Hip-Hop Fridays: Minister Farrakhan's Address At The Hip-Hop Summit
On June 13th before a packed audience in the Mercury Ballroom of the New York Hilton Hotel, filled with some of the Hip Hop industry's most prominent artists, producers and executives, Nation Of Islam Leader Minister Louis Farrakhan delivered the keynote address at the recent Hip Hop Summit organized by Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Records. In a nearly 3-hour address, the Minister simultaneously defended, encouraged, criticized and praised Hip- Hop artists, challenging them to take responsibility for their position as leaders of the world's youth.
The Minister, who entered the ballroom to a standing ovation, began his remarks by speaking directly to the artists who were primarily seated in the front rows of the audience. Looking directly at such artists as L.L. Cool J., Talib Kweli, Keith Murray, Sean "Puffy" Combs, Afrika Bambatta, Redman, Luther "Luke" Campbell, Wyclef Jean, Fat Joe, Grandmaster Flash, Krazy Bone, D.J. Premier, Kurtis Blow, U-God and others, the Minister stated, "each of us is brought here with a purpose". He told the artists that part of their greatness rest in the fact that each of them, through the identification, development and cultivation of their talent had "discovered their reason for being". Still directing his comments specifically to the artists in the audience, the Minister added, "Maybe you are not aware of it but you have been chosen to lead".
On a dais with Queen Latifah, Chuck D., Haqq Islam, Jermaine Dupri, and others, Minister Farrakhan told the artists that because he was a spiritual leader he could inform them of "who you are and why you are called", according to holy scripture, in both the Bible and Holy Quran. He began by quoting from the book of John, Chapter 1.
He quoted, in unison with some in the audience, "1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God"
The Minister then stated that in the historic evolution of culture and art, that the world has reached the point, through Hip-Hop, where the spoken word is dominating culture.
He then began to provide his exegesis of those verses in John, explaining that "the word was god" and that god represents "force and power". He remarked of the Hip-Hop community, "there is strength in this community but what it needs is guidance".
The Minister then expressed that the Hip-Hop community and industry should be concerned with what stage of its evolution it had reached. He told the audience that they have to keep growing their art form. And he punctuated his point by stating that Hip-Hop, like reggae, calypso, gospel and rhythm and blues are all different today than when they began.
The Minister then began his defense of Hip-Hop artists who have come under fire for their lyrical content saying, "Society wants lyrics cleaned up but it (society) doesn't want to clean itself up." The Minister said that the most negative aspects of Hip Hop lyrics only reflect the mind and heart of community leadership and aspects of a gangster U.S. government. He added that Hip Hop lyrics were bringing out in public, the private aspects of people's reality. He said, Gangster lyrics are only showing aspects of "a government that is gangster." The Minister said that when rappers talk about killing people, they are no different than those in government who have assassinated leaders of other countries. He also said that when artists speak of drug abuse, they are speaking of a behavior, in the open, that has taken place even in the White House.
What society wants to do with Hip Hop and young people is "break the mirror, rather than look in it and clean itself up." The Minister concluded that part of his defense by stating: "If society cleaned itself up, rappers would have to talk about something else."
The Minister then began part of his challenge to the Hip-Hop artists. He began by speaking of the female womb, telling the audience that the Holy Qur'an advises that we "reverence the womb that bore us".
The Minister followed that beginning by saying that "the human brain is also a womb".
He stated, "A man is what he eats, but what about the mind?" He answered his own question by saying, "Jesus said that "as a man thinketh, so he is". He added that those who feed the mind shape the actions of others.
The Minister said that the media was present at the summit because they knew that it was a world-shaking event. Because" all over the world the youth are being led by you", he told the artists. He then asked , " In Congress they want to pass a law to disturb your right to free speech. Why hasn't the government stopped Hollywood? Why now pick on Eminem? Why now pick on you?"
The Minister then stated, "It's not the lyrics, (they are concerned about). It is that you have taken away the children from their mothers and fathers." And he added, that "every government has used young people to fight its wars", making the point that Hip-Hop was actually interfering with the protocol of the world and the power of parents and government to control the masses of the world's youth.
The Minister then spoke of how governments have always been interested in controlling the youth - desiring that they be able to be called upon to fight in wars. He then spoke of how in countries all over the world, in Africa and Europe, 10 and 11-year olds and teen agers were being taught how to make bombs and fight in war. But he added that all of the youth that are fighting and killing are unaware as to why they are doing such. He emphasized that the courage of young people was used to benefit others while they (the youth) were kept ignorant as to who and what purpose they were serving in fighting the war.
The Minister then added that the government was frightened because the U.S. was poised to go to war but has to deal with who controls the minds of the youth.
Sensing that Hip-Hop has taken away the minds of the youth, the Minister argued that now some in government and society are asking the question, "How do we get our children back?"
The answer, the Minister explained, depended upon the destruction of Hip Hop beginning with its most prominent artists.
The Minister then articulated how much of the feuding and civil wars in Hip-Hop between prominent artists was orchestrated by the media and that the artists themselves, played right into the plan by making records that "dissed" other artists. But the Minister added that the conflict never remains between the two principals. Because Hip-Hop artists have fans and followers, their disagreements with each other result in groups of young people being opposed to one another.
And because of this fact the Minister challenged the artists "to accept responsibility that you have never accepted", as leaders.
The Minister then spoke of the responsibility and consequences of words.
He said that America is a great country and unique in the world because "freedom of speech in the U.S. constitution is a guarantor" that wrong will be pointed out in society.
The Minister then explained that part of the power in Hip-Hop is that the words are accompanied by music saying, "the beat in the song literally drives the word in." The Minister then advised the artists that they should learn from his example.The Minister stated that he understands why artists feel they can not compromise the right to say whatever they feel but he cautioned that they should be aware of the consequences of their words.The Minister told the artists, that they should "learn the skill of words and how to use them in a way that gains universal respect...I have learned through years of pain that I can say things and say it in a way that doesn't trigger a certain response".
The Minister told the audience that Hip-Hop has brought Black and White together in a way that is frightening to some in power. He also spoke of Hip-Hop's global implications, saying, "Rap has brought the children of the world to you: what will you do with your leadership?"
Minister Farrakhan told the artists that they were actually raising the world's children - in the U.S., Iran, and China. And he stressed that because the church, mosque and school had failed, the children were in the street being raised by Hip-Hop and their peers.
The 68-year old Muslim leader said that Hip-Hop was actually in the middle of the transition of two worlds and that such a position required responsibility on the part of rappers. He said, "The freedom of speech is one thing but freedom is not license...carelessness is the right attitude to break from the old but not the right attitude to come into the new"
But the Minister, again, stressed that he was not there to rebuke young people and that he was following the example set by Jesus to "suffer the children..."
His comments were directed at some of the civil right sleaders who were present in the audience as well as those who were not present but who had dedicated a tremendous amount of energy to condemning Hip Hop.
The Minister said, "Children don't need rebuke but to be shown the way to perfect what they are doing."
The Minister then spoke of the account in the Bible and Holy Qur'an where the elders and magicians - the older leaders of the Children of Israel - actually helped Pharoah in his plan to spare the females of the Children of Israel while killing the male babies. He warned the older leaders that God did not bring but two "older" members of the Children of Israel into the promised land, with everyone else being twenty years old or younger.
The Minister then returned his focus to the artists present, telling them that their fearlessness and courage is being used by the enemy to get them and their "followers" to kill one another.
He pointedly told the rappers that their association with weapons was counterproductive, and not the real source of their popularity. "Guns didn't get you your power in China, Iran or Egypt, it was the word", he said.
The Minister then turned his attention to the media and said that he knew that they were really there to see what he was going to do with his access to the Hip-Hop community. He commented that he knew that they were frightened by the relationship between he and the Hip-Hop community, recognizing its potential.
Speaking as if he were a reporter, he said, they want to know " What is Farrakhan going to tell them?"
The Minister answered by saying that he had the following to tell the Hip Hop artists:
"I believe that you can change the reality of American life and racism - that you have the power to stop it."
"I believe that 18-30 is the age group not registered to vote"
"I believe that wars can't be prosecuted without the youth."
He then asked the rappers, "Will you accept your responsibility as a leader of the youth?"
The Minister, still speaking to the artists said, "You have to digest a newspaper. Current events are what rap artists have to rap on. So here are some current events I want you to rap on..."
The Minister then turned the ballroom into a classroom and for the next 15 minutes verbally traveled the globe telling rappers what subjects he thinks they should focus on and weave into the creative works.
He began by advising them of the fulfillment of the vision of Nasser and Nkrumah through the OAU's efforts to establish the "United States of Africa".
He then spoke of how rap artists should speak on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians asking the audience, "What do you have to say about that? Are you ready to be a peacemaker?"
He then added, "Look at Black and Brown and how we are being pitted together (through the census and politics) and in prisons, we are against each other, being made to believe that we are enemies when we are natural allies. Can you rap about that?"
He then asked them, "What about DCFS snatching Black and Brown children sending them off away from their families... and where they end up going off to prison later?"
The Minister then asked the rappers of what they had to say about the drug trade being facilitated by a government that has satellites so powerful that they can see a grapefruit on the ground but can't see whole convoys of drugs being brought into America and into the innercities.
He then asked them, "What do you have to say about the abuse of women?"
The Minister then told them that they should be aware of the fact that, "where there are no decent women, there are no decent men and women are the mothers of civilization". He challenged them to influence society so that young boys and men will end up "admiring women instead of defiling them."
Minister Farrakhan then went into a tactful but graphic elucidation of how the slang and cursing that many Hip-Hop artists have popularized is a reflection of the real condition of Black people, in its most negative sense.
The explanation he provided caused the entire audience to erupt in applause at various points.
He began by saying that the curse word phrase with the initials "M.F.", though depicting a filthy concept, accurately reflects the fact that many men have not fully grown up and have not accepted their responsibility. He said that is why men call women "ma" - a phrase that is very popular among rappers today. The result, at times, is that many men look to their girlfriends and wives as they looked to their mothers. And so women are forced to finish the raising of their boyfriends and husbands. The end result, the Minister said, for men, is that " You are having sex with your other mother". He told the women present that some men " are looking for someone to finish the nurturing process"
The Minister then gently spoke of the hypocrisy of many who claim God at award shows and then join Satan in their musical creativity.
He then worked to prove his point by referring to Genesis Chapters 1 and 5 and Psalms 82 which clearly indicate that human beings are in the image and likeness of God and are, themselves, gods.
Minister Farrakhan then jumped back into Hip-Hip lingo, speaking of how rappers and youth greet one another with the phrase, "What's up dog?" The Minister asked the question, "Why not what's up god?" The Minister answered his own question, by saying, "Because a god will force you to respect god". Several rappers, who are members of the 5% Nation of Islam and do in fact refer to one another as "god", in the spirit of Psalms 82, literally jumped out of their seats when the Minister made that remark.
But the largest applause were reserved for the Minister's explanation of why artists use the word "bitch" in reference to women. The Minister said, "If 'god' has now become 'dog' then the woman has become a 'bitch'. If you came from a 'bitch', then you are the son of a bitch"
The Minister followed that up by telling the rap artists that they don't realize the devastating power of their words and that calling a woman a "bitch" denigrates their own mothers, grandmothers and aunts.
The Minister then skillfully used the 34th chapter of the book of Ezekiel to encourage the rappers, intellectuals and civil rights leaders present to consider themselves as shepherds and the consequences that they will face if they do not feed their flocks after they themselves have been fed by the flocks. The Minister said, that among other things, these verses were referring to people being fed the word of God. The Minister encouraged the artists, in particular, to use their words to grow the people up into the mind of God and into the fulfillment of their gifts.
The Minister then told the artists that they were obligated to do this and had in fact been fed and supported by their fans and followers. He told them that they have cars, private jets, jewelry and they have been able to move out of the projects where they grew up because the "little people gave it to you. You are their leaders...what are you going to do to show your appreciation?"
He then told them of the greatness of their power to transform human life. He spoke of his own experience with the most downtrodden of human beings, and the power of the word on human beings. He told the audience that his teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, taught that light ravels from the sun to the earth at the rate of 186,000 miles per second and that it takes 500 seconds or 8 minutes and 20 seconds to strike the earth. He said blood travels from the heel of the human being to the head and back to the heel in 500 seconds. He said that the word of God is like light and when it enters into the heart of the human being, it causes a transformation. He said that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught him that within 500 seconds of delivering inspiration through words, just under ten minutes, the human being will begin to perk up.
The Minister related this teaching to his experience in speaking to prisoners on death row.
He gave an account of a recent trip that he took to a prison where he asked to speak to those who were scheduled to receive the death penalty. The Minister was taken to that section of the jail but was told that he would have to speak to them through the bars. The Minister refused and said that there was no way that he would speak to them through bars. He told the audience that he was warned not to enter this part of the prison and that his safety could not be guaranteed by the prison guards, if he went into that part of the jail and spoke to them after they had been let outside of their jail cells. The guard told Minister Farrakhan that if the Minister insisted on speaking to the death row inmates that he would come with him. The Minister told him that he did not need his protection. The audience laughed when the Minister relayed how the prison guard agreed to let the Minister go by himself and then told him that he would be nearby if the Minister needed him. Minister Farrakhan told the audience that he told the guard that that he wasn't needed.
The Minister explained that he asked the men to get chairs and form a circle with him. They did. He said that there were 17 altogether - 14 Blacks, 2 Brown and 1 White death row inmate. The Minister said that within 10 minutes their countenance had totally changed, they were relaxed, smiling and that one of the inmates asked Minister Farrakhan if he could read him a poem that he had written. The Minister said that of course he welcomed such and the prisoner read his poem to Minister Farrakhan. The Minister said that the poem was one of the most beautiful he had heard.
After 10 minutes, the Minister said that he called the guard over to look at the group and asked him what did he see. Minster Farrakhan was making the point to the prison guard that buried deep in even these men was great beauty and warmth.
He then added that some of the most powerful and intelligent Black men are in prisons and some of the most powerful women on earth, right now, are prostitutes.
The Minister then, after recounting this story, stressed to the rappers that they have the power to transform human beings with their mouths. He told them that they are in the "word business" and that they have a loyalty and allegiance from their fans that is staggering. He said, "They dress like you, they walk like you, they talk like you, they even bling-bling like you." Of course, the audience cracked up with laughter at the Minister's reference to the obsession that some have with jewelry - the so-called "bling-bling" phenomenon.
The Minister then told the Hip-Hop artists, "I love you, but I am not satisfied. We can do better. I am here to encourage you to do better." The Minister told them that he was not asking for" a radical change, but speak to the issues that enlighten"
He then challenged the rappers, again, to see if they could contribute, through their lyrics to a peaceful resolution to the race problem in America and the conflict in the Middle East. He told the audience that all conflict can be solved and he then spoke of the public disagreement between Russell Simmons and Conrad Muhammad. The Minister said that Conrad Muhammad loves his people and that he knows this because he (Conrad Muhammad) was a former student of his. But he stated that he did not think that it was appropriate that Mr. Muhammad had taken his disagreement with Russell Simmons before the media, which does not support either man or Hip Hop.
Minister Farrakhan then urged Russell Simmons and Conrad Muhammad to come together. He then added that he hoped that Conrad Muhammad, who he believed was not present, would get the tape of Minister Farrakhan's address to the Hip Hop Summit.
Then, from the rear left corner of the audience came shouts of "He's here!"
It turned out that although two days before on CNN's Talk Back Live program, Conrad Muhammad had said that he was not invited and even told not to come to the summit; he in fact was in attendance for the Minister's remarks.
The Minister was pleasantly surprised, acknowledged Conrad Muhammad's presence and again, urged he and Russell Simmons to resolve their differences in private and then come out in unity before the media. Russell Simmons, from the stage, nodded his head in agreement, and Conrad Muhammad from the back of the ballroom, smiled, waved to Minister Farrakhan and nodded his head as well.
The Minister concluded his remarks by telling the artists, " It is not enough to be a good rapper, your character has to be up under your rap". He said that the real power of a human being was present in the power of character to generate trust and maintain it. The Minister said that people trust him and that some have entrusted him with many secrets and then turned on him, but that he has never divulged their secrets.
Minister Farrakhan then added that he hoped he would be able to visit Rev. Al Sharpton in prison and he added that what Rev. Sharpton did in protesting the Vieques bombing was so important in that it demonstrated unity between the Black and the Brown working together. He said that Rev. Sharpton should not be in jail for 90 days or even for 90 minutes.
The Minister then briefly touched on his efforts to help raise $1 billion dollars in an economic trust fund and he encouraged the artists to prepare for the day when they will not be making records. He encouraged them to save and invest their money and to not partake in excessive conspicuous consumption or "bling-blinging".
After receiving a standing ovation, the Minister made some concluding remarks and after walking over to hug Queen Latifah, Minister Farrakhan encouraged unity among music executives like Kedar Massenberg, Russell Simmons, and Barry Hankerson, and also acknowledged the attendance of Sister Souljah, Stephanie Mills and Lennox Lewis.
Among those in attendance at the Minister's keynote address were Hip-Hop opinion leader Davey D, writers Kevin Powell and Harry Allen, activists Viola Plummer and Ras Baraka, radio host Bob Law and Hip-Hop pioneers Kool Herc, Fab Five Freddy and D.J. Red Alert. Also present were Black intellectuals Michael Eric Dyson, Cornel West as well as NAACP head Kweisi Mfume.
Friday, June 15, 2001