Diddy Hosts “Hip Hop Vs. Trump” Panel at Revolt Music Conference
Industry gathering becomes resistance rally
The most talked-about moment at this year’s Revolt Music Conference almost didn’t happen. Instead, late-breaking inspiration created a forum that brought together hip hop artists, activists, major media outlets, and a passionate group of RMC attendees. The final panel discussion of the conference was boldly titled “Hip Hop vs Donald Trump.”
For most of the weekend it was business as usual as the biggest power players in the game congregated in Miami Beach to speak at Sean “Puffy” Combs fourth annual industry convergence. Hundreds of attendees seized the opportunity to soak up knowledge on anything and everything that makes the music industry work, from the politics of streaming to the importance of Public Relations—there was even a panel called How to Make A Hit featuring Teddy Riley and Pusha T. The Revolt TV Chairman had his own keynote address, “Ask Diddy,” where a standing-room-only live audience, as well as fans checking in via FaceTime and Twitter, sought Mr. Combs’ advice on “How to Get To The Bag”—because as Puff himself put it, “if it don’t make money it don’t make sense.”
The three-day gathering also included a film festival, an aspiring artist showcase, and a yacht cruise featuring 2 Chainz rapping from a tricked-out wheelchair. The weekend closed with a Gala banquet to honor rapper/actor/producer Queen Latifah, which included performances by Daniel Caesar, SZA and an emotional set by Lauryn Hill.
And Ms. Hill wasn’t the only one to shed a tear that night: Revolt Vice Chairman Andre Harrell choked up during his speech as he introduced his former protege Revolt TV Chairman, to present the Jimmy Iovine Icon award to Latifah: “I’m so proud to see how far we all have come as black people,” wiping his eyes.
All of these feelings came on the heels of the final panel of the weekend, “Hip Hop vs. Donald Trump,” which was originally supposed to be called “Media & Entertainment: Integration of Hip Hop Journalism.” “We decided to turn everything upside down on purpose” Puff explained after the panel, which he attended, seating himself in the front row along with Andre Harrell. Expertly moderated by Jeff Johnson, the ten-person lineup included rappers T.I., David Banner, Mysonne, and Joey Badass, media players Datwon Thomas of VIBE, Vanessa Satten of XXL, Shaheim Reid of REVOLT, MASS APPEAL’s Rob Kenner, author/brand curator Karen Civil, and Rev. Shane Harris of the National Action Network in San Diego.
“I’m actually grateful for Trump,” said rapper/producer Banner, who spoke so passionately the audience tried to draft him to run for president. “I haven’t seen black people this engaged in the political process a week after the president won in my whole entire life.”
The no-holds-barred the conversation was opened up to the audience and everyone who had something to say got a chance to say it, touching on numerous topics of concern to the Black community, from the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter to whether Eminen’s freestyle at the BET Hip Hop Awards was too little too late.
Joey Badass was hailed as one of the few new generation rappers whose music expresses social consciousness. He spoke candidly about the search for some form of leadership network to plug into. T.I. noted that his activism—like participating in the recent boycott of Houston’s restaurant in Atlanta—gets less engagement than. “I’m telling you everything,” said the Hustle Gang boss. “It’s just you are directing your attention to the things that are more fun to you than fundamental to you.”
The takeaway from the hour-long panel—which was extended by 20 minutes and could have gone on for hours—is that that this type of forum amongst like-minded individuals was desperately needed and must be continued. “You have to make a conscious decision to sacrifice,” said Mysonne during the discussion. One attendee I bumped into after the panel shared that her father had been a Freedom Rider durign the 1960s and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress for decades before eventually committing suicide.“I think we are yet to see the full effects of what this has stirred up.” Resistance is not easy, and it’s a matter of life and death. But with hip hop artists owning media companies like REVOLT, Tidal, and MASS APPEAL, anything is possible.