On Saturday, March 19, 2016, 52 cities around the world—including Toronto, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York City, Los Angeles, and Detroit—participated in HipHop 4 Flint, a global fundraiser for the people of Flint, MI. Lead nationally by activist, artist, and author YoNasDa Lonewolf, some of the best hip-hop artists in the nation assembled in solidarity to raise funds for the families affected by the Flint water crisis.
SoulTrain.com was on hand at The Intersection in Grand Rapids, MI, where their stacked line-up included Bronze Nazareth with June Mega, Finale, One.Be.Lo, Hassan Mackey, Ozay Moore, Sareem Poems, The Great Ones (Lady Ace Boogie and JROB), Suport, Agylyty, Dante Cope, Skin Kwon Doe, Mike G, and DJ J-Beez. The talent, energy, and emotion in the packed venue was tremendous.
There were cheers and tears, breakdancing, and an incredible number of simultaneous nodding heads. If you’d never experienced the power of hip-hop music before Saturday, HipHop 4 Flint: Grand Rapids surged with enough humane electricity to kick start any city’s filtration system.
Matthew “DJ Choppy Blades” Duncan, president of the Grand Zulus—Universal Zulu Nation, was the lead organizer of the Grand Rapids branch of the event, which pulled in more than $5000, $3000 over its commitment. He told SoulTrain.com he was “very happy” with its results. “All the artists and DJs were gracious and a pleasure to work with,” Duncan said. “The support from the local media, businesses, and fans of hip-hop was encouraging and powerful. This HipHop 4 Flint initiative is a true testament to what hip-hop culture is about at its core, at its foundation.”
Ozay Moore, a renowned recording artist and educator named a top 20 all-time Christian rapper by Rapzilla.com, served as the night’s host. The All of the Above Hip-Hop Academy director kept the show flowing, introducing each act with Doc Cornelius level coolness. He told SoulTrain.com HipHop 4 Flint was, “a beautiful display of the cultures capacity to serve as a platform for promoting and producing positive change in our community.”
Legendary DJs Omega Supreme and Ill One started the night off spinning an array of hip-hop jams. The mix of music the pair served was very well received.
Once the acts got going HipHop 4 Flint: Grand Rapids quickly became a night of numerous memorable moments. Biffy The Beatslayer, with an assist from M.C. Infinite, cut into the crowd with his song “Sail,” setting a hype-yet-serious tone.
Agylyty was undoubtedly a standout. He delivered a poetic, in your face message chocked with frightening realism about the water crisis, and he did so with no music. Impacting and heard clearly, the twisty rhymer had one of the best showings of the evening.
Underground favorite Manchild, ever the charismatic showman, elevated the excitement of the show with an astounding, inspired freestyle. And if his improv raised the bar, Finale, with a mind- bending freestyle of his own, grabbed that bar and bent it.
While the charity itself was the night’s marquee attraction, lyricism was featured in lights just beneath it. Finale introduced Hassan Mackey during his set; the dreadlocked New Yorker doubled the audience’s pleasure by spitting into two microphones at the same time. Ozay and Sareem Poems teamed up for one quotable after another. One.Be.Lo, who’d also performed at HipHop 4 Flint: Detroit that same day, was tirelessly prolific. And Suport and Skin Kwon Doe touched souls with each of their skill-driven, impassioned sets.
“That was the hip-hop I fell in love with,”Skin Kwon Doe said to SoulTrain.com. “The crowd was diverse and energetic all night. So much love in the air. When I go to a hip-hop show, the energy exalted that night is what I go for. ‘Cultured hip-hop never died, the media just buried her alive.’
“I wish the Graffiti element could’ve been there,” Skin Kwon Doe continued, “but that would have been hard to pull off at such a venue. Nonetheless, I’ve always wanted to be a part of a show of this stature, so last night was a dream come true to me.”
The dream duo of Lady Ace Boogie and JROB, known together as The Great Ones, was met with a hot reception. Their hit single “Do It 4 the Love” was an appropriate anthem for an event like HipHop 4 Flint.
Hip-hop superstar Bronze Nazareth, with his The Wisemen group mate June Mega by his side, closed out HipHop 4 Flint: Grand Rapids with an extremely strong set, showcasing their veteran wordplay and stern desire for widespread improvement. Dedicating their stage time to the people of Flint, to Michigan residents who detest the state’s governor, and to his late brother Kevlaar 7, Bronze capped a truly unforgettable experience.
Promoter Lisa Downie of Mona Lisa Productions, who was a member of Duncan’s team of organizers, summed up the night in five words. “Tonight was a huge success,” she said.
—Mr. Joe Walker
Mr. Joe Walker is an urban and pop culture enthusiast. Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion”, the biographer, author, entertainment and celebrity journalist, and columnist is currently a senior writer for SoulTrain.com, staff writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and writer of weekly classic hip-hop reviews for Concrete Magazine’s Concrete615.com. Also co-creator of TheGrooveSpot.com, Walker’s acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. He is also working on a book project with Liquid Arts & Entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker, connect with him on Facebook, and also visit his blog MrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.