November 2, 2000

Formula for Musical Success

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Cornellians love causes. Any underprivileged group (or overprivileged, for that matter) has flocks of Cornell students championing the effort for equality. Whether its to prove their own intelligence, absolve their internal guilt for a life of privilege, or because they just plain have good hearts, nothing gets us moving like a chance to do good.

Cornellians love events. Any old event will do. From crush parties to nuns talking about the books they’ve written, we love things that are even the slightest bit special. Hell, a lot of people probably watched that boring Dawson’s Creek episode about the thunderstorm because the WB told us it was an event. Any other show we could miss, but this, this was an event. Even more telling, look how many people woke up early to stand in the cold and watch Hillary Clinton and Ben Affleck hold hands and dance around to that annoying Nine Days song.

And finally, Cornellians absolutely love rap music. Oh, some may lie about it, swearing up and down that if it’s not Pearl Jam, they’re not having it. But deep down inside, even if just because it gives them something to complain about, they love it. Just look around next time you go to a Cornell party. Even the staunchest anti-rap crusaders are backing that ass up just as hard as the next person.

With that knowledge in its back pocket, the Cornell Concert Commission has decided to combine our three favorite things into one epic evening. On November 12th, rappers Mos Def and the Black Eyed Peas will be taking over Bailey Hall in what will assuredly be more of an event than any crush party could possibly be. More literate than many of the artists currently representing rap music, the two acts will bring a more intelligent atmosphere to campus than previous rap shows such as the Redman minus Method Man debacle of last spring.

Cornell hip-hop shows often suffer due to the fact that some artists don’t seem to take the predominantly white audience that attends most campus concerts seriously. Whether for reasons of race or location, acts such as A Tribe Called Quest and Wyclef Jean have come off as overly condescending and bored when performing at our school. Thank God for humble artists, because the Black-Eyed Peas (best known for the single “Joints and Jams” from their 1998 debut Behind the Front) are guaranteed to rock the stage without any pretension. Having previously performed at such punk/hardcore festivals as Snocore and the Vans Warped Tour, the group has had more than a little experience with multi-racial audiences who may not be terribly involved in their music.

One good thing that has resulted from their experiences are that the Black Eyed Peas have developed a reputation as excellent performers. Like The Roots (who, incidentally, put on one of the best Cornell hip-hop shows in recent memory last winter), the group performs with a full band, without sacrificing any of their edge. No fifteen minute bass solos here, as BEP remains straight hip-hop throughout their performances. Even more interesting, they are one of the few groups who still represent all of the original elements of hip-hop. While they won’t be writing graffiti on the walls of Bailey Hall, their set is guaranteed to incorporate both DJing and breakdancing as well as MCing.

The other half of this hip-hop double bill is Mos Def, a multi-talented underground MC from the heart of New York. When not running his bookstore, or acting in projects such as Spike Lee’s Bamboozled and TV’s The Cosby Mysteries, he creates an intelligent brand of rap that is unusually astute. Besides his breakthrough solo album Black On Both Sides, he has also achieved success with the Rawkus super-group Black Star (which also includes Talib Kweli.) In addition to all of this, Mos Def has become involved in a series of political causes, including the campaign to free imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal and an anti-police brutality campaign.

Between the politically-charged hip-hop of Mos Def and the multicultural antics of the Black Eyed Peas, Cornellians should be able to find everything they’ve always wanted. The causes, the event, the rap … it’s a dream come true. And who knows, maybe Ben Affleck will even stop by to wave hello and say a few words.

Archived article by Mike Giusto