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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
Hip hop assesses its image
hip hoppers Brasse Vannie Kaap
Hip-hop: Bid to expose its "life-affirming" principles
Hip hop leaders are to meet in New York on Tuesday to celebrate three decades of the music and examine its impact.

Influential figures including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and David Mays, founder of hip hop magazine The Source, are expected to attend the so-called hip hop summit.

Tupac Shakur
Rap star Tupac Shakur was killed in 1996
"It's a chance to celebrate, to feel our power and to decide basic things about the next step," said rap leader and organiser Russell Simmons.

Hip hop and rap now account for around 13% of music sales in the US.

These musical styles evolved on the streets of American cities in the 1980s and are characterised by a rhythmic, rhyming delivery of spoken lyrics against a strong bass beat.

It moved into the mainstream in the late 1980s and 1990s when acts like Run DMC, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys won commercial success.

Lauren Hill
Grammy winning hip hop diva Lauren Hill
Now artists including Eminem, Puff Daddy and Dr Dre, along with newer acts like Nelly, Outkast and Xzibit, have become some of the biggest stars on the music scene.

But hip hop music has become widely associated with violence due to the activities of certain high profile artists.

Rap star Tupac Shakur was killed in a Las Vegas shooting in 1996.

The following year Notorious BIG was also shot and killed in Los Angeles.

Youth impact

And after a high profile court case, Sean "Puffy" Combs - an influential musician and producer - was acquitted in March in connection with a nightclub shooting in December 1999.

Rapper Talib Kweli said he wanted to come to the summit because much of the criticism of hip hop "comes from outside the community".

"It's very important to me that I discuss these problems with the people involved in hip hop," he said.

Sessions at the summit will look at topics like marketing of rap, the impact of hip hop on youth and an examination of the media's role in fostering rap's image.

Palatable

Supporters of the genre say the biggest problem facing rap is what they see as unfair media portrayals of the scene.

"We're looking to raise the public awareness about hip hop and try and change the public perception that hip hop is negative and violent," said David May.

There will also be an examination of the violent and sexually explicit lyrics, which are currently under review by the US Congress, and are often criticised from within the music industry.

"I think that the stories could be told in a little more palatable manner, where I'm not being cursed at," said singer Dionne Warwick, a frequent rap critic.

But Simmons, who co-founded Def Jam Records, the label of rap's biggest legends and current stars remains hopeful.

"My personal thing, I'd love to see more social, politically conscious rap," he said.

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