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"If anyone thought that there wouldn't be any drama at a Hip-Hop summit, then they don't know hip-hop."
——Minister Ben Mohammed
HIP-HOP SUMMIT 90210
West Coast Hip-Hop Summit Comes Off...
With a Hitch
By Gary Jackson

It was a case of "What's wrong with this picture?," Thursday at the swanky Four Seasons Hotel, as the first West Coast Hip-Hop Summit went down. The sky above the hotel was filled with "ghetto birds," and there was enough police manpower in the vicinity to make attendees and hotel guests think they were in South Central rather than Beverly Hills. With Nation of Islam leader the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan receiving top billing on a star-studded dais that included Rush Communications honcho Russell Simmons, KKBT and KPWR L.A. morning men Steve Harvey and Big Boy, hip-hop activists Michael Concepcion and Davey D,  the three-hour Summit was rocked by a verbal exchange between late-arriving Tha Row Records head Suge Knight and his former Death Row Records artist Jewell.

The stated purpose of the one-day summit, which was attended by an estimated 500 of the West Coast's hip-hop music-industry elite, was to lay the groundwork for a larger national summit involving East and West Coast participants (tentatively scheduled for June at a site to be revealed later). The first national Hip-Hop Summit, held last June 14 in New York City, sparked a number of initiatives, including a literacy program sponsored by Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. The undercard of the West Coast Summit was the much-anticipated meeting between producer Dr. Dre and Knight, which failed to come off after Dre pulled a no-show.

In his keynote address, Farrakhan focused on the hip-hop community's need to "accept the responsibility that God has bestowed upon you... You have come up in the worst of times, but it is the best of times... You are the teacher, the second mother and father. You have to accept the responsibility to be something that feeds a mind, not destroys it."

Farrakhan's hour-plus speech was followed by comments from from the dais including Davey D's "Take your street hustle and turn it into a business hustle," and Big Boy's "I will be a channel for [gang rivals] Bloods and Crips, as long as it's positive."

Knight, who was scheduled to deliver the opening remarks, arrived nearly a half-hour after Farrakhan's speech concluded. Flanked by a 40-member entourage that included Mack 10 and Kurupt, Knight began promisingly, after pitching his "Gawtti" clothing line and Tha Row roster, with "We can't get into a cycle where we mess up our dollars," and "If we don't own or control [our music], we'll be out." However, Knight then diverted from his focus with comments on gays and lesbians ("Men wanna be women and women wanna be men."), and East Coast hip-hoppers ("Where's P. Diddy, Puff Daddy or whatever he calls himself nowadays"). Simmons later got up to say that this was a West Coast summit, and that an East Coast summit had already been held.

Things heated up further when Jewell, from the back of the room, entered into a shouting match with Knight, saying cryptically, "I can't sit here and let the devil do his business," thus effectively throwing the room into chaos for several minutes. Knight quickly wrapped up his comments, while Simmons and Muhammad regained control by addressing key issues that will be discussed at the upcoming national Summit. These include political empowerment, the Sarah Jones First Amendment-rights controversy, the creation of political agendas via the formation of political action committees (PACs) and seminars on financial responsibility.

Overall, despite the brief diversion, attendees expressed confidence that the June West Coast Hip-Hop Summit will be positive. Co-organizer Minister Ben Muhammad said after the Summit was over, "If anyone thought that there wouldn't be any drama at a Hip-Hop Summit, then they don't know hip-hop."

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