Persistent Resistance: The Demand for Collective and Individual Human Rights Action in the Music of Rebel Diaz

Terence Kumpf, Technische Universität Dortmund:

From the 19th to the 21st centuries, and through folk, blues, jazz, punk, and hip-hop, activists have relied on music to engage people in the fight for human rights. When it comes to conscious hip-hop and activism in the United States today, few artists compare to Rebel Diaz. A bilingual English-Spanish duo triangulated between the South Bronx, Chicago, and Chile, the group consists of brothers Rodrigo (RodStarz) and Gonzalo (G1) Venegas, UK-born/US-educated children of Chilean dissidents who fled the Pinochet regime in the 1970s. From labor rights (“Work Like Chavez”) and immigration (“I’m an Alien”) to police malfeasance (“Stop! Stop and Frisk!”) and corrupt elected officials (“#Crook”), the issues Rebel Diaz takes up resonate locally and globally. Concentrating on aesthetics, this article examines how the group marshals their music to demand justice. Close readings of “Stop! Stop and Frisk!” and “#Crook” detail how Rebel Diaz’s lyrical, musical, and visualization strategies cohere to create rich, semiotic texts that entertain, educate, and encourage audiences to confront police misconduct—specifically, the harassment and murder of people of color in America’s urban communities. In closing, this article considers how the Venegas brothers utilize independent media to further the human rights agenda outlined in their music.

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