Presidential hopeful Rev. Al Sharpton held his second Annual National Convention for his National Action Network over the past weekend that was punctuated with a hip-hop workshop on Saturday evening.
The last workshop, “Using The Influence Of Hip-Hop To Empower Our Youth,” served as a town meeting for the public to engage with a robust group of panelists at the mid-town Manhattan Sheraton Hotel.
The panel consisted of Cheryl “Salt” James of Salt-N-Pepa, Christopher “Play” Martin of Kid-N-Play, Cynthia Horner of Right On! Magazine and several other local hip-hop related outfits.
Salt, as a rapper with a wildly successful career, expressed difficulty growing older with hip-hop music with its increase penchant for vulgarity and violence.
“Since my time, it has gotten extremely negative. I find myself fighting the radio. The beats are infectious, the rhymes are infectious,” she said explaining that she now has children.
However, she said Queenbridge’s Nas represented a beacon of hope.
“Nas – god bless him. “I Can” is a positive record. We can be positive. We can change the face of hip-hop,” she said.
Play agreed, but told the audience that much of the perceived problem could be remedied if people analyzed and attached the underlying issues, not the results.
“We have to deal with the root. We are dealing with the fruit. Its crazy. The whole industry is an illusion,” he said often referring to his own trials as a member of rap duo Kid-N-Play.
Young rapper Somac from The Lyfe Project, a group of children emcees, adamantly said that kids are wooed by the influences of rap music.
“If my father isn’t teaching me, I am going to follow what’s on TV,” he said, “Hip-hop is the most influential tool. I am a leader, not a follower.”
Throughout the evening, one name continuously was brought up as an example of the ills and pleasures of the music –50 Cent.
Cynthia Horner of Right On!, a teen fanzine, said they they try to hold rappers accountable for lyrics and lifestyles.
“We haven’t interviewed 50 Cent but when we do, we are going to ask him ‘Why are you going around bragging about being shot nine times,” she said.
“If I was shot nine times, I’d be embarrassed.”
The evening concluded with Charles Fisher of Hiphopsync.com introducing family members of Jam Master Ja, namely his first born son Jason Jr. While Jason was nervous, he did manage to make a brief comment about 50 Cent, Jay’s former protégée.
“I can listen to 50, G-Unit. No matter what I listen to, I go home and do what’s right,” he said closing the evening.
[Editors note: After the session, Rev Al’s minions passed out a new product called “Al Sharpton’s Sweet Potato Cheesecake and its blazing. Please get you some.]