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Public Enemy to headline Skid Row Music Festival on Sunday

Chuck D by Shepard Fairey via
Chuck D by Shepard Fairey via
Image: Shepard Fairey

Chuck D and Public Enemy, The Real McCoy, and reggae artist Arise Roots, will put on a free concert for the residents of Los Angeles’ Skid Row district on Sunday, January 15.

This event, dubbed as both the "Operation Skid Row Music Festival" and the "Occupy Skid Row Music Festival", is a call to action for "the Hip Hop community to get actively engaged in social organizations and social movements," according to a statement issued by the organizer, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN).

Pete White of LA CAN told KPCC that even though there will be famous rappers present, "it's not a show," explaining that in addition to music there will be speakers, poetry, conversation about social movements, and a "re-imagining" of some of the bleakest areas of our city. 

Originally publicized as a music festival starring a dozen or so classic LA rap acts agreeing to play for free (names like Cypress Hill, Kurupt from the Dogg Pound, Mellow Man Ace and Zzyzzx, King T, Rapper’s Rapp Group, Sir Jinx and General Population, OG Kid Frost, L.A. Posse, and the Egyptian Lover were bandied about), the sponsor-less, grassroots effort took a somewhat different musical shape as the play date approached. Chuck D and Public Enemy's involvement remained, despite a less robust supporting line-up.

Regardless of the entertainment, LA CAN hopes that the event, which will take place on Gladys Street, between 5th and 6th streets, will "launch a day of action to promote the human right to housing and solidify hip hop’s role in social justice, including hosting two events to benefit the Skid Row community" according to a statement by the group.

White likened the effort to Wattstax, the 1972 Los Angeles Coliseum concert commemorating the Watts riots, which was seen by some as the African-American answer to Woodstock. "This event was modeled after that," White said by phone.

During a recent visit to Skid Row, Chuck D complained, “whenever you hear about downtown, you never hear about Black people.  You have filmmakers, music makers, historians, documentarians. How long does it take for a Black story about L.A. to be told?” 

When asked why this event should be rallied around several hip-hop groups, White turned the tables.

"You should ask why not hip hop?" White retorted. "Hip-hop is always informed. Hip-hop makes the invisible visible. All genres of music have something to offer -- rock and roll, heavy metal -- they all have something to offer and something to give. They all speak to someone."

January 15 event schedule:

10:00 am: Press conference at the Grammy Museum at LA Live, Clive Davis Auditorium

11:00 am: Freedom Now! Event at the Grammy Museum, hosted by Chuck D and benefiting the Los Angeles Community Action Network, with other special guests 

1:15 pm: Operation Skid Row street festival promoting social justice campaigns, with performances by Public Enemy and Skid Row artists.  Location: Gladys Street, between 5th and 6th Streets, in the heart of the Skid Row community. Spanish speakers available.