With final exams and papers underway as the College inches toward the end of Spring term, Friday night, May 21st served as a much-needed breath of fresh air. An atmosphere filled with lively conversations between a hip-hop superstar and an Afro-Latina author and scholar that felt constructive and productive regarding the topics of social justice, education, and the battle against systematic oppression in the United States. Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) students Kelly Scrima, Guarini '21, and Isaiah Diaz-Mays, Guarini '21, put together and moderated a talk with Grammy-nominated and Netflix reality show TV star Daniel Anthony Farris, also known as D Smoke.
D Smoke's most recent album Black Habits, which continues to do well across the charts and on all streaming services, was nominated at this year's Grammy awards against some of the biggest names in rap music today. Dr. Yomaira Figueroa, a newly tenured professor at Michigan State University in the African and Latin American Studies Department, whose new book Decolonizing Diasporas speaks on and analyzes Caribbean literature across many colonized nations, served as the primary moderator for the first half of an hour-long conversation with rapper D Smoke.
The discussion began by speaking on the primary influences of the album and how the artwork, and the title itself, came about. The project had a different title during the beginning stages of it. D Smoke stated that, after listening to a handful of songs during the process in a conversation with his nephew, he stated that the album "is sounding real Black", referring the cultural and social sound of African American music and rhythm within each track. Born and raised in Inglewood, California, many of the influences for the album stem from elements D Smoke saw as a kid growing up, as well as on campus at UCLA where he earned his degree.
Further conversation along the lines of today's social climate led to Dr. Figueroa asking D Smoke about the importance of art along the fight against oppression, and what significance it holds in regard to assisting young people voicing their thoughts and opinions. D Smoke stated that the vitality is always within the arts, but especially during times of crisis. He takes pride in telling the truth within his music, to not try and blend in with today's trend but to make sure that he creates music that'll transcend. Music that will last through the years rather than just one year. That's why he continues to stay true to his sound – and stay true to his voice. A voice that represents his Black people.
A meet and greet was held after the primary conversation with an intimate group of about ten students who were chosen at random before the event, to further the conversation with D Smoke. He was extremely kind and welcoming, and answered every question from students with passion and grace.
Sponsored by: The Hop and MALS
Participants: D Smoke, Dr. Yomaira Figueroa, Kelly Scrima, Isaiah Diaz-Mays