“Don’t come here because you like hip-hip,” Deputy Mayor of Newark Ras Baraka told the crowd of teens gathered inside the gym at Essex County College. “Come here because there’s real things going on in the community.”
Baraka, along with hip-hop legend Doug E. Fresh, rapper MC Lyte and others, including “America’s Next Top Model” contestant Camille McDonald, were a part of the National Hip-Hop Political Convention’s Youth Summit yesterday (June 16), which featured a panel discussion on topics ranging from activism to bridging the generational gap. Cousin Jeff, of “Rap City” fame, served as moderator for the discussion.
“You have to get involved in something more productive than just partying,” said Vinnie, member of the New Jersey-based rap group Naughty By Nature, when asked about inspiring youth to get involved in their community.
Because many in the audience were too young to vote, members of the panel urged them to consider how activism relates not to just electoral politics, but to the things that are going on in their own communities. Camille explained how as a college student she wrote letters to corporations to land grants to assist in her advocacy work.
“There are people with ears who are listening,” she said.
Only one question arose that splintered the panelist in regards to their opinions.
Though it wasn’t a hostile exchange, MC Lyte and a young man also on the panel disagreed on whether or not rappers should consider themselves role models. Lyte argued that because fans provide financial stability to rap artists, she and her peers should be responsible to “give listeners something that can inspire them.”
“As artists, we have a huge responsibility,” she said. “I’m probably in the minority of artists who feel that way, [but] it should made clear to rappers that we have a responsibility to the youth.”
Her counterpart, however, debated her argument stating every artist isn’t ready to be a role model. He added in many instances rappers “get rich by accident” and don’t necessarily understand the responsibility of being a public figure.
Doug E. Fresh also contended rappers are not role models. Yet. “We got to add yet to that,” he remarked. Fresh explained one of today’s top artists could grow to become a bigger person in stature. As an example, he cited Malcolm X and the evolution the former Minister of the Nation of Islam made from inmate to political orator.
The legendary performer told the audience to have patience with rappers and their maturation process. He explained many of them are still young. But the father of four boys also said older people should have more respect for younger people, whether they are rappers or not. “I feel that young people are not listened to,” Fresh said. “They got a lot of great ideas.”
His comments come one month after Bill Cosby chided African-Americans parents for buying their children $500 sneakers and not being able to teach them proper English. Though the comedian didn’t aim his diatribe at younger people in particular, his comments are an example of the rift between the lifestyle of different generations. Cosby is among other notables African Americans with a disdain for hip-hop.
Rather than criticize the Hip-Hop Generation, however, Fresh felt the Civil Rights Generation should be more proactive to forge a stronger bond between the two age groups.
“Older people can’t be close-minded,” he said. “When you’re close-minded you make the world small.”
The Hip-Hop Political Convention continues today with an Intergenerational Dialogue, which will be held at Metropolitan Baptist Church. The theme of the discussion will be “Spirituality, Arts and Culture, Grassroots Activism and Electoral Politics.” The event begins at noon.