Longevity is a word that isn’t often associated with hip-hop. Two rappers, Big Daddy Kane and Kool Moe Dee, are among the few exceptions, and they headline the musical portion of this Saturday’s Black Expo, gracing the event with the weight of their experience, as well as their forward-thinking perspectives on where hip-hop is headed.
Kool Moe Dee, born Mohandas Dewese, has a career that spans over 30 years, including a Grammy award. His biggest achievements — his pioneering years in the late ‘70s, the sleek and funky momentum of 1987’s How Ya Like Me Now — are behind him, but he still looks to the future.
“I believe the future of hip-hop will help balance itself,” he says. “People with money may have the buying power, but eventually the art has to be created. The creative process is where the value is.”
Like Moe Dee, Big Daddy Kane has been a hip-hop fixture for more than two decades. He began with a solo career in the ’80s and excelled as a part of the beloved Juice Crew. Kane, born Antonio Hardy, sees promise in the current state of hip-hop.
“What’s going well in my eyes is seeing the growth of the culture in all respects,” Kane explains. “The hip-hop recording artists now have the opportunity of ownership, masters, publishing and [becoming] president and CEO of their own labels.”
What: Black Expo 2014
Where: Colonial Life Arena, 801 Lincoln St.
When: 10 a.m.-7 p.m., (Music at 5:45 p.m.) Saturday, May 17
With: Big Daddy Kane, Kool Moe Dee, more
More Info: blackpagessouth.com
Both Kane and Moe Dee continue to make new music. Kane even says that if there is a Juice Crew movie that he will plan to be in it, claiming he “still has it,” a point proven during his powerful performance at 2005’s VH1 Hip Hop Awards Show and one he has continued to drive home at gushed-over performances in the years since.
Like Kane, Moe Dee continues to hit it hard. For him, the motivation is to constantly produce new music.
“I’m going to create because it’s important to always have your voice heard,” Moe Dee offers. “There are things like the violence in Chicago, specifically black on black crime, that affects the generation today.”
For Kane, playing an event like the Black Expo, a conference fostering community and dialogue among black people in the South, is particularly relevant. New York-born, he settled in Raleigh, N.C., in 2000. He talks of the differences between the North and the South, an interest that should make his Saturday appearance all the more intriguing.
Columbia has often been criticized for not supporting live hip-hop. The city has improved this track record of late with successes such as Indie Grits’ Hip Hop Family Day, which in its first two years has snagged Slick Rick and Moe Dee as headliners. It’s a burst of success that the Black Expo seems keen to continue, something Moe Dee always wants to see, no matter where he goes.
“Hip-hop is in a space now where it’s pseudo-acknowledged but not where it needs to be,” he explains. “There’s many great things, but I feel hip-hop is still not really accepted.”
For hip-hop fans in Columbia, it seems that the awareness of the genre and its history is increasing, a trend that Moe Dee and Kane’s Expo appearance will no doubt help to continue. At 17, the Black Expo, which sponsors events all through town this week, posits itself as a “forum to educate, enlighten and inspire the entire community and the African-American community.” Booking acts like Moe Dee and Kane is a fitting way to extend that mission — and raise awareness in music fans who might not otherwise pay attention.
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