Hiphop rubbed shoulders with world diplomacy on Wednesday as rap singers, politicians and music industry leaders gathered at U.N. headquarters to dispel the notion that hiphop is all sex, drugs and violence.
"Hiphop can be used as a culture of peace, not what you see on television. Hiphop can be used as an educational tool, not that nonsense you hear on the radio," organizer KRS-one, a self-proclaimed hiphop philosopher, told a news conference.
"We have gathered here to announce to the world that hiphop culture is not exclusively criminal," he said.
The event he helped organize, the International Hiphop Conference for Peace, drew some 300 music business, media, political and entertainment figures to the posh U.N. Delegates Dining Room, including Wise Intelligent, Chuck D, Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash.
KRS-one, who is one of the founders of the Temple of Hiphop, a hiphop preservation society, blamed the marketing side of the music industry for injecting violence, drugs, sex and anti-female and anti-gay sentiment into hiphop culture, as characterized by rap music, graffiti art, breakdancing, a unique clothing style and a language all its own.
"What is selling in this country, as well as everywhere else in the world, is violence, sex and immorality. We are looking for a more sensitive message for our children. Hiphop is life-affirming," he said.
"Our message is that you don't have to sound like Eminem," he said, referring to bad boy U.S. rapper Eminem, known for his homophobic and misogynistic lyrics. "If we stay silent, the madness only keeps going, going and going."
Sponsors for the International Hiphop Conference for Peace included UNESCO, the United Nations' educational, scientific and cultural arm, and LUGZ Footwear.
The conference, featuring the signing of a Hiphop Declaration of Peace, was part of this year's celebration of the fourth annual Hiphop Appreciation Week, said Professor Z, another founder of the Temple of Hiphop.
Other events during the week, which began on Monday, included a film festival and a street party in New York City, a book fair in Englewood, New Jersey, and a lecture on drug abuse in Newark, New Jersey, organizers said.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, was among a handful of area politicians issuing proclamations declaring the week to be Hiphop Appreciation Week.