Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hiphop Remains Mostly Mum on Japan Tsunami

With such an exorbitant amount of revenue being generated from Hiphop music, and especially with rappers now earning more than they ever have, I find it pretty surprising that Hiphoppers as a group haven't done more to come to Japan's aid in the wake of this month's tsunami.

Apparently Linkin Park has a new song available for download with proceeds going to a relief fund, but what about real and actual rappers? Where are they during this time of need?

Let's start with Pharrell, who has made a ton of money with the help of Japanese designer and musician Nigo and his rap group the Teriyaki Boyz, even going so far as to open a clothing store in Tokyo (full of attire designed by Nigo) before helping Nigo open up his own stores in New York City and Los Angeles (now closed) for his Bape/Bathing Ape brand.

To date, the most Pharrell has done is issue through one of his Web sites a brief statement that lets readers know he is "devastated" before wishing Japan the best of luck, or "God's speed," as he put it. That's a pretty weak move considering all the money his clothing lines -- designed by Nigo -- have made from Japanese support.

Not to be outdone, 50 Cent tweeted some insensitive jokes in the hours after news broke about the tsunami before begrudgingly apologizing. However, Vitamin Water money notwithstanding, 50 has yet to make a donation that is not in the form of cruel humor.

Ironically, Nicki Minaj (who calls herself the Harajuku Barbie, a reference to the Tokyo neighborhood of the same name known for its outrageous and colorful style and fashion) is participating in a digital album being released by Universal Music Group to raise funds for the victims of the tsunami. While Universal is home to a long list of rappers, none besides Nicki have been confirmed for the album.

Pete Rock and DJ Premier were just touring Japan this past summer, and DJ Spinna regularly deejays there, but still there has been no indication that any of the turntablists/producers are doing anything to give back to the country that supports them by inviting them to perform.

It is possible that the above mentioned artists (and more) have indeed done more than talk about it, but it would be nice to confirm that the Hiphop artists who we have all helped get filthy rich do indeed care about their Japanese fans enough to make a sizeable donation for earthquake/tsunami relief and aid.

Sandra Bullock gave a full million dollars, which obviously goes above and beyond the call of duty, but it also shows that these donations (which are tax write-offs, another incentive for the wealthy) are but a small percentage of these celebrities’ wealth.

It’s’ only natural that a number of Asian celebrities are doing their part.

Lady Gaga has gone the creative route, designing bracelets and selling them on her Web site to raise money for the victims, already tallying $1.5 million.

Ne-Yo performed in Japan after the tsunami hit, meeting with fans. While it is assumed the concert proceeds went to support the victims, all Ne-Yo said for sure that he was doing was spreading love through music, which is still admirable because at the very least it helps keep the spirits up of those who were in attendance.

Hell, teenager Demi Lovato (who I know for sure has less money than Dr. Dre, Eminem and Jay-Z – who, coincidentally,have all done nothing to help) has given $1 million.

Speaking of Jiggaman -- also known as the man who once rapped “I put dollars on mine, ask Columbine, when the twin towers fell I was the first in line” -- he has been conspicuously absent from the conversation of what celebrities have done in the wake of this disaster.

Jay-Z, the man who Forbes magazine last August crowned as “Hip-Hop’s Cash King,” earned $63 million in the previous 12 months. Yet, Jay still has yet to make any type of donation to Japan.

Diddy, who is arguably the most financially secure of all Hiphop-related artists, at least took to Twitter to express himself and his concerns for Japan, imploring his fans and followers to send text messages to the Red Cross, which will help generate funds for relief.

But Jay, who isn’t on Twitter, didn’t even issue a statement or anything that would lead us to believe he has an ounce of concern for the tsunami victims.

NaS is experiencing some financial hardships right now, so I will give him a pass for not helping. But again, a simple statement or open letter to a media outlet could inspire his fans to do something. You wonder why more influential, popular rappers don’t do the same.

These are but a small sampling of rappers and Hiphoppers who could and should be doing more to support our fellow humans during this time of hardship. We say 911 is a joke but then we turn around and don’t do anything to help expedite emergency aid to those who are in immediate need it help. Ironic, to say the least.

Japan has been doing for years now more for Hiphop than most Americans do for it, helping to keep all four elements alive through still actively practicing deejaying with vinyl and breakdancing/b-boying. We already know that Japan has always been on the forefront when it comes to art and specifically their genre of Anime, but they are active participants in the graffiti culture, as well, a phenomenon that isn’t as celebrated as the other three elements.

Considering all the Japanese people have done to help keep Hiphop alive, it’s ironic that we Hiphoppers aren’t doing more to help keep the Japanese alive. Literally.

Japan's faithfulness to Hiphop culture has never been questioned. It's a shame the opposite isn't also true and the favor is not being returned.

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