Hip-Hop Fridays: New Awards to Highlight Rap's Positives by Melanie Sims

Hip-hop has such a negative connotation in some circles that some people equate it with thuggery or crime - an unfair depiction that DMC of the legendary rap group Run-DMC is trying to dispel.

"Every time _ if it's pimp, pusher, drug dealer _ they relate it to hip-hop. Those are just elements of society. But for some reason, whether it's a dogfight, whether it's the n-word or the b-word ... It kills me," he told The Associated Press. "'Yeah, you know Michael Vick _ he hangs with thugs and that's the hip-hop lifestyle.' No. What (do) you mean that's the hip-hop lifestyle?"

DMC aims to fight rap's bad rap by highlighting the hip-hop community's positive contributions with the J.A.M. Awards, set for Nov. 29 in New York City. Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, De La Soul, Cassidy and Snoop Dogg are among the confirmed artists.

"Hip-hop is more powerful than politics and religion. It's the only thing that brought black people, white people, German people, Asian people, African people (together). I traveled the world _ hip-hop changed people's lives," he said.

Organized by The Jam Master Jay Foundation for Music with other sponsors, the J.A.M. Awards will honor one contributor from the hip-hop community, in the respective fields of social justice, the arts and music. The winners will be announced at the event, DMC said.

"It's not about the videos. It's not about the records. And it's not about the celebrities, that are just byproducts of the hip-hop culture," DMC said. "(The) purpose of the J.A.M. Awards is to show that hip-hop didn't just create rappers, it created journalists, writers, directors, designers. We're putting the focus back on the positive creative influence of the culture, not just the music."

DMC said that the inclusion of rappers such as Snoop Dogg, who is known for songs about the pimp and gangsta lifestyle, doesn't detract from the J.A.M. Awards' mission to celebrate the positive elements of hip-hop culture, and says a lot of the youths are just rapping about what they know.

"It's OK to make a record about a gun, but if you make a record about a gun, you gotta make a record about not using a gun," he said. "It's not about censorship. You can rap and talk about whatever you want. This is about responsibility."

The awards are also to honor Run DMC's Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell. The DJ was fatally shot in his Queens, N.Y. music studio in October 2002; the case has never been solved. DMC is set to co-host the event with Mizell's widow, Terri Corley-Mizell.

DMC said Run-DMC epitomized hip-hop responsibility.

"We came from the streets ... but when we got those microphones, when we made our record _ we didn't talk about the poverty and the things that we didn't have," he said. "We talked visionary, educational, inspirational and motivational things when we picked up that microphone."

2007 The Associated Press

Thursday, September 13, 2007