MEDELLÍN —A boombox blasts a beat as a few young rappers pass around the mic, taking turns freestyling verses in the community center’s patio.
Behind them, a giant mural depicts a single surviving artist in a sea of dead bodies.
“They can’t shut me up. I’m a rapper. I represent the people. I’m a reporter of what happens in the neighborhood, of what happens in the streets,” one teenager spits before passing the mic to the little boy next to him.
Warm afternoon sunshine fills the outdoor space where the young rappers are gathered at “The Purple House,” an activist meeting space in one of the poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods in Medellín.
Carved into the side of one of the mountains surrounding Colombia’s second largest city, Comuna 13 is well known as a site of government neglect and urban violence linked to the country’s five-decade internal conflict.
But Comuna 13 is also the birthplace of a unique blend of activism that combines rap music, social protest and environmental projects.
“We call it ‘agrarian hip hop’ because we’ve synchronized hip hop with agriculture,” explained Luis Fernando Álvarez.
For the past 10 years, Álvarez, who goes by the rapper name “A.K.A.,” has promoted this approach to community engagement as the leader of AgroArte.