Higherground Hip Hop: Sellassie at SubZero

Left: Ice Cube, right: Sellassie

Hip-hop is the story of a people overcoming oppression and voicing their expression against adverse odds. To quote Yasiin Bey, a.k.a. Mos Def, “Hip-hop is the last true folk art.” At the very least, it is folk.

Some of the uninitiated might view hip-hop as the epitome of misogyny and anti-intellectualism. This is largely thanks to a pernicious mainstream corruption which obscures the vitality of expression and poetic talent alive in rap, and often exalts the negative aspect of that culture and those artists who form the associated stereotype.

However, rap is not just about big butts and bling. While it can include these aspects, it’s more basically the expression of both struggle and celebration, personal as well as social, and a climb from rags to riches, lack to luxury, and poverty to economic power. Popular culture often forgets this. Like the blues, hip-hop originated as a folk art, a DIY phenomenon, giving voice to the individual, regardless of where they are situated on the social strata.

Enter Sellassie, self-described as “the world’s first Higherground hip-hop artist,” a term he coined as a statement that he “won’t sell his culture out for money and fame.” With influences from Bob Dylan to KRS 1 to Tupac, Sellassie brings a “consciously progressive” aesthetic to his music, focusing on “optimistic realness” and voicing truth about the ghetto life.

Beginning in 2008 and touring prolifically, Sellassie has already made a name for himself, performing with artists such as Rakim and Michael Franti, and making a personal friend of Immortal Technique. This January 31st, at SubZero, Sellassie will be bringing a number of local Corvallis rappers out with him, in line with his mission to bring exposure to talented, though unknown artists, as well as positive, progressive hip-hop.

Still not sure if this is your scene? In the words of Sellassie, “Come out and have your mind changed about hip-hop.”

The show starts at 9 p.m. on Jan 31. Tickets are $5 for 21+ and $8 for 18-20. For registration and information, call 415-484-5704.

by Joel Southall

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