On Thursday, June 11, 2015, students at IPR took a break from their busy finals week to hear a special lesson from Professor Griff. The Minister of Information of Grammy-nominated hip-hop group Public Enemy visited the campus in downtown Minneapolis for an intimate Q&A session with students, faculty and staff. He discussed everything from his musical influences to what he thinks is wrong with the music industry today.
What started as a two-year plan with Public Enemy to “get in, shock the industry, and get out,” turned into a decades-long music career. Griff is not only a rapper, but an educator, author, social activist, martial artist… and the list goes on.
“We can use music to effect change, especially human rights,” Griff told one student who asked if he thought music was just as effective now as it used to be. “If it can’t change the lives of young people, then what is it good for? It’s truly sad that the hip-hop genre has changed so much. You make songs to get hits, but what about songs that serve as themes?”
Griff grew up in house of 13 children with his mother in Long Island, N.Y., who listened to gospel and blues music. He says he was also influenced by James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, and Aretha Franklin. He even admitted to listening to Lifehouse and Air Supply in the shower and on the tour bus, to which the audience chuckled.
That’s what prompted Professor Griff and others to found Public Enemy.
“We didn’t ask anyone to accept us,” he explained about why the group went on tour with the Beastie Boys when they were given just seven minutes on stage. “We didn’t want to be the biggest act. We wanted to be true to us and true to what we were doing.”
When it comes down to it, Griff said it’s about respect; what he says literally means “to look again,” and that we all need to take a second look to understand each other’s culture.
“Hip-hop is a healing formula for the human family. With hip-hop there is no race,” he said. “As soon as hip-hop leaves the studio, it speaks volumes, no matter what language.”
Visit www.ipr.edu to learn more.