After #OscarsSoWhite, Disability Waits for Its Moment


There’s Richard Shaw, known as Bushwick Bill, a member of Geto Boys who was born with dwarfism (he died in 2019), and MF Grimm, who lost his sight and hearing and was paralyzed from the waist down when he was shot in 1994. And Brother Ali, who was born with albinism and is blind.

Even with these breakthroughs, disability is still marginalized in the industry. Take the energetic hip-hop style hyphy. As the scholar Moya Bailey wrote in her essay “The Illest: Disability as a Metaphor in Hip-Hop Music,” the movement dismisses disabled artists by using words like “retarded” and “dumb” that demean people with disabilities.

Then you have mumble rap, which attributes a style of pronunciation to gold teeth and drugs that can slur speech. I was doing mumble rap as a youth in the 1980s with my cerebral palsy speech without being drunk or high or wearing gold teeth! The real mumble rap started with people with disabilities. These movements in hip-hop have appropriated disability expression without including disabled hip-hop artists.

The 2010 song “Industry Epidemic” by George Doman, known as TraGiC, responds to the lack of inclusion with the question lyric, “Hey public, what if your favorite artists had a disability like me?” He wonders, if some of the most famous hip-hop artists were disabled, would the industry pay them the same props? He ends the song by asking, When will it be my time?”

Krip-Hop Nation has blown up, with chapters in Germany, Africa, Spain and elsewhere. In 2012, we put out the “Broken Bodies, Police Brutality Profiling” mix tape. And recently, we put on an online benefit concert. Besides trying to educate the hip-hop arena, we raise funds for families. Recently we sent wheelchairs to a single father in Uganda for his two disabled daughters.

With the 30th anniversary of the A.D.A., I would like to see a major conference to educate the hip-hop industry about disability and promote Krip-Hop artists and politics. I would like to see a recognition of Krip-Hop as an official subculture of hip-hop from the music arena. I would like to see Krip-Hop in hip-hop studies. I would like to see more books on how disability has existed throughout hip-hop history, as well as the inclusion of Krip-Hop in the hip-hop museum in New York.

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