Filed Under:  Entertainment

The NOLA Hip-Hop Awards

11th November 2013   ·   0 Comments

By David Dennis Jr.
Contributing Columnist

Last week, I attended an event at the Civic Theater. The event spotlighted young African-American businesspeople, entrepreneurs, videographers, musicians and all-around motivated individuals. Most of these people rose up from the Orleans Parish school system to seek out ways to better themselves and their communities. A lot of them are still working towards their dreams, but for the three hours that these people were showcased, I felt an immense amount of pride and hope for the city.

Last week, I was at the NOLA Hip-Hop Awards.

I understand the stigma surrounding Hip hop, especially in the city. When the music is mentioned, images of Lil Wayne sipping codeine drinks and making lewd references to Emmett Till come to mind for many. In terms of national recognition, New Orleans often gets pegged as the pit of all misogynistic, offensive and irresponsible music. So I see how it’s easy to look at something like the NOLA Hip-Hop Awards as a celebration of bling, lascivious women and drugs. But ignoring the level of talent, drive and ambition at the event is ignoring the future of New Orleans.

The NOLA Hip-Hop Awards is the brainchild of Lawrence Parker, who is one of the hardest workers you’ll ever meet. For four years in a row, he’s helped grow a small award show into one of the premier events for young men and women in the city every year. Quite frankly, he gets things done.

As a result, we now have a space for young “hustlers” to get recognized for their hard work and dedication. Sure, some artists hit the stage and talk about the stereotypical women, money and excess rap is stereotyped as perpetuating (as if the music you listened to as a kid was all gospel), but the event also featured “Stop The Violence” PSAs, Lifetime Achievement Awards to forefathers of New Orleans music, and pleas to give back to the community. I spend a lot of time on this column trying to show readers how the youth in this city, state and country have voices and want to make differences. However, sometimes it’s best you see for yourselves.

Next year, there will be another Hip-Hop Awards. You’ll see foul language, loud noises and the lot, but to focus on that would be to miss the point of what’s going on. At its heart, the NOLA Hip-Hop Awards is a celebration of hard work, community and rising above circumstances to better a generation of people in this city. Who knows how many of the artists at the Awards will actually go on to lucrative music careers (my money says fewer than one percent), but so many of them are developing important skills to make them beneficial to any business owner in the city. Want a videographer? Look to someone like B Mike and his 2 Cent movement. Need someone to organize events? There’s On Point El or Slangston Hughes and their successful weekly events across the city. Basically, the event is a melting pot of qualities and drive that can propel this city beyond what we originally thought possible.

The first step, though, is being willing to meet at the table with these men and women. I’m sure not too many people over the age of 40 even knew a NOLA Hip-Hop Awards existed or that there are weekly beat battles or that 2 Cent hosted an incredible summer session for kids this year. My challenge to the established businessmen and women in the city, the politicians of New Orleans and those established in the Crescent City, is to reach out to these “kids” and see how the relationships can be mutually beneficial.

“Hip hop” and “rap music” have such negative connotations in general along generational gaps, but it’s often unfair. If you look past those stigmas and preconceived notions, we’ll see a community of smart, hard-working young men and women who can transform New Orleans. Me telling you this is one thing, but you should see for yourselves. So next year around this time, I’ll be back to ask you a very important question: Where were you during the NOLA Hip-Hop Awards?

This article originally published in the November 11, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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