Co-Authored by Mackenzie Hoisington and Katie Panopoulos.
What do South Bronx and Western Europe have in common? The 3,500 miles of Atlantic Ocean that separate them. What do hip-hop and fine art have in common? More than you think. Atlanta-based artist Fahamu Pecou held a discussion on Friday evening between artist-scholar Dr. Arturo Lindsay and recording artist Killer Mike, covering these topics and much more. Pecou’s utilizes performance, painting, drawing and video to express himself visually. His work is currently on display “Do or Die: Affect, Ritual, Resistance” is open to the public at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art until October 8.
Friday’s dialogue was part of a series called interSessions that features both a renowned hip-hop artist as well as a figure from the arts, hosted by Pecou. His lecture at the College included himself, Michael Render, also known as Killer Mike, and Dr. Arturo Lindsay. Killer Mike is an American hip-hop recording artist and activist and Dr. Arturo Lindsay is a scholar and artist who focuses on African spiritual and aesthetic retention in contemporary American cultures. Pecou’s interSession was overflowing with attendees; the theater ended up reaching full capacity, so patrons had to be directed to a classroom to watch a live stream.
“The goal of interSessions is to provide a platform that reveals the often unconsidered intersections between the fine arts and hip-hop culture. These conversations privilege access and community engagement and encourage meaningful dialogue between often disparate communities,” stated Pecou. The series is a supplement to Pecou’s exhibition entitled “DO or DIE: Affect, Ritual, Resistance,” currently displayed at the Halsey. Pecou incorporates different art forms to come full circle and reiterate strong messages of Black existence.
Spotlight on Similarities
Fine arts and hip-hop: images of Picasso, Busta Rhymes, Jacob Lawrence and Missy Elliott drift through the head at random. Some differences are more obvious than others: visual versus oral, European origins versus New York City roots, but what about their motivations, purposes and statements? According to Lindsay, the two, “are more alike than they are different.” When questioned by Pecou on why they create, both Lindsay and Killer Mike had strikingly similar responses. Lindsay began with an anecdote on the culture he grew up in, alluding to riots and pain he saw. “All the anger and frustration needed an outlet,” he reflected, “I would’ve been in jail.”
Killer Mike similarly began by explaining that he was trouble in school and that art was how he pulled himself up. He told how growing up in the drug era exposed him to violence between African-Americans in his own community who appeared that they “were treating each other like slaves.” Killer Mike recalls the agony of what he saw and how he hopes to make a difference through his art, while admitting he is, “just trying to be the best person I can be.”
“I found a dream and chased it before responsibility,” Killer Mike said.
Pecou asked what keeps the two men going when things get heavy and hopeless.
Killer Mike responded quickly saying “it hurts if I don’t.” Lindsay passionately agreed and added that he does it all because of love. Pecou, Killer Mike and Lindsay all emphasized that the power to overcome is the driving force for their art. Pecou closed the night by agreeing that love is what it is all about.