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Photo 1-4: Installation by Dimitri Madimin, By All Means Necessary, courtesy Aad Hoogendoorn. Image 5: by Dimitri Madimin.

The idea that rap lyrics incites violence has dominated public debate, even in the Netherlands. The hip-hop community fiercely contests this assumption, contending that violent incidents are rooted in societal causes and that hip-hop has been able to articulate these social circumstances and stimulate social engagement like no other art form. The hip-hop community also asserts there is no justification for criminalising an entire music genre. Criminologists and the occasional politicians also support this view. Nonetheless, the stigma remains.

To offer a completely new viewpoint, Madimin takes a different tack. A relationship between art and violence undoubtedly exists, but it is certainly not exclusive to hip-hop culture. Indeed, the European art canon is brimming with violence: beheadings, assault, torture, and power struggles. Of course, such classical expressions are regarded as sublimated violence: visual culture as a symbolic display of power, and sublime aesthetic experience. Why are such portrayals in hip-hop culture – today’s mainstream art form – never viewed in the same way? Madimin subverts this stereotype by making tracksuits from fabric printed with violent scenes taken from Italian Renaissance paintings. In establishing this connection, with the tracksuit as the ultimate rapper outfit, he emphasises hip-hop’s significant cultural importance as the New Black Renaissance.

The title ‘By All Means Necessary’ alludes to the title of an album by Boogie Down Productions, made after BDP’s DJ Scott La Rock was killed by gun violence. The rap group references Malcolm X’s 1964 speech at the founding rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, where he called for freedom, justice, and equality ‘by any means necessary’. It is a powerful example of hip-hop’s ability to articulate and propagate social and political awareness, often to the political elite’s dismay.

This project is an initiative of Dimitri Madimin and Philip Powel. Dimitri Madimin (aka Dim Browski) makes art and music and is co-founder of the multidisciplinary collectives Transformerz, Ruyzdael, and Kiss Escort. Philip Powel is a programmer at the HipHopHuis, a founding consultant at BIRD, and co-founder of John106 Foundation and Ruyzdael.

Beyond the BEAT: Black joy and rage
Madimin’s project opens during the Rotterdam Street Culture Weekend and the Beyond the BEAT event – a collaboration between the HipHopHuis, BIRD and The Notorious IBE, comprising an interdisciplinary programme with panel discussions, a powertalk, film screenings and live performances.

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After an eventful year in which a global pandemic hit, millions worldwide took to the streets to protest against police brutality and systematic racism following the murder of George Floyd, and amid civil unrest and the Black community’s constant state of anger, a sense of loss and a need for joy arose. The idea of ‘Black joy’ as a movement and form of rebellion has taken root here. For the theme of Joy & Rage, Beyond the Beat takes as its starting point Black joy as an act of resistance and anger as creative fuel. Their programme establishes a connection between anger, violence and the role Black joy plays in the process of healing. This programme of image and sound focuses on the Black diaspora, the celebration of Black culture, and a renewed urgency for social change amid a pandemic.

Events with this show