April 9, 2002
Some of the biggest stars in rap and R&B will perform tonight at "UrbanAID2," a benefit concert to raise awareness about AIDS among blacks and Hispanics. "Specifically, in terms of AIDS, no one has done enough and we could all do more," said hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, co-chairman of the event with Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. The concert, to be held at New York's Beacon Theatre, will feature rappers Combs, Jay-Z, Fat Joe and Ja Rule, along with singers Musiq, Ashanti, Alicia Keys and the hip-hop band the Roots.
Of the roughly 774,000 US AIDS cases through 2000, blacks and Hispanics accounted for 58 percent, according to the CDC. "There are still a lot of people who are not cognizant of the real threat that it represents," said Amir "?uestlove" Thompson of the Roots.
The concert represents the growing push to get more urban music stars engaged in preventing HIV/AIDS. Several rap and R&B stars, such as Lil' Kim and Mary J. Blige, have been involved in public campaigns or benefits, and Destiny's Child and Monica have done public service announcements (PSAs). The more prevalent images and messages, however, are the videos that suggest multiple sex partners or lyrics that overtly promote sex. Jay-Z, one of the event's performers, has rapped about having "raw" -- or unprotected -- sex.
But rather than take artists to task, LIFEBeat, a nonprofit organization that coordinates music industry anti-AIDS efforts, has worked hard to employ them to spread the message of safe sex and AIDS prevention. LIFEBeat, which raises about $1.8 million annually, teamed up with BET for its "Rap It Up" campaign, which includes PSAs featuring a somber Ja Rule reciting stark statistics about AIDS. The only previous UrbanAID concert was in 1995. Tonight's concert is expected to raise $100,000, and MTV will feature footage from the concert in a television special.