“You know what y’all need to do? Get together; make a ‘We Are the World’ record!” —50 Cent, “Be A Gentleman,” circa 2000
I’ve never looked at 50 Cent as the prophetic type, but damned if he didn’t call it. The recent tragedy in Haiti has prompted many music industry luminaries to band together and remake 1985’s USA For Africa benefit song, “We Are The World.”
The original recording, which was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones, featured a range of stars like Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen and Cyndi Lauper, to name a few. But there was no Run-DMC, Melle Mel, LL Cool J or any other popular rapper from that time. Granted hip-hop, as a commercially viable genre, was still in it’s infancy back then, but this new 2010 version has shown how far we’ve come.
Now with hip-hop lending it’s voice to such a powerful cause, does that in turn mean that rap is no longer rebel music? Or is it that with the importance of this humanitarian effort that everyone must come together? I’d like to think it’s the latter, but I’d be lying if I said that somewhere deep down I wasn’t concerned with rap becoming more and more safe (and more and more wack).
Don’t get me wrong; on one hand I’m proud to see Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and Eminem in the same room with Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones. That’s a testament to what we’ve been saying for years, hip-hop is REAL music. Hell, I even heard a rumor that Nipsey Hussle is part of the track (Wow)!
It’s not the actual “We Are the World” recording that concerns me, though, it’s the aftermath. Hip-hop has always had a responsibility to be the voice of the inner-city communities even when it wasn’t politically correct. In 1988, the rest of America wasn’t quite ready to hear N.W.A’s “Fuck tha Police,” but it was a necessary message. Shit, I don’t even remember the last time we got a “Fuck tha Police” type record from a rapper (outside of the outspoken Immortal Technique and the occasional dead prez track). Surely police brutality is still a major issue; ask the Oakland community which still has to struggle with the reality of Oscar Grant’s murder just 13 months ago.
But it’s not just about yelling, “fuck the police,” or being on our Public Enemy shit, because if we’re being honest the majority of today’s rappers aren’t going to deliver that content anyway. Maybe this is just me not wanting to let hip-hop grow, and still wanting it to be our little thing, even though the truth is rap went pop years ago.
In the end, this 2010 recording of “We Are the World” is a good thing, it will help the people who actually need it the most right now and I’m proud that my favorite rap artists are a part of it. Still, I just wish someone would’ve invited 50 Cent, since it was his idea anyway. Well, kinda sorta. —Rob Markman, The Deputy!