BASS Festival 2008

As part of this year’s month-long BASS (British Art and Street Sounds) Festival, which pays homage to everything Hip Hop, the organisers will be hosting a special two-day conference ‘MCs for Life’. This unique and enlightening conference will take place in Birmingham on 28th June and in Manchester on 29th June.

MCing represents the ultimate expression of attitude in popular culture, provoking even more outrage than Rock 'n Roll in the 50s and Punk in the 70s. In recent years, MCing has become the most prominent of the four main elements of Hip Hop. Whilst, to a certain extent, this has always been the case, this recent development has led to a separation of terminology, with much of the music that would have traditionally been called hip-hop now referred to as rap.

‘MCs for Life’ seeks to address these issues, in particular through looking at the role of the MC within hip-hop as a whole. The conference will look at the development of the MC, from the ‘toasting’ with Jamaican sound systems in the 1970s to the birth of Hip Hop when MC’s would toast over a breakbeat.

The two-day conference will include discussion panels, masterclasses, films and battles, as well as exploring the changes in language and styles of rap (e.g. gangsta rap, spoken word), as well as the international distillation of rap such as Grime (London), Hip Life (Ghana), Hyphy (USA), Kuduro (Angola) and Kwaito (S.Africa).

BASS Festival 2008 - Charlie Dark

The conference brings together some of the leading lights from the world of MC Culture, highlighting the breadth and international impact of the industry and includes:

From the US: New York based producer Lord Finesse of DITC; Black Thought, the lead MC of  Philadelphia-based Hip Hop group The Roots; DC born electronic and experimental hip hop musician DJ Spooky alongside performance poets Rich Medina and Ursula Rucker.

From South Africa: one of the best known exponents of South African Hip Hop Tumi; veteran rapper Ben Sharpa, Lebo Mashile the ‘IT’ girl of South African poetry and the highly acclaimed writer, poet and international performer Napo Masheane.

From the UK: London-based poet, producer and DJ Charlie Dark; leading UK hip hop artists Ty, and Stig of the Dump, spoken word griot TuggSTAR and Mancunian B-Boy Benji Reid amongst a host of others.

Each day of the conference will end with the opportunity for the audience to see the leading lights of Hip Hop demonstrate their art through ‘battles’ with local upcoming artists.

BASS Festival 2008 - Ursula Rucker

Ammo Talwar, the man behind the conference says: “The conference is a way to educate and inform the public about the history and heritage of Hip Hop and MC Culture in its wider context. Hip Hop has history, it has torchbearers and it has a new generation of burgeoning talent – this conference is a way of bringing it all together in the most unique, innovative and interactive way we can”.

‘MCs For Life’ takes place on 28th June at The Custard Factory in Birmingham and 29th June at Contact Theatre in Manchester. The conference is the climax of the month long BASS Festival, which celebrates ‘The Elements of Hip Hop’ and is billed as the biggest and longest annual celebration of British Art and Street Sounds. The Festival will see artists from the UK, the US and South Africa come together to provide visitors with a host of events ranging from masterclasses and workshops to exhibitions and installations as well as theatre and dance performances.

The full line-up is available on:

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