Tonight is the Ohlone Territory [Oakland] leg of the West Coast Warrior Hip Hop Tour. Starting in Klanada and working down the coast with ALAS, Savage Family and Shining Soul, Zro Prpht ended up kicking it in West Oakland, where he talked with Bay Area Intifada about his rhymes, Nuyorican radical history, land, and what it means to create a culture of resistance.
He’ll be sharing with Bay Area folks, Poesia, ALAS and Shining Soul tonight at Qilombo (2313 San Pablo Ave) at 8PM. Show up at 6PM for free food and a time to kick it with the artists and local folks in struggle, before they head south towards Tongva Territory [LA, Santa Ana] and Arizona.
BAI: Thanks for coming and talkin with us. Maybe you can start by telling us how you like to introduce yourself and your music?
Zro Prpht: My name is Zro Prpht. I’m in a group called X-Vandals out of New York City. We do so called political revolutionary agitational hip hop music. We consider our music to be part of the hip hop cypher, but we consider hip hop to be black diasporic music and we don’t look at it as being a genre because genres are only created to sell a product. So for us it’s always been using the music that is the people’s music of the time. And the people’s music of this time is black music and also hip hop music which is also black music. And we understand that. As far as the youth, as far as people of color and the youth of all colors, hip hop is the music and the culture that resonates with them on all scales. It doesn’t matter if you are in South Africa or Cuba, or you’re in Palestine, hip hop is the music that resonates today and so we use that as our means of dialogue in terms of what we’re trying to do here today and everyday.
And yeah, so we’re doing this Warrior Tour with the idea of bringing our exposing certain aspects of the struggles and the resistance of indigenous cultures in this country and also worldwide. Indigenous cultures are the caretakers of this earth and but they also happen to be the people that have been systematically decimated for hundreds of years and rarely listened to unless it’s to make a movie where you have some old Indian teaching some young white actor on what it is to be spiritual and what it is to go beyond–
BAI: more fetishization
ZP: Exactly. Our bag is kind of to point out the fact that we are here today and we are not a wooden Indian or some celluloid old Indian inside a cave somewhere. And we exist today. We struggle today and without us this all goes to hell and you know, the Mayans and the Hopi were not incorrect when they said the world is coming to an end. The world is coming to an end unless we do something really fast. And unless we listen to our ancestors and understand that our ancestors were speaking to us. Our ancestors were telling us exactly what we needed to do and exactly what we needed not to do, but you know, this culture, this white culture, this white privileged culture, this white man’s world does not listen to the ancestors, does not understand that the ancestors exist, they existed and they continue to exist. And they guide us. And we understand that as indigenous people. We’ve always understood that. So that’s part of why we’re using hip hop as a format within a warrior tour–to try to speak on those things.
BAI: Well, what are you hoping to see come out of this tour?
ZP: I mean it’s interesting. For us, a lot of it is communicating with our own people and we were up at the Hoopa people’s rez the other day and for me that resonates more than–I mean, we were up in Seattle at this collectively run cafe, which is cool–but being with our people and communicating with our people resonates more for us then being performers and we don’t necessarily see our music or our art or culture as performance. We see it as what we do and if you go back to the indigenous cultures here and in so-called Latin America and in Africa, in fact, art was simply a part of the culture. It wasn’t perceived as art. If you created something–it could be a chair or it could be a shrine. But it wasn’t until the Europeans came and they said, well that’s a piece of art and we’re gonna take that and we’re gonna stick it in a museum or gallery and we’re gonna say, oh you guys created this primitive art. So what we’re saying is, no, this is just our lives. This is how we express ourselves. We’re not looking to be performing for people or accolades from people or people saying, oh your art is dope or your art is whack or whatever. Because it’s not really art. It’s life. And that’s necessary to get across to people. I think when we’re performing to people who are, what is it accomplices, and not necessarily our people, we’re basically trying to let them know that we are here and we’re gonna get what we want and what we need by any means necessary and by many means necessary. And I think that’s the main point here is we are here and we continue to resist and we continue to strive and thrive and we ain’t goin nowhere.
BAI: The messaging around the tour has been about creating a culture of resistance. What does that mean to you?
ZP: It’s interesting. In Puerto Rico, which is where I’m from, there is an underground armed organization called the Macheteros. In Puerto Rico, most of what is natural has been destroyed by the US government, so the Macheteros policy has been to create a culture of resistance in Puerto Rico–the idea being that every grandmother, every child was living a culture of resistance against what’s designed to kill them, what’s designed to destroy them. And I think the Macheteros found that one of the big issues was that whenever there was an action, because they hadn’t created a culture of resistance, then it was easy for them to target who had done that action. But if you have a community, an entire culture that’s in resistance, then you look at it and it’s like okay we don’t know if that grandma over there did it or if, you know, that 16-yr old kid over there did it. In Algiers, when they had their revolution, that’s essentially what they did. You don’t know if a woman walking down the street was carrying a bomb. You don’t know if the kid walking down the street was carrying bomb, while with his mother and you kept them off guard because you had created a culture of resistance. You had created a culture where everyone understands what the mission is everyone understands what you’re resisting. Everyone understands what you’re fighting. And everyone is in lockstep with each other against what’s trying to kill you, what’s trying to decimate you, what’s trying to commit genocide, again. And so for us, the culture of resistance is creating an understanding amongst our people and amongst anyone who wants to be an accomplice with our people that this is real. Everything you think about, everything you do is real. And it’s very real. So you can’t be okay, yeah, I’m an activist on Tuesday, but then on Wednesday I’m back
BAI: to the spa!
ZP: Exactly. So a culture of resistance is all encompassing. And if you look at our cultures, people of color cultures, for the most part they’ve taken most things away from us and the only thing we have still at our disposal is our cultures. And they try to take those away from us but we keep confounding them by maintaining their cultures but then blowing their minds with the magnitude with what we can create and how we can create these things that can be–We were talking about what was it? This idea that coming over the border is like butterflies or something. It’s like, no, it’s gotta be like bullets. We don’t come flying floatin over the border. We come shooting guns. We come making shit happen. We come with bow and arrows. We come scalpin mother fuckers, in the wise words of Hailstorm.
I think it’s important to point out that hip hop itself was created by a people who were a part of an internal colony, which was Puerto Rican, Nuyorican I should say and other black folks in New York City. And at the time that hip hop was created, hip hop culture was created was there’s people in New York City, specifically in the Bronx and part of Harlem who were essentially written off the map and were living off the grid, folks who were squatting, folks who were creating community gardens in garbage lots and folks were actually making those areas in South Bronx and in East Harlem unsafe for the police. And the police were no longer patrolling those areas and so those areas were left to the people. Of course there was nothing. There was no stores. There was no homes. So people squatted. People created underground economies basically. And out of that came what we know today as hip hop culture. Folks started okay, we’re going to entertain each other. You plug into a lamp pole in this street and you would have parties. There’s a DJ, a Puerto Rican DJ, Disco Whiz that pointed out that 1977 was the revolutionary spark in hip hop because there was a black out that year. And the next day, all the brothers had electronic equipment. And that was the spark that created hip hop culture. But it’s funny because it didn’t take very long cuz this was around 1977 and it didn’t take very long for the corporations to pounce. And the corporations said, you know what we can co-opt this? We can colonize it. We can corporatize it. So today, hip hop is another colonized culture. And we’re using a colonized culture to try to speak about colonized cultures that have been colonized hundreds of years ago. So we’re basically speaking in a language that everybody here understands. And that’s hip hop.