Chuck D once said that Hip Hop is the CNN of the black community.
It was a compelling comparison, and certainly an apt one. But as the genre moved wholeheartedly into mainstream territory, it started looking more like Fox News; one-sided, divorced from reality, and serving the financial and ideological interests of elites.
The Black Youth Project and Power of Purpose hope to change all of that with the release of The Pledge Mixtape; a 13-song compilation of various artists taking back their communal power through music. The mixtape’s release will coincide with the launch of BYP’s Pledge Campaign; a call for individuals and organizations to close ranks around black youth, and make a commitment to fight with black youth as they confront a relentless crisis.
As executive producer of the project, Grammy-winning Hip Hop artist and activist Che “Rhymefest” Smith hopes the compilation will inspire other artists to use Hip Hop music as a tool for social change in a city that has a murder rate worse than U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“The violence in Chicago inspired me to put this compilation together,” he says. “I am tired of hearing about 30 murders every weekend and waking up on a warmer day with the eerie feeling that someone or multiple people will be shot. Hip hop can be used as a tool or a weapon and I wanted to inspire more artists to use it as a tool.”
Assiting Rhymefest in this movement is Aaron Talley, BYP’s youth spokesperson for the project. Aaron has high hopes for The Pledge Mixtape, explaining, “It sends the message that Hip Hop can be both engaging and constructive. It sends the message that Black youth are political beings that understand the problems of our communities, and can express our own perspectives. It is an effort for youth by youth.”
Hip Hop has and continues to be the most powerful cultural force in America, and arguably throughout the world. And make no mistake; there’s some fascinating, phenomenal music being made today. But according to Rhymefest, what’s missing is balance.
“As I came up you would hear about life in the hood from an honest perspective. While there was bravado there was also vulnerability. You had the guns, but you also had the roses. Today, you just hear about the guns. You hear about criminal behavior without impunity and it’s a misrepresentation of reality that really contributes to the high number of incarcerated black males in the prison industrial complex.”
Aaron concurs: “There needs to be music that reflects deeper thought. There needs to be music that shows that responses to life’s challenges are not just reckless behavior or violence. We need music that finds the middle ground.”
Overall, The Pledge Mixtape, like the BYP itself, is an attempt to re-balance the scales. To shine a spotlight on the experiences, voices, and perspectives of young black people, and inspire action against the inequality and injustice that too often defines our world.
“My hope is that while listening to The Pledge Mixtape, young people will have either a light bulb turned on, or a spotlight shined in a different direction. I want them to think about themselves and their communities differently. I want them to be inspired, to hear a song that touches them at their core.”
“The only true power that exists is the power to empower others,” explains Rhymefest. “If you’re not empowering other people, then you have no real power.”
Interested in being featured on The Pledge Mixtape?
Submit your song to email@example.com by Friday, July 27th at 11:59 p.m.
and include the song title, your real name, artist name & your phone number.