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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Passionate hip-hop panel demands changes
By SEAN DALY, Times Pop Music Critic
Published November 28, 2007
Da Brat, left, Byron Hurt, Karrine Steffans, Bridget Gray and Chuck D participate in the lecture series on hip-hop in today's society at the University of South Florida Sun Dome.
[Chris Zuppa | Times]
[Chris Zuppa | Times]
Bridget Gray, part of the hip-hop panel at USF on Tuesday night, recited her poem Letter to Hip Hop, in which she celebrates the culture and criticizes it for treating her as a sexual accessory.
TAMPA - Listening to rapper Chuck D's persuasive state of the union smackdown at the University of South Florida on Tuesday, you could envision the incendiary mouthpiece of Public Enemy debating head to head with our presidential hopefuls.
Forget about YouTube. The show would be better suited as a boxing match on ESPN.
Taking part in a passionate panel discussion called "Perspectives of Hip Hop in Today's Society," sponsored by the school's University Lecture Series, the musician took aim not just at we, the consumers who buy misogynistic, racially demeaning rap music, but also the executives and powers-that-be who sell the party-centric songs with little care for the negative message.
His pull-no-punches hit list included media mogul Sumner Redstone - chairman of Viacom, owner of MTV and BET - whom D offered to, ahem, teach a few things in a most unpleasant manner.
"Young people have been tricked by older people," said the famously in-your-face musician whose revolutionary body of work in the '80s stressed pro-unity in the African-American community rather than today's rampant message of pro-booty, pro-bling, pro-I gotta get mine, who cares about yours.
The money men driving the hip-hop machine, he said, are "not family." They don't care about anything but the bottom line. And if we keep buying harmful music, why would executives stop selling it?
D was joined on the panel by four other hip-hop notables, all of whom urged the hundreds of students in the jam-packed Sun Dome to help steer hip-hop - not just the music, but a thriving culture that has come to value hot thongs more than deep thoughts - in a more positive direction.
The first female rapper to go platinum, Da Brat, was seated next to filmmaker Byron Hurt. Spoken-word poet Bridget Gray, who urged a full-on boycott of all hip-hop that denigrates women, was cozy-close next to Karrine Steffans, a.k.a. "the Video Vixen," who has written two bestselling tell-alls about her bedding a Who's Who of hip-hop stars.
Gray opened with a rousing recitation of her poem Letter to Hip Hop,which celebrated the culture and ripped it good and hard for treating her as nothing more than a sexual accessory.
Chuck D summed it all up in point-blank terms. Rap musicians have to stop chasing dreams of money, and start being true to themselves.
"Once you define yourself with money, you're liable to do anything," he said.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.