Call and Response: C.I. Aki’s Textual “Remix” of Zolatova’s Hip-Hop (Untitled) Poem
Hip-hop created the remix as we know it. There is no disputing that. From Bird’s and Dizz’s give-and-go improvisation, young cats from the inner-city streets with turntables, old records, and a community of break beats, mix and cut someone’s music with another person’s words and stir up the community of music on wax. Kristina Zolatova’s “[Title]” speaks to this energy of the remix, the spirit of hip-hop, which is a swaggering dynamo of life and story combined—indeed remixed, with a scratch, a needle drop, another scratch, a “check it out y’all!” drop, the never ending story of the streets looped but never played out, remixed, and always “fresh to def” is the hip-hop spirit. The so-called “captured image” Zolatova notices, which has been “cast aside”, still refuses to be captured. Zolatova writes “we all know that one-size fits none”, and joins in the vibe and chorus of this hip-hop remix spirit, which gamesomely rejects popular culture’s commodifying obsession. She follows the ruse, stands in the cypher, and listens to lyrics: You think we are captured, so you put us on your tube, but the joke is on you! Haha! She reports:
“When ‘echoes’ talk back, they signify
Actively, aggressively to the double, triple, it’s not so simple.
Interpellation meets improvisation and continues to this day.”
Zolatova looks into the heart of the hip-hop remix: nothing is simple, nothing can be captured, even if captured, the life reverberates, it moves—to the beat y’all, and you don’t stop!
Hip-hop is from the streets, from the margins, taking the little it is given and making it over again, anew, another. The Man can try and televise, but the streets laugh, remix again, “you don’t hear me, tho’”. Scatting messages of ridicule, showing off the cool of a people forced to suffer, laughing at the squares who stumble in the fulsome light of their suburbs, while the streets, darkened, sequestered, forced to the margins, joke and still strut, and story-tell, giving their reality a vibrant life by remixing the affairs of the day, the burdens of the people: the “struggle” is for people, the “simple” is for suckas. Gil Scott Heron raps, “You will not be able to stay home, brother. You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out…the revolution will not be televised.” The remix does not deny the struggle. The reality it receives in its hand as marred, it takes it and makes it over again, anew, another.
The remix spirit of hip-hop goes beyond color, and beyond the boundaries of race, indeed, it was destined to do so. Zolotova notes that this remix energy exists to remix, was given breath—rather beat, for “transgressing boundaries”, the boundaries that appear to limit those outside, yet the streets snicker behind the lines: those boundaries limit those on the inside. “To the beat, y’all” Hip-hip calls out, we must transgress these boundaries, as Zolotova chants:
Isn’t this what we’re called to do?
We don’t stop, and we won’t stop! The remix spirit in hip-hop is both the will and worry of the streets: “They planted seeds and they hatched, sparking the flame, inside my brain like a match, such a dirty game”. The remix is a calling and a contest; a game, not of winners and losers, but of bodies, stories, grooves, cyphers; to join in, be apart of, trade with. The echoes ask us to “Holla back!”, we holler back, not as a color but as a voice, a response, joining the groove and the rhythm as it moves us. Kristina writes that this energy is “not a diminishment of black, white, brown, or yellow”. Nay! The remix uses as much as it possibly can, limit does not exist, limit stops the record, and as the streets say, “Game don’t stop”. Zolatova writes that this remix is for a
“collage, a harmony of multiplicity
And in-our-hopes uniting”.
While popular culture obsesses over buying today’s cool and assigning it a place and a value, the remix spirit created by hip-hop is freestyle, a give-and-go, a sharing, a collaboration to expand, prolong, and emancipate. Zolatova wraps up her flurry in the spirit of the remix: “ ‘on the one’ as we process toward a
Rhythmic, uninterrupted you-and-me—
In a word,
This is humanity, this is the streets: laughing, loving, learning, lasting. Now loop that!
C. I. Aki