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"We don't have these. You'll have a Google conference. If you're a doctor, you'll have a doctors conference. But, this is the only meeting of the minds to have to do with our hip hop culture, our business, and entrepreneurialism at the community level."- Diddy at the REVOLT Summit kickoff event
Hip hop appears to be under attack. A$AP Rocky has been imprisoned in Sweden since July 3 for an alleged assault. Future could have suffered a similar fate in Ibiza after his bodyguard was knocked unconscious by a random man. This is all occurring mere months after 21 Savage was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with the threat of deportation looming over his head.
The REVOLT Summit kickoff event was a loud example of how hip hop cannot be silenced. Inside the Kings Theatre in Flatbush, Brooklyn; hip hop music blared through the speakers, but felt like it was emanating from the regal walls of the recently renovated 80-year Brooklyn staple. Before celebrity attendees walked the red carpet, or anyone got a drink and went to their seats, 42-year-old artist Andre Trenier held a live painting session of the four elements of hip hop -- deejaying, breaking, emceeing and graffiti -- with each element taking some of its form from the other three. He was fully aware of what this sort of showcase of hip hop meant during these times.
“In terms of hip hop and us being in charge of our voice, [Diddy] having REVOLT is a huge thing because if we’re not in control of how the message gets out, we’re not going to be in control of the message,” he said.
Hip hop’s voice spread further than the hallowed halls of Kings Theatre with REVOLT hosting a cookout next to it. People learned about the Hip Hop Film Festival while dining on some salmon from local Brooklyn restaurant Just Fishy. Former "The Voice" contestant Avery Wilson was in attendance and dove into the importance a show like "State of the Culture" (SOTC) has on sustaining the voice of not just hip hop, but black people in general.
“Us talking about things prevalent today is a must. Some people don’t listen to the radio, some people don’t listen to their family, some people don’t listen to their friends. To get someone at a certain stature to talk some real shit will inspire you and keep us all connected, so you don’t feel too out of reach," she stated.
Back inside, before Casanova joined the SOTC cast onstage for a live-taping, he spoke to REVOLT exclusively about how the REVOLT Summit has inspired the Kings County native. He reminisced on growing up a block away from Kings Theatre when it was a decrepit dump for decades. "It wasn't Kings Theatre when I was growing up. It was a movie theater. This is dope," Casanova told us. "It makes me want to book it. Maybe I could sell it out. That could be my goal, to sell it out.”
While onstage with Ferg and the "SOTC" cast, Casanova spoke candidly about the fear that comes from being a celebrity and a felon. This fear led him to bulletproof his truck and be wary of people helping him at the airport, which he despondently refers to as “friendly extortion.” He knows the larger the fame, the larger the target. “With A$AP Rocky['s situation], it’s not surprising. Nigga, they are not playing with you because you are somebody that they are mad at for being rich,” he said during the SOTC live-taping.
The cast and guests all seemed in agreement that Rocky’s treatment during this imprisonment is unjust with Remy highlighting how the thirst for clout will lead people to sully a celebrity’s name with fabricated allegations. But, in typical SOTC fashion, voicing support for Rocky didn’t preclude criticism of the beleaguered rapper. In a 2015 interview, Rocky rebuffed the notion that he needed to speak up about Ferguson because his life of women and fashion makes him unable to relate to those struggles. When Remy directly asked Ferg about those comments in light of Rocky’s recent ordeal, the "Plain Jane" rapper was open and honest about taking his friend to task.
He recalled: “When Rocky said that, I definitely hit him like, ‘Yo, bro, this is a serious thing.’ Us, as artists, can’t really feel removed because you’re working and doing things, so you don’t feel engaged with the people. I hit him like, ‘Bro, there are real people getting hurt and killed.’ I made it a 'we' thing and told him, ‘We have to do way better at using our platform.’”
At one point, Casanova revealed he was in prison with Rocky when he was 16. After learning this, Joe Budden immediately requested he not divulge any other information about it because of the “nasty” stories that have come out about Rocky’s previous time in prison. The SOTC host was seemingly referring to Rocky’s 2017 Rap Radar Podcast interview where the Harlem MC stated he fought someone in the prison showers while they both were “slipping on semen.”
Later in the evening, Charlamagne Tha God sat down with music executive Brooklyn Johnny, who spoke on the continued importance of an A&R to help artists get to the next level. As the man who discovered Cardi B and helped build her into an internationally revered brand, he didn’t take too kindly to Jermaine Dupri’s recent comments limiting the voice of women who rap to only rapping about stripping and turning up.
“I can’t knock anybody for trying to get theirs how they get theirs. Unless you’re willing to say, ‘OK, I’m going to step up and support all these people and give them my own money,’ you have them do what they’re doing. There’s no right or wrong way to do this thing,” he declared.
It was Charlamagne's next interview with Diddy that produced the night's most heartfelt example of a hip hop voice being born. Tierra Whack was scheduled to perform later in the evening, but spoke with Charlamagne about her start as an MC. With Diddy sitting on the arm of her chair looking on approvingly, the Whack World MC spoke on how she used to freestyle in front of her class as part of her homework and that recognition inspired her to start writing poetry. One day, she found herself rapping in a filmed cipher and her voice carried her far after that.
"This was like seven or eight years ago and Meek Mill reached out to me. DJ Cosmic Kev, DJ Diamond Kutz, all of the Philly legends just reached out like, 'Where's this girl?' I was freestyling and I was known for that," she said.
The night ended with riveting performances from Whack and Queen Naija. As people filed out of the historic venue, you could hear those hoping for this event to return to Kings Theatre next year. For Diddy, and hip hop in general, keeping summits like this around is a necessity if we as a culture wish to not let external forces silence us.
“There’s no way we can do it without coming together, having a platform, a mic and a stage to have conversations,” Diddy remarked That’s what I’m trying to provide. I’m trying to let God do what He does. I’m trying to let God do what She does.”
Get your passes to the REVOLT Summit in Atlanta and Los Angeles now at REVOLTSummit.com!
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