Friday, November 16

Rap the Vote


Heltah Skeltah, Ras Kass, Tha Mexakinz, Originoo Gunn Clappaz and Click tha Supah Latin rocked the lunchtime crowd Friday to promote voter registration

By Nelson Saldua

Daily Bruin Contributor

"We can’t let Bob Dole in office. Fuck that!" exclaimed rapper
Sean Price, a.k.a. Ruck, of the group Heltah Skeltah.

His band was just one of many that played the Hip-Hop Voter
Registration Show at Westwood Plaza on Friday. The noontime
concert, which also included the Originoo Gunn Clappaz, Ras Kass,
Tha Mexakinz and Click tha Supah Latin, was simultaneously a
celebration of hip-hop culture and music, and a drive to register
voters for the upcoming election.

Approximately 500 spectators, far more than attend most noontime
concerts, were treated to a diverse, multicultural hip-hop
show.

Wild West recording artist Click tha Supah Latin opened the
show, moving the crowd with his beat-box renditions of classics
such as "Genius of Love," "Computer Love" and "La-di-da-di." "Mi
Gente," a bilingual jam, accented hip-hop’s multicultural appeal by
representing the Latin hip-hop population; Click himself is
Peruvian.

He was joined onstage by rapper Brother Kink and D.J. TMK, who
also have guest appearances on Click’s forthcoming album "For My
People." He was followed by rappers Sinful and Iman, collectively
known as Tha Mexakinz. The Long Beach duo has been performing
together for 10 years, and their resulting chemistry and on-stage
presence was obvious as they ripped through songs like "Burning
Hot" and "Problems" from their self-titled album "Tha
Mexakinz."

After the show, Sinful explained the importance of voter
registration in plain terms. "To all those people who complain, who
always say they feel like they’re not getting treated right, stop
fucking complaining and go out and vote," he asserted.

The show’s momentum did not slow as Priority/Patchwerk recording
artist Ras Kass took the stage with his hype man Diz Mo. Kass,
whose real name is John Austin IV, explained that he settled on his
moniker after reading about an Ethiopian warrior named Ras Kass.
Since Ras Kass translates to John IV, he chose to shed his "slave
name."

An eloquent rapper with an amazing vocabulary, Kass performed
many of the cuts of his debut album "Soul on Ice," including
"Drama," "Miami Life" and "Anything Goes." "Sonsets" had particular
interest for UCLA students, as Kass rapped, "Cause I’m gonna make
you see L.A. (UCLA) like Ed O’Bannon." He continued the focus on
the complexity of his inventive lyrics as he busted them a cappella
on his second single, "Soul on Ice," and on "Come Widdit." He
wanted to be sure the crowd would pay attention to the lyrics.

Kass seemed less passionate about the election. "I’m not going
to sit here and lie," he explained. "Personally, I don’t vote. I
don’t knock it or condemn it, but I think that (by voting) you’re
trying to take the lesser of two evils. Both sides are the same
thing. As far as I’m concerned, Democrat and Republican are the
same thing. They do the same things to minorities."

Kass’s distrust of the government is not surprising after
listening to "Nature of the Threat." In this seven-and-a-half
minute song, Kass presents his account of the history of racism. He
explained that the song is a rap version of a thesis paper, as he
set out to prove his point factually and chronologically through
historical accounts.

He differentiated between racism and prejudice by saying,
"Racism is a system of power … Everyone is prejudiced. Only
certain people have the political power to be racist. And right now
the majority is white males. Since they have the power to be
racist, white men are potential predators." He was certain to
stress that he was not saying that all white males were devils,
rather they are potential predators.

The facts he uses to support his thesis rap include, but are not
limited to, the concept of Manifest Destiny, the Crusades, the
slave trade and the subjugation of Native Americans.

The name of Ras Kass’s album, "Soul on Ice," is taken from
Eldridge Cleaver’s book of the same name. He chose this title for
his album because Cleaver’s book is not a typical chronological
autobiography. Rather, it is a collection of essays about different
aspects of the human experience. Kass parallels the book’s
structure with his album. "My album is like the book," he
explained. "I’m not stuck on one thing. One song I’m happy, one
song I’m sad, one song I’m confused, one song I’m angry, one song
I’m battle-rapping, one song I’m telling stories … It’s the total
human experience which I was trying to convey on my album."

Following Ras Kass were his Priority Records labelmates and the
headliners of the show, Heltah Skeltah and the Originoo Gunn
Clappaz – known collectively as the Fab Five. From the beginning of
their performance, the East Coast rappers’ rugged beats kept the
entire crowd in an involuntary head nod. They opened their set with
performances by the Originoo Gunn Clappaz, comprised of Top Dog,
Louieville Sluggah and Strang, who performed material from their
album "The Storm."

Heltah Skeltah rappers Rock and Ruck, were up next. Rock
ventured off-stage and into the crowd to rap his verses from their
recent release "Nocturnal." When Heltah Skeltah was done, the two
separate groups joined each other on stage to perform their hit
single "Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka."

Ruck explained the meaning of this esoteric song title – "It
means we’re fabulous. Our lyrics, our whole stage presence – it’s
fabulous." The show ended with a surprise, as fellow Boot Camp Clik
member Buckshot, from the rap group Black Moon, joined the Fab Five
on stage.

From beginning to end, the Hip Hop Voter Registration Show went
smoothly and appealed to an ethnically diverse crowd. USAC’s
General Representative office used the concert as a way to draw a
group of progressively thinking people and was able to register
over 50 voters during the hour-long concert.

"A lot of student groups came together and funded this show,
like the External Vice President office, the Internal Vice
President office, the General Representatives’ office, the
President’s office and Cultural Affairs," noted Jamie Nack, the
UCLA Cultural Affairs Commissioner.

"MEChA was really pleased that we represented them and booked
Tha Mexakinz and Click, and African Student Union (ASU) was pleased
with Ras Kass and Heltah Skeltah. We brought a bunch of people
together for a good time."

Justin Chadwick and Jesse Ross, co-directors of the hip-hop
concerts for the Cultural Affairs Commission, announced that the
next showcase of up-and-coming rappers is scheduled for Oct.
17.

An end to these good times is nowhere in sight.

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