Kendrick is from Compton
Black consciousness is at an all-time high. After having the blackest black history month ever many are waking up to see the diverse voices and perspectives black people have to offer. One woman that started long before February 2016 and is nowhere near stopping is Jae Jones. Jae is tackling conscious Southern hip-hop and rap in her master’s thesis project ironically titled Kendrick is from Compton (KIFC).
A self-proclaimed hip-hop head and lover of all things black and Southern when it came time to do her master’s thesis for her LSU mass communications program Jae knew she wanted something tangible, a film, not just a paper. Her desire to create led her to hip-hop and its relation to the plight of blacks America. She posed the question: what is hip-hop doing to showcase what’s going on in black America? Jae looked at the Billboard charts and noticed that outside of the single Glory Common and John Legend produced for Selma, Kendrick Lamar was the only person with a conscious single on the charts (Alright from To Pimp a Butterfly), hence the film’s title.
The South does have prominent influence in the music industry but it’s not for conscious rap. The south is known for dance, trap, drug induced misogynistic music. Jae summarized the disparity she saw easily when she stated, “East and West coast rappers are able to produce something conscious, but for the South you can’t get on without a dance song.” It’s even more fascinating when you take into account the blatant racism and injustice often faced in the South, from past to present. The hardcore conscious rappers just don’t get much acclaim and Jae wanted to know why, why was there a spiral of silence? Jae’s curiosity of the dichotomy of the two became the base of her documentary and from there she delved into why Southern rap isn’t as well received when it’s conscious. Hence, the long form title of the project being Kendrick is from Compton, but They Hang Folks in Mississippi.
The South, anything below the Mason-Dixon line, has several epicenters of hip-hop and in her film Jae and her team travel to each one interviewing not only artists, but professors, hip-hop scholars and more to discuss rap, art, culture and the area as a whole. The centers are Jackson, MS; Houston, TX, Atlanta, GA; Memphis, TN; New Orleans and Baton Rouge, LA; the Carolinas and the DMV. KIFC examines the political, social and economic elements in addition to hip-hop that shape the South and Southern rap. The film not only explores the history it brings up thought provoking arguments to spark discussion and allows viewers to learn of underground Southern artists.
With an idea, friends willing to help and a bit of funding from the Knight grant Jae has begun filming the documentary and is gaining momentum. She has reached out to professors, classmates and other community leaders to speak on the topic. Charlie Braxton, a hip-hop scholar and journalist, has been instrumental, providing commentary for the documentary and linking her with others for the project. In addition to the docuseries Jae will also compile the interviews into a long form article that will serve as her thesis.
KIFC is a unique film that raises legitimate questions and grabs the audience's attention. To see more of the film or find out how to get involved and donate, visit the KIFC website at KIFCthemovie.com.
EDITOR'S NOTE (9/18/2016): The project has been renamed and updated to The Mason-Dixon Hip Hop Project. Check out their YouTube page for more videos and on social media @MsonDixonHH.