there was a history of Blind/disabled musicians. The college papers that I wrote on Black disabled people in Freak shows, the circus and Black minstrel taught me that it wasn't only my higher education institution that was leaving out this history but also the early popular Hip-Hop movement with their scholars, who were following the same path as the institutions that I had collected a piece of paper from. This is the background of why there is Krip-Hop Nation today.
Of course we know of some disabled/blind artists like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and if you are a true musicology and disability scholar, you might know of the late Soul singer Robert Winters. Many of us can remember tragedy, which changed musicians' lives like Johnnie Wilder, lead singer of Heatwave, Teddy Pendergrass and Curtis Mayfield, but to date, there is no big popular Hip-Hop artist with a physical disability. Krip-Hop Nation has also noticed that there is also oppression against Hip-Hop artists who are women and queer. We continue to confront that but honestly Krip-Hop Nation and the rest of the music arena have a long way to go to improve the representation of Hip-Hop artists who are women with disabilities and queer women with disabilities and to learn from their workVery few know about the history of disability in Hip-Hop that was on the streets of New York, the common struggle of artists with disabilities when Hip-Hop left the streets and walked through doors of corporation suites under the hot lights of the cameras like MTV and other music Video television channels.
After Hip-Hop left the streets like the Blues, what became important was the popular and well-digested image of Hip-Hop that was shaped by others. At that time Hip-Hop split into mainstream and the underground. Today Hip-Hop artists with disabilities are all over the underground but haven't had an activist platform to express their stories of discrimination in the underground and their experience of hitting the glass ceiling of the Hip-Hop industry. Like in other arts arenas, Hip-Hop is an arena where the individual has worked in isolation and is focus on self-success not on changing the music industry's isms. In the most part, but not all, it has left its roots of social justice for its community, the other side of commercial mainstream success that artists are not told about. Krip-Hop Nation has never been about getting the "bling bling" of the entertainment industry although we highlight the talents and correct the ableist writings and attitudes not only in the industry but also in the media and we perform all over the world.I really hope that with the growth of Krip-Hop Nation, that we keep our strong mission in action to advocate and educate about the systemic discrimination and work of disabled musicians/Hip-Hop artists no matter what commercial success comes our way.
Krip-Hop Nation must give love to Poor Magazine in San Francisco where Krip-Hop Nation was born on Poor Magazine, Poor News Network, Radio show on KPFA 94.1 FM in Berkeley, where we invited Hip-Hop artists with disabilities on the show, and where for the first time my writings on race and disability gained an audience under my own online column Illin-N-Chillin. Poor Magazine led me to being involved for almost three years on a disability radio collective called Pushing Limits at the same station. At Pushing Limits on KPFA 94.1 FM in Berkeley, CA, I proposed a three part series with a co/host, Safi wa Nairobi, on Hip-Hop and artists with disabilities in the year of 2000. The show had Hip-Hop artists who were Deaf like Sho Roc and WAWA, Keith Jones who makes beats with his feet because of his cerebral palsy and DJ Quad who became disabled while he was surfing. The show was so successful that I wanted somehow to keep it going. Thus the birth of Krip-Hop Nation.
The last but important concept of Krip-Hop Nation is the title. Why Krip with a K? Like I wrote above, Krip-Hop Nation is more than music and "bling bling", it is about advocacy and education and taking back what has been taken from us to oppress us. Language, like other oppressed groups, was taken from people with disabilities and the language was turned on us to oppress us. Before people with disabilities had civil rights, a movement and arts, many had placed labels on us like "crazy", "lame", "cripple" and "retarded", etc. Of course, now with our civil rights and disability studies and culture, we have named ourselves and have used the negative terms to our own benefit to not only shock people but to respect that these words are our history and we must reclaim them.
After realizing that the term Crip has a long history of negativity to being used for Black gangs in LA (The Crips & The Bloods and knowing that one of the gang members had a disability so they called him Cripple that become Crip) to now being remade in Crip Culture (Disability Culture) and also talking it over in New York with a follow disabled advocate and cultural critic, Lawrence Carter-Long, I wanted to again reclaim the term Crip to advocate and educate with a proud framework of the music and struggles of Hip-Hop artists with disabilities. Just like in Hip-Hop you turn something that the so-called mainstream has discarded with a fresh spotlight thus changing the C to a K in what we know today as Krip-Hop.
Today Krip-Hop Nation has over 300 artists world-wide with a working group who keeps the work going, people like Rob Da Noize Temple of NY, USA, Binki Woi of Germany, Lady MJ in the UK and Ronnie Ronnie of Uganda, Africa and myself in Berkeley, CA USA. This Krip-Hop crew has worked together all through the Internet to produce music, organize events/workshops/lectures/performances/radio gigs and writing articles for the last two years. Watch out here we come!
(Editors note: Interested readers can view Leroy Moore's talk on disability and discrimination at Georgia State University's Leadership Center on Disability by clicking here or hear him discuss Krip Hop with other artists by clicking this link.