Question period

This weekend I headed down to the Kuumba festival at Harbourfront in Toronto to hear the Boss and ego trip’s Sacha Jenkins speak. The event was really interesting, but, predictably, the question period got a wee bit off topic. It was tame by comparison to most of the forums I’ve been to. Mayhem has reigned supreme at pretty much every hip-hop panel Q&A I’ve ever attended. When folks get in a group, the ability to pose a simple question seems to evaporate.

Back in the summer of 2005, I went to see Nelson George and Jeff Chang speak at the CUNY graduate center, and a bunch of randoms commandeered the mic and let loose with all manner of irrelevant blather. One guy took the floor to complain about the high volume that dudes in the big apple bumped rap out car windows. (“It’s audio assault,” he whined.) Another shaggy-haired baby boomer pompously delivered a reading list to George. A third wanted to share his life story in the world of rock—to illustrate who knows what point. Thankfully, a girl sitting behind me stood up and yelled for the gentleman to sit down and shut the eff up already.

From years of attending these panels, I can pretty much guarantee that the following characters will turn up to derail the question period.

The Grandstander
This dude is so hungry for the spotlight, he will hijack the question period and make it all about him. He will preface his question with elaborate displays of knowledge and/or endless references to his own resume of accomplishments.

The Crusader
Doing away with any pretences of posing a question, this person will use the Q&A period to make passionate speeches, attempting to garner support for whatever community issue they’re currently involved with. Occasionally, the issue may be peripherally relevant to the forum topic—but usually it isn’t.

Mr. Freestyle
Similarly, this individual simply cannot let a good crowd go to waste. Expect him to bust into rhymes.

The Angry Fan
This person secretly adores the speaker, but is frustrated with their own lack of access to him or her. Instead of bumrushing the stage after the show like everyone else, this individual will grab the mic and complain that the speaker is inaccessible, and demand digits and/or mentorship.

The Marketing Machine
Stop the presses. This person has a dope mixtape, a hot open mic night, a crazy campus radio show. It’s vital to the survival of hip-hop that you support it.

Truth be told, this dynamic is way bigger than hip-hop. Go to any public lecture and you will find that the question period has nothing at all to do with questions. My friend Charlie wrote a hilarious op-ed on the subject last year, suggesting that it’s high time to give Q&As the boot. I have to agree.

  • H.

    sounds kinda fun observing the crowd….

  • the boy I.A.

    1ST BITCHES

    TARA HENLEY UR PIC IS SO FINE, IM’A GONNA HIT U FROM THE BACK LATER GIRL, ANYBODY GOT BEEF WITH THE 9 TREY BLOODS COME TO HARLEM RYT NOW

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  • RICK RUDE

    Whatever

  • http://ketchums.blogspot.com Speech Is My Hammer…

    This is the truest post ever. I went to a symposium with Jeff Chang about a year ago, and literally all of those characters were there. Dope diagnosis.

  • jacquez
  • wize93

    Tara=hot…today’s post=boring. This happens at any forum where even D-listers appear. This post was “peripherally relevant” to hip-hop at best. Let’s talk about the 50/Cam’ron fiasco, or the Jigga-naut’s “Minority Report” video for MTV, or how kids that post how dope an artist is from watching the Billboard weekly sales posts like the Dow Jones and Nasdaq, yet download all their music for free. No? Okay, okay, I know it’s your blog, but still….

  • chizamp

    i still love you Tara

  • Were Read 2 Def

    I’d rather go listen to Jacquez than read this again.

  • http://www.ohword.com rafi

    LOL @ the topic’s parallel to the comments after every post at XXL.

    At least at Q&A sessions you don’t get people shouting “First!” or questioning how relevant to hip-hop every statement of the speakers may be.

    “wack!”
    “whatever!”
    “zzzzz”
    “talk about dipset!”

  • http://www.myspace.com/16kingz da’realestwritin’

    wtf. nah jus messin’, this blog is cool but very people go to public meetings any more so they can’t relate to it but all you got to do is wath your public access channel and you can see all these lil’ goffy characters. peace>>>>>>>>>>.

  • EReal

    Co-Sign Rafi.

    1 hunned.

  • alleyeCNtower

    hilarious, Tara.
    the truth is hilarious!
    it’s even worse when a Mr. Freestyle clashes with a Grandstander… lawd have mercy, it’s over, then!

    panelists of professionals? who cares when we got the FUTURE OF HIP HOP MUSIC RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF US ALL, READY AND WILLING TO GIVE US SMALL FOLKS A PERFORMANCE WE’LL NEVER FORGET!!!

    LOL
    rap is outta control…

    still, the conference was good… too bad we didn’t get more talking time from Sacha and Elliot… the Crusader was doing her damn thang, who cares about “the EIC of XXL”? ha ha

    c’est la vie

  • http://www.hiphop-blogs.com Hashim

    don’t forget the “Repeater” who asks a question that was already answered by the panel.

    Q&A panels needs good moderator who know how to be strong and keep the questions moving on.

  • The DJ Formerly Known as N-CREDIBLE

    Were Read 2 Def Says:

    February 12th, 2007 at 10:35 am
    I’d rather go listen to Jacquez than read this again.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    *chuckles*

    are we the only ones that lend a open ear to you expressing your frustrations…i feel your pain…i do…

    *chuckles while exiting*

  • http://whocareswhatpeoplethink thecollinb

    i think the next time my office has a company forum (bank of america) i’m going to freestyle about interest rates

  • Belize

    I am the “marketing machine”…lol

  • Meka Soul

    where would the ones that go “what have you [the speaker] done for my community?!” be placed into?

    self-righteous schmucks.

  • Combat Jack

    I’ve been on a lot of panels and you’re right on point. A few more:

    Groupie Chick/ Dude: Waiting to get your businees card for that “special hook-up”.

    The Set-up Cat: similar to the Angry Fan execpt they already have your number, called you like a million times and in an attempt to “read you”, their comment/ question usually begins with “Mr. Combat Jack, since you’ve never returned my calls, I had to register with this conference/ panel to get your attention.”

    The Lost Soul: Someone who can’t remember why they’re there and when given the mike, swings a few “unms, nah means, I’m sayin’s” and you as well as the panel and entire audience are dumbfounded and feeling sorry for the poor chap.

    The Where Are They Now Cat: Similar to the Grandstander, but unlike GS, has HAD some form of fame in the past (like + 7 years ago) and based on the fact that everyone recognizes him/ her, when given the mike, “will preface his question with elaborate displays of knowledge and/or endless references to his own resume of accomplishments.”

  • Global Macro

    My favorite is “the giraffe.” It’s when an actual giraffe comes into the forum and disrupts everything

    this has happened at literally every event i have attended

  • Flip

    ^^^^^^LMFAO @ Global Macro

  • NickeNitro

    I keep trying to write something, but I can’t stop reading Global Macro’s comment and cracking up.

  • My Effin’ Opinion

    LMMFAO .. Yea … that Global Macro comment is fuckin’ hilarious!

  • SilverBack Gorilla

    Tara, this was a trick blog right?.. You really wasn’t expecting cats to respond to this seriously.

  • CALIMOVEMENT

    Okay everyone has a bad blog every once in a while…waiting for the next one Tara.

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  • http://www.instalator.ranking24h.pl Melany Huesso

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!