Hustlers Convention screens at Carleton

Around 40 people gathered for the Hustlers Convention film screening followed by a Q&A with the subject of the film, Jalal Mansur Nuriddin (a.k.a. “Lightnin’ Rod”), and associate producer Malik Al Nasir at 5050 Minto Centre on Feb. 9.

The attendees consisted of students and community members, as well as a number of local hip-hop artists who came to show their support.

The Q&A was moderated by Daniel McNeil, an associate professor of history at Carleton. The event was sponsored by various departments, including the Institute of African Studies, the Department of History, and the Department of Migration and Diaspora Studies.

Following an introduction by McNeil, two documentaries were screened. The first documentary was a short film called Word Up: From Ghetto to Mecca.

The documentary featured Al Nasir and his poetic journey from Liverpool, to London, to Paris, and to Washington D.C. It also highlighted Al Nasir’s journey to Islam and his transformation from being Mark T. Watson to becoming Malik Al Nasir.

The film also demonstrated how his poetry has been shaped and encouraged by contemporary rap founders Nuriddin and Gil-Scott Heron, as well as it being a way for them to endorse Al Nasir’s poetry book Ordinary Guy.

Next up was the anticipated Hustlers Convention. The name was drawn from Nuriddin’s album Hustlers Convention, which had a major influence on the hip-hop movement. The album combines poetry, funk, jazz, and toasting, which is an African tradition of chanting over a beat.

The film featured several influential Black artists who have made tremendous contributions by adding the socio-political element to music.

In the documentary, Sonia Sanchez—an African-American poet—attested to the political element of Nuriddin and Al Nasir’s work by saying, “It was dangerous things that they said. It was provocative, but it was true.”

After the film was over, the artists sat in front of the crowd for the Q&A segment of the night. The questions asked ranged from being about religion, the decolonization of hip-hop, its origins, and women’s roles in hip-hop.

A significant and unexpected moment during the Q&A was when two Indigenous women shared their stories of hardship, and asked questions about how they could share those stories through art.

Kimberly Nguyen (a.k.a. King Kimbit), a Vietnamese-Canadian local rapper, said the most important thing she took away from the event is that with time, she’ll understand her history, which will allow her to be a non-Black rapper without feeling as though she’s appropriating the culture.

“I was told ‘do what needs to be done—it’s common sense’ by [Nuriddin]. Malik Al Nasir also taught me that not everything needs to be analyzed,” Nguyen said.