NEW YORK—Designed to raise consciousness about African poverty, the Live 8 concerts will feature some of black music’s biggest stars—especially those representing hip-hop.
The Philadelphia concert boasts Russell Simmons as one of its producers and A-list acts such as Destiny’s Child and Alicia Keys—a far cry from 1985’s Live Aid concerts, which were criticized by some for being “too white.”
While it’s fair to say few musicians of any race have made Africa’s struggles their cause, those who have leapt to action fastest and loudest are white rockers.
Coldplay frontman Chris Martin sports Band-Aids on his fingers to call attention to African trade issues. Bono, a dedicated lobbyist for the Africa’s poor and AIDS-stricken, is touted as a possible Nobel Peace Prize winner. And Bob Geldof, organizer of the original Live Aid, is the driving force behind Live 8—the show that aims to highlight the continent’s problems before the G-8, the Group of Eight major industrial nations, meet in Scotland.
Yet over the years, the critical issues faced by African nations—AIDS, war and famine—have failed to galvanize the rap or R&B community to start a major movement on its own.
But videos or songs that link black artists to Africa are rare finds in hip-hop, unless it’s a passing reference to an exotic woman or locale. And except for hip-hop’s brief obsession with Afrocentric themes in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, political statements of any kind are uncommon, let alone talk of Africa.