Sometimes the smartest people I know be damn near insane,
so am I losing my sanity by expanding my brain?/
or is insanity just a vanity by expanding the pain?
or is intelligence just heaven sent and dumb people really are crazy?/
– Cliff Notez on “More”, Black Hipstory Funk (2016)
Black Hipstory Funk is more than just a celebration of “black shit”. In 2011, rhymers Cliff Notez and Tyrek Greene (now going by the aka jesusnegro or Black Jesus) were far from being actual valedictorians. During the time in which most college students would be buried under books in a caffeinated library, Notez and Greene were instead vibing to instrumentals in Notez’s homemade studio at 5 Taunton Ave. Just as any typical room at a college, many elicit things took place in between (and amidst) those studio sessions. Although slightly inebriated, Notez and Greene made sure to bring a rebirth in what they called “hipstory”, a concept that is just as linguistic as it is musical. Beyond the musical timbres would signify the historical “golden age” of rap would emulate in hopes of resurrecting an old feel, these two strongly believed they could begin to change the semantics of knowledge. Many scholars understand history, how it often repeats, how it’s very preventable, how to study it, replicate it, repeat it, etc. Hipstory, in itself, is an active changing of that story to make it more “hip”. In hipstory, those who may not fit into the traditional characteristics of intellectualism still exists as potential geniuses from a hipstoryan perspective. By traditional, one could generate the mental image of a decorate scholar, in a suit and tie, participating in a Socratic seminar about transcendentalism. Notez and Greene are having the same conversation, except it’s occurring amidst a party, people are dressed as they came, and many of them may have NEVER heard of transcendentalism. To spearhead this movement, Notez and Greene referred to themselves as The Valid-Dictorians (TVD).
“…’Hipstory’, a concept that is just as linguistic as it is musical…”
Four projects later, TVD is releasing their longest mix tape since their very first, this one called “Black Hipstory Funk”. It was commented by Greene that the tape:
…. (Black Hipstory Funk) is nothing like anything we worked on before. We’re much more mature than we were before. Meaning I can accept anything I promote on this project socially as I have grown to understand how much of an influence I could have on a community.
Songs like “Complexity”, details the struggles of a young child dealing with the lack of guidance in the urban ghetto, then faced with the problems of lack of resources such as contraceptives and abortions. There are songs like “Fear” and “Countin Sheep”, which attempts to chronicle the dichotomy of wanting to live the life of a carefree black boy and dealing with what that implies. An early leaked single “Racist”, reaches the height of the theme of race on the tape. On it, Notez repeats the chorus “You couldn’t be a racist your best friends black? I’m not your best friend homie what about that?”. Racism in music is not an easy topic to glance over, which makes Cliff ponder more on “Trife Life” where he says “I know a few killers that like to hold a few triggers/ I know some white boys who like to use the word nigga”. Preview “Complexity” below.
“Racism in music is not an easy topic to glance over…”
When asked about why TVD focuses their art on race relations and epistemology, Greene responds:
“It’s because of the history books that tend to ignore us. It’s important for us to make an artifact that will last in the world about the true living and lived history of the world’s ignored inhabitants. I think the knowledge aspect just so happens to come with it. Growing up, I learned so many words just by listening to rap that I think we try to not make rap synonymous with just party and bullshit. It’s an artifact and that’s exactly what it is.”
The Valid-Dictorians’ new 16-track mixtape Black Hipstory Funk was released on May 14. It is now available for download at the TVD’s Bandcamp page validdictorians.bandcamp.com or on Datpiff.