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’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.

In 1970, the poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron released "Whitey On the Moon," a scathing critique of the space race. In the poem, he describes the conditions of earthly poverty, but always invoking the gaze of the white astronaut.

The pianist and composer Thelonious Monk is instantly recognizable from tunes like ‘Straight No Chaser’ and ‘Round Midnight’. But one of his most heard recordings isn’t one of his own tunes, and it isn’t even the whole song. 

Warning: Some of the lyrics featured in this New American Songbook podcast contain explicit language.

In 2004, the producer Danger Mouse released ‘The Grey Album’, an amalgamation of the vocal tracks from Jay-Z’s ‘Black Album’ and the Beatles’ self-titled LP, or what most folks call ‘The White Album’. For people familiar with both albums and artists, it was more than just a remix, it was a statement, and on top of that, it sounded great.

There’s a scene in the third Mad Max movie, ‘Beyond Thunderdome’, where Max, recently banished from Bartertown, wakes up surrounded by children convinced he’s their messiah, Captain Walker. As they relay their mythology, they make use of familiar objects, or rather they make mis-use of objects: records become prayer-wheels, picture frames now move across rock paintings to keep place in the story. All of their stuff is pre-apocalyptic, including the functions of it. Now, after the apocalypse, the artifacts have lost most of their original context and usefulness, leaving the children free to make new associations.

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