So here we are in New York gearing up for all the activities surrounding next week’s GOP Convention. Lots of people are planning to descend upon New York from all over the country to show their displeasure to George Bush and his policies. There are estimates of up to one million people rolling into the Big Apple.
The powers that be are doing everything in their power to shut things down. Their weapon of choice is thus far to deny everybody a permit to protest. The other weapon is law enforcement has been going around undercover, infiltrating groups and gathering intelligence all in the name of fighting terrorism. It’s gotten to the point where law enforcement types from other cities are now in NY helping familiarize the NYPD and others on activists and protest groups from their respective cities..
While all this is going on and the struggle continues for a permit to be granted to accommodate all these people, a lot of New Yorkers especially within Hip Hop are leaving town. The first casualty is Russell Simmon‘s Hip Hop Summit Action Network. They were one of the few organizations to actually get a permit and even fronted the initial seed money… But they will be pulling out although they left the permits and money intact. Yesterday they issues a statement as to why.
Personally I think folks are being forced to bow out. The climate is such that all the stops are being pulled out to shut @#%$ down…This would include detaining folks at airports, looking for old warrants, jamming people up for past activities etc… Considering that Russell was one of the first to call for a demonstration to suddenly pull out suggests that there’s something more to the story. The fact that so many cats that were planning on being in town are now leaving for Miami and Vegas seems more then coincidental…
Many of the artists Simmons has access to are now leaving for Miami for the MTV video awards. Others are bouncing to Vegas for the Magic Convention. If that’s not enough on the day of the big protests many of the pioneers and old school cats are headed up town to the Bronx for the annual tribute to Hip Hop pioneer the late Disco King Mario…That’s expected top draw thousands.
Its hard to make sense of whats going on, but everywhere I’ve been, the vibe seems to be ‘I’m leaving town and getting the heck out.. Its not so much that people think something bad is gonna happen, it just seems to be both confusing and hectic.. so a lot of folks are leaving the Big Apple as the Republicans and protest groups come in…
In the backdrop of all this have been a number of well attended events put on by the good folks over at Allhiphop.com. Last night (Wed) they had an unsigned artist show case that was off the hook.. Saigon who has made a lot of noise with his political song ‘Kiss the Babies’ held it down as host while a who of NY’s underground came through and got busy. Groups like Unos Dos, Mims, Stimuli and many more rolled through SOB’s to do their thing. Many of the artists had some sort of political commentary in their songs..
KING SUN GETS SERVED
The highlight of the event took place outside SOBs when the legendary King Sun came through and started flipping rhymes for the dozens of cameras filming the event. I’m not sure what happened but King Sun decided to turn his attention to a small bespectled white boy who said he was an emcee. King Sun wanted to drop some gems and let the kid know that he was a GOD and there were lessons for this young kid to learn. So King Sun in front of a few dozen people started rocking some choice rhymes… Moments later the little white kid had everyone hooting and hollering and making phone calls to friends who held up their phones so they could share in the witnessing of King Sun getting his ass seriously lyrically served.
Yep, you read it right here the white kid who broke him down was a cat name AM Boogie, a native New Yorker who would not let up on his relentless punch lines. His rhymes ranged from him thanking King Sun for comparing him to fellow white rapper Eminem.. because as he pointed out ‘We’re both nicer than you’. It was that line that had folks pulling out their tape recorders, telephone and cameras..
Other choice lines included AM Boogie talking about how he could walk a tight rope between the gaps of King Sun’s teeth. What knocked King Sun out the ring was when AM Boogie acknowledging that King Sun was a God and that AM was a short white boy serving Sun in front of all his brothers…He concluded the rhyme by talking about how he always screws King Sun’s girl…
There was no coming back after that..King Sun showed the kid some love, gave him a hug and a pound and promised he would be back with some harder stuff and that it wasn’t gonna be his night.. AM Boogie went on to battle a few other cats,and disposed of them quite quickly. Everyone was still buzzing because to see Sun get served was a rarity… The Battle made everyone night.. Don’t get me wrong Sun came with some heat…. But this other cat AM Boogie was on a mission to topple the 7 foot giant..
Hip Hop and Censorship
The other highlight of the week took place on Tuesday night when Allhiphop drew more then 700 people to SOBs for a social lounge discussion on Hip Hop and Politics. It was great to see a line out the door with folks from all over New York coming through to peep the discussion. The panelists included Ms Info of Hot 97..Some of y’all may know her as Minya Oh a well known Hip Hop writer for Vibe and other Hip Hop publications, Joe Budden, M-1 from dead prez, Minister Ben of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network, Amanda Diva from VH1 and the editor of Vibe Magazine..
The panelist started off with a discussion about censorship. Most were of the opinion that artists should not be censored because it would open the door to other types of censorship that would be hard to reverse. However, Ms Info raised a good point about Hip Hop defending indefensible lyrics and behavior from artists who want to use lines like Lil Jon’s ‘skeet skeet skeet’ (cumming over someone’s face).
Minister Ben and M-1 asserted that we need to exercise personal responsibility and the community itself plays a role in what they are willing to accept or not accept…He also opted that he was featured on Jim Jone’s newly released album and that it did have lyrics that one could question. He noted that part of our collective responsibility was not to be so quick to listen to outside forces that insist on setting standards for our community, but don’t know the community. He broke it down by saying we should not follow the ways of descendants of former slave owners who have long censored Black folks here in America. He spoke about the importance of us trying to understand why and an artist goes in the direction he does and dealing with the artists on that level. In short, there may be a lot more to them then you think..
M-1 also pointed out that some of these outlets are quick to censor artists when they have something political to say, but remain complicit when they say foul things. He noted the solution was to not bother chasing down radio and video play because those are mediums we don’t own or control. He noted that these outlets would ultimately define who we are as a people and that the best thing any artists could do would be to build directly with the community. Once that happens censorship would not be as much as an issue.
Joe Budden addressed the controversy that swirled around his song where he talked about kicking a pregnant woman in the stomach on the remix to Usher’s song Confessions. He noted that what he said was misinterpreted and that he was describing what some brothers who felt they had their back up against the wall would actually think. He noted that he himself would never dream of doing anything so foul, but as an artist he wanted to play a character and let you hear what that character who he admitted was irresponsible and foul was thinking. He also noted that the song despite the protests was very popular.
To Vote or Not to Vote: Dead Prez vs Minister Ben
The discussion quickly moved to a topic that really set off fireworks. This was on the issue of voting and politics. It was pointed out that there was a lot of activity going on designed to register people, but at the same time popular artists like Nas, Talib Kweli and Slick Rick have gone on record to tell people not to vote..
Minister Ben set it off by talking about the work he and the Hip Hop Summit Action Network had been doing. He noted that he was on a mission to get folks political involved and one way to do was getting them registered to vote. He pointed out that there were many within in Hip Hop who were afraid to step up and seize power and by not getting involved was a punk move..
M-1 countered by noting that he was one of those artists who encourages folks not to vote. He pointed out that voting in this corrupt system would not bring about any significant change and that ultimately we had more important work to do in the community then run around voting… He also said that he didn’t want to appear to be in opposition to Minister Ben and his work. He said he supported the efforts and if one felt like voting was the way to go then he would not stand in their way, but at the end of day when they discovered voting doesn’t work, he and his organization would still be in the hood ready to work with them to bring about change..M-1′s remarks drew lots of applause
Ms Info and Joe Budden were of the opinion that voting is what is needed. Joe Budden pointed that no matter what happens either Kerry or Bush are gonna be in office and that we should be in record to make a statement.. He noted that there were other issues connected to voting.. not just Kerry and Bush.. He concluded by noting that he didn’t see too much difference in the two..except that one would screw you with Vaseline while the other wouldn’t..
Ms Info pointed out that right now the only currency elected officials are dealing with is the vote.. so until that changes we’re gonna have to get out there and try and push the envelop. Like Joe Budden she agreed that we’re gonna have some one in the white house making laws no matter what we do so we can at least try to get on the record and be heard…
Minister Ben came back and noted that the vote was not the only thing for us to do. He said the vote had to be connected to a larger plan of action. This is just a small step that leads to many. He noted that when he was younger he was of the same mindset of M-1. He spoke about how he spent most of the 1970s in prison for fighting to bring about social change. Over the years he learned to use every weapon including the vote. He also told the crowd if they wanted more wars in Iraq, less healthcare services in the hood and relief from a variety of other ailments then ‘Don’t Vote.. He pointed out that its not just about Bush and Kerry.. Its about all the local election where we need to vote. He pointed out a few laws that were on the books around the country that people could vote on to help end mandatory minimums prison sentencing.
He said when he was in jail there was nothing romantic or cool about it. Prison was not a place to ‘go find yourself’ and all he wanted to do was get out. It was heartbreaking to hear folks say right on and not vote to help bring about change that would help get him and others out. He agreed with m-1 that it is crucial to do work in the community and to build up institutions.. but we need to vote to make sure our hard earned money and tax dollars are brought back to the community so we make that happen.. Ben’s remarks drew loud applause.
In the end Ben and M-1 came to the conclusion that they both wanted social justice and true freedom for the community and in many ways they were saying the same thing. They just had different methods in how to go about doing things.. The discussion despite the messed up microphones was riveting and left folks with a lot to think about..
Props to Allhiphop for pulling together this forum…