The British Library is currently housing an exhibition on the history of the English language called “Evolving English: one language, many voices”. This is running until April 2011, and as part of that exhibition they have invited KRS1 and Saul Williams to give a talk on how hip hop has influenced, and been influenced by, the English language. When I hear people in the UK use phrases like “back in the day” or use the word “diss”, I’m always amused by how much hip hop slang has permeated the mainstream so this is an apt topic for discussion.

KRS1’s touring schedule meant that he couldn’t be here tonight so instead he’s filmed the talk he was going to give and the evening starts off by showing his lecture. It’s something he’s used to doing, KRS1, Chuck D from Public Enemy and Kool Moe Dee have all been on the college lecture circuit in the States for a number of years now. He gives an eloquent lecture on how hip hop slang is used the world over and it’s a shame he couldn’t be here in the flesh as he would have been good in the Q and A session.

Next up, Saul Williams reads a ten minute poem from his book “The Dead Emcee Scrolls”. I’ve got this book of poetry and enjoyed reading it, but there’s nothing like hearing a dynamic poet read his work and Saul Wiilams is definitely a great performer. Absolutely brilliant to hear and worth the ticket price alone. Next up, Saul is joined by a couple of UK stalwarts for the Q and A session.

Akala has been on the UK hip hop scene for a while now and is also involved in hip hop theatre projects as well as giving talks in prisons and schools, oh and he also happens to be Ms Dynamite’s younger brother. Lowkey has also been around the UK hip hop scene for a while, MC-ing with the Poisonous Poets as well as releasing his own mix tapes. He’s worked with US artists Dead Prez and Immortal Technique and is an outspoken voice for a free Palestine.

It’s a good panel, and they manage to cover topics ranging from the impact of colonialism in helping spread English throughout the world to how to by-pass the major labels in order to get your music to the masses. Check the link bekow for an idea of what was discussed.

The evening ends with Lowkey and the Akala playing live sets in the foyer of the library. I’ve been to a lot of hip hop shows but have never been to one in a library before so it was a unique setting for the gig. Both sets were pretty lively and kept the crowd entertained. I managed to have a quick chat with Saul Williams who was walking around the venue with his daughter Saturn and he told me he’s working on some new material for another album.

All in all a great discussion and exhibition. Worth checking out if you’re in London between now and April 2011.


Some footage of the debate:

and Saul Williams reading his poem:

Download a Podcast of the whole talk here: