Fidel is set become one of the most exciting merchants of medicine music to emerge in years. Having many years of overstanding as a founding member of the supergroup group TASTE EMCEES and the Midwest strong-arm marketing machine Gorilla Promotions International, Fidel's ambition and community involvement has quickly made supporters out of everyday people and Hip Hop legends world wide.
Viva Fidel & Taste Emcees perform at Peace Action's 30th-anniversary rally
by Evan Rytlewski
June 14, 2007
Peace Action will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a concert and festival in Pere Marquette Park on Saturday, June 16, and anyone who has attended an anti-war rally within the last few decades knows roughly what kind of music to expect. The lineup includes the usual assortment of wide-eyed singer-songwriters and green-minded rock bands. Since the '60s, folk and rock have traditionally provided the soundtrack to the anti-war movement. But at least one act at Peace Action's anniversary celebration will break the mold: Taste Emcees, a militant hip-hop collective.
Over the last decade, political hip-hop artists across the country have aligned themselves with progressive causes. Locally, few have been more of a presence in activist circles than the Taste Emcees. Even though the group's rugged, urgent raps are a far cry from Joan Baez and the Byrds, founding member Fidel Vasquez says the group receives warm welcomes at political rallies and concerts.
"We've done shows in front of crowds filled with middle-aged hippies and white grandmothers, but they love what we do, because our messages are ultimately the same as their messages," Vasquez says. "Our cries for peace are the same as their cries for peace."
Inspired by seminal political rap artists like KRS-One and Public Enemy, Taste Emcees formed in the 1990s as a way to express their views about war, education, materialism and morality.
Rap music has a long history of being political, although Vasquez admits that violent artists have created an image problem for the genre. Vasquez draws a distinction between true hip-hop and the corporate rap music usually played on television and the radio, which he says can be reckless in the messages it sends youth.
"There's a corporate system that has co-opted the culture of hip-hop, and it chooses to promote drugs, violence and prison, and that benefits the corporations," Vasquez says. "But originally hip-hop was born of the civil-rights movement, and its whole message was picking up the banner of civil rights."
Those ties to the civil-rights movement, Vasquez says, mean rap also has ties to the Vietnam anti-war movement, so it's not surprising that rappers have been among the most vocal opponents of the war in Iraq.
Not only have socially conscious rappers like Mos Def and Pharoahe Monch spoken out against President Bush's military policies, but traditionally nonpolitical chart-toppers like Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott and Diddy have also voiced their opposition. Even soldiers are using hip-hop as a way to address the war. Last year, a nonprofit company released Voices From the Frontline, a CD compilation of raps and spoken-word pieces recited by soldiers deployed to Iraq, many of whom paint the conflict in an unflattering light.
"Hip-hop has always spoken from the perspective of that community that doesn't get represented," Vasquez says, explaining why rap artists are so mobilized against the war. "The young, poor, black and brown people are the ones that are fighting these wars and dying."
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