Kurtis BlowHip-hop pioneer Kurtis Blow joined local officials at Hartford City Hall Tuesday to announce a talent competition and urban youth summit that was organized to send a message of hope to the city’s violence-plagued youth. The events, part of a new campaign “Stop the Violence: Embrace the Music” offers Hartford youth an opportunity to engage in a positive activity, Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez said Tuesday.
“Music can be used as one small way to reach these kids,” entertainment attorney and local landlord, James Walker said. While not everyone will become a recording artist, music is a tool we can use to communicate with youth, Walker said. The talent competition “We Got Nex” where local artists will compete for a $100,000 recording contract will take place before the summit, on Friday June 16 and Saturday June 17 at the University of Hartford. The winner of the competition will be chosen at the summit by a panel of celebrity judges. The “Urban Impact Summit” at Foxwoods Casino, June 25-June 27, will feature panel discussions with music industry executives and performers, in addition to discussions on other topics like on how to buy a house, get out of debt, write a record contract, and how to control your anger, Walker said. Left to right: Mayor Perez, James Walker, and music executive, Luis Colon.Walker, 37, said it’s time his generation started using their connections and contacts to give back to the community. Walker called on some of his heavyweight clients and friends, like Blow, to help out with the events. Blow, who accepted Walker’s invitation to participate in the summit, talked Tuesday about hip-hop’s early days and the poor living conditions in New York’s South Bronx neighborhood where he grew up and where hip-hop was born. “Hip-hop was set up to be the voice of the people,” Blow said. He said the conditions in the South Bronx where hip-hop originated were horrible. He said the landlords of the buildings were burning them down for the insurance money and the people in the community were so poor they didn’t have the money to move out.Surrounded by burnt buildings, the kids tried to build the neighborhood back up and confronted the oppression they faced through music, which would later be called hip-hop, and art called graffiti that they spray painted on elevated train cars in the late 1970s and 1980s, Blow said. Blow said the degradation of women and violent messages proliferated through hip-hop today do not express “what it was set up for.” He said it was meant as an expression of love and encouragement. Blow said he has produced 150 songs over 33 years in the music business and he’s never used profanity in any of them. What hip-hop should teach the youth is how, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue,” Blow said. When did hip-hop take a wrong turn?Walker said hip-hop changed when Run DMC’s third album “Raising Hell” went multi-platinum. He said all of a sudden there was money to be made and the music industry capitalized on it and commercialized it.