Marc Bamuthi Joseph is an artist whose medium is his entire self.
And the side of himself he presents in the break/s is hip-hop. His body is hip-hop. His brain is hip-hop. His words are hip-hop. He is hip-hop from the heals of his feet to the top of his head.
Legend has it that hip-hop was born at a house party in the Bronx in the 1970s. Cindy Campbell wasn’t thinking about starting a social movement, inventing a new genre of music or way of life, she was looking for a way to make a little extra money for back to school clothes. So she rented the rec room in her apartment, procured party supplies and charged a quarter or two for each guest.
It happened that her brother Clive, known to the neighborhood as DJ Herc, set up the perfect sound-system. Noticing that the dance floor really moved during the drum breaks, DJ Herc started mixing soul and funk records so that the music moved from drum break to drum break. And so another element of hip hop was born: break dancing. After a while emcees started rhyming over the freshly mixed music. And before long, graffiti artists started creating images as the music played. Thus there are four elements of hip-hop: deejaying, emceeing, break dancing and graffiti.
During a decade when the south Bronx was nearly abandoned; (the region lost nearly half it’s population and arson and neglect left nearly half the buildings in the area empty), one of the most powerful social movements was begun. Hip-hop became a place where people could come together, it became a venue for social critique, it gave rise to other art forms and, for some, became a way of life. For me, hip-hop is connected to history and hope.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph is an intentional artist and educator, the powerful history of hip-hop as a cultural force feels present in his work.
the break/s is a play on words that brings the breaks that are the heart of hip hop music to mind, but also links to a more personal story of a break. This fits perfectly as the title to the performance piece in which Bamuthi shares stories of his life and work using spoken word, dance, projection and sometimes by conversationally addressing the audience over beats and breaks created by Tommy Shepard and DJ Excess. He moves and speaks with incredible charisma, artistry, sincerity and generosity. With stories of his travel, Bamuthi takes the audience to faraway places across both the Atlantic and Pacific but more importantly geography is a backdrop for stories that begin conversations about race, identity, relationships, hip hop, art and much more. I would tell you all about it, but Bamuthi does a much better job than I could begin to do.
In fact, every single cell in his body is engaged the story telling he does to a degree that I can’t describe, please just go see it for yourself. You will be awed and inspired. I promise.