How big a victory is landing the convention for Vegas’ hip-hop community?
It’s major considering Las Vegas attempted a ban of hip-hop. That, along with the fact that, nationally, Vegas is not on the map for either hip-hop—except for the b-boys—or for progressive youth activism. The 2008 Convention is the perfect opportunity because all eyes will be on Vegas.
The convention is three years removed from then-Sheriff Bill Young’s call for banning gangsta rap acts from the Strip. What hoops did organizers have to go through?
We had to call in the ACLU when we were denied access to using (UNLV). We were told housing was not going to be available to us, although it’s allowed for dozens of other off-campus groups that do programs over the summer. One staff member even went as far as to tell us that we are not recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, even though we’ve raised more than $400,000 in the past five years to put on these types of conventions in other cities.
Has the climate improved since then?
For the young hip-hop head that gets stereotyped and profiled by Metro, nothing has improved. What these officers, as well as city officials, need to understand is that hip-hop comes in all shapes, sizes, colors and occupations. Will the climate change in Vegas? It will once the hip-hop community begins to understand its collective power and unifies to challenge the status quo.
What can attendees expect at this convention?
There are several events going on (see nhhpc.com). We expect more than 1,000 people. How many locals turn out will be an indication of the political maturity of the Vegas hip-hop community. If no one turns out it just means we have a much harder job ahead of us in our social justice work.
What’s more important: The hip-hop community becoming an economic force or a potent political demographic?
That’s a tough question. Those two forms of power are necessary. We have rich rappers and hip-hop folks who have no political education. The 2004 National Hip-Hop Political Convention in Newark, New Jersey, was the first time, nationally, that the hip-hop community made a power move politically. This event is an extension of that. We understand it’s a struggle, but we are in it for the long haul. We have nothing else, so we have nothing to lose.