WHAT MAKES IT POSITIVE?
There are no hard and fast rules, but according to the members of the local hip-hop group Wise Council, to be considered “positive,” the music generally...
* Isn’t explicit for the sake of being explicit but uses swear words for emphasis, not shock value.
* Is generally socially conscious, discussing themes such as gang violence or poverty and offering hope in the form of a solution.
* Is sung by artists who live the life they sing about, both existing in the problem and hoping for a resolution to it.
Visit Wise Council’s Web site at www.myspace.com/wisecouncil or hear them perform Nov. 21 at Kingdom Hall, 740 E. M.L. King Blvd., as one of several local positive hip-hop and dance groups participating in Peace Fest ’08, an all-day rally against urban violence.
* For more information on Peace Fest, call event coordinator Angel Kellogg at 634-0461.
For those who think it’s a musical genre limited to singing about bustin’ caps and wearin’ bling, two Chattanooga brothers are hoping to show people that hip-hop can say much more.
Since 1999, Eric and Julius Hubbard, known by the stage names Prophecy and Spokesman, respectively, have been touring Scenic City venues as the “positive” hip-hop group Wise Council.
Listening to them taking turns providing a beat while the other sings songs or freestyle rhymes, it might be hard to tell what differentiates Wise Council’s music from traditional hip-hop.
The trick is to listen to the underlying message, which can cover a range of social issues, from “In Da Club (Don’t Matter),” a condemnation of those who drink their paychecks away, to “Legacy,” a cry to put a stop to gang violence.
“When I’ve let people listen to our stuff, I’ve actually had people tell me, ‘I don’t want to think that hard,’ ” Eric said, laughing. “A lot of people, they just want to hear you rap, get it the first time you say it, and they don’t want to look beneath the surface. We do music so you have to listen.”
Wise Council originally was called Greater Altitudes and consisted of Julius and his friend George Smith (aka Sage), who moved to Chattanooga from Philadelphia and introduced the brothers to positive hip-hop artists like Mos Def and Talib Kweli. The band’s lineup has swollen to as many as four members over the years, but the Hubbard brothers have always been at its core.
While some negative, or “gangsta,” hip-hop artists sing about the high life and becoming famous, Wise Council’s message is about something less tangible, Julius said.
“I would love to make millions, but there are more important things,” he said. “You take an artist like T.I., who sells millions of records, but how many lives did he change for the better or make them a better person by listening to his CD?
“You take a Wise Council album, and maybe we only sell 10 records, but out of 10 people, we might have changed nine lives.”
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...