Zora & Alice Review

Paige in Full: One woman’s ode to Love, Life,and Hip-Hop

 

by Jessica Lynne on July 9, 2010

I am in love with many things- literature, humid city evenings, Tahitian vanilla candles- but it is my romance with hip-hop that has left the deepest imprint on my heart thus far. To fall in love with hip-hop is to fall in love with the life rhythm of beats and breaks. To fall in love with hip-hop is to fall in love with Brooklyn, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Houston. To fall in love with hip-hop is to fall in love with a passionate voice that reflects our best and our worst.  To fall in love with hip-hop is to slip  into a smooth love affair that leaves you yearning for the repeat button.

As hip-hop journalist Joan Morgan says, our love jones with hip-hop ain’t going no where.

My relationship with hip-hop is one of evolution. In 2010, hip-hop culture looks very different from the early days. As such, I appreciate generational reflections that invite someone like me, a young woman almost 30 years removed from the “beginning” into the cipher. Panels, lectures, and discussions are effective tools in sharing history but sometimes I don’t want the  air of academia to inhibit my experience. Sometimes I simply want real words, real art, scored by a DJ and a mic.

Cue Hip-Hop Theater Festival.

The Hip-Hop Theater Festival is a professional theater company dedicated to sharing the stories of the hip-hop generation. For almost a decade HHTF has been hard at work showcasing the talent, breadth, and diversity of hip-hop culture. HHTF is a force, hosting performances all over the world throughout the year.  This week the fest is in D.C.

Although I could not stay for the entire week, I had the pleasure of attending  a few of the opening events including a DMC DJ exhibition at the Kennedy Center as well as an informative panel on environmental sustainability and hip-hop at the future sight of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture (opening in 2015) .  Both events were insightful but the highlight of my week was  the performance Paige In Full. Paige in Fullis a visual mixtape that explores the complexities of color, womanhood, and hip-hop. It is the classic bildungsgroman- girl meets life meets heartache meets growth.

Paige in Full is the story of  a multicultural girl growing up in Baltimore. It is one woman’s journey through womanhood, soundtrack included. The production, written and performed by Paige Hernandez, reminded me of Anna D. Smith’s work as Hernandez confronted identity politics on stage. Movement and poetry are vehicles through which Hernandez engages local Baltimore culture ( I never miss a good B’more house party) and the wider contextualization of race in America. The performance is divided into two primary  sections, childhood, and adulthood.  Hernandez invites her audience to be apart of the journey by evoking call and response. I especially enjoyed the DMV chant where DMV natives were asked to stand and represent our hoods.

Still, the interactive nature of Hernandez’s performance only added to the message. In an era where  an artist like Kanye West has become one of a major player in my hip-hop lexicon, Hernandez tells the story of her love affair with Eric B and Rakim. After an exceptionally great  day I may blast some rhymes by Wale ( also a DMV native) while Hernandez’s moments of bliss found her ears soothed by Big Daddy Kane.  For Hernandez, hip-hop represents a protective space for self-discovery. She  is explicit about who she loves in hip-hop  and why she loves hip-hop which serves as a creative teaching lesson for all.

As I watched Hernandez re-enact the opening dance number from  Fly Girls of In Living Color, I imagined how I would tell of my own romance with beats and breaks. Theater may not be the first space one would turn for hip-hop but it’s important to recognize that women in hip-hop are not simply diamond flossin’, wig rockin’, lyrical gurus armed with a crew and a record label. Some are. Most of us aren’t.  Women in hip-hop are also writers, actors, mothers, teachers, students, daughters, volunteers and lovers with tales of life inspired by the breaks.

If you are in the D.C area, be sure to check out the rest of the Fest. You won’t be disappointed!

 

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