Much has been made over the recent activism in Hip-Hop over the last few weeks, especially after seeing community pressure cause Rick Ross and Lil Wayne lose lucrative endorsement deals. I recently came across a very interesting debate with Grammy award winning Hip-Hop artist/activist Che “Rhymefest” Smith and Dr. Boyce Watkins, who led the charge to have Mountain Dew pull a very controversial ad produced by rap artist Tyler the Creator. Rhymefest challenged Dr. Watkins to not only demand corporations to drop rappers we don’t like, but to advocate for them to do business with conscious Hip-Hop artists with a positive message.
It seems as a community we are really good at boycotts and organizing around entertainers that we don’t agree with. But, when it comes to supporting artists that speak to the issues closest to our hearts and are found working on our behalf, we fall short. After all these successes we’ve had with boycotts, can we try a buycott?
Tomorrow, May 7th, is the release date for Talib Kweli’s long awaited album “Prisoner of Conscious“. Not only is he an artist that supports our community (I recently performed with him in Selma, Al on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday) , but he was also the first major rapper to call on Rick Ross to apologize for his rape rap. Why don’t all of us that say we love and support real Hip-Hop agree to buy his album to let these corporations know we support good music with our dollars.
If you don’t wanna wait that long you can purchase Wise Intelligent’s new album “El Negro Guerrero” right now. Wise is not only one of Hip-Hop’s greatest lyricists, his organization Intelligent Seedz, has been active in giving back to his community in Treton, NJ. Another organization that’s producing an alternative to the negative image of Black Men is the Game Changers Project, with whom I shot the above video.
The Game Changers Project is a national media fellowship program for emerging black filmmakers in partnership with community-based organizations dedicated to improving outcomes for males of color. Last year alone they produced over 30 short films. You can donate to their organization here, and if you’re in Pittsburgh they are hosting a youth media workshop and free screening at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater on May 11th.
When I shot the “We Changed the Game” video in Oakland, CA it was at Freemont High School, with a group of 9th graders. One thing that might surprise you is they were very vocal in the fact they were not fans of Rick Ross or Lil Wayne. But when I asked them what artists coming out of Oakland that they were feeling, they were quiet. If all we present to our youth is the most negative image and music, they have no choice but to digest it. Lets change the game and create our own leaders, rap stars, and celebrities that truly speak for us and represent our community.