About 30 minutes before the Tuesday-night Conversation at the Menil Collection was scheduled to begin, all of the best seats stuffed inside Renzo Piano's low-slung masterwork were already taken. All of the bad seats, too. Still, people continued to press inside, sitting, standing or stooping in whatever space they could find. When even the museum's wings filled up and there was no more room left anywhere, folks finally just propped the door open and huddled together outside in the cold.
Photo by Nathan Smith Bun B (left) addresses a rather large crowd at the Menil.
Not a bad crowd for a Tuesday night. But then, it ain't every Tuesday that you can catch Bun B holding court in the museum district, seriously discussing the interplay of hip-hop, religion and non-violence, for absolutely freaking free. That's what the shivering crowd outside the door showed up for last night when the Menil hosted a public conversation with Bun on the influence of Gandhi and Martin Luther King on hip-hop culture with a panel that included none other than Brooklyn truth-seeker Talib Kweli. Naturally, there was no hipper place in the city to be.
The less rhythmically inclined portion of the onstage panel comprised Anthony B. Pinn, Bun B's partnering professor from his religion and hip-hop class at Rice University, and Monica R. Miller of LeHigh University, who has written extensively about religion and hip-hop. Also on hand was Josef Helfenstein, the museum's curator of current exhibition Experiments With Truth: Gandhi And Images Of Nonviolence, which inspired the event.
There was no music, hip-hop or otherwise, played on Tuesday. The overflow crowd stayed as quiet and polite as it could while Menil board member Michael Zilkha introduced everyone onstage, but the room couldn't help but crack up when he was forced to pronounce "Big Pimpin'" in his distinguished-sounding accent. That more or less set the tone for the evening. The conversation would be serious, but also weird and fun. Gandhi and hip-hop? Surrounded by priceless, surrealist art? Hey, sure.More »