Although last month’s Hip-Hop Summit organized by hip-hop industrialist Russell Simmons in New York City has tentatively received high marks for its initiatives, Da Cocoa Brovaz are giving the gathering an incomplete.
During a Chicago celebrity basketball game Saturday for a mix tape tour that AND-1 sports apparel company sponsored in Jackson Park on the city’s South Side, the Brooklyn-originating duo with the Boot Camp Click clan said the summit’s initiatives will work when the emphasis shifts from grandstanding hot air in an ivory tower to hitting the streets for sincere grassroots community organizing.
I want to be hopeful about it [the summit], Cocoa Brovaz’s Steele said, accompanied by his mic-controlling kinsman Tek under a shady tent toward the Lake Michigan shore, where wares for the current record label they are signed with, Rawkus, were sold. Steele and Tek are scheduled to release their third Cocoa Brovaz LP album Still Shinin on Rawkus this summer, which would feature production by Beatminerz, Pete Rock, Easy Mo Bee, Rick Rock, E-Swift, and Tha Liks. I think that it’s positive to have those initiatives, as much as we can get together [over them]. We’ve got to have small summits in the community, where the rappers give back to the community, like what we’re doing here today.
Tek was more skeptical about whether the New York City summit’s implications would have progressive and effective applications. Among the key initiatives from that gathering are a political action committee that would lobby hip-hop’s issues on Capitol Hill, a think tank at Columbia University for hip-hop musicians and recording industry executives to exchange ideas, and voluntary guidelines requiring more parent advisory labels on music marketed online and offline to dig hip-hop out of its apathetically decadent rut.
This here [the AND-1 basketball game] is action. All that shit they talk about about [from the summit], it ain’t going to get done, Tek said. You can’t put a rap on something they’re not going to wrap up.
Outreach from the AND-1 basketball game, which was hosted by Joe Clair of BET’s Madd Sports show, included a clinic conduct by NBA players for youth with the basketball program at South Side-based St. Sabina Catholic Church led by activist priest Michael Pfleger, a $15,000 donation to St. Sabina for the Ark program that develops African-American youth, and $10,000 to the Chicago Park District for basketball court refurbishment.
In addition to emphasizing hip-hop’s rank and file applying a noblesse oblige off the mic, Cocoa Brovaz said more politicians and activist clergy would have effective voices in the hip-hop community if they followed the Rev. Al Sharpton’s example by rolling up their sleeves and regularly taking their rhetoric directly to the very people they want to reach. Last month’s summit in New York City was attended by Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, who delivered the event’s keynote address, and Muslim activist Minister Conrad Muhammad. Muhammad tentatively agreed to out his differences with Farrakhan, whom he split from, and with Simmons, who he has vigorously criticized as a drawback to progressive hip-hop organizing. Sharpton was in a Puerto Rican jail at the time of the summit on trespassing charges in connection with his role in protests against U.S. military bombing exercises on the island of Vieques that caused the immediate death of at least one civilian.
Most of them don’t listen to hip-hop, Steele said. We’re the true politicians, talking about the struggle and creating the movement. We’re already past the Million Youth March, and all I saw there was the bucket go around with no consensus, no programs. You’ve got white politicians trying to censor us and black politicians trying to organize us.
If they try to censor hip-hop, there will be a rumble in the jungle. Things will get bloody if comes to that. We’re the ones keeping things calm, we’re the ones the people listen to.
They [the politicians and activists] come to us because we’re already reaching the people they can’t reach and want to get at. We all have to be the politicians the people voting, us spreading the message [on the mic], journalists telling people what’s going on in the newspapers and on videotape because our elders don’t step up to our issues. Conrad and Farrakhan are busy fighting each other. So it’s like whoever cries the loudest gets the most attention, and we have to step up to our issues to get served. There’s still poverty, people are hungry, and babies mothers have to get their things with hardly any money.
Chicago was the first stop of the AND-1 Mix Tape Tour. The tour will also visit Philadelphia Aug. 4 and Los Angeles Aug. 18.
MARK FITZGERALD ARMSTRONG
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