Indianapolis poet, activist and spoken word artist Too Black creates work that merges critical analysis of history and current events with a perspective drawn from the language and culture of hip-hop. Too Black is one of the most impressive performers on the local spoken word circuit. Perhaps more than any other track on the record, “Blood Splatter” which features Too Black — captures Clinton’s vision of Nappy Head as a vehicle for social critique.

Kyle: You’re known for creating work with heavy elements of social commentary. Carrington has defined Nappy Head as a statement on racial oppression against Blacks in America. How did you feel about the execution of that concept on the album? 

TOO BLACK: I think it went well. I liked what he put together. Indianapolis is not really known for being one of the most socially conscious places, but I don’t really know what Indianapolis is known for honestly, as far as the content in our music. But I think it’s a record that can give us some identity that’s been firmly lacking. I liked how even though the record was a compilation of artists, it sounds like everybody was on the same page. It doesn’t feel like somebody took a bunch of random songs and just put them together. People who aren’t always known for talking about socially conscious subject matter were able to put there mind to it.

When I went to the listening party, Carrington told me he made the album because he was tired of seeing Black people get shot. That was really the root of what made him want to make this. There was a lot of white folks in the room at the listening party, and I think he might have been kind of timid on speaking out exactly about what he was saying with the album. That night he was saying, “I just want the album to talk about the issues,” he wasn’t specifying exactly what the issue was. I was like “Really though, what exactly got you to make this?” And he said, “I was tired of seeing Black people get shot. It was pissing me off.” I wanted the audience to hear that and to understand this isn’t fun, and this isn’t just Black people being mad for the sake of being angry. This comes from a real experience. It comes from a real pain and love and everything else. I think Clint was able to put that into the record. 

Kyle: I know you’re a hip-hop fan. I see you posting hip-hop lyrics all the time on social media. How do you view the relationship between hip-hop and activism. Do you think of hip-hop as an art form that is inextricably linked to social commentary? 

TOO BLACK: It comes from that. It's not all social commentary or activism. I think sometimes people exaggerate that and make it seem like hip-hop was just talking about oppression. It's also about partying and having fun. But even that sense of having fun and sharing community comes out of a sense of activism, because the idea was to give people an opportunity to have fun in a safe space. To express themselves and grow themselves as opposed to destructive behavior that often comes from the hood. 

I think hip-hop has always been attached to it. I don't become who I am if it's not for hip-hop. I don't spend anytime reading books if it's not for hip-hop. I don't end up going to universities and speaking on all these subjects if it wasn't for hip-hop providing me with that infrastructure. Growing up and going to church and being in spaces where there weren't that many alternative ideas, it was hip-hop that got me interested in other religions and philosophy. It was hip-hop that got me to look into Black nationalism and all these subjects that weren't introduced in school. It gave me a whole different way to express myself, and just think about life, honestly.

Kyle Long pens A Cultural Manifesto for NUVO Newsweekly and in 2014 began broadcasting a version of his column on WFYI.

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