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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
6/19/2004 10:08:46 AM

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Since the convention began Wednesday in Newark, there have been lots of serious panel discussions about ways to get the hip-hop generation involved in politics. The summit of the convention occurs today when delegates from around the country vote on a national political agenda.

But with all the talk about a political revolution, hip-hop music is still the draw.

"Hip-Hop has the power to make Japanese people want to learn to speak English," said Newark-based underground artist Lady Luck. "We haven't even seen how much power there is in hip-hop."

One of the convention organizers, Bakari Kitwana, author of "The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture," acknowledged that the event might not work without the music.

"Young people care about the issues, but they identify with hip-hop," said Kitwana. "Hip-hop as a cultural movement has created a national, informal infrastructure that young people are tapped into. We are trying to make it more formal," he added.

But the music has to be good, many listeners said. Public Enemy talked about political issues ranging from racism to black-on-black violence, but it wouldn't have mattered if the music was weak, they said.

"I believe this is the best way to get in touch with young people," said Electra Rispress, 22, of Montclair, who watched underground and New Jersey-based hip-hop artists like Lady Luck, Platinum and Untitled the Caller.

The messages from the artists yesterday were as varied as the artists themselves.

Platinum rhymed about how he was "labeled as a reject" in elementary school but doesn't accept that label.

Hasan Salaam spoke about reparations. "When I'm talkin' about reparations I'm not talkin' about change in my pocket, I'm talking about change in the world," he rhymed.

Andreas Jackson, who organized the underground showcase, said it was about grabbing young people's attention.

"As long as we have the microphone, we can reel them in with politics," he said.

Greg "Nice" Mays, 36, of the hip-hop group Nice & Smooth, said hip-hop music today would have more sway with the youth if there wasn't such monotony among commercial radio. Nice & Smooth is scheduled to perform at the convention.

"Everything in rotation is something negative, rims and cars. Not every kid is fortunate to have that because a lot of our kids are from broken homes," said Mays.

Hussein Fatal, who rapped with Tupac Shakur as a member of the Outlawz, said Shakur was able to mix the right amount of street or gangsta rap with rhymes that talked about important issues.

"It wouldn't be hip-hop if we didn't have Gospel hip-hop, gangsta hip-hop and political hip-hop," he said. "But we have to deal with our kids. We have to raise the kids to think its important to vote."

While some watched artists perform in Military Park, others walked in the sweltering heat between Essex County Community College, Rutgers-Newark campus and New Jersey Institute of Technology to attend seminars such as "911 Is a Joke: Updates on Health Disparities in Communities of Color" and "Our Schools/Our Kids and the Money Issue: Revisiting Brown Vs. Board."

"It is so important for young people, especially people of color and the hip-hop generation, to come together and find ways to make change " said Lauren Harkrader, who traveled from North Carolina to attend the convention.

She sat on the floor and nodded her head as she listened to panelists speak during the "Dismantling Stereotypes and the Criminalization of Hip-Hip" workshop.

Panelists and rapper Jim Jones, a member of the Diplomats rap group, Chuck Creekmur, a hip-hop journalist, Rosa Clemente, an activist, and others spoke at length about negative images of rap music and artists.

Junius Williams, director of Rutgers' Abbott Leadership Institute, said he was impressed b

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