Zack Gingrich-Gaylord

Community Fundraising Coordinator/ Hip-Hop commentator

Zack Gingrich-Gaylord is a lifelong listener to public radio in general, and KMUW in particular. He was born and grew up in Wichita, and has lived in Lawrence and Newton.

After working for 15 years in the restaurant industry, he changed career paths and began working for KMUW in corporate support. He enjoys bringing the community of public radio listeners to the broader Wichita community.

Hope that’s good enough. I was raised not to talk about myself. Well, not really. But I heard that line on TV the other day, thought I’d try it out.

Ways to Connect

I didn’t grow up with hip hop—I came to it late from punk rock, when punk had turned bubblegum and hip hop was in yet another of its golden ages in the mid-90’s.

In the early 1900s, an Irish immigrant named Mary Mallon worked as a personal cook for several wealthy families.

Her tenure also coincided with several outbreaks of typhoid, a bacterial infection that--in its most severe cases--can be fatal. It was eventually determined that Mary was a carrier of the disease and for the next few years she alternated between quarantine and a kind of life on the run as she continued to insist on working as a cook, which inevitably led to more typhoid outbreaks. She would spend the final 23 years of her life in quarantine.

  

Spring is finally here, and along with it comes one of my favorite activities: playing music really loud in my car. 

The 2016 album “Telefone” from Chicago emcee Noname opens with a song centered on her grandmother. As Noname struggles with growing fame and its attendant problems, memories of her grandmother enter the verse, grounding her in a reality that is also grounded in reality. Here, a line like "don’t grow up too soon, don’t blow the candles out, don’t let them cops get you," is encompassing in a way that nostalgia often isn’t—it’s complex and sad, wistful and heartbroken.

I’m constantly surprised by what I hear in hip hop, and not just lyrically. The other half of hip hop, the beats, is as expansive and comprehensive a music as any other, and because it’s sample-based music, it’s really hard to run out of new forms.

To my mind, the question for 2017 is not so much what do we want, but how will we achieve what we want. The election of Donald Trump to the presidency has changed some things for some people, and has made more explicit the continued struggles of others. Racism, for instance, did not suddenly come into being on November 9 or January 20, although perhaps a renewed sense of urgency towards addressing it did.

On the latest release from hip hop duo Run the Jewels, every track is a fist, held in the air, raised in resistance, or a jaw-crushing volley thrown in service of the revolution.

Youngking11 / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

This piece originally aired on August 17, 2015.

A common critique of hip hop music is to point out the violence and vulgarity in the lyrics as a sign of its lack of quality. I’ve always found this puzzling. Americans are connoisseurs of violence. We are taste makers in this aesthetic, and we know what and where we like each particular violence.

There’s a scene in the 1997 documentary ‘Rhyme and Reason’ where the emcee Taz demonstrates how to hand someone a hat. It isn’t enough to merely give someone a hat, he explains, you have to hand it to them in a hip hop way. As he performs the difference, you can see he knows this is over the top, but you can also see there’s a part of this that’s true: there is a hip hop way to hand someone a hat, and it’s a little funkier than any other way.

The term ‘underground’ gets tossed around a lot in hip hop--usually, it seems, in an attempt to signal the superior taste of the person bringing it up. Ostensibly, an underground artist is obscure but deliberately so; slept on by mainstream audiences, and tapped into some kind of arcane but universal truth; the avant-garde.

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