East Bay Express ~ All Hail the Queens

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by Rachel Swan | March 10, 2010

All HAIL THE QUEENS

B-Girls take center stage at La Peña Cultural Center.

As mainstream hip-hop artists continue to move away from the avant-garde, their Bay Area counterparts appear to be heading in the opposite direction. Once relegated to clubs and house parties, local hip-hop has become the province of academic panels, UC Berkeley DeCal classes, and arts curatorial programs. Perhaps that’s a reaction to mainstream commercialism — for anyone who grew up on KRS One or De La Soul, it’s a little upsetting to watch the genre veer toward disco. But more likely, it’s a sign that local hip-hop heads are growing up, getting more politicized, and fixating on the idea of authenticity. They’re gradually moving toward the academic realm, and taking hip-hop along with them.

One of the most visible conservators of hip-hop is Susie Lundy, La Peña Cultural Center’s (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) new development director. Long known in the East Bay as a muralist and B-Girl, Lundy got her Ph.D from the World Arts and Cultures program at UCLA, where she wrote a dissertation on graffiti artists in East Oakland. Thus, she brought hip-hop into a scholarly realm — and is now bringing scholarship back into hip-hop. Lundy recently garnered accolades in the East Bay Express for her efforts to bring diverse hip-hop programming to La Peña in the form of a new mural, emcee showcases, themed film fests, skater events, and even a food-justice cooking series.

On Saturday, Mar. 13, she’ll present a woman-centered showcase that sets old-school hip-hop artists (among them Conscious Daughters and Pam the Funkstress) alongside their disciples. Called Queendom, it’s a fascinating mix of disciplines (emcees, B-Girls, DJs, aerosol artists, poets, and choreographers) with a very directed social purpose.

Lundy recruited her friend and colleague DJ Zita to curate the show, and the two of them took an ecumenical approach. Naturally, part of their intent was to open a space for femininity in hip-hop. But more importantly, they wanted to give the idea of “Queendom” a ton of latitude and bring some new players into the fold. “It’s not about being on the scene, it’s really kind of interfacing with hip-hop in a different way,” said Lundy, adding that she wanted Zita to tackle Queendom not from a DJ or promoter standpoint, but as an arts curator. And Zita rose to the occasion. Queendom will feature performances by Pam the Funkstress, Conscious Daughters, Josie Stingray, Aima the Dreamer, Deeandroid, De La Femme, and DJ Zita, plus new dance choreography by Bodirock Culture, Tendaroni Crew, and Crix Ivy Karina (led by Cricket from Sistaz of the Underground). Graffiti artists Dime, Slide, and Lucha E.S.P. will be painting outside. 9 p.m., $8-$10. LaPena.org