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Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Farrakhan calls for 'responsible' rap
Louis Farrakhan
Farrakhan: "Probably most important speech of my life"
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan called on rap artists to "accept their responsibilities" at New York's hip-hop summit on Wednesday.

In a two-and-a-half hour speech the radical activist said: "With leadership comes responsibility - you've now got to accept the responsibility you've never accepted.

Rap music is the black American voice to the world

Will Smith

"You are the leaders of the youth of the world."

He also implored rappers to recognise the influence they have over fans and asked them to raise the level of their discourse.

"I love you, but I am not satisfied that you are doing all that you can," he said, during "probably the most important speech I ever made in my life, because you are the most important people I've ever talked to in my life."

But Farrakhan also said that rap's violent imagery mirrored American culture, adding: "The youth has manifested the wickedness of their parents, their teachers, the judges, the politicians.

Will Smith
Smith: Rap has "important message"
"What society wants to do with the young people is to break the mirror rather than take a look at it and clean itself up."

Among those listening were rap moguls Sean "Puffy" Combs and Russell Simmons, rapper-producers Wyclef Jean and Jermaine Dupri, and rappers LL Cool J, Queen Latifah and Redman.

The summit is taking place against a backdrop of Congressional concern with the violent and sexist content of much rap music.

Congressmen who are concerned about the targeting of the music at children have threatened to pass legislation to penalise the recording industry for such marketing.

'Black voice'

But Farrakhan said Washington was acting only out of fear of the power of rappers whose messages, he said, were being embraced not only by young whites, but by youths around the world.

Rapper and film star Will Smith arrived at the summit after Farrakhan's speech but echoed some of the same concerns.

"This is something I've been speaking about for several years," he said.

"Rap music is the black American voice to the world - all people around the world know about blacks in America is rap music.

'Important message'

"My only question I have is, is it an accurate depiction of who we are?

"A lot of rappers have no idea how important their voice is, how important that message is and how important that picture is."

Kwesi Mfume, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) also spoke at the summit, which ends on Thursday.

The BBC's Adrian Brown
"Growing congressional scrutiny is beginning to worry many in the hip-hop community"
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