Restoration Rocks 2010 Preview: Q&A with Invincible

On Detroit, being banned from MTV, and what helps her keep her faith in hip hop.

We’re just a few days away from Restoration Rocks, and I thought I’d give you all a chance to get to know some of the artists.  Now, you’ve already gotten a chance to hear Tamar-kali.  This time, you’ve got an opportunity to get a know Detroit MC Invincible a little better.

How has Detroit shaped you as both an MC and as an activist?

Detroit has an incredibly rich music legacy, side by side with one of the most revolutionary movement legacies in the world. I’m deeply inspired by both and the ways they intersect. Mad Mike of Underground Resistance broke down his philosophy on Detroit music to me and it made perfect sense. From blues to gospel to jazz to Motown to rock to techno and hip-hop, every genre here has one thing in common: be as off the beat as possible while still being in the pocket. That’s what allows us to innovate while still syncopate.

A similar philosophy applies in the community organizing movements here. We find opportunity in crisis and develop community-led solutions rather than spend a majority of our time demanding the government fix things when they are stuck in corruption and bureaucracy.

Last but not least, working with the youth-led organization Detroit Summer has taught me volumes about how to integrate community and creative process in ways that allow for the infinite potential of music as a force of change to be fully realized.

The video for “Ropes”, which deals with the issues of depression an suicide in the hip hop community, was initially banned from MTVu but has recently been added to the rotation.  First,congratulations on that.  Second, now that the song is getting this wider exposure, what’s your experience?  Are folks more willing to talk about this issue?

The most powerful dialogue actually came out of the original version of the video I posted online, which explained MTV’s decision to ban the video. Many people commented or wrote me directly with their stories and some educators I know began using the video in workshops about mental health. Some people took the time to write articles about it, and some even penned letters to MTV- which I think is partly what led to their decision to air it a year and a half later. The situation was a good reminder that we have to create our own media outlets and not rely on corporate entities who are accountable to advertisers not our communities.

Additionally, with the recent highly publicized suicides of queer and questioning youth around the country it has become apparent once more that the solution is not as simple as just mental health counseling and support for individuals- but understanding and transforming a larger pattern of our isolating and sick society.

I hope the song being given a new light by MTVu at this time sparks other people telling their stories- not just of personal struggle with these issues, but also their visions for holistically healing the root causes.

Lots of people are down on hip hop, especially commercial hip hop.  For you, what helps you keep your faith in hip hop and this path you’ve chosen?

What keeps my faith in hip-hop are the growing women in hip hop and queer hip-hop movements. I created a short film series titled The Revival to highlight these marginalized voices and the ways we have always been in the trenches, unseen by the masses.

There are still many hip-hop artists who are able to gracefully intertwine quality music with important social issues in innovative ways- some are on this continent but even more so international hip-hop artists. The Palestinian hip-hop movement (showcased in the film Slingshot Hip-Hop), is a huge inspiration.

So are the South and Central American hip-hop scenes (highlighted in the film Estilo Hip-Hop). I’ve had the opportunity to work with artists like DAM from Palestine, Kamau from Brazil, and Ana Tijoux from Chile- all who seamlessly intertwine revolutionary content into amazing music.

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