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Black Thought, Speech and Yasiin Bey Rock NJPAC

Black Thought, Speech, Nikki Giovanni and Yasiin Bey Celebrated Hip-Hop and Jazz at NJPAC

I am so hip, even my errors are correct."


Coordinated by Christian McBride, and accompanied by Newark mayor Ras Baraka, Represent! A Night Of Jazz, Hip-Hop and Spoken Word brought together luminaries such as Dupre "Doitall" Kelly, Nikki Giovanni, jessica Care moore, Javon Jackson, Ravi Coltrane, Mayor Ras Baraka, The Last Poets, Sean Battle, Treasure Borde and more to unite the leading voices in jazz, hip hop and poetry. The evening was originally slated with performances from Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Rakim and Speech of Arrested Development. But with Chuck ill and Rakim apparently having broken his foot, carrying the show in lieu of its missing headliners was Yasiin Bey—formerly known as Mos Def. Striking a chord with both jazz and Hip-Hop heads, he hyped the crowd with "Umi Says."

Following Bey's performance, Nikki Giovanni opened up about her history with Rutgers University and concluded with her 1972 classic "Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)":

I got hot and sent an ice age to Europe to cool my thirst/My oldest daughter is Nefertiti/The tears from my birth pains created the Nile/I am a beautiful woman. I gazed on the forest and burned out the Sahara desert. With a packet of goat meat and a change of clothes I had fostered in two hours/I am a gazelle so swift/So swift you can’t catch me. For a birthday present when he was three, I gave my son Hannibal an elephant. He gave me Rome for Mother’s Day. My strength flows ever-on. My son Noah filled New-ark..and I sat proudly at the helms."

"Right now, incredible magic and history is happening," said Bill Stephney of Def Jam. "We've been able to bring probably three of the most important components of African-American culture and history altogether, combined." Stephney, who served as music supervisor of Spike Lee’s 1989 classic Do the Right Thing, explains how Spike (the son of a jazz musician) felt the urgency to create films that reflect jazz and Hip-Hop as the Black experience.

"This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of."

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Stephney shared how Spike would ride his bicycle to his apartment when they were both living in Fort Greene, Brooklyn at the time; where they became friendly with the Hip-Hop group Gang Starr (who hailing originally from Boston but famously transplanted to Brooklyn) and the group would later appear on the soundtrack for Spike’s 1991 film Mo' Better Blues.

After his performance honoring the legacy and influence of Gil Scott-Heron, Black Thought explained: "What I do involves free thinking, that’s the core element of jazz. What I do and what Hip-Hop is built on are the same fundamentals. They go hand-in-hand."

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