Know Your History 29 – Hip-Hop United for a Cause (Part 2)
Posted on September 27, 2012
On January 12th, 2010 Haiti was hit with a devastating earthquake. The natural disaster left the already poor and impoverished country in an even more dire state. One month later, wheels were set in motion to mobilize some of Canada’s most popular musicians to help record a benefit track for the cause. As such, Young Artists for Haiti was born with over 50 musicians collaborating on one song.
The song was inspirational to begin with but the star-studded remake seemed to make it sparkle even more. There’s just something about that chorus of voices that is breathtakingly beautiful. That’s the power of music. Not only can it unite artists for a project, it can captivate an entire country and make the world a little smaller. The single debuted at number one and went on to raise a lot of money to help the citizens of Haiti in their time of need.
That song originally appeared on K’naan’s album “Troubadour” and the positive message behind the lyrics combined with an incredible catchy chorus made “Waving Flag” an instant hit and an obvious choice for a star-studded remake for charity.
Gathering artists together to create super-posse cuts wasn’t something new. It had its birth in 1984 with “Do They Know It’s Christmas” in the U.K. That track was recorded to help raise awareness about famine in Ethiopia while raising money at the same time, to hopefully alleviate the problem. That was the goal of Bob Geldof and he continued to raise money and support for the cause not only through the release of the charity single but through the formation of Live Aid and huge concerts. While K’naan showed us that rappers could also unite for a cause, this wasn’t the first rap track to do so.
Welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. If you missed our episode last month, we focused our show on songs that have brought rappers together, united for specific causes. We looked at songs such as Self-Destruction, We’re All in the Same Gang, and Heal Yourself.
If you missed it, go to TheWordIsBond.com and download the podcast for free and don’t forget to check the transcripts at ChaseMarch.com. You can also catch us each and every week on the radio at DOPEfm.ca. That’s where it all began. Much props to Daddy J, the founder of the program, a great deejay and a close, personal friend.
Without further ado, let’s continue our coverage of Hip-Hop United for a Cause. This is Know Your History: Episode 29. You can download the podcast for free, stream it with the player at the bottom of this post, or just keep reading.
I want to look at three specific songs today, starting with this one. This song is from “Hip-Hop for Respect” and it features Talib Kweli, Kool G. Rap, Rah Digga, Sporty Thieves, Mos Def, Common, Pharaohe Monch, and Posdnous of De La Soul. It’s called “One Four Love.”
That was “One Four Love Part 1” from the album “Hip-Hop For Respect.” It was released on Rawkus Records in the year 2000 and every single artist on the project donated their time, voices, and name to the cause.
The liner-notes in the CD package, unfold to display a painting by Evan Bishop and Kofi Taha. The image shows the face of a young, black male amongst the backdrop of an American flag. There are two police officers with their guns drawn in the middle of the picture. Two more officers at the bottom of the frame also have their guns trained on the youth, one has a rather sinister look on his face as well.
A closer examination of the flag shows the stars in the corner of the flag are, in fact, bullet holes, and the stripes are trails of blood. It is a very powerful image that speaks just as powerfully as the music we just heard. Underneath the image, Talib Kweli is quoted as saying, “Police Brutailiy is not a black issue, it is a violation of the rights of human beings everywhere.”
On the inside cover, he explains the musical project in more detail, “It seemed as if our elders had some sort of training in how to respond to injustice, and they already took action. What was the hip-hop generation going to do? We were going to make a record that demanded respect, hip-hop style.”
Kweli continues, “When we talk about defending ourselves and direct our energy towards the real enemy, not each other, then there is always a hesitation on the part of these corporations that get rich off our culture to put out positive music. Everyone wants to stay away, it’s too political. Not only do they help create a climate that shows artists to have no responsibility to their communities, but they make a concerted effort to shut down anything that promotes self-knowledge over self-destruction.”
We talked about that topic a lot in the last episode and specifically the Krs-One led track “Self Destruction” for the Stop the Violence Movement. But what about when nature unleashes its wrath and causes horrible destruction? What can rappers do to help that situation?
We found out in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In August 2005, the storm slammed into New Orleans, Louisiana. The levees that were supposed to keep the water back failed and the flooding that ensued wiped out entire neighbourhoods, left many people without a home, and caused almost two-thousand deaths.
Tons of people responded to the relief efforts in any way that they could. The situation was tragic and touched the entire nation. Several musicians held fundraising concerts and got together to release charity singles. Warren G, Ice Cube, B-Real, and Snoop Dogg, got together to make this song, a remix of “Get U Down” to help raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
That was the “Get You Down” remix from a group of West Coast rap artists who got together to raise money for the relief efforts and the rebuilding of New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The track featured Warren G, Ice Cube, B-Real, and Snoop Dogg and it was only one of such songs. Many musicians lent their star power and talents to record charity singles and albums. There were numerous fundraising concerts as well.
I love what Snoop Dogg has to say in this track. He talks about some of the programs that rappers have started in their own communities including the football league he started. He created The Snoop Youth FootballLeague, a non-profit organization to provide the opportunity for inner-city children to participate in youth football. The league is open to any children between the ages of 5 and 12 and stresses the importance of teamwork, good sportsmanship, discipline, and self-respect. It’s been going strong ever since it’s 2005 debut and it is amazing to see such a great organization started by a rapper.
There are all sorts of great things that rappers and musicians do for their communities. We don’t always hear about all of these great programs in the general public or on the news, but they are there. I think giving back is a natural inclination that when given the time, money, and opportunity, many people would jump at.
It really is amazing how many projects and fundraising efforts are made by schools, organizations, church groups, and individuals following a natural disaster. I was impressed with the sheer amount of projects and the outpouring of support that had many people stepping up to contribute to the relief efforts in Louisiana.
You’re listening to Know Your History: Episode 29 – Hip-Hop United for a Cause. We needed two episodes to cover this topic and we still can’t get to every single project that had rappers coming together, united for a cause. A lot of people assume that hip-hop can’t do any good. They assume it is vile, violent, and of little value. I hope those people have been listening to these last two shows.
It doesn’t even matter what language you speak. We are human and when we see tragedy or injustice we are often compelled to do something to help. We can write about it, make songs about it, and record radio shows on whatever topic has touched our hearts.
When I was doing my research for this show, I came across a track called “The Conspiracy for Peace.” At least, that is the English translation. I don’t understand any of the words in this song but I really don’t need to. The title pretty much speaks for itself. That, plus over two-dozen artists from Medellin and the surrounding areas of Columbia, South America.
It’s not often that foreign hip-hop gets played over here. We try our best at DOPEfm to highlight global hip-hop and The Word is Bond is all about Uniting Hip-Hop’s Underground, so it’s only fitting that we play this track tonight. This is “The Conspiracy for Peace” on today’s edition of Know Your History: Hip-Hop United For a Cause. And we’ll be right back to talk more about the track. Stay tuned.
That song professes a message of peace, unity, harmony, respect and good energy. The English translation for it is “The Conspiracy for Peace” and it was done by a group of artists from Columbia. I don’t think I’ve listened to any hip-hop from South America prior to discovering this track during my research for this show. It’s clear that they have a burgeoning hip-hop scene over there. The music video for that track is very well done. It was produced with the assistance of the local television station, Telemedellin.
Listening to hip-hop in a different language is an interesting experience. We can hear how similar the songs are to what we listen to. We can hear the energy and enthusiasm in the rappers’ voices and sometimes we can even hear the message behind the lyrics we might not even understand.
Here are a few of those lyrics right now, thanks to Google Translate, “Please do not ask for war / ask me for peace / I do not want to go to the cemetery / to visit many more / Everything we have seen g / has consequences.” But by far, my favourite lyric of the song is,
“This is the conspiracy / Rappers united in one mission that is the conspiracy / The proposal of hip hop / Nationwide honesty and respect for peace in concrete / All rappers together on the street”
That’s what it is all about right there. Rappers coming together in a community to affect real change, whether it is financially through the use of charity singles and fundraising concerts, or through the power of the message in the music. Hip-Hop has power. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Hip-hop has the power to unite listeners, artists, and communities.
You’ve been listening to Know Your History on DOPEfm and TheWord is Bond. I hope you’ve enjoyed the show. Drop a line and let us know what you think of our programming.
I’ll see you next week here on the podcast and next month for another edition of Know Your History. This is Chase March signing off, saying, “You Better Know Your History.”