June 14 - 21, 2006
By ANDY HART, The Hartford News Staff Writer
Music auditions and police raids usually have very little in common, but now they are both being employed in response to the recent outbreak of violence in Hartford’s North End.
On Wednesday, June 7, Hartford Police Chief Patrick Harnett announced the launching of “Operation True North,” the purpose of which, he said, is to “identify, aggressively pursue, and bring to justice those individuals involved in gangs who are responsible for committing acts of violence in the Northeast sector of our city.”
Now the music industry has also joined in the battle against urban violence.
On Tuesday, June 13, Stamford-based entertainment lawyer James Walker announced the launching of his “Stop the Violence: Embrace the Music” campaign. The centerpiece of Walker’s campaign is a competition to win a $100,000 recording contract.
Walker said the competition is an attempt to reach out to the many urban youths who “live in despair, who live without hope.”
When asked how much of a difference he thought the program would make, he responded, “If we reach just one person, I feel that we’ve done at least a little part of what needs to be done.”
Local auditions for the “We Got Nex” competition will be held at Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford this Friday, June 16, from 6-10 pm, and this Saturday, June 17, from 12-6 pm. The auditions are open to Hartford residents of any age.
Those who pass these auditions will be eligible to compete in the final competition, which will be held at Foxwoods Resort Casino over the weekend of June 25-27. The panel of judges at the finals is scheduled to include rap pioneers Afrika Bambaataa and Kurtis Blow.
The music to be performed at the competition must be “positive, inspirational, gospel, jazz or upbeat; no violence-related or profanity-laced music will be allowed.” For more information on the auditions, go to the website urbanimpactsummit.com or call 203-588-1843.
Blow, who said he never used profanity on his records, spoke at the Tuesday morning press conference at which the We Got Nex talent search was announced. He said that rap and hip-hop music “started out as the voice of the people...it was fun, it was just two guys rapping at each other on a street corner..the message was we may live in dirt but we are not dirt. It was very different from what you hear now on the radio and see on TV.”
Both Blow and Walker spoke out against the images of violence and degradation of women that have become part of many rap songs and videos. Walker said the music changed after corporate America realized that huge profits could be gained by producing rap music.
Mayor Perez praised Walker’s efforts, saying, “To solve this problem, we need everyone to do their part.”