Detroit Hip-hop artist Invincible to perform in France
Guest Blog Post by Emily: Emily is from Detroit and she’s now in her 2nd year at Wayne State University. She joined our team this month as an intern and will be our PR mademoiselle for the Winter and Spring semesters. Emily speaks French and is hoping to study in Paris next year. She’s now reading “Tristan & Iseult”, a classic of medieval French literature: full of love and passion… kind of the same way that Emily feels about the D.
Detroit hip-hop artist and activist Invincible (check here myspace) will be travelling across the Atlantic to France this week, to perform on February 3rd in “Born in Flames” at the music fest “Sons d’Hiver” in the Paris area. Jean Grae and Tamar-Kali will also be on stage.
I hardly ever listen to rap music, so I was eager and curious to begin my first assignment as a contributor for Detroit je t’aime and find out more about the female Detroit hip-hop artist and activist Invincible.
I designate her as a “female rapper” not to be sexist or condescending and not because gender has anything to do with talent or ability, but because it is no secret that female rappers are indeed a minority. Israeli-born (but pro-Palestinian), white, and lesbian, Invincible offers a unique perspective amid a male-dominated field. At the same time, her lyrical calls for action also represent the communal experience of Detroit.
The first name that comes to mind as far as Detroit flow goes, is of course Eminem, another white rapper from the D. But really the comparisons end there. Though he was the one who managed to achieve million-dollar fame, Eminem’s work lacks the urgency that is so prevalent in Invincible’s music, not to mention the female empowerment cool-factor. To go off on a feminist tangent: when I told a friend I would be writing about the rapper Invincible she responded, “Sounds interesting, I’ll have to look HIM up.” I didn’t let it slide. Why do we assume musicians – or at least the best musicians – will be male? Invincible wants to know, as well – check out these girl-power lyrics, from the song “Looongawaited”: “Striving to be one of the best, period / Not just one of the best with breasts and a period.” I have a feeling those words are gonna stick with me for a long time.
Listening to hip-hop is not a passive experience. It makes for terrible background music. I usually like to put on some sort of music while I work on a paper or study, but that just didn’t work with Invincible’s songs. Her lyrics zoom by amid a fury of thumping, insinuating beats and in order to make them out, you must be very attentive. And you’d better try and make them out, since rap tells a story. Words are especially important to Invincible, after all she learned English by memorizing her favorite songs and then began writing her own at the age of nine. Rap is demanding and if you listen closely it can also be very rewarding. Invincible conveys this idea in “Sledgehammer,” a song that condemns complacency and ignorance:
“You don’t pay attention, man, That’s why your power is the size of your attention span. You don’t pay attention, man, That’s why your respect is the size of your attention span”.
The song comes from her 2008 record Shapeshifters (which she published on her very own record label, Emergence) and is a great example of the activism that both resides in and helps to inform her artistry. In December 2011, Invincible performed at and helped organize an event at Cass Community Commons, called “Reimagining Organizing, Movements, and Leadership.” The event was promoted as “all-inclusive,” a philosophy that Invincible is all about. Seriously – she invited onstage a man who’s often seen playing drums and begging in the streets of Midtown, along with some young orchestra members from Rosa Parks School.
She believes that change doesn’t necessarily require mass movement but can start with “small-scale work” in communities and evolve from the “interconnection of all those small projects.” Invincible is inspired by science. The name behind her label itself refers to a phenomena of nature, “emergence” (also called “murmuration”), where starlings flock together and thus share leadership equally:
“There’s not one head bird who’s gonna tell the other birds which way to go. They’re gonna continue to rotate who’s in the lead. First of all, to take the brunt of the wind…Also, they got to quickly be able to change direction. Thinking about the way we organize, when there’s only a few people that are in the lead, that doesn’t give us the kind of agility and flexibility to be able to adapt to different situations.”
So if you’re in France, remember that Invincible’s music and philosophy can apply anywhere, not just Detroit. And what better way to begin your activism than by attending a concert and even a debate with Invincible and her hip-hop buddies (there is going to be one on Thursday, check it out on Facebook!)?
To read an in-depth feature on Invincible, check out the Metro Times (from 2008).