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"You see images of rappers and their cars, but not rappers with their charitable foundations."
——Russell Simmons

HIP-HOP SUMMIT TARGETS ITS OWN

Russell Simmons Deigns To Talk To Us

By Kenya M. Yarbrough

Looks like a pretty exclusive shindig for a populist art form.

The upcoming Hip-Hop Summit, taking place in New York City June 12-13 and chaired by Def Jam/RUSH CommunicationsRussell Simmons, Minister Benjamin Muhammad (formerly Ben Chavis) and Source magazine’s David Mays, is an invitation-only affair. The pow-wow of rap advocates, music-industry execs and community leaders will feature several private meetings focusing on the summit’s four stated goals: responsibility, A&R improvement, conflict resolution and inspiration. Simmons and company aim to raise and expand the state of hip-hop music and culture.

The guest list features such music and industry figures as Dr. Dre, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and RIAA President Hilary Rosen. The summit is also welcoming community leaders, clergymen and celebrities like the NAACP’s Kwesi Mfume, the Urban League’s Hugh Price, the SCLC’s Martin King, Ossie Davis and Bill Cosby.

The meetings will be closed to the public and press coverage will be limited, though not in the sense of mental deficiency usually found on this site. However, the keynote address will be broadcast on C-SPAN and "BET Live."

Simmons spoke to hitsdailydouble.com (after we told him we were from Inside.com) about the event and his hopes for its outcome.

What inspired the Summit?
I was reflecting on how great hip-hop is, how successful so many people in it are, the ideas that will make it bigger and what we have to do to protect it. It’s become the most important influence in American culture. It also has an important place in world politics and in our future. I think we should get together and talk about that.

Who’ll be there?
We have names from the Source magazine of the 200 most powerful and influential people in hip-hop. No one else is really going to be there. One of the things is to connect with some of these older people who haven’t talked to the hip-hop generation. Puffy’s foundation, Daddy’s House, does a lot of great work, but what about the fact that the Urban League and Hugh Price have millions of dollars in funding, and their job is to reach out to the same people Puffy does?

Explain your goals.
We’re going to address the idea of taking responsibility. We’re going to adopt a code of ethics in terms of the way we market our product. We’re going to talk about rap profiling, Sen. Lieberman’s bill and attacks on the rap industry. We’re going to address the issues of urban life and to inspire people to see the other possibilities.

Are you promoting changes in lyrical content?
I don’t want to imply that there is something wrong with what we do—I just want to inspire people to be even greater. I’m not saying be more lyrically responsible, just inspire creativity. No one’s coming to the Summit to ’fess up to anything.

Will the Summit discuss the negative images of rap?
There is so much stuff that people do to give back to the community. I don’t see enough on TV about that. You see images of rappers and their cars, but not rappers with their charitable foundations.

You’ve said there will be some private meetings.
Not all those invited to the summit will be in every meeting. The press will be off in a press area. When people come out of meetings and wish to talk to them, they can.

Will the Summit be used to reach those outside the rap community?
This is about the people in the hip-hop community. Ultimately, the world benefits, but it’s really only about us—it’s not about our critics. This Summit will make sure we communicate all of what we are to our own. This is going to be a collaborative effort among people we know want good for this community. The last summit I was involved in was to stop the East Coast-West Coast war, and everyone was thankful that meeting happened. I’m hopeful that this one turns out the same way. We have a lot of talented and smart people working on it.

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