To think that the current president was leading in the rating polls prior to the night of the first Slam Bush rhyme championship held at Mansion on Sept. 29 baffles me. Although the views and opinions of the audience aren’t a true reflection of what America thinks, a lot of people in attendance really want President George Bush out of office. With the exception of a few Bush supporters, everyone converged to Mansion to show their support for removing Bush from office on the very crucial day of Nov. 2, or they came to see the Grammy-award recipients, The Roots, play for their first time in Miami in six or seven years.
The National Slam Bush competition was an innovative way for the organization to accomplish its primary goal – to reach out to as many unregistered voters in hip-hop communities and encourage them to vote in the upcoming election. Over the past couple months, 25 local Slam Bush battles were held all over the country, primarily in swing-state cities such as Miami, Albuquerque and Portland. The competition addressed the president’s policies (or lack thereof) through freestyle, spoken word or music. As a result of its trip across the nation, the organization activated 7,000 anti-Bush voters – either registering them to vote, getting them to join their volunteer database or enlisting them as anti-Bush spokesmen.
Celebrity host Chuck D. from the political and revolutionary hip-hop group Public Enemy had a message particularly for college students: “You’re adults, and it’s almost derogatory saying that somebody that’s college age cannot really understand what their future holds and [can’t] take control over their own future, when they old enough to be drafted and taken off to war.” And while the University of Miami prides itself on football, Chuck D. has a serious question, “If somebody is going to play football and you ain’t playing, what are you going to get out of the football game [except]keep score?” To answer the question, he encourages us to “keep score on [our]country as well.”
Each finalist during the championship had a few minutes to direct his or her thoughts to a man dressed in a Bush costume. The stage was set up as if it were a debate, as President Bush was on the right side of the stage with a sign that read “World’s Worst President of the United States of America” while the finalist tried to come with his or her best verbal attacks. Contestants were judged in part by audience’s approval and while a few succeeded, the majority failed to connect with the audience either because they rapped too fast for comprehension or they were just wack.
A winner was declared: Vanessa German from Pittsburgh who won a $5,000 cash prize and an opportunity to record at South Beat Records’ in-house studio. Her moving ode to President Bush titled “Thank You” thanked Bush for all the problems he has directly caused her and members of her community – lack of healthcare for her grandmother and abused sister and trying to ruin her chance of marrying her female partner because of his views on gay marriages.
If there were any problems that night, it had to be the time in between the championship and The Roots’ performance. Opening acts Mayday! and Algorithm truly disappointed me…and the crowd. Not only did they lack stage presence, but also they lacked the ability flow. They reminded me of amateurs who really needed practice, and maybe advice that this was not the proper career decision.
By 12:40 a.m., The Roots finally came out to the crowd’s approval. Starting the show off right, the amazing and beautiful singer Jill Scott came out to jam with The Roots for their collaboration “Complexity” and the single that garnered them their first Grammy “You Got Me.” Over the next two hours, The Roots played their hearts out on a number of songs that I was unfamiliar with, but that didn’t stop me from experiencing and appreciating the music they offered. As if I were at a rave, I couldn’t stop moving to the pulsating beats of the band and words of Black Thought. There was even a segment where they did their interpretations of songs such as Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” and Salt and Pepa’s “Push It.” After the show, when I met Questlove (drummer and maestro of hip-hop) he told me that he played so hard that his hands were bleeding – and this was the first time that has ever happened to him.
Overall, the Slam Bush event was a night to remember. I was glad to see that the principles this country were founded upon – freedom of speech, right to protest, etc. -were still upheld, or least at this event. Like Chuck D. says, “Voting is as important as washing your ass and don’t look for props for washing up in the morning; it’s something you’re suppose to do when your grown. So don’t look for props for voting, but if you say that something stinks, all you have to do is hold up your arm and say ‘Well it stinks because you contributed to it because you didn’t wash.’ As it relates to society, something stinks in society because a lot of us didn’t vote.” Whether you are for President Bush or Sen. John Kerry, go out on Nov. 2 and exert your freedom to make a positive change for America, because nobody wants to smell like “boo-boo.”
Marcus Washington can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.