At the recent Feminisms Without Borders symposium at the Brooklyn Museum, several panelists discussed, among other topics, the moral responsibility of affluent institutions in supporting the arts. Though the panel did not reach a conclusion, one point was made clear: the promotion of art is a shared responsibility. While corporate philanthropy has never been motivated by such altruism, the parallel brand name sponsorship of fine arts and music events — from Target backing free museum admission initiatives at the Brooklyn Museum, to Nokia attaching its name to one of New York City’s newest concert halls — can be viewed as the first stages of Goliath and David’s relationship counseling.
In seriousness, corporations today simply have greater tools to promote their promotion of the arts. Scion, Toyota’s youth market economy-sized sedan, is one example of this phenomenon. Not content to be a preferred mode of transportation, Scion promotes an entire culture that monitors one’s social life (community message board), extracurricular habits (events), and artistic choices via the appropriately named Scion Audio/Visual record label. Predictably, SA/V has cultivated a hip, urban image with a mixtape series that is now 16 volumes deep, and 12″ releases for burgeoning DJs and beat-heads. Following the heels of previous live instrumental band and emcee pairings (El Michels Band and Raekwon; Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra and Guru), the latest 12″ collaboration features funk revivalists Connie Price & the Keystones and emcees Big Daddy Kane and Percee P. The two Golden Era rappers take the lead on separate sides, Kane updating his “Give a Demonstration” and P blessing “Thunder Sounds”. BDK’s a-side was originally a curious track intended for his much-maligned 1991 album Prince of Darkness, and perhaps excised for being a raised black fist amidst the album’s pimp tales. In this 2007 edition, BDK replicates his ’91 rhyme scheme, but with a player’s perspective that would have made sense back then. On the flip, Percee P flows over an uncharacteristically mid-tempo backing, bringing a shade more clarity to his punctuated, multi-syllabic cadence. The venture is admittedly short on thrills, scarcely worth a rewind, but high enough on concept to make it noteworthy. With Connie Price & the Keystones recording another full-length that will incorporate such live hip-hop collaborations, perhaps we can honestly thank the wigs at Toyota for helping push the creative bar a notch higher.