Amoeblog Black History Month Series Salutes Leroy Moore & the Krip-Hop Nation, Pt II

Posted by Billyjam, February 28, 2011 11:41pm | Post a Comment
Leroy Moore

This is the second part in the Amoeblog Black History Month salute to the Krip-Hop Nation and its founder, Leroy Moore, who attentively oversees the day to day operations of this umbrella organization for hip-hop artists with disabilities worldwide. As noted in the first Amoeblog installment, this New York born, Berkeley, CA based artist/activist has cerebral palsy, which significantly affects both his speech and his mobility but he nonetheless displays a work ethic that would put most to shame. Simply put, the guy never stops striving in his efforts to push forth the Krip-Hop Nation as well as all the other causes and organizations, including Sins Invalid, that he is constantly involved in. Two weekends ago, for example, he was busy with the a two-part series of literary & performance arts themed Black History Month Krip-Hop Nation events in San Francisco at Modern Times bookstore and at the main San Francisco Public Library which, despite torrential rain hitting the region that week and affecting attendance, still managed to be a successful series with an informative and empowering message for disabled artists of color, and for those who support them.

I first met up with Leroy and his organization four years ago  just as he was about to release the first Krip-Hop compilation. I was instantly impressed by his talents, his passion for art and music and all that he did, and most importantly his work ethic. I immediately felt that he personified "independent living." I was also impressed by our shared appreciation of hip-hop music. At that time Moore expressed how much he loved music and music history from hip-hop back to the blues.

"So I researched the blues and discovered that there are so many people with disabilities in the history of the blues. So of course then I started to do hip-hop. I love hip-hop," he said back then. In the years since we have kept in touch via emails and other online updates. A week doesn't go by without him sending me information on some new project he's involved with, or some artist he's feeling passionate about and wants others to know about them too. After a few years of cyber communicating we met up again in person recently at a cafe on University Avenue near Moore's Berkeley apartment. Sipping tea and reading a book on iconic folk blues artist Leadbelly, Moore had arrived before me and was anxious to talk music and art and all he's been up to lately.

"2010 was a really good year for the Krip Hop Nation," the young looking 44 year old Moore told me enthusiastically. "We've been traveling a lot. We were over in the UK at the the DaDa Festival [Disability & Deaf Arts], and we were over in New York. Then we did a workshop in Atlanta, GA in October at Georgia State University. And also we presented an award to Joe Capers," he told me. "Joe Capers was a blind, black music engineer, a musician from Oakland and he used to work with people back in the day like MC Hammer, En Vogue, Tony! Toni! Tone!, and Digital Underground. He passed away years ago. So I decided to have an award in his name, the Joe Capers Disabled Revolutionary in Media Award, and give it to his family." At the recent Black History Month events in San Francisco, Capers was again saluted. Additionally, Moore told me that longtime Oakland hip-hop artist/activist "Naru Kwina is going to be doing a documentary on Joe Capers." Look for it sometime over the next year.

Georgia State University Krip-Hop Promo Trailer
Of the Krip Hop Nation's recent travels to the UK where they were invited to Liverpool to be a part of the DaDa Fest, which is the UK’s largest Disability and Deaf Arts festival, Moore reports, "It was great. It was the first time that Krip-Hop Nation as a group were represented and I went over a week early. I met with Garry Robson, who is the artistic director and he was here in the US about three years ago checking out different things. He saw the Krip Hop Nation and he liked it so he asked us to be a part of the DaDa festival. So [we] went there and we did a DJ workshop on how to scratch and things. DJ Dave, one of our members from Germany, was a part of it. There was also the MWD (Mcees With Disabilities) networking session, a party where people just came together and exchanged business cards and ideas for the future."

The actual term "Krip-Hop" was created by Moore in conjunction with New Yorker Lawrence Carter-Long. "I was in New York five or six years ago with this idea. I had the idea in my brain before that. I was sitting down in this cafe in Manhattan and me and Lawrence talked about the term and I wanted to call it Crip Hip-Hop and he was like, 'No just call it Krip-Hop with a "K" so as not to be confused with the Crips and the Bloods [gangs].' And it just stuck after that. And by naming ourselves this we are regaining our terms, our culture, our history," said Moore. "And actually, if you go back and research the history of the Crips and the Bloods gangs and of their names, their name goes back -- the Crips -- to where a couple of people in their gang had canes. They were disabled. So they used to call themselves cripples. And then they just cut it short to crips. So then really Krip-Hop is turning it around into an empowering type of statement."

In a similar empowerment vein is the fictitious emcee MC Cripple Crip -- the creation of LA authors DC Curtis and Bones Kendall. MC Cripple Crip is a central character in their recently published book Truth & Pain which is billed as "starring the Gangsters & Retards" and tells the tale of "the Mystique-cal Person-a of MC Cripple Crip." "The book is excellent and the two authors are both teachers and they came out with this book about a group of kids who are disabled in the inner city. It has a really good message and goes into themes like corrupt politicians who are gentrifying their city," said Moore. Moore invited DC Curtis and Bones, who is a professor at Los Angeles City College, to the recent Black History Month SF events. Moore, who describes the authors as "friends of the Krip-Hop Nation," says that they bring a refreshing outside perspective to the movement.

"We're not black and we're not disabled, so we felt extra privileged to be included in the [Black History Month Krip-Hop] events," DC Curtis told me. "We were invited to join the Krip-Hop Nation collection because of our politics. Leroy Moore has introduced us to many like-minded individuals, people who are creative and very talented. We live for creativity and see Krip-Hop as a counter punch to all the mainstream, and limited representations in popular media. A huge message in our book is that different groups can and should get along and work together. Leroy Moore totally gets that and he lives that idea. We feel that working with Leroy and Krip-Hop really brings the message in our book into the real world."
Many individuals and groups have gained knowledge and insight from Moore, who notes that he also has gained a lot of knowledge from others too; specifically the Homo-Hop movement of queer hip-hop artists, who he recognizes as a similarly marginalized group within a predominantly macho, sexist and homophobic genre. "In fact, the beginnings of the Krip Hop movement came about after I sat in on some Homo-Hop meetings," recalled Moore of the East Bay brainstorming sessions that Juba Kalamka was involved in. "My attitude was let them educate me, and consequently I learned a lot from them. And afterwards I thought of the connection with Homo-Hop and Krip-Hop. So that really got me thinking." 

After establishing the Krip-Hop Nation as an entity, Moore set about reaching out (first to meet and then to build a network with) to Krip-Hop artists from his Bay Area base out to every corner of the earth, wherever hip-hop artists with disabilities might be. This task was made much easier with the internet. Using Google and MySpace he got to meet these Krip-Hop artists and heard their music. The next obvious step for Moore, a lifelong music fanatic and former radio programmer on KPFA, was to gather all this music and present it in one place on a compilation exclusively comprised of Krip-Hop artists. The disabilities that these artists have vary from blindness (Professor Blind F8 from CA) to deafness (Helix Boys from DC). Then there were the wheelchair user artists Four Wheel City and Poppa Wheely (both from New York), and the quadriplegic DJ/producer/emcee from LA aptly named DJ Quad.

Up until this first compilation, these Krip-Hop artists were scattered all over the place and generally alienated not just from the judgmental hip-hop mainstream but more importantly from one another, which was both ironic and tragic since they faced so many of the same obstacles and discriminations in trying to get their hip-hop music heard and/or accepted. One artist on the first and second compilation was Haitan born, Yonkers, NY emcee Preech-Man, who got polio when he was young, landing him on crutches for life. His flow is tight and anyone with an ear for good hip-hop can tell that right away. One such person was an A&R rep at Interscope Records, who about six years ago, impressed by Preech-Man's demo, invited him into the record label's offices for a sit down. However, when he arrived on his crutches the label exec was visibly taken aback, Preech-Man recalled. "He said to my face, 'How are we going to market someone on crutches?' That was the stupidest thing I ever heard, coz at the end of the day you're not gonna market my crutches. You're gonna market my music! Just like with Stevie Wonder. They marketed his music, not his blindness."

Keith Jones, aka Fezo "Alter Ego"

Another artist, veteran keyboard player Rob "The Noize" Temple, who appeared on the first two Krip-Hop compilations, also knows discrimination first hand. "Well, it's sad that we have not been accepted; I've been playing in live bands for over 35 years. I've had to fight for years for recognition and I've been told that I never made it because of my disability...the fight continues," he told me. "I have Erbs Palsy of the right arm and am blind in one eye. This was an injury at birth, destroying the nerves in my arm so I only have the use of one hand. I've been in hip-hop since its creation back in the late 70's. I was the first artist signed to Jive Records in 1982, but I've also worked in different musical genres including R&B, house, gospel. The music business, being an image driven business, wasn't ready for a one arm artist visually, so although I've had some success I had to remain in the background for all those years."

Moore noted that many hip-hop music clubs are not welcoming to people with disabilities. "Nine times out of ten [they] are not disability friendly. And then the first time on stage if you are in a wheelchair the audience is looking at you like, "What's this guy gonna do?" Fittingly the cover of one of the Krip-Hop compilation mixtape CDs bears the message: "Forget how they look and listen 2 the music."

Of course the discrimination is not limited to the music business. The Bronx's Poppa Wheely, who in addition to appearing on the Krip-Hop compilations has released several solo albums, was born with spinal muscular dystrophy and consequently is wheelchair bound. That triggers preconceived inaccurate notions, he said. "When someone sees a person in a wheelchair they automatically think that [the] person got shot. Immediately it is a negative assumption. Before I get to open my mouth and explain myself there is a negative outlook," he told me.

Leroy Moore told me that has also experienced his fair share of discrimination, being both a Black man and a disabled person. He cited other victims too, including the Boston, MA activist/comedian/Krip-Hop artist Keith Jones, who records under the hip-hop name Fezo.

Keith Montana Interview & Performance in NM

"Keith Jones and I have a lot in common. We're both Black and both have CP [cerebral palsy], and both [of us] are activists and into hip-hop. We also both recently have been targets of racial/disabled profiling at hotels. Keith Jones was profiled in Atlanta at a hotel in which he was staying at and I was profiled in Oakland, San Francisco, and on tour in NY." True artists/activists, both Jones and Moore channeled much of their anger into music by going into the studio to record a track together about their experiences. 

Another disabled artist, Latino Krip-Hop member King Montana of New Mexico, who is a quadriplegic, is doing a song about his experience of being brutalized by Roswell police, Moore told me. While issues of being disabled are explored in many Krip-Hop tracks, many tracks are simply about being human and lyrically don't dwell on the "Krip" part of the equation too much.

That first volume Krip-Hop mixtape from 2007 featured 19 tracks, including one by Leroy Moore himself. It may not have been a huge success from a commercial point of view, but it was hugely successful in other ways since it brought together this new network of talented, albeit marginalized, artists.

That first CD collection of Krip-Hop artists legitimized this new movement and provided it with a framework to build upon. Not surprisingly, a second Krip-Hop compilation mix tape CD soon followed with many of the same artists plus some new ones, including some women, since the first was a male artist-only collection.  

"I wanted to reach out more to women with disabilities, female Krip-Hop artists, and get their voices heard because on Volume One there were no women, which I suppose was not shocking because hip-hop is so male dominated anyway. So Krip-Hop's gender ratio reflects that or is maybe even more. But I made an effort to really reach out and do a lot of research to find women artists with disabilities," said Moore, who figures the number of active hip-hop artists with disabilities of both genders who consider themselves part of the Krip-Hop Nation to be at approximately 150. Of course, there could be many more (who remain isolated & alienated) hip-hop artists with disabilities out there who have still not crossed paths with Moore and his Krip-Hop Nation; not yet, at least.

Coming next is an all female Krip-Hop compilation which, Moore says, is a joint project with Kalyn Heffernan from Wheelchair Sports Camp, who is also an artist featured on the collection. "It also has Lady MJ. She's incredible. She's from Birmingham in the UK and was a part of the DaDa Festival. And also there is Toni Hickman and she has the album Crippled Pretty and it is amazing. She performed at our Atlanta show. So there's a group of talented women who are a part of Krip-Hop right now." Others who will also be on female collection include Miss Money, Panah Ahmed, Sunshine Madd Hattertriss,  Lizzi Emeh, Prudence Mabhena, and Vivian Flaherty-Thorp.

Heffernan is based out of Denver, CO and is a producer and MC with the four piece hip-hop band Wheelchair Sports Camp. In a couple of weeks the band will be traveling to Austin for a SXSW showcase! Like nearly all of the other Krip-Hop artists, she initially met Leroy Moore via the internet. They finally met up in person last October at an event he helped organize at NYU in Manhattan. Heffernan told me that Moore helped her recognize the extent of Krip-Hop artists on a global scale.

Kalyn of Wheelchair Sports Camp @ NYU

"Before meeting Leroy, I didn't even realize how many disabled hip-hop artists there are throughout the world, not to mention how many of them are females. It's so inspiring and amazing!" she said. "There [have] always been less women involved in the making of hip-hop music than men. That is not to say, however, that there haven't always been amazing, key female figures involved in hip-hop. The more involved I become, the more I realize how many amazing female hip-hop artists there have been in the past, and are today that are killin' it all over the place." 

And what about the music industry ever catching up with Krip-Hop artists, not to mention with hip-hop fans who happen to be disabled? Answered Moore, whose business card logo reads: "Black Disabled man with a Big Mouth and a high I.Q.;" "They don't yet realize what an untapped market the disabled market is. But once they do, watch out!"

Leroy Moore

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Leroy Moore (23), Dada Festival (1), Interview (341), Disabled (4), Krip-hop (12), Black History Month (134), Black History Month 2011 (10), Indepenent Living Arts (1), Leroy Moore (23), Hip-hop (217), Dc Curtis (1)