Mos Def the New Paul Robeson
by Davey D
Right now all eyes are on Mos Def who is rapidly becoming the Paul Robeson of his day. Robeson for those who don’t know was a well singer and actor from back in the 1940s who courageously spoke out against racial segregation and the terrorism that Black people in America faced day to day in the form of lynchings. In fact at one point Robeson stepped to then President Harry Truman and urged him to do something about all the lynchings that were taking place in the South or Black people would pick up arms and fight back.
Robeson’s outspokenness didn’t sit too well with those in power and he soon found himself under the gun when he began traveling overseas to communist countries. Robeson was deemed un-patriotic and a communist sympathizer which resulted in him being blackballed and put on a government watchlist. He soon found it hard to book concerts or get work in Hollywood, but Robeson remained defiant and always spoke out against injustices.
Today we have artists like Mos Def who has been following a similar path. Mos has never been afraid to put his career on the line and ‘speak truth to power’. Folks may recall back in 1999 when Mos Def was relatively new to the scene, he along with his partner Talib Kweli organized over 20 rap stars to come together and produce an album that spoke out against police brutality shortly after Amadou Diallo was gunned down by NYPD in a hail of 41 bullets. The project was called ‘Hip Hop For Respect‘ and Mos Def kicked things off by writing an open letter calling for the Hip Hop community to step up and speak out.
It’s interesting to note that in spite of the star power that apeared on that album, it received scant airplay. Adding insult to injury Reverend Al Sharpton gave a keynote address to the NAACP that year and accused rappers of being absent from the protests and fight for justice in the Diallo shooting. He said that rappers were too busy recording records for record label executive Clive Davis as opposed to fighting for justice. It was remark that frustrated Mos Def who told me he wish Sharpton had spent some time talking to artists as opposed to just jumping to conclusions.
Last year we saw an angry Mos Def shun the MTV Video Awards because he felt that the network along with the artists needed to pay more attention to the dire plight of Hurricane Katrina victims. Mos in true form showed up to Radio City Music Hall with a flatbed truck and began rapping a song called ‘Dollar Days Katrina Clap‘ where he calls into question people’s commitments. Mos was shortly arrested because he didn’t have a sound permit and he refused to stop rapping. But his main objective was fulfilled as he brought attention to the issue.
A couple of weeks ago many of saw Mos bring the heat and spark controversy when he appeared on HBO’s ‘Real Time’ with Bill Maher‘. Mos who was accompanied by Professor Cornel West, let loose and told Maher that he doesn’t believe in the boogey man and he doesn’t believe in terrorist organizations like Al-Queda. He explained that he feels the Bush administration has been getting over on the American people by using scare tactics rooted in the tragedy of 9-11.
Mos went on to add that he feels the World Trade Center fell down because it was an inside job by the government. This was appoint he first emphasized when he teamed up with fellow rap star Immortal Technique to record a song called Bin Laden. Here Mos is heard on the chorus singing “Bin Laden didn’t blow up the projects-It was you nigga It was you nigga”. Between each refrain, we here a sample from Jadakiss saying ‘Bush Knock down the towers, Bush knock down the towers’.
Here’s a clip of Mos Def’s appearance on HBO where he talks about Jena 6 and 9-11
As controversial and shocking as it may sound, Mos is not alone in his beliefs. There have been dozens of books and documentaries including Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9-11 that have pushed for the notion that the Bush administration has not come clean with all they know leading up to 9-11. Many think as Mos does that he had a hand in it.
What makes Mos Def’s situation so unique is that he’s a popular rap star who has appeared in a number of Hollywood feature length films. Him making such remarks could potentially be the kiss of death to his career and he really may wind up like Paul Robeson and be permanently blackballed. However Mos seems unbothered as he continues to speak out and what he sees wrong.
Two weeks ago Mos made the trek along with 60 thousand other African Americans to bring attention and protest the mistreatment of the Jena 6-six black high school students arrested in Jena, La., for allegedly beating a white student. At one point, the charges they faced could have sent them to prison for 50 years. Even now, they still face assault charges that carry terms up to 20 years in prison. For those who went to Jena for the mass protests they feel the district attorney Reed Walters is a racist pig who is railroading these young men for what was essentially a school yard fight. We won’t even go into the fact that white students including the man who was jumped, showed up on campus in the days leading up to the fight brandishing shot guns and hurling racial epithets at Black students. No punishment or arrests were made of the white students.
Now as for Mos Def, he went down to Jena and came back disappointed that more of his rap colleagues were not on hand. So instead of being openly critical of them he came back to New York and quietly called on his famous friends to enlist their help in helping bring attention to this important issue. The end result is Mos calling for a mass nationwide walkout of college and high school campuses all around the country on Monday October 1st. Mos was able to get fellow artists Talib Kweli, Common, dead prez, MC Lyte, Immortal Technique and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney to sign on and endorse the National Walk Out.
Mos Then hooked up with several major Hip Hop oriented organizations like National Hip Hop Political Convention, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Sankofa Community Empowerment, Change the Game and Hip Hop Congress to name a few and put forth a list of demands that they have sent off.
Here’s what Mos and these Hip Hop organizations have put forth.
Judge J.P. Mauffray and District Attorney Reed Walters have engaged in a string of egregious actions, the most recent of which was the denial of bail for Bell on Friday. We call for:
1. All charges against the Jena 6 be dropped
2. The immediate release of Mychal Bell
3. The United States Department of Justice to convene an immediate inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the arrests and prosecutions of the Jena 6;
4. Judge Mauffray to be recused from presiding over Bell ‘s juvenile court hearings or other proceedings;
5. The Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Counsel to investigate Reed Walters for unethical and possibly illegal conduct;
6. The Louisiana Judiciary Commission investigate Judge Mauffray for unethical conduct; and
7. The Jena School District superintendent to be removed from office.
He has also released a You Tube video explaining the reasons behind the Walk Out
Below are ways in which folks can participate:
Here are a couple of ways for all of us to participate regardless of whether we are students or not.
1) organize a walk-out at your school or participate in one of the walk-out’s at the respective schools listed below.
2) Wear Black
3) Spread the word about the Walk-out’s (email, myspace, Facebook, etc)
4) Organize co-workers to attend protest or take one minute of silence (outside of your job) at 12:00pm, Central time
John Marshal Law School
Middle and High of Yonkers New York
Eastern Michigan University
University of Pittsburgh
Salem High School
Manhattan College- City Hall
Alliant International University
Shelby High School
Notre Dame College of Ohio
Penn State University
Syracuse University- campus (no specific location yet)
University of Alabama
Westchester Community College of Valhalla
Plymouth High School
Canton High School
Morris Brown- Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta GA
Clark Atlanta University- Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta GA
Spellman- Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta GA
Morehouse- Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta GA
Omaha Creighton University
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
New Jersey City University
Los Angeles City College
Monrovia High School
Meharry Medical College
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
University of Nebraska at Omaha
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Georgia
Georgia State University- Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta GA
Georgia Tech University
University of Texas (Austin)- Capitol Building
Western Washington University
University of California-Berkley
University of Massachusetts
University of Virginia (Charlottesville)
University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV)
University of Pittsburgh
College of The Rockies in Cranbrook
Lehman College- City Hall
Brooklyn College- City Hall
Bushwick High School
Atlanta area schools- Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta GA
NY schools will be marching to City Hall! They will be walking out at 12 Central meeting up at Washington Square Park and then Marching to City Hall
Wear Black! and if you can protest in solidarity with the students – take a break at noon central time!!!
We salute Mos Def for his hard work and activism as he is moves forth to break the mold by showing everyone that Hip Hop goes way beyond Beats and Rhymes.
Hip Hop News Bits
Congratulations MC Tantrum
by Davey D
Congratulations are in order to Asian rapper MC Tantrum out of Union City, California in the Bay Area. He who won the first round of the DJ Vlad Butcher Battles which kicked off this past weekend in Oakland at the warehouse studios of the legendary group Hieroglyphics.
Vlad who is well known mixtape DJ originally from Oakland and now based in new York, plans to do a battle once a month in a different city. The battles will air on his nationally syndicated TV show which is a part of Russell Simmons H20 Hip Hop network. Vlad said he was impressed with the 8 emcees who came through to wreck shop and wants to bring some of them back for additional battles and showcases.
Myself along with Hiero legends Opio and Tajai served as judges while DJ Backside hosted.
As for the battle itself, Tantrum is a skilled emcee who is no stranger to emcee battles. His experience came through as he seemed poised and clearly ready for all those who challenged him and inevitably tried to rattle him with punchlines making fun of his Asian ethnicity. Everyone who tried found themselves coming up short as Tantrum would take their lines, flip it and land stinging punchlines of his own. In short he put heads to bed without too much of a sweat.
He wound up squaring off with a large bigger than life Latino emcee named Kodiak who had the crowd roaring and left in stitches as he would drop this crazy new rhyme style no one had heard before. He basically came across as a stand up comedian who would freestyle jokes. The final round was close but the nod went to Tantrum who simply had more experience.
Now that Tantrum has won it will be interesting to see how he stacks up against other Bay Area emcees who have blazed a trail in the freestyle world. Most notably is Oakland’s freestyle King Mistah FAB who two weeks ago bested emcees from all over the country to win the AllHipHop.com emcee battle. Two years ago FAB had a legendary battle against Jin who was given the decision, but as far as most people who saw the DVD, FAB was the clear champ.
He didn’t participate in this weekend’s battle because he said there was no incentive, but that may change quickly if Tantrum continues snatching heads like he did the other night. One thing is for certain Tantrum is hungry and may give FAB a serious run for the money.
In between rounds we chopped it up with Tajai to see if he and his crew would ever consider returning to do battles. All of us recall the epic Hiero vs Hobo battle back in 1994. Tajai said as much as he would be tempted they have moved on and will leave space for some of the up and coming emcees who showed up at their studio.
Absent from last nights fray were women. Now on the surface, many might conclude that there simply aren’t too many female emcees. The truth of the matter is that there are women collectives everywhere where you can go and peep sistahs rocking the mic. The more pressing question is whether or not they moved beyond the competitive sport of battling. We’ll have to dwell into this next column.
KRS-One Speaks at Chicago FCC Hearing Puts WGCI on Blast
by Davey D
Legendary Hip Hop star KRS One blew up the spot the other week at the FCC hearings in Chicago. It was a contentious session where Chicago’s Hip Hop community made their presence felt. Here in this clip provided by Freepress.. KRS drops serious science about the imbalanced power dynamics that exists between rappers and radio station owners.
He also called for the attendees to not just hold hearings but to actually walk out and surround Chicago Hip Hop station WGCI which he help put on the map by starting a Hip Hop show called Rap Down with the late legendary Chicago icon DJ Pinkhouse but now no longer plays any of his material.
KRS wraps up his remarks by explaining that radio stations like WGCI and other big businesses have criminalized Hip Hop with its continuous negative presentations. This has caused a public safety issue because police officers and others listen to the radio and come away beliving the falsehoods. This in turn leads to increase profiling of all Hip Hoppers and Black people in general.
KRS gets major props for taking time out to attend the hearings even though he was in town just to do a concert.
Here is the link to those remarks just in case the audio player is not working.
Below are Remarks from other Speakers at that FCC Hearing
M-1 Performs in Kenya During African Tour
by Bryan Ngugi
Three words personify M-1 of Dead Prez in view of his performance during the WaPi (Words and Pictures) gala at the British Council on Saturday: Revolutionary but Gangster! The monthly event is a platform that celebrates graffiti artists, poets, writers, spoken word artists, creative artists and progressive musicians.
Flanked by Umi, a like-minded affiliate of his larger hip-hop outfit, (P.O.W)/RBG family, M-1 gave Kenyan hip-hop fans a rare experience of an electrifying live show by an internationally acclaimed underground hip-hop group. Their characteristic raps laced with radical messages of cultural, social and political revolution, inspired many of the young fans in attendance with a need to raise their consciousness.
At one point, Umi surprised both fans and embassy officials alike, when he viciously censured the British Council, ironically the sponsors of the event, terming its country’s policies as imperialist and oppressive. Amid screams and raised fists, the duo urged Kenyan youth to elevate their self-awareness and to stop buying into the façade of rich rappers in commercial hip-hop.
M-1 and Umi are touring Africa for a documentary shoot. Their next stop is Tanzania where they are also slated to perform. Their Kenyan tour was sponsored by the British Council, Kenyan events organizer Spark Africa, and the producer of the Kenyan award winning documentary film Hip Hop Colony, Michael Wanguhu.
WATCH VIDEOS OF DEAD PREZ AT WAPI IN NAIROBI