Alumni podcasters present Black History Month hip-hop panel

By Kaitlyn McCormick

Current and former students came together in the Rue Auditorium on Feb. 9 for Silver Mics on the Silver Screen: A Discussion of Hip Hop and Movies. While current Broncs acted as engaged audience members, the panel was put on by three Rider alum, the hosts of the Hip Hop Movie Club podcast. 

Wright Seneres ‘97, Jon Berger ‘97 ‘02 and Levi Wilson ‘99, also known as their alter egos DynoWright,  JB and Boogie, have more in common than just their love for hip-hop movies: they’re all Rider graduates. Seneres is also a member of Rider’s Board of Trustees.

Special guest Cynthia Lucia, professor of film and television, and junior political science major Naa’san Carr were featured on the panel. Lucia contributed her film expertise largely in discussing “Do the Right Thing,” and Carr provided what Seneres lauded as the next generation’s viewpoint on hip-hop movies, though the two may not have seen eye-to-eye on the debate of Tupac versus Ice Cube for best hip-hop movie actor.

The event, supported and introduced by the university’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), consisted of commentary and movie clips ranging in topics from the performances of Tupac Shakur and questioning whether “Do the Right Thing” is the best hip-hop movie. The panel’s lively and entertaining discussion, dispersed with laughter and jokes, was also entwined with important undercurrents and understandings of topics like racism and police brutality and how they are featured in these films, but still remain prevalent issues in modern society. 

“Nothing has changed,” Carr said, after Wright asked him to provide insight on the killing of the character Radio Raheem by police in “Do the Right Thing.” 

“I think there’s still this sense of fear when it comes to how the African American or Black people are perceived in the world. And that could be through the media … how we’re just sprinkled with violence,” Carr added. 

While the movies featured in the discussion spanned from ‘80s flick, “Beat Street” to classic “Boyz n the Hood,” many of the same themes and issues could be parsed out between them and across the genre. 

Lucia introduced a concept she leans on in her classes to explain this view, considering the time and place of multiple facets of film: “When I teach cinema studies, I always draw a triangle on the board. And at the base of the triangle is the time and place of the story or the narrative, the time and place of production and, as the apex of the top of the triangle … the time and place of viewing.” 

In the context of “Do the Right Thing,” Lucia added that although the movie, which came out in 1989, was set in that contemporary period, “We’re watching this movie today, and I think it continues, and I have to say sadly, continues to speak to us. It is a film that is about police brutality. It is about communities, various ethnic and racial communities attempting to get along, and I think it feels so relevant today and my students say the same thing.” 

The Hip Hop Movie Club podcast is nearing its first anniversary in March. When asked how the group got started, Berger and Wilson laughed and placed the blame on Seneres. 

“I already had two podcasts and … I like starting projects,” Seneres said. “I just had this idea, like, we love hip hop so much, and we like movies … there’s not a podcast about it, so why don’t we start one?” 

Much of the panel discussion worked in tandem with the way that movies even from the ‘80s still hold such strong cultural relevance today. About hip hop, Wilson, who has been DJing for over 30 years, said, “It was always underground, per se … I think that it’s always been something that’s unifying [people] that can’t have or can’t get by or can’t get over. It brings them together, no matter what the backgrounds are, and I think that’s what we’re seeing now. It’s become global.”

Originally printed in the 2/15/23 issue.

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