Hip-hop culture has often come under fire in the media, accused of misogyny, materialism and violence.

Brian Merlos
Rapper Kamikaze performs in the Michigan Union on Saturday. The concert was part of a series of activities sponsored by the Hip Hop Congress Midwest Summit. (CHANEL VON HABSBURG-LOTHRINGEN/Daily)

But to the roughly 100 midwestern students who converged on the Michigan Union this weekend for the University’s first Hip Hop Congress Summit, it’s an art form and lifestyle that needs to overcome those negative trends and perceptions.

Members of the summit’s panel included Kamikaze, a popular rapper and the southern regional director of Hip Hop Congress, and Professor Griff, a former member of the rap group Public Enemy.

During the discussion, which took place in the Michigan Union, Griff said many mainstream rappers have disrespected hip-hop music, leading some to think that every aspect of hip-hop culture is negative. He compared hip-hop to a home, saying, “You would not let someone come in your house and disrespect it.”

Disrespect was a key element in one aspect of the summit, as summit organizers decided to create a mobile museum that included racist artifacts from the Ku Klux Klan. The museum – “Black History 101” – on display in the Art Room of the Union, also contained information on black athletes, entertainers and political figures.

Museum curator Khalid el-Hakim said the decision to include both positive and negative aspects of black culture was intentional. el-Hakim said he wanted to showcase all aspects of black history – “the entire black experience; not just the racist stuff,” he said.

For many students, Saturday night’s concert, which included Kamikaze, rapper Marck Gonzales and LSA senior Danny Brown, among others, was the highlight of the conference. The show featured politically conscious rap music with lyrics focused on social issues like race, poverty and the war in Iraq.

Students who attended said they appreciated the honest debate that took place at the summit, and others said they walked away more knowledgeable about hip-hop culture than before.

In an interview, Shamako Noble, president and founder of Hip Hop Congress, said students can help themselves by learning more about hip-hop culture. He said that’s what he’s done with his life.

“You feel energized when you’re doing something that reaches in your soul,” said Noble.

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